COVID-19 drama is the highlight of this past NHL week.
Week four of the 2021 NHL season has, unfortunately, been highlighted by multiple COVID-19-related issues.
The Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Vegas Golden Knights have all been affected by the disease, one way or another, within the past week.
Even so, a lot has happened across the league over the past seven days. Let’s take a look at who the best and worst teams in the NHL are as of right now.
31. Ottawa Senators
Previous Ranking: 31
Tim Stützle still looks good and they are coming off a win, but the Senators are still tragic. Matt Murray being arguably the worst goaltender in the league definitely doesn’t help.
30. Detroit Red Wings
Previous Ranking: 30
Bobby Ryan is fun, but the Red Wings are beginning to look as bad as they did last season. The Senators playing dreadful hockey is the only thing preventing Detroit from being the brunt of all jokes.
They’re getting nothing from their goalies nor their special teams. It’s going to be a long season.
29. San Jose Sharks
Previous Ranking: 27
The Sharks have yet to play a game at home, but that probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference. As has been the case recently, goaltending is killing this team.
Add to that bad defense and you have a recipe for disaster. It’s worth noting, however, that the Sharks haven’t played in a week after facing two game postponements.
28. New York Islanders
Previous Ranking: 25
The Islanders have only played twice in the past seven days and are on an ugly five-game losing streak.
Mathew Barzal has been excellent and the defense continues to be solid, but recent shoddy goaltending from Semyon Varlamov, a bad power play, and a lack of goal-scoring continue to be a problem for the team that was in the Eastern Conference Final not long ago.
27. Los Angeles Kings
Previous Ranking: 21
The Kings are another team that have been affected by COVID-19, having played just one game in the past week.
They have looked better than expected and rookie Arthur Kaliyev gives fans something to be excited about, but the team is lacking in depth and Jonathan Quick isn’t doing well in net.
26. Anaheim Ducks
Previous Ranking: 19
John Gibson has been one of the best goaltenders in the league to start the season and is keeping them alive. Anaheim’s problem continues to be goal-scoring: they’ve scored 19 goals in 11 games.
25. Arizona Coyotes
Previous Ranking: 22
The Coyotes are another team whose schedule has been impacted by COVID-19: they’ve played just two games in the last week.
Captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s injury, not great goaltending from Darcy Kuemper, and a lack of goal-scoring have proved to be serious issues for the Yotes.
24. Chicago Blackhawks
Previous Ranking: 28
The Hawks keep climbing. After getting off to the worst possible start to the season, the Blackhawks have turned it around.
It looks like they’ve found a great goaltender in Kevin Lankinen and the youngsters are really stepping up. If they can figure out how to win in overtime, the Blackhawks could potentially become a dangerous team.
23. Buffalo Sabres
Previous Ranking: 18
The Sabres have played just twice in the past seven days, and fans hope this break will help them figure out how to score and how to start winning in regulation.
22. New York Rangers
Previous Ranking: 29
It seemed like things couldn’t get worse for the New York Rangers. They couldn’t muster up a win and defenseman Tony DeAngelo was waived after an altercation with goaltender Alexandar Georgiev.
However, the Rangers have won two straight games since and even have a positive goal differential. From the forwards to the goalies, everyone is getting back on track.
21. New Jersey Devils
Previous Ranking: 23
The New Jersey Devils were playing fantastic hockey and even their depth players were coming up big before they fell victim to the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the NHL right now.
Here’s to hoping this passes smoothly and quickly, we all want to see the exciting young Devils take the ice again.
20. Vancouver Canucks
Previous Ranking: 16
The Canucks are strange. They looked dreadful to start the season, then caught fire, and are now in the midst of a three-game losing streak.
They have had one of the hardest schedules to begin the season, but a team that stacked shouldn’t be struggling like this. Plus, most of their wins have come against bad teams.
The defense, and Elias Petterson, need to be better if the Canucks hope to make another deep playoff run.
19. Pittsburgh Penguins
Previous Ranking: 20
Sidney Crosby continues to show why he’s an all-time great, but the same cannot be said for the guys around him.
Tristan Jarry hasn’t lived up to expectations and even Evgeni Malkin is having a significantly slow start to the season. An already-weak defense has been plagued by injuries, too.
18. Columbus Blue Jackets
Previous Ranking: 17
It appears as though solid goaltending is the only thing going right for the Blue Jackets at this point in time.
Poor defense, especially from Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, has been especially troubling. Here’s to hoping Patrick Laine can get things going and turn this team around.
17. Calgary Flames
Previous Ranking: 24
What continues to help Calgary’s case is that they’ve had a very difficult schedule to begin the season. Johnny Gaudreau and Jacob Markstrom have both been excellent, but the overall team is too inconsistent.
Plus, the drama surrounding Sam Bennett potentially wanting out doesn’t help.
16. Nashville Predators
Previous Ranking: 15
The Predators have had the hardest schedule of any team in the league, so far, so the fact that they’re at .500 is respectable. However, they’re going to have to do better if they want to make a playoff run.
It’s nice to see that Eeli Tolvanen has arrived, but the team has too many issues. Their special teams are disastrous: they have the worst penalty kill and the fourth-worst power play in hockey.
The fact that Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen have been terrible to start the season doesn’t help, either.
15. Edmonton Oilers
Previous Ranking: 26
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl might be the two best players in the league right now and the Oilers have looked better, but there’s still a great deal of room for improvement.
They’re getting next to nothing from their bottom six forwards and the defense misses Oscar Klefbom.
14. Minnesota Wild
Previous Ranking: 11
The Wild’s youngsters, led by Kirill Kaprizov, have made this a good and fun team. The Wild have cooled off a bit, as of late, but much of that can be attributed to COVID-19.
13. Washington Capitals
Previous Ranking: 3
The Capitals should be fine in the long run, but are going through a bit of a rough stretch. They’ve lost two in a row and can’t seem to hold on to leads.
They’ve also been conceding more goals, lately, but goaltender Vitek Vanecek has been quite the pleasant surprise.
12. St. Louis Blues
Previous Ranking: 14
The Blues still have a serious problem in net and the Vince Dunn situation has been somewhat of a media distraction, but the team is starting to get hot.
11. Carolina Hurricanes
Previous Ranking: 13
The Hurricanes have looked good at even-strength and elite on special teams. However, they’re going to be tested in net.
Petr Mrazek, who had been one of the best goalies in the league to start the season, is facing a long-term injury and might even need surgery. Is James Reimer up to the task?
10. Florida Panthers
Previous Ranking: 12
The Panthers have been one of the biggest surprises in the NHL, so far. They’re the only team that’s yet to lose in regulation, the newcomers are contributing significantly, and the defense has improved dramatically.
If they can just get Sergei Bobrovsky to live up to his contract, this becomes a lethal team.
9. Philadelphia Flyers
Previous Ranking: 10
The Flyers have had an odd start to the season. Guys like Joel Farabee and James van Riemsdyk have been excellent, but the offense should be producing more.
The Flyers are also struggling mightily against the Boston Bruins, something they need to work on since they’ll be facing them quite often.
8. Winnipeg Jets
Previous Ranking: 9
Many seem to think Winnipeg’s hot start is a fluke and they have had the second easiest schedule in the league, but credit must be given where it’s due.
The newly-acquired Pierre-Luc Dubois has yet to make his Jets debut, and this offense will somehow become even scarier when he does. Their most glaring issue has been their defense, which gives up far too many high-danger shots.
7. Dallas Stars
Previous Ranking: 5
The Stars’ defense continues to be elite and they have one of the best power plays in the league. Joe Pavelski leads the team in scoring, but they’ll need to produce in that regard long-term.
Hopefully Tyler Seguin can help with that once he makes his return.
6. Colorado Avalanche
Previous Ranking: 8
The Avalanche are going to be tested in the biggest possible way. Nathan MacKinnon is “week-to-week” with a lower-body injury, so the other guys will need to step up if the team hopes to keep rolling.
5. Montreal Canadiens
Previous Ranking: 2
Everything has been going right for the Canadiens so far in 2021. They’ve been at the top of the league at even-strength and on special teams. Tyler Toffoli has been elite.
They are a little undisciplined and Carey Price is overachieving, but this team is the real deal.
4. Vegas Golden Knights
Previous Ranking: 4
The Golden Knights haven’t played at all in a week, but the deepest team in the league deserves to stay so high. Let’s see if they can keep it rolling when they return after a lengthy pause.
3. Boston Bruins
Previous Ranking: 7
The Bruins have reclaimed their spot as one of the best teams in the NHL. They’ve lost just one game in regulation and have stood tall against tough competition. David Pastrňák has already been incredibly impactful.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs
Previous Ranking: 1
Toronto is another team that’s seen their schedule affected by COVID-19, having played just two games over the past week.
This is a high-scoring team that’s incredible on the power play and is getting scoring from many of its players. If they can stay out of the penalty box, they’ll become even more dangerous.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
Previous Ranking: 6
The reigning Stanley Cup champions are on a three-game winning streak and have conceded just six goals over that span.
Andrei Vasilevskiy has continued his great play in net and the offense has been producing without one of the best players in the league, Nikita Kucherov. The only knock against the champs is that they haven’t faced any tough competition.