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NHL power rankings: Penguins move to the top, Sabres bring up the rear

With roughly 18 percent of the regular season in the books, the NHL standings have begun to take shape. Here are this week's power rankings, determined by a blend of recent success and long-term potential.

For an explanation of some of the advanced stats used below, check out this primer.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins (10-2-1) | Pensburgh

The Mike Johnston era is off to a tremendous start in Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby (7 G, 17 A) is on his own level; Patric Hornqvist (18 points), Evgeni Malkin (17 points) and Chris Kunitz (16 points) have been stellar in their own rights.

Hell, even Marc-Andre Fleury is playing like an All-Star.

The concern regarding Pittsburgh is it's ridiculous PDO (105.1), which is by far the highest in the league. It will be interesting to see how the team fares once that number drops. Given all the star power on this roster, the Penguins should be just fine after the regression monster makes his rounds.

Remember: PDO doesn't have to regress to 100. Those with lots of stars -- e.g. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang -- can sustain higher shooting percentages, and thus can maintain higher PDOs.

2. Anaheim Ducks (10-3-3) | Anaheim Calling

Coming off a great regular season in 2013-14, the Ducks appear to be one of the West’s most talented teams yet again. While their depth forwards haven’t been too impressive, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry have been on fire --racking up 15 points each.

Ryan Kesler has been great, as well, notching three goals and eight assists. He's moving the puck in the right direction (51.7 CF%) and is doing so away from Getzlaf and Perry at even strength. Blue liner Sami Vatanen doesn't get talked about often, but he's someone to keep on the radar: his 10 points in 16 games are good for the seventh most among defensemen.

Perhaps most importantly, Frederick Andersen is providing stability in net, stopping 94.3 percent of all shots on goal en route to a 7-1-2 record.

The Ducks were propelled by a sky-high PDO last season, leading many to predict their eventual playoff demise. However, Anaheim is succeeding this year without outrageous 5v5 percentages, which portends to more long-term success. They may not finish atop the West again in 2014-15, but they may be more dangerous come April.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning (11-3-1) | Raw Charge

After an impressive playoff push last spring, the Lightning has emerged as one of the league's most dangerous teams in 2014-15.

Steven Stamkos has been his usual self and is on pace for more than 50 goals. And yet, he still trails Tyler Johnson (5 G, 13 A) by two points. Johnson, 24, is competing in just his second full NHL campaign, has emerged as one of the best young players in the league. His play during even strength has been particularly impressive: he's averaging more than four points per 60 minutes of even strength action.

Ben Bishop hasn't been outstanding in net, but he's been serviceable (2.44 GAA, .910 Sv%). If he improves as the season wears on, Tampa will be tough to beat in a best-of-seven series.

4. St. Louis Blues (9-4-1) | St. Louis Game Time

Coming off a seven-game win streak, the Blues appear to have found their stride. Vladimir Tarasenko has been a joy to watch. Jaden Schwartz has been hugely productive. Barret Jackman has looked surprisingly good. The goalie tandem of Brian Elliott and Jake Allen have given St. Louis another dynamic duo between the pipes.

There are some reasons to worry -- depth scoring is an issue, for one -- but the Blues look like a true contender.

5. Vancouver Canucks (11-5-0) | Nucks Misconduct

So much went wrong for the Canucks last year, and they were bound to recover in 2014-15. So far, so good.

The Sedin twins look like their old selves again, as Henrik and Daniel have tallied 15 and 14 points, respectively. Losing Kesler hasn't been an issue; Radim Vrbata (6 G, 7 A) and Nick Bonino (7 G, 6 A) each have 13 points.

Sans Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider, the 'Nucks goaltending situation has been stabilized thanks to Ryan Miller, who hasn't been great (2.42 GAA, .913 Sv%) but has stopped enough rubber to propel Vancouver up the Western Conference standings.

The Canucks have to improve their play at even strength -- they're currently 22nd in the league in 5v5 CF% -- but there's a lot to like here. A win on Sunday against the Ducks gives them seven victories in their last nine contests.

6. Montreal Canadiens (10-4-1) | Habs Eyes On The Prize

The Canadiens are extremely difficult to figure out. Yes, they're winning lots of hockey games, but they're winning despite some alarming numbers -- both at even strength and on special teams. Offensively, there aren't many positives to lean on. They haven't been much better at the other end of the rink, and are allowing more shot attempts against than two-thirds of the league.

Montreal's season can go in so many different directions at this point. If the Habs can correct their power play and middling possession stats, they can do a lot of damage. If not, a sharp decline may be in their future.

7. Nashville Predators (9-3-2) | On The Forecheck

The season is only a month old, and this already feels like the most exciting team in Predators history.

After a poor summer a year ago, David Poile’s offseason is looking better by the day: James Neal, Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy and Anton Volchenkov have all performed well. After 15 years of defense-first hockey, Peter Laviolette has brought a fun, up-tempo style to the Music City, and just about everyone has responded positively to these changes.

As this infographic from The Predatorial's Kris Martel shows, Nashville's start has been among the best in franchise history:

Indeed, Preds fans have a right to be happy, but there are some red flags to be found in the underlying numbers.

Nashville’s PDO (103.4) is going to tumble. Pekka Rinne’s save percentage will drop, though it may not be by much; Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi’s GF%s -- which currently sit at 89.5 and 88.9, respectively -- will regress significantly.

Still, there’s a lot to like here. Nashville is driving possession well, its forward corps is much-improved from a year ago, the defense is solid and Rinne is one of the best goalies in the world.

As division rivals Dallas and Colorado flounder, the Preds are looking like a playoff team. That said, I can’t imagine they'll be a top seed when it’s all said and done.

8. Boston Bruins (9-6-0) | Stanley Cup Of Chowder

The Bruins were supposed to struggle without Zdeno Chara in the lineup, but that has yet to happen. With a 5-1 mark since the behemoth went on the shelf, Boston has been playing some inspiring hockey of late. It's kind of remarkable they've done so well without Chara and with Tuukka Rask playing far below his talent level.

The Chara injury came at a decent time, at least from a scheduling perspective: the B's last four games have been against Buffalo, Edmonton, Ottawa and Florida. Question is, how will they fare without their best D-man when they have to face tougher opponents?

9. Chicago Blackhawks (8-6-1) | Second City Hockey

It’s only a matter of time before Chicago returns to form. The Blackhawks have too much talent to be in the middle of the pack, and a slow start is nothing to be concerned about.

Their 98.7 PDO -- which ranks 24th in the league -- explains some of their struggles. Somehow, their PDO is that low despite Corey Crawford’s stellar goaltending.

So, clearly, goalscoring has been an issue, as evident by Chicago's 5.56 5v5 shooting percentage. With Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith in tow, that number should rise considerably in the coming months.

All the pieces are there. This rough patch won’t last much longer.

10. Los Angeles Kings (8-4-3) | Jewels From The Crown

The Kings stormed out of the gate with a 6-1-1 record, but have since fallen on hard times. LA has lost five of seven, and has looked rather impotent through this stretch, scoring just 15 goals.

Still, the Kings are one of the best teams in the league. A difficult couple of weeks doesn't change that. With Marian Gaborik and Anze Koptiar healthy once again, it's only a matter of time before LA returns to form.

11. New York Islanders (9-5-0) | Lighthouse Hockey

There's a lot to like about the Islanders. A mediocre possession team a year ago, the Isles have improved in this regard and are now in the top-third in most useful shot differential metrics.

Having a healthy John Tavares in the lineup has made a huge difference -- shocking, I know -- and the strong play of Kyle Okposo and Brock Nelson (14 points each) have been fun to watch.

One of the team’s major concerns lies in net, as Jaroslav Halak has been less-than-stellar: A .905 save percentage won’t cut it in the long run, and he’ll have to improve quite a bit to bring playoff hockey to the Coliseum one last time.

12. Detroit Red Wings (7-3-5) | Winging It In Motown

The Wings haven't missed the playoffs in more than two decades, and this might be the year they finally fall short. That said, a strong start has given those in the Motor City reason for optimism.

No club has surrendered fewer attempts against per 60, which has helped Jimmy Howard quite a bit. Henrik Zetterberg has led the way offensively (4 G, 12 A), and six Detroit skaters have at least 10 points.

These aren't the Wings of old, but they look better than many envisioned. In a weak Eastern Conference, a postseason berth is absolutely in the cards.

13. Minnesota Wild (7-6-0) | Hockey Wilderness

A poor possession team last year, Minnesota currently sports the best Score Adjusted Fenwick in the NHL (57.51) --perhaps a result of an increased emphasis on controlled zone entries. However, this uptick in possession numbers hasn’t exactly translated to the win column.

The Wild is just one game over .500, is fifth in the Central Division and just lost Zach Parise indefinitely to a concussion. A lot could go wrong for this group in the coming months.

Goaltending is still a question mark, even though Darcy Kuemper has done well in Josh Harding's place. The former sixth-round pick is allowing less than two goals per game, though it’s unclear how much longer he can be this effective: his .916 save percentage is nothing to write home about, and he’s given up at least three goals in four of his last five contests -- dropping three straight. The Wild has been outscored 11-2 in this losing streak.

Clearly, Kuemper hasn’t been as effective as he was in October, when he earned three shutouts in four games. Can he bring a sense of consistency until Harding returns? Will Harding be effective when he comes back? How will the Wild perform without Parise in the lineup?

Much like the Canadiens, this is a difficult team to figure out.

14. San Jose Sharks (8-6-2) | Fear The Fin

Coming off one of the worst playoff defeats in league history, San Jose has avoided a major hangover in 2014-14. At the same time, Joe Thornton and Co. haven't exactly looked like their old selves, either.

The Sharks have yet to find their groove and has dropped three of their last five. The good news is 11 of their 16 games have been on the road, and they've gone 6-3-2 in those contests. San Jose's next five games will be away from home, then it'll close out November with four straight at the SAP Center.

15. Calgary Flames (9-5-2) | Matchsticks & Gasoline

The Flames have been a lot of fun to watch this season, as the supposed basement dweller has surprised the hockey world with a tremendous start.

Mark Giordano -- perhaps the most underrated D-man in the league -- is an early front-runner for the Norris Trophy, and his partner, TJ Brodie, has been stellar. Johnny Gaudreau has been fantastic, earning 12 points in 15 games. Sean Monahan's 11 points are encouraging.

Still, this team isn't driving possession well and is buoyed by some unsustainable percentages.

Their 103.2 5v5 PDO is alarmingly high -- especially given the talent on their roster -- and is bound to drop. How much will their record suffer as a result? Probably a lot.

The Flames aren't as bad as we may have believed, but they sure aren't as good as their record. They'll fall off at some point, probably sooner rather than later.

16. Winnipeg Jets (8-5-2) | Arctic Ice Hockey

The Jets have been somewhat under-appreciated over the last few seasons, even though they’ve been stuck at the bottom of the Western Conference. An otherwise solid roster has been held back by shoddy netminding, and lo and behold, Ondrej Pavelec’s improved play has led Winnipeg to an impressive record.

Pavelec’s .928 save percentage has surprised just about everyone. Should he continue to perform at a high level, the Jets could fight for a playoff spot. Should he fall off -- which is the more likely scenario of the two -- the Jets will fall with him.


17. Toronto Maple Leafs (8-5-2) | Pension Plan Puppets

The Leafs have performed slightly better than anticipated, but then again, they started strong last year, and that didn’t exactly lead to long-term success. This season won't be any different.

Yes, they are 5-1-1 in their past seven, but they were heavily out-shot on the majority of those nights. Sound familiar?

In the end, a poor shot differential and subpar defense will do this team in yet again -- even though Phil Kessel remains one of the most lethal shooters in the league. Same story, different year.

18. New York Rangers (6-6-2) | Blueshirt Banter

The Rangers' struggles have become a major talking point in the hours following their brutal 3-1 loss to Edmonton Sunday. A lot is going wrong in New York, but the hard times shouldn't last.

Henrik Lundqvist has been one of the most consistent goalies in NHL history, so his .905 Sv% has fans feeling a little anxious. Maybe New York's loss in the Cup final is still affecting him. Maybe this is simply the kind of downswing every goalie faces at one point. Regardless, he will get better.

Losing McDonagh for three to four weeks hurts; the absences of Derek Stepan and Dan Boyle have been detrimental, too. They should be fine if they can get healthy.

19. Philadelphia Flyers (7-5-2) | Broad Street Hockey

The Flyers have won three straight games and six of the last eight, but it's hard to see the good times lasting. Philadelphia is getting outshot regularly and ranks 24th in Score Adjusted Fenwick.

It would take a world-class goaltender to keep this team afloat, and neither Steve Mason nor Ray Emery can be that guy. It's only a matter of time before the losses start piling up.

20. Washington Capitals (6-5-3)| Japers' Rink

The Barry Trotz era is off to a frustrating start in Washington. Five straight losses hurt, but wins against the Blackhawks and Hurricanes have the Caps trending in the right direction.

Goaltending has been a problem, as neither Braden Holtby nor Justin Peters have been good. Holtby's .901 Sv% is disconcerting, to say the least.

On a more positive note, the Caps are driving possession extremely well, and the forwards are certainly doing their part. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are producing at a point-per-game pace, and rookie Andre Burakovsky (3 G, 7 A) has displayed flashes of brilliance.

A slow start isn't the end of the world -- especially when you play in the Metropolitan Division. If Holtby figures things out, the Caps can shoot up these rankings very quickly.

21. Ottawa Senators (7-4-3) | Silver Seven

On the surface, Ottawa looks like a good team in the early going. However, a closer look reveals the true talent of this team.

The Sens' October victory over the Lightning was impressive, but they've yet to overcome another quality opponent. Beating Florida, Colorado and Columbus (twice) is nothing to brag about.

Additionally, Ottawa's underlying numbers are bad. Really bad. Don't expect them to maintain this pace.

22. New Jersey Devils (6-6-2) | In Lou We Trust

The Devils' problems begin and end with Cory Schneider. Expected to be one of the best goalies in the NHL, he's posted a pedestrian .904 Sv% in 14 starts.

New Jersey is the definition of a low-event team, and no player has reached double-digit points. Schneider is going to have to turn his season around, otherwise the Devils will miss out on the playoffs yet again.

23. Dallas Stars (4-6-4) | Defending Big D

The Stars are struggling, to say the least. Saturday's loss to the Sharks may have been rock-bottom: a 3-1 lead was blown in the third period, as Dallas dropped its seventh in a row.

Despite all the talent up front, the Stars have been unable to compensate for their thin blue line and average goaltending. Kari Lehtonen hasn't been bad, but given those playing in front of him, he needs to be a lot better.

Right now, only Columbus is allowing more goals per game.

24. Arizona Coyotes (6-7-1) | Five For Howling

Lacking star power up front, the Coyotes will go as far as their goaltending and defense will take them. That’s a problem.

Mike Smith has been brutal in net, surrendering 3.22 goals per game thus far to go along with a .897 save percentage. The 32-year-old carried Arizona to playoff success in past years with remarkable numbers, but that doesn't look to be in the cards this season.

When you rank in the bottom five in goals and goals against rates, you’re going to be in huge trouble.

25. Edmonton Oilers (6-8-1) | The Copper & Blue

Edmonton’s October struggles can be partially attributed to abnormally low shooting and save percentages, but this group remains far away from contention.

These next few weeks will be crucial for the Oilers while goal scoring leader Taylor Hall is on the shelf with a sprained knee.

26. Carolina Hurricanes (4-6-3) | Canes Country

The Hurricanes are going to lose a lot of games this season. The depth just isn't there. Still, one can’t help but be encouraged by their recent success.

After going 0-for-October, Carolina won four in a row and earned points in five straight to kick off November -- riding the strong play of Elias Lindholm and Cam Ward.

After eight games without a goal, Lindholm has found twine five times in his last five contests -- three of which have been game-winners. The 19-year-old Swede, along with Jiri Tlusty (six goals) have given Carolina the kind of offensive boost it desperately needs.

Ward, who many believe is well past his prime, has surrendered just six goals in his last four starts. The playoffs are a big stretch for this club, but if Ward and/or Anton Khudobin can step up, the Canes will be better than most anticipated.

27. Florida Panthers (4-4-4) | The Litter Box

The Panthers have a lot of quality young talent, but they still have a long way to go.

Averaging less than two goals per game, Florida's offense isn't getting the job done. As of Monday, three players are tied for the team lead in points with six. Six! As good as Roberto Luongo has been (2.31 GAA, .925 Sv%), he can't single-handily bring the Cats to the postseason.

28. Colorado Avalanche (4-7-5) | Mile High Hockey

Many writers in the stats community believed the Avs would regress this year, as last season’s bad possession numbers portended to bad results. The stats appear to be right, at least so far.

Colorado is, to put it lightly, an absolute mess. Semyon Varlamov has been very good, but he hasn't performed at the same level that brought him the Vezina Trophy last year.

As you can imagine, Patrick Roy is taking all this in stride.

Unless Varlamov can give the Avs superstar-caliber goaltending, Colorado will be a disappointment.

29. Columbus Blue Jackets (4-9-1) | The Cannon

Blue Jackets fans must feel like they're trapped in a nightmare. 1-8-1 in its last 10, Columbus is free-falling without the services of injured goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

Curtis McElhinney has been a mediocre replacement in net, and the offense hasn't picked up the slack: Columbus is scoring at a 2.57 goals per game clip. Not bad, but not nearly good enough to compensate for their shortcomings in other facets of the game.

30. Buffalo Sabres (3-11-2) | Die By The Blade

There isn't a whole lot to say about Buffalo that hasn't already been said. The Sabres are a truly awful hockey team, and it’s hard to see them moving out of last place at any point this year.

Their 34.73 percent Score Adjusted Fenwick is beyond terrible, and is nearly 10 points lower than the next team (Calgary, 44.07 percent). It’s pretty easy to spot Buffalo on the chart below: