1. St. Louis Blues (14-6-1) | St. Louis Game Time
The Blues lost twice in a row this week for just the second time all season. Disappointing, yes, but it also speaks to how well they've played over the last few months. It's also worth noting that those two losses came against Montreal and Boston. They've since beaten Ottawa and Winnipeg on the road.
Defensively, few (if any) teams have been better. St. Louis is allowing exactly two goals against per game -- tops in the league.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins (13-4-2) | Pensburgh
This was a really, really tough week for Pittsburgh. After beating the Canadiens on Tuesday, the Penguins lost two straight to the Islanders -- 5-4 and 4-1 -- to drop to third in the Eastern Conference. More importantly, however, they lost Pascal Dupuis, who is expected to miss six months with a blood clot in his lung.
Dupuis, 35, was off to a good start this season, earning 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 16 games. It will be interesting to see how Pittsburgh replaces him on the penalty kill. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Josh Yohe, the Pens killed five percent more penalties last season when he was on the ice short-handed.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning (14-6-2) | Raw Charge
Alex Killorn has been on fire. After missing two weeks, he has registered points in five consecutive games and has goals in four straight. Head coach Jon Cooper recently said Killorn has "probably been our best forward," which says a lot when Steven Stamkos is on your payroll.
Tampa Bay did lose twice this week but took down Minnesota on Saturday. Ben Bishop was particularly impressive against the Wild, stopping 30 of 31 shots on goal. Such a performance was relieving for Bolts fans after Bishop surrendered four goals on 20 shots against the Leafs on Thursday.
In spite of recent losses to the Rangers and Penguins, Montreal is atop the NHL standings by three points. That said, it's unclear how longer Montreal can keep this up. With a plus-four goal differential and possession metrics that rank in the bottom half of the league, it may only be a matter of time before the Habs start slipping.
5. Nashville Predators (13-5-2) | On The Forecheck
Nashville is undoubtedly a good team, but some regression is bound to come sooner or later. The Preds don't have enough offensive talent to preserve an inflated even strength goals-for percentage (65.7), and they certainly can't maintain a 103.5 PDO -- currently the highest in the NHL.
What they can do, though, is continue to drive possession. Their Score Adjusted Fenwick (54.1) is sixth in the league and is just six-tenths of a percentage point behind second place. The additions of Mike Ribeiro and James Neal, along with a much-improved Filip Forsberg, have helped turn Nashville into a tough opponent at 5-on-5. Peter Laviolette's system sure helps, too.
Speaking of Forsberg: the 20-year-old winger added two more points this week and a game-winning shootout goal over Florida on Saturday. He now has 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in 20 games.
GIF: Forsberg with the shootout winner for the Predators http://t.co/2IR4YdHTft— Steph (@myregularface) November 23, 2014
6. Chicago Blackhawks (12-8-1) | Second City Hockey
People were so worried about the Blackhawks offense. Then they scored 17 goals in three games.
Indeed, this week was a good one for Chicago, which won three straight and enjoyed a goal-scoring explosion in the process. The Blackhawks laid seven on Edmonton, as 15 skaters found the score sheet. They did lose a 4-1 contest to Vancouver on Sunday, but it was the second night of a back-to-back that included travel.
While Chicago won't continue to produce at such a rampant pace, this week was likely a sign of what's to come. Much like San Jose and Los Angeles, this group is simply too talented to hover around .500 -- especially with the best Score Adjusted Fenwick in the league.
7. Anaheim Ducks (13-4-5) | Anaheim Calling
Anaheim shook things up this week by trading defenseman Bryan Allen to Montreal for Rene Bourque. Bourque hasn't fared well this season -- he has no goals and two assists in 14 games -- so there's little reason to believe he can help the Ducks' scoring issues. Anaheim is currently 19th in the league in goals per game (2.59) despite a wealth of top-tier forwards.
Though the Ducks recently dropped six of seven, all but one of those defeats came in overtime or the shootout. They've since won two straight.
8. Vancouver Canucks (14-6-1) | Nucks Misconduct
Willie Desjardins has to be an early front-runner for the Jack Adams. Vancouver has completely turned things around after last year's nightmare, and with a low PDO (97.7), the Canucks may improve even more than we've seen thus far.
Canucks fans are hoping that improvement comes in net. Ryan Miller's 12-3-0 record is encouraging, but he hasn't been the Miller of old: His save percentage since being traded to the Blues last spring is a mediocre .903.
9. Los Angeles Kings (11-6-4) | Jewels From The Crown
Jonathan Quick has, for the most part, been remarkable -- stopping 93.2 percent of shots on goal he's faced. While he did give up five to Dallas on Saturday, his previous three starts against the Ducks, Panthers and Hurricanes went extremely well.
GIF: Quick with an excellent glove save as the protect a one goal lead http://t.co/rLMFplPrbp— Steph (@myregularface) November 21, 2014
Goaltending aside, L.A. continues to put up average possession numbers. As Stephen Burtch noted, that is the one big difference between this year's team and those of the recent past.
10. Boston Bruins (13-9-0) | Stanley Cup Of Chowder
The Bruins lost another key player this week when Brad Marchand was placed on IR with an unspecified ailment. The controversial forward has been a solid offensive contributor (five goals, six assists), and his loss further depletes a thin Boston depth chart.
It's been interesting to watch the B's do so well without Zdeno Chara and strong netminding from Tuukka Rask. Rask, who many felt would vie for the Vezina Trophy, has stopped just 91.5 percent of shots on goal this year -- not bad by any means, but not what we've come to expect from him, either. A shutout against St. Louis was encouraging, as was his strong night against Carolina last Saturday.
11. New York Islanders (14-6-0) | Lighthouse Hockey
The Islanders made a statement this week by sweeping Pittsburgh in a home-and-home set. Jaroslav Halak allowed just one goal in Saturday's win, and has starting playing the way New York envisioned when it signed him to a four-year contract.
Halak has won five straight and in that span has posted two shutouts and given up only six goals. The Isles are scoring at a high rate -- thanks in large part to John Tavares and Brock Nelson -- and could do a lot of damage if the goaltending holds up.
12. Detroit Red Wings (10-5-5) | Winging It In Motown
Tomas Tatar was told to shoot more, and that's exactly what he's been doing. The 23-year-old winger has five goals in his past five games -- a massive jump after potting just three goals in his first 15 contests.
Tatar's offensive contributions, along with some Pavel Datsyuk magic, brought Detroit wins over Columbus and Winnipeg. However, a 4-1 loss to Toronto on Saturday was somewhat concerning. Jimmy Howard struggled, stopping 24 of 27 shots, and has been very erratic of late. The American goalie gave up one goal against Chicago, then four goals against Montreal, then shut out Columbus, then gave up three against Toronto.
13. Minnesota Wild (11-8-0) | Hockey Wilderness
Darcy Kuemper's success in net propelled Minnesota to a four-game win streak, which was snapped this weekend in Tampa Bay. Kuemper, who is filling in for the injured Josh Harding, has allowed two or less goals in his last six appearances.
GIF: disappointed there were no replays of this sequence of excellent Kuemper saves http://t.co/yvaT9dDXMY— Steph (@myregularface) November 21, 2014
Thankfully, Zach Parise's concussion recovery went well. He has three goals in three games since returning to the lineup.
14. San Jose Sharks (10-9-4) | Fear The Fin
The Sharks are probably much better than their record indicates. Despite everything that went wrong last summer, they remain one of the league's most talented teams -- at least on paper.
If there's any time to go a big winning streak, it's now. Four of San Jose's next five games are against Calgary, Edmonton and Philadelphia. The schedule gets far more difficult in mid-December, when the Sharks play the Blues, Ducks, Kings and Canucks.
15. Calgary Flames (13-7-2) | Matchsticks & Gasoline
Calgary's Score Adjusted Fenwick is better than Colorado and Buffalo. That's it. Yet, somehow, this team keeps getting the bounces and winning hockey games.
One thing's for sure: their shooting percentage is going to drop.
Sustainable or not, Calgary's success has been fun to watch. The defense pairing of Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie is among the best in the league. Lots of younger players have stepped up, as well, including 21-year-old Markus Granlund, who has jumped into the Calder conversation with nine points in 11 games.
16. New York Rangers (9-7-4) | Blueshirt Banter
A 5-0 win over Montreal on Sunday was just what the doctor ordered. Henrik Lundqvist posted his second shutout in his last five -- and fourth of the year -- atoning for a 5-1 loss against Tampa earlier in the week.
Up front, Martin St. Louis has looked fantastic -- racking up 11 points in his last 10. Not bad for a 39-year-old.
17. Winnipeg Jets (10-9-3) | Arctic Ice Hockey
Ondrej Pavelec may be back to his usual self. The Czech goalie finished with a .848 save percentage this week, capped by a tough loss to St. Louis on Sunday afternoon. The Jets have now lost four of five.
Goaltending remains an issue here, but unless the offense improves, it won't matter if Pavelec is mediocre or average or very good.
Winnipeg is scoring just 1.97 goals per game, good for 29th in the league, ahead of only Buffalo. Depth is an issue, but some of the higher-end players have been underwhelming, too -- namely Dustin Byfuglien and Evander Kane, who have just five combined goals this year.
18. Ottawa Senators (9-6-4) | Silver Seven
With middling shot differential numbers and a severe lack of depth, the Senators have been playing above their talent level. Thank goalie Craig Anderson.
Anderson's .935 save percentage ranks second in the NHL; additionally, he's posted two shutouts and is allowing just 2.23 goals per game.
19. Washington Capitals (9-8-1)| Japers' Rink
Goaltending was a major issue for Washington in the early going, as the duo of Braden Holtby and Justin Peters stumbled out of the gate. That doesn't appear to be a problem anymore.
Holtby has been stellar this month -- giving up only 10 goals in his last six starts. Perhaps Mitch Korn's Jedi training is starting to pay off.
20. New Jersey Devils (9-9-3) | In Lou We Trust
Finally, Pete DeBoer rested his starting goalie. After starting 20 consecutive games, Cory Schneider took a breather on Saturday, allowing Scott Clemmensen to get some action. While Clemmensen gave up two late goals that led to a 5-4 shootout loss, it was nice to see the Devils show their No. 1 some mercy.
Schneider may be turning a corner: in his last five starts he's earned two shutouts along with a one-goal performance against Minnesota. Quite a change from his previous three contests, when he gave up 11 total goals.
21. Philadelphia Flyers (8-9-2) | Broad Street Hockey
You know things are going poorly when your GM goes on a post-game tirade in the locker room.
Ron Hextall can be heard screaming from changing room. "That's f---ing embarrassing! Jesus f---ing Christ!" and slammed door.— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) November 20, 2014
The Flyers snapped a four-game losing streak on Saturday, but their recent struggles have highlighted some major flaws. For one, the defense leaves a lot to be desired. Allowing 32.4 shots on goal per game won't cut it -- especially when you don't have a star goalie. Yes, Steve Mason has been solid between the pipes, but he's going to need a lot more help if Philly wishes to contend for a playoff spot.
22. Dallas Stars (8-9-4) | Defending Big D
The Stars have played some terrible hockey this year, but last week treated them well. After winning two straight, GM Jim Nill signed pending UFA Jason Spezza to a four-year deal -- one that will keep him in Dallas through 2018-19. Spezza, 31, has 18 points (four goals, 14 assists) in 21 games, good for third on the team.
Still, depth scoring and defense remain big weaknesses for the Stars, who have been nothing short of a major disappointment. Spezza and linemates Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin can only do so much.
23. Toronto Maple Leafs (11-8-2) | Pension Plan Puppets
What a roller-coaster
week season decade it's been for Toronto. A 6-2 loss to Buffalo was followed up with an utterly humiliating 9-2 loss to Nashville. Then, of course, the Leafs took down the Lightning and Red Wings.
This is a bad team, but you have to hand it to them -- they're never dull.
24. Arizona Coyotes (9-11-2) | Five For Howling
The Coyotes are slowly climbing up the standings, thanks in large part to Devan Dubnyk. With a .926 save percentage in seven games, he has been far better than Mike Smith (.893), and may earn a starting job at some point. On Saturday, Dubnyk stopped 40 of 43 shots on goal en route to a win over San Jose and is now 5-0-1 this season.
25. Florida Panthers (7-5-6) | The Litter Box
The Panthers have lost 11 of 18 this year, but six overtime/shootout defeats have them two points out of a playoff spot. They'll have to make significant improvements to maintain this pace, especially up front.
Roberto Luongo doesn't get the same attention he received in Vancouver, but the veteran is quietly putting together a strong season, one that could earn him an All-Star bid. With a .926 save percentage, along with a 2.36 GAA, Luongo is giving Florida the true No. 1 it lacked in recent years.
26. Colorado Avalanche (7-9-5) | Mile High Hockey
This season keeps getting more difficult for Colorado. With center John Mitchell sidelined, the Avs now have nine regulars out with injuries.
Semyon Varlamov's nagging groin is the biggest injury of all. The Russian netminder hasn't played since Nov. 15 and missed three October starts with the same ailment. To make matters worse, Reto Berra has struggled in Varlamov's absence: Berra has given up at least three goals in every game he's played this month and currently sports a .895 save percentage.
27. Carolina Hurricanes (6-11-3) | Canes Country
The Canes' hot streak is now a thing of the past. Since winning five of six, Carolina has gone 1-5-0, and is now a point ahead of last-place Columbus in the Metropolitan Division.
On a positive note, Riley Nash has quietly become a highly productive forward. Nash, a former Edmonton first-round pick, has 15 points in 20 games -- more than any other Cane. The young center has picked up a lot of slack while others -- namely Alex Semin -- have yet to contribute much offensively.
28. Columbus Blue Jackets (6-12-2) | The Cannon
The Blue Jackets hoped Sergei Bobrovsky's return from injury would help right the ship. So far, that hasn't happened.
Bobrovsky has lost three of four since returning to action. He surrendered four goals to Philadelphia and five to Detroit during this stretch.
Ryan Johansen, Nick Foligno and Scott Hartnell have been good up front, but no other CBJ forward has more than three goals.
29. Edmonton Oilers (6-13-2) | The Copper & Blue
If the Oilers haven't hit rock bottom, they're close. It doesn't get much worse than losing six straight. Being booed by your own fans like this can't help, either:
Edmonton's PDO remains the lowest in the league, but an improvement on that front isn't going to fix the massive issues plaguing this club. Defense is a huge problem, as is the power play, as is goaltending. The Oilers are now 0-10-1 against the Western Conference and could be in for a major shake up.
30. Buffalo Sabres (6-13-2) | Die By The Blade
Buffalo has won three games in a row. One of those wins came against San Jose. Another was a 6-2 blowout. Anything is possible, and everything you thought you knew about the world is wrong.