NHL Power Rankings: Devils tumble as Sabres rise

Are the Buffalo Sabres for real? (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)
Are the Buffalo Sabres for real? (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

Hey everyone, we here at Yahoo! Sports are doing real power rankings for teams Nos. 1-31. Here they are, based on only how I am feeling about these teams and their chances to win the Cup, meaning you can’t tell me I’m wrong because these are my feelings and feelings can’t be wrong. Please enjoy the Power Feelings.

31. Ottawa Senators (Last week: 31)

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30. Minnesota Wild (LW: 28)

I’m going to write more about these guys tomorrow but they do not look good. It’s not just a “results” thing and it’s not just a “they can’t get a save” thing, though both are certainly the case. The offense remains tepid, with the third-fewest expected-goals total of any team in the last week, and they don’t have the defensive wherewithal they did last season.

Will they PDO around 90 in all situations all year? Obviously not, and it’s hard to guess what they actually thought about their chances this season, but hoo boy these guys stink and I’m not sure it’s anyone’s fault. At least, not anyone who’s currently employed by the team.

29. New Jersey Devils (LW: 20)

There’s plenty of reason to believe these guys at least have the talent to be competitive as they get everyone more integrated into the lineup and the system and all that stuff, but these early returns? Sheesh.

28. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 29)

Team save percentage through five games of .830? Let’s put it this way: Jonathan Quick gave up five on 36 Sunday night against Vegas and his save percentage went up 43 points.

Obviously it’s not going to be this bad forever, but the only silver lining here is Quick doesn’t have trade or movement protection. That’s just something to think about.

27. Chicago (LW: 27)

Stop me if you’re surprised by any of this but Brent Seabrook has been awful so far this year and Jonathan Toews re-emergence has not continued as expected. Unforeseeable, really.

26. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 30)

They’re actually playing pretty well while a lot of other teams aren’t and that’s nice. Big step forward after last week. Still minus-7 in goal difference, still only four points from five games. Still a bleaker outlook than the other teams in the East with four points from five games.

25. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 23)

24. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 24)

Seven goals against in four games? That’s amazing! Seven goals for in four games? That’s horrible.

23. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 26)

I’m not sure I expect their success to last or anything, but you have to say they’re playing well. And more to the point you have to say Carter Hart is playing very well. And probably that’s all that matters.

22. New York Rangers (LW: 17)

21. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 25)

Stop me if you’ve heard this before but the team is bad. Also stop me if you’ve heard this before: The John Gibson/Ryan Miller battery is playing out of its collective mind. Current team save percentage: .962. Six goals against on 156 shots. What the hell, man?

20. Dallas Stars (LW: 21)

19. Florida Panthers (LW: 15)

No wins in the last week, which is suboptimal. Sergei Bobrovsky has been bad. The forwards who aren’t named Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov can’t put the puck in the net. But they are playing much better than they did last season, so… that’s something?

18. New York Islanders (LW: 18)

17. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 22)

I’m gonna get fried for this one but until Connor McDavid doesn’t have a 5-on-5 relative goals-for percentage in the 20s I think I’ll err on the side of, “They’re still the Oilers.”

16. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 13)

15. Calgary Flames (LW: 10)

Bill Peters spent the first few games of the season making some really bad lineup decisions, but he changed things up against San Jose on Sunday night and they lost.

Will the fact that they outshot San Jose 33-20 in that game be the indicator he follows to continue or will the fact they lost just lead him to give Milan Lucic more ice time? Only time will tell.

14. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 19)

Vancouver is, if nothing else, a team with a great set of jerseys now. Lookin’ good, fellas!

Oh, they also won both their games in the last week but got outshot by 22(???) while doing so. Their all-situations PDO to start the season is north of 106 and they’re only .500. How strange.

13. Nashville Predators (LW: 12)

12. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 16)

No one saw this coming. They’re only a game above .500, which isn’t normally cause for celebration, and their position in the standings is because no one else in the league has played seven games yet. But still: With that almost-AHL-level defense, for them to even be winning this much is incredible.

Symptoms of that bad defense are there. They’ve been outscored despite putting up three goals a game themselves so far, their team save percentage is in the toilet, and they can’t kill a penalty. But here we are. Hockey’s weird, I guess is the point.

I wouldn’t count on this kind of thing to last as long as the defense looks like that, but hey, things could be a lot lot lot lot worse.

11. San Jose Sharks (LW: 14)

Patrick Marleau for Hart is all I’m saying, gang.

10. Washington Capitals (LW: 8)

Okay, so at what point do we think the Caps put Holtby out to pasture and let Ilya Samsonov be The Guy? Not to read too much into insanely small samples, but apart from that playoff run two springs ago, Holtby has looked not so good for a while (and his numbers this year are Quick-level bad).

Meanwhile, Samsonov has long been hailed as their goalie of the future and so far in his NHL career (that’s right, a whopping two starts, against the Islanders and Stars) looks like he’s more than ready to assume the throne here. If nothing else, all trends continuing will make Brian MacLellan’s decision on Holtby this summer real easy.

9. Colorado Avalanche (LW: 7)

8. St. Louis Blues (LW: 6)

In a sharp departure from last season’s style, the reigning Cup champs just played run-and-gun last week (a combined 197 shots for and against over their three games). Pretty fun. They gotta tighten it up defensively, though.

I expect they probably will.

7. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 11)

Since the Evgeni Malkin injury: Crosby and Guentzel have combined for 3.29 individual expected goals. The rest of the Penguins forward group combined has 4.95.

And almost half of that latter number comes from… Sam Lafferty and Zach Aston-Reese? Alright.

6. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 4)

5. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 9)

They’re not this good they’re not this good they’re not this good.

And yet, a thing you have to say for this team and any other that’s overperforming right now after years of struggles (coughEdmontoncough) is that at least they’re banking points. The Sabres, of course, learned last year that you can bank all the points you want over a couple weeks, but it’s only a couple weeks and obviously that all doesn’t help if you play poorly before and after.

The good news is that those two teams didn’t take the chance to play poorly before they caught fire. Are these the two “PDO your way into the playoffs” teams of the year? It’s possible. And if you have the success rate over the last decade of Edmonton and Buffalo, it probably doesn’t matter much to you about any other conditions.

The question is, “Do you think it’s more real with the Sabres or Oilers?” and that’s not even a question. The Sabres, if nothing else, have an NHL defense and actual NHL wingers.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 5)

Can losing to the Senators be used to retroactively take away the Presidents’ Trophy from last season?

3. Vegas Golden Knights (LW: 2)

2. Boston Bruins (LW: 3)

Boy do the Bruins look good. They wrapped their season-opening four-game road trip — which took them through Dallas, Arizona, Vegas, and Colorado — 3-1-0 and really only had one objectively bad game (at Arizona in a 1-0 win). Then they came home and absolutely smoked New Jersey.

Eight goals against in the first five games? That’ll play. You’re probably gonna want more than 12 for, of course, but again, you take the wins. Especially when you have the talent and track record to suggest you won’t shoot under 8 percent all year.

1. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 1)

Yes, like the Lightning, they too lost to a low-talent team (Columbus) somehow. But it was the second night of a back-to-back for both teams and weird stuff happens in those games. I think after how the last few seasons have started, they take the plus-8 goal difference and plus-35 shot difference from six games and call it good.


Ryan Lambert is a Yahoo! Sports columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

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