NHL Power Rankings Week 11 Recap – The Pittsburgh Penguins are Still Winning

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As we wrap up the last full week before the Christmas break, welcome back to another week of NHL Power Rankings. This week a couple of the bigger trends to take a look at are; Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are turning back time as they lead the Pittsburgh Penguins’ push to stay competitive, and of all teams, the Buffalo Sabres currently have the best offense in the league. Before we get into those teams, let’s run through some quick bits from the week that was.

In a baffling decision on Saturday, Philadelphia Flyers head coach John Tortorella healthy scratched Kevin Hayes, the team’s leading scorer. That was a huge shock, as it is unusual to see a team’s top player scratched. Sure enough, it did not work as the Flyers lost 6-3 to the New York Rangers.

The Detroit Red Wings are hitting a major slump in their season with a winless week that is a part of a 10-game stretch over which they have a 2-6-2 record. They’ve only scored 22 goals while giving up 36 over these 10 games. The Red Wings are not playing horribly, as their possession numbers do not indicate being completely dominated. But they do currently have a catastrophic combination of being unable to score and getting poor goaltending leading to a low PDO. This is putting a wrench in their push for a playoff spot this season.

The Edmonton Oilers, if they have any hope of being a serious contender this season, have some major issues to sort out with their defense. After a tough, controversial loss to the St. Louis Blues, defender Darnell Nurse was blunt about his poor performance, taking the blame for the late game-tying goal. But very quickly in the Oilers’ next game, he was at fault for more goals against. And this is a trend amongst most of the team’s defenders. The Oilers have problems. They cannot trust their defense to make the plays they need to be making. The offense can only outscore problems for so long, a trend that led to their elimination in last season’s playoffs, and the goaltending is not reliable enough to handle the defensive lapses.

Now for the week’s standout stories.

Sid the Kid has Still Got It

It has been an up-and-down season for the Pittsburgh Penguins. After a 4-0-1 start, the Penguins were sent into a tailspin on a seven-game losing streak. Within that stretch, it had some wondering if this was just a slump or if the Penguins were starting to show their age as they exit a competitive window. But, one thing hockey fans have learned over the last handful of years is to never count the Pittsburgh Penguins out.

Now, Pittsburgh is on a 14-2-2 roll and being led by the ageless wonders, Crosby and Malkin.

At age 35, Crosby has 40 points in 30 games, is on pace to be one of the best seasons of his career, and is playing some of the best hockey he has in the past five years. He is having one of the best seasons ever for a player aged 35+, currently pacing to be behind only John Bucyk in points for that category. Getting no help from special teams scoring, he has 32 of his 40 points at even strength, leading the league in that stat. If he keeps this pace up, he will be finding himself back in the Hart Trophy voting race come the end of the season, where he would tie Eddie Shore and Herb Gardiner for the oldest Hart Trophy winner.

And, it would be a disservice to not talk about Malkin here as well. With 31 points in 30 games, he is playing at the same point-per-game pace as he has throughout his career, giving the Penguins some depth. Importantly for him is that he has played in every one of Pittsburgh’s games thus far. Health has often been an issue for him, as he typically misses a significant portion of the season due to injury.

Jake Guentzel is also quietly having the best season of his career, with 31 points in 26 games. And the goaltending, led by Tristan Jarry, has been very reliable, with a team save percentage of .915, which is well above the .900 SV% league average.

All indications suggest the Penguins will remain competitive through the rest of the season, maybe not at the same pace, but they shouldn’t regress too much. Expect them to make yet another push for a deep playoff run come trade deadline time.

Wait, Which Team Leads the League in Scoring?

In a league with high-powered offensive teams like the Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Colorado Avalanche, one would logically assume that they would be leading the league in scoring. But not this season.

Next, you might look for a team at the top of the standings, maybe the Vegas Golden Knights, Boston Bruins, or New Jersey Devils. Not them either.

It’s the Buffalo Sabres. The 20th overall team in the league with a 15-14-2 record leads the league in scoring. Their 124 goals are seven more than the Bruins, who sit in second place.

The Sabres have been bottom 10 in scoring in each of the past 10 seasons. So to see this major swing year-over-year is quite surprising. Especially since their record does not indicate it.

Despite leading the league in goals for, they have also given up a lot of goals, which might be one of the reasons they are still well behind a playoff spot. It would be interesting to see how good this team would be if they had a better goalie playing more. Craig Anderson has been outstanding, the 41-year-old has a 2.65 GAA and .922 SV% with 5.6 goals saved above expected in 12 games.

Tage Thompson, leading the team with 49 points in 31 games, is showing last season was no fluke by continuing to get better. Rasmus Dahlin, averaging over 26 minutes of ice time per game, has 37 points in 30 games and is showing why he was regarded as one of the top offensive defender prospects around.

It is an exciting time to be a Sabres fan as they may be finally starting to turn the corner!

That wraps up another week of NHL Power Rankings. Who would you have ranked higher? Drop a comment down below!

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Sean is a lifelong, stubborn Oilers fan who somehow still has hope that next season will be the year. Hockey is his biggest interest and hobby, so he follows the whole league as closely as he can.