Welcome to 2023, hockey fans! This is the first edition of the calendar year of Overtime Heroics’ NHL Power Rankings. Kicking off the year will be a look at the Colorado Avalanche; how they’ve struggled in their Stanley Cup defense season and the outlook for their second half. Also, the New York Rangers have been slowly and steadily remaining competitive as they climb up the Metropolitan Division standings.
But first, a few quick bits from around the league.
NHL Power Rankings Quick Bits
The Carolina Hurricanes’ time atop the NHL Power Rankings was short-lived as a quiet week with a 1-2-1 record dropped them back behind the Boston Bruins, who reclaimed the top spot. On a positive note for the Hurricanes, they did get Max Pacioretty back from injury and are close to seeing Frederik Andersen on the ice.
Across the continent over in Seattle, the Kraken have bounced back after a bit of a slump and started the year with a 4-0-0 record, including an important divisional win against the Edmonton Oilers to help them hold onto the third playoff spot on the Pacific. The Kraken are accomplishing this with one of the deepest offenses in the league. As of their 38th game, Seattle has ten 20-point scorers, tied with the Boston Bruins for the most in the league. The Kraken may not have a distinct star player separating them from the competition, but they do have a by-committee aspect to the team that is serving them well.
The Detroit Red Wings have been crashing and burning since their 20th game of the season. After starting out hopeful and competitive, 10-5-4 and sitting in or near playoff spots in the Atlantic, they’ve since gone 6-10-3 and have fallen well shy of a playoff spot. It’s a tough situation for a team with a lot of new faces and prospects when they have to build and sustain chemistry from ground zero. So it may be a while yet before the Red Wings can consistently play to the level they started the year at.
The Challenges of Defending the Stanley Cup
There were concerns for the Colorado Avalanche heading into the season after they lost some important players from their Stanley Cup-winning squad. Nazem Kadri, Darcy Kuemper, and Andre Burakovsky are now playing elsewhere, which was enough of a hit to the lineup on its own. Especially the two forwards of that trio being important pieces of the Avalanche’s depth scoring.
As the season started, it quickly became clear that the team missed these players. Even though some, like Valeri Nichushkin, had amazing stars to the season, it wasn’t enough to sustain the level of play and dominance the 2021-22 team had.
Factor in some major injury issues holding key players out of the lineup for significant chunks of time, and the Avalanche are having a lackluster year. As of the writing of this article, they sit out of a playoff spot entirely.
The biggest change year-over-year is that offense. In 2021-22, the Avalanche averaged 3.76 goals per game and gave up 2.83. In 2022-23, they are scoring just 2.87 goals per game and giving up 2.84.
The impact on their depth scoring from roster turnover and major injuries to their best players has taken a huge toll on this team’s success.
Moving into the second half of the year, there is some hope yet. Nathan MacKinnon is back after missing the past month. Nichushkin is still in and out of the lineup, but Evan Rodrigues is back. However, captain Gabriel Landeskog has not played yet this season and his return does not seem imminent, though the injury timetable might suggest him in the lineup by the end of the month.
Getting MacKinnon will help, but the Avalanche need the depth scoring to step up in a difficult season if they want to make the playoffs.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race for the New York Rangers
The New York Rangers started off a bit slowly compared to last season. They weren’t bad by any means, mind you, but in a competitive division, they found themselves hovering just out of a playoff spot after the first month of action. Even though they haven’t strayed too far from the pace they had in October, the consistent and steady nature of their performance has held up as they now sit third in the division and comfortably in a playoff spot.
The Rangers had to adjust quite a bit as Igor Shesterkin has fallen back to earth after his incredible Vezina-winning season in 2021-22. And over time, they have done just that. Even though his stat line is worse and the team is giving up a few more goals than last season, their defense has improved with the development of K’Andre Miller and the insertion of Braden Scheider into the lineup.
And their offense, which had some signs of being unsustainable last season, has actually improved as well. Scoring is a bit more spread out amongst the lineup, so even though Chris Kreider isn’t scoring 50 again this year the rest of the Rangers’ lineup is able to cover that.
This level of consistency will bode well into the second half of the season. Moving into the trade deadline, the Rangers have a few underperforming but incredibly valuable prospects that they may be willing to part with to make a play on some big-name forwards on the trade block.
That wraps up this week’s NHL Power Rankings recap. Which team is ranked too high? Drop a comment down below!
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