1. Anaheim Ducks (36-8-5, Last week: 2)
Alright, joke's over now, Anaheim. Winning 19 of 20 games is just crazy for a team that was expected to be good, but not great this season. Watching on Wednesday night, I figured maybe Vancouver would give them a challenge. Then the Ducks won 9-1. Okay.
Featured article: Players like Cogliano are required to win Stanley Cups.
Another one! A game-day interview with John Tortorella.
2. St. Louis Blues (32-8-5, Last week: 1)
After we ranked St. Louis first last week, I went to see them live in Calgary, where they won 5-0 in a game where it didn't really look like they were trying. Calgary is terrible so that's not really impressive, but the Blues are still kicking the tar out of teams. The one quibble I have is that they have a team shooting percentage of 12.1 percent, which is pretty ridiculous and extremely unlikely to continue.
Featured article: Evaluating the Blues at the halfway point.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (34-12-2, Last week: 3)
The Penguins have a 13 game home winning streak going, as they continue to win in spite of all those injuries, with Olli Matta continuing to look impressive in a role way above what was expected of him. Kris Letang returning is also a nice boost, but the Penguins will have to be careful because their possession game is in a steep decline.
Featured article: What is the future for Simon Despres?
4. San Jose Sharks (29-12-6, Last week: 5)
The Sharks aren't setting the world on fire, but they're not struggling in the same way some of the other teams in that top-eight bracket are, so they're moving on up the rankings. After watching the a lot Sharks this year, I'm surprised that no one ever mentions Patrick Marleau as a Selke candidate. The guy plays extremely tough minutes and annihilates them, while scoring nearly a point per game.
Featured article: Who's driving the Sharks' league leading penalty differential?
5. Chicago Blackhawks (30-8-11, Last week: 4)
The Hawks get points in almost all of their games, but that's because they're the best, most talented team in the league. Right now though, they're struggling pretty mightily (compared to their usual level of performance, anyway). It's unclear what's wrong with the Hawks over the last 10 games or so, it could even be as simple as a midseason lull. After all, they've been running hot for 12 months now.
Featured article: What's going on with Bryan Bickell?
6. Tampa Bay Lightning (28-15-4, Last week: 8)
Before the season started, the Bolts were a team with some great pieces that I thought was going to be pretty awful. Boy, was I ever wrong. The depth the Lightning have at forward through young prospects is pretty excellent, and better depth on defense provided by Sami Salo and Mathieu Carle has allowed Victor Hedman to emerge as a Norris candidate. Jon Cooper is the only guy I can see challenging Boudreau for the Jack Adams.
Featured article: Tyler Johnson deserves to be among the Calder Trophy nominations.
7. Los Angeles Kings (28-14-5, Last week: 7)
Los Angeles remains the top possession team in the NHL, but they can't score. There's not really a lack of talent on the roster, though maybe a bit of a lack of offensive creativity outside of Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty. Dean Lombardi is putting his feelers out for trades, hoping to add another scorer. Last time he did that he traded Jack Johnson for Jeff Carter, which was a stupidly amazing trade.
Featured article: Maybe instead of a trade, Lombardi should just keep Toffoli in the lineup.
8. Colorado Avalanche (29-12-5, Last week: 11)
The Avs hit rock bottom last week with a 41.4 percent Fenwick close over 10 games, but they're slowly moving up from there and winning in the process. 6-2-2 in their last ten, the people who are waiting for the Avs to fall down the NHL's standings will have to be patient for a little while longer, as they have a 6 point lead on the closest wildcard team, and a 12 point lead on the the next team outside the wildcard.
Featured article: From the Monsters' desk, developing talent at the AHL level.
9. Boston Bruins (29-15-2, Last week: 6)
The Bruins finally started facing their share of Western Conference teams, and the result was a steep decline decline in their possession numbers and a bunch of losses. After coming out on top of the Sharks to finish up in spite of being outplayed, Tuukka Rask got blown out by Toronto of all teams.
Featured article: Want some awesome Bruins photoshops? Yes, you do.
10. Philadelphia Flyers (24-19-4, Last week: 10)
Not entirely sure what to make of the Flyers, as they play terrible for weeks and bust out wins, but they're starting to play a lot better than they were. Any way you slice it, the Flyers have gone 21-11-4 since the end of October, and that's not something you can ignore.
Featured article: Some perspective on the Flyers' hot streak.
11. Vancouver Canucks (24-15-9, Last week: 9)
Once in awhile the Canucks look like an elite team, then they try to be a tough team instead and get pantsed in California. The loss to the Kings was tough for them, but following it up with a 9-1 loss to Anaheim that was entirely their own doing is just sad.
Featured article: Recapping the Canucks' worst loss of the season.
12. New York Rangers (24-21-3, Last week: 18)
Under Alain Vigneault the Rangers have been a good possession team all season, but have been getting killed by poor goaltending and some bad shooting luck. Those trends seem to be reversing a little bit, and all of a sudden they look like a playoff team. Who'd have thunk?
Featured article: Expect Rangers trade rumours to die down.
13. Ottawa Senators (21-18-8, Last week: 15)
Welcome to opposite-Montreal, where the Senators started off the season as a complete tire fire and have now recovered to about the level of performance that was expected of them. They're one point out of a wild card spot behind the Rangers, and they face the Habs next, which seems to be a guaranteed win of late.
Featured article: Senators ups and downs, which players are trending up?
14. Montreal Canadiens (26-16-5, Last week: 13)
Not only have the Montreal Canadiens been sitting at .500 for their last 20 games, but they've been boring. When you have a team as talented as the Habs do, with players like P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, and Max Pacioretty who can not only dominate the play, but do so in a dynamic manner, it's inexcusable to be boring.
Featured article: The Habs are bad, and they won't get better without major change.
15. Columbus Blue Jackets (22-20-4, Last week: 26)
Three straight wins is something that you don't see out of Columbus very often, and it has them looking a little competitive. Fortunately for them, the middle pack of the NHL is so middling that they can rocket up 11 spots in one week.
Featured article: What's been holding the Jackets back?
16. Detroit Red Wings (20-16-10, Last week: 12)
If someone were to bet you before the season that the Red Wings would only have 20 wins in 46 games while playing in the Eastern Conference, you'd probably take that bet, right? Maybe age has finally caught up with the veteran laden team?
Featured article: Pavel Datsyuk was named captain of the Russian Olympic team.
17. New Jersey Devils (20-18-10, Last week: 21)
New Jersey took a severe dip in possession about two weeks ago, but they've been on fire lately, with their last 10 games being their best 10 game stretch of the season.
Featured article: Ryane Clowe is turning a corner since returning from injury.
18. Dallas Stars (21-18-7, Last week: 14)
Dallas looked for awhile like they were finally going to make it over that hump and be a real threat to deal with this season, but they've been knocked down a peg again in recent weeks. Consistency is needed from Kari Lehtonen.
Featured article: Was Jack Johnson really a snub from the American Olympic team?
19. Minnesota Wild (25-19-5, Last week: 16)
20. Nashville Predators (20-21-7, Last week: 22)
Acquiring Devan Dubnyk is an obvious upgrade on the goaltending Nashville had been receiving lately, which gives them a bump up even if their play doesn't warrant it.
Featured article: How much would having Pekka Rinne back change the season for Nashville?
21. New York Islanders (18-23-7, Last week: 24)
John Tavares flipped the on switch and now sits tied for second in league scoring behind only Sidney Crosby, carrying his team to wins in the process. I'm sure he'll enjoy playing with his old pal Subban at the Olympics too.
Featured article: Calvin de Haan did a Visnovsky impression to key a comeback win.
22. Florida Panthers (18-21-7, Last week: 25)
The Panthers continue to play like a much improved team considering where they were, inching ever closer to the .500 mark, which they'll probably surpass in a few weeks' time. However they could use a bit more talent in that forward group.
Featured article: Florida will be hosting the 2015 draft.
23. Washington Capitals (22-17-8, Last week: 20)
Washington may have 22 wins, but only 14 of those are in regulation or overtime, which ranks them 25 in the league, tied with the Islanders and Winnipeg. Maybe if they weren't also one of the league's worst possession teams it wouldn't look so bad.
Featured article: Is John Erskine at the end of the line?
24. Toronto Maple Leafs (24-20-5, Last week: 23)
Like Washington, the Leafs can't win games outside of the shootout, although they did manage to blow out the Bruins in their own barn this week, which while hilarious, was not indicative of the performance they put forth at all.
Featured article: When will the Leafs fire Carlyle? Probably not until it's too late.
25. Phoenix Coyotes (21-16-9, Last week: 19)
Four straight losses have the lustre of the Coyotes' great start to the season all but scrubbed from the record books. The most shocking thing about their season is the way below average play of Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
Featured article: David Rundblad is waiting patiently for his opportunity to play in the NHL.
26. Carolina Hurricanes (19-18-9, Last week: 17)
Carolina runs so hot and cold. It seems like they're either great or abysmal in every game, with not much middle ground. It's almost a microcosm of the franchise who seems to be in the playoffs or the lottery every year.
Featured article: Are the Hurricanes going to make the playoffs?
27. Winnipeg Jets (20-23-5, Last week: 27)
The Jets finally let go of Claude Noel, and the immediate reaction to the hiring of Paul Maurice was a 5-1 win, even though I'm sure if the players closed their eyes they wouldn't realize the coach changed. The roster still needs an overhaul for this team to be successful.
Featured article: The underdog story: Being a Winnipeg Jets fan.
28. Buffalo Sabres (13-27-6, Last week: 28)
Points in three of four games is pretty solid for the lowly Sabres, who are better under Ted Nolan, but still likely the weakest roster in the NHL.
Featured article: Who made the better save, Miller or Enroth?
29. Edmonton Oilers (15-29-5, Last week: 29)
Acquiring Ben Scrivens could end up being a good move in the long run, though his career doesn't suggest that he's any better than Dubnyk, who they traded away for a fringe NHLer who's signed for 3 more years at $1.85M in Matt Hendricks. I don't understand the Oilers.
Featured article: An open letter to Mr. Katz.
30. Calgary Flames (16-25-6, Last week: 30)
The Flames finally scored a goal after setting the NHL record for the longest amount of time a team has been shut out on home ice, and they even won a game. It's been a brutal stretch for the Flames, but SB Nation's Flames community Matchsticks & Gasoline is under new management, so check them out!
Featured article: Mark Giordano's long road to success.