NHL Power Rankings: Which of the 32 starts can be trusted?

With most teams finally reaching the 10-game mark, it’s time to get back to our regularly scheduled programming. All business for The Rankings Boys. We owe you that much after making you sit through yet another Taylor Swift-themed ranking last week.

So here we go. Do we believe in each team’s start? That’s the question this week (and we promise we have actual answers unlike last year, when we called every team fake as a bit).

Last week: 1
Sean’s ranking: 1
Dom’s ranking: 1

Sean: No
Dom: No

It’s not that we don’t think the defending Stanley Cup champions who have started the season 10-0-1 aren’t the real deal. They’re elite. They’re a contender. They have a real shot to go back-to-back.


Vegas has played 64 percent of its games at home against the league’s softest schedule — teams that on average are expected to finish the season with 83 points. The Golden Knights have only played two games against bonafide playoff teams (Dallas and Los Angeles). Aside from that, it’s Winnipeg and a bunch of bottom-feeders. And while they may be earning wins in those spots, it’s a little concerning that they’re not exactly dominating the scoring chance share to date. A 48 percent expected goal rate against the league’s weakest schedule might mean we should slow our roll before we start engraving the Cup again.

Last week: 3
Sean’s ranking: 3
Dom’s ranking: 3

Sean: No
Dom: No

At some point, the Bruins are going to lose a regulation game. Until then, we must wonder aloud whether Patrice Bergeron was holding this team back. Kidding! Kidding! But yeah, they’re probably not going to win more games this season than last, even though they’re on pace to do just that.

3. Dallas Stars, 7-1-1

Last week: 5
Sean’s ranking: 5
Dom’s ranking: 6

Sean: Yes
Dom: Yes

The Stars jumped out to an early lead on Thursday over the Oilers then white-knuckled their way to a 4-3 win behind backup Scott Wedgewood. It was equal parts ugly and impressive, and a rare occurrence of Dallas failing to control the flow of the game. No problem, though. Really good teams find a way to pull out games like that, especially on the second half of a road back-to-back. They’re legit.

Last week: 2
Sean’s ranking: 2
Dom’s ranking: 2

Sean: Yes
Dom: Yes

There’s always plenty to like about the Avs, and the first nine games of this season haven’t brought anything different. As The Athletic’s Peter Baugh outlined, the elite players are elite and the goaltending is plenty good enough, even though Alexander Georgiev has cooled off a bit.

Are there reasons for concern? Sure; that bottom-six makeover hasn’t quite taken hold yet, for one. But the process remains outstanding — they’ve got the second-best expected goals against/60, fourth-best expected goals percentage and seventh-best expected goals against/60. They might not be a true-talent .778 team, but few are, and they’re certainly close enough.

Last week: 7
Sean’s ranking: 8
Dom’s ranking: 7

Sean: Almost
Dom: Yes

Sean: Much as I like the Rangers, I thought their preseason projections were a little too optimistic; 105 points is a ton. At the moment, they’re way ahead of that pace, so of course I’m not signing off on their whole deal. We know the goalie and the power play are elite, but I’m sorry, I don’t see quite enough process or results at five-on-five to get them to 130 points. Call me a hater if you must, but the gap is just too big for me.

Dom: Yeah, I obviously don’t think 130 points is happening either. But I do think there are other winning combos besides “be a good possession team.” We know the Rangers won’t be great there. We also know that their power play and goaltending is enough to get them close to the top of the table — we’ve seen it before. I’m buying them as a contender, warts and all.

Last week: 8
Sean’s ranking: 6
Dom’s ranking: 8

Sean: Yes
Dom: Kind of

Dom: The Devils are 6-2-1 which is probably where I’d expect them early on. But something just hasn’t felt right about them yet this year. They haven’t had a lot of signature performances where they truly dominate play, especially not at five-on-five. Getting wins despite that is good, but I was expecting a better process from them.

Sean: They’ve been outshot in five of nine games, and they’re basically middle-of-the-pack in everything overall. I dunno, though. The results are OK, and I wasn’t personally expecting them to be world-beaters from puck drop.

Last week: 4
Sean’s ranking: 4
Dom’s ranking: 4

Sean: No
Dom: No

It’s the same old story every year for the Leafs. A sleepy October with a weak record and middling numbers has plenty of people writing “what’s wrong with the Leafs” articles. And then they rattle off a hot streak going into the new year and they look fine. Then some other stuff happens, but we’ll ignore that part.

For now, some of the new additions haven’t clicked well and the team hasn’t looked right. But the top-end talent is just too strong to ignore. They’ll be fine.

8. Carolina Hurricanes, 6-5-0

Last week: 6
Sean’s ranking: 7
Dom’s ranking: 5

Sean: No
Dom: No

The preseason Presidents’ Trophy favorites are 6-5-0 to start the season and somehow are only 10th in expected goals percentage. That math doesn’t add up. Things aren’t clicking as expected, but this team is too deep to change our opinion of them much. This start won’t matter when the Hurricanes are right around 50 wins by Game 82.

9. Los Angeles Kings, 6-2-2

Last week: 10
Sean’s ranking: 10
Dom’s ranking: 9

Sean: Yes
Dom: Yes

Fake good no more, the Kings look like the real deal. Their 6-2-2 record is backed by a solid goal differential and 56 percent of the expected goals at five-on-five. It’s impressive stuff, enough to overlook that the goaltending is still a major question mark. The Kings are firmly in the top 10 of The Only Power Rankings That Matter and should stay there for the rest of the season.

Last week: 14
Sean’s ranking: 14
Dom’s ranking: 14

Sean: Yes
Dom: No

Dom: Not that I’m looking to make any more enemies in the province of British Columbia, but it’s hard to call this team for real when they have a plus-24 goal differential and a negative expected goal differential. Their goal differential can be higher than expected — just not like this.

Sean: Two elite talents at the top of the lineup and a really good goaltender is enough to make me ignore the goal differential and buy high here. (This was typed before they hung a touchdown and a field goal on the poor Sharks.)

Last week: 11
Sean’s ranking: 11
Dom’s ranking: 10

Sean: Yes
Dom: Yes

Most of us remember what the Panthers did before their postseason run last spring. Lots of uneven hockey led to an unremarkable point total. Seems like they’re intent on giving us more of the same. Hey, it worked before.

Last week: 13
Sean’s ranking: 13
Dom’s ranking: 12

Sean: No
Dom: Sure

Sean: Why are you making me slag the Metro Division? You sincerely think the Islanders are going to finish top-10 in points?

Dom: Absolutely not. I just want to give them some credit because they are starving for it. The process isn’t great — when is it ever for this team? — but dammit, they get results. The Islanders are fueled by spite, and if we both say “no,” the spite train will keep rolling. Someone has to stop them with five simple words: I believe in the Islanders.

Last week: 12
Sean’s ranking: 12
Dom’s ranking: 13

Sean: No
Dom: No

Detroit looks much better than expected, like a team that might legitimately hang around the playoff race this season. That’s an exciting development for a franchise that’s been languishing near the bottom for most of the last decade. The Red Wings are starting to silence doubters of the Yzerplan, and that’s good news. But they’re also starting to slow down after a red-hot start. Their expected goals rate is back below 50 percent and the power play hasn’t scored in four games. It’s hard to call their 6-4-1 start for real, but at the very least it is encouraging.

Last week: 9
Sean’s ranking: 9
Dom’s ranking: 11

Sean: Yes
Dom: Yes

They’ve gotten here in an odd way — whoever had Jonas Johansson putting up a .922 in his first eight games, collect your money — but as long as they don’t crater before Andrei Vasilevskiy makes it back, the Lightning will be fine. They know what they’re doing, even if they’ve taken a step or two back.

Last week: 22
Sean’s ranking: 23
Dom’s ranking: 21

Sean: Yes
Dom: Yes

Nothing that the Coyotes are doing should be all that surprising. They’ve got some really productive forwards at the top of the lineup, led by Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz, and decent goaltending. Adding Sean Durzi seems to have paid off. If anything, they should have a few more points in the bank than they already do.

16. Edmonton Oilers, 2-6-1

Last week: 17
Sean’s ranking: 17
Dom’s ranking: 15

Sean: No
Dom: No

Each night, the Oilers get a little closer to another goaltending crisis — Stuart Skinner, somehow has been worse than Jack Campbell — but bottom-three in points percentage overall by the time this ends? Not possible. They’ve got miles to go before they start to live up to their preseason projections, but there’s also no reason to pretend they’ll continue to lose so often.

Last week: 27
Sean’s ranking: 27
Dom’s ranking: 29

Sean: No
Dom: Yes

Sean: There’s good stuff going on with the Ducks — Trevor Zegras seems to be showing some interest in playing away from the puck, Mason McTavish appears to be leveling up, and Greg Cronin has them looking like a mediocre defensive team, rather than one of the worst I’ve ever seen in my life. Still, a .600 points percentage? I don’t think so.

Dom: Screw it, I’m in on the Ducks. Does their points percentage make sense? No. Are they likely to make the playoffs? No. But they’ve looked good from what I’ve seen and it feels like a lot of young guys are leveling up at the same time. Pavel Mintyukov is the real deal and we can’t discount the “Dallas Eakins is no longer the coach” effect. That alone is massive.

Last week: 20
Sean’s ranking: 21
Dom’s ranking: 19

Sean: No
Dom: Yes

Sean: A few games off is going to be exactly what Devon Levi needed. Yes, I know he was brutal before his injury. Yes, I know what you’re going to say here. Yes, I’m prepared to go down with the ship.

Dom: I wasn’t quite as sold as everyone else that this was the year the Sabres would break through. They’re on pace for 82 points now and while that is a little low, it doesn’t feel like they’ve been massively unlucky getting there. They’ve just been kind of ordinary and I don’t suspect they’ll be much more than that this season.

19. Winnipeg Jets, 4-4-2

Last week: 19
Sean’s ranking: 20
Dom’s ranking: 20

Sean: Yes
Dom: Yes

Ten points in 10 games and a minus-five goal differential? Sounds like the Jets.

Last week: 15
Sean’s ranking: 15
Dom’s ranking: 16

Sean: No
Dom: No

At the start of the season, it would’ve been reasonable to pencil the Penguins into a wild-card spot. Seems like a long time ago. Still, they’re leading the league in expected goals/60, sixth in expected goals percentage and first in expected power-play goals/60. This team has problems; the bottom six can’t score, Tristan Jarry has been abysmal and at some point, all those chances won’t matter if the conversion rate doesn’t improve. Still, they’re not bottom-five-bad.

Last week: 21
Sean’s ranking: 19
Dom’s ranking: 22

Sean: Yes
Dom: Yes

The Flyers may be low on talent, but John Tortorella has them working hard and executing his system well. Right now they’re playing a perfect brand of rebuilding hockey: excellent process, bad results. On pace for 74 points while rocking 56 percent of the expected goals? Perfect.

Last week: 18
Sean’s ranking: 18
Dom’s ranking: 18

Sean: No
Dom: No

Perhaps we were a bit premature in putting the Senators right outside the top 10 after the first week. They looked good! But injuries and chaos have taken over since and they’ve looked quite bad instead. That’s life for a middling team where it’s either one way or the other. Still, this shouldn’t be a 4-5-0 team. There’s talent here and it’s clear from Ottawa’s plus-five goal differential that sequencing luck hasn’t been on the Sens’ side.

Last week: 16
Sean’s ranking: 16
Dom’s ranking: 17

Sean: No
Dom: No

This team clearly needs Jared Spurgeon back and at least half of what Filip Gustavsson was last season. It’s been an ugly, ugly start where the most uncharacteristic part has been the team’s defensive process. The Wild entered Thursday with the 13th worst expected goals-against rate at five-on-five after finishing second-best last season. That difference can’t all be Spurgeon and the team should clean up their act at some point — right?

Last week: 25
Sean’s ranking: 25
Dom’s ranking: 26

Sean: No
Dom: No

As we’ve mentioned before, we both expected regression for the Kraken — just not to this degree. Thursday’s win against Nashville was a step back in the right direction. Now we wait for Matty Beniers to follow.

25. Nashville Predators, 4-6-0

Last week: 24
Sean’s ranking: 22
Dom’s ranking: 24

Sean: No
Dom: No

The Preds are top seven in expected goals/60, both for and against. The Avs are the only other team that can say as much. Nashville might not be playoff-caliber, but that’s also not a characteristic of a sub-.500 team.

Last week: 28
Sean’s ranking: 28
Dom’s ranking: 27

Sean: No
Dom: No

Credit Jake Allen and Sam Montembeault. The goalies are the biggest reason for the Canadiens’ early-season run. That said, it’d be unreasonable to expect them to finish the season leading the league in five-on-five save percentage.

Last week: 30
Sean’s ranking: 30
Dom’s ranking: 30

Sean: Yes
Dom: Yes

Some stuff is going right for the Blue Jackets — Jack Roslovic’s strong work on the wing, Elvis Merzlikins and Spencer Martin’s play in net — but 10 points in 10 games feels basically correct. Johnny Gaudreau will shape up, but the goalies are likely to regress a bit and a still-rough blue line feels like it’ll come back to haunt them.

Last week: 23
Sean’s ranking: 24
Dom’s ranking: 23

Sean: Yes
Dom: Yes

The Blues might be all the way cooked. The power play is completely busted and they’re as poor as ever at five-on-five — without the necessary scoring witchcraft to make up for it. Jordan Kyrou has been especially disappointing with just three points in eight games and some awful defensive numbers to go along with it. Pavel Buchnevich hasn’t been playing very well either. If those two are off, this team is done for.

Last week: 26
Sean’s ranking: 26
Dom’s ranking: 25

Sean: Yes
Dom: No

Dom: Watching the Flames play hockey makes me want to tear my eyes out, and they very well could be completely cooked. I’m not denying that. I’m just not quite ready to say this is a bottom-five team.

Sean: Yeah, I realize that some of the underlyings are OK, but I can’t cosign anything taking place there at the moment. Worst vibes in the league.

Last week: 29
Sean’s ranking: 28
Dom’s ranking: 29

Sean: Yes
Dom: Yes

An 82-point pace for the NHL’s old folks home? That’s exactly where their preseason projections landed and there’s little to suggest from their current play that they deserve better or worse. Maybe they deserve some more luck on the power play, but it’s hard to believe the personnel there can still deliver even if the current process looks sound.

Last week: 31
Sean’s ranking: 31
Dom’s ranking: 31

Sean: Yes
Dom: Yes

We thought they would be very bad. They are indeed very bad. Really nothing to see here — the Blackhawks are exactly who we thought they were.

32. San Jose Sharks, 0-9-1

Last week: 32
Sean’s ranking: 32
Dom’s ranking: 32

Sean: No
Dom: No

Interesting as it’d be for the Sharks to finish the season with eight or nine points, predicting it would be unreasonable. Either way, the journey is the destination. We could be witnessing history. Embrace it.

(Photo: Jonathan Kozub / NHLI via Getty Images)

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