Rich 10 NHL Rankings (Feb. 1-7)

Although the 25% mark of the shortened 2021 NHL season has yet to be reached, one fact has already been concluded. Old rivalries have been rekindled, and newer ones might just be blossoming. If not, well, give it time. 

Regardless, a COVID-19 season should continue to bring the unexpected. Usual occurrences, however, are still readily apparent. The best teams have their respective off nights (not to worry, Montreal, we will not hold your 2-0 shutout loss to Calgary against you) and star players make their usual highlight reel plays (we see you from coast to coast, Connor McDavid). 

Even through the supposed normalities, NHL Power Rankings must still be done. And so, here is the fourth installment of Rich10 NHL Power Rankings, 2021 edition. Glance, skim and analyze at will. Well, what are you waiting for? 

At the edge of the crease: Florida Panthers (5-0-1, 11 points)

Previous ranking: N/A

Record over past week: 3-0-1

Sure, the Panthers have only played in six games, but they have yet to lose in regulation, which is something only one other club can say at this juncture of the season (Washington Capitals). While a plethora of skaters have contributed to Florida’s hot start, former Pittsburgh Penguin in Patric Hornqvist has arguably led the way, as he is one of four Panther skaters to have seven points this season. His three power play goals additionally lead the team, and already ties his goal amount on the man-advantage in 52 total games last season. All is well for Joel Quenneville’s squad, and they will look to continue the upward momentum this week, where they will go up against the Nashville Predators in back-to-back contests (Feb. 4-5) and then finish the week off with a Detroit Red Wings date (Feb. 7). 

10. Vancouver Canucks (6-5-0, 12 points)

Previous ranking: N/A

Record over past week: 4-0-0

If any team has shown the talent to go from 0-100 on the flip of a switch, it is Vancouver. While playing the Ottawa Senators for three straight games can definitely aid in hashing problems out, the youth of the Canucks is just starting to show itself after it was readily visible during last year’s postseason run. Elias Pettersson, after collecting only one point through his first six games, has started to find a groove, as the 22-year-old forward collected five total points over the course of the four-game week (two goals, three assists). If this team is starting to catch fire, the Scotia North Division could be in for some serious hurt. The Canucks will have to prove it, though, and it will start this week, as the team will go on the road and face off against the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs for two games apiece. 

9. Philadelphia Flyers (7-2-1, 15 points) 

Previous ranking: 10

Record over past week: 4-0-0

How about James Van Riemsdyk? The 31-year-old third liner currently leads the team in points (13) and power play goals (four). The hot streak continued for the winger this past week, as he tallied at least one point in all four outings. Philadelphia needed an opportunity to prove themselves as worthy for these rankings and prove themselves they most definitely did. Now, it is time to achieve consistency. Can they bring it to the rink, despite their offense and goaltending not fully clicking yet? Only time will tell. 

8. Tampa Bay Lightning (4-1-1, 9 points)

Previous ranking: 5

Record over past week: 1-0-1

Tampa Bay is very, very good (hot take, right?), and a slight decline in this ranking installment should not alarm any Lightning fans out there. The upper echelon of the NHL field is just that deep, and this team still qualifies as one of the top dogs in the league’s entirety. The depth and improvement of this team, especially on the defensive side, has been phenomenal, and it just continues to show itself on the rink game in and game out. Exhibit A comes in the shape and form of blue liner Callan Foote. The 22-year-old Denver, Colorado native has appeared in four games this season and already possesses a plus-minus (+/-) of +3. He additionally scored his first NHL goal during Saturday’s 4-3 win against the Nashville Predators. The deep just keep getting deeper, don’t they? 

7. St. Louis Blues (6-2-1, 13 points)

Previous ranking: 8

Record over past week: 3-0-0

Beating the Vegas Golden Knights on Jan. 26 and sweeping the Anaheim Ducks in two games (Jan. 30 and 31) was just what the doctor ordered for St. Louis, and while they remain outside the top five in this ranking installment, they could vault back into it very soon. Over the course of the three-game week, forward Brayden Schenn netted five total points (two goals, three assists). This week, the Blues will head back to the friendly confines of the Enterprise Center and go up against the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche for a total of four games (two each). 

6. Boston Bruins (5-1-2, 12 points)

Previous ranking: 9

Record over past week: 2-0-1

Although Boston wished they could have closed out their Jan. 30 matchup against the Washington Capitals after being down 3-0 midway through the second period, there are still takeaways to consider. The primary one? David Pastrnak, who scored 48 goals last season, appeared in the game after missing the previous seven due to hip surgery recovery. The 24-year-old forward logged over 20 minutes of ice time and collected his first point of the season via Charlie McAvoy’s third period goal. While it might take a handful of games to get into his 2019-20 form, one thing is for certain: the “Perfection Line” is now armed and fully operational. Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand are definitely ecstatic. 

5. Colorado Avalanche (6-3-1, 13 points)

Previous ranking: 7

Record over past week: 3-0-1

Colorado quickly turned around from a mediocre stretch in the previous installment and tallied at least one point in each of their outings this week. Leading the way on offense, (aside from their top line, of course) was 22-year-old Cale Makar, who picked up five assists and his first goal of the season (Jan. 31 against the Minnesota Wild). It is not all rainbows and roses for Colorado, though, as Makar’s blue line partner in Devon Toews could be out long-term with a lower-body injury. Yet again, Colorado’s depth will have to show itself. Luckily, the team has it. 

4. Vegas Golden Knights (5-1-1, 11 points) 

Previous ranking: 1

Record over past week: 0-0-1

Vegas is no longer the top team in this ranking installment. No matter, however. While Vegas is most certainly still an elite team, a dip in this ranking installment mainly comes from factors out of their control, including that of COVID-19. With four team members in COVID-19 protocol, more games trickling into this week will also be postponed. With only one game played this past week (a 5-4 overtime loss to the Blues), nothing except the blatantly obvious can be said with certainty, here. The Golden Knights’ top six are deadly with the puck in their control, and whenever the team will head back to game action, the entire NHL will get confirmation of that once more. 

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (7-2-1, 15 points)

Previous ranking: 4

Record over past week: 2-0-1

Both of Toronto’s victories (in addition to their overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers) came by one mere goal. Regardless of the scoring margins, Toronto’s top two lines will still score their explosive share. The question for Toronto now will be from the goaltending. Previous backup goalie in Jack Campbell sustained a leg injury against the Calgary Flames last Sunday. With Campbell slated to be out for several weeks at the minimum, the likes of primary goaltender Frederik Andersen (who is 5-2-1 with a 3.01 GAA and .892 Sv%) and a collection of potential taxi squad and waiver pickups (maybe even a trade, too?) will need to take it to a new gear. 

2. Montreal Canadiens (5-1-2, 12 points)

Previous ranking: 2  

Record over past week: 1-1-0

After averaging 4.71 goals per game heading into action against the Flames on Jan. 30, the Canadiens, despite outshooting Calgary 37-33, were unable to get the puck behind the net defended by Calgary goaltender Jacob Markstrom. Although the 2-0 loss was the Habs’ first shutout this season (in addition to their first defeat in regulation), there is still room for optimism, especially in regard to their own situation between the pipes. Backup goaltender Jake Allen allowed only one goal against Calgary in the loss and, through three games started, has a 1.68 Goals against Average (GAA) and .933 Save Percentage (Sv%).  Hopefully for Montreal fans, more optimistic news will come in regard to forward Josh Anderson, who left the Jan. 30 game due to having flu-like symptoms. 

1. Washington Capitals (6-0-3, 15 points)

Previous ranking: 3

Record over past week: 3-0-0

A spotless record over the past week? Check. Overcoming the surging Bruins, 4-3 in overtime on Jan. 30? Check. Proving once again that this team should be a Stanley Cup favorite? Check. The talent this team possesses is for real. So is the resiliency. After four of their star players in Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov and Ilya Samsonov were forced to sit for at least four games due to violating COVID-19 protocol, the team used their patented “next man up” philosophy and now sit atop this ranking installment as a result. Just to add a cherry on top, Ovechkin, in his first game back since his quarantine, scored the winning goal against the Bruins less than 30 seconds into overtime. The goal was Ovechkin’s 708th career NHL goal, now tied for seventh all-time (Mike Gartner). 

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