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Sports THN Power Rankings: There's a New No. 1 in Town

10:32  05 december  2021
10:32  05 december  2021 Source:   si.com

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We have a new No. 1 team for the first time this season on the THN power rankings, and Jason Chen is ready to break down the entire league.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports © Provided by Hockey News on Sports Illustrated Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

We have a new No. 1 team for the first time this season on the THN power rankings. Nobody stays at the top forever, and change was always inevitable, but it has opened the door for a handful of teams to lay claim as the league’s “best” team.

We won’t know the answer until the winner is crowned in June, but the balance of power is definitely shifting toward the East, who take the top four spots. The contenders in the West, on the other hand, seem to be either flawed in roster construction or simply not living up to expectations, though that will likely change.

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With two teams already forced to postpone games due to COVID, it may be another season in which the true strength of teams will be difficult to gauge.

(All fancy stats are 5v5 and courtesy naturalstattrick.com)

1. Toronto Maple Leafs (16-6-1, +17 goal differential. CF%: 5th, xGF%: 2nd. Last Week: 4)

No team has been better than the Leafs in November, who went 12-2-0 with excellent goaltending and special teams. They have not lost a road game all month, and unlikely earlier in the season, the Leafs aren’t losing games they should be winning. The big guns are scoring and only one forward (Nick Ritchie) did not light the lamp in November.

2. Florida Panthers (15-4-3, +22. CF%: 1st, xGF%: 4th. Last Week: 2)

The Panthers do not face the Leafs until March 27, robbing us of an exciting matchup but the games should mean a lot more when spring rolls around. The only real surprise was a slip-up against the red-hot Kraken on home ice, which ruined their perfect home record, and a loss to the Caps in Washington was avenged in a gutsy last-minute win on home ice on Tuesday.

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3. Washington Capitals (14-4-5, +25. CF%: 14th, xGF%: 12th. Last Week: 7)

The Caps would be No. 2 if they managed to finish the job against the Panthers. Instead, they blew a four-goal lead in their second matchup in five days after winning the first game, splitting the series between the two division leaders. The Caps have been excellent thanks to the immortal Alex Ovechkin and have overcome injuries to key players with relative ease. At full strength, they should be a top-tier contender.

4. Carolina Hurricanes (15-5-1, +20. CF%: 2nd, xGF%: 6th. Last Week: 1)

No one stays at the top forever, and it was not a good end to the month. The Hurricanes lost a little steam in the later stages of their six-game road trip and have now lost four of their past five overall, no thanks to three of their top-four defensemen being placed in COVID-19 protocol and the sudden lack of depth scoring. It’s the first time the Canes have fallen out of the No. 1 spot on the THN Power Rankings this season.

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5. Edmonton Oilers (15-5-0, +18. CF%: 15th, xGF%: 16th. Last Week: 3)

Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid combined for 47 (!) points in November and it looks like Dave Tippett has a pretty good handle on which of his goalies has the hot hand even though neither Mikko Koskinen nor Stuart Skinner have been particularly consistent; Koskinen is 7-1-0 with a sub-.900 Sv% and Skinner is under .500 with a .928 Sv%. The question everyone is asking is if the Oilers’ recipe for success can last all season and playoffs.

6. Calgary Flames (13-4-5, +29. CF%: 3rd, xGF%: 3rd. Last Week: 5)

The only blemish was a curious 4-2 loss to the Jets, otherwise the Flames have only lost twice in eight games after losing six of eight to start November. The competition wasn’t tough, but the wins were emphatic with Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar combining for four shutouts.

7. Minnesota Wild (15-6-1, +17. CF%: 9th, xGF%: 5th. Last Week: 11)

One key stat that really stands out for the Wild: a league-best 70 goals at even strength. Along with their strong underlying numbers, that’s good reason the think the Wild are for real, even though they’re operating at a lower salary cap than everyone else thanks to two big buyouts. Since their inception, I don’t remember a time when the Wild didn’t just rely on good goaltending and a single all-world winger to win games.

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8. New York Rangers (13-4-3, +6. CF%: 32nd, xGF%: 27th. Last Week: 8)

We’re still waiting for the Rangers to plummet and the analytics to say: “I told you so.” Yes, Igor Shesterkin has been very good, but their schedule has been pretty soft, and it may not be until January until the Rangers really face tough tests. Only five of the 11 teams they’re set to face in December – Sharks, Avs, Preds, Knights and Panthers – have a winning record.

9. Colorado Avalanche (11-6-1, +17. CF%: 7th, xGF%: 9th. Last Week: 9)

Ideally, I’d like to see the Avs win more before moving them further up. It starts Wednesday against the Leafs, the first of five games on the road. If the Avs can score a lot of goals and win, especially against the tougher Eastern teams, we can more safely declare that they’re back among the league’s elite.

10. Tampa Bay Lightning (12-5-4, +7. CF%: 8th, xGF%: 8th. Last Week: 6)

Playing Pierre-Édouard Bellemare 22 minutes just means you’re really, really desperate. That the Lightning are still arguably a top-10 team without two of their best players is quite the accomplishment, but the lack of depth will catch up to them sooner or later. That’s now consecutive losses for only the second time this season for the Lightning, and they face a tough schedule with eight of their next 11 games on the road.

11. Vegas Golden Knights (12-9-0, CF%: 19th, xGF%: 22nd. Last Week: 16)

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It’s like rock-paper-scissors; Vegas beat Nashville but has lost to St. Louis twice, and Nashville beat St. Louis back in mid-November. There’s little separating the three teams, though Vegas has had the best 10-game stretch with six wins. The Knights should make a charge of the division title once William Karlsson returns.

12. St. Louis Blues (12-7-3, +13. CF%: 16th, xGF%: 19th. Last Week: 15)

Winning five straight and then losing four straight? Losing to Detroit and Chicago, and then beating Columbus and Tampa? In any given week, the Blues can look like a top-10 team or be one bad goaltending performance away from missing the playoffs. Staging a third-period comeback and winning in a shootout against the Lightning was pretty impressive.

13. Nashville Predators (12-9-1, +1. CF%: 23rd, xGF%: 14th. Last Week: 14)

The Preds need sustained success to really move up. They’re third in the Central despite alternating wins and losses over their past six games, and it includes both blowout losses and blowout wins. But there’s definitely one thing that should help them win more games this season: Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen are scoring.

14. Dallas Stars (11-7-2, +1. CF%: 24th, xGF%: 20th. Last Week: 20)

The Stars are shooting up and have gone back to their usual ways, with a stifling defense that has allowed two goals or fewer in each of their past seven wins and remain incredibly hard to beat on home ice. The teams they’ve managed to beat – Canes, Avs, Oilers, Blues – has also been impressive. It’s amazing what good goaltending can do, eh?

15. Pittsburgh Penguins (10-7-5, +2. CF%: 10th, xGF%: 7th. Last Week: 19)

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Two straight losses, including a 6-3 loss to the Habs, gives pause to the Pens’ ascension following their five-game win streak, but there’s little doubt the Pens are trending way up. It’s an easy stretch coming up, too, with games against Seattle, Vancouver, Montreal and Buffalo.

16. Boston Bruins (11-8-0, CF%: 4th, xGF%: 1st. Last Week: 12)

Despite losing three of their past five, two of them were against teams that were clearly better, and Alex Nedeljkovic stole the win on Tuesday. Still, it’s a shaky goaltending situation that will require daily updates on Tuukka Rask, and the Bruins will also be without Brad Marchand for a key matchup against the Lightning. The Bruins’ slump seems unlikely to be prolonged due to their veteran roster and good possession metrics.

17. Columbus Blue Jackets (12-8-0, +2. CF%: 22nd, xGF%: 23rd. Last Week: 17)

The Jackets have been outscored 12-3 in their past two games after a good stretch where they won five of six. The Jackets are tough to play against and their goaltending is usually good enough to make them a tough out, but not consistently good enough to more than a playoff contender.

18. Anaheim Ducks (12-8-3, +9. CF%: 20th, xGF%: 21st. Last Week: 10)

The Ducks go only as far as John Gibson carries them. Their possession metrics were not good, so when Gibson isn’t sharp, the losses look especially ugly. Troy Terry has one goal in his past four games and registered zero shots against the Leafs, only the second time that has occurred this season.

19. San Jose Sharks (12-9-1, even. CF%: 27th, xGF%: 26th. Last Week: 23)

The Sharks are a fascinating team. Their save percentage ranks 14th, according to hockey-reference.com, and nearly all of their high-priced players are having bounce-back seasons. That means deciding between re-signing Tomas Hertl and sticking with this core or being sellers later in the season is going to be tough.

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20. Detroit Red Wings (11-9-3, -9. CF%: 26th, xGF%: 15th. Last Week: 26)

Alex Nedeljkovic stole a win which gives them three in a row, even though all of them were close. Beyond the top line and Moritz Seider, the Wings don’t have enough dependable players to lean on.

21. Los Angeles Kings (9-8-4, -1. CF%: 12th, xGF%: 17th. Last Week: 18)

The Kings are running into the same problem again – they can’t score goals. They rank 25th in GF/GP, 16th on the power play and only one player in the top 100 in league scoring. The Kings have not beaten any team other than the Sens – ranked 32nd on this list – since Nov. 9.

22. New Jersey Devils (9-7-4, -4. CF%: 11th, xGF%: 11th. Last Week: 22)

Jack Hughes’ return did not come with much fanfare, and the Sharks made it look pretty easy even though it was their second road game in three nights.

23. Winnipeg Jets (10-8-4, -1. CF%: 6th, xGF%: 10th. Last Week: 13)

Either through bad luck or just too many low-quality chances, or even both, the Jets are having trouble scoring. They’re one of four teams with a winning record to have a negative goal differential, and have lost six of their last seven.

24. Seattle Kraken (8-13-1, -12. CF%: 17th, xGF%: 13th. Last Week: 27)

Sometimes, it’s hard to really tell if the Kraken are good or not. They’ve won four of their past five, including two straight wins from Chris Driedger, and the analytics have always hinted the Kraken aren’t as bad as their record suggests.

25. Philadelphia Flyers (8-8-4, -12. CF%: 25th, xGF%: 30th. Last Week: 21)

It’s now six straight losses for the Flyers, and goaltending has become a sore spot again. Injuries have played a role, but they’re underachieving yet again under Alain Vigneault after a sea change during the summer. Scoring has been a huge problem, averaging 1.85 GF/GP in November – only the Isles have been worse.

26. Chicago Blackhawks (7-12-2, -22. CF%: 29th, xGF%: 32nd. Last Week: 24)

Jonathan Toews: washed up or just unlucky? Toews is one of five forwards who have yet to score a goal despite averaging over 15 minutes and one shot per game. He hasn’t been reliable in a top-six role and the Hawks don’t have anyone else.

27. Arizona Coyotes (5-16-2, -40. CF%: 30th, xGF%: 31st. Last Week: 30)

That 46-save shutout win by Karel Vejmelka was seriously impressive. The Coyotes are 4-3-1 in their past eight games and… respectable? And they’re doing this with Travis Boyd as their No. 1 center?!

28. Buffalo Sabres (8-11-3, -13. CF%: 21st, xGF%: 28th. Last Week: 25)

Only the Sabres and Sens allowed more than four goals per game in November, so maybe the Sabres thought claiming Murray would’ve been a wash. Otherwise, a promising start by the Sabres has become undone by a tandem that everyone knew was not going to last.

29. Vancouver Canucks (7-14-2, -21. CF%: 13th, xGF%: 25th. Last Week: 29)

Thatcher Demko earned all four of the Canucks’ wins in November, and three of them were basically stolen. Until more positive signs emerge – Elias Pettersson scoring more goals on the power play, for example – the Canucks remain a team in flux with a sitting duck GM and coach.

30. Montréal Canadiens (6-16-2, -30. CF%: 18th, xGF%: 24th. Last Week: 31)

They did it. The Marc Bergevin era is over, and now things can only go up, right? The Habs have some key decisions to make, chief among them what to do with the pricey veterans Bergevin had acquired.

31. New York Islanders (5-10-2, -20. CF%: 28th, xGF%: 18th. Last Week: 28)

Forcing the Isles to play their games with basically half their roster was like bringing lambs to slaughter, but as Bond said to Vesper: “One sympathizes.” It brought temporary relief to a team in the midst of an eight-game losing streak, but everything that can go wrong has gone wrong: they don’t defend and support each other very well, their goalies aren’t very good and they don’t get any goal support.

32. Ottawa Senators (4-14-1, -27. CF%: 31st, xGF%: 29th. Last Week: 32)

The Sens won one game in November.

Fantasy TE PPR Rankings Week 15: Who to start, sit at tight end in fantasy football .
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