1. Montreal Canadiens (7-0-0, last week No. 1) – This might be the easiest top choice in the history of power rankings. Not only is Montreal off to its best start in franchise history but it is already sporting a ridiculous plus-16 in goal-differential. The Habs have only allowed seven goals so far this season coming off a 3-0 shutout of St. Louis on Tuesday.
2. Dallas Stars (5-1-0, last week No. 14) – Nobody expected this and for good reason, it is probably fool’s gold. Still, the Stars are playing really well to begin this season. They have reeled off four straight victories after a 2-1 win at Philadelphia on Tuesday and they are the top team in the Western Conference.
3. Nashville Predators (5-1-0, last week No. 4) – Right now, the three best teams in the West all reside in the Central. The Stars, Predators and Blues each have 10 points. Nashville is 3-0-0 at Bridgestone Arena thanks to an entertaining 5-4 shootout win over the Lightning on Tuesday.
4. New York Islanders (4-1-1, last week No. 17) – Other than the Canadiens, the Islanders are the hottest team in the Eastern Conference. New York has won four straight games including a 4-0 victory over the Blue Jackets on Tuesday that caused a major shakeup in Columbus. Since they are two of the best teams in the East, the Islanders-Rangers rivalry should reach another level of excitement and intensity this season.
5. New York Rangers (4-2-1, last week No. 7) – New York picked up its best win of the young season on Monday, blanking San Jose, 4-0, at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers have a relatively easy stretch coming up: vs. Coyotes, at Flyers, vs. Flames and vs. Maple Leafs. Besides the Islanders, the Capitals look like their only other real competition in the Metropolitan Division.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning (4-2-1, last week No. 6) – In terms of quality opponents, Tampa Bay might currently be on the toughest road trip of the season in the NHL. After Tuesday’s loss in Nashville, the Lightning head to Winnipeg, Chicago and St. Louis. They come home for two games at the end of October then start November with four in a row on the road.
7. St. Louis Blues (5-2-0, last week No. 13) – If they were in any other division, the Blues would likely be one of the best teams (at least record-wise) in the league. Instead, they will probably be one of six teams in the Central just battling for a playoff spot. St. Louis hasn’t been home since Opening Night so it'll enjoy a five-game homestand at Scottrade Center starting on Saturday vs. Islanders.
8. Washington Capitals (4-1-0, last week No. 18) – The Capitals are rolling, they have won three straight games including a 6-2 win at Calgary on Tuesday that led the Flames to put goaltender Karri Ramo on waivers. Washington wraps up its trip to Canada with a back-to-back in Vancouver on Thursday and Edmonton on Friday. Their plus-7 goal-differential is tied for second best (with Dallas and Winnipeg) in the NHL behind Montreal.
9. Winnipeg Jets (4-2-0, last week No. 9) – Speaking of the Jets, after a busy stretch to start this campaign, they have been off since Sunday (a 4-2 loss to St. Louis) and don’t play again until Friday vs. Tampa Bay. Winnipeg has scored 20 goals, the second most in the West behind the Stars and Blues. The MTS Centre should be buzzing with good competition coming in the form of Tampa Bay, Minnesota, LA and Chicago in the next week.
10. San Jose Sharks (4-2-0, last week No. 2) – To nobody’s surprise, the Sharks have come back down to Earth after their 4-0-0 start. Thursday vs. the Kings at SAP Center is a sneaky big game since LA has regained a bit of its form after a terrible beginning to the season. The good news for San Jose is that at least early on, the Pacific Division looks far less fearsome than many expected it to be.
11. Vancouver Canucks (3-1-2, last week No. 8) – Much like the Sharks, this is more of the reality when it comes to the Canucks this season. Losing 2-1 at Rogers Arena on Sunday in overtime to the Oilers was a sobering moment for Vancouver. They have three more home games coming up against the Eastern Conference’s elite: Washington, Detroit and Montreal.
12. Minnesota Wild (3-1-1, last week No. 10) – The Wild have dropped back-to-back games against two of the most desperate teams in the NHL (Kings and Ducks). They host the Blue Jackets on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center, it goes without saying that no club wants to be the first to lose to Columbus this season. They have an immediate chance for payback against Anaheim on Saturday in Minnesota.
13. Florida Panthers (3-2-1, last week No. 12) – The Panthers fell 3-2 in overtime at Penguins on Tuesday but they still look pretty good. They will be test some more this week is they are at Chicago on Thursday and Dallas on Saturday. They have only allowed 12 goals this season as goaltender Roberto Luongo (2-2-1, .941 save percentage, 2.01 goals against average) continues to play well at age 36.
14. Ottawa Senators (3-2-1, last week No. 15) – The Senators have been alright but they should receive a boost with goaltender Andrew Hammond expected to make his season debut on Thursday vs. New Jersey. Defenseman Erik Karlsson is tied for the NHL lead in assists (8) thanks to his four helpers in last Wednesday’s 7-3 win at Columbus. Behind Montreal and Tampa Bay, third-place in the Atlantic Division figures to be wide open.
15. Arizona Coyotes (3-2-1, last week No. 11) – Arizona has quickly regressed back to the bad team that they were thought to be. Their five-game Eastern Conference road trip got off to a rough start with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Devils on Tuesday. Their slide should continue on Thursday against the Rangers.
16. Detroit Red Wings (3-2-0, last week No. 3) – The Red Wings are the final team over .500 left in the league. They have been off since Saturday when they were beaten 4-1 by the Canadiens at the Bell Centre. Three more games in Canada are on the docket this week: Oilers, Flames and Canucks.
17. Chicago Blackhawks (3-3-0, last week No. 5) – Not only are the Blackhawks dealing with the typical Stanley Cup hangover, but things got more serious on Tuesday when it was revealed that star defenseman Duncan Keith is out four-to-six weeks with a torn meniscus in his right knee. If any team can push through that type of obstacle, it is the Blackhawks. Their next three games are at the United Center: vs. Panthers, Lightning and Ducks.
18.Pittsburgh Penguins (3-3-0, last week No. 24) – The Penguins have won their last three games after starting this season 0-3-0. Evgeni Malkin scored the goal to beat Florida in overtime on Tuesday. In that same contest, Sidney Crosby potted his first tally of 2015-16.
19. Los Angeles Kings (2-3-0, last week No. 27) – Hideous goal-differential be damned (-8), the Kings have won two games in a row after their 0-3 start. It’s hard to explain how a team with this much firepower only has six goals in five games. After the meeting with San Jose, they should beat up on the Hurricanes and Oilers.
20. Boston Bruins (2-3-0, last week No. 26) – The Bruins appeased the angry mobs for at least a few days with wins at Colorado and at Arizona. We still don’t really know much about them since their three home games and two road games couldn’t be much different in terms of results and look. Friday at Barclays Center vs. Islanders should be an intriguing test.
21. Philadelphia Flyers (2-2-1, last week No. 20) – The Flyers don’t really have an identity yet either. Their next five games are all against Eastern Conference clubs so that should help. They have only scored eight goals this season so that’s a trend that needs to change if they want to go anywhere.
22. Anaheim Ducks (1-3-1, last week No. 19) – If we relied solely on the eye test, the Ducks would be right at the bottom with the Blue Jackets. Instead, I need to have some faith in this talented group of players but maybe not head coach Bruce Boudreau (who is squarely on the hot seat). After scoring one total goal in their first four games, they exploded (relatively speaking) for a 4-1 triumph over the Wild on Sunday.
23. Colorado Avalanche (2-3-0, last week No. 16) – The Avalanche can’t afford any prolonged losing streaks since they have their work cut out for them in the Central Division. With games at the Pepsi Center coming up against the Hurricanes and Blue Jackets, Colorado needs four points there no questions asked. After that, they close out October with three games on the East Coast.
24. Calgary Flames (1-5-0, last week No. 21) – Again, this is a ranking based on potential rather than performance so far this season. Calgary’s goal-differential is -13 and they have dropped their last four games. Their next five are very difficult: vs. Red Wings, at Rangers, at Islanders, at Senators and vs. Canadiens.
25. New Jersey Devils (2-3-1, last week No. 30) – After I bashed them last week, the Devils have already exceeded my extremely low expectations by winning two games in a row. Their reward for some success is a four-game road trip against Eastern Conference opponents. Granted, the Sabres and Blue Jackets are likely only battling them for draft position come next June.
26. Edmonton Oilers (2-4-0, last week No. 29) – The Oilers have won their last two games which down here in the NHL gutter is a big development. All that Oilers fans want is some legitimate hope for once this decade. They’ll see their team for three straight games this week at Rexall Place: vs. Detroit, Washington and LA.
27. Toronto Maple Leafs (1-3-1, last week No. 23) – The grass is green, the sky is blue and the Maple Leafs are still awful. With the Blue Jays one loss away from the offseason, the focus is about to shift to the Maple Leafs (sorry Raptors). Maybe their fortunes would start to change if Drake began to pay more attention to them?
28. Carolina Hurricanes (1-4-0, last week No. 28) – It feels like these hapless teams at the bottom will be stuck here all season long. Carolina unexpectedly picked up its first win of the season on Friday at Detroit (5-3). For that reason alone, they are way ahead of the Blue Jackets. Five games are left on the road trip from hell that appropriately enough ends right before Halloween.
29. Buffalo Sabres (1-4-0, last week No. 22) – Only in Buffalo can things turn bleak so fast when it comes to pro sports. Home games at First Niagara Center this week against Toronto and New Jersey are the best shots they’ll have at wins for a while. You just hope that rookie Jack Eichel’s development doesn’t get stunted by all the constant losing.
30. Columbus Blue Jackets (0-7-0, last week No. 25) – Could things be going any worse in Columbus, a team that was expected to be a playoff team in the East? They are the lone winless club left in the NHL and on Wednesday, they fired head coach Todd Richards after getting blanked 4-0 by the Islanders the night before. New head coach John Tortorella could very well be a disaster but at this point, what else do they have to lose?