NHL Power Rankings: Tampa Bay on the Rise

Steven Stamkos is the player to challenge Sidney Crosby for MVP, and he has his Lightning team moving on up in our power rankings.

Pittsburgh stays on top of our power rankings this week after blanking Montreal in the Bell Centre, and the Islanders and Lightning continue their upward trends, as Colorado continues to fall. Who else is rising and falling based on nERD? Take a look.

Note: Rankings and analysis is based on games prior to last night.

Yep, We’re Still Really Bad at Hockey

30. Buffalo Sabres (nERD -1.29, Last Week: 30)
29. Edmonton Oilers (nERD -0.81, Last Week: 28)
28. Florida Panthers (nERD -0.75, Last Week: 29)

At least one of these cites has really nice weather. (I'm looking at you, Buffalo, and your five feet of snow.)

On a hockey level, Florida is starting to play a little better and has a chance to separate themselves from the bottom three, especially because Toronto looks hell-bent on joining the bottom three. The Panthers looked relatively competent in their 6-2 win over Anaheim to open up their four-game road trip. The problem is they then dropped the next game to the Kings, and still have away games remaining with San Jose and Nashville before returning to South Florida.

Spiraling Out of Control

27. Carolina Hurricanes (nERD -0.48, Last Week: 27)
26. Columbus Blue Jackets (nERD -0.33, Last Week: 24)
25. Toronto Maple Leafs (nERD -0.32, Last Week: 23)

My goodness, what a week it has been since the last time we talked about the Leafs. Since that big win over Boston, they lost by a touchdown and now rumors swirl that coach Randy Carlyle’s job is in jeopardy.

As we briefly mentioned last week, there are two elite prospects at the top of next year’s draft in the OHL’s Connor McDavid and BU’s Jack Eichel. If the Leafs do can Carlyle, which is quite possible, they may want to think about blowing the whole team up and trending towards the highest lottery odds.

All of hockey should be sad when considering the sad state of Toronto: it is truly a magnificent hockey city and the Air Canada Centre faithful do not deserve the level of hockey currently on the ice. On the bright side for Torontoians, Drake’s Raptors are looking great.

Don’t Freak Out

24. Arizona Coyotes (nERD -0.29, Last Week: 26)
23. New Jersey Devils (nERD -0.21, Last Week: 22)
22. New York Islanders (nERD -0.20, Last Week: 25)

Yes, the New York Islanders are playing very good hockey right now, arguably among the best in the league. We’re watching; we get it. So why this ranking?

The Isles' nERD is calculated to factor is last year’s performance as well as potential regression. What we are really trying to predict at numberFire is final standings and records. The numbers indicate that the Islanders will level/cool off.

Many teams have started great and finished poorly or vice versa. For instance, Philadelphia was one of the best teams in the league after New Year’s Day last year after a terrible start. Think of where they were in power ranking articles in January (the bottom) and where they ended up (the middle).

The Islanders' nERD figure is climbing towards the positives, and their playoff projection is approaching 50%. They just split a home-and-home with Tampa Bay and now have another home-and-home with Pittsburgh, which may tell us a lot about their makeup. This time next week, we will know more about John Tavares, Johnny Boychuk, and Co.

Treading Water

21. Vancouver Canucks (nERD -0.19, Last Week: 19)
20. Ottawa Senators (nERD -0.15, Last Week: 21)
19. Philadelphia Flyers (nERD -0.10, Last Week: 13)
18. Dallas Stars (nERD -0.07, Last Week: 15)

Yes, Vancouver has looked good from this group, but Philly and Dallas are both just barely hanging on.

The Flyers were the biggest loser this week, dropping six spots and really falling behind. This is primarily attributed to poor goaltending, something that has plagued the Flyers since current GM Ron Hextall ended his time between the pipes. Philly allows 3.19 goals per game, which is not going to do them any favors as they try to chase a playoff spot. They have also now lost three in a row, including getting shutout by the rival Rangers last night in Claude Giroux’s return from injury.

For Dallas, similar problems persist: shoddy goaltending. Tyler Seguin leads the league in scoring and sleeve tattoos, and Jamie Benn has added another six to go with Seguin’s 14. The Stars have been slightly let down by Jari Lehtonen’s poor play. Lehtonen ended up getting pulled in their 6-4 loss to Carolina, the first game of a five game home stand that will help define the current makeup of this Stars’ team.

Trending Different Directions

17. Washington Capitals (nERD -0.05, Last Week: 16)
16. Calgary Flames (nERD -0.02, Last Week: 20)
15. Winnipeg Jets (nERD 0.01, Last Week: 18)
14. Colorado Avalanche (nERD 0.02, Last Week: 12)

Calgary was one of the bigger movers this week jumping four spots, and their play definitely merits the move. On the other hand, Colorado is beginning to fall behind after all the promise of last season.

The Avs had a great turnaround going from worst in the league to a playoff team last year. Number-one pick Nathan McKinnon and new coach Patrick Roy helped in the leap, and the numbers indicated that this young team was primed to make another leap.

The results this season, however, have been borderline disastrous. Colorado has looked punchless at times, particularly while getting pummeled in the Nassau Coliseum a week ago. They responded to the loss with two wins to close out an East Coast road trip, one that hopefully pulls them out of their sophomore slump.

nERD Alert

13. Detroit Red Wings (nERD 0.03, Last Week: 17)
12. New York Rangers (nERD 0.10, Last Week: 10)
11. Nashville Predators (nERD 0.19, Last Week: 14)
10. Montreal Canadiens (nERD 0.22, Last Week: 11)

All of these teams improved their nERD figure from last week, despite what the actual moving in the rankings indicates. But Montreal pushed their needle the furthest by picking up their league-leading 14th win.

The Bell Centre was home to a fantastic matchup Tuesday night with Pittsburgh in town, a game which saw the Habs six-game winning streak snapped. A win over the Penguins would have really solidified them as a team to look out for going forward, but Pittsburgh’s comprehensive 4-0 win said otherwise.

Montreal is doing all this with less than stellar play from the normally fantastic Carey Price. Canada’s number-one in Sochi has looked sluggish this year, ranking in the lower third in both GAA and save percentage. It might be nit-picky because Price still boasts an 11-4-1 record, but it is scary to think how much better the Canadiens could be.

Cup Challengers

9. Minnesota Wild (nERD 0.27, Last Week: 9)
8. San Jose Sharks (nERD 0.33, Last Week: 7)
7. Los Angeles Kings (nERD 0.45, Last Week: 6)
6. Tampa Bay Lightning (nERD 0.45, Last Week: 8)

Tampa is starting to make everyone who chose them as a Cup sleeper in the preseason look very smart.

I, for one, am not putting that much stock in their recent loss to the Islanders, whom they had soundly defeated a few days prior. The Isles benefited from a couple days off in between the home-and-home with Tampa. The Lightning however stopped by Madison Square Garden to beat the Rangers on their way to Long Island.

Tampa has six guys in double figure points on the year, led by the electric Steven Stamkos, who could be the favorite to challenge Sidney Crosby’s MVP credentials. Their very deep forward lines have created some playing time issues for top rookie Jonathan Drouin, but if he cracks one of their top three lines and plays up to potential, look out, NHL.

Cup Credentials, Plus the Bruins

5. Anaheim Ducks (nERD 0.46, Last Week: 5)
4. Boston Bruins (nERD 0.53, Last Week: 3)
3. St. Louis Blues (nERD 0.65, Last Week: 4)

Boston’s underperforming start to the season is starting cause some worrying in Beantown. Their nERD fell by 0.15 from last week, and that had already factored in a rough loss to Toronto. Based on past performance/future indicators, the Bruins’ number is still high, but their star is beginning to lose some of its shine.

St. Louis, despite getting shutout in Boston Tuesday night, has a lot to play for on this road trip to prove their cup credentials. Goaltending has been a big reason for their success, now they just need to get some production out of their forwards not named Vladimir Tarasenko.

Get Your Act Together

2. Chicago Blackhawks (nERD 0.70, Last Week: 2)
1. Pittsburgh Penguins (nERD 0.84, Last Week: 1)

The statement above goes both ways: Pittsburgh showed their class by bouncing back from their loss in Madison Square Garden with three straight wins including one in Montreal, but Chicago has been up and down all season, and one must hope that Sunday’s 6-2 thrashing of Dallas is good indicator of what’s to come.

Pittsburgh got their act together, now it's time for Chicago to build on Sunday’s win and assert themselves in a tricky Western Conference.