Welcome back to another week of NHL Power Rankings! For this week’s recap, we will take a look at one of the league’s bigger disappointments in the Florida Panthers and a bit of a turnaround for the Vancouver Canucks. But first, let’s cover some quick hits from around the league.
The Metropolitan Division is trying to regain its reputation as the Thunderdome of the NHL of late. Last week, three teams all put up a perfect 3-0 record. The Washington Capitals, who have been struggling with injuries that keep getting worse as they lost Martin Fehervary and Darcy Kuemper a couple of weekends ago. The New York Rangers, who have been slumping of late, but seem to have found some of their exciting, offensive touch that helped them thrive last season. And the Pittsburgh Penguins, being propelled forward by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin who are playing some of their best hockey in recent years.
Last week, the Toronto Maple Leafs were a featured team and they continued being the hottest team in the NHL through to today. Another undefeated week, Mitch Marner’s point streak is still alive, and Matt Murray had one of the best games on record for an NHL goalie. In one single game, he put up almost six goals saved above expected. The Leafs goalies are giving the team even more chances to win lately.
The Columbus Blue Jackets were not expected to be a competitive team this season by any means. But they are still falling short of expectations. Currently, they are the fourth worst team in the league by points percentage and this week was one of their worst after getting annihilated 9-4 by
Tage Thompson the Buffalo Sabres. The Blue Jackets have been hit hard by injuries, as they’ve been missing Patrik Laine for most of the season, while Zach Werenski, Jake Bean, and Jakub Voracek are out long-term, if not the rest of the season. So their depth is really being tested. But the rest of the lineup is still underperforming, prospects haven’t taken a step forward, and goaltending has been among the league’s worst.
Florida Panthers were One-Hit Wonders?
The Florida Panthers had one of the best regular seasons of the past couple decades in 2021-22. The fourth most points of any team in a single season in the past 30 years. Their 337 goals place them as the only team not from the 90’s in the top 20 offensive seasons of those same 30 years.
So far this season, things have been a struggle. They sit outside of a playoff spot, their goal differential is close to zero. They are still in the top 10 in goals for, but it is a far cry from last season. And what’s hurting them the most is being in the bottom half of the league in goals against.
Sergei Bobrovsky has been abysmal in his 15 appearances, with an .885 SV% and 3.55 GAA, paving the way for Spencer Knight to take over the crease. So that is not helping.
Neither is the amount of roster turnover and different faces in the lineup, as well as having three different coaches in the past year. Losing Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar has really taken a lot out of the lineup, even though Matthew Tkachuk has done exceptionally thus far with the Panthers. They’ve been missing Aaron Ekblad and Radko Gudas to injury at times as well, two more of their most important defenders.
The amount of effort that went into building the team that would compete depleted the team’s prospect pool, depth chart, and ability to sustain continued success after losing a lot of high round draft picks. Ultimately, it makes sense that the team is struggling if they no longer have the depth or prospect pool to replace players in the lineup. The Panthers may be a one-and-done type team.
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Here Come the Canucks?
The Vancouver Canucks started the season terribly. The last winless team in the league, they didn’t win until their eighth game of the season. They have been regularly giving up five goals per game through the whole season, and are third worst in goals against in the league. Not to mention the difficulties with the lineup, with veterans like J.T. Miller brushing off criticisms for his poor play.
Thatcher Demko, one of the only reasons the Canucks had been able to complete and stay in games over the past couple of seasons, was not his usual brick wall self until being sidelined by injury. It seems likely that he was playing hurt all season and that was significantly impacting his performance.
However, the Canucks have quietly started to figure things out over the past 12 games. After going 8-4 over the past month, Vancouver actually found themselves at a .500 record briefly earlier this week. They are still giving up far too many goals, and despite the record only have a plus-one goal differential over those 12 games, but they have at least been able to find ways to win games.
Truly, this stretch does not look sustainable for the team. But if they can rally around new starter Spencer Martin and give him the defensive support he needs to play well, maybe the Canucks can have a respectable stretch through the New Year and keep themselves out of the league’s basement for a while.
Though with the trade rumours swirling around Brock Boeser and the uncertainty with Bo Horvat’s next contract and destination, it is likely to be a bit longer before the Canucks can retain any type of sustained success and regain status as a playoff contender.
That wraps up this week’s NHL Power Rankings recap! Who is ranked too high? Drop a comment down below!
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