Monday, November 12, 2018

Weekend power rankings: The reckoning arrives

The​ NHL season is​ a lot​ like​ the​ weather​ up​ here in​ Ottawa – once November​ arrives, it can​ get​ real ugly, real​​ quick. And when it does, you’re left wondering if it will ever get any better before the spring.

The first month of the season featured plenty of feel-good stories around the league, with the top half of the standings featuring various teams that were overachieving. But in the last few weeks, the reckoning has arrived. And now it feels like half the league has gone ice cold all at once.

Coming into the weekend, three teams were riding a losing streak of at least five games, with Colorado, Chicago and Pittsburgh all plummeting. And that list didn’t even include the Devils or Hurricanes, both of whom had lost five of six, or the Canadiens (four of six), or the Senators (seven of nine), or the Ducks (eight of ten). By the time you worked your way down to the Oilers, losing three straight by a combined score of 13-5 felt like a hot streak.

The big question of the weekend was which teams would be able to regain their footing and which would continue their plunge. That latter group ended up included the Hawks, who couldn’t muster a goal while dropping their seventh straight in Philadelphia. The Oilers dropped a fourth straight by another lopsided score, this time to the slumping Avalanche. The Devils and Ducks both kept losing and the Hurricanes couldn’t even beat the Red Wings. But the Canadiens picked up a dramatic win, the Senators at least got a split and the Penguins shut out the Coyotes with the kind of performance that might quell some of the talk of imminent changes.

Mixed results all around, as you’d expect in a league where the difference between mediocrity and disaster often feels razor thin. We’ll continue to sort through the stragglers beginning tonight, when the Hurricanes and Blackhawks face off in a game that [checks rulebook] one team probably has to win.

The good news is that there are still a few great teams in the league. The bad news is that it really is jut a few, and we’re still struggling to fill the top five with teams we actually feel good about. We’ve got another newbie to welcome this week, so let’s start there …

Road to the Cup

The five teams that look like they’re headed towards a summer of keg stands and fountain pool parties.

This is week six of the power rankings, and it ends up being the sixth straight week with a different team slotting in at number five. Three of those previous five teams dropped out of the rankings the very next week, including last week’s pick, the Flames. Does that mean something? It might indicate a league that’s still very much in flux at the top. It might also indicate that I’m just bad at this.

Will the curse of the five-spot continue with this week’s team? Let’s find out.

5. Minnesota Wild (11-4-2, +9) – Yeah, it’s probably time to start taking them seriously.

Honestly, this is probably too low for the Wild, who are one of the hottest teams in the league. That’s not some short-term streak – after losing four of their first five, they’ve gone 10-2-0 to move into second spot in the Central, two points back of the Predators. They just finished a brutal seven-game road trip, coming away with 10 of 14 points and now they’re home for six of the next seven.

They’re doing with it with contributions from the older veterans and Vezina-caliber goaltending from Devan Dubnyk. That’s not always the most sustainable model, but if they need to make adjustments, Bruce Boudreau can handle it. He’s pretty good at this.

In case you’re wondering, the Wild don’t get the Predators again until March, when they face them three times. That’s probably way too far ahead to get excited about, but there’s at least a chance that it will end up deciding the division and maybe serve as a playoff preview.

4. Winnipeg Jets (10-5-1, +9) – I’m showing some faith in the Jets by keeping them ahead of the red hot Wild. But a pair of 5-2 weekend wins over the Avalanche and Devils gives me enough cover to overrule the standings and go with my gut.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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