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NHL power rankings: The champs flex their muscles

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A wakeup call in the form of a blowout loss brought the true Hawks out, as they take over our ranking and remain on top of the NHL standings.

Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

1. Chicago Blackhawks (25-7-5, Last week: 2)

Last week's power rankings

A brutal loss to the Leafs should have been enough to knock Chicago down a peg, but the response by the Hawks showed the true Blackhawks in their dominant 3-1 win over last week's champs where they had 68.3% of the Fenwick at even strength. That is not something that happens to Los Angeles often. Chicago followed that up with another win against division-rival Nashville, and that Patrick Kane guy has one fewer point than Crosby. Kind of crazy to think that Chicago hasn't been on top for a few weeks.

Featured article: Which Hawks players are trending up or trending down? Find out in the Flight Check.

2. Anaheim Ducks (24-7-5, Last week: 6)

Another perfect week from Anaheim, and a week where their possession numbers have begun to catch up with their winning ways. An even better sign for Anaheim was that each game was better than the last. They had a very real dip in their level of play, but didn't lose very much during it. If they can keep up this new level of performance, they're a very dangerous team. Anaheim had a bit of a scare with Getzlaf getting hurt, but he returned to the game and seems to be okay.

Featured article: How do the Duck stack up against the rest of the Western Conference?

3. Los Angeles Kings (23-8-4, Last week: 1)

The setback against Chicago highlights that of late, the Kings have been beating up on a lot of bad teams. That doesn't mean that the Kings haven't earned their place in the rankings since they're still possibly the best team in the league, but a big win over a tough opponent would be nice to see from them. San Jose will offer that test on Thursday.

Featured article: Who's been the most impressive King? It's probably obvious if you've been watching lately.

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4. Pittsburgh Penguins (25-10-1, Last week: 7)

With Evgeni Malkin, Kris LetangPaul Martin, and more out of the lineup, Pittsburgh just keeps winning. For a team that's extremely top heavy with very little depth overall, that's astounding. A huge amount of credit should go to Dan Bylsma, but we haven't heard enough credit for new assistant coach Jacques Martin. Considered a weak defensive team last season, the Penguins brought in Martin and transformed from a middling possession team to the best in the East. Not bad.

Featured article: Tomas Vokoun may be considering retirement.

5. San Jose Sharks (21-7-6, Last week: 5)

After a rough stretch, the Sharks are starting to put the pieces back together, defeating both Minnesota and St. Louis in statement games over playoff competitors. They also overtook the Kings for second place in the NHL in Fenwick close percentage, showing that the Sharks are a team to be feared at even strength. The scariest thing about San Jose though? They have the league's most dangerous powerplay (with 67.5 shots generated per 60 minutes) but have the 22nd-highest shooting percentage. Eventually that'll regress and then, watch out.

Featured article: The Sharks sit on leads, but so does every other NHL team.

6. Vancouver Canucks (20-10-6, Last week: 8)

Vancouver has flown under the radar for most of the season while playing extremely well, mostly due to Roberto Luongo's brutal start. Luongo has emerged in December with a .958 save percentage in 6 games, which has turned around the season. Not only did the Canucks execute a feel good blowout win over Boston, but they look like a contender under John Tortorella.

Featured article: Lucic got in an altercation at a bar in Vancouver, and there's video.

7. St. Louis Blues (22-7-4, Last week: 3)

Photo credit: Extra Skater

Is something wrong in St. Louis? It wasn't the worst possible week they could have had at 2-1-1, but their only regulation win was against lowly Toronto, and their possession numbers have been crashing in a big way. They haven't been helped by Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott giving them terrible goaltending of late. Neither goaltender is giving .900 or greater goaltending right now, and you have to wonder if Jake Allen enters the fold again.

Featured article: Examining the Blues' drafting patterns yields some interesting results.

8. Boston Bruins (21-8-2, Last week: 4)

The Bruins had a chance to rub salt in the wound in Vancouver, and got blown out instead. Tuukka Rask had a rare off game and Milan Lucic got sucker punched by a crazy Vancouverite after the match. It was a bad day for Boston, one where Brad Marchand reminded everyone that he's still living in 2011. Two teams have won since you did, bud. The drop in the rankings is temporary though, as the Bruins are actually playing their best hockey of late, even riddled with injuries.

Featured article: With Rask suffering from the flu, the Bruins had to turn to a college backup. Here's an interview with him.

9. Montreal Canadiens (21-12-3, Last week: 9)

The Canadiens should be falling like a rock in these rankings, because they've been playing terrible for over a month now. From a possession standpoint, they're off to one of their worst starts since the Carbonneau era. But they keep winning, thanks in large part to the brilliance of Carey Price. Therrien's adjustment of splitting up Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban to help the transition game through more of the lineup may help, but there are way too many question marks on the roster.

Featured article: Pacioretty's sword sheathing celebration has irked several teams now, is it too brazen, or much ado about nothing?

10. Minnesota Wild (18-10-5, Last week: 10)

Photo credit: Extra Skater

Like the Habs, the Wild should be crashing down right now, but the fact is that the top eight teams in the league are beating everyone else, and then there's a buffer window of teams that are playing poorly but getting good results, then the rest. Like St. Louis and Montreal, the Wild have seen their great early possession numbers crash and burn. While Minnesota is still not giving up many shots, Josh Harding's amazing play has never been so important.

Featured article: And speaking of Harding, he was placed on the IR to adjust to new medication.

11. Colorado Avalanche (22-10-1, Last week: 12)

Now that Colorado is no longer always playing with the league, their possession numbers while the score is close have begun to climb a little. They're definitely not the dominant team that they looked like at the beginning of the season, but with that defense core, can we start giving some credit to Patrick Roy already?

Featured article: Can the Avalanche stay in a playoff position with their current defense core?

12. Tampa Bay Lightning (20-11-3, Last week: 15)

Without Steven Stamkos, the Lightning have quietly become a top-10 possession team in the NHL. They've outplayed opponents while the score is close for six straight games, and they've been getting some great goaltending and shooting numbers to boot. Jon Cooper hasn't been mentioned a lot in the media this year, but he's another coach who deserves a lot of credit. Tampa Bay is only going to get better in the future with players like Jonathan Drouin and Andrei Vasilevski in the pipeline. Scary.

Featured article: Checking in on the Lightning's underlying numbers after 30 games.

13. Washington Capitals (18-13-3, Last week: 11)

When everyone got excited about Washington and Pittsburgh being in the same division due to their rivalry, who would have guessed that they've be the only two teams in the entire Metropolitan division worth watching? After a strong stretch where Washington was getting their even strength play close to par, they crashed and burned last week, gaining a win due to the heroics of Alex Ovechkin. Remember when everyone was writing him off? He's been phenomenal.

Featured articleOvechkin and the search for 50 in 50.

14. Dallas Stars (16-12-5, Last week: 13)

The Stars keep playing well, and they keep just skipping by at around the same level as before. Eventually they should pass Phoenix in the standings at this pace, but they still need to jump over either Minnesota or Vancouver in order to nab a wildcard spot. Even though they have games in hand on the Wild, they're 8 points back of both them and the Canucks. That's a really tough thing to do, even for a top-10 possession team. The West right now is just unfair.

Featured article: Brenden Dillon has been struggling without Stephane Robidas.

15. Carolina Hurricanes (14-13-7, Last week: 18)

It was a light week for Carolina where a lot of teams around them lost. That means they shot up the rankings after nabbing points in both of their games. They haven't been playing very well with the score close, but in total while playing 5-on-5 hockey, the Hurricanes have outplayed their opponents for six straight games. That's pretty good for a team that's struggled so badly. Now the question becomes, who do they turn to in goal? Cam Ward hasn't been good and hasn't been for a few years now. He hasn't put up a season worthy of his contract since 2010-11.

Featured article: How are the Canes looking lately? Find out in Storm Tracking.

16. Phoenix Coyotes (18-10-5, Last week: 13)

Oh, Mike Smith.

If not for a third-period collapse in Montreal, Phoenix may have been moving up the rankings. But they're just 4-5-1 in their last 10 games, and when the unsustainable scoring pace evaporates, it could get really ugly. The Coyotes also face questions about their captain Shane Doan, who is currently out of the lineup and being treated for a mystery illness.

Featured article: How does the Kyle Turris for David Rundblad trade look two years later?

17. Ottawa Senators (14-16-6, Last week: 25)

Don't look now, but Ottawa is regaining their form. They've been outplayed at even strength while the score is close just twice in the last 11 games, and one of those times was against the Kings. Hilariously, this return to possession dominance came at the same time as their early-season luck disappeared, so they're still not gaining any headway, but eventually the percentages will turn in their favour and the wild card spots in the East are there for the taking. Ottawa is a team to watch out for. When they're not losing to New Jersey.

Featured article: Mike Hoffman has been sent back to Binghamton, but he may not be there long.

18. Florida Panthers (13-17-5, Last week: 26)

No seriously, I'm not even joking. The Panthers have been lights-out of late, hovering at close to a 57% Fenwick close for a 13 game period. They've been even stronger while the score is tied, up over 60%. What if I told you that they did it last week in spite of missing Jonathan Huberdeau? This could be a blip caused by the fire in the belly that comes with a midseason coaching change, but right now the Panthers are an absolute force. Their record looks awful, even after three straight wins, but remember that they have the second-worst all situations PDO in the NHL. With how weak the Metropolitan division is, could the Panthers make a miracle run?

Featured article: Dylan Olsen has been a standout for the Panthers.

19. Nashville Predators (16-15-3, Last week: 23)

After a deep slump that took them way out of a playoff spot, the Predators are inching back towards even possession with a solid run of games. Their three-game winning streak was halted by Chicago, but beating the Sharks and Stars was a very solid start to righting the ship. If Nashville wasn't in the West, they're playoff hopes wouldn't be in such dire straits.

Featured article: Peter Horachek is drawing rave reviews in Florida.

20. Philadelphia Flyers (15-15-4, Last week: 21)

Slowly but steadily, the Flyers are making a little bit of headway while working towards respectability after a brutal start. Philly has gone 14-8-4 since beginning the season 1-7-0, and continuing on that pace would see them net 93 points this season. That could get them into the playoffs in the Metropolitan.

Featured article: How are the Flyers' prospects looking? Yes, the Flyers do have a couple of prospects.

21. Detroit Red Wings(15-12-9, Last week: 14)

Photo credit: Extra Skater

A precipitous fall for the struggling Wings, who have lost six straight games (two of which in shootouts) and seven of their last eight. The last time the Wings scored three goals in a game was their last win, way back on December 6th. The worst sign of all, however, is that their possession game has completely evaporated. The Red Wings of yesteryear that set records are getting killed by teams like Florida, Tampa Bay, and Anaheim. Maybe they're allergic to the sun? The crazy thing about this losing streak is that Detroit's PDO is through the roof during it. They could be losing a lot bigger.

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22. New Jersey Devils (14-15-6, Last week: 17)

At some point, it doesn't matter how good your possession game is if you can't win. Still being below .500 at this point in the season is extremely surprising for such a strong team. The consistent insistence on starting Martin Brodeur over Cory Schneider is maddening for Devils fans, and it would be a shame to see Jaromir Jagr's amazing play to go to waste.

Featured article: Looking at the Devil's zone exits through 30 games.

23. New York Rangers (15-17-1, Last week: 19)

Like the Devils, the Rangers are a decent team that just can't get it done. Some of the criticism has to fall on goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who has been off to the worst start of his career after signing a gargantuan contract. The Rangers aren't used to getting subpar goaltending, and that's what King Henrik is providing now. Lundqvist isn't the only under-performer though, with Benoit Pouliot looking like a total bust and captain Ryan Callahan struggling.

Featured article: Speaking of Benoit Pouliot, is there any other non-Russian player who's so readily described as enigmatic?

24. Columbus Blue Jackets (14-16-4, Last week: 22)

Columbus had an okay week, going 1-1-1, but they were leapfrogged by teams that just played way better. Their possession game is improving, which could be given a further boost when Nathan Horton finally returns to the lineup. Marian Gaborik has also missed half the Jackets' games this season, but who could have ever predicted something like that would happen?

Featured article: The Jackets have a bad case of the Mondays.

25. Winnipeg Jets (15-16-4, Last week: 24)

A below-average week from the Jets sees them knocked down one more spot, but they could deserve to be knocked down even further after getting spanked by Buffalo, of all teams. The Western Conference is eating away at the Jets, holding them to a 6-12-4 record in their own conference. That's never going to be good enough for a rabid fanbase that desperately wants to see the playoffs in Winnipeg. Something has to change there.

Featured article: What are the real problems with the Jets?

26. Toronto Maple Leafs (17-16-3, Last week: 20)

Holy man are the Leafs ever bad. Toronto has just one regulation win in their last 15 games, and the crazy thing is that this hasn't even been that much of a bad luck streak. Eventually the Leafs will have a run of really bad luck (every team does) and it's going to get really ugly. Leafs fans are also terrified to hear rumours of Dave Bolland possibly being extended for big dollars before he returns from injury. The Leafs are fun.

Featured article: Flip flopping with Steve Simmons | The Sea of Blue | The Leafs' neutral zone backside pressure

27. Calgary Flames (13-16-5, Last week: 28)

Three straight wins for the Flames were a great start to the week, and yes they all needed extra time, but beggars can't be choosers. Calgary ended the week with being shut out by the Bruins, their second loss to Boston in their last five games. But you know what? Being able to say that the only team you've lose to in the previous six games was the Bruins isn't so bad for a team in lottery position, Boston is pretty good after all.

Featured article: With the end of the Feaster era, the real rebuild begins.

28. New York Islanders (9-19-7, Last week: 29)

Another winless week for the Islanders, and the best thing that can be said is that they at least managed to grab a couple of loser points. Maybe the Islanders could survive being one of the least lucky teams in the NHL if they had the solid possession game that they displayed last season, but that seems to have abandoned them after a solid streak in November.

Featured article: The Islanders need to avoid trading for other teams' junk.

29. Buffalo Sabres (7-22-2, Last week: 30)

Photo credit: Extra Skater

A 1-1-1 week might have been the best week the Sabres have had this season, though they could see that change rather quickly. Somehow, Ted Nolan has Buffalo playing far, far better than they have so far this season. That spike in play is pretty incredible, especially when you look at Buffalo's roster, which still looks like a disaster zone.

Featured article: The Sabres dressed in outrageous costumes for a charity runway show.

30. Edmonton Oilers (11-18-3, Last week: 27)

Remember when Edmonton was slowly digging themselves out of a hole? Four straight losses put an end to that. The problem is still on defense for Edmonton, but the struggles of Nail Yakupov can't be ignored. Is it more surprising that Yakupov is being outproduced per minute by Ryan Smyth, or by Marc Arcobello? Eesh.

Featured article: The continuing search for the best players of all time.

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