NHL Power Rankings: Stats that define every team’s 2021 season

The 2021 NHL season looks to have turned a corner, with games running smoothly (and as scheduled) recently, following a number of additional protocols undertaken due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

In this week’s edition of ESPN’s power rankings, we identified a stat for each team that helps tell the story of their season.

How we rank: The ESPN hockey editorial staff submits selections ranking teams 1 to 31 — taking into account game results, injuries and upcoming schedule — and those results are tabulated in the list featured here.

Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to our Week 5 edition, published on Feb. 17. Points percentages are through the games of Feb. 23.

Previous ranking: 4
Points percentage: .750
This week: vs. CGY (Feb. 24); @ EDM (Feb. 27, March 1)

Auston Matthews‘ 16-game point streak came to an end Monday. But he still has 18 goals in his first 19 games, which would pace him for 78 (!) in a full 82-game season.

Previous ranking: 3
Points percentage: .719
This week: vs. CAR (Feb. 24, 25); vs. DAL (Feb. 27); @ DAL (March 2)

No Nikita Kucherov, no problem … for now. The Lightning are tops in the league, averaging 3.63 goals per game. It helps that Steven Stamkos is in full rebound mode, at a career-high rate of 1.21 goals per game through 14.

Previous ranking: 2
Points percentage: .750
This week: @ NYI (Feb. 25); @ NYR (Feb. 26, 28)

There were some people who figured David Pastrnak would regress this season. Those people were wrong. Pastrnak has scored 59 goals and 113 points in his past 82 games, dating back to last season.

Previous ranking: 5
Points percentage: .735
This week: @ TB (Feb. 24, 25); @ FLA (Feb. 27, March 1); @ NSH (March 2)

The Lightning finally found a way to score on the Canes and picked up a win on Monday. It marked the first regulation loss at home for Carolina in 359 days. Almost made it a year!

Previous ranking: 1
Points percentage: .719
This week: @ SJ (Feb. 25); @ ANA (Feb. 27); vs. MIN (Feb. 1)

Is it time to start talking about Marc-Andre Fleury as a serious Vezina Trophy candidate? The Flower is first in goals saved above expectation (10.36) according to Natural Stat Trick. His .942 save percentage tops all goalies with at least five starts.

Previous ranking: 10
Points percentage: .633
This week: vs. MIN (Feb. 24); @ ARI (Feb. 26, 27); @ SJ (March 1)

The Avs stuck with Philipp Grubauer instead of looking for goaltending help this offseason. That has paid off. He’s tracking for career bests in save percentage (.932), goals-against average (1.78) and is already one shutout shy of tying his career best (three).

Previous ranking: 7
Points percentage: .765
This week: vs. DAL (Feb. 24, 25); vs. CAR (Feb. 27, March 1)

The Cats put up 29 shots in the second period against Dallas on Monday. While Chris Driedger and the blue line’s surprise performances have been big stories, the offense is driving this team. It’s legit.

Previous ranking: 9
Points percentage: .633
This week: vs. NYR (Feb. 24); @ BUF (Feb. 27, 28); @ PIT (March 2)

A poor outing in his first outdoor game put a spotlight on Carter Hart‘s season, and the numbers aren’t pretty. The 22-year-old has been struggling to find consistency, posting a .891 save percentage through 10 games.

Previous ranking: 20
Points percentage: .619
This week: @ VAN (Feb. 25); vs. TOR (Feb. 27, March 1)

Connor McDavid cannot be stopped. It took him 92 games to go from 0-100 points to start his NHL career, 82 games to get the next hundred, 68 games to the next hundred, and 67 games for the hundred after that. And 64 games to go from 400-500, which he hit last week.

Previous ranking: 11
Points percentage: .639
This week: vs. MTL (Feb. 25, 27); vs. VAN (March 1, 2)

The Jets are clicking, and their most consistent performer has been Mark Scheifele. He’s helping usher Pierre-Luc Dubois into the lineup on the top line (until Dubois switches back to center), and is on a 10-game point streak (seven goals, nine assists).

Previous ranking: 16
Points percentage: .611
This week: vs. PIT (Feb. 25); @ NJ (Feb. 27, 28)

As Nicklas Backstrom nears the 700 career assist milestone this week, let’s note that the center is also off to his best start (22 points in his first 18 games) in nine seasons.

Previous ranking: 6
Points percentage: .611
This week: @ WPG (Feb. 25, 27); vs. OTT (March 2)

The Habs are in a bit of a slump right now, but still well positioned to qualify for the postseason. They play heavy, which should bode well if they do make it. Montreal leads the league in hits per 60 minutes (28.95).

Previous ranking: 15
Points percentage: .618
This week: @ WSH (Feb. 25); @ NYI (Feb. 27, 28); vs. PHI (March 2)

We’re still not sure what to make of this 2021 Penguins team, but it has been squeezing out wins. Pittsburgh leads the league with a .800 winning percentage in one-goal games.

Previous ranking: 12
Points percentage: .583
This week: vs. BOS (Feb. 25); vs. PIT (Feb. 27, 28); @ NJ (March 2)

The Islanders love to play at home. They’re 5-0-1 at Nassau Coliseum this season, but 4-6-2 everywhere else. Now is a good time to make up ground in the East: Eight of the Isles’ next nine games are on Long Island.

Previous ranking: 8
Points percentage: .579
This week: vs. LA (Feb. 24); @ SJ (Feb. 27); @ ANA (March 1)

St. Louis has been snake-bitten by injuries and still needs to find consistency. But Justin Faulk has been fantastic for them. At 5-on-5, he’s been on the ice for 23 goals for and just nine against.

Previous ranking: 13
Points percentage: .600
This week: @ CBJ (Feb. 25); vs. DET (Feb. 27, 28)

Chicago entered the season without five of their top 10 goal scorers from last season. That’s why it’s such a pleasant surprise that three newcomers — Philipp Kurashev, Mattias Janmark and Pius Suter — have combined for 17 goals already.

Previous ranking: 21
Points percentage: .600
This week: @ COL (Feb. 24); vs. LA (Feb. 26, 27); @ VGS (March 1)

The Wild seem to have found a terrific line combo with rookie Kirill Kaprizov, Victor Rask and the recently returned Mats Zuccarello. Albeit a small sample size, the trio have an expected goals for percentage of 67.7%.

Previous ranking: 27
Points percentage: .559
This week: @ STL (Feb. 24); @ MIN (Feb. 26, 27)

Raise your hand if you had Dustin Brown atop the West Division goal-scoring race. The 36-year-old has 10 goals through his first 17 games (and reached his 1,200-game milestone this week).

Previous ranking: 22
Points percentage: .500
This week: @ BUF (Feb. 25); vs. WSH (Feb. 27, 28); vs. NYI (March 2)

Corey Crawford‘s surprise retirement just meant the Mackenzie Blackwood era could begin sooner. The 24-year-old is starting to look like a franchise goalie, going 4-2-1 with a .935 save percentage to begin the season.

Previous ranking: 18
Points percentage: .525
This week: vs. CHI (Feb. 25); @ NSH (Feb. 27, 28); vs. DET (March 2)

As the Blue Jackets strive for more consistency, their top defensive pairing isn’t quite as dangerous as usual. Zach Werenski is managing an injury while Seth Jones has been on the ice for 17 Columbus goals and 25 from opponents.

Previous ranking: 14
Points percentage: .538
This week: @ FLA (Feb. 24, 25); @ TB (Feb. 27); vs. TB (March 2)

Dallas needs to figure out a way to get better starts. They’ve scored just five first-period goals in 21 games this season (for context, the Oilers lead the league with 28 first-period goals through 28 games).

Previous ranking: 25
Points percentage: .469
This week: @ PHI (Feb. 24); vs. BOS (Feb. 26, 28); vs. BUF (March 2)

The Rangers are still finding their way, dealing with on- and off-ice adversity. But they do lead the league in one interesting stat: takeaways per 60 minutes — they’re averaging nearly eight!

Previous ranking: 24
Points percentage: .471
This week: vs. VGS (Feb. 25); vs. STL (Feb. 27); vs. COL (March 1)

Erik Karlsson‘s offensive production decline has been steep. The well-paid defenseman should return this week from a lower-body injury, but note his points-per-game rate (0.31) is nearly one-third of what it was in his first Sharks season (0.85).

Previous ranking: 19
Points percentage: .528
This week: vs. ANA (Feb. 24); vs. COL (Feb. 26, 27)

Last week, we highlighted Conor Garland. This week, it’s Christian Dvorak. He may be riding a sky-high shooting percentage (25.0%) but he has nine goals through 18 games, not insignificant.

Previous ranking: 17
Points percentage: .500
This week: @ TOR (Feb. 24); @ OTT (Feb. 25, 27, March 1)

Calgary’s shutout of Toronto on Monday was pretty historic, giving a boost to a struggling team. It was the first time the Flames shut out the Maple Leafs in Toronto since the franchise relocated to Calgary.

Previous ranking: 28
Points percentage: .391
This week: vs. EDM (Feb. 25); @ WPG (March 1, 2)

Entering the season, Elias Pettersson was a serious MVP candidate, but it hasn’t gone his (or the Canucks’) way. Pettersson leads the league with eight shots that have hit either the crossbar or a post (no one else has more than four).

Previous ranking: 26
Points percentage: .438
This week: vs. NJ (Feb. 25); vs. PHI (Feb. 27, 28); @ NYR (March 2)

The number Sabres fans are fixated on is zero. That’s how many goals Jeff Skinner has scored this season, despite making $9 million. Is now an appropriate time to mention he’s under contract through 2026-27?

Previous ranking: 29
Points percentage: .444
This week: @ DET (Feb. 25); vs. CBJ (Feb. 27, 28); vs. CAR (March 2)

Oh, where to begin in depicting Nashville’s misery this season? The Predators have zero games where they led entering the third period and have only held a two-goal lead three times.

Previous ranking: 23
Points percentage: .395
This week: @ ARI (Feb. 24); vs. VGS (Feb. 27); vs. STL (March 1)

The Ducks are the only team besides the Red Wings to average fewer than two goals per game. So you understand why fans are so excited for the arrival of highly touted prospect Trevor Zegras.

Previous ranking: 30
Points percentage: .310
This week: vs. NSH (Feb. 25); @ CHI (Feb. 27, 28); @ CBJ (March 2)

There are a few ways to show why the Red Wings just aren’t there yet, but their power play has been so futile it’s worth noting. After Tuesday’s blanking, they have now gone 13 games without scoring on the man advantage (0-for-36 in that stretch).

Previous ranking: 31
Points percentage: .310
This week: vs. CGY (Feb. 25, 27, March 1); @ MTL (March 2)

Ottawa is worst in the league with four goals against per game. The Senators also have a league-high eight losses in games where they outshoot their opponents. Likely related: Brady Tkachuk leads the league in shots taken.

Original article: https://www.espn.com/nhl/story/_/id/30953137/nhl-power-rankings-1-31-poll-plus-stat-defines-every-team-2021-season

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