NHL Power Rankings: Big Bad Bruins Lead The Way

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 04: Nathan Horton #18, Patrice Bergeron #37 and Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins celebrate a goal by Bergeron against the New Jersey Devils during the second period of an NHL hockey game at Prudential Center on January 4, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

The Boston Bruins are the team to beat, but there are no shortage of contenders in the West. Upstarts Ottawa and Winnipeg are angling for playoff spots.

The defending Stanley Cup champions are rolling through the Eastern Conference with three Central Division teams and the Canucks in hot pursuit of the top spot. The Bruins looks like they're a lock to win the President's Trophy, and only bad luck, a healthy Sidney Crosby or a hot goaltender will keep them from playing for another Stanley Cup.

The Western Conference is ruled by the Central Division. Any team on a road trip through the Central is in for a rough ride as the Blackhawks, Red Wings and Blues all look like they can win the West - if they can get through Vancouver.





Boston Bruins
2 The Bruins are moving like a tremendous machine. They hold the best goal differential in the league. They're the fifth-best even strength team in the league with the second-best goaltender in the league and the best backup goaltender in the league. They're 21-3-1 since November 1st.
Chicago Blackhawks
1 In one of the best examples of Karma ever, Daniel Carcillo laid an extremely dirty hit on Tom Gilbert only to have Gilbert bounce back and land on Carcillo's knee. Carcillo was playing on the Toews line, but the Hawks will manage without him.
Detroit Red Wings
5 The machine rolls on. Even though they've *only* won six of their last ten, the Wings are still the best even strength team in the NHL and have the second-best goal differential. And they're probably going to land Ales Hemsky in the near future.
Vancouver Canucks
3 The Canucks look like last year's steamroller again and have rolled to the top of the standings in the Northwest without much resistance. So what is the local media worried about? The rookie fourth-line center's minutes.
St. Louis Blues
6 The Blues were slowed a bit at the end of December, but they're still second-best even strength team in the league. Things are so good in St. Louis that fans don't care if they host a Winter Classic. Now if we could get every other fanbase to stop complaining...
Pittsburgh Penguins
8 Evgeni Malkin is in the top ten and James Neal in the top twenty of the scoring race. Once the defense gets healthy, this team will be scary. A Crosby return is just gravy at this point.
San Jose Sharks
7 Like the Bruins, the Sharks have only played 35 games. They're a single point behind Los Angeles for the Pacific lead, but they have five games in hand.
New Jersey Devils
10 The Devils are on fire with seven wins in their last ten games in spite of their terrible power play. They've played so well that they just registered their highest December attendance in five years.
Washington Capitals
14 The goaltenders have snapped out of their funk, just in time to make the Hunter hiring look like a stroke of genius.
New York Rangers
12 The Rangers are riding two Swedes now, the best goalie in the league, Henrik Lundqvist, and the most unlikely dominant possession player I've ever seen, Carl Hagelin.
Los Angeles Kings
17 The Kings were already one of the best even strength teams in the league, but their shooting percentage was abysmal. Adding a Sutter to the mix apparently helped the puck actually go in - the team has six wins and just one regulation loss in the last ten.
Philadelphia Flyers
4 Only the Flyers could take an amazing outdoor hockey game and ruin it with a goaltending controversy.
Colorado Avalanche
15 The league's hottest team has eight wins in their last ten games. Ryan O`Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog have seven points each in that span. Semyon Varlamov is healthy and getting hot and the Avs are ready to hit the playoff race head on.
Ottawa Senators
18 Ottawa lost just two of their last ten games, but they needed it: the Sens will head out on the road in January.
Winnipeg Jets
12 Winnipeg's underlying stats have all settled right around league average. The Jets -3 goal differential is league average. Everything about this team is average, except for the coach-player feud.
Nashville Predators
19 The Predators are one of the worst even strength teams in the league. They don't shoot often, their best defenseman was injured and Pekka Rinne's save percentage has slowly eroded as the season's gone on. How in the world are the Predators one of the hottest teams in the NHL?
Florida Panthers
9 The Panthers only have four wins in their last ten games and now Winnipeg and Washington are breathing down their necks. Injury problems forced Dale Tallon to reach out to an old friend.
Toronto Maple Leafs
19 The Leafs have had a notoriously bad penalty kill for years now. It's a good thing Ron Wilson just got around to working on it.
Phoenix Coyotes
11 The Coyotes are floundering. They've only won four of their last ten and the goal-scoring has been inconsistent. There's hope on the horizon - Mike Smith returned from IR.
Dallas Stars
16 Dallas is .500 over their last ten, but they hope the return of Kari Lehtonen and Stephane Robidas will help get them through this rough patch. Fan confidence in the owner is high, if the team follows through, the turnaround in Dallas could come sooner than expected.
Tampa Bay Lightning
27 Tampa has some real issues for Steve Yzerman to solve. Here's a hint, it's not the skaters.
Edmonton Oilers
22 The goaltenders have returned to earth (though the GM thinks they should play like Patrick Roy all of the time) and the defense is unable to get the puck out of the zone. None of it phases Taylor Hall though - the kid has eighteen shots in his last four games.
Columbus Blue Jackets
25 Things aren't getting much better in Columbus. After a brief run at below average, the Jackets have hit another swoon and now James Wisniewski is out again. On the bright side, at least the rookies are playing well.
Montreal Canadiens
25 The Canadiens are on pace for the 10th-worst finish in their storied history. Clearly, the solution is to steal management from Toronto.
Minnesota Wild
21 Minnesota is the worst team in the league over the last ten with just one win. They're still one of the worst in the league at even strength and the goaltending regressed to historical levels. With the Avalanche and Kings getting ever closer in the rear-view mirror, can Minnesota hold on to a playoff spot?
Calgary Flames
23 It's better to burn out than to fade away, and the Flames are fading more each week. Calgary is paying enormous sums of money to a bunch of players, but only Jarome Iginla is earning the paycheck.
New York Islanders
28 I'm not sure how this happened, but Steve Staios is on the Isles' top pair. The defense is terrible, but hey, at least the Islanders have improved by two games!
Buffalo Sabres
23 Injuries are never an acceptable excuse for a losing season, but if any team can use the excuse, it's the Sabres. But Sabres fans aren't wallowing in self-pity, they're looking at the bright side of playing ten AHL players.
Carolina Hurricanes
29 Losing a top defenseman is never easy, but if you're going to lose a first-pairing defender, might as well do it when you're already headed for the lottery.
Anaheim Ducks
30 It's obvious now, Randy Carlyle wasn't the problem. Bruce Boudreau can't fix a horrible team. How bad is it? Fans are happy to watch Niklas Hagman.

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