SI Staff
Tuesday January 20th, 2015

Welcome to the latest installment of our 2014–15 NHL Power Rankings. For the first time since early November, the Ducks hold the top spot, becoming the fourth different No. 1 of the past month. Our three scribes—Allan Muir, Sarah Kwak and Brian Cazeneuve—submitted their choices for the league’s top 10, and ranked all 30 teams. The rankings have been weighted according to guidance from a ouija board, the mean barometric pressure in Saskatoon during the week and how high each club came in on our writers’ ballots. In some cases a purely intuitive, wholly unscientific and no doubt despicable method was used to break ties, rank teams that were chosen by only one or two writers, and antagonize you, our gentle readers.

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
    1Anaheim Ducks
     
    last week: 3
    record: 30-10-6
    MUIR (1): I knocked ’em last week for their inability to lay a whupping on anyone and they responded with four-goal victories over the Maple Leafs and the Devils. Guess that’ll teach me. Anaheim is 6-1-0 in January, and after a come-from-behind shootout win over the rival Kings on Saturday night, the Ducks are now 22-0-6 in one-goal games.
     
    KWAK (1): Winger Corey Perry—who was hampered by the mumps in November, then a sprained knee that kept him out of 10 games in December—looks like he’s finally back to his old goal-scoring ways. In three games last week, he scored four times and added an assist as a healthy Anaheim team showed its might, outscoring the New Jersey, Toronto and Los Angeles 12–3.
     
    CAZENEUVE (1): The Ducks took advantage of a recent eight-game home stand—altogether they played 10 straight games in Southern California—to grab the top spot in the points standings. This month Anaheim has knocked off the Blues, the Predators and the Kings as well as the Devils and the Maple Leafs. Against L.A. on Saturday, the Ducks twice rallied from behind and eventually won in a shootout. Their players are sharing in the wealth, too. So far 12 different Anaheim players have scored game-winning goals.
     
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 2
    2New York Islanders
     
    last week: 7
    record: 31-14-1
    MUIR (3): Yes, they’ve allowed 10 goals in their last two games, but they also pulled off big wins over the Rangers, the Penguins and the Flyers last week to run their record to 12-2-0 against Metropolitan Division rivals. And just wait until New York gets Mikhail Grabovski and Lubomir Visnovsky back in the lineup after the All-Star break.
     
    KWAK (3): A deficit just doesn’t seem to faze these Islanders, who are 14-5-0 this season in games in which they have trailed. And they’re doing a better job of staying on the offensive even with the lead—New York outshot Pittsburgh and Philadelphia by a combined 18–9 in the third period last week.
     
    CAZENEUVE (2): With five wins in six games, the Islanders jumped to the head of the Eastern Conference standings. Really, you had New York and Nashville tabbed for the Stanley Cup finals this year, didn’t you? After scoring five goals against the Blue Jackets on Jan. 10 and six against the Penguins on Jan. 16, the Isles put up a touchdown against the Flyers on Monday, getting goals from six different players and a three-point game from Nikolay Kulemin. After the victory, Kulemin complained that New York was sloppy in giving up four goals. My, how standards have changed on Long Island.
     
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 3
    3Nashville Predators
     
    last week: 1
    record: 30-10-4
    MUIR (4): With Pekka Rinne (knee) out for three to five weeks, we’re about to find out just how good this team really is. The Predators are 1-1-0 without their All-Star keeper, and backup Carter Hutton has done little to suggest that he’s capable of carrying the mail while Rinne rehabs. This is a real test for a team that still has a lot to prove.
     
    KWAK (2): Rinne’s sprained knee may be a concern, as evidenced by the Red Wings’ five-goal barrage on Saturday, but Nashville, with a strong and stout blue line, should be capable of making defensive adjustments until he returns.
     
    CAZENEUVE (3): The Preds handled the emotional return of Barry Trotz to Nashville last Friday with great class, feting their former coach with loud cheers and a cool video tribute before beating his Capitals 4–3. Still, life without Rinne could be tricky for the next few weeks. The Predators will face a tough task in keeping alive their season-long streak of not losing back-to-back games. Coming off a 5–2 loss in Detroit on Saturday, Nashville will head up to Montreal for a game against the tough Canadiens on Tuesday night.
     
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 4
    4St. Louis Blues
     
    last week: 4
    record: 29-13-4
    MUIR (2): There’s almost no scenario in which Ken Hitchcock wins the Jack Adams Award this season, but how is he not heavily involved in the conversation? A guy who won a Stanley Cup by turning Mike Modano and Brett Hull into defensive robots (sort of) in Dallas now runs the third-most prolific offense in the NHL. St. Louis isn’t just good. It’s one of the most entertaining teams in the league. Hitch deserves a world of credit for adapting his approach to fit today’s game.
     
    KWAK (4): The Blues’ average of 3.13 goals per game this season is the team’s highest since the Brett Hull glory days of the mid-1990s. And the potent dose of offense is paying off: St. Louis has won seven of its last eight games and hasn’t been outshot all month.
     
    CAZENEUVE (4): The last time the Blues headed into some sort of break, they suffered a miserable 5–0 defeat to the Avalanche on Dec. 23, which gave them a pre-Christmas reason to be Scrooges. But on Monday St. Louis used its final game before the All-Star break to beat red-hot Colorado 3–1. In the midst of a seven-game home stand that will continue after the break, the Blues are 4-0-1. Alex Steen extended his point-scoring streak to nine games, making him the first St. Louis player to have nine-game streaks in consecutive seasons since 2002–03.
     
    Last week: 3-0-1

  • 5
    5Tampa Bay Lightning
     
    last week: 5
    record: 29-14-4
    MUIR (7): If this is a down year for goaltender Ben Bishop, the Lightning will take it. Though his goals-against average (2.38) and save percentage (.912) aren’t quite up to the standards he set last season (2.23 and .924), he’s rolling up the one number that matters most: victories. With wins in seven of his last eight appearances, Bishop now has 23 victories on the season, tied for fourth-most in the league.
     
    KWAK (6): Despite going 2-1-0 this week, Tampa Bay was outshot by more than 10 in each of those games, which could portend trouble. And with defenseman Matt Carle, who averages more than 20 minutes per game, expected to miss up to two months after undergoing adductor surgery, the Lightning’s defense corps will be strained.
     
    CAZENEUVE (6): Call it a modern-day version of the Gordie Howe hat trick. Though he didn’t record an assist in Tampa Bay’s 3–2 shootout win over the Avalanche on Saturday, veteran forward Ryan Callahan scored the game’s opening goal just 1:58 into the contest, dropped the gloves with veteran power forward Jarome Iginla near the end of the first period and scored the winner in the shootout against Semyon Varlamov. It was a tale of two games for Tampa Bay, which outshot Colorado 15–5 in the first period, but was then outshot, 37–16 for the rest of the game. That type of inconsistency has mirrored the Lightning’s season.
     
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 6
    6Montreal Canadiens
     
    last week: 10
    record: 28-13-3
    MUIR (6): How about that power play? A black hole for much of the season, the unit has connected on five of 15 chances in the last three games, including a pair from P.K. Subban and Tomas Plekanec in a big 6–4 win over the Islanders on Saturday.
     
    KWAK (9): That win over East-leading New York on Saturday was a bright spot in what was a rather humdrum January for the Canadiens. And with goalie Carey Price expected back from an upper-body injury, Montreal needs to build some momentum heading into the break.
     
    CAZENEUVE (7): The Habs played a listless game against the Senators, losing 4–1 in Ottawa last Thursday, but then bounced back against the hot Islanders on home ice. Plekanec had a four-point night and Andrei Markov had three assists. It was the sixth four-point game of Plekanec’s career, but his first since 2010. This week will be an important stretch for Montreal, which just started a span of seven of eight games on home ice. The move of Alex Galchenyuk to center is apparently over for now, as he scored a goal against New York after moving back to the wing. He had spent the previous 15 games in the middle.
     
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 7
    7Detroit Red Wings
     
    last week: 11
    record: 26-11-9
    MUIR (11)
     
    KWAK (8): Riding a streak of four straight regulation wins, their longest of the season, the Red Wings are blending veteran savvy (Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk) with youthful exuberance (Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar) in just the right proportions. Those four forwards have scored 13 of the team’s last 17 goals.
     
    CAZENEUVE (5): With its 5–2 win over Nashville on Sunday, Detroit has now won seven of its last nine games (and 10 of its last 12) after a worrying six-game winless slump in December. The Wings have scored 11 times in their last two games, and they overcame a 3–0 deficit against the lowly Sabres on the strength of a hat trick by Zetterberg and a fine relief outing by goalie Tom McCollum, who picked up his first NHL win. With 61 points, just one fewer than Atlantic Division-leading Tampa Bay, Detroit heads into the All-Star break looking like a playoff team again.
     
    Last week: 4-0-0

  • 8
    8New York Rangers
     
    last week: 6
    record: 26-13-4
    MUIR (5): The Blueshirts responded nicely to a midweek hiccup, knocking off Columbus and Pittsburgh to run their hot streak to 15 wins in 18 games and maintain their grip on third place in the Metro. New York’s speed up front is a gamebreaker.
     
    KWAK (10): Back-to-back shutout losses to the Isles and the Bruins last week cooled the Rangers’ jets a bit, but not for long. A 5–2 win over the Penguins on Sunday proved that New York’s speedy attack is still dangerous, particularly in transition.
     
    CAZENEUVE (9): After a couple of recent shutout losses, the Rangers bounced back quickly in Pittsburgh, with Rick Nash scoring just 26 seconds after the opening face-off as New York cruised to a 5–2 win. Nash struck again later, giving him 28 goals for the season, tied for the league lead with Tyler Seguin of the Stars. The Rangers have a healthy 13-3-1 record within their division this season, and another playoff appearance seems all but guaranteed.
     
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 9
    9Chicago Blackhawks
     
    last week: 2
    record: 28-15-2
    MUIR (9): Anyone got a fast-forward button? With one win in their last four games, the Hawks are clearly suffering from a nasty case of the midseason blues. Not that it’s anything to worry about—you know that they will be ready when the playoffs start—but I wouldn’t be in a hurry to pay to watch them, either.
     
    KWAK (5): Have the midseason doldrums hit Chicago, who are 3-5-0 in January? You could look forward to the All-Star break as a chance to hit reset, but, um, five of the Blackhawks’ biggest stars will be spending the weekend in Columbus. (Yay, fan votes!) A long six-game road trip, which starts off in the California corridor, awaits them post-break. That will be a test.
     
    CAZENEUVE (10): Chicago is still among the league’s elite teams, but it has not handled this easy stretch of schedule well. The Blackhawks dropped home games against the Jets (4–2) and Dallas (6–3) just a week after losing 5–2 to the Oilers. What gives? Maybe too many interviews about the All-Star Game. That will be over by Monday. Then the toughest test of the year awaits: After a home game against the Coyotes, Chicago goes on a seven-game road trip that includes games in Pittsburgh, Winnipeg and St. Louis, and a three-game swing through California. That trip could either lift the Blackhawks to No. 1, or knock them out of our top 10 altogether.
     
    Last week: 0-2-2

  • 10
    10Winnipeg Jets
     
    last week: 16
    record: 25-14-8
    MUIR (8): I watched the Jets play maybe their worst game of the season—in Dallas last Thursday, when they allowed 97 shots—and I still can’t say enough about them. This is a team that gets hybrid miles out of a standard engine. They’re fast, physical, disciplined and opportunistic. And as long as they’re getting terrific goaltending from Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec (in his last few games, anyway) they stack up as a formidable opponent.
     
    KWAK (12)
     
    CAZENEUVE (8): If at the start of the season you had told Winnipeg that it would beat the Blackhawks in Chicago three times before the All-Star break, the response would have been a rousing celebration. The Jets have now won four straight games and earned points in six in a row. Against the Blackhawks, Winnipeg broke a 1–1 tie midway through the third period by scoring twice in 28 seconds, on goals from Bryan Little and Chris Thorburn. The Jets are now tied with Chicago for third place in the Central Division, with 58 points apiece.
     
    Last week: 4-0-0

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Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Penguins fell out of the top 10 for the first time all season. Having won just four of their last 12 games, they suddenly look a bit ordinary in the competitive Metropolitan Division. After blowing a lead and losing 6–3 to the Islanders last Friday, followed by a 5–2 loss to the Rangers, Pittsburgh’s division record fell to 6-8-3. One bright spot, though, is David Perron, who has five goals in six games since he came over in a trade with the Oilers.

Even after suffering consecutive road losses in Nashville and Dallas, Washington still looks like a team that is capable of inflicting serious damage. Alex Ovechkin has scored four goals in his last four games and has even been spotted backchecking with some consistency. The puck all but follows Nick Backstrom around the ice. And Braden Holtby—for our money, the most egregious of All-Star Game snubs—continues to make a case for Vezina consideration. He went 2-1-0 last week, with a 1.69 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage—and a shutout of Colorado. Time to pay attention, people.

The Flames have rebounded from a tough stretch with four straight wins, including one over the Kings, which begs this question: Is it really an automatic that L.A. will grab a playoff berth in the West? Maybe not. That 1-2-4 record that the Kings posted during their season-long seven-game homestand is a pretty fair reflection of a team that’s getting inconsistent goaltending from Jonathan Quick, struggling to find its defensive identity and is flat-out brutal on the penalty kill (78.7%, 25th in the NHL). You have to believe that GM Dean Lombardi will look to get some help for the blue linesoon, if only to give this group a hard slap across the face. Los Angeles is a point out of playoff position, but the hockey world fully expects that the Kings will eventually wake up and then subsequently own the postseason. It’s happened before. But when should we expect this revival? Of their 35 games after the All-Star-break, 23 are against teams that are currently in playoff position, and ten are against Western Conference teams that are now at least four points ahead. If I had to make a bet, I’d say that an Eastern Conference road trip at the beginning of February might be the best chance for the Kings to get their act together. 

The Middle 10
 
  • 11
    11Pittsburgh Penguins
     
    last week: 8
    record: 26-12-6
    MUIR: 13
    KWAK: 7
    CAZENEUVE: 11
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 12
    12Washington Capitals
     
    last week: 9
    record: 24-13-8
    MUIR: 10
    KWAK: 13
    CAZENEUVE: 12
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 13
    13San Jose Sharks
     
    last week: 17
    record: 24-17-6
    MUIR: 12
    KWAK: 11
    CAZENEUVE: 16
    Last week: 2-1-1

  • 14
    14Boston Bruins
     
    last week: 12
    record: 24-16-6
    MUIR: 14
    KWAK: 15
    CAZENEUVE: 15
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 15
    15Calgary Flames
     
    last week: 18
    record: 25-18-3
    MUIR: 15
    KWAK: 17
    CAZENEUVE: 14
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 16
    16Vancouver Canucks
     
    last week: 15
    record: 26-15-3
    MUIR: 19
    KWAK: 14
    CAZENEUVE: 13
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 17
    17Los Angeles Kings
     
    last week: 13
    record: 20-14-12
    MUIR: 18
    KWAK: 16
    CAZENEUVE: 17
    Last week: 0-1-2

  • 18
    18Florida Panthers
     
    last week: 14
    record: 20-14-10
    MUIR: 16
    KWAK: 19
    CAZENEUVE: 18
    Last week: 0-3-1

  • 19
    19Dallas Stars
     
    last week: 21
    record: 21-17-7
    MUIR: 17
    KWAK: 18
    CAZENEUVE: 19
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 20
    20Colorado Avalanche
     
    last week: 19
    record: 19-18-10
    MUIR: 21
    KWAK: 22
    CAZENEUVE: 20
    Last week: 1-1-2

NHL
Jersey-tossing Maple Leafs fans banned from arena for one year

The collapse continues, as Toronto dropped its fifth straight game on Monday, a 4–1 loss to the Hurricanes. Now seven points out of eighth place, the Maple Leafs’ postseason hopes are crumbling with every game. They’ve already ticked off their fans and gotten their coach fired. What’s an organization to do? Momentously huge decisions await this franchise during summer—if not sooner. 

Buffalo has dropped 11 straight games, but would another league take the Sabres if they wanted to abandon the NHL for easier competition? And this is how bad things are: According to SportsClubStats.com, the Sabres could finish the season on a 26-4-5 tear—an .814 winning percentage—and still place no better than 10th in the East. Our prayers go out to the sales staff at First Niagara Center.

The Bottom 10
 
  • 21
    21Columbus Blue Jackets
     
    last week: 22
    record: 20-21-3
    MUIR: 20
    KWAK: 25
    CAZENEUVE: 23
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 22
    22Minnesota Wild
     
    last week: 24
    record: 20-20-5
    MUIR: 27
    KWAK: 20
    CAZENEUVE: 21
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 23
    23Ottawa Senators
     
    last week: 23
    record: 18-18-8
    MUIR: 23
    KWAK: 23
    CAZENEUVE: 22
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 24
    24Toronto Maple Leafs
     
    last week: 20
    record: 22-22-3
    MUIR: 25
    KWAK: 21
    CAZENEUVE: 24
    Last week: 0-4-0

  • 25
    25Philadelphia Flyers
     
    last week: 25
    record: 18-22-7
    MUIR: 28
    KWAK: 24
    CAZENEUVE: 25
    Last week: 1-3-0

  • 26
    26New Jersey Devils
     
    last week: 27
    record: 17-22-8
    MUIR: 26
    KWAK: 26
    CAZENEUVE: 26
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 27
    27Carolina Hurricanes
     
    last week: 28
    record: 16-25-5
    MUIR: 22
    KWAK: 28
    CAZENEUVE: 28
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 28
    28Phoenix Coyotes
     
    last week: 26
    record: 16-24-5
    MUIR: 24
    KWAK: 27
    CAZENEUVE: 27
    Last week: 0-3-1

  • 29
    29Edmonton Oilers
     
    last week: 29
    record: 11-26-9
    MUIR: 29
    KWAK: 29
    CAZENEUVE: 29
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 30
    30Buffalo Sabres
     
    last week: 30
    record: 14-30-3
    MUIR: 30
    KWAK: 30
    CAZENEUVE: 30
    Last week: 0-4-0

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