The NHL’s scoring frenzy hasn’t stopped after the first quarter of the season. Goals per game (6.2) have risen for the third straight season and reached its highest mark since the lockout. The league-wide shooting percentage has jumped up to 9.6% and teams are logging 31.5 shots per game. And, despite all of that, the offensively minded Maple Leafs aren’t the benefactors.
Blame health: The Leafs have spent half the young season with either John Tavares or Mitch Marner out of the lineup. Blame the defense: Toronto ranks in the bottom 10 for expected goals against, shots against and goals allowed per game. Blame the coach: the team’s best players haven’t been as dangerous under Mike Babcock this year. Either way, the Leafs are too good to be struggling this much. For the rest of the league, here’s how we team’s stacking up this week:
31. Detroit Red Wings | Record: 7-13-3 | Previous Ranking: 29
Andreas Athanasiou has four goals in his last five games after scoring one in his first 16, which should make it easier for the Red Wings to move him at the trade deadline. Robby Fabbri’s emergence is encouraging for the rebuild, but this Detroit team isn’t going anywhere.
30. Ottawa Senators | Record: 9-11-1 | Previous Ranking: 30
The Senators only have one less regulation win than the Leafs. That’s … weird.
29. Los Angeles Kings | Record: 8-12-1 | Previous Ranking: 31
Jeff Carter notched his 1000th career point with a game-winning goal in the Kings 4–3 win over the Golden Knights—a fitting end to a three-game win streak during L.A.’s recent homestand. Jonathan Quick rebounded with a .925 save percentage and 2.00 goals against average during that stretch.
28. Blue Jackets | Record: 8-8-4 | Previous Ranking: 28
The goaltending could be worse but, with a team-high 15 points, Pierre-Luc Dubois has the second-lowest point total of any team’s point leader. Columbus, accordingly, has scored the fewest goals in the NHL.
27. New York Rangers | Record: 8-8-2 | Previous Ranking: 25
Usually, tallying 55 penalty minutes in a game isn’t a recipe for success. Neither is allowing four first period goals. The Rangers accomplished both in a 9–3 loss to the Lightning and went 0–2 in a roadtrip to the Sunshine State, and Lias Andersson has been sent down to the AHL, again.
26. Minnesota Wild | Record: 8-11-2 | Previous Ranking: 26
Things can’t really get much worse, but it absolutely can with consecutive games against the Avalanche and Bruins in the next week.
25. Anaheim Ducks | Record: 10-10-2 | Previous Ranking: 24
Journeyman center Derek Grant scored a hat trick, earning him the right to name his friend’s firstborn child, but, more importantly, helped end the Ducks’ five-game losing skid in a 4–1 win over the Blues. Still, Anaheim has lost six of its last seven games.
24. New Jersey Devils | Record: 7-9-4 | Previous Ranking: 27
The Devils flipped the script, this time coming back from a two-goal deficit to beat the Canadiens 4–3 and spoiling Keith Kinkaid’s revenge game. MacKenzie Blackwood stopped 38 of 39 shots in a 2–1 win while the Penguins throttled the team in front of him. New Jersey hasn’t escaped the bottom of the Metro Division, yet.
23. Buffalo Sabres | Record: 10-8-3 | Previous Ranking: 20
Jack Eichel smashed the Sens with his first career four-goal night, halting Buffalo’s six-game losing skid in the process. The Sabres’ depth is getting tested with Kyle Okposo, Johan Larsson and Marcus Johansson all in and out of the lineup.
22. Chicago Blackhawks | Record: 9-8-4 | Previous Ranking: 23
Goaltender Robin Lehner moved from a lockdown, defensive team to Chicago’s leaky blue line and has played just as well. Meanwhile, six different players scored in the Blackhawk’s 7–2 victory over the Preds and added another win against Vegas.
21. Calgary Flames | Record: 10-11-3 | Previous Ranking: 17
When calls for Calgary to trade Johnny Gaudreau are heating up, that’s about as bad of a turn for the Flames’ season that there can be. Calgary was blanked 3–0 and 6–0 in consecutive losses to the Coyotes and Knights, respectively, and its offense has stalled out again.
20. Toronto Maple Leafs | Record: 9-10-4 | Previous Ranking: 16
Courtesy of a six-game losing streak, the Leafs are five games under .500 a quarter of the way through the season. Mike Babcock might be the first to go as Toronto is sparing no blame for anything Leafs-related.
19. Philadelphia Flyers | Record: 10-7-4 | Previous Ranking: 10
If the Flyers have been anything through 20 games, they have been inconsistent. Philly suffered a bad road loss to the Sens, then came back the next night and coughed up a three-goal lead to the Islanders. Collectively, Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Shayne Gostisbehere have one goal and two assists in the team’s last five games, and the Flyers need more out of that trio to support Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom’s breakout seasons.
18. San Jose Sharks | Record: 10-10-1 | Previous Ranking: 22
Since bottoming out at 4-10-1, the Sharks went on a six-game winning streak and outscored their opponents 27-17. The penalty kill hasn’t budged, leading the NHL with a 89.9 penalty kill percentage.
17. Vegas Golden Knights | Record: 11-9-3 | Previous Ranking: 18
New lines, new me: William Karlsson has a point in three of his last four games since Max Pacioretty joined him on the top line on Nov. 13.
16. Winnipeg Jets | Record: 13-8-1 | Previous Ranking: 19
For a team that ranks bottom 10 in goals per game, penalty kill percentage and shots against per game, the Jets’ season could be going a lot worse. Instead, Winnipeg is experiencing a mini turnaround and has wins against the Stars, Lightning and Panthers in November.
15. Vancouver Canucks | Record: 10-8-4 | Previous Ranking: 14
The Canucks nearly overcame a two-goal deficit to beat the Avs—in no small part due to the refs continuing play while Matt Calvert lay on the ice bleeding—but they’ve dropped two in a row, and a six-game road trip won’t do Vancouver any favors.
14. Dallas Stars | Record: 12-8-2 | Previous Ranking: 21
No John Klingberg or Roope Hintz? No problem. Twenty-year-old defenseman Miro Heiskanen has seven points in his last five games since Klingberg went out, Tyler Seguin has returned to form and the Stars are 11-1-1 in their last 13 games.
13. Florida Panthers | Record: 11-5-5 | Previous Ranking: 15
Joel Quenneville became the second NHL coach to notch 900 wins, and better goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky would help get Quenneville to 1,000 a little bit quicker.
12. Nashville Predators | Record: 9-8-3 | Previous Ranking: 7
For the first time this season, the Predators fell below .500 after an ugly 7–2 loss to the Blackhawks. It was the fourth consecutive loss for a Nashville team that has been outscored 28–18 since the beginning of November. All of the sudden, the Preds’ defense and goaltending has been the problem, not the goal scoring.
11. Tampa Bay Lightning | Record: 9-7-2 | Previous Ranking: 9
The Lightning are getting there, slowly. Tampa Bay returned from its international trip to bludgeon the Rangers in a 9–3 victory, but then dropped its next two games to the Jets and Blues.
10. Pittsburgh Penguins | Record: 11-7-3 | Previous Ranking: 8
With Sidney Crosby sidelined by hernia surgery, Evgeni Malkin should, once again, step up as Pittsburgh’s offensive dynamo. Malkin’s production has increased by 16% in 118 career games with Crosby out of the lineup.
9. Montreal Canadiens | Record: 11-6-4 | Previous Ranking: 13
Jonathan Drouin is out indefinitely with a wrist injury, but rookie Nick Suzuki (five goals, four assists) has flourished and needs to continue produce to help keep Canadiens offense rolling.
8. Arizona Coyotes | Record: 13-7-2 | Previous Ranking: 12
Clayton Keller, Phil Kessel and Derek Stepan haven’t been the team’s top offensive weapons, and the Coyotes have found a way to score without them. The Darcy Kuemper–Antti Raanta tandem (second-best save percentage in the NHL) have kept Arizona close to the top of the Pacific Division throughout the first quarter of the season.
7. Carolina Hurricanes | Record: 13-7-1 | Previous Ranking: 11
Andrei Svechnikov and Rasmus Dahlin have taken divergent paths, with 2018’s second-overall pick boasting a team-high 10 goals in a sophomore breakout season while Dahlin was recently benched against the Senators. Meanwhile, it hasn’t always been pretty, but Carolina has won four straight.
6. St. Louis Blues | Record: 13-4-5 | Previous Ranking: 4
Here’s a look at the Blues next nine opponents: Flames, Predators, Predators, Lightning, Stars, Penguins, Blackhawks, Penguins and Maple Leafs. St. Louis has survived without Vladimir Tarasenko but that might not last for long.
5. Colorado Avalanche | Record: 13-6-2 | Previous Ranking: 6
Fresh off his 2019 Hobey Baker campaign, Cale Makar became the first rookie defenseman to reach 22 points in his first 20 games since 1981. He has played like anything but a rookie, and the Avs battled past a rough stretch while Nathan MacKinnon carries the team with MVP-level performances.
4. Edmonton Oilers | Record: 14-6-3 | Previous Ranking: 5
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl each had at least 40 points in their first 22 games; 80% of NHL skaters (733 players) didn’t hit that last season. The league is witnessing this generation’s best player play the best hockey of his career, and the Oilers are reaping the benefits atop the Pacific Division.
3. New York Islanders | Record: 15-3-1 | Previous Ranking: 3
The wins keep piling up: The Islanders are 14-0-1 in their last 15 games. The staunch goaltending and defense hasn’t changed, but the Islanders’ power play has improved by nine percentage points over last season and ranks as a top-10 unit.
2. Boston Bruins | Record: 13-3-5 | Previous Ranking: 2
The Bruins have lost five of their last seven, but a win against the Devils and upcoming games against the Sabres and Wild should help right the ship.
1. Washington Capitals | Record: 16-3-4 | Previous Ranking: 1
After defeating the Ducks 5–2 on Monday night, the Capitals’ 16-3-4 record stands as the best 23-game start in franchise history. Washington has lost once in regulation in the last 30 days, it’s outscoring everybody and already has three players with double-digit goals. The Caps are the NHL’s unquestioned best team through the first quarter of the season.