2021 NHL Power Rankings: Jan. 18-24

The 2021 NHL season is not even one week old, and already there have been exciting finishes sprinkled in with surprising results and expected performances. This should be expected, however. After all, teams will play their respective division mates seven or more times this season, which will only increase the opportunity for rivalries to boil over ten-fold. 

Regardless, where do teams stand as the league skates into its second week of the season? Well, that is why you are here, isn’t it? I’ll have to warn you – there is a good bit of team turnover in this ranking compared to the first one, but hey, when a season is not even four games old, this is likely to occur.

Well, here you have it. 

At the edge of the crease: Minnesota Wild (2-0-0, 4 points)

Previous ranking: N/A

Record over past week: 2-0-0

Minnesota’s two victories are definitely on the more exhilarating side of the winning spectrum. Both of the Wild’s 4-3 road wins against the Los Angeles Kings came in overtime. Both wins also came in comeback fashion, as Minnesota trailed 3-1 heading into the third period in both games. Over the two-game span, eight different players scored a goal. Should Minnesota make a legitimate case for contention, they will need to rely on productive balance from all of their forward lines and defensive duos. They will also need to start capitalizing while on the man-advantage, as the team is currently 0-11 on power play opportunities. 

10. Montreal Canadiens (1-0-1, 3 points)

Previous ranking: N/A

Record over past week: 1-0-1

Although Montreal allowed a 3-1 lead against the Toronto Maple Leafs to slip away in their opening game, they turned it around in their second game when they went up against the Connor McDavid-led Edmonton Oilers. In their 5-1 victory against Edmonton, top-line forward Tomas Tatar and defenseman Jeff Petry led the way, as the duo combined for four goals. Should Montreal continue to display the sniping capabilities they have possessed through their first couple games, perhaps the offense will be seen in a much brighter light. Goaltender Carey Price definitely will not complain. 

9. St. Louis Blues (1-1-0, 2 points)

Previous ranking: 3

Record over past week: 1-1-0

Here is where the drastic turnover begins to be noticed. St. Louis, despite ranking third in the first power ranking installment, plummeted to ninth, due in large part to being on the wrong end of an 8-0 drubbing against the Colorado Avalanche last Friday. Even still, this should be taken with a grain of salt, as the Blues dominated Colorado in their opening night matchup, 4-1. Nevertheless, Jordan Binnington, against top-notch offenses or not, will need to be better, as the 27-year-old was pulled after the second period due to conceding four goals in Friday’s game. The production of Binnington and newly minted backup Ville Husso (with Jake Allen’s departure to Montreal) will be an intriguing case study as they grind into the dog days of what is likely to be a high-scoring Honda West Division. 

8. Nashville Predators (2-0-0, 4 points)

Previous ranking: N/A 

Record over past week: 2-0-0

Now, here is a surprise team. Sure, Nashville has solid pieces here and there, but did anyone expect the team to carve through a potent Columbus blue line and goaltending tandem and score eight goals in two games? While Nashville might be known for getting the bulk of their offensive production from their hard-nosed defensemen, their forwards have gotten the job done so far, as Filip Forsberg, Luke Kunin and Rocco Grimaldi have combined for five of those eight goals. Add in solid goaltending via Juuse Saros (2-0 with a 1.50 Goals Against Average), and maybe Nashville can continue climbing in the right direction. 

7. Calgary Flames (1-0-1, 3 points)

Previous ranking: N/A

Record over past week: 1-0-1

Calgary bounced back from a 4-3 overtime loss against the Winnipeg Jets in their season-opening game, as they shut out the Vancouver Canucks, 3-0 on Jan. 16. The Matthew Tkachuk-Elias Lindholm-Dillon Dube first line has been as good as advertised, as the trio, through two games, have combined to be a force on both offense and defense. The trio has eight total points (including two power play goals) and 17 total hits. Big-ticket offseason acquisition (and former Canuck) in goaltender Jacob Markstrom, in his second start with Calgary, bounced back from a four-goal performance against the Jets to collect a shutout against his former team. Should all of the dominoes fall accordingly, Calgary might be one of the more balanced teams in the Scotia North Division. 

6. Toronto Maple Leafs (2-1-0, 4 points)

Previous ranking: 8

Record over past week: 2-1-0

As expected, Toronto has already scored in speedy fashion, literally and figuratively. The team’s 11 goals scored are tied for first among all NHL teams heading into Monday action (Philadelphia and Washington). While Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner on the top line have already produced at levels expected of them (both have two goals and seven combined points between them), their other top line mate in 41-year-old Joe Thornton has turned heads as well. The former Boston Bruin and San Jose Shark has three hits and a goal scored through three games played. Fun fact: his goal scored against the Ottawa Senators came in his third game of the season. Last season while with San Jose, Thornton did not score his first goal until his 39th game. When you share the ice with Matthews and Co., more scoring opportunities presents itself. Who knew? 

5. Washington Capitals (2-0-1, 5 points)

Previous ranking: +1

Record over past week: 2-0-1

Let’s get to the point (no pun intended) – the Capitals currently lead all NHL teams in terms of points. While this is definitely a tell-tale sign that this NHL season is in its absolute infancy, Washington is still doing what Washington is known to do. They score, and boy, oh boy do they love to check. In Sunday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Capitals collected 46 hits. To add to the parade, Alex Ovechkin collected his first goal of the season off of a nifty backhander while in transition across the ice. Goaltending and health will be the x-factor for Washington, but regardless, this team brings the classic and modern form of ice hockey together quite well. 

4. Colorado Avalanche (1-1-0, 2 points)

Previous ranking: 2 

Record over past week: 1-1-0

A sloppy performance in their 2021 season-opening game against the Blues was atoned for in magnificent fashion during their second matchup, as seven different players scored a goal in Colorado’s 8-0-win on Friday against the same team. Colorado’s eight goals scored were the most scored by the franchise since the team scored nine against Nashville on Nov. 7, 2019. Their eight-goal margin of victory on Jan. 15, meanwhile, was their largest since their 10-goal margin of victory against the Sharks on Dec. 5, 1995 (Colorado won 12-2). Team captain Gabriel Landeskog tallied two goals during the game to get to the 200-goal milestone, while forward Mikko Rantanen (who scored one goal in the game) reached the 100-goal plateau. Oh, and goaltender Philipp Grubauer collected his 12th-career shutout. This team can be explosive, if anyone did not know this already. 

3. Philadelphia Flyers (2-0-0, 4 points)

Previous ranking: 5

Record over past week: 2-0-0

A collection of veterans and youngsters have given Philadelphia huge potential in regard to top-to-bottom balance of their forward lines and defensive duos. Their knack for scoring in bunches, coupled with their passing, was simply too much for the Penguins to keep up with. Moving forward, Philadelphia will attempt to replicate the same success without one of their top forwards in Sean Couturier, as the 28-year-old will miss the next two weeks at the minimum after suffering a costochondral separation early in Philadelphia’s second game of the season. 

2. Vegas Golden Knights (2-0-0, 4 points)

Previous ranking: 4

Record over past week: 2-0-0

Although it was against the rebuilding Anaheim Ducks, Vegas still found a way to impress over the weekend. No matter who you play, scoring seven seconds into overtime can definitely do the trick, right? Such was the case for forward Max Pacioretty on Jan. 16, as a one-timer after a Mark Stone pass on the odd-man rush netted the 32-year-old his 56th career game-winning goal. On the blue-collared side of the ice, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has already found his element a mere two games into his Sin City tenure, as the former Blue has collected eight blocks as the leader of the top defensive pairing. This team is a Stanley Cup favorite for a reason. 

1. Tampa Bay Lightning (2-0-0, 4 points)

Previous ranking: 1

Record over past week: 2-0-0

Even without Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning can still light up the stat sheet (see what I did there?). The top line of Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos continues to show the embarrassment of riches Tampa Bay has at its disposal, as the trio have already combined for five goals this season. While the line might not be the most over-bearing in regard to checking, the rest of Tampa Bay’s supplementary lines can more than make up for it. This team has everything. 

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