NHL Power Rankings: Hurricanes back on top; Markstrom drives Flames’ climb

NHL Power Rankings
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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings the Carolina Hurricanes are back in the top spot thanks to a perfect 8-0-0 start through the month of October.

Elsewhere, the St. Louis Blues continue to benefit from a trade they did not make, while the Calgary Flames make a big climb thanks to Jacob Markstrom turning into a brick wall.

We look at all of those teams and more.

Where does your team sit?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Carolina Hurricanes (Last week: 2). If Frederik Andersen is good, this team is going to be one of the league’s best. This start is no fluke.

2. Florida Panthers (LW: 1). Why did Joel Quenneville coach on Wednesday? A black eye on an otherwise great start to the season.

3. St. Louis Blues (LW: 5). Bet they are glad they did not trade Vladimir Tarasenko. Bet a lot of teams are wishing they had traded for Vladimir Tarasenko when they had the chance to buy low with him.

4. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 4). Since the start of the 2020-21 season Connor McDavid has 121 points in 63 regular season games. That is 1.92 points per game. That is a 158 point pace per 82 games. Ridiculous production.

5. Calgary Flames (LW: 17). Jacob Markstrom is almost entirely responsible for this current ranking and this six-game winning streak they are entering the week with.

6. New York Rangers (LW: 6). Igor Shesterkin is almost entirely responsible for this current ranking. The Rangers have some flaws and question marks, but they also have a lot of All-Stars and top-line talent. Shesterkin is the most game-changing of them all right now given the position he plays and its importance.

7. Washington Capitals (LW: 9). Alex Ovechkin enters the week with nine goals in his first eight games. He is 36 years old and not slowing down.

8. New York Islanders (LW: 10). After dropping back-to-back games to open the season the Islanders are on a five-game point streak, earning eight out of a possible 10 points in the process.

9. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 13). Slow start, but they are starting to get it together with or without Nikita Kucherov.

[Related: Lightning’s Kucherov to miss 8-10 weeks]

10. Boston Bruins (LW: 7). Linus Ullmark has been really good so far, which is a promising development.

11. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 16). They are getting the goaltending they need and Cam Atkinson has been a sensational pickup for them.

12. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 3). They have lost three games in a row after a strong start, but they are finally starting to get some players back. That will help.

13. Colorado Avalanche (14). They are starting to stack points after a slow start. Still the most talented roster in the league.

14. New Jersey Devils (LW: 15). Jack Hughes being sidelined is a problem, but Dougie Hamilton has been a game-changer for their defense.

15. Vegas Golden Knights (LW: 23). They are starting to trend in the right direction. Good sign for when they start getting their top players back in the lineup.

16. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 20). Kyle Connor is a star and Pierre-Luc Dubois‘ bounce back season continues. Both great signs for this team.

17. Minnesota Wild (LW: 8). Kirill Kaprizov has yet to score a goal this season, but he has 26 shots on goal. Eventually they will start going in the net.

18. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 18). They have not yet found any consistency but they are staying competitive thanks to some strong goaltending and Patrik Laine.

19. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 22). Even with back-to-back wins this team still seems like it is far away from where it needs to be and wants to be.

20. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 24). Still the most stunning start in the league, but it still seems like a mirage. Sorry, Buffalo. We have seen this from the Sabres before early in the season. I am not a believer here.

21. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 21). This team plays hard and has some actual building blocks. Better days are ahead, Red Wings fans.

22. San Jose Sharks (LW: 11). Strong start, but things are starting to rapidly cool off here. Roster still has a lot of flaws.

23. Nashville Predators (LW: 28). Nice little winning streak this week, but this is still going to be a goalie dependent team. And even with great goaltending they are still only .500 right now.

24. Seattle Kraken (LW: 26). They have been carrying the play a bit recently and showing some potential to be a competitive team this season. They are not going to be an easy win for anybody.

25. Dallas Stars (LW: 12). Very disappointing start for the Stars, who have yet to win a game in regulation this season. They need Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov to heat up soon.

26. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 19). Point of concern: They have .923 goaltending from Thatcher Demko and Jaroslav Halak and still only won three of their first nine games. That level of goaltending should produce more wins.

27. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 27). Some big injuries on defense are really going to put their depth there to the test.

[Related: Kings’ Doughty, Walker sidelined]

28. Ottawa Senators (LW: 25). Matt Murrary has the big contract, but Filip Gustavsson might be the answer in goal here.

29. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 29). At this point the only thing that matters here is Trevor Zegras, Jamie Drysdale, and Mason McTavish showing continued development.

30. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 30). The key for the Canadiens this season was going to be Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki taking big steps forward. They have zero goals — combined — in the first 10 games. And now Caufield has been sent down to the AHL.

31. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 31). Just a badly overmatched roster pretty much every night. We knew this was going to be an ugly season. But this ugly?

32. Chicago Blackhawks (LW: 32). How bad is this situation? Marc-Andre Fleury said this week it is difficult to keep smiling. Read that again. Marc-Andre Fleury is having trouble smiling.

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    Blackhawks, Athanasiou agree to 2-year, $8.5 million contract

    blackhawks athanasiou
    Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports

    CHICAGO — The rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks locked in one of their top scorers, agreeing to a two-year, $8.5 million contract with forward Andreas Athanasiou on Thursday.

    The 28-year-old Athanasiou tied for the team lead with 20 goals and ranked third with 40 points in his first season with Chicago. He matched career highs with four game-winning goals and three power-play goals.

    The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Athanasiou has 125 goals and 111 assists in 459 games with the Detroit Red Wings (2015-20), Edmonton Oilers (2020), Los Angeles Kings (2020-22) and Blackhawks.

    Chicago went 26-49-7 and finished last in the Central Division. The Blackhawks dealt Patrick Kane to the New York Rangers prior to the trade deadline and announced in April they would not re-sign Jonathan Toews, parting with two players who led them to Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

    Florida Panthers in familiar territory, backs to the wall once again down 0-2 in Stanley Cup Final

    panthers stanley cup
    Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sport

    SUNRISE, Fla. — The Panthers need a miracle. Again.

    Such is the story of Florida’s season, and it makes all the sense in the world that the plot has reappeared in the Stanley Cup Final. The Panthers needed a furious late-season push just to get into the playoffs as the lowest seed, then needed to win three consecutive elimination games to oust a record-setting Boston team in Round 1.

    And now, another huge challenge awaits. Down 2-0 in the title series to the Vegas Golden Knights, the Panthers return to home ice on Thursday night looking to spark one more epic turnaround and get right back in the hunt for hockey’s biggest prize.

    “Desperation and winning a game,” Florida veteran Marc Staal said. “We’ve approached every game in the playoffs the same way. We just try to take it – like everyone says – one at a time. But our backs are against the wall, obviously. We’re down by two. But we’re coming home. Love our team, love our resiliency. We’re going to go out and give our best effort and play our best game tomorrow and go from there.”

    To say the odds are stacked high against the Panthers is a bit of an understatement.

    – They’ve beaten Vegas in four of 12 all-time meetings between the franchises. And now they’ve got to beat them in four of the next five games to win the Cup.

    – They’ve been outscored 10-2 in the last four periods against Vegas.

    Matthew Tkachuk has two more misconduct penalties (three) than he has points (one, a goal) in the series.

    – Former Panthers Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith have as many goals so far in the series (four) as all the current Panthers do in the series, combined.

    – Vegas hasn’t dropped four out of five games since going 1-2-2 to start a six-game road swing that began in late January.

    – Teams that start a Stanley Cup Final with two home wins have won the Cup 38 times in 41 past instances.

    But by now, Florida’s penchant for pulling off the improbable is well-known. Almost expected, really.

    “Of course, we’ve had three really tough series,” Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said. “Boston is a good example. We were down, we found a way, we started playing a little better, we found a way to come back and get out of there. Same thing here – we’ve just got to work a little harder, work a little smarter and find a way to win games.”

    They’ve done it before.

    There was the 6-0-1 stretch late in the season to hold off Pittsburgh for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The winning three elimination games against a Boston team that had the best regular season in NHL history in Round 1; Game 5 there was on the road in overtime, Game 6 required a rally late in the third period to erase a 5-4 deficit and Game 7 was another road OT victory. There was a four-overtime win at Carolina in the East final, setting the table for a sweep where the Panthers got four one-goal wins and allowed only six goals.

    They’ve given up 12 goals in two games against Vegas. And it’s not all on Sergei Bobrovsky, either. Panthers coach Paul Maurice found it funny that it was considered a surprise to some that Bobrovsky – who carried Florida to the final round – will remain the starter for Game 3.

    “He was outstanding in Game 1,” Maurice said. “And he was as good as our team was in Game 2.”

    The message was simple: Everyone has to be better. The Panthers have a history of rising to those moments.

    “We never lose doubt in this room,” Florida forward Ryan Lomberg said. “Obviously, they’re a good team. They got here for a reason. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. It’s kind of the theme of our whole year is we make it tough. Whether we wanted it this way or not, it’s this way, so we’ve got to play the hand we’re dealt now.”

    NOTES: Maurice said he expects D Radko Gudas, who left Game 2 injured, to play in Game 3. Forward Eetu Luostarinen will remain out. Maurice declined to offer specifics on Luostarinen’s injury, but quipped “he’s a good human.” … Thursday will be Florida’s first Stanley Cup Final game on home ice in FLA Live Arena. The Panthers’ 1996 final appearance was at a long-demolished arena in Miami.

    Flyers trade Pride-night boycott defenseman Provorov in 3-team deal

    flyers trade
    Dennis Schneidler/USA TODAY Sports

    PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Flyers have traded Ivan Provorov, sending away the defenseman who boycotted the team’s Pride night as part of a three-team trade that included the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Los Angeles Kings.

    The seventh overall pick of the 2015 draft, the 26-year-old Provorov lands in Columbus and is set to enter the fifth season of a $40.5 million, six-year contract. He was the centerpiece Tuesday of the first major move under new Flyers’ leadership.

    There were plenty of moving parts in the three-team deal.

    — Philadelphia traded Provorov and forward Hayden Hodgson to Los Angeles in exchange for goalie Cal Petersen, defenseman Sean Walker, defenseman Helge Grans and the Kings’ 2024 second-round pick. The Kings lost in the first round of the playoffs.

    — Columbus acquired defenseman Kevin Connauton from Philadelphia in exchange for a 2023 first-round pick (22nd overall) and a conditional second-round pick in either the 2024 or 2025 NHL Draft. Columbus acquired Provorov from Los Angeles in exchange for Connauton.

    The Flyers already hold the No. 7 pick in this season’s draft and now also have the 23rd pick as they start accumulating key assets for long-range success in what is expected to be a deep draft.

    Flyers general manager Danny Briere had said no player was untouchable after the Flyers missed the playoffs for the third straight season and went to work with the Stanley Cup Final still underway. The Flyers named broadcaster Keith Jones team president last month and he is still working the Final for TNT. But it’s clear the overdue rebuild is underway for a franchise that hasn’t won a Stanley Cup in 48 years.

    “We felt that the picks and the direction that we wanted to go in, it was really enticing, very exciting,” Briere said. “We have a chance to really start building the team the way we wanted. The right way.”

    Briere said the Flyers are “open for business” this summer and that included potentially listening to offers for No. 1 goalie Carter Hart. Coach John Tortorella, Briere and Jones have all tempered offseason expectations for any fan looking for a quick fix. The trio all insist the Flyers have a cohesive plan for the future.

    Provorov had 65 goals and 217 points in 532 career games with the Flyers. The Russian was widely criticized in January when he cited his Russian Orthodox religion as the reason he did not participate in pregame warmups when the Flyers wore Pride-themed jerseys and used sticks wrapped in rainbow Pride tape.

    “I respect everybody’s choices,” Provorov said after the game. “My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion.”

    Now, he’s traded during Pride month.

    Briere said the backlash over Pride night had nothing to do with trading Provorov.

    The Blue Jackets, who missed the playoffs this season, were ready to take a flier on a defenseman seemingly with many productive years ahead.

    “Improving our blue line has been a priority for us and acquiring Ivan gives us an established left-shot defenseman who is still a young player with his best seasons in front of him,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. “He immediately improves our group on defense as he is durable, has great skill, skates well, is an excellent passer with an accurate shot and can effectively play at both ends of the ice.”

    Provorov said at the end of the season he wasn’t necessarily happy the Flyers planned to rebuild but understood the decision. Briere declined to say if Provorov wanted out of Philadelphia.

    “I wouldn’t say it’s the most positive news you can hear, but there’s a bright future here, and there’s a lot of great players that can keep growing,” Provorov said in April. “Obviously, it depends on how quick everybody gets better and how quickly the team game gets better. I think that’s what determines the length of the rebuild.”

    Turns out, the potential success out of the haul the Flyers got for Provorov just may determine the length of the rebuild.

    Golden Knights take 2-0 lead in Stanley Cup Final with 7-2 win over Panthers

    Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

    LAS VEGAS — No team in over 25 years has been more dominant than the Vegas Golden Knights through the first two games of a Stanley Cup Final.

    They have outscored the Florida Panthers by eight goals, including a 7-2 victory in Game 2 that put the Knights two wins from the first championship in the franchise’s short six-year history.

    It will take a rare rally for the Panthers to come back as the series shifts to Florida for Game 3 on Thursday. Teams that took a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final are 31-3 in the expansion era, but the Panthers opened the playoffs by storming back from 3-1 down to beat the heavily favored Boston Bruins.

    Florida will have to significantly up its level of play to beat a Vegas team that won by three goals on Saturday and then five in this game. The last team to win the first two games of a Cup Final by more than eight combined goals was the 1996 Colorado Avalanche – who outscored the Panthers by nine.

    “I think our depth has been a strength all year,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It is the biggest reason we are still here, why we beat Winnipeg, Edmonton, Dallas. I just feel that we have the best team from player one through 20.”

    Jonathan Marchessault scored twice for the Knights and started an early blitz that chased Sergei Bobrovsky, the NHL’s hottest postseason goalie.

    Marchessault also had an assist to finish with three points. His 12 postseason goals set a Golden Knights record, with all of them coming after the first round. The only player with more following the opening round was Pavel Bure, who scored 13 for Vancouver in 1994.

    “They want to set the tone with being undisciplined like Game 1 and we set the tone back,” Marchessault said. “It was scoring that first goal there. But we’re still pretty far from our goal here.”

    Brett Howden scored twice for the Knights, who also got goals from Alec Martinez, Nicolas Roy and Michael Amadio. Six players had at least two points for Vegas, all 18 Knights skaters were on the ice for even-strength goals and their nine goal scorers through the first two games are a Stanley Cup Final record. The Knights’ seven goals tied a franchise mark for a playoff game.

    It was too much for Bobrovsky, who was removed 7:10 into the second period down 4-0. It was the fifth time in 12 games the Knights have chased the opposing goalie.

    Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, carried Florida through the Eastern Conference playoffs. Coming into the Stanley Cup Final, he had won 11 of his past 12 starts with a 1.95 goals-against average and .942 save percentage during that stretch. But he’s given up eight goals in 87 minutes against Vegas, compiling a 5.52 GAA and .826 save percentage in the series.

    “We can be a little better in front of our goaltender,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “I got him out to keep him rested.”

    Matthew Tkachuk and Anton Lundell scored for Florida.

    Adin Hill continued his stellar play in net with 29 saves for the Knights. Hill once again brought his feistiness as well as his A-game. He stopped Carter Verhaeghe on a breakaway in the first, and later that period hit Tkachuk, who was in his net, with his blocker and then slashed him with his stick.

    “He’s been unreal for us,” Vegas forward William Carrier said. “He’s been unbelievable.”

    A group of four fans behind one of the nets wore sweaters that spelled out his last name, and Hill has often received the loudest cheers from Knights fans, reminiscent of when Marc-Andre Fleury was in goal for Vegas in its first three seasons.

    “It’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey,” Hill said. “I’m just enjoying it, cherishing every day. It’s been awesome to be part of the journey with this team.”

    The Knights were dominant early, taking a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from Marchessault and Martinez. It was Vegas’ third game in a row with a power-play goal, its first such stretch since Christmas week.

    The Panthers lost their biggest, toughest defenseman early in the game when Radko Gudas was injured on a hit by Vegas forward Ivan Barbashev. Gudas left 6:39 in and did not return.

    That was one of several big hits by Barbashev, the Golden Knights’ biggest trade-deadline acquisition, a Stanley Cup champion with St. Louis in 2019. Barbashev broke the sternum of Colorado defenseman Samuel Girard during the playoffs last year, also on a clean hit.

    Vegas had its own scare late in the second period when Jack Eichel was nailed in the right shoulder by Tkachuk. Eichel returned in the third and set up Marchessault’s second goal for his second assist of the game.

    “We did a good job managing momentum tonight,” Eichel said. “And we got some timely goals.”