Ranking the NHL’s top Canadian teams
Most teams are about three-quarters of the way through the season. The action has been fierce, a few teams have overachieved while some have disappointed all season long. There has been some movement in the Canadian power rankings over the first third of the season. Here we will look at the top 3 teams and their outlook for the rest of the season.
Toronto started off hot and has not looked back to start the season. Sporting a +14 goal differential they have been fierce on offense. The defense has been inconsistent at best. At times Frederick Anderson has looked like the best goalie in the league, making the defense look much better than it has been. He sports a .919 save percentage and 2.71 GAA. The backup Curtis McElhinney has been serviceable in the four games he started.
The Toronto special teams have been very average this year. The power play percentage is 21.79% and killing penalties at 81.4%. Both are slightly above league average. The power play has seen several different lineups. Auston Matthews has been taken off the top power play and moved to the second unit. The top power-play unit sports Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak, and James Van Riemsdyk.
The power of this team comes from their top line. Auston Matthews continues to impress. He is currently a 14 plus-minus. He centers Zac Hyman and Connor Brown. Adding Patrick Marleau to the team has helped this team on the second line where he plays with Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov.
In addition to all the great things Toronto has going for them, they have one of the top coaches in the NHL. This will help them make noise all the way through the season and into the playoffs.
Winnipeg is perennially the team that has discipline problems and underperforms throughout the season. With one of the most potent first lines in the NHL and solid goaltending/ defense, this team has improved tremendously throughout the season. They currently sport a +16 goal differential. They have a stellar power play, scoring on nearly 25% of opportunities while they are slightly under league average killing penalties at 78.57%.
The top line for Winnipeg has moved around consistently throughout the season. As it stands now Mark Scheifele centers Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler. The second line has some electric talent with Bryan Little centering Patrick Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers. Laine is one the top up and coming wingers in the league.
The most surprising and encouraging aspect of this team is that only one member of the team that plays with any consistency is a negative plus-minus. The team also has improved tremendously with discipline sporting a very average 82 penalties taken.
There is clear disparity between the top two Canadian teams down to Calgary. Calgary can even be replaced here shortly with the Canadiens as they are coming in hot. Calgary sports a -6 goal differential. Their power play is very average at 21%. The penalty kill is however very below average at 74.39%.
The team hoped to have their previous goaltending woes fixed with the signing of Mike Smith. His defense hasn’t helped him out throughout the season, he does, however, sport a .921 save percentage and 2.67 GAA.
The defense is held down by Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton on the top line. Both are really solid two-way defenders. There is, however, a falloff after that. The second pairing T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic sport an abysmal -18 plus-minus. Particularly they just get crushed on road matchups when the other team has the last change on faceoffs.
Just like the defense, the top line on offense is solid and there is a falloff after that. The top line is centered by Sean Monahan who has been stellar this season. He centers Micheal Ferland and Johnny Gaudreau.
Overall Calgary is very average. Calgary projects to make the playoffs, but not do too much damage beyond that.