HOCKEY IS BACK! Over the last five days each team was given the chance to play a handful of games that actually meant something. Some teams started just the way everyone expected, while others surprised in a positive way or for all the wrong reasons. Here is a look at the Power Rankings for Week 1.
30. Colorado Avalanche (0-2-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 7
This Week’s Schedule: @Bruins, @Maple Leafs, @Senators, @Canadiens
Breakdown: I know it’s only the first week and you can’t base anything off two games, but no one expected the Avalanche to start out this slow. A rematch of last year’s quarterfinals, Colorado played their first two games against the Minnesota Wild. In both games they were shut out. For a team that was 4th in goals-per-game last season, the Avalanche need to find their scoring touch fast. With the bonafide talents on their team, I don’t think they should have much of an issue.
29. Buffalo Sabres (0-2-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 30
This Week’s Schedule: Ducks, @Hurricanes, Panthers, Bruins
Breakdown: This week, the Sabres were outworked against Columbus and outplayed against Chicago (not a total shocker). Next week doesn’t get any easier with the Ducks and Bruins coming to town. With so many youngsters, it’s good for the team to get them some playing time and get used to life in the NHL, but they are well on their way to the McDavid/Eichel sweepstakes.
28. Carolina Hurricanes (0-2-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 29
This Week’s Schedule: Sabres, @Rangers
Breakdown: In a home-and-home series against the Islanders, the Hurricanes were wiped clean dropping both games in regulation. The team wasn’t going to be a contender with Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner, but without them it’s going to be worse than they planned. Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty have been the only two playing worth a damn, but that won’t cut it moving forward.
27. Philadelphia Flyers (0-2-1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 19
This Week’s Schedule: Ducks, @Stars
Breakdown: Flyers fan’s fears were confirmed with the way the Flyers started out of the gate. While their first game against the Bruins was solid overall, their defense was nonexistent against the Devils and porous against the Montreal Canadiens, who managed to come back from three goals down to beat Philadelphia in overtime. The month of October is going to be a rough one for the Flyers unless they find a way to play a full 60 minutes every night.
26. Florida Panthers (0-1-1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 26
This Week’s Schedule: Senators, @Sabres, @Capitals
Breakdown: After fighting for an overtime point in a loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Panthers came back home to Sunrise, Florida where they were smoked out by the New Jersey Devils, 5-1. It’s a game Roberto Luongo would soon like to forget. The team is still learning Gerard Gallant’s style, which might see them turn it around down the road, but there is still room for improvement in the immediate future.
25. Dallas Stars (0-1-1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 11
This Week’s Schedule: @Blue Jackets, @Penguins, Flyers
Breakdown: Their season opener was a nail-biter that watched Patrick Kane dangle his way to a silky smooth shootout goal, ultimately leaving the Blackhawks victorious. In their 2nd game Dallas started great, scoring the only goal of the first period. From the 2nd period on, it was the Nashville Predators who controlled the pace of the game and handed Dallas their first loss in regulation. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin will need to step up soon as they currently have no points between the both of them.
24. Edmonton Oilers (0-1-1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 24
This Week’s Schedule: @Kings, @Coyotes, Canucks
Breakdown: Despite the hope that the copious first round draft picks playing on the Oilers would turn this team around, Edmonton started behind the 8-ball with a 5-2 loss to their cross-province rivals, Calgary Flames. Then, after having a 4-2 lead against the Vancouver Canucks, the Oilers allowed two goals against and went on to lose in the shootout. Thankfully the season is still young, but time is going to run out for the young guns to make an impact.
23. Calgary Flames (1-2-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 28
This Week’s Schedule: @Predators, @Blackhawks, @Blue Jackets, @Jets
Breakdown: If I’m being truthful, the Calgary Flames got two more points than I expected them to get in the first week. After a 4-2 loss to the Canucks, the Flames came back raring to go against the Edmonton Oilers. With the help of a Mason Raymond hattrick, Calgary ended the game with a 5-2 win. Then St. Louis quieted all the positive vibes by beating Calgary 4-1 on the road.
22. New York Rangers (1-2-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 10
This Week’s Schedule: Islanders, Hurricanes, Sharks
Breakdown: The Blueshirts started the season with a 3-2 win against a very tough club in St. Louis. However, they faltered against the Columbus Blue Jackets (5-2 loss) and even more so against the Toronto Maple Leafs (6-3 loss). Toronto came into New York after some bad losses looking to turn the corner and they did in a big way. Henrik Lundqvist was chased from his cage after allowing six goals on 24 shots.
21. Winnipeg Jets (1-2-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 25
This Week’s Schedule: Predators, Flames
Breakdown: Winnipeg exploded onto the scene opening night with the help of Brian Little and Blake Wheeler. The team went into Arizona and blew them away 6-2, but were soon brought back down to reality against the Sharks and Kings. The Jets were shut out by Alex Stalock and failed to show up against Los Angeles. On the bright side, it was good to get that first win out of the way.
20. Boston Bruins (1-2-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 3
This Week’s Schedule: Avalanche, @Red Wings, @Canadiens, @Sabres
Breakdown: Boston played a nearly flawless game against the Flyers, which saw them steal two points in the last two minutes of the game. Having said that, the following two games did not go nearly as well. The “Beast of the East” lost a tough battle against the Detroit Red Wings and were shut out by the Washington Capitals on Saturday. It’s not going to be an easy week for Boston, with the exception of the Buffalo Sabres.
19. Toronto Maple Leafs (1-2-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 20
This Week’s Schedule: Avalanche, Red Wings, @Red Wings
Breakdown: After Toronto dropped their first two games, all of Leafs Nation went completely berserk calling for Randy Carlyle’s head. One fan went as far as throwing his jersey onto the ice at the ACC. Then they went into the Big Apple and demolished the Rangers, 6-3, and peace was restored in Toronto. Leafs fans were waiting for Kessel to get off the schneid and he did in a big way with three points against Henrik Lundqvist. My guess is we’ll be hearing much overreaction from Toronto throughout the season, but I suppose that’s par for the course, eh?
18. Arizona Coyotes (1-1-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 23
This Week’s Schedule: Oilers, Blues
Breakdown: Things could’ve started better for the Coyotes in their opener when they lost to the Winnipeg Jets, 6-2, but they redeemed themselves against the Kings. After allowing two quick goals to Los Angeles, the Coyotes battled back to force overtime. Oliver Ekman-Larsson wristed a shot from the point through a maze of players in front that found twine. A hard-nosed effort is what this team will need to pull out wins on a nightly basis.
17. Anaheim Ducks (1-1-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 4
This Week’s Schedule: @Sabres, @Flyers, Wild, Blues
Breakdown: Anaheim knew it would be a tall order to face Sidney Crosby and the Penguins, but how tough was a different story. The Penguins jumped out to an early 3-0 lead and Anaheim clawed their way back into the game. However, the onslaught of shots and offensive skill the Penguins bring was just too much for rookie goaltender John Gibson. Luckily for Anaheim they were able to come out of Detroit with a 3-2 win against the Red Wings.
16. Ottawa Senators (1-1-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 27
This Week’s Schedule: @Panthers, Avalanche, Blue Jackets
Breakdown: I didn’t give the Senators much hope this year with their stud center gone, their lack of depth, and their mediocre defense. They lost their first contest to the Nashville Predators, but came right back against Tampa Bay (one of the better teams in the league) and won in a shootout. With the two points, they’re sitting in the 4th spot in the Atlantic. We’ll see how long that lasts.
15. Detroit Red Wings (1-1-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 15
This Week’s Schedule: Bruins, @Maple Leafs, Maple Leafs
Breakdown: No one claimed the Red Wings were going to be as dominant as they were in the late 90s/early 2000s. With the influx of young talent, they will be one of the most fun to watch. Detroit rallied in the 2nd period with two goals against the Bruins in their home opener to secure two points in the standings. On Saturday, they weren’t as fortunate against the Ducks. The Bruins come to town this week again before their home-and-home of a Winter Classic rematch against the Maple Leafs.
14. St. Louis Blues (1-1-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 5
This Week’s Schedule: @Kings, @Coyotes, @Ducks
Breakdown: Opening up against a team that was just in a Stanley Cup Final and didn’t change the dynamic of their roster during the offseason can be difficult. The New York Rangers kept the Blues in check for the majority of the game. St. Louis wasn’t able to squeak out a win, but they brought their A-game against the Calgary Flames on Saturday night with an offensive effort fans have come to know from the team over the past few seasons.
13. Los Angeles Kings (1-1-1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 1
This Week’s Schedule: Oilers, Blues, Wild
Breakdown: Perhaps the Kings were still riding high from their championship and the early parts of a Stanley Cup hangover are beginning to take shape. The team who had won two Cups in three seasons were quashed by the San Jose Sharks opening night – a team they beat in the quarterfinals in dramatic fashion. The Arizona Coyotes stole a point from them in overtime on Saturday, but LA regained their footing somewhat with a dominant win over the Winnipeg Jets.
12. Tampa Bay Lightning (1-0-1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 9
This Week’s Schedule: Canadiens, Devils, @Canucks
Breakdown: It’s two games into the season and Steven Stamkos has yet to score. Thankfully for the Lightning they are getting scoring from other role players. Victor Hedman has scored in both games and Valtteri Filppula has three assists. Both of Tampa’s games went to overtime where they beat Florida and lost to Ottawa in a shootout. When Stamkos gets into his groove, the offense will be a tough to handle.
11. Washington Capitals (1-0-1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 17
This Week’s Schedule: Sharks, Devils, Panthers
Breakdown: In the early going, Barry Trotz’s defensive-minded system seems to be working. The team’s overall defense has stifled two of the league’s best teams. Washington put up a fight against the Montreal Canadiens, but not before losing to them in a shootout, 2-1. The next game was against the Boston Bruins. Washington came out swinging
with two goals from Alexander Ovechkin in the 1st period and didn’t back down the rest of the way. Braden Holtby stood tall between the pipes leading the Caps to a shutout win.
10. Vancouver Canucks (2-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 21
This Week’s Schedule: Oilers, @Lightning
Breakdown: The Vancouver Canucks began their year against two of their most heated rivals – the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames. Both contests ended up in victories for the blue and green. Radim Vrbata looks like a perfect fit with the Sedin twins. Combined, the three have a total of 11 points on the season. Willie Desjardins is finally catering to the Sedin’s style of play, where as John Tortorella did not. If this pace keeps up, the Sedin’s might be considered two of the best scorers in the NHL once again.
9. Nashville Predators (2-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 22
This Week’s Schedule: Flames, @Jets, @Blackhawks
Breakdown: The influx of Peter Laviolette’s system has taken shape early in the season. For a team that has struggled to score goals, the Predators have scored seven times in two games. That’s a positive for a team who was in the bottom half of the league in goals-per-game last season. Even the team’s biggest acquisition this offseason (James Neal) has yet to find the scoreboard, but Filip Forsberg is getting accustomed to a more offensive role with the team. This might be the start the Predators have been looking forward to for years.
8. New York Islanders (2-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 14
This Week’s Schedule: @Rangers, Sharks, @Penguins
Breakdown: If the first two games are any indication, trading for Johnny Boychuk was exactly what the New York Islanders needed to add to their defense. In the first two games, the former Bruins defenseman has one goal and four assists. The Islanders had a home-and-home battle the first week making mince meat of the Carolina Hurricanes. The matchups will only get harder from here on out, but the Islanders are showing that they won’t go quietly.
7. Columbus Blue Jackets (2-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 16
This Week’s Schedule: Stars, Flames, @Senators
Breakdown: Although reports out of Columbus were that Ryan Johansen came into his new contract out of shape, he still impressed in the Blue Jacket’s debut. The team came out flying against the Sabres, peppering Jhonas Enroth with 40 shots and winning the game 3-1. The following game against the Rangers saw just about every line step up to contribute on the scoresheet. With the overall depth and goaltending, the Blue Jackets won’t be an easy customer.
6. Chicago Blackhawks (2-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 2
This Week’s Schedule: Flames, Predators
Breakdown: The Chicago Blackhawks are one of the most balanced teams in the league. They fought tooth and nail against the Stars during regulation and overtime, but the shootout is where Patrick Kane worked his magic. Pulling a beautiful deke against Kari Lehtonen, Kane ensured a win for Chicago (see below). The team then went on to play the Sabres, which didn’t end up being much of a contest. Buffalo was never really in the game as they got trounced 6-2.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins (2-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 6
This Week’s Schedule: Stars, Islanders
Breakdown: The Pittsburgh Penguins came as advertised: an offensive powerhouse. Sidney Crosby is tied for the league lead in points and we all know he won’t be slowing down. The biggest question mark was whether the team would be able to replace the goals that James Neal provided. Patric Hornqvist is meshing with Crosby nicely, plus he’s been able to bring a defensively responsible game with him from his years in Nashville. It’s going to be a fruitful regular season for the Penguins.
4. New Jersey Devils (2-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 18
This Week’s Schedule: @Lightning, @Capitals, Sharks
Breakdown: The words “trap” and “Devils” are always included in the same sentenced. We’ve been fed the defensive system of New Jersey’s ad nauseam, but they seem to be anything but trapping in the first two games. In fact, they’ve been the most pleasant surprise having scored 11 goals in their first two wins of the year. Jaromir Jagr is still dominant as ever despite his age and Mike Cammalleri hasn’t lost his goal scoring touch.
3. San Jose Sharks (2-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 12
This Week’s Schedule: @Capitals, @Islanders, @Devils, @Rangers
Breakdown: The San Jose Sharks weren’t going to get embarrassed by the Los Angeles Kings again. In the quarterfinals of the 2014 playoffs, the Los Angeles Kings came back from three games down to win the series and win the Stanley Cup. In the Kings home opener, the Sharks swarmed LA, scored four goals in the first two periods, and never looked back. It was a nice bit of revenge for the long offseason they had to endure. San Jose also shutout the Winnipeg Jets in their home opener.
2. Minnesota Wild (2-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 13
This Week’s Schedule: @Ducks, @Kings
Breakdown: Another rematch of last year’s quarterfinals, the Minnesota Wild have looked much more dangerous than last season. Adding Thomas Vanek in the offseason certainly helped their cause, but it was their usual suspects (Parise, Suter, Pominville) who stepped up big in the first two shutout wins against the Avalanche. Goaltending was considered a weak point for Minnesota, however Darcy Kuemper has looked cool, calm, and collected between the pipes.
1. Montreal Canadiens (3-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 8
This Week’s Schedule: @Lightning, Bruins, Avalanche
Breakdown: The Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge do not get flustered easily. In all three games they’ve found themselves down on the scoreboard and in all three games they’ve managed to win. The Habs would hold on to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs opening night and win a shootout against the Washington Capitals the next day. But the true battle was Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers scored three goals to start the game and outplayed the Canadiens for the 1st and 2nd periods. Montreal turned the tables, hemming Philadelphia into their own zone for much of the 3rd period and scoring three goals of their own to tie the game. It took four rounds in the shootout before PA Parenteau finally iced it for Montreal and now they sit atop the standings with six points.
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