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NHL Power Rankings: How Do Teams Stack Up After the First Week of the Season?

Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
 2021-10-20

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What do we make of Buffalo’s impressive start? Plus, are the Panthers a legitimate threat to the Lightning’s divisional dominance?

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Just as everyone expected, the Sabres—yes, the same Sabres who finished last season with a league-worst 15 wins—have been one of the hottest teams to start this season , undefeated through their first three games. The Canadiens, meanwhile, have started the season with four straight losses, looking a far cry from the squad that made a run to the Stanley Cup Final this summer.

Yet not everything is in upheaval. Alex Ovechkin is still scoring goals for the Capitals, the Coyotes are still the Coyotes, early-season injuries throw wrenches into plans and the Atlantic Division is still stacked with Cup contenders. Here’s where every team stands.

Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

32. Arizona Coyotes

Last Week: 31
Record: 0-2-1

Goalie Carter Hutton has allowed 14 goals in two starts so far and has a brutal .702 save percentage. Backup Karel Vejmelka stopped 32 of 33 shots against the Sabres in his NHL debut, and though the Coyotes still lost 2–1 in a shootout, look for Vejmelka to take on a bigger role for Arizona.

31. Anaheim Ducks

Last week: 30
Record: 2-2-0

Nineteen-year-old defenseman Jamie Drysdale played the overtime hero in a 3–2 win Monday against the Flames, but the Ducks can’t count on goalie John Gibson to make 41 saves every game—or to maintain his .961 save percentage.

30. Buffalo Sabres

Last week: 32
Record: 3-0-0

The Sabres have won their first three games so they are good, actually. The Sabres have won their first three games, but their hot start almost certainly will prove unsustainable. Still, it’ll be fun while it lasts.

29. Columbus Blue Jackets

Last week: 25
Record: 2-1-0

Max Domi fractured a rib in the Blue Jackets’ 2–1 overtime win against the Kraken on Saturday and is expected to miss at least two weeks. Before the injury, the 26-year-old forward had a goal and three assists through two games.

28. Detroit Red Wings

Last week: 29
Record: 2-0-1

Rookie defenseman Moritz Seider has three assists through three games and is second on the team in ice time to another young defenseman, Filip Hronek. The 20-year-old may experience growing pains as the season continues, but so far Seider has been a bright spot.

27. Chicago Blackhawks

Last week: 20
Record: 0-3-1

The Blackhawks allowed their opponents to score within the first 17 seconds in back-to-back games against the Devils and Penguins, and they have allowed at least four goals in each of their first four games, all losses.

26. Montreal Canadiens

Last week: 19
Record: 0-4-0

The absences of goalie Carey Price (out for at least a month) and defenseman Shea Weber (out for the full season) have hurt last year’s Stanley Cup runners-up, and the offense too has struggled mightily, with just three goals through the team’s winless start.

25. Seattle Kraken

Last week: 28
Record: 1-3-1

After starting the season with a five-game road swing, the Kraken will play their first home game Saturday. Yanni Gourde made an early return from shoulder surgery in Tuesday’s 4–2 loss to the Devils, and the center could help stabilize Seattle’s attack.

24. Calgary Flames

Last week: 24
Record: 0-1-1

Blake Coleman, who signed a six-year deal with the Flames after two Stanley Cup runs with the Lightning, scored a goal just seven minutes into his first home game with Calgary on Monday, but his new team fell to the Ducks in overtime.

23. San Jose Sharks

Last week: 27
Record: 2-0-0

Evander Kane has been suspended for 21 games for violating the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols, but even without their leading scorer from last season, the Sharks racked up five goals Tuesday against Montreal.

22. Ottawa Senators

Last week: 26
Record: 2-1-0

Brady Tkachuk is set to make his season debut Thursday against the Sharks after signing a seven-year, $57.5 million contract last week. The forward should provide a boost for Ottawa’s offense, which has scored just three even-strength goals through three games.

21. Los Angeles Kings

Last week: 18
Record: 1-2-0

With a goal in Tuesday’s loss to Nashville, Anze Kopitar continued his scorching start to the season. The 34-year-old center has five goals and three assists in three games, including a hat trick in the Kings’ season-opening 6–2 win against the Golden Knights.

20. Nashville Predators

Last week: 23
Record: 1-2-0

After dropping their first two games, the Predators sent 22-year-old Cody Glass to the AHL and called up 24-year-old Tommy Novak, who made his NHL debut in Tuesday’s 2–1 win against the Kings. Nashville is in search of quick chemistry, but swapping young players in and out of the lineup may do more harm than good in the long run.

19. Vancouver Canucks

Last week: 21
Record: 1-2-1

While the Canucks lost 5–2 to the undefeated Sabres on Tuesday, the game marked Brock Boeser’s return to the lineup. The winger missed the first three games with an undisclosed injury, which left Vancouver short on forward depth.

18. New Jersey Devils

Last week: 22
Record: 2-0-0

Jack Hughes, the top pick in the 2019 NHL draft, scored two goals, including the overtime winner, in the Devils’ season-opening victory against the Blackhawks. He added an assist in their second game Tuesday, a win against Seattle, but exited the game at the end of the first period with an upper-body injury.

17. Winnipeg Jets

Last week: 12
Record: 0-2-1

After starting the season with bad losses to Anaheim and San Jose, the Jets had their best showing so far Tuesday against the Wild in a 6–5 overtime defeat. Still, the result stings. Kyle Connor was ruled offside on what would have been an empty-net goal to put Winnipeg ahead by two. Instead, the Wild tied the game 17 seconds later and won it in overtime.

16. Philadelphia Flyers

Last week: 16
Record: 1-0-1

The Flyers’ second line of Derick Brassard, Cam Atkinson and Joel Farabee has shined through two games, with four goals and five assists between the three of them.

15. New York Rangers

Last week: 17
Record: 2-1-1

Reigning Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox leads the Rangers in time on ice and has three points and four blocked shots through four games. New York will continue to rely on its top defenseman to help keep the team competitive in a crowded Metropolitan Division.

14. St. Louis Blues

Last week: 15
Record: 2-0-0

The Blues have won their first two games of the season but will have to do without Pavel Buchnevich for their next two. The winger has been suspended for head-butting Coyotes forward Lawson Crouse.

13. Dallas Stars

Last week: 13
Record: 2-2-0

Tyler Seguin has yet to appear on the score sheet as he continues to shake off the rust from the hip injury that sidelined him for almost all of last year. But a bounce-back season by goalie Braden Holtby (who has a .947 save percentage so far) could give the Stars attack time to find its footing.

12. New York Islanders

Last week: 3
Record: 1-2-0

Just as the Sabres cannot be as good as they appear (...or can they?), the Islanders are better than their first two games, in which they lost handily to the Hurricanes and Panthers. They rebounded Tuesday with a 4–1 win against the Blackhawks, and they have a chance to go on a run as just one of their next six opponents has a record above .500.

11. Pittsburgh Penguins

Last week: 14
Record: 2-0-2

The absences of stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have not hurt the Penguins so far, and Crosby’s return from wrist surgery could be imminent.

10. Edmonton Oilers

Last week: 10
Record: 3-0-0

Zack Kassian scored twice in the Oilers’ 6–5 win Tuesday against the Ducks. In doing so, the right winger matched his goal total from last season. Edmonton would like to see him get back to the 15-goal mark he reached in 2018-19 and ’19-20.

9. Minnesota Wild

Last week: 9
Record: 3-0-0

The Wild remain undefeated through three games, but they have lived on the edge. All their wins have come by one-goal margins, including an adrenaline-filled comeback overtime victory against the Jets.

8. Washington Capitals

Last week: 11
Record: 2-0-1

One season in the distant future, Alex Ovechkin’s torrential goal-scoring will slow, but not this season. The superstar has four goals through three games, including an empty-netter in Washington’s impressive 6–3 win against the Avalanche on Tuesday.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs

Last week: 8
Record: 2-1-1

Auston Matthews made his season debut Monday , returning from offseason wrist surgery. He didn’t record a point in the overtime loss to the Rangers, but the Leafs will look for their star center to return to his Rocket Richard–winning form sooner rather than later.

6. Vegas Golden Knights

Last week: 4
Record: 1-1-0

The Golden Knights fell 6–2 to the Kings on Saturday, but the worst losses did not come on the scoreboard. Forwards Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty both went down with injuries in the game. Pacioretty is expected to miss at least six weeks with a broken foot, while Stone’s status remains unclear.

5. Boston Bruins

Last week: 7
Record: 1-0-0

The Bruins have played just one game so far, fewer than any other team, but they looked solid in that one, a 3–2 win against the Stars in which left winger Brad Marchand scored twice.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning

Last week: 1
Record: 2-2-0

Nikita Kucherov exited the Lightning’s overtime win against Washington on Saturday with a lower-body injury and has since been placed on long-term injured reserve, which means he will be out at least until mid-November but likely longer. Without the star forward, Tampa Bay went 0-for-6 on the power play in a Tuesday loss to division rival Florida.

3. Colorado Avalanche

Last week: 2
Record: 1-2-0

Top-line forwards Nate MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen were on the ice for five Capitals goals in Colorado’s 6–3 loss to Washington on Tuesday. The Avalanche have the talent for a title run, but they will need their best players to step up.

2. Carolina Hurricanes

Last week: 5
Record: 2-0-0

Andrei Svechnikov leads the undefeated Hurricanes with three goals, four points and 11 shots through two games after signing an eight-year, $62 million extension in August.

1. Florida Panthers

Last week: 6
Record: 3-0-0

The Panthers not only stayed perfect with a 4–1 win Tuesday against the Lightning, but they also proved themselves a legitimate threat to the Lightning’s Atlantic Division dominance.

More Hockey Coverage:

Alex Bishop and His Wild, Unprecedented Night
So, How About the Buffalo Sabres?
What's Next for Evander Kane?

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