Welcome back to this Christmas break edition of Overtime Heroics’ NHL Power Rankings recap! This week’s big stories include the Boston Bruins facing some stiff competition for their number-one ranking by the Carolina Hurricanes, and a look into why the New Jersey Devils have been crashing and burning lately. But first, some quick notes from around the league.
NHL Power Rankings Quick Hits
Alex Ovechkin made history this week on two occasions. First, he broke the all-time shots record with his 6210th shot, passing Ray Bourque for the most shots taken in NHL history. Second, the next night he scored his 802nd goal to pass Gordie Howe for second on the all-time goals scored leaderboard. He now trails only Wayne Gretzky’s 894 career goals. This all happened in yet another undefeated week for the Washington Capitals, as they’ve found their groove lately in the midst of a four game win streak and a 9-1-0 record in their last 10.
The Vancouver Canucks have continued their interesting trend discussed a few weeks ago. Despite going 11-6 over their past 17 games, which has brought them to being a .500 team, they have managed to do so while giving up 63 goals (3.7 per game) and scoring 61 (3.58 per game). It isn’t a huge discrepancy in their goal differential, for example the Los Angeles Kings sit second in the Pacific at 19-12-6 with a negative seven goal differential, but it begs the question of how sustainable this ‘outscore the problems’ strategy will last. In the meantime, Canucks games are quite exciting to tune into for the time being!
The Nashville Predators have existed in mediocre territory for a few years since their run to the Cup Final back in 2016-17. Usually carried by the play of Roman Josi and Juuse Saros, they are now at four straight seasons of first round postseason exits and it looks like they will finish out of the playoffs this year for the first time since 2013-14. Now may be the time when the Predators begin looking at blowing up the roster and rebuilding. That means they’ll have some players coming available over the coming months. One popular target may be Mattias Ekholm, some teams may already have interest in the versatile defender. But players like Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, and Mikael Granlund may also garner a lot of interest from teams looking for depth heading into the playoffs. Time will tell how the Predators handle this early stage of a potential rebuild.
The Storm Surge into Christmas for the Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes have consistently been one of the best regular season teams over the past five seasons. In fact, they sit third in total accumulated points over that span (426) behind only the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning. So it comes as no surprise that they find themselves back at the top of the standings again this season.
Currently, the team is on a stretch of 14 games in which they have a 12-0-2 record that has propelled them up the Metropolitan Division standings, where they currently sit in first.
One thing the Hurricanes have had trouble with, despite the regular season success, is the playoffs. They had one run to the Conference Finals four seasons ago, but following that it has been a second round loss and two first round losses. For a team as strong as the Hurricanes, this is nothing short of disappointing.
One of the key reasons the Hurricanes have been as strong as they have lately is the play of rookie goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov. Through 15 appearances, he has a 10-1-4 record with a 1.94 GAA and .928 SV% and sits seventh in the league with 11.2 goals saved above expected. An incredible performance from the rookie.
The Hurricanes appear to have one of their deepest lineups in years, as they’ve accomplished this record while missing starting goalie Frederik Andersen, Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, and offseason acquisition Max Pacioretty for significant portions (or all of) the season thus far. One can only imagine how strong the roster will be when everyone is healthy. Maybe this will be the year the Hurricanes can go on a deep playoff run once again.
What Happened to the Devils?
Is it time to retract apologies to Lindy Ruff? After an incredible start to the season capped off with a 13-game win streak, the New Jersey Devils have found themselves slumping through the month of December with a 3-6-2 record and falling out of first in the Metro Division.
The big question is, what happened? After all, the underlying numbers to the Devils’ start suggested it was sustainable. And even to this day, the Devils are still top of the league in some of those metrics, such as expected goal differential and percentage. It appears as though, over this past month, the offense has dried up and the team’s luck has taken a turn for the worse.
Through their first 23 games, the Devils scored 87 goals and gave up 51. An average of 3.8 goals for and 2.2 goals against per game. In the 11 games since, they have 28 goals for and 36 goals against. Down to 2.5 goals for and 3.2 goals against per game. That’s basically a swing of two goals per game in their opponent’s favour.
This much of a swing while still maintaining the same level of underlying metrics indicates a good team that is just going through one of those slumps and not getting any puck luck. A PDO of 95.1 during the 11-game slump suggests this also being the case.
The Devils got a much needed win heading into the Christmas break, so maybe that is the boost they need to come out strong through the new year.
That wraps up the Christmas break edition of the NHL Power Rankings. Who is ranked too high? Drop a comment down below with your thoughts!
Main image credit Embed from Getty Images