1. St. Louis Blues (30-7-5, Last week: 4)
Last week's power rankings
Last week's power rankings
The Blues have been crushing everyone, rattling of six straight wins and lead the league with a +58 goal differential (WHAT?!?), which is a pace that would see the Blues finish the season with the best goal differential since the 1995-96 Wings. That's insane when you consider some of the powerhouse teams that have come and gone since. Even more impressive is that this recent hot streak has come without leading scorer Alexander Steen, and they were without David Backes for part of it, as well. It seems to be no coincidence that the hot streak has also come after Brian Elliott was handed the goaltending reins over the faltering Jaroslav Halak.
2. Anaheim Ducks (32-8-5, Last week: 1)
It's almost unfair to put the Ducks at second, because in reality they're more like a second No. 1. Anaheim has lost just once in its previous 15 games, and once in regulation in its previous 18 games. It's no secret that the Ducks have been rolling with the percentages, but they're also a good team, and their percentages haven't been so out of whack that we can say they've just been getting lucky. One thing we know for sure is that Bruce Boudreau is going to be nominated for another Jack Adams, and likely win.
Featured article: Seven Ducks are going to Sochi.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (32-12-1, Last week: 3)
Sidney Crosby has an 11-point lead on the next highest scorer in the NHL, which has allowed the Penguins to continue to be a force in spite of a series of injuries that would be crippling to almost any team in the NHL. Missing Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Paul Martin for long stretches, you would think Pittsburgh would be dead in the water, and their possession numbers have crashed in a big way, but Crosby just seems to be able to skill them out of danger at every turn.
4. Chicago Blackhawks (29-8-9, Last week: 2)
Surprisingly, the Hawks have lost more often than they've won since we last checked in on them, but they've still managed to get points in six of their last seven by going 3-1-3. Chicago had been remarkably consistent this season until the last six games, during which it's been average. That likely has something to do with a strong run in the schedule though, so there's probably not much to read into.
Featured article: The Blackhawks' road ahead.
5. San Jose Sharks (27-11-6, Last week: 8)
The Sharks have recently been hit by the double whammy of a dip in the possession stats and a dip in their percentage, but they've managed to fight through it for a 6-4-0 record in their last 10. The Sharks' bump up the rankings may be temporary because of their dip in possession, and that dip is likely to be exacerbated with Logan Couture out for awhile, not to mention young wunderkind Tomas Hertl is still out indefinitely.
6. Boston Bruins (25-10-2, Last week: 7)
The Bruins just keep chugging along, getting better and better as the season wears on. Oh, you say they're littered with injuries? I guess that doesn't really matter when you have a core as strong as they do, and one of the best coaching staffs in the NHL. As a Habs fan, I despise everything about this team that isn't Patrice Bergeron. Claude Julien is near the top of the things I despise about the Bruins, but good lord am I ever glad he's going to be on Team Canada's coaching staff. The Bruins had a run of bad luck, but that's begun to turn around for them. Watch for a giant winning streak upcoming.
Featured article: Is Tuukka Rask's recent play a cause for concern?
7. Los Angeles Kings (26-13-5, Last week: 5)
What's going on in LA? How is it even possible that a team this good can go 1-4-1 since the last check in? In their last 10 games the Kings have a 61.7 percent Fenwick while the score is close, yet they've gone 4-5-1. Even with a crashing PDO, that's an impressive feat of bad luck. It seems almost impossible that a team could play that well and do so poorly. The Kings are so absurdly dominant, that not a single player who's played 22 or more games with them this season has an even strength Corsi percentage under 50 percent. Not one.
Featured article: Tanner Pearson is getting a shot with the Kings, but in what role?
Another one!: Pleading with Joe Thornton to ditch the zeros and join the heroes.
8. Tampa Bay Lightning (26-13-4, Last week: 9)
When Jon Cooper was hired in Tampa Bay, his reputation was that of a dominant possession coach. Having watched his AHL teams in Norfolk and Syracuse, I figured that it would carry over at least in part to the NHL, but after a back-and-forth start, it seems like he's got the Lightning playing the way he wants them to, up there among the elite possession teams in the NHL. Even more impressive is that he's done it without Steven Stamkos in the lineup, and you have to wonder how much better this team will look with Martin St. Louis and Victor Hedman rested after being snubbed by their respective countries for the Olympics.
Featured article: Stamkos is going to Sochi, but St. Louis and Hedman are surprise snubs.
9. Vancouver Canucks (23-13-9, Last week: 6)
Roberto Luongo ran so hot that he broke, and now the Canucks are suffering for it. It doesn't help that Vancouver has run into a part of its schedule that's full of the tough California teams, along with the only teams in the East that are looking like contenders at the moment. The Canuucks are holding on for loser points more often than not, but the they are losing a lot of games right now, and they could use their goalie back.
Featured article: Seven Canucks are headed to Sochi in February.
10. Philadelphia Flyers (23-17-4, Last week: 18)
The Flyers are hot like the sun, which kind of doesn't make sense when you look at their possession turning into a black hole of late, and their PDO being relatively pedestrian. They absolutely dominated the Habs on Wednesday, but that was one of just two possession positive games in their last nine, during which they've lost only twice. I suppose they're getting it done on special teams, but this is very odd.
Featured article: Are the Flyers better off when Giroux plays less?
11. Colorado Avalanche (27-12-4, Last week: 11)
Like Philly, Colorado is in the midst of a major meltdown when it comes to possession, but the Avs rattling off wins most of the time, and even when they're not, they're grabbing extra points by taking the game to overtime. Nevertheless, Colorado is due for some major regression, and it will be exciting to watch rookie coach Patrick Roy deal with real adversity as a coach for the first time. You had to know that the Avalanche couldn't stay right in the middle of the pack possession-wise forever with that defense core.
12. Detroit Red Wings (19-14-10, Last week: 17)
Hey what do ya know, the Wings get Henrik Zetterberg back, and all of a sudden their possession numbers skyrocket. Every hockey fan is in love with Pavel Datsyuk, but it's long been my opinion that all the things Datsyuk gets credited for is usually Zetterberg's genius. It was Zetterberg, not Datsyuk, who shut down Crosby in two straight cup finals, and Zetterberg who shut down Toews last year. The captain is a two-way force few can match, and even with a slew of other injuries plaguing them, the Red Wings look like themselves again with Zetterberg back in the lineup.
Featured article: What is Anthony Mantha's future with the Red Wings?
13. Montreal Canadiens (25-15-5, Last week: 10)
What's gone wrong in Montreal? How has a team that was not just a good possession team, but arguably among the league's elite for over 60 games under Michel Therrien become Buffalo-level bad? It started with a horrible summer of acquisitions by Marc Bergevin, but there was also a system change at the beginning of November that has lead to disaster. If not for Carey Price being in hero mode for most of the season, this is the most talented lottery team ever assembled. Something has to give here, either from a personnel or coaching staff standpoint, but it seems like Bergevin has no idea what's going on. The worst part is that this complete collapse has come with a healthy team, and that's starting to change with Alex Galchenyuk gone for six or more weeks with a broken hand.
14. Dallas Stars (20-15-7, Last week: 12)
Dallas had a tough stretch, losing more than it won in spite of outplaying their opponents in five of the previous seven games. The Stars have been consistently strong since the beginning of November, but they really need Kari Lehtonen to start making the saves he used to make. Lehtonen has been extremely Jekyll and Hyde, posting a .940 save percentage in 16 wins, and a .888 save percentage in 18 losses. Save percentage will obviously dip on average during losses, but not by 52 percentage points. Lehtonen has to do a better job of closing out games when the Stars give him goal support.
Featured article: Stars shuffle lines in search of team defense.
15. Ottawa Senators (19-18-8, Last week: 16)
Look out, because Ottawa is about to start looking ... average. Well OK, the Senators have been better than average, but they haven't been great. They seem to have rediscovered their possession game after a brutal start to the season, but they're still struggling to win consistently due to a weak defense outside of Erik Karlsson. Craig Anderson beginning to round into form is a huge plus, but you have to wonder why Paul MacLean was so committed to him when Robin Lehner was stopping pucks at an absurd rate. Nevertheless, Ottawa is in a good spot with a lot of struggling Eastern teams, and it'll be in the playoff picture soon.
Featured article: Ottawa Senators ups and downs.
16. Minnesota Wild (23-17-5, Last week: 15)
Wild coach Mike Yeo has been quoted before that he learned everything he knows about coaching from his mentor, Michel Therrien. With Therrien, old habits die hard, and it seems that the same applies to Yeo, who had transformed the Wild into a puck possession beast this season, using the copycat method after being crushed by Chicago in the playoffs. Unfortunately that was short-lived, as Minnesota is crashing back to below-average territory on a fairly uninterrupted slide, with no signs of stopping.
Featured article: Feet are complicated and you should avoid breaking them, if possible.
17. Carolina Hurricanes (18-16-9, Last week: 24)
4-1-1 is a solid record to carry the Hurricanes up the bottom half of the rankings. Since they're lucky enough to play in the Metropolitan division, they're two points out of a playoff spot with two games in hand.
18. New York Rangers (22-20-3, Last week: 13)
The Rangers are simply too strong and too deep of a team to continue to struggle the way they have. A 4-2-1 stretch is a start in the right direction, and they've got a lot more to offer than that.
Featured article: Could Dan Girardi be on the move?
19. Phoenix Coyotes (21-12-9, Last week: 19)
Nothing really happening to make the Coyotes move up or down, with a 2-2-2 week being about what you'd expect from a well-coached but unspectacular team.
Featured article: Which country do analytics favour for the WInter Olympics?
20. Washington Capitals (19-14-4, Last week: 14)
The Capitals have had four straight really great possession games while the score is close, and lost them all. How does that even happen? This is probably the most confusing team in the league, as it's atrocious at even strength, but amazing on special teams. The Caps remind me a little bit of the Habs under Guy Carbonneau, and that's a pretty big insult to Adam Oates.
Featured article: The crease in Washington is far too crowded right now.
21. New Jersey Devils (17-18-9, Last week: 21)
Speaking of confusing, the continually excellent Devils continue to rack up losses. 3-3-2 isn't a bad record since we last checked in, but the Devils are trying to gain ground, not stay where they are.
Featured article: Is Marek Zidlicky worth his extreme ups and downs?
22. Nashville Predators (19-19-6, Last week: 23)
The Preds sticking around at .500 with Pekka Rinne still out is pretty impressive when you take a gander at the roster they're dealing with. They could really use Filip Forsberg becoming the gamebreaker in the NHL that he is in the World Juniors.
Featured article: Wooing football fans in Nashville to the hockey rink.
23. Toronto Maple Leafs (21-18-5, Last week: 25)
Toronto moves up, but it's kind of false. The Leafs rattled off a few wins lately, but they're all in the shootout. A win is a win, but when you've only managed five regulation or overtime wins in the previous 30 games, there's something seriously wrong.
Featured article: The predicted record for the Leafs in January, is pain.
24. New York Islanders (16-22-7, Last week: 28)
Someone must have lied to John Tavares and told him he was on the bubble for Team Canada, because he put up about a billion points last week en route to five wins in the last seven outings.
25. Florida Panthers (16-21-6, Last week: 20)
Things are turning for the Panthers under new coach Peter Horachek, but the wins have dried up a bit. Still, a 2-2-1 record is a positive from where they're standing.
Featured article: Barkov and Kopecky have been named to their country's teams for Sochi.
26. Columbus Blue Jackets (19-20-4, Last week: 22)
Featured article: Mid-season report card on the Jackets' blueline.
27. Winnipeg Jets (19-22-5, Last week: 26)
At the beginning of the season I didn't think the Jets would ever fall this low, even with Ondrej Pavelec in net, but here we are. You have to think coach Claude Noel would be fired by now in any other market.
Featured article: Examining the criticism of the reports from USA Hockey's selection process.
28. Buffalo Sabres (12-26-4, Last week: 27)
The Sabres have gone from record-setting awful before Ted Nolan took over, to just really, really bad. It's possible that they're still the worst team in the league, but they've improved enough to squeak out wins.
Featured article: Is Tim Murray the new GM of the Sabres?
29. Edmonton Oilers (12-24-3, Last week: 30)
Craig MacTavish is insistent that this Oilers team has a great future. Seeing even a possession demon like Taylor Hall getting crushed in relatively soft minutes, it doesn't look likely. You have to wonder whether Edmonton's star youngsters will demand trades before this team is ever competitive?
Featured article: After 8 years of failure, who's to blame now?
30. Calgary Flames (14-17-6, Last week: 29)
The best thing that I can think of to say about the Flames is that I'll be seeing them with a few Calgarian friends as they take on the Blues Thursday evening. Literally, that's the most positive thing I can say about them.
Featured article: Smid and Berra heading to Sochi for the Flames.