1. Los Angeles Kings (21-7-5, Last week: 4)
A perfect week for L.A. on the back of rookie goaltender Martin Jones, who allowed just one goal in three starts, shutting out the Habs and Isles, and holding the Leafs to one tally in the second half of a back-to-back. The scariest thing about the Kings this year? They have a below average team shooting percentage in all situations, and does anyone think they have legitimately below average shooting talent? Also they get bonus points for wearing those awesome purple jerseys.
Featured article: Worrying about second period performance?
Last week's rankings
Last week's rankings
2. Chicago Blackhawks (23-6-5, Last week: 2)
After stumbling to begin a stretch of five games in seven days with two losses, one in a shootout, the Hawks made a statement not only with three straight wins, but by scoring 19 goals in those wins. 19 goals in three games. Maybe just play it safe and don't make the Hawks mad when you play them. Listen to Patrick Kane, and keep your mouth shut.
3. St. Louis Blues (20-6-3, Last week: 3)
The Blues actually had a really rough week from a possession standpoint, easily their worst of the season, but they've been an extremely strong team and managed to come out ahead two out of three tries anyway. Alexander Steen busted a "scoring drought" of four games, and it looks like it's Brian Elliott's turn to tend the goal for awhile.
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4. Boston Bruins (21-8-2, Last week: 5)
The Bruins never seem to be out of games, in many ways they're the comeback kings. They couldn't come back against Montreal, then rallied for three straight comebacks against Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Calgary. That's some mental toughness. They've also allowed just 10 goals in their previous 6 games. Not bad for a group that's dealing with a lot of injuries.
5. San Jose Sharks (19-6-6, Last week: 1)
Apparently San Jose couldn't handle the pressure of being at the top of the rankings, going 0-3-1 in four straight losses, three of which to Eastern teams. Worse than that, they allowed five goals in back to back games. They still massively outplayed the Wild and Islanders, but the West is so tight at the top that any slump can knock you way down the standings.
Featured article: After a fourth straight loss, the Sharks are looking for answers.
6. Anaheim Ducks (22-7-5, Last week: 11)
A picture perfect week from the Ducks see them vault up the rankings, as they went 4-0-0, beating major contenders in Chicago, St. Louis, and Minnesota, alongside the basement dwelling Isles. A lot of people are talking about Ryan Getzlaf, but Corey Perry has quietly edged himself into a 50 goal pace for the first time since he won the Hart Trophy.
7. Pittsburgh Penguins (21-10-1, Last week: 6)
The ugliness in Boston aside, Pittsburgh had a strong week that included a blowout win over the Sharks, and a bounce back win over Columbus without James Neal. They'll miss Neal for another four games, but with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin motoring, it shouldn't be too tough for them to survive.
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8. Vancouver Canucks (18-10-5, Last week: 10)
It took Roberto Luongo an extra month to get going this year, but he has been brilliant in December. With five straight wins, the Canucks are rolling for the first time this season. With that said, surely Tortorella would be happier if his team would score a little more often, as they haven't scored more than three in a game in six straight. The margins for victory should be better with a team that good.
9. Montreal Canadiens (19-10-3, Last week: 8)
A long streak of wins was ended in Montreal with a blowout loss to the Kings, but strong play and a win against the Bruins evens that out. The worrying thing for Montreal last week was that they struggled to beat Buffalo, and that's never good. The big loss allows the coaching staff to reevaluate and maybe change a few things.
Featured article: Sometimes in the NHL, you reap what you sow.
10. Minnesota Wild (18-10-5, Last week: 9)
The Wild are treading water in the Central, beating the Blackhawks last Thursday before being shut out by the lowly Blue Jackets the following night. Another impressive win followed against San Jose, and now Minnesota faces a tough three-game western road swing. Anaheim's already beaten them, the Sharks have rematch on their minds, and divisional foe Colorado looms over the weekend.
Featured article: Josh Harding has been impressive for the Wild.
11. Washington Capitals (17-12-2, Last week: 18)
Not only did Washington have essentially a perfect week, but Alex Ovechkin had a game for the ages, scoring four goals against the Lightning to bring the game to a tie and eventually a shootout win. Not only that, but the Capitals seem to be pushing the play at even strength for the first time in awhile. Good signs in Washington.
12. Colorado Avalanche (20-9-0, Last week: 7)
The offense has dried up in Colorado, and after a hot 12-1-0 start that shocked the NHL, the Avs have been a very mediocre 8-8-0. Patrick Roy believes his team is getting chances, but that those chances need to be of better quality, especially as the opposition tightens up defensively as the season continues. Or, maybe the Avs previously-league-best shooting percentage numbers are simply coming back to earth?
Featured article: How the Avs can contend both today and in the future
13. Dallas Stars (14-10-5, Last week: 14)
Talk about a roller coaster week: An overtime loss in Toronto, followed by a 5-1 spanking of the Flyers thanks to a Tyler Seguin natural hat trick. Then, on Monday, a 6-2 whooping courtesy of the Blackhawks. The Stars have seen just about everything in the last week.
Featured article: Stars need to bounce back strong from that 6-2 loss.
14. Detroit Red Wings (15-9-8, Last week: 12)
Losing twice to the Panthers is pretty embarrassing for a contending team like the Wings, especially since Datsyuk was back in the lineup for the second game. It's even more confusing when you realize that the back-to-back losses to Florida were right after Detroit held New Jersey to just 11 shots in a dominant win. Also shocking is that Jonas Gustavsson continues to be more dependable than Jimmy Howard. Who saw that coming?
15. Tampa Bay Lightning (17-10-3, Last week: 17)
It was a huge loss when Steven Stamkos went down, and for a bit it looked like the Lightning were going to have trouble competing, but they've rallied together and stayed positive in possession in four of their last seven. A 1-0-2 week isn't fantastic, but getting points in every game while your franchise player is out is a good sign.
Featured article: How are the Lighting continuing to stay competitive without Stamkos?
16. Phoenix Coyotes (17-8-5, Last week: 13)
A light week for for Phoenix saw them go 1-0-1, which is nothing to ignore, but other teams have looked better, even if they got worse results. There's just something about Phoenix that I'm not sold on, and their underwhelming possession numbers are certainly part of it. The 4th best shooting percentage in the league is also likely unsustainable for a fairly working class team.
17. New Jersey Devils (12-14-6, Last week: 16)
How do you even do it, Devils? Over the last 80 games the Devils have a 54.5% Fenwick while the score is close, which is straight up elite, yet they have a combined record of 31-33-16. It doesn't make any sense whatsoever, yet the Devils show no signs of busting out. Part of the problem is relying on Martin Brodeur, but the Devils may also be a rare team that can execute a great system but has minimal shooting talent.
18. Carolina Hurricanes (13-13-6, Last week: 24)
A big turnaround from the Hurricanes from both a winning and possession perspective sees them jump nearly into playoff contention both in the rankings and the standings. Carolina still has a long, long way to go to get to contender status, but it was a good step this week. Another week like that may take head coach Kirk Muller off the hot seat.
Featured article: The Hurricanes may have a goaltending controversy on their hands.
19. New York Rangers (15-16-1, Last week: 15)
One step forward and two steps back seems to be par for the course this year in New York City. It's been a constant battle for the Rangers this season just to stay .500, and a 1-2-1 week didn't help. The three losses all coming at home, twice to teams in their own division, is a bad sign going forward. A lot more was expected from the Rangers this season.
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20. Toronto Maple Leafs (16-13-3, Last week: 23)
The Leafs' two wins this week both came in extra time, but winning half their games is an improvement of late, no matter how they get the points. Losing Dion Phaneuf for two games was a big blow, one they'll have to suffer through for another game after losing to Los Angeles.
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21. Philadelphia Flyers (13-15-3, Last week: 21)
The Flyers have shown serious improvement of late after a brutal start, but a no win week didn't do them any favours. After getting some stellar goaltending for a stretch, the Flyers got pounded for 17 goals against in three games. The one thing this team can not afford is for Steve Mason to have a crisis of confidence.
Featured article: How will Steve Mason handle adversity when it inevitably comes?
22. Columbus Blue Jackets (13-15-3, Last week: 25)
Columbus had a seriously tough schedule last week, beating two strong teams in Minnesota and New Jersey, and losing to the Penguins by just a single goal. It's pretty obvious at this point that Columbus isn't going to be contending for a playoff spot this year, but don't expect them to rest on their laurels either. Kekalainen wants his team to compete.
Featured article: Watching Alexander Wennberg, who's making steady progress.
23. Nashville Predators (14-14-3, Last week: 19)
Nashville continues on hovering in mediocrity in a division and conference where that will never get you anywhere. The Preds finished the weak strong with a win against the Rangers, but losing to Eastern teams like Washington and Carolina is killer for a team with zero margin for error.
24. Winnipeg Jets (14-14-4, Last week: 20)
Like the Preds, the Jets just keep hanging on to being almost in it. It was good enough when Winnipeg fans were just happy to have a team, but now the rabid fanbase wants to see results, and the product on the ice just isn't good enough. A tough loss against the Blues isn't anything to be upset about, but a 5-2 loss to Florida isn't acceptable.
25. Ottawa Senators (12-14-6, Last week: 22)
Not even the biggest doubters of the Senators thought they would be this bad over 30 games into the season, and time is running out for them to start putting it together. Their possession game is beginning to round into form a little bit, but failing to close out games against Buffalo and Toronto is how you miss the playoffs.
26. Florida Panthers (10-17-5, Last week: 29)
Hard to not be impressed with the week that the Panthers had, taking advantage of a limping Red Wings squad for two wins, even though they were separated by a blowout loss to the Blackhawks, is way better than we've seen from them this season. Florida also dropkicked the Jets earlier in the week, bringing them to a 3-1-0 record.
Featured article: Florida's comeback win over the Red Wings is something to be proud of.
27. Edmonton Oilers (11-18-3, Last week: 26)
Edmonton isn't really getting a fair shake in this week's power rankings, but the fact is that even though they went 2-0-1 last week, they're not as good as Ottawa, and Florida's wins were more impressive. Scoring 8 goals on Colorado was oddly reminiscent of the couple games against the Hawks last season where Edmonton ran the score up, then continued to be bad. At the very least, Taylor Hall is awesome and should make Team Canada in Sochi.
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28. Calgary Flames (11-15-4, Last week: 27)
The Flames welcomed back long time captain and franchise leading scorer Jarome Iginla when Boston visited on Tuesday night, but they couldn't manage to hold on for a win after heading into the third period up 1-0. They didn't even manage to salvage a point, but the emotion in Calgary was something pretty special.
Featured article: Recapping the emotional loss to the Bruins.
29. New York Islanders (9-18-5, Last week: 28)
In four games last week the Islanders ran the gauntlet of four road games against St. Louis, then the three Californian teams. For a team struggling as badly as the Islanders are, getting out of that crazy schedule with one win, even in a shootout, should probably be considered positive. Only 9 wins on the season though, ouch.
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30. Buffalo Sabres (7-22-2, Last week: 30)
More of the same and more of what we expect from the Sabres. Ted Nolan hasn't seemed able to turn the boat around at all in Buffalo, though with that roster you can't really fault him. Any team that's using Ville Leino as a second line center isn't going anywhere good.
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