As the NHL reaches its halfway point, we still have a lot of hockey to look ahead to. COIVD hasn’t been as destructive as it has been in previous months, but while no team had been forced to shut down recently, it’s still able to have an effect on NHL rosters and unfortunately, in the stands as well. The playoff race for the Canadian teams is tightening up and without more delay, here are your power rankings for Canada’s seven NHL teams 40 games into the season.
1. Toronto Maple Leafs
Retaining their spot at number one, the Leafs made a great start to 2022 with a dominant 6-0 win over Ontario rivals Ottawa. Since then they have won six of nine to stay in the upper echelons of playoff contention. But the manner of two of those defeats is concerning. Against the New York Rangers and Colorado Avalanche, Toronto blew third-period leads in both games and went on to lose them both and it could’ve easily have been the same story against Vegas if it wasn’t for a shoot-out win after surrendering a third-period two-goal lead. But the Leafs have shown they can rally from a deficit as well as they did in their 7-4 win over the Red Wings. Toronto has continued to be the best team in Canada and led by a combined 125 points from Matthews, Nylander and Tavares, don’t expect Toronto to let up anytime soon.
2. Calgary Flames
Back in action after a COIVD induced nightmare in December, you could forgive the Flames for being rusty. From their return to the ice on December 30th to January 27th, they were very boom or bust, with their average margin of victory being 4.4 goals, and their average margin of defeat being 3.1 goals. Currently, the Flames are three points off a playoff spot, but they’ve played five games less than the LA King’s who sit above them in the division. If they can catch form, which they easily can they’ll be more than confident of breaking into the playoffs and with a red hot Johnny Gaudreau, who is top ten in the league for assists and points. I certainly wouldn’t doubt them. With their 1-0 win over Vancouver, the Flames have now registered nine shutouts in their first forty games, the best record in the league so far this season.
3. Edmonton Oilers
If this list was done a week earlier, they would more than likely be much, much lower on this list. This team went from 16-5-0 after twenty-one games and looking like a contender, to then going an astonishing 6-11-2 since. The lowest ebb came against Florida, where they lost 6-0 at home and jerseys were thrown on the ice. They have recovered since, with three important wins.. a 5-3 win over Calgary in the Battle of Alberta, a come-from-behind overtime win against Vancouver and a shootout win over Nashville. Only time will tell but Edmonton might have saved their season with those wins, but they aren’t willing to rest on what they have. That’s right, Evander Kane is back! We know what Kane can be at his best and we know what he can be at his worst. But GM Ken Holland thinks this team needs a spark and that Kane is his man to help take some of the load of McDavid and Draisaitl. Kane scored in his Oilers debut in a 7-2 win over Montreal, so at the very least he’s made a good start.
4. Vancouver Canucks
After an amazing honeymoon period in December, the Canucks have come somewhat back to earth since and in no small part because of COVID. Horvat, Demko, Boeser, Pearson and Garland have all missed games due to COVID recently, all contributing to a 3-4-3 record in their last ten games. But being .500 overall at 19-19-6 with that handicap is itself impressive, players like Spencer Martin and Miller have been playing great to help make up for the inactive players, and it looks like the old Elias Petterson has finally arrived this season. Petterson has seven points in seven games and if he can continue at that pace like we know he can, then Vancouver may still have a chance at playoffs in what is shaping up as a competitive race in the western conference. For Vancouver’s sake, they’ll be hoping that recent defeats against Edmonton and Calgary won’t come back to haunt them. They need a lot to go right in the second half of the season.
5. Winnipeg Jets
The Jets haven’t quite had the same new head coach bounce as Vancouver has enjoyed. They’re 3-5-2 in their last ten and only recently snapped a six-game losing streak that has left them closer to the bottom of their division than the summit. Fourteen games back on the third place ST Louis Blues, a wildcard spot is now the Jets’ most likely path to the playoffs. Because of COVID restrictions, the Jets are handicapped by a lack of fans that no other team in the central division has to worry about. (insert Arizona Coyotes joke here) and an eventual return to a full stadium will be a much-added boost when it happens. Stars such as Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele and goaltender Connor Hellebuyck will need to play at the top of the game to help interim coach Dave Lowry‘s side make a playoff push.
6. Ottawa Senators
At 4-4-2 in their last ten, nearly a quarter of Ottawa’s wins all season have come in that stretch as they currently sit at 13-21-4. It looks like a “maybe next season” situation in the nation’s capital, but the team has at least shown recently that they can compete, running teams like Carolina and Washington close before going on to lose those matches while beating playoff chasers in Edmonton and Calgary. It’s important to remember that Ottawa is still a young team, their top six scorers of the season are all under the age of twenty-five. The future still looks bright for Ottawa and even their goaltending has improved with Matt Murray having some redeeming performances lately, such as a shut-out against Buffalo on January 25th.
7. Montreal Canadiens
Well, at least you have a new General Manager! Eight wins all season, one win in ten games, and no short-term sign of it changing. The Habs have the worst goal difference in the NHL and haven’t even cracked a hundred goals this season, Josh Anderson is their top scorer with eight goals. In contrast, ten Florida Panthers skaters have eight or more goals so far this season. Deep down everyone knew the Stanley Cup run last year was a flash in the pan, but no one saw this coming! The Canadiens sit at the bottom of the NHL standings, I sure hope Shane Wright has been practicing his French!