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Eastern Conference Power Rankings: Goals Galore

The Eastern Conference has been fun to watch in the first week of the season. It’s a shame a certain coastal team couldn’t get in more than one game...

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs
Oct 3, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares (91) and center Auston Matthews (34) rest at the bench during a timeout against the Montreal Canadiens at Scotiabank Arena. The Maple Leafs beat the Canadiens 3-2 in overtime. 
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s tough to keep track of the teams around you during a season. There are games every night, injuries have been occuring almost daily this month, and individual player production is constantly rising and falling.

Every Thursday, we will try to give a snapshot of how the Eastern Conference has looked and changed over the previous week, and to make it even more fun, we ranked them too!

Hardev will be posting the Western Conference Power Rankings at our sister site MileHighHockey.com, so check that out if you’re interested!

As always at Raw Charge “R” US, we encourage your feedback and suggestions. Tell us what you want to see with these! If you have any hate mail, feel free to email Seldo (Elseldo01@gmail.com), he’ll love to hear from you.

1. Carolina Hurricanes

Not only do they have the best record in the East, but they’ve done it by out-shooting and out-working their opponents. Carolina have beaten the New York Rangers, and Vancouver Canucks in blow-outs, but that’s nothing to write home about. However, on Tuesday, they beat the Columbus Blue Jackets pretty handily. Sebastian Aho is the team’s first-line center and he looks amazing.

New captain Justin Williams, Jordan Staal, and Warren Foegele have created the most dominant possession line in the league. If they and the Aho line can settle into a nice rhythm, the Canes can do some serious damage.

And in an effort to be transparent, their new post-game celebration is fun as heck.

2. Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs are an exciting team, for better or worse. Their offense is fun to watch, especially on the power play, while their defense makes the other team also fun to watch. It’s the best of both worlds, really, especially if you’re into hockey for the entertainment. Are the Leafs the Evil Sith Empire / New York Yankees yet, or do they have to win something first?

Auston Matthews and John Tavares have been undeniable. It’s almost starting to look like they’re competing to be the best Leaf on the team every night. Unfortunately, without William Nylander — who is still in Sweden waiting for a contract — and depth forwards like Andreas Johnsson and Tyler Ennis being less than impressive, third center Nazem Kadri has sort of been left behind.

Leafs fans and bloggers are fighting hard against the “trade Nylander” narrative literally everyone on TV and radio keeps bringing up. It’s shocking, frankly, how much the fans and media disagree with each other.

3. Washington Capitals

Big wins over Boston and Vegas sandwiching a 7-6 overtime classic against the Penguins, that despite losing, was a lot of fun for everyone watching. Tom Wilson is still trash, but the Caps are good, so we’re just going to have to deal with it. They might be on a bit of a PDO bender right now, but it’s really hard to trust that number three games into the season.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning

We simply haven’t seen the Bolts enough to justify putting them higher in this list. Their win over the Florida Panthers to start the season was nice, but they definitely didn’t inspire confidence in the shootout win. One major positive from the first game was that the penalty kill went 5/5 with a shorthanded goal.

The forwards look stacked (JT Miller is on the fourth line!), and the defense has been solid even with Dan Girardi on the top pair. These next four games this week should tell us a lot in terms of just how good this team is.

5. Boston Bruins

After a terrible first night where Tuukka Rask couldn’t stop anything, the Bruins have come back with two wins over the Sabres and Senators. The Bruins are a good team, but they haven’t been tested just yet. The first line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak are undeniably good, but it was depth at forward and defense that really hurt this team in the playoffs.

Forwards other than the guys mentioned above have only been able to put up two of the teams 10 goals this season. Does the group of David Krejci, Ryan Donato, and Jake DeBrusk have what it takes, or is this just another one-line team.

6. Columbus Blue Jackets

Aside from a 3-1 loss to the Corsi God Canes, the Blue Jackets have owned their opponents in the shot column. 39-20 against the Red Wings in a 3-2 overtime win before coming out with a 35-27 shot differential in a 5-2 win over the surprisingly good Colorado Avalanche. The Blue Jackets are running with Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, who are both in the final years of their deals, and seeing how far they can go.

7. Florida Panthers

The Panthers are running five forwards on the power play and a lot of fans are interested to see whether that kind of tactic can work in the NHL. Coaches around the college ranks, minors, and Europe have tried it to good results, but going 0/5 against the Tampa Bay Lightning on night one of the season isn’t a good look. Regardless of whether it works or not, I hope they give it a fair shot.

8. Pittsburgh Penguins

A thrilling overtime win over the Capitals in game one, followed by a 5-1 beating at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens is what we have to go off for the Penguins so far this season. The forwards will be fine, and while the defense has been decent so far, Jack Johnson doesn’t have many fans in the analytics community. It will be interesting to see how his season plays out. Oh, and Matt Murray is out with another concussion. Hopefully he gets well soon, because the Penguins really need him in the lineup and at his best.

9. Philadelphia Flyers

In four Flyers games this year there have been 35 goals. That’s an average of 8.75 goals a game. The team is without Michael Neuvirth to start the season, but waiver claim backup Calvin Pickard has stepped in and been okay. Both he and Brian Elliott are sub-.900 goalies in terms of save percentage right now, so the Flyers better hope that improves. On the other side of the ice, newly signed forward James van Reimsdyk is out for 5-6 weeks with a lower-body injury. Good thing they kept Wayne Simmonds!

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10. New Jersey Devils

I’ll admit that I’m more bullish on the Devils than most fans are. Taylor Hall is the reigning Hart Trophy winner, and his highlights from the Edmonton game in Sweden show he’s not about to slow down. 2017 first-overall pick Niko Hischier is entering his second NHL season, and as Hall’s pivot, is showing that he belongs on the top line. A group on defense led by Will Butcher and Sami Vatanen are mobile and move the puck up the ice well. We’ll see if they can repeat their 97-point season last year as their real season starts Thursday night against Washington.

11. Montreal Canadiens

Credit where credit’s due. The Habs are a mess of an organization, but the results have been there in the first week of the season. They’re out-shooting their opponents, and they have shown speed and tenacity in both their opening games.

However, devil’s advocate sees that their two games were against Toronto and Pittsburgh; two high-powered offenses who have yet to be reigned defensively in by their coaches. This scrappy team has been able to exploit sloppy systems, but can they sustain this for a whole season? They don’t have the talent in any position other than goaltending.

12. Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres have impressed me to start the season. Following a predictable beating by the Boston Bruins, the Sabres have won their last two games, and are wholly behind new captain Jack Eichel. Eichel is leading the charge with three goals and four points, and making those points count at meaningful times. He scored the first two goals of the game against Vegas, and made a key play on Conor Sheary’s game-winning goal on Saturday.

Unfortunately, they’re still in the lower middle of the pack when it comes to shots.

13. Detroit Red Wings

When I look at the Wings, I just go “meh” because that’s what I see in this team. There’s a lot of “guys” and “players” filling spots on the roster. The kids are good, but none of them really jump off the page. The team has no competitive future until all those big contracts are off the books. This week they had a regulation, overtime, and shootout loss. Can we call that a Golden Sombrero or something like they do in baseball?

14. New York Islanders

I’m not buying what the Islanders are selling. Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin won’t be scoring very often this season, and the team’s leading scorer at even strength is Valtteri Filppula with three points in three games. Their shot metrics are among the worst in the league, and unless Thomas Griess and Robin Lehner pull a John Gibson, that kind of play won’t translate into wins.

15. Ottawa Senators

Inexplicably, the Senstors have a win against the Maple Leafs; 5-3 win where they got out-shot 37-24 by the usually porous Leafs. Around that game, they’ve found themselves in 4-3 loss to Chicago, 6-3 loss to Boston, and a 7-4 loss to Philly. They simply don’t have the talent, and for the second home game of the season, this was their attendance:

16. New York Rangers

I’ve liked the direction this team’s going in when it comes to their long-term outlook, but three losses in three tries is just asking to be put at the bottom of every list. If there’s a bright side, at least their shot metrics aren’t terrible. They’re bad, don’t get me wrong, but not terrible. If this is a tank job, it’s a pretty good one.