Vendetta’s NHL February 2022 Power Rankings
With the exception of the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators, every NHL team reached an important juncture in January: the halfway mark. It’s a big moment for our NHL power rankings, as a few more teams other than the well-known bottom-feeders like Montréal and Arizona are starting to fall out of the playoff hunt; especially in the top-heavy East. This weekend’s All-Star break is the last big rest a lot of teams will get before the playoffs. Trey and I are here to break down which teams might actually be heading there. Let’s get right into it this month.
32. Arizona Coyotes (11-30-4, January: 32)
Andrew: 31, Trey: 32 (Average: 31.5)
Andrew: If everyone on the Coyotes were playing like Karel Vejmelka, they would be a lot more fun to talk about. The 25-year old rookie emerged out of nowhere as a legitimately solid goaltender; his .902 save percentage doesn’t do his efforts justice given how bad the Coyotes are in front of him. That will be especially true if the team trades Jakob Chychyrun sometime in the near future, a move they are apparently desperate to make because what team does not want to trade a 25-year old defenseman on a team-friendly contract just one year after scoring 20 goals?
And that’s not even the worst of it.
Trey: Save Vejmelka! That’s all the Coyotes really are. You know what? It’s not the worst watch on TV. Vejmelka gets pelted with shots. On that rare occasion, save Vejmelka gets etched into stone and turns into Coyotes folklore. The Coyotes stink but stick around for Veggie and Weggie. Nothing like a good pucks on net show.
31. Montréal Canadiens (8-29-7, January: 31)
Andrew: 32, Trey: 30 (Average: 31)
Andrew: It’s a two-team race to the bottom for now, but the Canadiens low-key may be starting to pull away from even the Coyotes. It’s not just that the Habs are last in the NHL; it’s that they’re delivering one of the worst seasons in NHL history. The 2019-20 Red Wings were on pace for roughly 45 points. The 2016-17 Avalanche team that collapsed out of nowhere had 48. The 2014-15 blatantly tanking for Connor McDavid Sabers had 54.
Somehow, the 2021-22 Canadiens are even worse, currently playing at approximately a 43-point pace. They are on pace for about 15 wins, which would be the fewest in an 82-game season since the 1999-2000 expansion Thrashers. Hopefully, Carey Price returns to restore some semblance of respect for a team that has regressed lower than anyone could have imagined.
Trey: Montreal is the worst watch in the league. At this point, I’m convinced Jeff Petry went full Freaky Friday mode and just never switched back into his original body. God he stinks. Even Nick Suzuki has started to look average. The only positive is that Tyler Toffoli rocks when healthy. He finally is. Six points in his last six since returning from injury. Maybe a slight rebound is coming?
30. New Jersey Devils (15-25-5, January: T-25)
Andrew: 30, Trey: 29 (Average: 29.5)
Andrew: The Devils have gone under the radar lately as a truly terrible team, losing six straight and nine of their last ten (all in regulation). Their 5-on-5 play has actually been decent (50.85% expected goals mark), but injuries to Jonathan Bernier and Dougie Hamilton have several players punching above their weight class, and the results aren’t pretty. New Jersey wasn’t supposed to contend this year, but this is the second time in three years the team has made a series of win-now moves completely blow up in their face, at least in the short-term. A young team with as much cap space as they’ll have next summer should be aggressive, but the priors would make it understandable if they’re gun-shy.
Trey: Okay, maybe Dougie Hamilton matters? Jersey has gone into the tank since Dougie broke his jaw. I’m not sure it matters. They’re getting terrible goalie play from whoever is in net ranking 31st in save percentage. MacKenzie Blackwood ain’t it. Jack Hughes brings some thunder but they don’t have much. Jesper Bratt is cool?
T-27. Seattle Kraken (15-27-4, January: 30)
Andrew: 24, Trey: 31 (Average: 27.5)
Andrew: Even the best-laid plans of Kraken and Francis often go awry. The Kraken is what they thought they were upfront (below average) and defensively (stellar). Unfortunately, the latter area’s advantage has been completely nullified thanks to the awful seasons from all three of their goaltenders. No, it’s not just a Philipp Grubauer problem, even if he is the main culprit. You win this one, anti-analytics crowd.
Trey: Any rational person knew this team would stink the second the expansion draft ended. Philipp Grubauer is basically the worst goalie in the league. Brandon Tanev is out for the year. Turns out, Jared McCann is closer to okay than a stud. Are there any positives here? Even Mark Giordano looks like a washed bum. Have we seen Calgary without him?
T-27. Buffalo Sabres (14-24-7, January: 29)
Andrew: 28, Trey: 27 (Average: 27.5)
Andrew: From injuries to COVID to suspensions, the Sabres were lucky to limp to the All-Star break with a goaltender still intact. There are some legitimately exciting stories in Buffalo, from the first NHL goals of Jack Quinn and Peyton Krebs to the resurgence of veterans like Kyle Okposo and Jeff Skinner. It obviously isn’t enough to turn things around this season (or almost certainly next season), but it’s still a marked improvement over last year’s train-wreck.
Trey: I still don’t love the return Buffalo got for Jack Eichel but I’m not sure they totally screwed it up. Alex Tuch looks good and wants to be there. Has always been able to skate but looks more in control and not flinging inaccurate shots at the net.
T-27. Philadelphia Flyers (15-22-8, January: 23)
Andrew: 29, Trey: 26 (Average: 27.5)
Andrew: The real Flyers certainly stood up in January, only to sit back down and then curl up in the fetal position, embarking on a franchise-record thirteen-game losing streak. Even worse, they learned arguably their two best players (Sean Couturier and Ryan Ellis) could be done for the season, while losing more contributors like Kevin Hayes, Joel Farabee, and Wade Allison to injuries as well.
It’s not the only reason the team is spiraling; players like Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov are spinning their wheels, and the team’s once-vaunted prospect pool isn’t developing as hoped, leaving the Flyers with a bottom-six comprised of at least four players who could easily be in the AHL. Maybe GM Chuck Fletcher and owner Dave Scott are right in thinking that when fully healthy, the Flyers are just a couple of pieces away from returning to peak 2019-20 form. But it’s hard to blame the overwhelming skepticism of a once-proud fanbase that hasn’t been past the second round since 2010.
Trey: I watch the Flyers a lot because Carter Hart is on my fantasy team. He’s great with the whacked-out rules we have, but God are the Flyers boring to watch. They never score. They don’t even look like they’re trying to score. 29th in power-play percentage tells a lot of the story.
26. Chicago Blackhawks (16-23-7, January: 27)
Andrew: 26, Trey: 28 (Average: 27)
Andrew: If this was a ranking of off-ice prestige, dignity, or even just common sense, the Blackhawks would be far lower than 32nd. I’m not sure what was going through Rocky Wirtz’s mind when he blasted reporters during the Blackhawks town hall last week for having the *audacity* (that’s sarcasm) to continue to ask about the Kyle Beach story. It shows Wirtz has learned absolutely nothing over the last several months and hollows any message he has even given about accountability in the wake of the scandal.
It was the message of a person with no compassion for what Beach went through, who thinks the story is over just because the two sides reached a settlement. Money can’t buy everything, but hopefully, it can afford a buyout or whatever it takes to get Wirtz as far away from the Blackhawks as possible. Wayne Gretzky said it best, “I’m sitting here thinking, as a parent, you’re sitting there going, ‘My son is 18 years old and he’s going to maybe be drafted by that team. I want to know my 18-year-old son is going to be protected.” Rocky Wirtz’s tirade proved he doesn’t care about doing that. It’s obvious that someone who acts like that should be nowhere near an NHL franchise. Garbage.
25. Ottawa Senators (14-22-4, January: 28)
Andrew: 27, Trey: 25 (Average: 26)
Andrew: Let’s go back to something more positive and instead of discussing another wasted year for the Sens, focus on Matt Murray’s resurgence. Since being sent down to the AHL, Murray’s been playing his best hockey since 2018-19, recording a .924 save percentage in 7 games in January. That’s obviously a small sample size, but if Murray can sustain his current season save percentage (.910%), it would go a long way to making Eugene Melnyk’s “unparalleled success” timeline seem not completely absurd.
Trey: The Senators aren’t great. BUT they do have some things going for them. Drake Batherson has taken a leap. It sucks he got hurt but this is a lost year anyway. Thomas Chabot is a god damn stud. The guy doesn’t leave the ice. Brady Tkachuk is damn good too. They have some weird guys like Alex Formenton who make them interesting. Timmy Stuzle can play. It’s a bad team but they’re not totally unwatchable. All is not lost.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets (20-22-1, January: 24)
Andrew: 25, Trey: 21 (Average: 23)
Andrew: Since starting 12-6-0, the Blue Jackets have slowly but surely fallen out of the race with an 8-14-1 record since. Their defensive woes have only worsened in that time span, with CBJ ranking dead last in shots allowed per game and expected goals against per 60 minutes. Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo aren’t bad goalies but aren’t good enough to withstand that type of barrage. Columbus will obviously be selling at the deadline, but with such a weird mash-up of players at different stages in their careers, it will be interesting to see where they go next.
Trey: This range right here is Columbus. They’re not a total disaster but they also give up more goals than anybody in 5 on 5 play. So there’s that. One thing to watch out for in the second half. Here comes Patrik Laine’s contract season. Four goals in his last two games right before the break. We know what happens when hot Laine arrives. The guy is streaky and has a contract to play for.
23. New York Islanders (16-17-6, January: T-25)
Andrew: 20, Trey: 24 (Average: 22)
Andrew: They’re crept up to 11th in the East, but even if they were to win all of their games in hand, the Islanders would still be nine points behind the Bruins for the East’s final playoff spot. New York is still the same defense-first, offensively challenged team they’ve been in years past; but the losses of players like Devon Toews and Nick Leddy have tilted the scales too far in the latter direction. One of the more interesting decisions at the deadline will be how they handle Semyon Varlamov; he’s signed through next year at $5 million, and Ilya Sorokin may be past the point where he needs a strong safety net.
Trey: How do you buy into the Islanders? I cannot. It was one thing when Sorokin went beast mode. What do they really have going for them? Mat Barzal is the antithesis of the eye test. The guy looks good skating but never racks up as many points as you think he does. The defense will always be on point with Barry Trotz but the offense is beyond broken. Not that talented either.
T-21. Detroit Red Wings (20-21-6, January: 18)
Andrew: 23, Trey: 20 (Average: 21.5)
Andrew: Detroit was almost certainly never going to be a playoff team this year, but I thought they could sustain their strong start a bit longer to at least make a couple of eventual playoff teams sweat in March and April. Instead, they’re fading a bit faster than anticipated, thanks to a below-average blue-line and another poor season from Thomas Greiss. The Red Wings are still in a great position moving forward, but it would be nice to get their young stars some big-game experience if there’s any shot at a late-season resurgence.
Trey: Detroit is going places. They have a direction. They might be young and dumb but they have some studs. Have you seen this Lucas Raymond? Yeah, he is bad defensively, but the kid looks good.
T-21. Vancouver Canucks (20-21-6, January: 19)
Andrew: 21, Trey: 22 (Average: 21.5)
Andrew: The Bruce Boudreau boost is slowly starting to wear off, as the Canucks are a pedestrian 4-3-3 in their last 10. Some key players (namely J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser) have been much better since the coaching change, but Elias Pettersson’s game is still off (12 points in 21 games under Boudreau). Vancouver has a lot of great pieces, but the cap situation Jim Benning left behind may force some of them out to clear up cap space to address more pressing concerns. The new group that will try and solve those issues is starting to come together, though.
Trey: Is Elias Petterson broken? I don’t really know but until he starts scoring again, don’t wake me up. They have gained some steam since the coaching switch but things still aren’t great. Connor Garland was never good enough to take on that terrible Oliver Ekman-Larsson contract. JT Miller should start packing now. Maybe Bo Horvat too.
20. Winnipeg Jets (18-17-7, January: 20)
Andrew: 19, Trey: 23 (Average: 21)
Andrew: The Jets are one of the league’s most disappointing teams to me. They addressed their biggest flaw – defense – fairly significantly in the off-season, and yet it hasn’t really changed their on-ice play at all. They’re a bit better at 5-on-5, but that has to do more with their offense, as they give up the fifth most expected goals against per 60 in the NHL. Connor Hellebuyck is once again keeping them in it, but the Jets’ upside remains low; much lower than it should be for a team built to win now.
Trey: I think I’m over Winnipeg. If Connor Hellebuyck was Juuse Saros, they would be Nashville. I love Kyle Conner but they’re really not great. Old man Wheeler isn’t the same anymore and that’s a problem.
19. San Jose Sharks (22-20-4, January: 21)
Andrew: 22, Trey: 19 (Average: 20.5)
Andrew: All three Californian teams are still playing above expectations, but the Sharks seem like the one most likely to come back to Earth. James Reimer was never going to have a .939 save percentage forever, and his regression has shown what the Sharks really are; a team propped up by some aging stars (and a few still in their prime) that lacks the depth to stay with the big boys. They’re not totally out of it yet thanks to the weak Pacific Division, but they’re going to have to make a decision on Tomas Hertl probably sooner than they’d like to; they can’t afford to lose him for nothing in free agency.
Trey: The Sharks are painfully old and average. Things are getting worse too. Erik Karlsson is out for a while and he was actually having a really good year. Timo Meier is having a really good year, but this puppy is shot.
18. Dallas Stars (23-18-2, January: 17)
Andrew: 18, Trey: 17 (Average: 17.5)
Andrew: Considering the poor months Braden Holtby and Jake Oettinger had (both below .900 SV% in Jan.), I’m surprised the Stars are still hanging around. Maybe it’s simply out of desperation not to waste the Jason Robertson-Roope Hintz-Joe Pavelski line (or enjoy it while it lasts, since Pavelski’s a UFA in July). The Stars simply don’t have enough secondary scoring, and with the contracts of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn looking scarier by the game, it’s difficult to forecast Dallas’ future. And that’s before even getting into the John Klingberg saga.
Trey: I dropped the Stars a little in my rankings from last month but I still like them. Jason Robertson is good, good. No… you don’t understand. He’s unreal. That Robertson, Hintz, Pavelski line is fun. I can’t quit them. Even if Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn look like shells of themselves.
17. Los Angeles Kings (24-16-7, January: 22)
Andrew: 16, Trey: 18 (Average: 17)
Andrew: Every month there’s one team I want to rank much higher than I actually do; this February, it’s Los Angeles. As long as Jonathan Quick’s redemption tour stays on center stage, the Kings look like not just a playoff team, but maybe one that could do some damage. They’re the opposite of Anaheim; stellar at 5-on-5 (53.32% expected goals, 8th in the NHL), but struggle on special teams. Quinton Byfield’s return could give their offense a shot in the arm, and they’ve certainly got the prospects if they want to add at the deadline, even if this probably shouldn’t be a full-steam-ahead “go for it” season.
16. Anaheim Ducks (23-16-9, January: 15)
Andrew: 17, Trey: 15 (Average: 16)
Andrew: I would love to see Trevor Zegras and friends in the playoffs this year, but I can’t help but wonder if the Ducks might be running out of gas. They’re slightly below average offensively (21st in shots for per game, 18th in expected goals per 60) but struggle mightily in their own end (26th in shots against per game, T-24th in expected goals against per 60). Honestly, I think it might make more sense for the Ducks to play the long game; get futures for pending UFAs Rickard Rakell and Josh Manson (Hampus Lindholm is a different story) and set your sights on turning the corner for good in 2022-23.
Trey: It kind of feels like a little crash is coming. The Ducks have exceeded expectations. Troy Terry is unbelievable and Trevor Zegras screams fun. Gibby usually plays a good net. It’s still a young team over their heads. Not a real winner in the Pacific but getting there.
15. St. Louis Blues (26-13-5, January: T-11)
Andrew: 15, Trey: 14 (Average: 14.5)
Andrew: The Blues were all over the map, beginning the month with a dominant victory in the Winter Classic but ending it with two blowout losses in their final three games. They have one of the biggest home/road disparities in the West, which is important since it’s unlikely they’re starting to sink behind Nashville and Minnesota in the race for the second divisional spot in the Central. Has the time come to ride the red-hot hand of Ville Husso (.941 save percentage!) in goal?
Trey: This is now Ville Husso’s world. The Blues have a dilemma on their hands.
14. Washington Capitals (25-13-9, January: 5)
Andrew: 13, Trey: 13 (Average: 13)
Andrew: After a red hot start, the Capitals have cooled off as of late, sliding down into a Wild Card spot and have the same record in their last 10 as the league’s 4th worst team in Seattle. Yes, they’ve had some injuries, but most other teams have had more, and the Capitals have gone from one of the league’s best play-driving teams (3rd in xG% after October) to the middle of the pack (currently 12th). There’s still time to figure things out, but let’s just say the Oilers might not be the only team hunting for a big-name goaltender at the deadline.
13. New York Rangers (30-13-4, January: 10)
Andrew: 9, Trey: 16 (Average: 12.5)
Andrew: I’ve been pretty harsh on the Rangers for a team with as good a record as theirs, and with fairly good reason, considering they’ve struggled to control play at 5-on-5 all season. But there’s something to be said for a team that may just be having one of those seasons where almost everything goes right. Igor Shesterkin as Vezina front-runner? Sure. Chris Kreider leading the league in goals at the All-Star Break? Why not. Alexis Lafrenière and Kappo Kakko producing like top two picks? Look, I said almost everything, ok.
Trey: The Rangers are winning games but c’mon. Does anybody actually watch this team? I do. 30th in shots for and 28th xGF/60 in 5 on 5 play. Chris Kreider scores basically every shot he takes. Yes, Adam Fox and Artemi Panarin are fantastic. Not sure the rest is sustainable. Igor Shesterkin is basically standing on his head right now to keep them in games. He’s playing on a God-like level to keep them in games. I may have been slightly harsh towards Mika Zibanejad but this team really doesn’t impress me as a top-tier contender.
12. Nashville Predators (28-14-4, January: 14)
Andrew: 12, Trey: 12 (Average: 12)
Andrew: Even though they’re just 5-3-2 in their last 10, I’m slowly starting to come around on the Predators’ chances of being more than first-round fodder like they were last spring. It’s not like they’re a bad team at 5-on-5, and Jusse Saros is proving his place among the game’s elite. My biggest concern for them long term is Filip Forsberg’s future. From Elliotte Friedman’s latest 32 Thoughts article, “Asked if he would keep an unsigned Forsberg past the deadline, the GM replied, “I don’t want to box myself in with an answer. It’s not my preference, but I’d never say never.” Like Hertl in San Jose, the Predators can’t lose him for nothing; but they also can’t go deep in the playoffs without him.
Trey: If Juuse Saros didn’t exist, they’re probably 12 spots lower. Everything has gone right for this team. Mikael Granlund is somehow okay. Matt Duchene looks capable again. Filip Forsberg is already past his point total from last year. Tanner Jeannot from the clouds looks like poor man Brady Tkachuk? I see you.
11. Edmonton Oilers (23-16-3, January: 13)
Andrew: 14, Trey: 7 (Average: 10.5)
Andrew: After giving off the same vibes coming from Vancouver that led to the Travis Green and Jim Benning firings, the Oilers stabilized just in time to give Ken Holland and Dave Tippett some breathing room. That’s not to save everything is fixed; their goaltending situation is still a major question mark, and the last month offered a humbling reminder of the ugly picture when Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are merely very good instead of other-worldly. Only one other Oiler is on pace to score more than 21 goals this year (Zack Hyman). That’s of course excluding new signing Evander Kane, who does have 2 in 3 games, but it’s safe to say he’s not the solution to all of Edmonton’s problems, even if he does stay productive.
Trey: I know it’s been rocky. I know the zits exist. The goaltending stinks. The overall defense is hilariously bad. I really think a turnaround is coming. Evander Kane has already made an enormous difference. Scoring, hitting, making plays. The guy is really good as much as nobody wants to hear it.
10. Boston Bruins (26-14-3, January: 16)
Andrew: 11, Trey: 8 (Average: 9.5)
Andrew: It feels like we’re going through the same Bruins season as the last four years. Try splitting up the Perfection Line to solve their depth problems? Currently underway. Complain incessantly about Tuukka Rask even though he’s not the team’s biggest issue (mainly this year because they have other capable options in net)? Check. Worry about another franchise face leaving after their contract expires? Hasn’t happened too much yet with Patrice Bergeron, but that will probably start soon enough. As will rumors about who the Bruins will bring it to try and ensure that if Bergeron does go out, he does so on top.
Trey: I was really starting to get down on the Bruins. Still am. Tuukka Rask has been a disaster since returning. One positive that needs to be pointed out. David Pastrnak was moved permanently to the second line. Since that time, Boston has exploded. Taylor Hall is a real threat with him after really struggling prior to the switch. Bruins have real scoring depth now which hasn’t always existed.
9. Minnesota Wild (28-10-3, January: 9)
Andrew: 7, Trey: 10 (Average: 8.5)
Andrew: After some uncharacteristic struggles around the turn of the calendar year, the Wild haven’t looked back; they’re a league-best 9-0-1 in their last ten games, a streak that dates back to the game after the Winter Classic. They haven’t allowed more than three goals in any of those games (not counting their 4-3 shootout loss to the Avalanche, since they really only allowed three actual goals in that game anyway).
Trey: Worst mistake Seattle made was not picking Kaapo Kähkönen in the expansion draft. He’s better than Cam Talbot. Matt Zuccarello keeps getting better. Kirill Kaprizov terrifies me.
8. Toronto Maple Leafs (29-10-3, January: 6)
Andrew: 5, Trey: 11 (Average: 8)
Andrew: The Maple Leafs were all over the place in January. Yes, they went 8-2-1, but the road to get there was not exactly ideal. It included blowing a multi-goal lead in five games and required big comebacks against the Red Wings and Devils; not exactly two powerhouses. Part of that was Jack Campbell falling back to Earth; expect Petr Mrazek to play much more down the stretch to give Campbell, who’s in his first full season as a starter, some much-needed rest. We’ll see if that’s enough to get the Maple Leafs’ process back on track or if they need some external help to do so.
Trey: When they win a first-round series, I’ll put them in the top ten. Can’t do it until that happens.
T-6. Vegas Golden Knights (27-16-3, January: 4)
Andrew: 10, Trey: 5 (Average: 7.5)
Andrew: Even accounting for their injuries, I still find myself wanting more for Vegas. It looked like they’d turned the corner for good a month ago, but January didn’t treat them so kindly. A crossroads may be nearing with Jack Eichel’s return no longer in the distant future. We know Reilly Smith and Evgeni Dadonov will likely be traded once the team returns to full health, but can they extract some value (and if so, what do they look to add) or will their lack of leverage turn them into cap dumps?
Trey: Things have not been ideal. Max Pacioretty hasn’t really played. Neither has Mark Stone. Neither has Alec Martinez. Chandler Stephenson has been awesome but now even he’s out. Robin Lehner has underperformed. Yet, they’re first in the Pacific and Jack Eichel is coming. Uh oh!
T-6. Pittsburgh Penguins (27-11-8, January: T-11)
Andrew: 6, Trey: 9 (Average: 7.5)
Andrew: They’ve flown under the radar, but the Penguins are absolutely playing like an elite team right now. Top ten in goals for and against per game, shots for and shots against per game, expected goals for and against per game, save percentage, penalty-kill, and just outside on the power-play (11th). Oh yeah, and Evgeni Malkin isn’t even operating at peak powers right now. They scream deep playoff run to me.
Trey: This ranking might actually be disrespectful. Kris Letang is playing awesome hockey. Sid the Kid is healthy and rolling. Evgeni Malkin has been hot since he’s come back. Tristan Jarry doesn’t suck. They’re also winning way more games than everyone thinks and it’s being slept on.
5. Calgary Flames (23-13-6, January: 7)
Andrew: 8, Trey: 6 (Average: 7)
Andrew: Like most of the Canadian teams, the Flames are seem buried in the standings but are still in a good spot. Yes, they’ve fallen to sixth in the West in points percentage, and Sean Monahan’s apparently used up all of his offensive in 2018-19. But the Flames are still on pace to finish second in the Pacific, which would be enough for home ice in the first round. On paper, their biggest weakness is defense since they never really replaced Mark Giordano, but on the ice, it seems to be their biggest strength. Their underlying numbers are strong on offense, but the goals aren’t there. Good luck trying to sort out what to do at the deadline if you’re Brad Treliving.
Trey: Um. This is not a drill. Calgary is really good. 2nd in shots for. 2nd in shots allowed. Yeah… Calgary. Start paying attention. I might be low on them.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning (30-10-6, January: 2)
Andrew: 4, Trey: 4 (Average: 4)
Andrew: The full health Lightning actually doesn’t look that much better than the Kucherov and Point-less team we saw throughout November and December, but that’s because that depleted version was somehow playing incredibly, too. After trading three first-round picks at the last two deadlines, does Julien BriseBois stay aggressive, or will the cap-strapped Lightning trust their potent group?
T-1. Carolina Hurricanes (31-9-2, January: 1)
Andrew: 2, Trey: 2 (Average: 2)
Andrew: Yes, I know a three-way tie for first place is anti-climatic, but that’s the way the cookie crumbled this month (for the record, tied teams are listed in order of record, from worst to best). Tony DeAngelo’s been very productive offensively for the Hurricanes this year, but the Hurricanes do miss Dougie Hamilton; just not in the way that’d you think. Hamilton’s defensive game was underrated if simply not appreciated, and the Canes have fallen from a very complete team to one that’s a bit one-dimensional; they’re tied for 24th in expected goals against per 60 minutes and a decent 12th in shots allowed per game. And we’ve seen what happens when Frederik Andersen tries to carry a team too dependent on its offense over the top.
T-1. Colorado Avalanche (32-8-4, January: 8)
Andrew: 1, Trey: 3 (Average: 2)
Andrew: Don’t look now, but Darcy Kuemper (.928 SV% in Jan.) is starting to find his game; and if that’s the case, there might not be anyone who can hold back the Avs. Colorado is on pace for a franchise-best 127 points (one fewer than the 2018-19 Lightning, for reference) and their second President’s Trophy in as many years. The only goal that matters for them is the Cup, and I understand that. But take some time to appreciate just how great this Avalanche squad is. Teams this good don’t come around often, and they don’t stay together forever. There’s a decent chance Colorado will be able to have its cake and eat it, too, but even if they don’t, just enjoy the ride.
Trey: Pavel Francouz? Do you trust him? If so, this is the Cup winner. They are my pick but I want to see a move to replace Kuemper in a perfect world. Too much talent. Especially if Nazem Kadri is going to be locked in like this.
T-1. Florida Panthers (32-10-5, January: 3)
Andrew: 3, Trey: 1 (Average: 2)
Andrew: The same Panthers team that two years ago had a forward line with two defensemen on it now might trade Frank Vatrano or/and Owen Tippett (also per Friedman’s latest 32 Thoughts article) because they have too much depth up front. That’s what happens when Mason Marchment explodes for a six-point game, just one part of a Panthers team that’s averaging the most goals per game (4.09, T-1st in the NHL with the team ranked just ahead of them) than any team since the 1993-94 Red Wings. Could they use another defenseman? Sure; they’re pretty mediocre across the board in defensive stats. But remember, last year’s first-round exit came without Aaron Ekblad; just being at full strength (fingers crossed) means the Panthers are more than capable of going deep.
Trey: Best watch in the sport. I swear they just routinely put up 8 spots and we act like this is normal? Has anyone seen Anton Lundell? If he doesn’t win the Calder, burn the award. He will be the best of the group five years from now. The Barkov-Huberdeau thing brings me tears of joy. We got Sam Reinhart riding the third line because they’re that good. All the signs point to the Florida Panthers. EVEN BOB IS PLAYING WELL!
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All Advanced Stats are 5-on-5 unless otherwise stated and via Natural Stat Trick