The NHL standings are where to look if you want to see who leads the divisions outright. However, at this early point in the current season, standings need to be taken with a grain of salt. They aren’t the result of long-term trends and that means that strength of schedule needs to be factored into any kind of serious assessment of how a team has done so far. Power rankings that primarily consider an overall record, but that also factor in venues, quality of a win, and spreads are the best way to sort through the fluff in my view.
NHL POWER RANKINGS THROUGH OCTOBER 23RD’S GAMES
I’d like to explain how I do my power rankings. Firstly, they are results oriented and do not factor in pundit analysis. However, there is plenty of subjectivity when it comes to assigning value to results. For that, I put value on margin of victory and consider road wins more valuable than home wins. When it comes to assessing whether a team beat a strong team or a weak team, there is also plenty of subjectivity involved. For this perspective, Stanley Cup ante-post influences my opinions on teams to some extent (source: BetVictor/bet365).
1. Montreal Canadiens (4-0-1)
The Montreal Canadiens got Carey Price back a short time ago, however they weren’t in any kind of trouble without him. Al Montoya was fine in net with a shutout against Pittsburgh the highlight of his season thus far. But defensive considerations aside, the Montreal Canadiens can certainly score. They have 20 goals through five games with just eight against.
On strength of schedule, the Canadiens are a little bit lacking. However, they have five points on the road in three games. Furthermore, a 4-0 shutout of Pittsburgh definitely bolsters Montreal’s power ranking at this point since the Pens are among the Stanley Cup favorites (bet365).
2. Edmonton Oilers (5-1-0)
The Edmonton Oilers have the best record in the western conference and they lead the Pacific Division. The strength of schedule is lacking a little, but they did defeat the St. Louis Blues by two goals. That’s a key point, because so far this season the Blues are 4-1-1 and they sit on top of the Central Division.
The Oilers took a bad loss last weekend when Buffalo dumped them 6-2 in downtown Edmonton. That loss keeps them out of top spot, but they’ve faded the four-goal loss in their overall goal differential. Edmonton are +7 and that’s second only to Montreal.
There are reasons to be skeptical of Edmonton. Besides the win over the Blues, there isn’t any victory that’s quality but there are some solid spreads. The Oilers do have two road wins, but only at Calgary and Winnipeg where they outscored the two teams combined by five goals. I am a little tempted to put Edmonton lower, but the two-goal direct win over St. Louis makes it hard as does the overall record. Edmonton play Washington next and that should be interesting.
3. St. Louis Blues (4-1-1)
The St. Louis Blues did not have a good trip through western Canada lately. They lost two games to Edmonton and Vancouver before a six-goal outburst saw them win a game in Calgary. However, the Blues beat shortlist Stanley Cup favorite Chicago by three goals in a game that came from the United Center. Furthermore, the Blues beat the New York Rangers, the front-running team in the Metro, and they beat the 3-2-1 Minnesota Wild. Those are pretty good results that aren’t really diluted by losses to Edmonton or Vancouver much, two teams that are strong on season-to-date power rankings.
4. New York Rangers (4-2-0)
The New York Rangers have eight points in the standings and they are +6 on goal differential. The have an excusable one-goal loss to St. Louis in a game that the Blues hosted. Furthermore, the Rangers lost to the Detroit Red Wings, a bubble team in these rankings, from Joe Louis Arena. However, New York have a strong record so far, they beat the San Jose Sharks by three on October 17th, and the highlight win of the season so far is a victory over Washington from the Verizon Center. The loss to Detroit is the only thing really holding this team back from top spot in these rankings.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning (4-1-0)
The Tampa Bay Lightning have one total stinker mixed in with what has otherwise been a strong string of results. TB lost at home to the Colorado Avalanche by four goals. When judged in terms of competition, venue, and spread there’s no way to mitigate the impact of that loss in power rankings. It’s the reason that they are 5th, behind teams with worse records. However, Tampa Bay also earned four wins, including a victory over Detroit. Lastly, the Lightning put up a three-goal spread in a road game at 3-2-0 Ottawa.
OTHER TEAMS CONSIDERED (in no particular order)
Florida Panthers (3-1-1): losses were only to Washington and Tampa Bay, but all wins were home wins.
Vancouver Canucks (4-1-1): two road losses this weekend hurt the Canucks’ power ranking.
Detroit Red Wings: (4-2-0): +5 on goal differential, but need some stronger wins.
Washington Capitals: (3-1-1): haven’t posted a strong win yet, but only lost to Pitt and NYR.