The surprising upstart Islanders have seized the top spot in SI.com's latest NHL Power Rankings.
Welcome to the latest installment of our 2014–15 NHL Power Rankings. We've passed the first quarter mark of the season and there have surely been some surprises, most notably on Long Island, in Nashville and out west in Calgary and Vancouver. Once again our three scribes—Allan Muir, Sarah Kwak and Brian Cazeneuve—have submitted their choices for the league's Top 10 teams. The rankings for the all 30 have been weighted according to how high each club 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 one or two writers, and antagonize the general public. We've presented the 30 teams in groups, with the Top 10 receiving the most trenchant commentary. Overview paragraphs precede the Middle 10 and Bottom 10. Weekly movement up or down has been noted. So without further ado, commence to stew!
Think the Bruins don’t have a mental block against heated rivals Montreal? Consider, that they’ve lost all but one of their last 10 regular season meetings with the Canadiens. And then there was their seven-game postseason series last spring; that certainly didn’t help Boston’s outlook.
Defenseman Slava Voynov, officially charged in an alleged domestic violence incident last month, remains suspended, but the Kings did get their salary cap relief. That should be good news for Los Angeles, which has allowed 30.4 shots-against per game this season, fifth worst in the Western Conference. Goalie Jonathan Quick has been their saving grace, averaging an NHL-best .932 save percentage.
The Red Wings have won three of their last four games and are clearly a team that enjoys playing end-to-end hockey. Detroit doesn’t get involved in a lot of 2-1 or 1-0 contests. In Detroit’s last nine games, including regulation losses to Toronto and Montreal and an overtime loss to Tampa Bay, the winning team has scored at least four goals in every game. With all of this injuries during the past year-plus, the Red Wings’ identity has sometimes been hard to find. Their swift, creative veterans are changing that.
Do you get the sense that the Jason Demers-for-Brenden Dillon swap with Dallas was just the first shoe dropping in San Jose? The Brent Burns experiment is creating offense at both ends of the ice, but the Sharks' effort is spotty on most nights. And now home ice is having no impact on their results. They've lost four of their last five at the Tank, all to non-playoff teams. It seems as though they're satisfied with treading water until GM Doug Wilson decides he's seen enough.
There's a bit more reason for positivity in Dallas, where Jame Benn broke out of a long slump to score three goals and the addition of a pair of right-handed defensemen—John Klingberg and Jason Demers—seems to have invigorated a blueline that was becoming a nightly clown show.
And it looks like the Winnipeg Jets have come back to earth. Problems between the pipes are popping up again, with Ondrej Pavelec getting the hook in three of his past four starts. Can GM Kevin Cheveldayoff afford to let this slide play itself out?
A little love for the Sabres this week, who won three straight games for the first time since last February and jumped out of the cellar, thanks to some improved play that boosted the club from poor to fair. We'd like to say this is the start of something big but honestly you can only expect so many 40-plus save efforts from Jhonas Enroth. Maybe the best news for Buffalo this week is that the OHL's Erie Otters traded for Nick Baptiste, which will give one of the Sabres' top prospects a chance to get familiar with Connor McDavid ... just in case.
But oy, those Oilers! Winless in their last six, including a run of 0-4-1 at home, they are looking like their old abominable selves again. And goalie Ben Scrivens hasn’t had a win to his name since Oct. 27. In his last three starts, the netminder has a 5.16 GAA and .833 save percentage. That is simply unacceptable for an NHL starter.