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      NHL power rankings: Are the New Jersey Devils back after strong showing at MetLife?

      The Preds and Flames slide, the Sharks return to the bottom, and the Panthers re-claim the top spot.

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      Readers, I have some bad news (or maybe good news). Unfortunately, Mike Gould wasn’t happy with someone firing a slapshot at an empty net and decided to cross-check them in the face, and after travelling to New York for an in-person hearing, he’s been suspended for a couple weeks. Okay, only some of that is true. But with Mike out of the lineup, we’ve had to bring in a substitute for the short-term, and thankfully another one of our excellent writers in Hunter Crowther has joined us on a PRTO (power ranking tryout).

      Hunter will help me continue to navigate through the results so far with another week of our co-op power rankings. I have my same old system in which I aggregate six stats (points %, 5-on-5 goal differential, 5-on-5 xGF/60, 5-on-5 xGA/60, power play xGF/60, and shorthanded xGA/60, all coming courtesy of Natural Stat Trick) to come up with a list that eliminates my own biases, along with a rule that no team can be above a team that’s more than five points ahead of them in the standings, regardless of where the aggregate places them. On the other hand, Hunter goes off his own intellect and pure vibes, and together we find a way to combine it and meet in the middle.

      1. Florida Panthers

      Record: 36-15-4, +50
      Last Week: 2nd (+1)
      Hunter’s Rank: 1st
      Scott’s Rank: 1st

      Hunter: My goodness, I love watching this team play hockey. Every night it feels like their forecheck wants to debilitate the other team’s blueline, and their push to the net is relentless. Winners of nine of their last 10 games, they’re being led by Matthew Tkachuk, who after a slowish start has been on fire, scoring eight goals and 13 assists for 21 points during that 10-game span. They’re playing a late-June style of hockey in mid-February. What a treat to watch. 

      2. Dallas Stars

      Record: 34-14-7, +41
      Last Week: 4th (+2)
      Hunter’s Rank: 2nd
      Scott’s Rank: 3rd

      Scott: The Stars now have points in 10 of their last 11 games and they really seem to be cementing themselves as the Cup contender that we all thought they were at the start of the season, especially since they finally started using Thomas Harley more prominently. More impressive is that they’ve been doing this well while Jake Oettinger continues to be inconsistent. If he can figure things out, look out.

      3. Vancouver Canucks

      Record: 37-13-6, +59
      Last Week: 3rd (-2)
      Hunter’s Rank: 4th
      Scott’s Rank: 2nd

      Hunter: I’ve had this strange feeling when it comes to the Canucks during the 2023-24 campaign. I’m watching them win games, I’m watching them win puck battles, I’m seeing a massive difference in effort led by head coach Rick Tocchet … but, I just feel like the other shoe will drop at some point. And yet, 56 games into the season, they’re first in the league and winning games in every kind of way. Maybe they’re just that good. Am I so out of touch? 

      Scott: While I wouldn’t say they’ve totally put themselves in elite territory just yet, their underlying numbers have improved quite a bit since adding Elias Lindholm. They may find themselves in the conversation for the Stanley Cup just yet.

      4. Boston Bruins

      Record: 32-12-11, +38
      Last Week: 3rd (-1)
      Hunter’s Rank: 3rd
      Scott’s Rank: 4th

      Scott: I was going to say that it’s been a while since the Boston Bruins have lost four in a row, but that actually already happened this season, which goes to show how streaky they can be at times. They’ve now surrendered the division lead to the Florida Panthers, so it’ll be interesting to see if Florida runs away with it or if the Bruins can keep it close.

      5. New York Rangers

      Record: 36-16-3, +29
      Last Week: 6th (+1)
      Hunter’s Rank: 5th
      Scott’s Rank: 5th

      Hunter: Yeah yeah, they’ve won seven straight, they’re at the top of the Metropolitan division, they have five players at or near above a point-per-game pace and they just won one of the most exciting games of the year in a 6-5 overtime thriller outdoors against their New York rivals in the Islanders… but what about those Stadium Series sweaters? Even the nWo thought those were too sweet. Oh, and I’m saying it now: Jonathan Quick is their No. 1 goalie. Period. 

      6. Winnipeg Jets

      Record: 33-14-5, +37
      Last Week: 7th (+1)
      Hunter’s Rank: 6th
      Scott’s Rank: 7th

      Scott: After a brief stretch of turmoil, the Jets look to be back (for now) after winning three games in a row last week, including a statement 4-2 win over another top team in the Vancouver Canucks. And to add to the fact that they beat the Canucks, Sean Monahan finally got his first point with the Jets with a goal on the power play, which is exactly what he needs to do for them.

      7. Colorado Avalanche

      Record: 34-18-4, +28
      Last Week: 9th (+2)
      Hunter’s Rank: 7th
      Scott’s Rank: 8th

      Hunter: We’re witnessing the best season of Nathan MacKinnon’s career. Another two-point performance on Sunday against the Coyotes extended his home point streak to 26, which is a stat we all hold dear to our hearts, like Aaron Judge’s American League record for most home runs in a season. My fear with the Avs is that Alexandar Georgiev isn’t good enough to get them out of the first round against the Stars or Jets. 

      8. Carolina Hurricanes

      Record: 32-17-5, +26
      Last Week: 5th (-3)
      Hunter’s Rank: 9th
      Scott’s Rank: 6th

      Scott: For the first time this week, Hunter and I seem to have a bit of a gap in terms of our rankings. But, you all know I’m always high on the Canes, and considering that they’ve now won seven of their last nine games, and those two losses came to some tough teams in the Stars and Canucks, I have to keep giving them credit.

      Hunter: I have this general pessimism that I’m trying to work on in the new year, but it remains for a few things: almond milk, Andy Samberg movies and the Hurricanes being legitimate. Don’t get me wrong, Sebastian Aho is one of my favorite players to watch on any given night, but I still think they need a bit of sandpaper in a forward group that already has enough secondary scoring. Of course, the biggest question mark is goaltending, and I have no faith in either Pyotr Kochetkov stepping up or them making a trade. But hey, prove me wrong, kids. Prove me wrong. 

      Scott: I’d argue that their biggest need is still a legitimate scoring threat, but Kochetkov also hasn’t fully sold me that he’s the answer in net either.

      9. Edmonton Oilers

      Record: 32-18-1, +34
      Last Week: 10th (+1)
      Hunter’s Rank: 8th
      Scott’s Rank: 9th

      Hunter: I stayed up to watch the Oilers lay the smacketh down on the Red WIngs last Tuesday, laughing like a hyena when Connor McDavid put up six assists. They dropped a 6-3 effort to the Blues this week, but I liked their tenacity throughout the game. “If you’re going to beat us, we’re going to tear a strip off you.” Wrapping up the week with a 4-3 OT win over the Stars, Edmonton is looking more and more like a team ready to go on a deep run. 

      10. Toronto Maple Leafs

      Record: 29-16-8, +25
      Last Week: 11th (+1)
      Hunter’s Rank: 11th
      Scott’s Rank: 10th

      Scott: No Mo, no problem in Leaf Land, it seems. While I wouldn’t call their competition top-notch last week, the Leafs managed to get through all three games without Rielly, as well as John Tavares for two of the three and Mitch Marner for one of them. Then again, that’s quite easy to do when you have Auston Matthews scoring back-to-back hat tricks again. With 48 goals in 52 games now, it’s crazy to think how close he was to getting 50 in 50, but now the conversation of whether he hits 70 is back on the table.

      11. Vegas Golden Knights

      Record: 31-17-6, +24
      Last Week: 8th (-3)
      Hunter’s Rank: 10th
      Scott’s Rank: 12th

      Hunter: Okay, so, two losses this week, one against a rudderless Wild squad, and the other 3-1 to the Hurricanes. But to me, the regular season is merely a formality for the Golden Knights. Just like Kings in the early-mid 2010s, just get into the dance and do your thing. We’ll have a better idea of where they’re at once Jack Eichel and Shea Theodore return to the lineup, which could be sooner than later. 

      12. Los Angeles Kings

      Record: 27-16-10, +20
      Last Week: 12th (0)
      Hunter’s Rank: 12th
      Scott’s Rank: 11th

      Scott: There may be life in the Kings just yet! They’ve now got five wins in their past six games and are creeping back into the battle for the second and third division spots with the Golden Knights and the Oilers. Of course, it doesn’t quite feel like the Kings are back because that one loss was a 7-0 smacking at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres, but I’m still a believer.

      13. New Jersey Devils

      Record: 28-22-4, -2
      Last Week: 20th (+7)
      Hunter’s Rank: 14th
      Scott’s Rank: 13th

      Hunter: Winners of three of four last week. The return of Jack Hughes has been the boost this team has desperately needed. Everyone made a fuss over him chirping at Viktor Arvidsson, but you know what? He’s right. Just a jaw-dropping talent who makes this Devils’ team a playoff squad when healthy. If he finishes out the season, they’ll be playing hockey past mid-April. 

      14. Tampa Bay Lightning

      Record: 30-21-5, +4
      Last Week: 15th (+1)
      Hunter’s Rank: 13th
      Scott’s Rank: 15th

      Scott: The Lightning had about as tough of a week as you can get in terms of their opponents last week, so the fact that they were able to come out of it winning two of the three games is certainly great, beating the Bruins 3-2 and the Avs 6-3. But, getting hit with a 9-2 shellacking at the hands of the Panthers certainly leaves a bit of a stain on an otherwise solid week for the Bolts.

      15. Philadelphia Flyers

      Record: 29-20-7, +2
      Last Week: 13th (-2)
      Hunter’s Rank: 15th
      Scott’s Rank: 14th

      Hunter: It feels inevitable, doesn’t it? They racked up so many wins to start the season and for a hot second, it looked like the Flyers would go from drafting No. 7 overall to the playoffs in one season. But this team is streakier than Will Ferrell in Old School, and it feels like Scott Laughton and Sean Walker are on their way out via trade. To be honest, I respect the commitment to the long-term goal.

      16. Detroit Red Wings

      Record: 28-20-6, +14
      Last Week: 16th (0)
      Hunter’s Rank: 16th
      Scott’s Rank: 18th

      Scott: The Red Wings didn’t get off to the best start to their Western Canada road trip, as they found themselves dealing with an 8-4 defeat to the Oilers, followed by dropping the next game in Vancouver by a score of 4-1. They did end up salvaging the week with a 5-0 win over the Flames, but the tough start allowed a couple of teams to draw in closer in that Wildcard race.

      17. New York Islanders

      Record: 22-18-14, -23
      Last Week: 19th (+2)
      Hunter’s Rank: 18th
      Scott’s Rank: 17th

      Hunter: You know the phrase “the mushy middle?” Aimless franchises that are in the middle of the standings, not good enough to be a contender but not bad enough to have a chance at a lottery spot. That’s the Islanders, losing twice in extra time this week. Look at the bright side: the rest of the league and its fans are starting to notice how damn good future Norris Trophy-winner Noah Dobson is.

      Scott: I believe the words you’re looking for are “It’s the Islanders, who cares?”

      18. Nashville Predators

      Record: 28-25-2, -12
      Last Week: 14th (-4)
      Hunter’s Rank: 19th
      Scott’s Rank: 16th

      Scott: Heading into Saturday, the Predators found themselves having lost five of their last six games, but thankfully they managed to snap that funk with a big 5-2 win over a Blues team that they’re currently fighting for the final playoff spot in the West with. It’s not exactly an impressive group of teams duking it out for the last spot, but in terms of their overall play, the Preds stick out to me as the best of that bunch.

      19. Pittsburgh Penguins

      Record: 24-21-7, +12
      Last Week: 18th (-1)
      Hunter’s Rank: 20th
      Scott’s Rank: 19th

      Hunter: The Pens lost two of three games this week, the only win coming against the bottom-feeding Blackhawks. Losing Jake Guentzel for the next four weeks is a blow to whatever playoff hopes they had left. At this point, I’m just curious what Kyle Dubas and co. decide to do beyond this season. To paraphrase Shelley’s Ozymandias, nothing remains of the towering franchise that won three championships in eight seasons, the talent pool boundless and bare.

      20. St. Louis Blues

      Record: 29-23-2, -8
      Last Week: 21st (+1)
      Hunter’s Rank: 17th
      Scott’s Rank: 24th

      Scott: Hunter’s new so I’ll cut him a bit of slack, but around these parts, we don’t give the Blues any credit. Even if they had won three of four games before their loss to the Preds on Saturday, we don’t care here. You always have to bump them a few marks just for the bit (a.k.a. they’re a paper tiger).

      Hunter: Oh I love bits, I would love to be a part of one someday. I have watched more Blues games then I would care to admit, and they’re annoying to play against. Not that they’re full of pests, but, well, they’re just annoying, like mosquito bites or telemarketers. Of course, they have enough — hold on, let me prepare for your collective eyerolls and exhaustive sighs — championship experience and intangibles to get into the playoffs, and they’re one spring’s worth of Jordan Binnington-remembering-he’s-good to take a team to seven games in round 1.

      21. Calgary Flames

      Record: 25-25-5, -8
      Last Week: 17th (-4)
      Hunter’s Rank: 21st
      Scott’s Rank: 21st

      Hunter: They’re done, right? They lost all three games this week by a combined score of 13-3, getting shut out twice. They’re already traded Elias Lindholm, it’s time to move on from Chirs Tanev, Noah Hanifin, and heck, go further and see what the market is for Blake Coleman and Nazem Kadri. Strip the foundation and sell the parts, because there’s plenty of real estate in Alberta for them to rebuild. 

      22. Minnesota Wild

      Record: 25-23-6, -12
      Last Week: 24th (+2)
      Hunter’s Rank: 23rd
      Scott’s Rank: 20th

      Scott: Just as I was starting to think the Wild’s season was over, they rallied themselves back into the playoff conversation with four straight wins before that streak was snapped in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Sabres. A lot of that falls on Kirill Kaprizov, who finds himself seventh in the league in points-per-game since Dec. 18. The fact that Matt Boldy went pointless in four of the seven games while Kaprizov was hurt really showcases his importance to the Wild. There are many great candidates this year, but you could make a solid case for Kaprizov being on your Hart ballot.

      23. Washington Capitals

      Record: 24-21-8, -36
      Last Week: 22nd (-1)
      Hunter’s Rank: 22nd
      Scott’s Rank: 23rd

      Hunter: I mean at this point, we’re on Alex Ovechkin-goal-watch and that’s about it. The results don’t matter. They got trounced by the Avalanche last Tuesday and squeaked past a less-than-mediocre Canadiens squad over the weekend. Can Joel Edmundson get you anything on the market? What about Max Pacioretty? Anthony Mantha? Is this thing on? 

      24. Seattle Kraken

      Record: 23-21-10, -6
      Last Week: 23rd (-1)
      Hunter’s Rank: 24th
      Scott’s Rank: 22nd

      Scott: The Kraken found themselves looking at losses in four of five games before they snapped that with back-to-back wins over the Islanders and Bruins, and they’ve managed to keep hanging around in the playoff race as a result. Apparently they may still move some pieces at the deadline, which might not be the worst decision considering that whoever wins this race for the second Wildcard spot in the West is playing for the opportunity to play a team like the Canucks or Stars. As Darryl Sutter said a couple years ago, it’ll be a waste of eight days.

      25. Buffalo Sabres

      Record: 24-26-4, -8
      Last Week: 26th (+1)
      Hunter’s Rank: 25th
      Scott’s Rank: 25th

      Hunter: After whooping the Kings 7-0 and getting blanked by the Panthers 4-0, the Sabres found their Goldilocks zone and beat the Wild in OT on Saturday. Injuries and inexperience be damned, at some point this franchise just has to harness this talent and put themselves in the dance. Does it mean moving one of their core young guns for an established veteran? Whatever the answer may be, what they’re doing now ain’t good enough. 

      Scott: I don’t know about that one, chief.

      26. Montreal Canadiens

      Record: 22-25-8, -41
      Last Week: 27th (+1)
      Hunter’s Rank: 26th
      Scott’s Rank: 27th

      Scott: As the Canadiens slowly start to drift into the basement of the league, they’re starting to get the hang of this tanking thing again with four losses in their last five games. Of course, they still need to perfect a few things, as the lone win came in a must-lose game to the Ducks.

      27. Arizona Coyotes

      Record: 23-27-4, -15
      Last Week: 25th (-2)
      Hunter’s Rank: 27th
      Scott’s Rank: 26th

      Hunter: Simply put, this is not a serious franchise. They’ve lost eight straight and are as much of a mess off the ice as they are on it. It’s not hyperbole to say it’s malpractice to allow Nick Schmaltz and Clayton Keller to waste what could be their prime years with a franchise that plays in a college hockey rink and has no certainty as to whether they’ll remain in market. Maybe hockey will thrive in Arizona someday, but it won’t be as the Coyotes. It’s time to pull the plug.

      Scott: I’m just glad we can have the Coyotes accurately ranked for once without the Gould Tax bumping them up a couple extra spots.

      28. Ottawa Senators

      Record: 22-27-2, -12
      Last Week: 28th (0)
      Hunter’s Rank: 28th
      Scott’s Rank: 28th

      Scott: It seemed like the Sens were going to build off that win over the Leafs where they really seemed to mess with them, and it started off well by beating a lowly Blue Jackets team. But then they dropped two straight games to even worse teams in the Ducks and Blackhawks, although I can slightly forgive the latter one since it was Connor Bedard’s return. Still, it really puts a damper on their patented second-half playoff run that always falls short!

      29. Columbus Blue Jackets

      Record: 17-26-10, -40
      Last Week: 29th (0)
      Hunter’s Rank: 31st
      Scott’s Rank: 29th

      Hunter: Coming off the dismissal of general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, they were beaten by the Senators 6-3 and bounced back in California with a 4-3 win to the lowly Sharks. There was plenty of talk about if they should trade captain Boone Jenner. It’s nice and all to want the 30-year-old to spend the rest of his career with the team that drafted him in 2011, but it would be wise to move on him now and maximize whatever value he can provide. For someone who has never scored 50 points in a season, most pundits think he’s worth more than just a first-round pick. If that’s true, do both him and yourself a favor. 

      30. Anaheim Ducks

      Record: 19-33-2, -51
      Last Week: 30th (0)
      Hunter’s Rank: 30th
      Scott’s Rank: 30th

      Scott: Here’s how bad Saturday went for the Ducks: it single-handedly tanked some of their stats to the point that they actually finished lower than the Blackhawks in the initial aggregate for these rankings. That said, it was pretty funny to watch Radko be on the ice for five goals against in that game after chirping the Leafs for him screaming in Joseph Woll’s face last playoffs.

      31. Chicago Blackhawks

      Record: 15-37-3, -78
      Last Week: 32nd (+1)
      Hunter’s Rank: 29th
      Scott’s Rank: 31st

      Hunter: The return of Bedard was a jolt to a franchise in desperate need of good news. Yes, they lost to the first-place Canucks and were beat 4-1 by the Penguins, but a 3-2 win over the Senators at home gave nearly 19,000 fans something to smile about. The news about Lukas Reichel may have some worried, but just let the 21-year-old simplify his game in the AHL and come back fresh in 2024-25. 

      32. San Jose Sharks

      Record: 15-34-5, -91
      Last Week: 3st (-1)
      Hunter’s Rank: 32nd
      Scott’s Rank: 32nd

      Scott: Ah, this is nice to see. I’m glad somebody finally agrees with me on the Sharks being the worst team in the league. Between them losing three of their last four games, and the Blackhawks getting the win during the return of Bedard to the lineup, I think that’s as good of an indication as any that Chicago is giving San Jose the torch back for the bottom spot.

      _____

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