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Around the East: Pittsburgh falls far and makes a trade

and a slow week in Tampa Bay sees the Leafs hot on the Bolts tails.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Seven
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 26: Carl Hagelin #62 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in action against Victor Hedman #77 of the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 26, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Apologies for missing week five of the power rankings last week. Someone told me I had to spend time with family and everything just fell apart from there. But hopefully without another hiccup, here is week six! The changes in ranking are over the past two weeks, since I don’t have the data from last week, but I’ll only talk about the past week for most teams (except Pittsburgh, and New Jersey).

Week Six

1. Tampa Bay Lightning (Points per game: 1.389) +0

The Lightning continue to be at the top of the Eastern Conference, but their lead has slimmed significantly. Two recent losses to Ottawa and Buffalo have allowed the Maple Leafs to catch up to within one point of thr top spot in as many games.

Injuries to Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman, and Adam Erne have not helped the Bolts, but a straight up collapse in the third period against Ottawa, followed by being on the wrong side of luck and a hot goalie in Buffalo three nights later and the team has suddenly lost two games they could possibly regret late in the season.

2. Toronto Maple Leafs (Points per game: 1.333) +1

The Leafs have been playing some great hockey recently. They’ve consistently out-played their opponents and after a brief stretch of bad PDO luck, they’re starting to put the puck in the net. Literal days after an article was written insinuating that the John Tavares contract was a mistake, JT and co. started scoring goals at a wild rate. Tavares is currently on a six-game point streak (4g, 5a), including three against the LA Kings on Tuesday.

Their only kryptonite this season appears to be the Boston Bruins — who beat them 5-1 on Saturday night. They out-shot the Big Bad Bs 20-6 in the first period of the game, but backup Garret Sparks allowed a goal from Patrice Bergeron right at the end of a great stretch of play, and the team fell apart from then till the end. Was this game just a case of playing the backup on the second half of a back-to-back, or is there something specific to Boston that Toronto can’t beat? They seem to be elite against most other teams. We know the history, but it’ll be interesting to see how things unfold in the future.

3. Boston Bruins (Points per game: 1.294) +0

As I write this, some breaking news hit my desk...

Even at 40-years-old, Zdeno Chara is the #1 defenseman for the Bruins. He plays by far the most on the team at both even-strength, and on the penalty kill. The loss of a player that important to the team for weeks or even months would be devastating, especially with Charlie McAvoy out with a concussion for what might still be a few more games.

We will probably know the answer to this injury news by the time you read this article, the extent of which will dictate how the Bruins respond in the coming weeks.

T4. Buffalo Sabres (Points per game: 1.222) +5

Full props to the Sabres, they’ve had a great month and it’s pushed them all the way up to fifth in the conference, and eighth in the league. Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner have created some beautiful chemistry together. Skinner has 13 goals in his last 14 games with his new club, including six in his last five games.

And even beyond that top pair, players like Jason Pominville, Conor Sheary, Sam Reinhart, and Kyle Okposo have all become solid contributors in the top six. Defensively, this team isn’t winning any awards, but they are healthily middle of the pack or better in terms of attempts, shots, and goals against rates.

Lightning fans know very well how good Carter Hutton in net has been for the Sabres this season. His .916 save percentage has been good, but his two starts this past week have been an incredible .942 SV% against Tampa and the surprisingly prolific Vancouver Canucks. In terms of more advanced numbers, Hutton is showing very well. He’s saving about 1.96 goals above what a league average goalie would produce in his season so far (projecting forward, that would mean Hutton would save about 9 more goals than a league average goalie this season). Those numbers are good for 10th in the league among starters.

T4. Columbus Blue Jackets (Points per game: 1.222) +6

The Blue Jackets are on a five-game point streak. They lost to the Rangers in a shootout on the second half of a back-to-back with Joonas Korpisalo in net, but when Bob plays, they’re neigh on unbeatable. Bob has won his last three starts, giving up only one goal and posting a .963 SV% or better in each of them.

6. New York Islanders (Points per game: 1.176) +2

New York had a hot week a few moons ago, but they have since come back down to Earth. After five straight games of bullying the Metro Division, the Islanders saw themselves getting beaten up by the Habs, Lightning, and Panthers in the Atlantic.

Mat Barzal only has two goals this year, but his 14 assists and passing touch have really helped scorers Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, and Josh Bailey stay on the scoresheet.

This is all just a PDO (luck) bender. They’ll continue falling eventually.

7. Montreal Canadiens (Points per game: 1.167) -2

Remember when the summer narrative around this team was that they’d live and die by Carey Price? Well, they’re scored 3.57 goals per game this month, but have given up on average one more than that per game as well. Congrats to Max Domi on his 10 goals while shooting 26.3%, but those goals haven’t resulted in wins for the Habs. Carey Price is in year one of his eight-year contract, and is posting an abysmal .892 in 12 games this season.

And to make matters worse, things are getting really gross in the Habs locker room.

8. Florida Panthers (Points per game: 1.133) +6

The Panthers have won five straight games, including four this week as they returned to action following a quick trip to Finland. Granted, they were wins against the Oilers, Islanders, and Senators, but they were wins.

In the team’s past four games, Alex Barkov has five points (3g, 2a) including a crucial game-winning goal against the Islanders last Saturday night. Barkov has been so good, he’s even been able to get me to agree with Jim Matheson of Edmonton Media fame.

9. Washington Capitals (Points per game: 1.118) -2

The Caps had a busy, but disappointing week. They beat the impressive Minnesota wild on Tuesday night, but sandwiched that win with losses to Columbus, Arizona, and Winnipeg.

Tom Wilson had his suspension reduced by the leagues independent aribtrator, meaning he was able to play as of Tuesday night. And play he did. In his season debut, Wilson scored a goal, took a goalie interference penalty, and got in a fight. Not all on the same shift, no that would be silly, only the first two were at the same time.

In recent news, Braden Holtby was sidelined on Wednesday night due to an “upper body” injury. He didn’t play in the loss to Winnipeg and will most likely be evaluated sometime tomorrow morning. In the meantime, it was pretty cool to see another emergency backup goalie sweat his way through his equipment on the bench.

10. New York Rangers (Points per game: 1.111) +5

The Rangers took advantage of a hot week, and a cold Metro, to shoot up the standings this month. The Rangers won four in a row starting at the end of October, lost to Detroit in overtime, but followed up that performance with wins against Columbus and Vancouver to close out this week.

The youth movement has been progressing swimmingly in New York. Youngsters Brett Howden, Filip Chytil, and Neal Pionk have been getting regular shifts in the NHL and have shown well in their rookie years. Rookie goaltender Alexander Giorgiev is 3-1-0 this year, despite a .897 SV%. He’s had two good starts and two bad nights, and for the 22-year-old, that’s not bad.

11. Pittsburgh Penguins (Points per game: 1.063) -9

When I saw that the Penguins lost nine standings points in the past two weeks, I reacted with a combination of spitting out my drink and trying to justify it with early-season struggles. The Penguins were second in these rankings last time I did them.

The Pens posting a 1-4-1 record this month has seen them plummet from the top of the Metro Division all the way to second last. The only teams worse in terms of points are Ottawa and New Jersey. Not only has the offense dried up during this stretch (10 goals in six game), but the defense has been a sieve. Matt Murray was terrible two weeks ago, giving up 11 goals in three games so the Penguins have shifted to starting backup Casey DeSmith instead. He’s done a better job, but the team has still been losing.

Oh, and let’s not forget that Jim Rutherford announced his three-year contract extension with a one-for-one trade with the LA Kings. Tanner Pearson has arrived in Pittsburgh, while pending UFA Carl Hagelin heads the other way. Check out a more full analysis of the trade over at our sister site they do some great work.

T12. Philadelphia Flyers (Points per game: 1.056) +1

The Flyers have been playing better than they were to start the season and they’ve been getting rewarded for it. Brian Elliott has returned to form recently, posting a .974 SV% in his past three games, including a shutout. He saved Calvin Pickard from what could’ve been a terrible night against the Coyotes, and helped salvage a 5-4 overtime win. The only night he didn’t post a shut-out, his team could only muster one goal in front of him.

The Flyers have climbed out of their early season hole, can they find some kind of consistency now?

T12. Carolina Hurricanes (Points per game: 1.056) -1

Two wins against the Chicago Blackhawks combined with a loss to the Red Wings have me conflicted with these Canes. On one hand, they’re an incredibly entertaining team to watch during and around games. The team looks like they are having a lot of fun, they’re banding together, and Sebastian Aho is turning into a star.

So why aren’t they higher in the standings?

Smarter people than I are currently trying to figure out this analytical conundrum.

In the meantime, here’s a nice GIF of Brent Seabrook absolutely getting taken to town.

14. Detroit Red Wings (Points per game: 1.000) +2

The Red Wings went an incredible three for three this week in terms of games. This recent hot streak has taken them out of the crater they put themselves in to start the season, but they’re still near the bottom of the league.

15. Ottawa Senators (Points per game: 0.944) -3

I’m not going to lie, I’m still mad at myself for missing the Sens Uber fiasco. I really wanted to laugh at them endlessly here. But the moment has passed and the Sens are still mediocre/bad. They beat Tampa, but league average goaltending (see above) from Craig Anderson won’t be enough to bring this team out of the draft lottery conversation.

*Checks notes*

Oh, they’ve been out since last year? The pick is Colorado’s?? Ai yai yai!

16. New Jersey Devils (Points per game: 0.938) -10

I really thought the Devils would be good this year. I was so proud of them doing as well as they did to start the season. Their points per game were so good! They had so many games in hand! Unfortunately, they threw all those games in hand away and find themselves at the bottom of the East. 10 standings positions... Damn.