30. Arizona (82-game Standings Points Pace: 60 pts, Last Week: 30) 29. Vancouver (Pace: 63 pts, LW: 29)
- 28. Calgary (Pace: 68 pts, LW: 28)
- 27. Colorado (Pace: 77 pts, LW: 27)
- 26. New York Islanders (Pace: 67 pts, LW: 20)
- 25. Buffalo (Pace: 72 pts, LW: 21)
- 24.Dallas (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 24)
It is weird to actually congratulate Colorado for becoming a better hockey team despite being 27th in this week’s rankings, but this is where they are. They genuinely were a rock bottom franchise that is only just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel thanks to the hiring of Jared Bednar.
If you compare to how Colorado has been under the three years of terror under Patrick Roy to this season under Bednar, the underlying numbers have changed a great deal. Shot suppression has improved dramatically from 61.3 un-adjusted attempts per hour to 51.8 this season (good enough for 10th in the NHL). However, both on-ice shooting and save percentages have plummeted, resulting into a 97.1% PDO. After shooting over 8% at even strength from 2013-14 to 2015-16, that number has plummeted to a shocking 5.83%. That is exactly where Anaheim and Philadelphia were at this same point last season when everyone is wondering why their offense dried up. Colorado does have the likes of Nathan Mackinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Jarome Iginla and Gabriel Landeskog that are guaranteed to drive puck possession and deliver quality chances on offense while Eric Gelinas has been a welcome addition to the back end so far.
Sadly, Colorado will be without Matt Duchene due to concussion-like symptoms. It’s a darn shame to miss a talented player for such a depth deprived team, but it’s important to note that this isn’t the first time Duchene has missed significant time to injury. In 2012, he missed 24 games from a knee and ankle injury. In 2014, he missed 11 regular season games and five of Colorado’s six playoff games due to an oblique strain and another knee injury and then finished last season on the trainers table instead of playing win or go home regular season games fro the Avalanche due to, you guessed it, a knee injury. Last time I checked, concussions are not the result of bad knees and Duchene certainly isn’t Mike Camalleri, Marian Gaborik, Nathan Horton or Ales Hemsky with their injury records. But at 26, which is passed his prime from the analytics community, it’s important to consider how healthy Duchene can be when his next contract comes up or if/when Colorado is in need of making one more transaction to get of the hump of making the playoffs or winning a Stanley Cup.
Lastly, let’s talk about Semyon Varlamov. The former Vezina Trophy winner has replaced Sergei Bobrovsky as the goaltender that won the aforementioned award and followed it up with mediocrity. A 90.4% save percentage will not stand for a goaltender that is still young and has performed much better. He has improved his last two games by stopping 76 of 78 shots faced, but that was after a miserable five game stretch where he gave up 20 goals in 141 shots, including being benched in the St. Louis game 11 days ago. He has to be much better for this team to, at minimum, stay competitive in the Central Division.
- 23. Nashville (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 26)
- 22. Ottawa (Pace: 108 pts, LW: 23)
- 21. Philadelphia (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 12)
- 20. St. Louis (Pace: 92 pts, LW: 15)
- 19. Toronto (Pace: 87 pts, LW: 22)
- 18. Detroit (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 14)
- 17. Carolina (Pace: 77 pts, LW: 25)
- 16. Edmonton (Pace: 92 pts, LW: 13)
Another year, another weird season for the always cheap Ottawa Senators. If the season were to end, they would make the playoffs over more well deserved teams like Tampa Bay and Florida. However, Ottawa’s puck possession is a disastrous 46.7% when adjusted for venue and score. Along with that, their even strength PDO is at 98.5, so puck luck is not why they have been successful. However, the 93.1% even-strength save percentage could be much higher if not from the bad performances of Andrew Hammond (good luck finding a trade partner for him!!!) and Chris Driedger.
With a 93.4% save percentage while shorthanded, Craig Anderson has been one of the biggest reasons Ottawa’s penalty kill has clicked at a 87.5% success rate. In fact, his performances are only behind Jake Allen for the best among goaltenders with over 50 shorthanded minutes. Considering Ottawa is still leaking shot attempts at even strength at an alarming rate, these performances from the 36-year old will be required. However, it has been four years since Anderson has had a quality start percentage above 52%, let aloe the league average of 53.3%.
That will mean Ottawa will have to get much better production from their forwards and their defensemen not named Erik Karlsson. Kyle Turris has been off to a good start, but Bobby Ryan still is looking for that elite season since he was traded to the Senators. Along with that, Derick Brassard is struggling to get on the score sheet to the tune of only one goal in 16 games and somebody not named Ryan Dzingel has to finish third on the team in scoring. Simply put, four power play goals in 45 opportunities will not cut it either. The Senators forwards should have what it takes to score, but you got to wonder if 2015 was a bench mark that was set too high for them that they will never achieve those marks ever again. Don’t worry, I’m sure Eugene Melnyk will splash the cash some decade.
- 15. Los Angeles (Pace: 72 pts, LW: 7)
- 14. Winnipeg (Pace: 91 pts, LW: 19)
- 13. Chicago (Pace: 116 pts, LW: 17)
- 12. Anaheim (Pace: 92 pts, LW: 11)
- 11. New Jersey (Pace: 115 pts, LW: 18)
- 10. Montreal (Pace: 135 pts, LW: 16)
- 9. Florida (Pace: 87 pts, LW: 9)
- 8. Pittsburgh (Pace: 120 pts, LW: 4)
- 7. Columbus (Pace: 105 pts, LW: 8)
Once again, the Los Angeles Kings lead the league in puck possession, yet are not converting that into winning hockey. Like Ottawa, their power play has struggled mightily to the tune of a 10.6% success rate. This is despite leading the entire NHL in shot attempts per hour while in that situation. Usually, Drew Doughty, Alec Martinez and Jake Muzzin lead the team in individual attempts will a man up. However, last year’s successful power play (20% conversion rate) had only 293 of Los Angeles’ 732 attempts belong to those three defensemen. This year, 93 of their 186 attempts belong to that trio; a 10% increase from the previous year. Would feeding the puck more towards the lethal Tyler Toffoli help the unit be successful with different looks? Or, is it just a matter of having more than just one goal between Doughty, Martinez and Muzzin hit the back of the net?
Either way, Los Angeles can’t make their goaltending better barring a drastic trade that could mean giving up too many assets. They need to find other means to get back to the high standards they demand of themselves.
- 6. San Jose (Pace: 92 pts, LW: 5)
- 5. Tampa Bay (Pace: 101 pts, LW: 6)
- 4. Boston (Pace: 103 pts, LW: 10)
- 3. Minnesota (Pace: 93 pts, LW: 3)
- 2. Washington (Pace: 109 pts, LW: 2)
- 1. New York Rangers (Pace: 125 pts, LW: 1)
Guys, Claude Julien’s coaching is back from the dead! Gone are so many years of bottom six dead weight like Chris Kelly and Dennis Seidenberg and in have come fresher and better talents like Ryan Spooner and Brandon Carlo. David Krejci is healthy for once, and apparently David Pastrnak is a really good hockey player.
Along with that, David Backes, Riley Nash and Matt Beleskey have become good checking line forwards that can be counted on to free up offensive zone starts for their more skilled forwards. Speaking of which, it is official that Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand form the best forward duo in the NHL this season. Consider that only Jordan Staal has a better puck possession rate this season than the trio of Pastrnak, Marchand and Bergeron this season.
Now if they can improve their shooting percentages at even strength and on the power play, this team can go places. In an Atlantic Division that will be Steven Stamkos-less again and Florida continuing to struggle with their own line of injuries, Boston has it for the taking. If they can get past Team Carey Price, it could be a smooth sailing towards the Conference Finals.