The California road trip is supposed to be difficult, especially for Eastern Conference teams, because of the heavy travel and the toughness of all three teams. The Tampa Bay Lightning, however, might be better than all three of them. They swept the trip and became the first team to 30 points this season. The way the top line is playing right now, Tampa Bay may never come down from its cloud (See what I did there?)
The Rangers and Wild have made a move in the NHL Power Rankings, while I have made another correct bold prediction with another Canadian team.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning: 30 points
Previously 1 (26 points)
Tampa Bay is doing so well that even the Kings looked miserable at home against them. They swept the Golden State trip to continues their barrage in the NHL. Nikita Kucherov has turned his points lead with Steven Stamkos into a friendly battle. He had seven points in California, including a goal and two assists in both San Jose and Los Angeles.
2. St. Louis Blues: 27 points
Previously 3 (25 points)
Two teams that may have more punch than initially anticipated may have given the Blues some shots to the chin this week. The Islanders and Flames combined to outscore St. Louis 12-6 this week, leaving a mediocre shootout win over Arizona as the only thing celebratory worthy this week. Winnipeg and Nashville are closing in fast. Before Jake Allen gave way in the third period, Vladimir Tarasenko had his slap shot working well. With two more goals in Calgary, Tarasenko is quietly having himself an outstanding season, as he joined Jaden Schwartz and two others as the only players with double digit goals and assists.
3. Los Angeles Kings: 24 points
Previously 2 (24 points)
Things went south for the Kings this week, as they went winless in the first three games of their home stand. That included a beatdown loss to Tampa Bay and a big loss to the rival Sharks. LA will have to knock off the weaker Bruins and Panthers to avoid a disastrous stretch and possibly losing the Pacific Division lead. Oscar Fantenberg picked up his first NHL goal in a third period where the Kings flirted with a comeback against the Lightning.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs: 24 points
Previously 6 (20 points)
Auston Matthews has not returned from injury, but that has not stopped the Maple Leafs from ripping off four straight wins, including both games of a home-and-home with Boston. Both goalies stepped up this week, and Curtis McElhinney picked up his first win since October 18 with 38 saves on Veterans Day.
5. New Jersey Devils: 24 points
Previously 8 (19 points)
The Devils got points in every game this week to remain on top of the Metropolitan Division. The most impressive win was was a high-scoring 7-5 victory over Chicago on Sunday, but trips to Toronto and Winnipeg will make a long winning streak difficult. Miles Wood led the onslaught with his first career hat trick.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins: 23 points
Previously 4 (20 points)
It is amazing how Pittsburgh is knocking on New Jersey’s door in the Metropolitan Division. Their offense has been disappointing and the defense is even worse. They do not look like legitimate Stanley Cup contenders, but they have come through in clutch situations on several occasions. The same thing happened on Tuesday. Sidney Crosby worked his magic behind the crease and fed Conor Sheary in overtime for Sheary’s second goal of the game.
7. Columbus Blue Jackets: 23 points
Previously 5 (19 points)
Columbus continued their league-worst power play run, and they have not had a power play goal since November 2. It took heroics in extra time to avoid a six-game losing streak. Jack Johnson scored to end a long shootout in Detroit and Zach Werenski sent everyone home in Montreal with an overtime goal on Tuesday. The MVP, however, was Sergei Bobrovsky. With just one goal allowed in each win, he is making his case for a Vezina repeat.
8. Ottawa Senators: 21 points
Previously 7 (17 points)
It took just two games in Sweden for the Senators to make a worldwide statement. They defeated the Avalanche in two 4-3 thrillers. While Matt Duchene made his Ottawa debut, Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman continue to coast on offense. Hoffman is on an eight-game point streak, including two goals on Saturday, while Mark Stone had three goals in the two games, including the overtime winner on Friday.
9. Vegas Golden Knights: 21 points
Previously 9 (19 points)
Their light week had some good and some nightmarish play. After a home victory against the suddenly dangerous Jets, the Oilers demolished the Knights in the expansion franchise’s first trip to Rogers Place. William Karlsson is the next role player making a breakout. He has six goals in his last 11 games, including two in the win over Winnipeg.
10. Washington Capitals: 21 points
Previously 13 (17 points)
It was a good week for the Capitals, as they won two of three to keep their heads out of the Metropolitan Division cellar. Winning in easy fashion against the hated Penguins, however, was the icing on the cake. Before Nashville bested him on Tuesday, Braden Holtby allowed just one goal against both Pittsburgh and Edmonton to reach double figures in wins.
11. New York Islanders: 20 points
Previously 12 (18 points)
Not much happened with the Islanders. After a miserable game in Dallas, the Islanders picked things up with a big win in St. Louis to avoid what would have been an abrupt share of the Metropolitan Division cellar. The division has been that competitive. The Islanders defense has been paper thin in recent years, but Nick Leddy might be a newfound star on NYB’s blue line. He collected two assists against the Blues and is now tied for 13th in points for defensemen, including four points on the top-half power play unit. Plus, he is only 26 years old.
12. Winnipeg Jets: 23 points
Previously 14 (19 points)
The week started off poorly, as the Jets failed in their first meeting with the Golden Knights. As expected, however, Arizona gave Winnipeg the confidence boost they needed. Now the Jets are just four points behind the Blues with Nashville and a critical California trip on the nearby schedule. Steve Mason picked up his first win of the season while Connor Hellebuyck matched last week’s performance against Dallas with 33 saves on 34 Arizona shots on Tuesday.
13. Chicago Blackhawks: 20 points
Previously 10 (16 points)
This week was a mirror image of last week. After very few pucks reached the net, the Hawks found themselves in some high scoring affairs. Corey Crawford took a beating against the Devils, but Chicago sandwiched that debacle with 10 combined goals against the Hurricanes and Rangers. There were two key stars for the Hawks this week. Alex DeBrincat has four goals in his last three games and added a nifty assist to Brandon Saad in overtime on Saturday. On Wednesday, Artem Anisimov picked up a third period hat trick against New York.
14. San Jose Sharks: 20 points
Previously 15 (16 points)
A fantastic doubleheader over the weekend kept them on pace with Calgary and Vancouver and on the verge of passing Vegas. A blowout win against Vancouver and a critical road win in LA (in typical defensive fashion commonly found between the California rivals) should be great news considering their weak home schedule coming up. Aaron Dell and Martin Jones clogged the headlines this weekend. Dell took over the GAA lead with a 41-save shutout, while Jones let just one slip by on 27 shots against the Kings before the Sharks mounted a third period comeback.
15. Dallas Stars: 19 points
Previously 11 (16 points)
The top power play unit struck twice more this week, but the southeastern swing is looking like a flunk. They got bounced in Carolina before settling for one point against the lowly Panthers. They will need to upset the Lightning on the road to avoid a winless road trip. John Klingberg dominated on Friday, picking up three points and being part of a defensive stalwart that only allowed 14 shots on the Islanders.
16. Nashville Predators: 22 points
Previously 17 (18 points)
Here come the Preds! Nashville has reintroduced themselves to the top of the Central Division with five straight wins, and a lot of that has to do with consistently good offense. With three division opponents coming up, extending the streak to eight would make this a two-team race with St. Louis in the early going. Nick Bonino returned from an 11-game absence and scored on one of many tip-ins that bamboozled Braden Holtby on Tuesday.
17. Calgary Flames: 20 points
Previously 18 (16 points)
The Flames had strung together a great week before hitting the road. They had scored 13 goals in wins over the Red Wings and Blues, but allowing eight goals and being part of a lengthy brawl at Little Caesars Arena did nothing good for a Calgary team that missed an opportunity to jump into second in the Pacific Division. It is possible for both Micheal Ferland and Matthew Tkachuk to be suspended for their roles in the fracas. Mark Jankowski picked up his first three NHL goals in the last two wins, and he figures to be a big part of the offense moving forward.
18. Vancouver Canucks: 20 points
Previously 16 (18 points)
The Canucks had a decent road trip within the Pacific Division. After a big win in Calgary, Vancouver took some bad blows in San Jose and Anaheim, but they recovered with a big comeback win over Los Angeles. They went 2-3 on the power play on Tuesday after going 0-10 in their previous two games, and the second power play goal was Sven Baertschi‘s game winner early in the third period.
19. Anaheim Ducks: 19 points
Previously 19 (15 points)
Not a bad week for Anaheim. Their only loss was a low-scoring battle against the high-flying Lightning, and they took advantage against beatable opponents against Vancouver and Boston. They have three big divisional games coming up, including two more in California. Rickard Rakell had a big week without scoring, picking up three assists on the power play to help the Ducks dispose of the Canucks on Thursday.
20. New York Rangers: 20 points
Previously 25 (18 points)
Wednesday did not go well as the Rangers lost their six-game winning streak, but the horrible start to the season evaporated. That is certainly a relief because the competitiveness in the Metropolitan Division could have swallowed the Big Apple whole. This week, New York’s lone win was against the Oilers, as Rick Nash extended his hot stretch with two goals in the win and another one in Chicago. Five of his seven goals have come in November, and he was recently honored for playing in his 1,000 NHL game.
21. Carolina Hurricanes: 18 points
Previously 12 (13 points)
Carolina has vastly improved following a shootout loss in Arizona. Scott Darling is clogging up plenty of holes in the net, and the offense scored in bunches to get back into the Metropolitan Division fray. They still have a heavy game advantage over teams like Washington and Pittsburgh. Carolina put away the Stars with four goals in the third period on Monday, and Teuvo Teravainen picked up the natural hat trick in that period.
22. Minnesota Wild: 18 points
Previously 27 (12 points)
It took a Herculean effort to get Minnesota out of the Central Division basement. In three games, the Wild allowed a grand total of zero goals in wins over Montreal and Philadelphia (twice). Devan Dubnyk came out of his early season funk in a big way this week, stopping all 103 shots he faced, including 41 in the Bell Centre.
23. Philadelphia Flyers: 18 points
Previously 23 (16 points)
Things looked bright against Chicago, but the Flyers offense disappeared against the Wild. They failed to score in the home-and-home because Devan Dubnyk was that good. The last place Flyers would be tied for fourth in the Atlantic Division. Despite just one win, Brian Elliott was outstanding in three games, saving 81 of 84 shots against the Central Division foes.
24. Colorado Avalanche: 17 points
Previously 21 (16 points)
They were bested in the home-and-home in Stockholm, but it looks like there is one rookie who is taking full advantage of the Matt Duchene trade. Alexander Kerfoot is now the new leader in goals and is getting very close to passing Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie for the points lead. After two goals in Brooklyn, Kerfoot kept the Swedish crowd entertained until the end with a goal and an assist in each game.
25. Detroit Red Wings: 20 points
Previously 24 (17 points)
The Wings avoided a winless week with a dominant 8-2 victory over the Flames. While the Flames could be without some key players because of that huge brawl on Wednesday, Detroit’s only casualty at the moment is Luke Witkowski. The former Lightning pick, who was suspended 10 games for being ordered to the dressing room and returning to the ice, had no points and two penalty minutes before Wednesday’s game. Now he has 39 minutes.
26. Boston Bruins: 16 points
Previously 20 (15 points)
Welcome to the NHL depths! The Bruins have kicked the bucket with their showing this week. They had two key losses against the rival Maple Leafs and got off to a poor start in the formidable California trip. Losses to Los Angeles and San Jose could push the Bruins into last place in the Atlantic Division. Patrice Bergeron extended his now-extinct point streak to four with an opening goal on Friday.
27. Montreal Canadiens: 18 points
Previously 26 (15 points)
Last week looked promising for the Habs offense, but three goals in as many games this week has Charlie Lindgren banging his head. They should be relieved that the Buffalo Sabres exist because that is how they got in the win column. Lindgren made 92 saves on 95 shots this week, but he needed the magic of Max Pacioretty to avoid going winless.
28. Edmonton Oilers: 16 points
Previously 28 (11 points)
Edmonton’s quest to exit the NHL depths had a slight bump in the road out east, but Tuesday was a banner night. They smothered the Golden Knights with eight goals, which is a big deal considering their abysmal offense beforehand. The top picks come up big in that game. Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins each provided two goals, while Leon Draisaitl added two assists.
29. Florida Panthers: 14 points
Previously 30 (10 points)
It is an uphill battle for a team that could barely get off the ground in their rebuilding effort. The good news is that they knocked off the Sabres and Stars to at least make Buffalo share the division basement. Unfortunately, the Panthers now have a California trip to take. That is not the best way to start a comeback in the Atlantic Division. Jonathan Huberdeau was the MVP in both wins, nabbing three helpers in Buffalo before picking up two power play goals in the shootout win on Tuesday.
30. Buffalo Sabres: 14 points
Previously 29 (12 points)
Two losses in overtime and another one to the Panthers is more than enough to make the Sabres the worst team outside of the lonely desert. It is a shame because the offense seemed to get out of their funk against the Penguins. Still no win. Sam Reinhart had been slumping to begin the season, but he tortured Matt Murray with three points to hit double figures for the season.
31. Arizona Coyotes: 7 points
Previously 31 (6 points)
They are now dead last in offense and defense, and they are close to being last in both major special teams categories. They are certainly this year’s version of last year’s Avalanche. Brendan Perlini scored both goals in Thursday’s shootout loss to the Blues.
Swedish defenseman Erik Karlsson and the Senators win both games in Stockholm. Winner!
On Friday, Florida and Buffalo each take at least 40 shots on goal and the game goes into a shootout. Florida picked the wrong time to get hot.
Ryan Suter pots four points against Philadelphia on Tuesday. His offense was not needed as defense ruled the day in Minnesota.
The Rangers score at least six times at Columbus on Friday.
Jakob Silfverberg has at least two goals and three points on Sunday.
Jason Pominville pots a hat trick this week.