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Around the East: the New Jersey Devils are the hottest team in the league

And the Tampa Bay Lightning are near the top of the league, never mind games played.

Dallas Stars v New Jersey Devils
NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 16: Taylor Hall #9 and Pavel Zacha #37 of the New Jersey Devils talk during warm ups prior to a game against the Dallas Stars on October 16, 2018 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

This is technically Week Two of the inaugural Weekly Power Rankings, but after spending time writing and reading the feedback from the first post, I thought this would be better suited as a Coles Notes look at the week that was around the league. Please share in the comments, on Twitter, on Reddit, or anywhere on the internet what you think of the series. I would love to get feedback from you.

We’ll order the teams in terms of points per game, just to make it easy.

1. New Jersey Devils (Points per game: 2.000)

The Devils are through their first week back in North America and are absolutely killing it. Unlike the Edmonton Oilers — who fell flat on their face after coming back from Europe — the Devils have beaten three really tough opponents three different ways at home this week, including two shutouts! They have only allowed four goals, while putting in 17(!) themselves.

Kyle Palmieri is currently the league’s best goal-scorer with seven goals (no assists) in four games, including two game-winning goals. The Devils also have plenty of depth this year, with only two skaters (John Quenneville and Pavel Zacha) going point-less so far.

2. Toronto Maple Leafs (Points per game: 1.714)

The Maple Leafs are one of three teams to have played seven games so far, and after going 6-1-0, they are at the top of the standings, but still second in the league in points per game.

After having to out-score their problems away in the first week, the Leafs have battened down the hatches defenseively, giving up only six goals in three games this past week. Don’t get me wrong, their 13 goals in the same time frame is still very impressive.

Ever since Kasperi Kapanen moved onto the top line with Auston Matthews and Patrick Marleau, he’s put up three goals and four points and been a key part of getting Matthews going at 5v5. Leafs fans, like most reasonable people, are already leaving William Nylander at the alter and running away with Kapanen.

Speaking of Nylander, Kyle Dubas has flown to Switzerland to meet Nylander and his camp in order to get a deal done. Why Switzerland? C’mon, the joke is pretty obvious.

3. Boston Bruins (Points per game: 1.600)

Beyond the Capitals, the Bruins have been allowed to just bully the low end of the league for fun at the beginning of the season. They’ve out-scored the Senators, Oilers, and Red Wings 18-6, including a 8-2 win over the Wings. Their whole month, really, is pretty easy; they don’t play a playoff team from last year until the Flyers on the 25th.

Their power play has been raking in the points early, ticking at a 41.7% rate, second only to the Leafs. Patrice Bergeron leads the team with 11 points in five games, with four of those points coming with the man-advantage.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning (Points per game: 1.500)

Contrary to the Bruins, and as one of the more surprising things to come out of the team, the Lightning’s penalty kill is the best in the league. Let’s not forget that their power play is still top-six in the league, but if this team can keep the kill strong, they’ll be a lot better prepared for the playoff run we all know they’re going to be on.

There have been some roster shenanighans going on recently, as Ryan Callahan approaches his return to the lineup. First, Cory Conacher was placed on waivers. Then, he was signed to a contract for next year. Unconventional, yes, but it was a very clever way to deter other teams from claiming Tampa’s favourite fringe player. They’ve invested money and effort into keeping Conacher, and I think that says a lot about Julien BriseBois and this franchise. Great people top to bottom.

5. Montreal Canadiens (Points per game: 1.400)

These guys are still here? The Canadiens are sticking to their formula of youth and speed, and it’s payed off early this season. Their shot-share numbers have been good, and despite lacking some shooting talent, they’ve scored 13 goals (excluding the shootout goal/point/thingy) in their three games before Wednesday’s game against the St. Louis Blues.

The team is getting offence from more than just Max Pacioretty this year, with 10 different players (none named Pacioretty, surprisingly) scoring in the team’s first six games.

How long will this last? They’re fourth in the Atlantic in points per game right now. Do the Panthers catch up, or have the Habs put themselves in pole position to stay in the playoff race?

6. Carolina Hurricanes (Points per game: 1.286)

The Canes are a fun team. They’ve beaten a handful of great teams so far this season, out-shooting them all by an incredible margin. They out-shot the Wild and Winnipeg Jets 100-49 over two games. 100 shots! Doubling their opponents in shots! Just crazy. They are in the top-three in every shot and expected goal metric by Evolving Wild.

The Canes have always been able to out-shoot their opponents, but they lacked the shooting talent to finish goals and win games. This year, Sebastian Aho has broken out and become the team’s true number one center, scoring two goals and six points in three games, including the game-winning goal against Minnesota to cap off a two-goal, four-point game.

7. Columbus Blue Jackets (Points per game: 1.200)

The Blue Jackets had a long break this week, playing only two games in the past seven days. They beat the fumbling Panthers last Thursday, before losing badly to the Lightning, going 2/8 on the power play across those games and 0/5 against Tampa!

Sergei Bobrovsky has struggled out of the gate in his contract year, posting a .860 save percentage over three starts. Joonis Korpisalo is 2-0-0 with a .902 SV% this year. Could we see a changing of the guard in Ohio? Columbus has always been high on Korpisalo and if they don’t want to pay Bob, they won’t have to if they have their younger backup.

8. Pittsburgh Penguins (Points per game: 1.200)

What’s happened to Pittsburgh? They lost to Montreal and the Vancouver Canucks, they lost Justin Schultz for a month, and Matt Murray may or may not be back? We don’t really know.

The Pens are a little weird when it comes to shot metrics. They have a good shot-differential, but their shot-attempt, goal, and expected goal differentials are all in the bottom 10 in the league.

Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel have taken the lead when it comes to offence, getting nine and eight points, respectively. We’ve said this before, and we’ve been wrong, but Sidney Crosby is no longer the best player in the league, and his no goals and four assists aren’t helping his case.

9. Ottawa Senators (Points per game: 1.167)

The Sens beat the Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Stars by a combined 9-2 scoreline in a surprising perfect second week. Are they for real? My guess is no, because Chris Tierney, Thomas Chabot, and Maxime Lajoie currently lead the team in scoring. We’ve seen Vegas pull a rabbit out of their hat with players of similar calibre, but it doesn’t look like there’s any magic in Eastern Ontario.

Oh, and let’s not forget that they all of a sudden have seven players on the injured reserve, including Alex Formenton, and Brady Tkachuk!

10. Buffalo Sabres (Points per game: 1.000)

The Sabres beat the Arizona Coyotes — who still haven’t scored an even-strength goal — but lost badly to the Colorado Avalanche and Golden Knights. Jack Eichel is leading this growing team, but they still have a long way to go. Casey Mittlestadt was supposed to be the #2 center on the team, but he looks completely overwhelmed in the NHL.

11. Philadelphia Flyers (Points per game: 1.000)

I don’t know what the Flyers are. They are as enigmatic as Gritty. In their first of two games this week, they lost a 1-0 snore-fest to the Golden Knights, before winning a 6-5 game against the Panthers in a shootout. There were two lead changes, including a three-goal comeback by the Panthers in the back half of the game.

Wayne Simmonds leads the league in expected goals, mostly because he shoots from really close to the net and is really good at it. Michal Neuvirth might be coming back soon, and not a moment sooner because both goalies on the roster (Brian Elliott and Calvin Pickard) are sub-.880 SV% goalies right now.

12. Washington Capitals (Points per game: 1.000)

The Caps were able to squeak out two points at the end of a disappointing week. Big losses to New Jersey and Toronto left the team with only one win through five games to start the season, but they were able to squeeze in an overtime win against the Rangers to retrieve some dignity.

Don’t get me wrong, the Caps have a great forward group; they have five players who are over a point-per-game, but their goaltending has not been able hold up to the scrutiny. Braden Holtby and Pheonix Copley are both sub-.900 SV% right now. Those numbers should go up, but for right now, it’s not been good enough for the reigning Stanley Cup Champions.

13. New York Islanders (Points per game: 1.000)

The Islanders are easily one of the most meh teams in the league right now. Mathew Barzal has five points in four games to lead the team in scoring, but three of those have come on the power play, and he’s been a minus player in shots and goals. His expected goals show him in a better light than his real numbers have produced, but with this team and with this talent, there’s a high chance he’s going to underperform his expected output.

14. New York Rangers (Points per game: 0.667)

The Rangers were really bad last week, but a 2-1-1 record this week gives the team four points in six games, leaping over the two teams below them. They’ve been able to keep themselves in games consistently, but like all good tanking teams, just can’t quite get there in terms of wins.

15. Florida Panthers (Points per game: 0.500)

The Panthers have really underperformed what people thought they could be early on this season. Three straight losses to Columbus, Vancouver, and Philadelphia this week takes the Panthers from somewhere in the middle of the East all the way down to the bottom.

The five-forward power play has one goal on 15 tries, and is third-worst in the league as a result. They’ve also given up a short-handed goal, so they’re technically break-even WITH AN EXTRA MAN this year. They haven’t looked good at all, so is it time to put Aaron Ekblad or Keith Yandle on the point, or is it too soon?

16. Detroit Red Wings (Points per game: 0.333)

I have nothing to say other than to share this spoiled Red Wings fan complaining that his team is bad. I should be pitiful, it’s their first time.

Let’s get straight to the point: Last night was the final straw for me. Six games in, we have two points, a -16 goal differential, and have allowed 30 (yes, 30!!!) goals on the year. I get it, this is a rebuild, and I shouldn’t expect any playoff success from this team, but you also can’t expect things to be this bad, right? This is entering danger territory because the team doesn’t look even remotely good at the moment.