NHL Power Top 10: Anaheim Ducks soar to hot start
Welcome to the first installment of our 2014–15 NHL Weekly 10. Three scribes—Allan Muir, Sarah Kwak and Brian Cazeneuve—have submitted their choices for the league's Top 10 teams ... so far. The rankings reflect each club's play since Opening Night (Oct. 8) and are weighted according to how high each one came in on our writers' ballots. In some cases a purely intuitive, wholly unscientific and no doubt deplorable method was used to break ties, rank teams that were chosen by only two writers and antagonize the general public. Honorable mentions (teams that appeared on only one ballot) are included at the bottom of this monumental exercise along with the particular writer's trenchant commentary.
CAZENEUVE (2): Anaheim has picked up where it left off last season, winning five of its first six games. Goalie Frederik Andersen has stopped 132 of 139 shots so far, and the addition of Ryan Kesler has given the Ducks the depth on their front lines that they badly needed.
CAZENEUVE (1): Give a good team a little Cup-envy and see what it can do. Chicago hasn't given up more than two goals in its four games so far, and is allowing less than 24 shots per game. Don’t expect the Hawks to go 25 games without a regulation loss again, but don’t expect another third-place divisional finish, either.
CAZENEUVE (4): Even though the club’s penalty kill has been atrocious (58.8%), New York is the league’s feel-good story right now. The club’s back end looks a lot stronger this season with the steady start of Jaroslav Halak in goal and new defensemen Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk plugging what, before the season began, seemed to be very large holes.
CAZENEUVE (6): For those who worry about the younger players matching the level of the more experienced ones, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, both 22, have been two of L.A.'s most consistent regulars so far. Toffoli and veteran Jeff Carter lead the league with a +9 rating. There is enough balance on this team that anyone can be king for a day.
CAZENEUVE (5): Montreal won road games in Toronto, Washington and Philadelphia before knocking off arch-rival Boston in the home opener. The Canadiens would be higher on my list were it not for their brutal 7–1 loss in Tampa on Oct. 13. Montreal has played with zip and passion so far this season. Imagine how good this team can be when Carey Price is really on his game.
CAZENEUVE (7): The early-season Eastern swing finally took its toll when the Sharks dropped a 4–0 decision to the Rangers on Sunday. San Jose won’t play its second home game of the year until Thursday. The road-weary Sharks, always a good regular-season team, can still look forward to three five-game home stands on their schedule in each of the next three months.
CAZENEUVE (3): Who knows how well the Penguins will hold up over an 82-game schedule—depth becomes more important as the season progresses. But so far Pittsburgh is flying because its power play is sizzling. Pittsburgh’s success rate of 47.1% is tops in the league. Though the Penguins can’t possibly maintain that pace, they are making it deadly to take a penalty against them.
CAZENEUVE (8): Barry Trotz’s technical approach to the game may have run its course in Nashville, but it could be just what inconsistent Washington needs. Former coach Adam Oates supposedly gave his players freedom to make plays on their own, but not everyone is Alex Ovechkin. The superstar still has less structure than the rest of the team—and has five goals on 27 shots—but the rest of the Capitals look like they are moving in the right direction together.
CAZENEUVE (10): This is what Ottawa should have been last season. The Senators are starting to form a new identity, having lost key veterans Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza in the last two years. The new-look team isn’t much fun to play against, winning with speed and smothering neutral-zone play. Ottawa has given up only 10 goals in five games so far.
MUIR (8): Despite the promise of more open offensive hockey under coach Peter Laviolette, the Predators still look like the Preds, limiting their opponents to eight goals through five games. Chalk that up to stronger possession numbers and some otherworldly play from Pekka Rinne (.948 save percentage and 1.22 goals-against average).
CALGARY FLAMES (10th on one ballot): Maybe I'm being a little aggressive here (and maybe I'm just in the mood to punish the Lightning after they choked against the Oilers on Monday night), but why not give a little love to the Flames? They're miserable to play against—credit their commitment to coach Bob Hartley's system for that—and they're getting some terrific goaltending from Jonas Hiller, who stopped 83 of 85 shots to secure wins over the Blackhawks and the Jets. — Allan Muir
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (4th on one ballot): The news of defenseman Victor Hedman’s injury (out four to six weeks with a broken finger) puts a damper on Tampa Bay's early success. But the Lightning have some blue-line depth that should help keep them fighting for a top spot in the Atlantic. — Sarah Kwak