NHL Power Rankings: Capitals surge as Lightning, Sabres fall back

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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)

30. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 30)

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They beat Edmonton last week, which is good. Then they got outscored 11-3 by Carolina and Florida. Since they started the season with that two-game win streak and some people said, “Oh I guess they might not be as bad as we all thought!” they’re 2-10-1 with a minus-27 goal difference. Woof.

29. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 29)

If Drew Doughty really wants to get back to being a Norris-caliber defenseman, he’s gonna need to do something besides occasionally scoring in overtime. And also get a time machine.

28. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 23)

I said it yesterday but these guys have two regulation wins. Tied with Chicago for the fewest in the league. And those wins were back-to-back… three weeks ago. Feels like it’s gonna be a long season.

27. New York Rangers (LW: 28)

Credit where it’s due: They beat the Lightning and Predators this week. I know Tampa is playing kinda poorly, but for a team with this little talent to beat two teams like that in a week, after giving up seven goals to an equally talented Boston team, ain’t bad at all.

26. Chicago (LW: 27)

Saw some people floating the idea that they should trade Erik Gustafsson — their best defenseman — for futures and I have to agree. This season’s a dead end. Next year probably will be too. Might as well trade the guys you have that still carry value and don’t control their destinations. Only logical, really.

25. Minnesota Wild (LW: 25)

Minnesota’s goal difference by period: plus-3 in the first, then minus-8, then minus-10, and minus-1 in OT. Probably not what you want.

24. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 22)

23. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 26)

The Ducks are 3-1-1 in the last five. Here are their shots-against totals in those games: 37, 49, 40, 40, 37. John Gibson and Ryan Miller are simply “at it again.”

22. New Jersey Devils (LW: 24)

I love that they have this nice little turnaround here — 3-1-2 in the last six — and it’s like, “Ah, they’re still only losing as often as they’re winning.” It’s nice that Hughes, Hischier, and Hall are finally putting the puck in the net but for some reason I just don’t see Louis Domingue turning things around for them.

That said: Their goalies currently have a combined .865 save percentage, so…

21. San Jose Sharks (LW: 15)

20. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 20)

The big problem for these guys, who are having a pretty good season but trending down a little bit, is that they’re in the division they’re in. If they’re in the Metro, we’re having a very different conversation about them, but they’re MAYBE the fifth-best team in the Atlantic, depending on your feelings about Buffalo.

Tampa’s off to a start they would call “embarrassing” and they’re two points behind Montreal with a game in hand.

19. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 19)

18. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 17)

I’m gonna get insane pushback on this, but if you’re counting on Mike Smith to make 51 saves and otherwise splitting a road trip in Detroit and Columbus, I really don’t know about all this, man. One regulation win since Oct. 18, when they beat the Red Wings. That’s it.

17. Dallas Stars (LW: 21)

To give you an idea of how tough it is to start the season 1-7-1: The Stars are 6-1-0 since then and they’re still behind a team whose defense is basically two legit NHLers and a bunch of replacement-level guys.

16. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 5)

When I do these things, at the start of every season, I group teams into seven categories that give a vague idea of where they’ll end up. While there are plenty of teams that go above and beyond over the course of the full 82 (the Islanders last year, for example), I’m willing to give a lot of them the benefit of the doubt right up until the shoe drops.

That’s where I’m at with Buffalo, who I thought would fall in the second-lowest group (bright red). They played well to start and increasingly tailed off but kept winning. Now they’re not even doing that, and we’re at the point where they would have to put it back together again in a big way for me to even keep them here, rather than slowly sinking them back into the lower depths of the league.

Hey, that’s life when you lose three straight, even if it’s to three teams that are on absolute hot streaks right now. Buffalo has three points from the last five games, and the only win was against Detroit. In theory they could continue proving me wrong. In actual practice…?

15. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 16)

For the record I had the Canucks in the “yellow” group in the middle and should probably have them higher than this but yeah, I just don’t see them as a 10.7 shooting/.924 save percentage team all year.

14. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 18)

Y’know, they seem to do everything pretty well and the results are largely “there” for them (they’re on pace for 107 points???) but because of how hot the rest of the division has largely been, and also because of lots of games in hand, they still have to make up a lot of ground to get into the legitimate playoff conversation. I’d say they have a better-than-you’d-expect chance to do it.

13. Calgary Flames (LW: 11)

12. Florida Panthers (LW: 14)

On the one hand, 18 points in 14 games is a great number. On the other, you gotta think they’ll start hearing those Toronto-and-Tampa footsteps sooner than later. I really like this group, but I think they’re probably on the lower end of “good” league-wide and in a division like this, that ain’t gonna cut it.

11. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 12)

10. Colorado Avalanche (LW: 8)

Four straight losses and long-term injuries and it seems like things are starting to pile up for them. They didn’t have the depth last year to absorb any major injuries at all, but getting two basically back-to-back would be tough for most good teams to withstand.

9. New York Islanders (LW: 13)

Before you get mad at me: I picked the Islanders to make the playoffs (I believe at around 91, 92 points) so I actually believe in them more than everyone else.

Gotta give ‘em all the kudos in the world for this big winning streak which, unlike Buffalo’s last year, isn’t largely propped up by OT/SO wins. They’ve won five straight in regulation, and that’s what you want. But they can’t keep hoping to get by on an expected-goals number below 50.

If you want to say “quality over quantity,” Barry Trotz certainly has that track record, but when even the quality isn’t there, I dunno. The thing is — and you can apply this to any team, any individual player, whatever — you’re going to be perceived as “playing the right way” when you outscore opponents almost 2-to-1 over 11 percent of the season. That’s true whether you’re actually playing the right way or not. It’s the “What they’re doing leads to a 104 PDO” argument.

Can literally anyone argue what they’re doing leads to a 107 PDO? Because that’s what they’re sitting on with this win streak.

8. Nashville Predators (LW: 10)

7. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 3)

See the Toronto entry.

6. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 7)

One thing that is very interesting to me is that every time a former Cup winner comes to Toronto these days, all the media freaks in that city stick a recorder in a star’s face and asks, “Why do you think the Leafs are all huge losers who suck?” You’ll note that the Leafs currently occupy a playoff spot and haven’t lost two regulation games in a row since Oct. 10.

But because Freddie Andersen hasn’t been .920 this year and a bunch of teams are off to ludicrously hot starts, it’s “These guys are all garbage, right Ovi?” Like get a grip. These guys are gonna finish second or third in this division again unless things go very sideways for more reasons than just “I don’t think Matthews plays hard enough.”

No one, meanwhile, is doing that with the Lightning, who have an objectively better roster and coach, but have been objectively much worse than Toronto in just about every facet of the game you can think of. It’s probably because the Tampa media aren’t deeply, deeply diseased.

5. St. Louis Blues (LW: 9)

All that stuff I said about the Stars above is also about the Blues. Nice to get all these wins but you can’t be digging yourself this kind of hole.

4. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 4)

At this point I would say the Storm Surge is something I hear about only occasionally, and I think that’s cool. It’s just a thing that we don’t have to get all worked up over every single time. They’re nice to do and everyone who likes them can like them and those who don’t have finally stopped freaking out about it.

At least, as far as I can tell. Which is all that matters.

3. Vegas Golden Knights (LW: 2)

I still believe in these guys more than any other team in the West (you’ll note only they, the Avs and the Predators are the Western Conference teams in the top 10). But the fact that they’ve only won two of the last six ought to be a big concern. It’s a PDO thing, for sure, but the results gotta be there when you’re behind Edmonton, Vancouver, and Anaheim in the division.

2. Washington Capitals (LW: 6)

1. Boston Bruins (LW: 1)

Okay but imagine what these guys would do if someone other than David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand put the puck in the net. They have 21 of the team’s total 46 goals. It’s absurd.

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

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