Wednesday, August 17, 2022

2021 NHL Power Rankings: Golden Knights, Maple Leafs, Canadiens Start Strong; Oilers, Blackhawks not so much

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The 2021 NHL season is as fresh as a newborn, but while it may be brand new, there is already a lot of intrigue.

Just a week and there are a few teams that have found their rhythm while others are struggling to get it back. The Senators have people raising eyebrows while the Golden Knights and Lightning keep rolling.

There were many smiles, including third pick in the 2020 Draft Tim Stützle, 2018 scout Alexander Romanov and youngster Joe Thornton, 41, all of whom scored the first goals. Jack Hughes is a year older and his game has been stepped up as we still await the first point of the first overall pick in 2020, Alexis Lafrenière, in the NHL.

Things are still fresh and young for the season, but here’s a look at the first NHL power rankings for 2021.

1. Vegas Golden Knights, 3-0-0, 1st in the West

Lehner. Fleury. Lehner. No matter who’s in between the pipes, Vegas is rolling. It also doesn’t hurt when you outdo your opponents per game (30.0 to 25.3) and also outscale them (11-5) – none of the goals ahead of the man advantage.

2. Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-1-0, 1st in the North

No one is having more fun playing hockey right now than Joe Thornton. Happy Jumbo, Happy Leafs.

MORE: Thornton scores his first goal for Toronto

3. Montreal Canadiens, 2-0-1, 2nd in the North

General manager Marc Bergevin has made great strides this offseason and they have paid off so far – although the most important may be signing Jeff Petry for an extension in September. The defender leads the team in points (five).

4. Philadelphia Flyers, 3-1-0, 1st in the East

You must love the madness of the calendar when the Flyers were beaten 6-1 by the Sabers on Monday and shut out those same Sabers 3-0 on Tuesday.

Plus, Gritty is in the building.

5.Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-0-0, 1st center

The Lightning postponed their first two games, but that didn’t stop Jon Cooper and Co. from picking up where they left off. It’s been 114 days since they lifted the Cup, but they click all the cylinders and beat their opponents 10-3.

6. Calgary Flames, 2-0-1, 3rd in the North

It was a “bizarre” start to the season for Jacob Markstrom. What’s stranger is that the Flames look really good but also very out of touch at times. If they can muster a full 60-minute effort, this team will be … on fire.

MORE: Ex-Canuck Jacob Markstrom excludes ex-boyfriends – ‘It was weird’

7. Washington Capitals, 2-0-2, 2nd East

Alex Ovechkin scored his first of the season against the Penguins. He now has 707 career goals and is one behind former Capital Big and Hall of Fame member Mike Gartner. Only 187 until he binds Wayne Gretzky.

8. New Jersey Devils, 2-0-1, 3rd in the East

Someone might have made a deal with the devil, but these Jersey boys look good. The team has won five points out of six possible and, speaking of boys, the excited 19-year-old Jack Hughes has six points in three games.

9. New York Islanders, 2-1-0, 4th in the East

The Islanders have scored 1.67 goals per game. The Islanders have allowed 1.67 goals per game (via two shouts from Semyon Varlamov). Sounds perfect for the guys on the island.

10. Colorado Avalanche, 2-1-0, 2nd West

The Avalanche have the best power play in the league and it’s pretty obvious when you go 5-7 against the Blues in an 8-0 win.

11. Florida Panthers, 2-0-0, 2nd center

The Panthers started the season late but didn’t let it stop them. Sergey Bobrovsky may have started only one of the team’s two wins, but the attack is on. Florida have the best par 60 scoring odds in the league at 3.91 and are fourth in high danger odds percentage with 62.07 (by Natural Stat Trick).

12. Nashville Predators, 2-1-0, 3rd center

Three games. Three goals from Filip Forsberg, one per game.

13. Carolina Hurricanes, 2-1-0, 4th center

Carolina’s season is currently on hiatus, but before things stopped, the Hurricanes controlled the game with 58.09 Corsi For Percentage (second best in the NHL) and 56.69% from Fenwick For ( also second best in the NHL) at 5v5, by Natural Stat Trick.

SCHEDULE CHANGES: List of games postponed, rescheduled due to COVID-19

14. St. Louis Blues, 2-1-0, 3rd in the West

How will things turn out for the Blues this year without ex-captain Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko with more shoulder pain and the retirement of Alexander Steen? Jordan Binnington didn’t look sharp in the net and has a 0.883 save percentage, stopping just 68 of 77 shots.

15. Pittsburgh Penguins, 2-2-0, 5th East

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Sidney Crosby is ridiculous.

16. Minnesota Wild, 2-1-0, 4th in the West

The Wild have the best scoring chances for percentage (60.98) and the second best expected goal for percentage (62.93) in the league, according to Natural Stat Trick. Last season, he was 51.17 and 51.31, respectively, in 69 games. Things are different in Minny and it starts between pipes with Cam Talbot and his save percentage of .926.

17. Ottawa Senators, 1-1-1, 5th in the North

Sporting News did not have the Senators in last place at the start of the season. It’s early, but they have shown this to be a whole new team. Matt Murray is going to steal 100% of games, Stützle brings some youthful energy with, well, the majority of the rest of the squad.

2021 PREDICTIONS: Final standings, awards, playoff screenings, Stanley Cup pick

18. Boston Bruins, 1-1-1, 6th East

In 5v5, according to Natural statistical tip, the Bruins are 55.56 Corsi for the percentage. They have yet to score a 5v5 goal this season. Boston has also scored just three goals at the lowest in the league. Maybe when David Pastrnak returns the ship will be righted.

19. Arizona Coyotes, 1-1-1, 5th West

Things started out slowly for the Coyotes. They’ve allowed some fans into the building – which is just weird – but the extra support hasn’t helped yet.

20. Anaheim Ducks, 1-1-1, 6th West

Things aren’t expected to be great on the West Coast in 2021 for any of the three teams. The Ducks have just four goals in three games and, to be fair, the best thing this season might be the reboot of “The Mighty Ducks” instead.

MORE: ‘Mighty Ducks’ star Dylan Playfair takes inspiration from hockey experience to stand out on camera

21. New York Rangers, 1-2-0, 7th East

The Rangers lead the league in shots per game (35.3) with 11.78 high danger odds for 60 (sixth in the NHL). Considering how poorly the team looked in Game 1 – it should be noted that they are the youngest team in the league this year with an average age of 24.96 – this is only ‘from there.

22. Detroit Red Wings, 2-2-0, 5th center

Bobby Ryan has four goals in three games. Impressive.

23. Buffalo Sabers, 1-2-0, 8th East

The Sabers have scored 11 goals. Taylor Hall or Jack Eichel had a point on seven of them – five goals, both scoring a point.

24. Dallas Stars, 0-0-0, 8th center

The Stars have yet to play this season due to COVID-19 disrupting things a bit, but expectations are high for the defending Western Conference champions.

COVID-19 CASE TRACKER: Updated list of players to miss matches during the 2021 season

25. Winnipeg Jets, 2-1-0, 4th in the North

Patrik Laine was a force in the lifting of the cover for the Jets as he scored two goals and an overtime assist. But he’s been on the shelves since that game and the Jets just weren’t alike without him. Not good news for Paul Maurice and his crew if business rumors also continue to swirl around the Finnish star.

UPDATE ON WOOL INJURIES: Star jets listed as day to day

26. Columbus Blue Jackets, 1-2-1, 6th center

The drama of Pierre-Luc Dubois weighs heavily on the young season of the Blue Jackets.

MORE: PLD ‘wants out’ – Timeline, latest business rumors

27. San Jose Sharks, 1-2-0, 7th West

San Jose is not very good, but Tomas Hertl tied for first in the NHL (six points) with six other guys is something positive.

28. Vancouver Canucks, 1-3-0, 7th in the North

The Canucks don’t look good. Sure, they have a win under their belt, but the team has looked unruly and out of sync amid the three-game losing streak since the win over Edmonton. Elias Pettersson has yet to tickle the string, but when he does, this team should take off.

29. Los Angeles Kings, 0-0-2, 7th West

The Kings are California dreaming of the future – especially when stallions Arthur Kaliyev, Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte dominate the NHL. It probably won’t be this year, but LA’s glory days are coming soon.

30. Edmonton Oilers, 1-3-0, 6th in the North

The Oilers had the chance to improve their goaltenders – and they didn’t – and now Mike Smith is out for a while. But, at least Connor McDavid is fun to watch.

MORE: McDavid remains a cheat code

31. Chicago Blackhawks, 0-3-1, 7th at center

Four games, three different goalkeepers but the same results: a team beaten 9-20 this season.


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