Last week's rankings
Last week's rankings
1. Chicago Blackhawks (32-8-12, Last week: 5)
The champs are trying to find their mojo, as they've been struggling recently by their own standards. They may have gotten back on track this week, with three straight games of over 60 percent Fenwick close before a bit of a dip against Detroit. They ended the week with a shootout loss in HockeyTown, but they continue to get points even in losses, which adds up at the end of the year.
Featured article: Musings on Corey Crawford.
2. San Jose Sharks (29-12-6, Last week: 5)
Are the Sharks of the early season back? They're not outplaying teams to the absurd extent they were earlier in the season, but after a bit of a dip, they seem to be getting back on an upward trend at even strength. That they're doing it without one of their tough-minutes heavy lifters is even more impressive, as Logan Couture is out indefinitely with a hand injury. Couture and Patrick Marleau play some of the toughest minutes in the league, and crush opponents in them anyway.
Featured article: Joe Pavelski is on fire.
Another one!: Which SB Nation blogs have the biggest potty mouths?
3. Anaheim Ducks (37-10-5, Last week: 1)
What a bunch of losers. Two losses in one week after all those wins. Way to mess everything up, Anaheim. What a paper tiger. You're as bad as all the Kings and Sharks fan commenters say you are. Now we'll see how many Ducks fans read the whole blurb, because that was all just to rile them up. The Ducks were beaten twice, but what a run they had. Not quite as impressive as Chicago's run to begin last season, but it was close. Getting points in 76 percent of their games so far is way beyond any expectations anyone had of Anaheim. The other shoe may be dropping though, with the Ducks being outplayed in four of their last five games.
Featured article: Was losing to Chicago exactly what Anaheim needed?
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (35-13-2, Last week: 3)
The Penguins saw their 13-game home winning streak snapped with a blowout loss to Florida of all teams, but they rebounded instantly with a blowout win over the Habs. Resiliency is the name of the game in Pittsburgh, a team that went through a stretch in which its entire top four on defense were out, yet still managed to win games. It's also about time that fans start giving some credit to Matt Niskanen, one of the most underrated players in the league.
Featured article: The Penguins need to add some quality depth.
5. St. Louis Blues (33-11-5, Last week: 2)
It was a long time coming for the Blues to get spanked, and New Jersey did it in grand form, running up an 85.3 percent Fenwick on the Blues, who remain a fantastic team, and popping seven goals through Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. There could be more regression coming for the Blues soon, but I wouldn't expect it to be in the form of blowout losses, but more in a lack of goal scoring. An 11.5 percent shooting percentage is just not sustainable in the modern NHL game.
Featured article: A letter to Ken Hitchcock.
6. Boston Bruins (31-15-3, Last week: 9)
They haven't been winning as much as you'd expect them to, but the Bruins are the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. Tampa Bay is an up and comer, and Pittsburgh has the better record, but for my money it's the Bruins who will once again be the toughest out in the playoffs. And you know that I'm not lying when I say this, because I threw up in my mouth five times while writing this blurb out of pure, unfiltered hatred for this team.
Featured article: The Chad Johnson language lab.
7. Tampa Bay Lightning (29-16-5, Last week: 6)
A middling week of .500 hockey from the Lightning sees them get jumped by the Bruins (a thing that happens in most Bruins games), but the Lightning remain an extremely strong team. What's odd to me is how they were built, which was almost a dart board style. Steve Yzerman traded a lot of assets for a big goalie in Anders Lindback, which was a huge failure, then did the same thing for Ben Bishop, which worked out. I guess you just try and try again.
Featured article: Will Howard's injury give Ben Bishop a shot at Team USA?
8. Los Angeles Kings (29-16-6, Last week: 7)
OK, Kings, we all know you're a crazy dominant team. Because of that you keep sticking in the top 10, but you're going to have to start winning some games now and then to stay up here. How does a team that boasts Jeff Carter, Justin Williams, Anze Kopitar and some of the best depth in the league score so little? Los Angeles is one of the only teams in the league that can turn dump-and-chase hockey into an extreme possession advantage, but maybe that's the whole problem? A little more risk could go a long way toward improving the goal totals.
9. Colorado Avalanche (31-13-5, Last week: 8)
Patrick Roy made an ill-advised "plan the parade" crack about Toronto fans and media before the Avs visited the Air Canada Center and got stomped 5-2, but that doesn't change the fact that Colorado has gotten back to its winning ways with a 7-2-1 record in its last 10 games. Add in that Nathan MacKinnon seems to have gotten over a bit of rookie hesitation, scoring 10 times in his previous 14 games.
10. Columbus Blue Jackets (25-20-4, Last week: 15)
Uhhh ... what? The longest winning streak (seven games) in the NHL belongs to the Columbus Blue Jackets? And they're not getting lucky either, clocking in at over 57 percent Fenwick in close situations for a long while. There will be a lot of media who will say that this hot streak is due to the return of Nathan Horton, but it should be noted that it started a long time before then. Columbus has been red hot since Dec. 3, and shows no signs of slowing down at all. If Sergei Bobrovsky can recapture last season's form, the Jackets could easily find their way into the playoffs. Another thing to note: They have found their way up to 10th in the league in goal differential.
Featured article: The curious case of Marian Gaborik.
11. New York Rangers (27-22-3, Last week: 12)
All of a sudden, the Metropolitan division isn't sucking nearly as much as we're accustomed to, with New York, Columbus and New Jersey coming on, it's the Atlantic that looks to be the weak division. The bad luck streak seems to finally be ending in New York City, and just as things start looking up, Glen Sather chose to sell Michael Del Zotto at perhaps the lowest point in his career. It worked with Scott Gomez, but Kevin Klein is no Ryan McDonagh.
12. Vancouver Canucks (26-16-9, Last week: 11)
How did the Canucks respond to their worst loss of the season? How about an all out brawl 2 seconds into a game against Calgary? There's plenty of blame to go around for that, but John Tortorella was under no obligation to match goons with goons with last change at home, and his reaction going after Bob Hartley outside Calgary's dressing room was pretty pathetic. It ended up costing him a 15-day, six-game suspension. Luckily the Canucks won two other games this week.
Featured article: Torts suspended for 15 days.
13. Ottawa Senators (22-19-9, Last week: 13)
The Senators have completely recovered from the possession collapse they had earlier in the year, clipping along at around a 52 percent Fenwick close for more than 40 days, but at some point they're going to have to find a way to have some consistency. There are teams ahead of them that are struggling, but .500 hockey isn't going to get them into a wildcard spot.
Featured article: What's the deal with Jared Cowen?
14. Detroit Red Wings (22-18-10, Last week: 16)
Speaking of .500 hockey, that's what the Wings are playing, too, and they're going to have to do a lot better if they hope to break into playoff contention. Not having Jimmy Howard back for more than a few games at a time before he gets injured sure isn't helping, but injuries have only been part of the problem, with the Wings being wildly inconsistent over the last two months after a strong start to the year.
Featured article: Should the NHL allow plays off the netting?
15. New Jersey Devils (21-19-11, Last week: 17)
Yet another team playing .500 hockey, but the Devils get a boost for blowing out the Blues and looking good doing it. That's been a rarity in the NHL since Ken Hitchcock took over behind the bench. An interesting note for Jersey: If the Devils had just normal, 50 percent luck in the shootout, they'd be tied with the Rangers for second in the Metropolitan division and in the playoffs. That 0-8 record in a meaningless tiebreaker sure doesn't look that meaningless.
Featured article: Is shooting accuracy a problem for the Devils?
16. Philadelphia Flyers (25-20-6, Last week: 10)
Cooling off after their stellar hot streak, the Flyers have lost three of four, even though they also have points in three of those four games. Also disconcerting is that after a fairly long upward trend with consistently middle-of-the-pack play, the Flyers' possession numbers have crashed once again under Craig Berube, and shockingly, they've crashed worse than before.
Featured article: Analyzing the Steve Mason contract extension.
17. Montreal Canadiens (27-18-5, Last week: 14)
Last season, only four Canadiens players had even-strength Corsi percentages under 50 percent, and they were a group of sacrificial fourth-liners playing extremely tough minutes in order to run two exploitation offense lines. This season, the roles are muddled and the system has changed, which has lead to only four players having even strength Corsi percentages over 50 percent. It's shocking how bad this team has become in such a short time, possible unprecedented.
Featured article: The Habs' mid-season Top 25 Under 25 is completed.
18. Toronto Maple Leafs (27-20-5, Last week: 24)
A mirage or not, the Leafs have won six straight and are back in a playoff spot with a bit of room to breathe.
Featured article: Vote for the worst sportswriter in Canada.
19. Nashville Predators (22-22-7, Last week: 20)
Adding Michael Del Zotto should improve Nashville's transition game immediately, along with its power play. Add that to a positive week and the Predators have the potential to move up further.
Featured article: The Del Zotto trade was really about Ryan Ellis and Seth Jones.
20. Winnipeg Jets (23-23-5, Last week: 27)
Monotone Claude Noel finally gets fired, and monotone Paul Maurice takes over. Fortunately for the Jets, there's more to coaches than what they sound like, and Maurice has them on a four-game winning streak.
Featured article: Remembering the awfulness of the 2012-13 lockout.
21. Minnesota Wild (27-20-5, Last week: 19)
They won more than they lost last week, but the Wild are playing awful, with a PDO spike the size of Everest.
Featured article: Is Jonas Brodin busting out of his sophomore slump?
22. New York Islanders (21-24-7, Last week: 21)
Another Metro division team that's coming on in the second half, the Islanders still have a long way to go at even strength to move up the rankings.
Featured article: John Tavares is awesome and there's visual proof.
23. Florida Panthers (20-23-7, Last week: 22)
It's still middling results from the Panthers, who put a stop to Pittsburgh's home win dominance, but can't manage to gain any ground on the teams ahead of them.
Featured article: The Panthers ended Pittsburgh's historic home winning streak.
24. Dallas Stars (22-20-8, Last week: 18)
It seems like every single year the Stars have a second-half collapse, but you have to think with the way they've been playing at even strength that eventually things will turn around for them.
Featured article: Jordie Benn helped the Stars into the shootout record books.
25. Phoenix Coyotes (23-18-9, Last week: 25)
3-7-0 in their last 10 and two straight losses to wrap up the week, including one to Calgary. What an ugly turn for the Coyotes.
Featured article: The Coyotes' record shouldn't be a surprise.
26. Carolina Hurricanes (21-19-9, Last week: 26)
A little bit of a better showing from the Hurricanes, and a big response from Eric Staal after being snubbed by Team Canada, but there needs to be more to move them up.
Featured article: Will the Hurricanes make the playoffs?
27. Washington Capitals (22-17-8, Last week: 23)
All season we've been saying that the other shoe would drop on the Capitals if Adam Oates couldn't get the even-strength play to improve, and now that it's begun to, they've had a bad streak of puck luck. If you're a Caps fan, you have to hope Oates is thinking process over result here.
28. Calgary Flames (17-27-7, Last week: 30)
A win! An actual win! That's all it took for the Flames to move past the other two cellar dwellers.
Featured article: Bob Hartley is a terrible coach.
29. Buffalo Sabres (13-28-7, Last week: 28)
I honestly wonder how the 2013-14 Sabres would fare against the record-setting Atlanta Thrashers in a seven-game series. It would probably be the ugliest series ever, especially with the Sabres' third jersey.
Featured article: The trade market for Ryan Miller is still undefined.
30. Edmonton Oilers (15-31-6, Last week: 29)
Oilers owner Daryl Katz wrote an open letter to the fans pleading for patience with the rebuild. Isn't that the kind of thing that happens right before heads roll? The craziest and most depressing thing about the Oilers right now is that they may have actually ruined Taylor Hall, who's registering a shot attempt only about 45 percent of his shifts, as opposed to an average close to 60 percent the previous two years.
Featured article: Responding to Katz's letter to fans.