Vendetta’s NHL December 2021 Power Rankings
As we prepare for our second power rankings article of the season, we’ve now passed a critical juncture in any NHL season: Thanksgiving. In your average NHL season, roughly 12 of the 16 teams in playoff spots on Turkey Day will still be in one by season’s end, give or take maybe one more team. The learning period for every team that defines the start of a season is all but over. Hope starts to fade into honesty, with teams forced to admit difficult truths about themselves for the first time.
The picture is a little bit clearer than it was the last time we set out for power rankings, but not much. Buffalo has predictably fallen off the map, but many surprising teams like Detroit, San Jose, and Anaheim are still in playoff spots. Teams like Vegas and Colorado still aren’t nearly as high in the standings as they expect to be in April. And don’t even ask the Islanders about how things are going right now.
There’s still time for teams to turn things around (or for teams to fall apart), but we’re already 25-30 percent of the way through the season. That’s significant. It’s time for teams to make tough decisions about salvaging, boosting, or punting their season away. Two reminders before we get started; 1) these rankings are a combination of short-term analysis and long-term expectations. 2) If I mention where a team ranks in goals for or against, those stats are per game unless otherwise stated to even out teams with different amounts of games played. If I mentioned where a team ranks in expected goals for or/and against, that’s per 60 minutes to control for differing amounts of 5-on-5 playing time. Now, let’s see which bucket every team is leaning towards.
32. Arizona Coyotes (5-14-2, November: 32)
Andrew: 31, Ryan: 32, Trey: 32 (Average: 31.7)
Andrew: It’s another month of futility for the Coyotes, but at least they won a game this month. Several, in fact! You have to feel for Shayne Gostisbehere, who is somehow scoring at a 55-point pace as a defender on a team averaging a league-worst 1.79 goals per game. Same for Scott Wedgewood, who was also a part of the 2017-18 team that started 0-10-1, who somehow has a .921 save percentage in 9 games. The Coyotes have scored as many goals (43) as Leon Draisaitl has points this season.
Ryan: They’ve won a few more games than they did in October, but sporting a league-worst -46 goal differential is nothing to boast about.
31. Ottawa Senators (6-15-1, November: 29)
Andrew: 32, Ryan: 31, Trey: 31 (Average: 31.3)
Andrew: When I do these power rankings, I compile a massive spreadsheet to help my decision-making. I compile goals for and against per game, shots for and against per game, expected goals for and against per 60 minutes (to control for games played and penalties) at 5-on-5, expected goals percentage at 5-on-5, team save percentage, power-play percentage, and penalty kill percentage. Only tone team ranks 21st or lower in all of these categories; this is one of them. Is that the “unparalleled success” the Senators were banking on starting this year?
If so, congratulations to Ottawa, who is somehow dead last in a league that includes a team using Travis Boyd as their first-line center. Ottawa’s problems stem from a defense featuring Thomas Chabot and a bunch of kids in a trench coat who is dead last in goals and shots against per game, 30th in expected goals against, and 28th on the penalty kill. In fairness, they’re not getting much help from their goalies, who rank 31st in team save percentage. That’s what happens when you commit $6.25 million to a goalie who is sent to the AHL less than halfway through his contract. What a fiasco this organization still is.
30. Montréal Canadiens (6-17-3, November: 30)
Andrew: 30, Ryan: 30, Trey: 30 (Average: 30)
Andrew: Montréal officially bit the bullet on a lost season by firing GM Marc Bergevin and cleaning house in their front office. It’s the end of an era for the Canadiens that featured plenty of drama, some widely criticized blockbuster moves (many of which panned out better than originally thought), and two trips to the third round, including reaching last year’s Stanley Cup Final. Bergevin was probably going to leave at season’s end anyway; he’s on the last year of his deal, and all reports are that he’s burnt out from 9+ years running one of the league’s biggest markets. The Habs may be a team “built for the playoffs,” but they don’t have nearly enough offensive juice to get them there (and it’s not like their defense has been up to snuff, either).
29. New York Islanders (5-10-4, November: 14)
Andrew: 27, Ryan: 28, Trey: 29 (Average: 28)
Andrew: Let’s get this out of the way: just about everything that could go wrong that the Islanders have no control over has gone wrong. They ran out of gas at the end of their season-opening 13 game road trip. Injuries and COVID-19 have ravaged the team. And a Barry Trotz coached team can never be counted out until it’s official.
But even accounting for all of that, things look really bad for the Islanders. After winning their first two games of the month, the Islanders didn’t pick up a single point the rest of November. Mat Barzal appears to have been visited by the Monstars, as his play in both ends of the ice has been very poor. The Identity Line has been outscored 5-1 this year (though their underlying numbers have bounced back from a tough start). They’re the only team other than the Coyotes averaging less than two goals per game. Even if they start to look like themselves once reaching full health, the hole they’ve dug in the Metro Division standings may be too deep for even them to dig out of.
Ryan: What a weird year it has been for this team. Thirteen straight road games followed by a COVID outbreak have this team in freefall. Don’t forget about the big injuries to Brock Nelson and Casey Cizikas.
28. Vancouver Canucks (8-15-2, November: 27)
Andrew: 29, Ryan: 29, Trey: 24 (Average: 27.3)
Andrew: Vancouver should take a hint from the team ranked two spots behind them. Two straight wins against the Canadiens and Senators shouldn’t be nearly enough to save a management group that’s been in over its heads for a while now. Thatcher Demko is looking more and more like a pretty good goaltender who isn’t heroic enough to make up for the total defensive mess in front of him. Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser are scoring at sub-45 point paces. Their cap situation is horrible. The penalty kill is dead last in the league. Remember what I said in the intro about admitting difficult truths? Vancouver needs to start doing that for everyone’s sake.
27. Buffalo Sabres (8-13-3, November: 24)
Andrew: 28, Ryan: 25, Trey: 28 (Average: 27)
Andrew: After a fun 5-1-1 start, the Sabres are predictably falling back to the league’s basement. Two game-winning goals surrendered in the same month? Check. Team save percentage dropping from T-10th to 28? Check. 5-on-5 numbers cratering from decent to dismal? You’ve got it. They’re still getting production from young players like Tage Thompson and Dylan Cozens, plus Jeff Skinner isn’t actually playing poorly this year. But yeah, when you give up seven goals in consecutive games and the most notable moment is this, things aren’t going well.
Ryan: If Sabres fans needed anything else to make them feel like garbage, Jack Eichel looks like he’s going to play for Vegas this year.
26. Philadelphia Flyers (8-9-4, November: 10)
Andrew: 26, Ryan: 27, Trey: 21 (Average: 24.7)
Andrew: This is not a team that is losing games because of their injuries. Or a team losing games due to facing the league’s toughest schedule. Oh, both of those things have played a role in their seven-game skid, of course. But first and foremost, the Flyers are simply playing like a bad team right now. Horrible, even. The Flyers rank 30th in expected goals percentage and allow more shots per game than everyone except Ottawa. They scored nearly as many goals short-handed in November (3) as they did on the power-play (2) and haven’t scored more than three in a game since October 27. Things aren’t getting any easier for them, either. And it might mean discussing a new coaching staff by the time the next set of these rankings comes out.
T-24. Chicago Blackhawks (8-13-2, November: 31)
Andrew: 22, Ryan: 24, Trey: 27 (Average: 24.3)
Andrew: The Blackhawks are 7-3-0 since Derek King took over as interim coach, an impressive turnaround for a team that looked utterly lost at the start of the season. Even if we just look at their last 10 games, the Blackhawks are just 27th in Expected Goals%. Their resurgence is more the result of Marc-André Fleury figuring things out and an extremely top-heavy offense. It will take more than one good month to get the Blackhawks seriously back in the playoff mix, but credit where credit’s due.
T-24. New Jersey Devils (9-9-4, November: 23)
Andrew: 24, Ryan: 26, Trey: 23 (Average: 24.3)
Andrew: It’ll be tough to hang around in the Metropolitan Division, but the Devils have a chance to do so. Their 5-on-5 numbers are solid (49.99% Expected Goals, 14th), and they’ve scored at a decent clip despite missing Jack Hughes for most of the season. He’s back (and with a larger wallet), which means that if their special teams and goaltending can pick up the slack, the future may arrive sooner than expected for the Devils. It probably won’t be this year, but the pieces are starting to come together, amplified by Dawson Mercer’s outstanding start. They need more from Ty Smith, though, who has a 39% Expected Goals and was recently health scratched.
Ryan: Believe me when I say I truly think that any team can beat New Jersey and Philly right now. Neither looks like they are having fun anymore, and they can’t keep the puck out of the net whatsoever. They’re kind of lucking out because the rest of the Metro, excluding the Rangers, are all on losing streaks.
23. Seattle Kraken (9-13-2, November: 28)
Andrew: 21, Ryan: 23, Trey: 26 (Average: 23.3)
Andrew: There’s a lot to like about the Kraken under the hood. Seattle was a team built around their defense, and sure enough, they’re 2nd in shots against and 3rd in expected goals against. So why are they 28th in goals against and just now starting to win games?
Goal-tend-ing. Philipp Grubauer has allowed FOURTEEN goals above expected this season; that’s four more than Carter Hutton, who’s second-worst. Chris Driedger’s been a bit better (-2.8), but now he’s hurt, forcing the inexperienced Joey Daccord into action and putting more pressure on Grubauer to turn things around. Seattle isn’t totally buried yet, but their goaltending has to turn things around to give the rest of the team a chance.
22. Los Angeles Kings (9-9-4, November: 25)
Andrew: 25, Ryan: 22, Trey: 22 (Average: 23)
Andrew: Not many expected LA to be the worst Californian team after an offseason of improvements and with elite prospects abound, but here we are. Surprisingly, it’s the veteran holdovers from their mid-2010s glory days that are leading the charge. The Kings defense is getting healthier thanks to Drew Doughty’s return, and Anze Kopitar is producing at the second-best rate of his career. And Jonathan Quick is simply outplaying Cal Petersen in the net. Their contributions are welcome, but the supporting cast and the kids need to do more to get the Kings back in the mix.
Ryan: None of these teams are good, but I just think the Kings stink a little less than my previous two (Seattle and Chicago).
21. Columbus Blue Jackets (12-10-0, November: 18)
Andrew: 23, Ryan: 20, Trey: 25 (Average: 22.7)
Andrew: I couldn’t rank a team with 12 wins any lower (only 12 teams have more), but Columbus feels much more likely than the Devils to fall off. I’ll reward them for their solid record, but the Blue Jackets look like a team with a mediocre offense (although Patrik Laine’s return could boost that a little) and a defense that’s lost Seth Jones, Ryan Murray, Markus Nutivaara, and David Savard in the last 14 months. Elvis Merzlikins (5.4 goals saved above expected) is helping them stay afloat. Props to Jake Voracek, who is turning back the clock in his return to Columbus after a decade in Philadelphia; his 15 primary assists are tied for first in the NHL.
20. Detroit Red Wings (13-9-3, November: 26)
Andrew: 20, Ryan: 17, Trey: 19 (Average: 18.7)
It looked like inevitable regression was hitting Detroit in the middle of the month, but the Wings have flipped the switch by winning four straight after dropping five of their previous six. Somehow Detroit is 3 games above hockey .500 despite ranking 22nd in goals for and against per game, though they’re break-even by expected goals so it’s hard to tell which way this is trending.
Whether the Wings are for real or just paper tigers, take a moment to appreciate just how well Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider are playing. The former leads all rookies with 10 goals and 22 points, plus a stellar 56.29% Expected Goals rate. Seider is skating 22 minutes a night and leads rookie defenders with 17 points, including an overtime winner last night. Detroit’s resurgence is nearing if it’s not already here.
19. Pittsburgh Penguins (11-8-5, November: 17)
Andrew: 13, Ryan: 21, Trey: 20 (Average: 18)
Andrew: There may not be a team in the NHL with a weakness that’s easier to fix than the Penguins. Pittsburgh is 21st in the NHL in goals despite a top ten expected goals for ranking. But that’s to be expected when Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Bryan Rust play in just 23 out of 69 combined possible games. That’s not nice, but it is turning around with Crosby and Rust getting back to peak powers and Malkin nearing a return. Tristan Jarry is making me look smart with a stellar .933 save percentage and 10.5 goals above expected (6th). There’s a reason I haven’t bet against the Penguins the last two years despite their aging core and some questionable offseason moves. I’ll believe they’re dead when I see it.
Ryan: Sure, Crosby is back, but Jarry playing out of his mind is not sustainable.
18. Nashville Predators (13-10-1, November: 22)
Andrew: 19, Ryan: 19, Trey: 15 (Average: 17.7)
Andrew: It’s encouraging to see Matt Duchene (13 goals, 24 points, 57.87% Expected Goals) and Ryan Johansen (20 points, 56.3% Expected Goals) completely turning it around. For Nashville to have any shot at relevancy, those two needed to perform like $8 million players. It felt unlikely after very underwhelming 2020-21 campaigns, but both are back in 2016 vintage form. Don’t sleep on Mikael Granlund either; he’s leading the team with 25 points, though his underlying metrics aren’t as stellar as Duchene or Johansen.
It says a lot about Nashville though that despite those three (and Jusse Saros ranking 10th with 7.4 goals saved above expected) that the Predators are barely in a playoff spot despite their stellar performances. If they dip at any point, Nashville’s stock could plummet.
17. San Jose Sharks (13-10-1, November: 19)
Andrew: 18, Ryan: 14, Trey: 17 (Average: 16.3)
Andrew: Any of the teams I have ranked between 15-19 are easily interchangeable. Props to the Sharks for suddenly becoming one of the league’s stingiest teams seemingly out of nowhere. San Jose is seventh in shots against and tenth in expected goals against (plus 4th on the PK), and their goaltending (led by James Reimer) is still more than holding the fort. Even Erik Karlsson is turning back the clock with 12 points in 18 games and strong underlying numbers. Their depth is still a big concern, but the Sharks are giving off major 2017-18 LA Kings vibes with the cast of veterans delivering vintage performances.
16. Winnipeg Jets (11-8-4, November: T-11)
Andrew: 15, Ryan: 15, Trey: 18 (Average: 16)
Andrew: Winnipeg is a team I desperately want to rank higher than they currently are. I criticized their 5-on-5 play in last month’s rankings, but they’ve cleaned up their act defensively, which is driving a top-10 52.43% Expected Goals mark. Connor Hellebuyck (7.7 goals saved above expected, T-8th) is playing exceptionally. And yet the Jets are just 4-5-1 in their last ten games. Blame an unusually pedestrian offense and brutal 68.3% penalty kill for their recent underachieving. Granted, they are shooting just 6.05% at 5-on-5 (for reference, they were at 8.56% last year) over that span. And their PK is a respectable 18th in expected goals against per 60. The Jets are trending upwards, but they’ll need to turn their promise into tangible results to rise further.
15. Anaheim Ducks (13-8-4, November: 20)
Andrew: 16, Ryan: 12, Trey: 16 (Average: 14.7)
Andrew: It’s not that I don’t believe in the Ducks, I just believe in a couple of other teams more. After a historically bad power play and scoring the fewest goals in the NHL, Troy Terry’s breakout, Ryan Getzlaf’s resurgence, and Trevor Zegras’ emergence have pushed the Ducks into the top 10 in just about every major offensive category. Their defense isn’t a different story, but you can get away with that when John Gibson is operating at peak powers. He’s actually credited for 3.3 goals saved below expected, but between his .915 save percentage and that Anaheim is T-25th in expected goals against, I’ll trust that the Olympic-bound netminder has things under control.
Ryan: Terry has cooled off, but Zegras is red hot and is making highlight-reel plays on a nightly basis as he inches closer to Lucas Raymond in the Calder race.
14. Boston Bruins (12-8-1, November: 13)
Andrew: 10, Ryan: 18, Trey: 14 (Average: 14)
Andrew: Depth (once again) and goaltending (for a change) are concerns for the Bruins, but just like the Penguins, I think they’ll be fine in the long run. Boston’s 55.73% Expected Goals is the highest mark in the league, and they’re one of five teams with a top-ten power play and penalty kill. And it’s not like Boston’s goaltending is bad; it’s just ok, with Jeremy Swayman playing slightly above average (1.7 goals saved above expected) and Linus Ullmark just below (-3.8). As for the depth? That’s a legitimate issue for now. But if the Bruins keep playing this well, not only will the wins come for their current group, but I think Don Sweeney will find a way to give them some help.
13. St. Louis Blues (12-8-4, November: 7)
Andrew: 17, Ryan: 11, Trey: 10 (Average: 12.7)
Andrew: After a 5-0-0 start, the Blues are starting to cool down and are trending towards what I thought they’d be at the start of the year; a bubble team. There’s nothing really wrong with the Blues; their defense isn’t great in terms of allowing chances or killing penalties, but they’re 10th in shots against and their goaltending is (mostly) strong. Their offense is deep and Jordan Kyrou looks legit, though Vladimir Tarasenko’s 35 goal days may officially be a thing of the past. There’s just nothing that wows me with the Blues, hence their middle-of-the-pack ranking.
12. Vegas Golden Knights (13-10-0, November: 15)
Andrew: 14, Ryan: 16, Trey: 6 (Average: 12)
Andrew: Raise your hand if you saw the Golden Knights being arguably the league’s worst 5-on-5 defensive team through two months. Vegas is dead last in expected goals against and 21st or worse in goals and shots against. Alex Pietrangelo’s brutal start was part of it, but those are issues that stem far beyond one player. Yes, Vegas will be better all-around when William Karlsson and Jack Eichel (who seems ahead of schedule) return. But if Vegas has aspirations of getting the hump this year, correcting those defensive shortcomings is a must.
11. Dallas Stars (12-7-2, November: 21)
Andrew: 11, Ryan: 13, Trey: 9 (Average: 11)
November 13, 2021: After starting 4-6-2 (28th in the league), the Dallas Stars record their first regulation win over the Flyers, starting a 9-3-1 run that has their season back on track.
Just add it to the list. Snapping out of my state of Flyers sadness, the Stars are back to looking like the outstanding 2019-20 team that earned a Round Robin spot to bypass the chaos of the Qualifier Round. Dallas is top 10 in goals and expected goals against and just outside that cutoff in shots against. Braden Holtby’s emergence in goal and Jake Oettinger’s underrated breakout (his 1.126 expected goals saved against per 60 is 1st in the NHL, min. 5 games played) are making sure it doesn’t for naught.
I didn’t compare them to the Stars in their run to the Final because that version of Dallas actually relied on their offense. That currently isn’t the case, though the resurgence of the Jason Robertson-Roope Hintz-Joe Pavelski line (64.58% expected goals, outscoring opponents 11-5) may change that.
Ryan: The Stars have turned it around thanks to great goaltending from Oettinger and Holtby. Hintz had 10 goals in November after surprisingly having zero in the month of October.
10. Colorado Avalanche (12-7-2, November: 16)
Andrew: 12, Ryan: 10, Trey: 7 (Average: 9.7)
Andrew: One of the hardest truths a team may have to admit is that Joe Sakic might have botched the Avs goalie situation. Yes, Grubauer is struggling mightily in Seattle, but Darcy Kuemper, whose contract is up at year’s end and cost a 1st round pick and quality prospect Connor Timmins, isn’t fairing much better. Oh, and he’s also dealing with an injury right now. Unless Pavel Francouz (who struggled mightily in his first professional game since the bubble for Colorado’s AHL affiliate) has a time machine, it might take further work to get Colorado’s goaltending up to par.
It’s a shame I have to spend so much time discussing this; I’d much rather talk about Nazem Kadri’s career year (4th in the NHL with 30 points), their still strong 5-on-5 play (especially defensively, which only makes Kuemper’s struggles look worse), or how good they’ll be when Nathan MacKinnon returns. But none of it will mean anything in the playoffs, which is all that matters to Avalanche fans now, if they don’t have a trustworthy goaltender to lean on, whether that’s Kuemper, Francouz, or somebody else.
Ryan: There was no need to overreact to Colorado’s slow start to the season. They’ve quietly won eight of their last ten, and they have MacKinnon back fully healthy. If Kadri has another incredible month, this team most likely moves into the top 5.
9. Washington Capitals (15-4-6, November: 6)
Andrew: 9, Ryan: 5, Trey: 12 (Average: 8.7)
Just copy and paste the “this team will never die” bit from the Pittsburgh and Boston sections here.
However, while their record remains pristine, the Capitals are fortunate to still be this high. At the end of October, Washington was third in the league with a 56.21% Expected Goals rate. That number has dropped to a pedestrian 50.55%, 11th in the league. They’re averaging one fewer shot and 1.8 more shots against per game. It’s not all bad news; Ilya Samsonov is starting to play much better, which would fix Washington’s biggest issue if his gains hold.
Ryan: I said at the beginning of the season that Alex Ovechkin’s chase for Wayne Gretzky’s goal record depended largely on how he played this year. How has he answered the call? By setting a career-high with 38 points through his first 24 games. That includes 19 goals, the second-most in the league behind Leon Draisaitl.
8. Minnesota Wild (17-6-1, November: T-11)
Andrew: 6, Ryan: 6, Trey: 11 (Average: 7.7)
Andrew: Not since Barry Trotz turned the Islanders around in 2018 has a team’s identity changed as quickly as the Minnesota Wild’s since Kirill Kaprizov came over last season. Look at their game last night against Toronto. What would usually be a snoozefest was an exciting six-goal thriller with some nasty shootout goals, and oh yeah, a victory.
Minnesota’s goaltending still is a bit questionable, but it’s improved from a .886 save percentage (roughly) at the end of October to a .904 mark now. Welcome to a world where Marcus Foligno is shooting in the mid-20s percent for the second straight year and Ryan Hartman has scored 10 goals on 86(!) shots, the latter mark ranking 8th in the NHL. I was a bit wary that Minnesota’s emergence last year may have been the result of a weak West Division. We can safely discard that concern now after two months of being one of the league’s best teams.
Ryan: They lead the league in points by defensemen? That’s interesting. Kaprizov has also hit his stride; he’s now fifth in the league in points with 28.
7. Tampa Bay Lightning (14-5-4, November: 5)
Andrew: 8, Ryan: 9, Trey: 4 (Average: 7)
Andrew: For most teams, losing their two best forwards, one of whom one the Hart in 2019, would be a devastating blow. Yet Tampa Bay is 5-1-1 with a still-solid 51.14% Expected Goals rate. Steven Stamkos is enjoying a renaissance that might just be enough to sneak him onto Team Canada incredibly for the first time. Andrei Vasilevskiy has overcome a shaky first five games or so to nearly enter the top five in goals saved above expected. I’ll be interested to see how Alex Killorn and Anthony Cirelli fair without a safety net on Tampa Bay’s second line, but overall, the Lightning seem well equipped to weather this latest storm.
6. New York Rangers (16-4-3, November: 9)
Andrew: 4, Ryan: 3, Trey: 13 (Average: 6.7)
Andrew: The first time we put together rankings this season, the Rangers were 6th in the standings when I started my rankings, but I placed them 14th. The reason? The team simply wasn’t generating any offense, ranking bottom five in goals per game, shots per game, and expected goals for. All of that contributed to ranking just 25th in expected goals percentage, and their power-play wasn’t picking up the slack, checking in at just 19th. Igor Shesterkin was playing out of his mind, but if the rest of the Rangers couldn’t pick up their play, the team was destined to drop.
Wouldn’t you know, the rest of the Rangers (except for still struggling backup Alexandar Georgiev) picked up their play. The overall numbers aren’t great, but the Rangers are rocking a 54.26% Expected Goals mark over their last ten games, the seventh-best figure in the league over that span. Their power-play is up to ninth in the league over the full season, and Shesterkin is second in the league with 14.9 goals saved above expected.
5. Edmonton Oilers (16-6-0, November: 3)
Andrew: 7, Ryan: 8, Trey: 2 (Average: 5.7)
Andrew: Bet against Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the league’s two leading scorers, at your own peril, but there are legitimate reasons to question the Oilers. For how exciting they are offensive, they’re giving up more than they create with a mediocre 49.79% Expected Goals mark. Goaltender Mike Smith is on IR, and while Mikko Koskinen has been surprisingly respectable, though I’m not sure if that’s sustainable. Granted, their defensive struggles may just be the result of a banged-up blue-line; four of their six defenders from the opening night have missed games this season. But this isn’t a new concern for Edmonton, who overall remains an exciting and dangerous team.
Ryan: What else is there to say? It’s the Connor and Leon show!
T-3. Carolina Hurricanes (16-6-1, November: 2)
Andrew: 5, Ryan: 7, Trey: 1 (Average: 4.3)
Andrew: The Canes are slipping a little bit heading into these rankings; they’d lost three straight before a 6-2 thumping of Buffalo on Saturday, and they’re a mediocre 5-4-1 in their last 10 games. But then again, they weren’t going to play at a 139-point pace forever. Seth Jarvis settling in as a quality NHLer gives an already stacked forward core yet another weapon, whose offensive output is supplemented by a surprisingly excellent Tony DeAngelo. Yes, writing that statement pains me as much as it did for you to read it, but his production is worth mentioning. DeAngelo’s always been an outstanding puck mover, but his 2.3 on-ice expected goals against per 60 mark ranks second among regular Canes blue-liners.
Interestingly, despite ranking top five in penalty killing, goals against, and shots against, the Hurricanes are only 21st in expected goals against. Remember, I’m referring to that just at 5-on-5 (the Canes actually allow the fewest expected goals against per 60 while shorthanded), but that’s still a fairly sizable concern. Hardly enough to dismiss them as contenders, but something to keep an eye on, especially if Frederik Andersen starts to regress from his stellar start.
Ryan: The Hurricanes have been a little underwhelming recently. Three straight losses have seen them slip from the top of the Metro to third place.
T-3. Toronto Maple Leafs (17-6-2, November: 8)
Andrew: 3, Ryan: 2, Trey: 8 (Average: 4.3)
Andrew: The roots of the panic surrounding the Maple Leafs’ 2-4-1 start were understandable – Toronto won’t be able to earn the benefit of the doubt unless they advance in the playoffs – but also overblown. Sure enough, their shooting percentage is regressing from one of the league’s worst towards the mean, and that means lots of goals from the core four (and supporting cast) and the most wins in a single month (12) in franchise history. There’s a non-zero chance Jack Campbell and 26-year old Michael Bunting could contend for the Vezina and Calder, respectively (and the former is playing his way onto Team USA). After a shaky start, the Leafs are back on track; at least as back on track as they can be in December.
Ryan: Winning a league-leading 55.5% of faceoffs, Toronto is able to turn extra possessions into three-plus goals per game average. Pair that up with 2.17 goals against per game and you have a scary good team.
2. Calgary Flames (15-4-5, November: 4)
Andrew: 1, Ryan: 4, Trey: 5 (Average: 3.3)
Andrew: I began this article by talking about the massive spreadsheet I use to make these power rankings and all of the statistics I compile to make it. Only one team has the red font color (denoting a ranking 21st or lower) in every single statistic; Ottawa, who I ranked 32nd. There’s also only one team that has the green font color, which I use to designate a top-ten ranking, in every single category. So it’s only fitting to have that team in my top spot.
Darryl Sutter hockey has turned out to be the best thing for the Flames since, well, the last time Darryl Sutter was their head coach when he led the Flames to their only Stanley Cup Final since their lone Cup win in 1989 in 2004. While I wouldn’t go as far as to call Calgary the team to beat, they’re undeniably emerging as legitimate contenders thanks to an incredibly stout defense that leads the league with just two goals allowed per game and seven shutouts. The latter mark accounts for just over 17% of all shutouts in the NHL this season, a testament to that stingy defense and the tremendous play of goalies Jacob Markström and Daniel Vladar.
Ryan: Goaltending. Goaltending. Goaltending. Markström and Vladar have been unbelievable this season and have combined to allow just 2.00 goals per game. Markström has five(!!!) shutouts and Vladar has two.
1. Florida Panthers (17-4-3, November: 1)
Andrew: 2, Ryan: 1, Trey: 3 (Average: 2)
Andrew: Even after losing captain Aleksander Barkov mid-month, the Panthers haven’t slowed down; their .771 points percentage (a 126-point pace) leads the league. It’s great to see Barkov’s usual linemates Carter Verhaeghe and Anthony Duclair remaining fairly productive (combined stats: 8 points in 12 games) in Barkov’s absence. Florida remains a run-and-gun team that can score with the best of them; the Panthers are top-three in goals for, shots for, and expected goals for. Don’t sleep on Aaron Ekblad’s Norris candidacy, though; he’s 6th in goals for percentage (70% and expected goals (58.25%) among defenders with at least 250 5-on-5 minutes logged.
Ryan: In back-to-back games, Florida overcame three-goal deficits. One was against the Washington Capitals. This offense is crazy good, and they’ve stayed hot even without Barkov.
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