NHL Power Rankings(Nov. 5th-12th)

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Even with the NHL season a month in, there are already surprises and expectancies from teams this year. Every week the top 10 teams will be ranked, in addition to an honorable mention team. 

  1. Washington Capitals (13-2-4)
  • Record over past week: 2-0-1
  • The Capitals have been looking like the Stanley Cup-winning Capitals from two seasons ago. Despite losing to the Coyotes in their most recent game, they managed to come back from a three-goal deficit to take the game into a shootout. The Capitals have managed to obtain at least one point in every game going back to October 14th. John Carlson has been the driving force, with the defenseman collecting six points over the past week. 

2. St. Louis Blues (12-3-3) 

  • Record over past week: 3-0-0
  • After starting the season with a pedestrian 5-3-3 record, the Blues have ramped it up, winning seven straight and nine of their last 10. Even without Tarasenko the offense has picked up the work nicely, led by forwards Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron, with the latter picking up a clutch OT goal against Calgary, his fifth game-winning goal this season. After bringing the brooms on their four-game road stretch, they head back home to play five of their next six. 

3. New York Islanders (12-3-1)

  • Record over past week: 2-0-1
  • Third place in this ranking does not give this team enough justice. If not for the two previous Stanley Cup winners, this team would be by far the number one team in the sport right now. Before blowing a three-goal lead to Pittsburgh at Barclays Centre, the Islanders were riding a ten-game winning streak. Even with the loss, though, the Islanders point streak is still intact, with their last 12 games being a net positive in the Eastern Conference point total. Center Matthew Barzal collected three points over the last week and currently has the best +/- of his young career (12). 

4. Boston Bruins (11-3-3)

  • Record over past week: 0-2-1
  • One week ago, the Bruins looked like world-beaters. Now they sit as losers of three straight, a streak they have not had since early March last season (including playoffs). The “perfection line” of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak have combined for four points (three goals, one assist) in that span. To make matters worse, goaltender Tukka Rask has allowed 10 goals, with his Save Percentage trickling down to .933. Even still, this team is too talented on all sides of the ice to continue this spiral. Boston has a chance for redemption against a shaky Florida Panthers team tonight at TD Garden, where the Bruins are 7-0-2. 

5. Edmonton Oilers (12-5-2)

  • Record over past week: 2-1-0
  • To keep it short, this team can score. With elite scorers in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisatl combined with efficient playmakers in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, James Neal, and Zack Cassian, this team has generated offense, scoring 12 goals in the past week. The two questions for the Oilers coming into the season was whether they could get consistent wing help on offense and whether the goaltending would hold up. So far this season, both have been answered in a positive way, especially in regard to the latter; Goaltender Mikko Koskinen is currently fifth in the entire NHL in GAA (2.16). The million-dollar question though – is it sustainable? 

6. Calgary Flames (10-7-3) 

  • Record over past week: 2-0-1
  • The Flames are a predictable team in the sense that they are good at home (6-1-2) but sub-par on the road (4-6-1). During their three-game homestand, they scored 11 goals, spearheaded by winger Matthew Tkachuk, who scored three of them. Elias Lindholm, despite only collecting two assists in that stretch, has been a surprise in the goal department this year, as he currently has 10 and is on pace to shatter his previous career-high of 27 last year. 

7. Colorado Avalanche (10-5-2) 

  • Record over past week: 2-1-0
  • After five straight losses, the Avalanche found their stride again by dismantling the Nashville Predators 9-4 in addition to coming back against the Blue Jackets to win 4-2. Even still, the injury bug has still taken a bite, with goaltender Philip Grubauer missing his past couple games along with defenseman Nikita Zadorov, who played in only seven minutes during the Nashville game and did not play at all in the Blue Jackets one. Even with these injuries coupled with the Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen ones the team has stayed afloat, due in large part to forward Nathan MacKinnon and rookie defenseman Cale Makar. The Avalanche begin a five-game trip up north starting tonight against the Winnipeg Jets. 

8. Arizona Coyotes (10-6-2)

  • Record over past week: 1-2-1
  • Do the Coyotes pout and howl about missing the playoffs last season by the thinnest of margins? Nope. They just use it as fuel for this season. And it has shown. Specifically, they are third in goals allowed this season (44) behind the Islanders and Bruins (35 and 41, respectively), a notable improvement from four or five years ago. Even with three losses on the previous week, this team is young with sprinkled veteran leadership in just to add more flavor to the team. One of the chief bakers of the recipe for success? 30-year-old general manager John Chayka, who they gave a long-term extension yesterday. 

9. Philadelphia Flyers (10-5-2) 

  • Record over past week: 4-0-0
  • The Flyers propel themselves into the top-10 after going undefeated this past week. What is impressive about it? Three of the four teams made the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season (Carolina Hurricanes, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Boston Bruins) with the fourth (Montreal Canadiens) just missing out. Even more impressive? Three of the four wins came in overtime or in the shootout, an area where the Flyers lost eight games in extra time last season. Perhaps the cherry on top? The Flyers had a combined record of 4-9 against them last season. Forward Travis Konecny had five total points in those four games (two goals, three assists) and is on pace to surpass his point total of 47 from last season. Two of the next three games for Philadelphia are against the Capitals and Islanders. Some potentially good news? Both games are at home, where the Flyers are 6-1-1. 

10. Pittsburgh Penguins (10-6-1) 

  • Record over past week: 2-1-0
  • The Penguins limp into the top-10 after winning two out of three last week, including a thrilling three-goal comeback against the Islanders. It came at a price though – Sidney Crosby has been dealing with a lower-body injury and is not expected to play tonight. How they generate offense without Crosby, especially in regard to the power play, will be critical, as the team even with Crosby ranked 28th in PP% (12.5%). Center Jake Guentzel will be key, who has two of the team’s six power-play goals. 

Honorable Mention: Tampa Bay Lightning (8-5-2) 

  • Record over past week: 2-0-0
  • For a team that is currently 21st in total points, why put them as the honorable mention? Simple. They are starting to look like the team that won the President’s Trophy last year. In the Global Series, they swept the Buffalo Sabres to give them two straight wins, a feat they have done only one other time this season. Through solid offensive performances from across the ice to good-enough goaltending, the Lightning now sit at a goal differential of 0. With a clean slate coming back from Sweden in addition to gaining ground in the Atlantic Division, Tampa Bay might have found the bolt of energy they needed to find a groove. 
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The Buffalo Sabres: A Pleasant Surprise

As fall transitions into winter, the NHL season is almost 20% complete. At this point in the season, some teams have excelled that were expected to excel.

Of the 11 teams with at least 20 points on the season so far, seven made the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season (St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, Nashville Predators, Las Vegas Golden Knights, and Calgary Flames). Two of those teams in the Blues and Bruins faced off in the Stanley Cup Final. 

Of the remaining four teams, three of the four were surprising but were thought to be taking steps forward this season. The Edmonton Oilers have Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid and have gotten steady wing help from offseason acquisition James Neal, who has already surpassed his goal total from last year. The Vancouver Canucks revamped their team in the offseason and had received hype coming into the season. Also, the Arizona Coyotes just missed the playoffs last year. 

That last team, though. Who is it? 

Carolina Hurricanes? Strike one. 

Toronto Maple Leafs? Strike two. 

Anaheim Ducks? Good guess. They have had a solid season so far, but alas, strike three, you are out. 

Low and behold, the Buffalo Sabres are that elusive eleventh team right now, currently sitting at 20 points. 

The same Buffalo Sabres that have not qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past eight seasons? The same Buffalo Sabres that averaged 68 points a season in that span? The same Buffalo Sabres that, over the past six seasons have been no higher than sixth since the realignment of the Atlantic Division? 

Correct. How did they get there, though? 

Let’s start with the basics. Through 15 games played, the Sabres are 9-4-2 and sit at second place in the Atlantic Division, behind the Bruins. The Sabres sit at a decent 17th in all of the NHL in goals for with 44, averaging almost three per game. However, on the power play the offense has vastly picked up the slack, as they currently possess a 26.9 PP%, good enough for third in the entire NHL. 

When looking closely at this, it becomes more and more noticeable what Buffalo was trying to do when they were drafting high in their years missing the playoffs. They were looking for offense. Offense at even strength and offense on the man advantage. In the eight-year span, they have not made the playoffs, they have scored the least amount of goals in the NHL (aside from the Golden Knights who started playing in the NHL in the 2017-2018 season). As such, their average goals per game was also last in the NHL. While their power play percentage in that span was better, it was still in the bottom 10, with their percentage being a paltry 17.7%. 

So, what did the Sabres do to counteract this in the draft? In 2014, they drafted forwards Sam Reinhart (first round, second overall) and Victor Olofsson (seventh round, 181st overall). In 2015 they drafted Jack Eichel, most notable for being the player that went after Connor McDavid. In 2017 they selected Casey Mittelstadt eighth overall. Lastly, in the most recent draft, they took a defenseman, selecting Rasmus Dahlin first overall. 

Why are these players significant? All are top ten on Buffalo’s roster in goals and points. When looking at national rankings, Olofsson, the lowest pick of the group, is currently third in all of the NHL in power-play goals with six, behind David Pastrnak of Boston (nine) and James Neal of Edmonton (eight). 

In the goals allowed department, Buffalo ranks 5th in all of the NHL, allowing only 2.6 goals a game. When looking at the previous eight seasons they allowed the second-most goals in the entire NHL, ahead of only Edmonton. 

Enter Carter Hutton. 

Brought onto the team last season, Hutton has continued to be a veteran presence on the ice. The presence on the ice has not led to simple intangible results either. When he has been on the ice this season, he has been excellent, posting a goal against average (GAA) of 2.08, good enough for 6th in the entire NHL. His save percentage has also been great, as it currently sits at .928, tied for eighth in the entire NHL. As the second-oldest player on the team (behind defenseman Matt Hunwick) playing one of the most pivotal positions on the ice, he has provided every avenue for success the Sabres could ask for. 

And, of course, the head coach. With Ralph Krueger getting a second crack at the NHL coaching gig, he has brought insightful experience from Europe, whether from ice hockey or from the English Premier League, where he served as the chairman of Southampton F.C. for five years. With getting the first-hand experience of the different styles of play different countries to possess, Kreuger has been able to transform a forgotten New York team into a well renowned and evenly balanced club that could make a run at the Stanley Cup Playoffs should the consistent play continue. 

The season is not even 20% complete yet. There is still more hockey to be played. What the rest of the season holds is yet to be seen. 

However, one thing is for certain. While some thought the Sabres would take a baby step forward in one aspect of the game, they have taken giant leaps in all aspects. The potential is limitless.  

From David to Goliath, the St. Louis Blues Hoist Their First-Ever Stanley Cup

An electric atmosphere set the tone for Game 7 following a rousing rendition of the national anthem from Todd Angilly and the Boston Bruins matched that energy to start this one. The Bruins came out firing on all cylinders early in the first period. They were getting pucks on net and even got an early power play that sent Colton Parayko to the box. Shot after shot, nothing was getting by rookie goaltender, Jordan Binnington. Binnington held down the fort for the St. Louis Blues the entire period and were able to get a huge penalty kill, which turned into two late goals from Ryan O’Reilly and Alex Pietrangelo. O’Reilly’s goal came from a great forecheck and led to shot on the point from Jay Bowumeester that deflected off of O’Reilly’s stick and past Tuukka Rask. With seconds left in the opening period, Jaden Schwartz was able to get by poor defending from Brad Marchand, leading to a great pass to Alex Pietrangelo and a backhanded wrist shot by Rask to make it 2-0 Blues right before intermission. Boston outshot St. Louis 12 to 4 in the first period with nothing to show for it.

The second period did not see much action as the Blues took their foot off the pedal slightly and were not getting the attacks they had late in the first period. Rask, with help from Zdeno Chara, were able to keep a puck out of the night that went behind Rask, bounced off the crossbar, and landed behind Rask before being frozen. Boston had looks but they were not great ones and Binnington was able to make some simple saves. The Blues were now 20 minutes away from their first ever Stanley Cup championship but one can only believe what a terrible predicament this must be for the St. Louis faithful as their beloved Blues are notorious for blowing games.

We will remember the name, Jordan Binnington after tonight because the rookie put on one of the greatest Stanley Cup Final performances of all-time and it was capped by an immaculate pad save from a Joakim Nordstrom shot from point-blank range. After the save, that was all she wrote as minutes later, Brayden Schenn would give St. Louis a 3-0 lead with under ten minutes to go. Zach Sanford would add more insult to injury for the Bruins with a fourth goal. In garbage time, Matt Grzelcyk would score one of the most depressing goals in NHL history to keep St. Louis from doing what Boston did to Vancouver on the road in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals.

This season closed unlike any other in NHL history. The St. Louis Blues were a lowly 15-18-4 and sitting in last place in the Western Conference on January 1st. For the final 44 games of the season, St. Louis would set the league ablaze with a mesmerizing 30-10-4 record to qualify for the playoffs, which would culminate in their first ever Stanley Cup. Ryan O’Reilly was named the 2019 Conn Smythe Trophy winner. He totaled 21 points throughout the playoffs with seven goals and 14 assists. He also had a six-game point streak in the Cup Final. The one guy you have to feel awful for is David Backes. The former Blues’ captain of six years had to watch St. Louis celebrate in front of him while he joined his Boston teammates in shock and disappointment. But tonight is not about Backes. It is all about the St. Louis Blues and you cannot name a more deserving champion than them after the toils and troubles throughout the early part of the season.

Congratulations to the St. Louis Blues and the entire city of St. Louis on their first Stanley Cup Championship!

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