The New York Rangers are the top team in the NHL’s Super 16 as of Thursday. New York, who were 3rd last week, gained a spot after improving their overall record to 13-4-0. While that’s not as strong as Montreal’s record at this point, the Rangers do have a much better goal-differential stat, and they do play in the stacked Metro Division.
Currently that division sees its top-three teams, New York, Pittsburgh, and Washington, all in the Super 16’s top five. Both the Penguins and the Capitals were expected to be there in the pre-season, however the Rangers are a major surprise so far. If things hold up, then perhaps the Metro will be to this season’s NHL what the Central Division was to last year’s (ie. concentration of talent). That could create some early playoff match-ups that are more like conference finals, however it’s too early to get into any serious playoff speculation.
The Canadiens, at 13-2-2, are the outright leader in points in the NHL. However, they should lose to the Rangers in power rankings in consideration of a second point of comparison. The Rangers are +34 on goal differential while Montreal are +18 from the same point of view. Even if you throw out Al Montoya’s 10-goal fiasco from a little while back the Rangers would still have a big edge.
Another thing that could be pointed out with Montreal is that they remain largely unproven as a road team. They are 10-0-1 at home, cashing in 21 points of 22 possible so far. Obviously that kind of home dominance is going to set them up for success however, their straight-up record on the road is just 3-3 (3-2-1). Since they have played a home-heavy schedule so far, the expectation should be that the Canadiens will regress a little as their home-and-away scheduling balances out.
The big dropper this week in the Super 16 is the Edmonton Oilers. After their hot 7-1-0 start, Edmonton have cooled off considerably. They are now just 9-7-1, and they’ve lost top spot in the Pacific Division to the Anaheim Ducks, a team with a losing straight-up record of 8-9.
Connor McDavid is in the midst of what is turning into a lengthy goal-scoring drought. However, he still has 19 points on the season in 17 games, an average that puts him near the top of the league. The supporting cast doesn’t quite seem to be there right now among the team’s skaters, although Cam Talbot’s efforts in net to date have been fine (GAA 2.66, S% .914).
A team that may be a little below the radar through the first month of play is the Ottawa Senators. They are up to 11th in the overall Super 16, however I’m more in line with Arpon Basu on where Ottawa belong. He put them 7th while Shawn Roarke, who seems to disregard analyzing results in favor of who-knows-what, doesn’t even give Ottawa a place in the Super 16. Someone needs to tell him that power rankings aren’t a subjective listing of favorites but a subjective analysis of who has proven what. It’s hard to comprehend how a 10-5-1 team doesn’t make it into the top half of the league in his world while losing-record teams (straight-up) like St. Louis, Anaheim, and Los Angeles do.
Where Ottawa fans should feel slighted, perhaps it’s the Penguins that are a little over-rated in the Super 16. I guess some of that is to be expected given that they are the defending Stanley Cup champs. However, Washington dumped the Pens by 6 on Wednesday, a huge spread between two of the stronger teams. I see the Caps and the Canadiens as having proved a little more this season than what the Pens have proven.
An important development that could affect future trends in the Super 16 involves the Tampa Bay Lightning. Steven Stamkos is injured, it seems like a long-term problem (knee), and that could send the Lightning tumbling. Currently, they are 6th in the Super 16, but it will be surprising to see them hold a Top-10 spot over the next few months as I’m guessing that Stamkos won’t be back until something like February.