1. San Jose Sharks (19-3-5, Last week: 3)
The Sharks have gone 6-0-0 since the last edition of the power rankings, and maintain the second highest even strength goal differential in the NHL. What's even more impressive is that San Jose is doing this without overworking their stars. The unheralded Justin Braun is the team leader in ice time at just 22:08 per game, while only Patrick Marleau is over 20 minutes among their forwards. This is a crazy deep team.
2. Chicago Blackhawks (20-5-4, Last week: 1)
The defending champs didn't do anything that would deserve being knocked from the top spot, San Jose was just unstoppable. Like San Jose, Chicago has an incredible amount of depth, though they prefer to have Duncan Keith play more than any Sharks player. Depth on the blueline has allowed them to make Keith's life easier though, starting him in the offensive zone 57% of the time while Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya clean up in the defensive zone.
3. St. Louis Blues (18-5-3, Last week: 4)
If there's one thing that's synonymous with Ken Hitchcock coached teams, it's efficiency. The Blues are a scary team to play against because everything they do with the puck has a purpose. There's no panic, and almost no mistakes. The Blues haven't received the greatest goaltending this year, yet they sit fourth in the league in fewest goals allowed, because they just don't allow shots. The pairing of Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester may be the most dominant in the Western Conference.
4. Los Angeles Kings (18-7-4, Last week: 8)
In spite of a great record, we haven't yet seen the best from the Kings, who are shooting 6.5% at even strength. They sit right in the middle of the pack in goal scoring so far this season, but you can expect them to rise through the ranks as more games are played. Having Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli both in the lineup will help that happen as well. LA leans heavily on Drew Doughty on defense, who plays almost 26 minutes a game, and he's rewarding them with one of the best seasons of his career, even though the offense isn't what you'd expect it to be.
5. Boston Bruins (18-7-2, Last week: 11)
Claude Julien's defensive system remains the class of the Eastern Conference, and the Bruins are playing their best hockey of the season after the coaching staff seems to have mostly given up on trying to limit Zdeno Chara's minutes. It made sense to conserve Chara for the playoffs, but the team's play suffered. He's now playing more minutes than he has since 2010-11. Boston's record does come with a caveat though, as they've barely had a taste of the tough Western Conference.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins (19-9-1, Last week: 13)
With the best record and best possession numbers in the East, it would make sense to put Pittsburgh above the Bruins, but unfortunately they just lost rearguard Paul Martin to a fractured tibia, and he's been a workhorse for them this season, overtaking Kris Letang as the team's number 1 defenseman. Fortunately for the Penguins, they still have these scrubs named Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who are the top two scoring forwards in the NHL. Not bad I guess.
7. Colorado Avalanche (19-6-0, Last week: 9)
The Avalanche are undeniably riding some great luck, but they still went 5-1-0 since the last rankings, and that counts for something. Getting star forward Matt Duchene back from injury also helps, although he's gone pointless in three games since returning. There are a lot of naysayers about Colorado due to poor possession numbers, but part of that is because they end up leading for large portions of every game. While the score is tied, they're a top 10 Fenwick team. The job that Patrick Roy has done is truly incredible.
8. Montreal Canadiens (17-9-3, Last week: 18)
Since the last rankings, the Habs have gone 7-0-1, beating some powerhouse teams in the process, and they have the best record in the East over the last 12 games at 9-1-2. So why aren't they higher than 8th? Because they're still relying too heavily on goaltending and special teams to get the job done. Even though the team is healthy now, they're under water in possession and struggling to find their way back to the dominant team of last season. Luckily for Montreal, their top players in P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty, and Carey Price are good enough to carry them until they do.
9. Minnesota Wild (16-8-5, Last week: 5)
The Wild have lost a bit of the shine they had early in the season, with both their possession numbers and their record taking a hit of late. Part of the struggles have been due to injuries to key young players like Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle, but they could also benefit from Jonas Brodin breaking out of his sophomore slump. The Wild are a fairly young team surrounded by a strong veteran core, and Mike Yeo's conversion to puck possession coaching has made them a solid contender.
10. Vancouver Canucks (15-10-5, Last week: 12)
Everyone is always complaining about the lack of production by the twins, but Henrik Sedin has 28 points and Daniel Sedin has 26. That sounds good to me for a couple of 33 year old puck possession wizards. There's always finger pointing when the high expectations in Vancouver aren't met, but so far those fingers should probably be pointing at the affable Roberto Luongo, who has yet to bust out of his usual October slump. If the 34 year old goaltender is in decline, and not just slumping, Vancouver might be in trouble.
11. Anaheim Ducks (18-7-5, Last week: 7)
The Ducks have one of the best records in the NHL, so why are they ranked outside the top 10? Well they're 3-3-4 in their last 10 games, and during that time their possession numbers have begun to crater in a big way. To add insult to injury, the secondary scoring has all but disappeared, and Teemu Selanne looks like maybe he should have retired after all. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are doing their best to carry the team, but they need a little help.
12. Detroit Red Wings (14-8-7, Last week: 17)
After winning four straight games, the Wings got blown apart by Philadelphia of all teams in their first game without both Datsyuk and Zetterberg. Gustav Nyquist could seize this moment to prove he's an impact NHL player, but the Wings have always relied heavily on veterans, where they're now thin up front outside of Daniel Alfredsson and Johan Franzen. Jimmy Howard has the talent to keep the Wings in the hunt, but he's given no sign of coming out of his funk.
13. Phoenix Coyotes (16-8-4, Last week: 2)
What's with the hype around the Coyotes? They have a great record to start the year, but they're one of the worst possession teams in the NHL, with just 3 positive games in their last 18, and have a 2-4-1 record since the last rankings. To make matters worse for the Coyotes, the straw that stirs the drink in the desert, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, is having a brutal start to the season. He's putting up points due to a high on-ice shooting percentage, but his usual lights out possession numbers are really bad. He's a great player and will probably rebound, but this team won't go anywhere with OEL struggling.
14. Dallas Stars (13-9-4, Last week: 14)
Jim Nill's summer moves to retool the Stars on the fly have paid immediate dividends. Tyler Seguin has fit in perfectly centering Jamie Benn, and Dallas is currently a top 10 possession team. However they play in the Western conference, and they haven't had the greatest puck luck, which means that even though they're four games over .500, they're out of a playoff spot. If the Stars can stick with it, they might be able to push through the crowd. The Stars have typically collapsed in the second half of the season lately though, and they have to avoid that to have any chance.
15. New York Rangers (14-14-0, Last week: 19)
After a brutal start to the year the Rangers whipped themselves into shape and began to dominate games for a long stretch, however they haven't had any luck in the goalscoring department. Then the Rangers crashed heavily, getting outplayed significantly in four straight games. The Rangers are getting big contributions from Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan, but they need significantly more from struggling veterans Michael Del Zotto, Ryan Callahan, and Benoit Pouliot.
16. New Jersey Devils (11-12-6, Last week: 21)
New Jersey has been killing it on the possession front since last season, and they just can't buy goals at the right times. When Martin Brodeur is playing, the Devils can score at a relatively average pace, but his shoddy goaltending means they're still not gaining any ground. When Cory Schneider plays, they get great goaltending, but they can't score. Eventually the Devils will be forced to realize that Schneider is the better goaltender and run with him, but as long as this back and forth continues between a guy in his prime and a guy who should have retired years ago, they're on the bubble.
17. Tampa Bay Lightning (16-10-1, Last week: 6)
The loss of Steven Stamkos was always going to hurt. There was no way to avoid a precipitous decline in Tampa's scoring ability and overall play. The troubling news for Tampa Bay though, is that their 2-4-1 isn't due to bad puck luck, they're just losing games. The good news is that they haven't cratered without Stamkos, and Ben Bishop is giving them a chance to win every single night. Is Bishop's fantastic start sustainable? Probably not, but for now it's holding Tampa in there.
18. Washington Capitals (14-12-2, Last week: 10)
When you live and die on the powerplay, sometimes you just die, and the Capitals are struggling right now. The top dogs are getting it done in Washington, with Alex Ovechkin scoring at a blistering pace, but secondary scorers like Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer have been near no shows, and Martin Erat is a complete no show to the point where he's demanded a trade. The jury is still out on whether Adam Oates is a good coach, or just a good powerplay coach.
19. Nashville Predators (13-12-3, Last week: 22)
Raise your hand if you thought the Predators would have trouble scoring goals this year. No one is surprised, I see. The Predators were dealt a tough blow when Pekka Rinne was revealed to have an infection in his hip, but they've continually stuck around like they always seem to. Losing Shea Weber recently though, really hurt. Add to the fact that Seth Jones had a tough November and it's hard to believe that Nashville actually went 4-3-1 since the last rankings.
20. Winnipeg Jets (13-12-4, Last week: 16)
There's something about the Jets that just doesn't ever seem right. They always seem to be almost good. This could have been the year they were more than almost, but with Evander Kane and Tobias Enstrom struggling it's hard to believe that's going to happen, even with Bryan Little having a career year. The Jets need Evander Kane to be their top scorer, and he's currently way down at eighth, below such luminaries like Olli Jokinen, Michael Frolik, and Devin Setoguchi.
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21. Philadelphia Flyers (13-13-2, Last week: 25)
After the insanely brutal start that the Flyers had, they've clawed their way to a .500 record. How exactly has that happened? For the first time in forever a goaltender is carrying Philly, with unfathomable comeback kid Steve Mason posting a .932 save percentage. Who expected that? I doubt even Flyers brass could have been hoping for that kind of performance. Is it going to last? Probably not, but it's working now, and the Flyers seem to be coming around while he's playing well. Claude Giroux is starting to score, and Sean Couturier might finally be breaking out offensively.
22. Ottawa Senators (11-13-4, Last week: 23)
What's wrong in Ottawa? Where did the responsible, solid possession team from last season go? For some reason, the brunt of the criticism for the team's struggles seems to be falling on Erik Karlsson, which is insanely unfair for the possession driving defenseman who leads the team in points. The top line of Kyle Turris between Clarke MacArthur and Bobby Ryan has been full value, but the rest of the lineup is a bit of a tire fire. Reigning Jack Adams winner Paul MacLean drew praise for doing a lot with a little last season, but this year he's doing a little with a lot, and Ottawa is 5 points out of a wild card spot in December. That's a large hill to climb.
23. Toronto Maple Leafs (14-11-3, Last week: 15)
The luck is collapsing with the Leafs only scoring 18 times in their last 14 games, and to make matters worse, their decimated center group has suffered another injury with Tyler Bozak joining Dave Bolland in the press box. Phil Kessel also suffered a mystery ailment today, as if things could get any worse for Toronto. Oh wait, they can. Even with these recent struggles, the Leafs remain the second luckiest team in the league, and the goaltending is beginning to come back down to earth at the same time as the goalscoring. I wonder how the extremely smug management team in Toronto are handling this cold streak?
24. Carolina Hurricanes (11-12-5, Last week: 24)
Eric Staal is starting to work his way out of an early season funk, but when the third highest scoring forward on your team is Nathan Gerbe, you've got a serious problem. Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin have been nearly invisible offensively, and the goaltending boost that the Canes thought they were getting with Cam Ward returning never really came, with him have a far below average save percentage. Last season it looked like Kirk Muller may have had something in Carolina, but he could be out of a job soon with the way this season has gone.
25. Columbus Blue Jackets (11-14-3, Last week: 26)
Star winger Marian Gaborik is in and out of the lineup (surprised?), and supposed leader of the defense Jack Johnson is having an abysmal season. Add in that Columbus is a team in the midst of a rebuild and Sergei Bobrovsky's season last year looks like a one off, and you have a team competing for a lottery spot. And even though Bobrosvky is struggling, losing him to injury is a kick in the pants.
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26. Edmonton Oilers (9-18-2, Last week: 29)
Edmonton is 5-5-0 in their last 10 games. Edmonton! It's not the most inspiring record, but it's progress from the dregs of the NHL. Ilya Bryzgalov has had a startlingly good start to his year in Edmonton, playing parts of 4 games and posting a .939 save percentage. However the problems in Edmonton seem to always be the same, there's no depth and the team isn't committed to playing defense. Dallas Eakins has near infinite leeway right now, but eventually he has to start getting some results.
27. Calgary Flames (10-13-4, Last week: 28)
Calgary has won two straight games, and they're going for it! Okay, not really. The Flames are terrible and don't have the years of propaganda about hope and youth movements to fool the fanbase into being happy like Edmonton does, so it's kind of ugly in Cowtown. Brian Burke has installed his nonsensical holiday month trade freeze as well, so you won't even see a shakeup in Calgary until the new year.
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28. New York Islanders (8-15-5, Last week: 20)
Garth Snow was a goaltender, and he wasn't a very good one, so you would think that he would recognize when goaltending was a major problem for his team, but it seems like he's oblivious to it. Only Edmonton has allowed more goals than Long Island, and the Isles are actually a halfway decent possession team. John Tavares is doing everything to put the team on his back, but he could really use some help from Thomas Vanek, who's been a bit of a bust since the Isles gambled big by sending Matt Moulson away.
29. Florida Panthers (7-16-5, Last week: 27)
The Panthers are basically the Brian Campbell/Tom Gilbert defense pairing, then everything else. After a great rookie season, Jonathan Huberdeau is struggling to get anything going as a sophomore, and no one around him is helping much. Trade rumours are constantly swirling in Florida, with 23 year old Russian defenseman Dmitry Kulikov being the main focus. The highly touted young defenseman could be a steal for teams looking to poach assets from a management team that's clearly in panic mode.
30. Buffalo Sabres (6-20-2, Last week: 30)
The Sabres are awful. There's really no polishing this, or making the pill go down smoother, they just suck. It's crazy to think that they would have even fewer than six wins this season if Ryan Miller wasn't consistently standing on his head, but his stellar play has actually kept them in games. It's highly probably that Miller will be traded at some point this year, and I find myself wondering if they'll win a game after it happens.