NHL Power Rankings: Can’t knock Devils’ start

The <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/teams/njd" data-ylk="slk:New Jersey Devils">New Jersey Devils</a> have been flying early. (Noah K. Murray/AP)
The New Jersey Devils have been flying early. (Noah K. Murray/AP)

Hey everyone, we here at Yahoo Sports are doing real power rankings for teams Nos. 1-31. Here they are, based on only how I am feeling about these teams, meaning you can’t tell me I’m wrong because these are my feelings and feelings can’t be wrong. Please enjoy the Power Feelings.

31. Florida Panthers (Last week: 25)

Once again this week, I will be doing this very mathematically: For the first four weeks of the season, teams are sorted 31-1 by win percentage. First tiebreaker is win total. Second tiebreaker is goal difference. Third tiebreaker is shot difference. I have not needed a fourth tiebreaker yet, but if I do I’ll figure it out.

I’m just trying to get a baseline here, and I don’t totally agree with a lot of these (i.e. the No. 1 team in the league below is not the No. 1 team in the league in real life, but they’re also undefeated in three games with a plus-10 goal difference, so..)

Anyway, with that in mind, obviously I don’t think the Panthers are the worst team in the league. But they’re 0-2-1 through their first three games and that’s, like, bad. They’re losing by narrow margins and the lingering questions you might have had about their depth scoring aren’t being answered yet. They’ll figure it out, but it’s not the start they want.

30. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 28)

On the other hand, Detroit at 30 feels juuuuuuust about right.

29. New York Rangers (LW: 31)

28. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 30)

27. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 29)

Not that I have a ton to say about how bad this team is when McDavid is off the ice that I didn’t say yesterday, but let me just further illustrate things: Over the course of his career, the Oilers are a minus-45 goal difference team in all situations (and that includes the half-season McDavid missed due to injury as a rookie). But with McDavid on the ice, they’re PLUS-ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHT.

If that kinda stat sounds familiar, please recall that while Taylor Hall was an Oiler, they were a minus-296 team despite his personally going plus-92 from over several years. Which, like, obviously McDavid is way better than Taylor Hall (and Taylor Hall was the league MVP last year, you’ll remember) but they ran Hall out of town despite the team being truly truly truly pathetic without him and if they miss the playoffs this year, I think we all agree that they should trade McDavid for Rasmus Ristolainen. One-for-one.

Anyway, point is, there’s no “1b” for best player in the league. McDavid is such an “in a class by himself” kinda player that it’s an absolutely absurd thing to suggest anyone has even moved into his neighborhood.

26. Vegas Golden Knights (LW: 22)

I’m very sure they’re gonna figure it out at some point because they’re absolutely kicking the hell out of teams, process-wise, but they only have 10 goals in six games and neither Fleury nor Subban can make a save. It would be funny, I guess, if they didn’t get a bounce all year then won the draft lottery.

25. Minnesota Wild (LW: 27)

24. St. Louis Blues (LW: 26)

This is gonna shock you but Jake Allen looks horrible so far, and the rest of the team only looks mediocre. Which, I think most of us thought they took a step forward this summer, improving up the middle as they did. But man, I dunno. I’ve never been a big Mike Yeo guy and maybe that’s a thing I was right about in the end.

Even leaving aside Allen being horrible again, there’s no way a team with this much talent should be this mediocre.

23. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 15)

22. San Jose Sharks (LW: 20)

In six games, the Sharks have 231 shots on goal, only allowed 162, and are somehow 2-3-1. That’s an all-situations PDO of 96.4, and if you watched these guys even once, you’ve seen about 600 Grade-A chances not go in. They look incredible and can’t score, plus Martin Jones is being dramatically outperformed by Aaron Dell, despite Dell y’know Not Being the starter.

If they figure the goaltending situation out (or if it figures itself out), this team is gonna start winning every game by two goals a night. They look that scary.

21. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 11)

Well-documented that I was fairly skeptical of this team all last year and coming into this season, even if adding Ilya Kovalchuk improves the offense on paper. But I don’t care if it’s Oct. 15 or April 15: If Alex Iafallo is your leading scorer at any point you don’t really have the offense to make stuff happen.

The good news is these guys aren’t the worst team in California but the results aren’t there yet and I’m not too sure this is a club that’s more capable of going on a run than, say, most of the teams in their own not-that-good division. Not sure what to make of them but if they’re 21st in the league at the end of the year I really won’t be that surprised.

20. Washington Capitals (LW: 9)

The Caps’ slate to start the year has been pretty tough: Boston (blowout win), Pittsburgh (wild OT loss), Vegas (comfortable win), New Jersey (blowout loss), Toronto (narrow regulation loss).

With that said, the various types of results are interesting: They’re plus-1 in goals overall and minus-11 in shots on goal, which I dunno, that feels about right for this group.

It’s the same stuff as last regular season, really. The top two lines are kicking major ass and everyone else is just holding on for dear life. And Holtby is still struggling. Do we wanna say that’s the new normal for the Caps? That they have enough talent to shoot their way out of trouble (especially on that power play, currently 7 for 19) but aren’t good enough throughout the lineup to be an elite team anymore. That sounds right.

Then again, it sounded right last year and they ended up winning the Cup, so…

19. New York Islanders (LW: 17)

18. Ottawa Senators (LW: 12)

17. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 19)

16. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 21)

You can’t complain about winning three in every five games at any time of year, especially if you’re the Sabres and you’ve had your, shall we say, struggles in recent years.

Overall, they’re still getting badly outshot most nights and they’re losing to teams that are clearly better than them (Boston, Colorado). But they’re beating clubs they should beat (Arizona, the Rangers), and also squeezed one out against Vegas, so hey, you take it. Especially when you’re onboarding so many new players.

15. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 16)

Like the Sabres they’re 3-2-0 but they shouldn’t be struggling as much as they have so far. I think I figured it out, though: They’ve given their opponents 22 power plays but only drawn 12 themselves.

You’ll recall that they have long had problems staying above water in this regard — seems like a big bug in the Paul Maurice System — but last year they at least went dead-even, despite the fact that they should have been, I don’t know, probably like plus-12 or something. If those old problems have crept back into their game, I’d be pretty worried.

Something to monitor going forward, for sure.

14. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 18)

The lack of Elias Pettersson for a week plus will probably bring these guys back to earth. Too bad about the concussion because that’s one of those potentially career-impact things, but I’ve seen people saying the Canucks should have tried to murder Mike Matheson for that hit and it’s like, “Ah, we’re doing this again. Cool.”

If he did it to, like, Brendan Leipsic, no one would have noticed or cared.

13. Calgary Flames (LW: 14)

12. Dallas Stars (LW: 3)

11. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 24)

I know we’re all supposed to be hitting ourselves over the head with a shoe over how like Evgeny Kuznetsov or Auston Matthews are starting the season, but I haven’t seen Word One about Geno Malkin opening the season 1-7-8 in four games.

Maybe we all just feel like Malkin is the kinda guy that is sometimes gonna score two points a night for a little while, and that’s probably true, but man, he’s still doing it every year.

Incredible that he was only the 101st-best player in league history. That’s life. Hope he can be as good as Jonathan Toews one day.

10. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 6)

9. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 10)

8. Colorado Avalanche (LW: 2)

Really liked their add of Marko Dano off waivers yesterday. They’re winning, they have room up front despite the winning, and now it’s not JUST Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen carrying all the water (though with 15 combined points in five games, they’re still carrying a lot of it).

Like I said last week, Varlamov isn’t gonna be .950 forever but these guys are scoring almost four goals a night and that provides plenty of cover for the goaltending to regress.

7. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 7)

“Okay, but now imagine if this team had competent goaltending” is the name of the book I’m writing about almost every Hurricanes season since the lockout.

6. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 1)

Unlike the Avs, the Ducks are probably gonna need to get .944 goaltending all year to stay up in the standings.

Someone on Twitter suggested to me the other day that .920-plus is the Gibson/Miller battery’s talent level; I think I like Gibson more than most, but that’s a big ask from anyone. Let alone a 38-year-old backup facing 34 shots a game or whatever.

This all, of course, comes with the acknowledgement that these guys have a bunch of top-six forwards out injured.

5. Chicago (LW: 8)

Honestly how did all these dumb teams let Alex DeBrincat drop to the second round? Didn’t we all see this coming? Like literally every person in hockey?

4. Boston Bruins (LW: 23)

It would be insanely cool if Patrice Bergeron scored a point a game this year. Did you know his season-best is 73 points, and he set that in 2005-06? It’s one of those things where you’re like, “I mean I guess so” and also he had 63 in 64 last year, but I want the guy to have at least one, like, 90-point season.

He’s such a sweet precious boy and we have not collectively praised him enough.

3. Nashville Predators (LW: 4)

Nice to see people were more mad about the idiotic Western Conference Regular Season Champions banner than the Letting Auston Watson Show Up In Full Pads For The Banner Raising. Very normal, regular priorities in this league.

2. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 13)

I hate to echo the Toronto Media Goobers too much but Lars Eller acting like this team isn’t going to absolutely whale on everyone all year long is silly as hell.

Obviously they’re not gonna score five goals a night all year but they’re also not gonna give up 3.5 either. Especially because at some point, Freddie Andersen is gonna go back to being better-than-average like he is every year.

I mean, do you think this team got WORSE defensively from where it was last year? If so, why, and how much worse? They tied for 11th-best in goals against last year (232) and scored the second-most goals in the league (277). Even if you think the defense dropped off, the offense obviously improved. And it’s not like Nylander either isn’t coming back or won’t be moved for someone else who can contribute at the NHL level right now.

Anyone who’s trying to talk themselves into this team not being at least top-five is out of their minds. And that’s from someone who thinks most Toronto-focused media types are dimwits.

1. New Jersey Devils (LW: 5)

I guess you’d like more info than three games but these guys are undefeated, plus-20 in shots, and plus-10 in goals. Can’t ask for a better start than that.

Ryan Lambert is a Yahoo! Sports columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All stats via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)

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