SI Staff
Tuesday December 9th, 2014

Welcome to the latest installment of our 2014–15 NHL Power Rankings. For the fourth week in a row we have a new top team, and this time it's sleeping giant, a bona fide Stanley Cup contender, that has woken up and hit its stride. Our three scribes—Allan Muir, Sarah Kwak and Sam Page—submitted their choices for the league's Top 10. The rankings for the all 30 teams have been weighted according to how high each club came in on our writers' ballots. In some cases a purely intuitive, wholly unscientific and no doubt deplorable method was used to break ties, rank teams that were chosen by only one or two writers, and antagonize the general public. We've presented the 30 teams in groups, with the Top 10 receiving the most trenchant commentary. Overview paragraphs precede the Middle 10 and Bottom 10. Weekly movement up or down has been noted. So without further ado, commence to stew!

The Top 10
  • 1
    1Chicago Blackhawks
    last week: 6
    record: 18-8-1
    MUIR (1): “Chelsea Dagger” is back in heavy rotation in Chicago. The Blackhawks have won six straight games, and nine of their last 10, on the backs of a rejuvenated offense. They've scored 40 goals over this stretch, spending so much time in the opposition's zone that the injury to starting goalie Corey Crawford has been inconsequential. And now, with Patrick Sharp set to return from IR this week, the rich are getting richer. What a luxury to slide that kind of talent onto your third line.
    KWAK (1): Extending their win streak to six, which included solid victories over divisional powers St. Louis and Nashville, the Blackhawks are cruising. In winning nine of their last 10, Hawks have averaged 4.0 goals per game, while limiting their opponents to 1.9. Chicago's stifling penalty kill leads the league with a 91.1 percentage, and their other PK—Patrick Kane—leads the team with 26 points.
    PAGE (2): Here come the Blackhawks. Not even missing Corey Crawford or facing the division-rival Predators at the end of a back-to-back could slow down this powerhouse. If backup keeper Antti Raanta can hold the fort, they'll keep rolling (but it's a big if).
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 2
    2New York Islanders
    last week: 2
    record: 19-8-0
    MUIR (3): Blowing a 3-0 lead on the way to a 6-4 loss to the Blues on Saturday was a perfect opportunity for coach Jack Capuano to remind his young team that there are no shortcuts in this league. But there's still plenty to like about this club, including a franchise-record 11 consecutive wins for netminder Jaroslav Halak and a league-leading 19 victories.
    KWAK (2): They still leave themselves open to skeptics—particularly their league-worst penalty kill (72.5%) and blowing a three-goal lead against St. Louis on Saturday—but the Isles (along with the Penguins) have separated themselves from the chaff of the Metropolitan Division, enjoying a 10-point lead over Washington.
    PAGE (4): Johnny Boychuk and Travis Hamonic are out "for a while" according to head coach Jack Capuano, and suddenly the revamped Isles' defense corps has been replaced by a slew of top prospects. Blowing that lead against the Blues wasn't a great start for the youngsters.
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 3
    3Anaheim Ducks
    last week: 10
    record: 18-6-5
    MUIR (2): They still have a nasty habit of needing overtime or the shootout to finish off inferior opponents (Philadelphia and Winnipeg were the latest to extend them last week), but the Ducks have rolled up four wins on their way to the top of the league, and they're doing it with a roster that's more bandages and baling wire than healthy humans right now. Corey Perry's extended absence will put this team to the test.
    KWAK (4): The Ducks offense went through a little revival this week, led by center Ryan Getzlaf (six assists). With 17 goals in the last four games, Anaheim is giving goalie Frederik Andersen some support. The Ducks, however, lost Corey Perry to a knee injury on Friday and he'll be out for three to four weeks.
    PAGE (6): Their offense is, no surprise a force, but their defense just doesn't measure up to the best in the West: Chicago (No. 1 in the NHL), Nashville (2) and L.A. (3) or even St. Louis (5). Francois Beauchemin is part of their top duo! Without a true no. 1 defense pairing or no. 1 goalie (Ilya Bryzgalov, anyone?) how long can they hold off the inevitable run by the Kings?
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 4
    4Tampa Bay Lightning
    last week: 5
    record: 18-7-3
    MUIR (8): Their top-rated offense continues to make the headlines, but the Bolts are primed to remain on top of the Atlantic Division because of their defense. They rank in the top 10 with a 2.46 goals-against average and are holding their opposition to just 27 shots per game, the third-fewest in the NHL.
    KWAK (5): Going 1-1-1 against Buffalo and Columbus, two conference cellar dwellers, this week was not exactly a strong showing for the top team in the Atlantic. And their one win, a rather emphatic 5-0 whooping of the Sabres, also featured the two teams combing for 106 unsightly penalty minutes in the third period.
    PAGE (1): With defenseman Victor Hedman's return to the lineup, the Lightning again have the most balanced team in the Eastern Conference, led by the best offense by far. Amazingly, they have scored nine more goals than the next most potent team (the Flames?!) despite having only the league's fifth-best power play.
    Last week: 1-1-1

  • 5
    5Nashville Predators
    last week: 1
    record: 17-7-2
    MUIR (5): If you want to pick at this team, they have their share of scabs: a lousy power play (11.5%, 28th in the league), and its offense (2.58 goals per game) and penalty kill (79.7%) are decidedly lower-middle class. But the Predators remain the league's best team at five-on-five (a sterling 1.57 goals for/against ratio) thanks in large part to the goaltending of Pekka Rinne, who has them in the mix to control the Central Division.
    KWAK (6): How about that Roman Josi? The fourth-year Swiss defenseman has slipped into the spot next to Shea Weber beautifully during the last two seasons, and is now another Nashville minutes-eater. With two road trips up ahead, the Preds will have every chance to bolster their 6-5-1 away record.
    PAGE (3): Pekka Rinne gives them an edge in a Central Division in which Martin Brodeur, Darcy Kuemper, and Scott Darling are seeing regular playing time. But the power play has to show some signs of life if the Preds want to keep pace with Chicago.
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 6
    6Detroit Red Wings
    last week: 9
    record: 17-6-5
    MUIR (4): So that's what Pavel Datsyuk looks like when he's healthy. He's been magnificent since returning from his latest groin injury, tallying seven goals and 11 points in seven games. No coincidence that the Wings are 6-1 during that stretch. Could this be the team to beat in the Atlantic?
    KWAK (3): If Datsyuk is “The Magician,” perhaps we should consider 24-year-old Tomas Tatar as Detroit’s magician’s assistant. The duo combined for four goals this week, including two in a 3-1 win over Carolina on Sunday, coach Mike Babcock’s 501st career victory.
    PAGE (8): Up-and-comers Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar have shown a real nose for the net (their 12 goals apiece are tied for the team lead), but someone else will need to start scoring when those shooting percentages regress. Same goes for you, Pavel, at 27%.
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 7
    7Pittsburgh Penguins
    last week: 3
    record: 18-6-3
    MUIR (7): Maybe I'm underrating these guys a bit. Any team that can go on the road and steal a point at Madison Square Garden with Steve Downie and Nick Spaling on its first line is obviously doing something right, but take away Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and these guys are basically an expansion team. Love the effort but I wonder how long they can keep it up.
    KWAK (7): Their injury list grows with frightening regularity, as the Pens lost forwards Chris Kunitz, Patric Hornqvist and defenseman Olli Maatta this week to various injuries. Pittsburgh will need goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who has been playing his best hockey in a long time, to come up big if they want to stave off the Isles for the top spot in the division.
    PAGE (7): They went 5–2 during the last two weeks, but the best team they beat was a depleted Bruins squad in overtime. Scripture says, "Man cannot live on the power play and goaltending alone."
    Last week: 2-1-1

  • 8
    8St. Louis Blues
    last week: 4
    record: 18-8-2
    MUIR (9): Turns out this new kid the Blues pushed between the pipes has a bit of game. After struggling in his debut, Martin Brodeur has stopped 46 of 49 shots (.939 save percentage) to lead St. Louis to consecutive wins. Unless he self-destructs, you have to believe that Marty is their new No. 1. Tough break for young Jake Allen, but that's the way it goes.
    KWAK (8): A topsy-turvy week for the Blues, who dropped two games but picked up a Hall of Fame goaltender. Martin Brodeur earned his first win for a team other than the Devils, relieving Jake Allen against the Islanders on Saturday. The 42-year-old netminder is now 11 victories away from 700 for his illustrious career.
    PAGE (5): They lost a back-and-forth battle for Central supremacy with the Predators last week, and that went a long way toward proving both Vladimir Tarasenko's dominance and Martin Brodeur's age. Brian Elliott's injury seems to be serious, so either 24-year-old Jake Allen or 42-year-old Brodeur needs to play like they're 28.
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 9
    9Vancouver Canucks
    last week: 8
    record: 18-8-2
    MUIR (10): A rough weekend in Ontario cost them a couple of spots here, but the Canucks continue to surprise with their offense. They're clicking at 3.04 goals per game, good for seventh in the league, a sizable improvement over the 2.33 that ranked them 28th in 2013-14.
    KWAK (10): The loss in overtime to Ottawa on Sunday marked the first back-to-back defeats that the Canucks have suffered since October. They finish their rough seven-game road trip (3-2-1 so far) against Montreal on Tuesday.
    PAGE (9): Vancouver continues to roll along in spite of its goaltending. The funny thing is, if they had a guy like Roberto Luongo in net, the Canucks might be running away with their division. Ryan Miller is currently trailing Luongo's save percentage (.923) by 21 points, and Cory Schneider by 11.
    Last week: 2-1-1

  • 10
    10Calgary Flames
    last week: 11
    record: 17-9-2
    MUIR (6): The Flames keep rollin' at 8-3 in their last 11 games, and a league best 6-7 when trailing after two periods. Mark Giordano is getting plenty of buzz, but he's not in the Norris Trophy mix without the strong support of partner T.J. Brodie (6-15-21, +20).
    KWAK (12):
    PAGE (17): 
    Last week: 2-1-0


Carey Price and this once-hot Habs have hit the skids recently.
Bill Wippert

The middle of the pack is full of teams that are ready to implode or explode. The Kings and Bruins figure to eventually right their respective ships, but the Maple Leafs (scoring 3.42 goals per game, slightly behind Tampa Bay for top offense in the league, yet their 5-on-5 Fenwick is still in the NHL's bottom third), the Jets and the Flames will likely soon join the Senators and the Oilers in Canada's national disgrace. The Canadiens, once the hottest team in the NHL, have been tumbling, picking up just three points in their last seven games and dropping three in a row on a Western Conference swing last week. Goalie Carey Price has been just middling on the road this season, going 5-5-1 and averaging a 2.60 GAA in 11 games.

It's not that the Wild are a good team getting bad results—their +10 goal differential is the sixth-best in the West. They'd dominate in either Eastern division. In the Central, they need a little more goaltending and a mumps vaccine.

It's too soon to take Columbus off life support just yet, but three consecutive wins and some spectacular goaltending from NHL Second Star Sergei Bobrovsky give reason for hope. So does the imminent return of Brandon Dubinsky. The hyper-aggressive center epitomizes the Blue Jackets way, so he's been sorely missed on the ice and in the room this season while recuperating from abdominal surgery. His return strengthens them down the middle and in their own zone, an area where they've spent way too much time. 

The Middle 10
  • 11
    11Los Angeles Kings
    last week: 13
    record: 14-8-5
    MUIR: 11
    KWAK: 11
    PAGE: 11
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 12
    12Montreal Canadiens
    last week: 7
    record: 17-10-2
    MUIR: 14
    KWAK: 9
    PAGE: 12
    Last week: 0-3-0

  • 13
    13Minnesota Wild
    last week: 14
    record: 14-10-1
    MUIR: 17
    KWAK: 14
    PAGE: 10
    Last week: 1-1-0

  • 14
    14Boston Bruins
    last week: 12
    record: 15-12-1
    MUIR: 18
    KWAK: 13
    PAGE: 13
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 15
    15Toronto Maple Leafs
    last week: 15
    record: 14-9-3
    MUIR: 12
    KWAK: 15
    PAGE: 18
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 16
    16San Jose Sharks
    last week: 18
    record: 14-11-4
    MUIR: 13
    KWAK: 17
    PAGE: 16
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 17
    17Winnipeg Jets
    last week: 17
    record: 14-9-5
    MUIR: 15
    KWAK: 19
    PAGE: 14
    Last week: 2-0-1

  • 18
    18Washington Capitals
    last week: 19
    record: 12-10-4
    MUIR: 21
    KWAK: 16
    PAGE: 15
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 19
    19New York Rangers
    last week: 16
    record: 12-10-4
    MUIR: 16
    KWAK: 18
    PAGE: 21
    Last week: 1-1-0

  • 20
    20Florida Panthers
    last week: 20
    record: 11-8-7
    MUIR: 19
    KWAK: 21
    PAGE: 19
    Last week: 2-1-1

A string of five straight losses doomed coach Paul MacLean, who was dismissed on Monday after the Senators pulled out a win over Vancouver at home. Still, Ottawa—with poor possession numbers and a leaky defense—probably has bigger issues. 

Meanwhile, in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes, Buffalo faces some serious challenges from the usual suspects. The perfect ending to this Sabres' season would be them losing the tank battle too. After dropping seven straight at Gila River Arena, the Coyotes have rarely looked like a cohesive unit this season, riding the occasional strong effort of a player or two to steal a win while sinking steadily toward the cellar. GM Don Maloney's made some changes, trading away Rob Klinkhammer, calling up a couple of kids from the minors, but it's been a deck chairs exercise. This team is so far out of the playoff mix that Maloney needs to focus on the future. What's the market for Keith Yandle and Antoine Vermette?

The Bottom 10
  • 21
    21Dallas Stars
    last week: 21
    record: 10-12-5
    MUIR: 24
    KWAK: 20
    PAGE: 20
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 22
    22Colorado Avalanche
    last week: 23
    record: 9-12-6
    MUIR: 22
    KWAK: 24
    PAGE: 23
    Last week: 0-1-1

  • 23
    23Ottawa Senators
    last week: 22
    record: 11-11-5
    MUIR: 25
    KWAK: 22
    PAGE: 22
    Last week: 1-2-1

  • 24
    24New Jersey Devils
    last week: 24
    record: 11-13-4
    MUIR: 26
    KWAK: 23
    PAGE: 25
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 25
    25Columbus Blue Jackets
    last week: 29
    record: 9-15-2
    MUIR: 20
    KWAK: 27
    PAGE: 28
    Last week: 2-0-0

  • 26
    26Philadelphia Flyers
    last week: 26
    record: 9-13-4
    MUIR: 27
    KWAK: 25
    PAGE: 26
    Last week: 1-1-1

  • 27
    27Carolina Hurricanes
    last week: 28
    record: 8-16-3
    MUIR: 28
    KWAK: 28
    PAGE: 24
    Last week: 1-3-0

  • 28
    28Buffalo Sabres
    last week: 25
    record: 9-16-2
    MUIR: 23
    KWAK: 29
    PAGE: 29
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 29
    arizona Coyotes
    last week: 27
    record: 10-15-3
    MUIR: 30
    KWAK: 26
    PAGE: 27
    Last week: 0-3-0

  • 30
    30Edmonton Oilers
    last week: 30
    record: 7-15-5
    MUIR: 29
    KWAK: 30
    PAGE: 30
    Last week: 1-0-1

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