SI Staff
Tuesday February 10th, 2015

Welcome to the newest installment of our 2014–15 NHL Power Rankings. The churn at the top continues with our sixth different No. 1 since the end of December. This week the Predators have climbed back to the peak for the first time since Jan. 13, dislodging the Blues who displaced the Ducks who supplanted the Preds who kicked out the Canadiens who ended the Blackhawks’ four-week stay up there. 

Our three sage scribes—Allan Muir, Sarah Kwak and Sam Page—submitted their detailed choices for the top 10 and ranked all 30 teams. Our final order has been weighted according to guidance from sock puppets, our official NHL-sanctioned ouijaboard, and how high each club came in on each of our writers’ ballots. In some cases a purely intuitive, wholly unscientific and undeniably shameful method was used to break ties, rank teams that were chosen by only one or two writers, and curdle your goat.

We’ve presented the 30 teams in groups, with the Top 10 receiving the most trenchant commentary. Overview paragraphs precede both the Middle 10 and Bottom 10. Weekly movement up or down has been duly noted. So without further ado, commence to stew!

The Top 10
 
  • 1
    1Nashville Predators
     
    last week: 2
    record: 35-12-6
    MUIR (2): The Predators actually lost a game at home last week, 5–3, to Anaheim. Hardly time for panic, though. It was just their third regulation defeat to go along with a league-leading 21 wins in 25 contests at Bridgestone Arena. Nice to see defenseman Seth Jones chipping in. He's eating a ton of ice, earning at least 20 minutes per game in each of his past six and looks to be building a nice foundation for an important postseason role.
     
    KWAK (1): After starting the week with that stinker against Anaheim—goalie Pekka Rinne’s first start after returning from a sprained knee—the Preds regained their composure with solid come-from-behind wins over New York and Florida. Though their power play still struggles (20th in the NHL), their even-strength scoring continues to be among the best in the league. 
     
    PAGE (1): From the Pyrrhic victory department: The Preds lost Mattias Ekholm to an upper body injury after a nasty collision with the boards during their exciting comeback victory over the Panthers on Sunday. With their entire second pairing out (Ryan Ellis—lower body—has been sidelined indefinitely), Seth Jones needs to become the man for this squad, both five-on-five and on the power play. After weathering the loss of Pekka Rinne, though, this latest rash of injuries probably seems minor. 
     
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 2
    2Detroit Red Wings
     
    last week: 4
    record: 31-12-9
    MUIR (1): Good news for Rangers fans who are bemoaning the loss of Henrik Lundqvist: Teams can not only survive, but thrive in the absence of their No. 1 goaltender. The Predators proved it. So did the Red Wings, who went 9-1 with Jimmy Howard (groin) sidelined, turning the Atlantic Division into a no-margin-for-error three-way battle. Howard's return this week will be welcomed just the same, especially by a penalty kill that stumbled along at a miserable 65% in January.
     
    KWAK (2): During a relatively light week (two games), the Red Wings continued their push for the top of the Eastern Conference standings, beating Colorado and Arizona by a combined 6-1. Jimmy Howard's return is indeed good news for Detroit. Though backup Petr Mrazek has been excellent at times, he’s also been prone to remarkably poor outings. Howard’s steadiness is a huge asset.
     
    PAGE (4): Coach Mike Babcock will ride the hot hand for now with goalie Petr Mzarek, but it's worth noting that his statistics over the team's 9-1 run haven't been that exceptional. This is still Howard's team, and Mzarek's breakout is nothing if not a welcome chance for their workhorse to rest and recover with a groin injury. The timing of this streak is also notable in that it mirrors the Maple Leafs' decline, a fact that's sure to be brought up this summer when and if Brendan Shanahan tries to woo Babcock away to Toronto.
     
    Last week: 2-0-0

  • 3
    3Tampa Bay Lightning
     
    last week: 5
    record: 34-16-5
    MUIR (3): Coach Jon Cooper wondered aloud last week whether his team was just one of many in the mix or a real Stanley Cup contender. We'll have a pretty good idea by the end of a month that features maybe the cruelest stretch any team faces this season. The Lightning managed to bank five points from the first four contests, but it only gets tougher from here with matchups against the Preds, Blues, Sharks, Kings, Ducks and Blackhawks among their next eight games, only two of which are at home.
     
    KWAK (3): The Lightning split four games against Western Conference competition this week, but this is just the beginning of Tampa Bay’s big test. They won’t face another East team until March, and this month includes a long five-game road trip that will take them through the California gauntlet. Their league-leading offense will be tested against the battle-hard Western teams. 
     
    PAGE (5): Knocking off both the Ducks and Stars by 5–3 scores makes a statement that the Bolts still boast the most explosive offense in the league. Their 4-2 loss to the Kings exacerbates concerns about their ability to handle physical teams and raises the specter of uber-prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy usurping starting goalie Ben Bishop's job come playoff time. Tuesday night's game against the Preds should be another good test and maybe a preview for the worst-rated Stanley Cup finals in television history. 
     
    Last week: 2-1-1

  • 4
    4St. Louis Blues
     
    last week: 1
    record: 34-15-4
    MUIR (5): Their 12-0-1 streak had to come to an end eventually but did the landing have to be so messy? The Blues were outscored 11-3 in back-to-back losses to the Blue Jackets and Blackhawks, and while they were competitive against Chicago, that defeat was one they couldn't afford in the tightly packed Central Division. Goalie Brian Elliott has now dropped his last two starts, allowing seven goals on 41 shots for a miserable .829 save percentage. Keep an eye on his play as we approach the March 2 trade deadline.
     
    KWAK (4): Are the Blues hitting a wall? Well, at least Vladimir Tarasenko hasn’t. His highlight reel deke on Blackhawks keeper Corey Crawford was the 23-year-old’s 28th goal of the season, pulling him into a tie for fourth in the league. 
     
    PAGE (2): Losing to the Blue Jackets 7–1 can probably be dismissed as a fluke. Losing at home to the Blackhawks is more telling. With the Blues beating the Preds in recent weeks and the Hawks beating the Blues, the order of the Central Division's powerhouses is in flux. Their place among the rest of the league isn't: In any other division, any of these three teams would dominate.  
     
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 5
    5Anaheim Ducks
     
    last week: 3
    record: 34-13-7
    MUIR (4): They're only 1-1-1 three games into a tough five-game road trip, but we'll cut them some slack for injuries. Ryan Getzlaf missed some time. Jakub Silfverberg and Hampus Lindholm are banged up. Now Frederik Andersen is headed to the IR for at least a week to recover from an upper-body injury. Be interesting to see if they give John Gibson a chance to prove that he deserves to be part of the big club down the stretch. He's a solid 6-3-2 with a 2.07 GAA and .927 save percentage with AHL Norfolk since recovering from his own groin injury.
     
    KWAK (5): Anderson left the Ducks’ game on Sunday after his net crashed into the back of his head late in the third period. If he misses time, that could be troublesome for Anaheim. Backup Ilya Bryzgalov has been flimsy during his limited appearances. In five starts, he has a 3.84 GAA and a woeful .866 save percentage.
     
    PAGE (7): The Ducks may have beat the Preds for the top spot in the league temporarily, thanks to the rusty return by Nashville's Pekka Rinne (I'll try to keep my Preds apologia to a minimum), but Anaheim subsequently found itself on the losing end of a one-goal game, finally. Maybe their fortunes are turning for the worst, just as Ilya Bryzalov takes over in net. Good luck!
     
    Last week: 2-1-1

  • 6
    6Chicago Blackhawks
     
    last week: 9
    record: 33-18-3
    MUIR (8): Nice to see Marian Hossa's stick finally warming up. The veteran had just one goal in his nine previous games before scoring four straight for Chicago during their past two. Hossa brings so much to the table even when he's not scoring that his slumps aren't necessarily painful, but this sure is a more dangerous team when he's clicking. 
     
    KWAK (6): The Blackhawks won two tight games to close out their grueling seven-game road trip, and finally cashed in on a power play opportunity after previously going 0-for -11. Though their PP still languishes at 16.7% (ranked 22nd), their penalty kill has been second to none, leading the league with a 88% success rate. 
     
    PAGE (3):
     
    Last week: 1-1-1

  • 7
    7Montreal Canadiens
     
    last week: 6
    record: 34-15-3
    MUIR (6): There's more to these Habs than the estimable goaltending of Carey Price. Take Dale Weise. The grinder has been a revelation since he was inserted onto the first line alongside Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais, scoring three goals and contributing two primary assists last week as the Canadiens knocked off the Bruins and Devils. With speed to burn and surprising creative flair, Dale's a killer.
     
    KWAK (7): Apart from a rough start against Buffalo last week, Price has been near-perfect, even making a case to be considered for the Hart Trophy. He leads the league with a .932 save percentage and his GAA (2.03) is just a tick behind Nashvillle’s Pekka Rinne (2.02), who undoubtedly has a better team playing in front of him. As the season progresses, it’s becoming clearer that the Canadiens will go as far as Price can take them. 
     
    PAGE (10): Sweeping the season series with the Bruins, four games to none, is a huge milestone for the Canadiens. It would probably mean more if this year's Bruins team seemed a little more formidable. This latest win over the B's, 3–1, only served to further illustrate that more than any other in the league, these Habs are a one-man team. David Desharnais and Alexi Emelin would not be big-minute contributors on a more well-rounded roster.
     
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 8
    8New York Islanders
     
    last week: 7
    record: 34-18-1
    MUIR (9): Loved what Frans Nielsen had to say about his team the other day. “I’ve always seen the talent, I’ve always believed in Garth [Snow]’s plan,” he told Newsday. “I’m happy I’m still here when we’re better. And we’re still a young team, we could be a lot better even. I have a feeling we’re going to be scary good soon.” If they can address that 30th ranked penalty kill, he might be right.
     
    KWAK (8): Having to adjust to life without Kyle Okposo, who is out with a retina injury, the Islanders have been dealt another wrench as Michael Grabner was placed on the injured reserve on Sunday. Grabner has been dealing with a lower-body injury all season, and another prolonged absence further depletes an offense that has sputtered since Okposo went down. Since Jan. 29, the Isles have been outscored 19-11 while going 2-4-0. 
     
    PAGE (6): Okposo's injury combined with some inter-divisional losses have let out some of the wind from their sails. But before that familiar panic sets in, Islanders fans, consider that the underlying numbers are still tracking: The Isles still lead the league in Fenwick For%, the historical marker of deep teams. After all, for as unimpressive as Jaroslav Halak looked last week, it doesn't matter if he faces just 28 shots over the span of two games. 
     
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 9
    9Pittsburgh Penguins
     
    last week: 11
    record: 30-15-8
    MUIR (11)
     
    KWAK (9): The Penguins have been shut out three times in their last six games, which is uncharacteristic for a team that has star centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh ranks outside of the top 10 in scoring (2.81 goals per game) for just the second time since 2006, which is fueling rumors that the Pens could be shopping for a triggerman at the deadline. Finding true scorers to complement their superb playmakers has been a perpetual problem for the Pens. They now have three weeks to make something happen.
     
    PAGE (8): In five of their last six games, one of the teams involved has been shutout, so that's something. Maybe more noteworthy is that the only good team that the Blueshirts have beaten lately is the Jets, if you even want to call them that. For now and for all its talent, Pittsburgh still looks stuck in the second-tier of Cup contenders. The Pens seem like a prime candidate to be busy come the trade deadline.
     
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 10
    10Washington Capitals
     
    last week: 13
    record: 28-16-10
    MUIR (13)
     
    KWAK (10): Goalie Braden Holtby has quietly been having a career season, ranking in the top five in goals-against (2.14) and save percentage (.925). Whether that is a result of working with famed goalie guru Mitch Korn or finally having the benefit of playing behind a solid Trotzian defensive structure, Holtby has been giving the Capitals the kind of goaltending they need to think big in the spring. He ranks second in the league with six shutouts so far, a career high for the 25-year-old netminder.
     
    PAGE (11)
     
    Last week: 3-1-0

[pagebreak]

Goalie Henrik Lundqvist’s scary blood vessel injury, sustained last week when a puck hit him in the throat, will keep him out for at least three weeks. That will present a big test for the Rangers, who are 5-5-2 in the games that Lundqvist hasn’t started this season. There's no good time for him to go down with injury, but now seems especially bad with the Rangers playing so well in the New Year. It's all up to Cam Talbot now. As surprisingly good as the Rangers have been in replacing their free agency departures, this team still isn't at the level of last year's Eastern Conference champs. They need good goaltending.  

Six straight wins, including shutouts of the Avalanche and Blackhawks, propelled the Wild—a team that was on life support a month ago—back into the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. Devan Dubnyk has completely changed the complexion of this franchise, giving them the kind of reliable goaltending that eluded this team earlier this season. Darcy Kuemper is back up from the minors, but don't expect him to see much action between the pipes during the stretch run.

Unbelievable stat of the week: After knocking off the Sharks in San Jose on Monday night, the Flames are now 17-4-1 against the rest of the Pacific Division, including a 9-2-1 mark on the road against its teams. No other Pacific club has more than 11 divisional wins. You keep waiting for this team to take a step back and it keeps on surprising. 

The Middle 10
 
  • 11
    11New York Rangers
     
    last week: 10
    record: 30-16-5
    MUIR: 14
    KWAK: 11
    PAGE: 9
    Last week: 1-1-1

  • 12
    12Minnesota Wild
     
    last week: 18
    record: 26-20-6
    MUIR: 7
    KWAK: 16
    PAGE: 13
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 13
    13Boston Bruins
     
    last week: 8
    record: 28-18-7
    MUIR: 12
    KWAK: 12
    PAGE: 12
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 14
    14Calgary Flames
     
    last week: 14
    record: 30-21-3
    MUIR: 10
    KWAK: 14
    PAGE: 16
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 15
    15San Jose Sharks
     
    last week: 12
    record: 28-20-7
    MUIR: 16
    KWAK: 13
    PAGE: 17
    Last week: 1-3-0

  • 16
    16Vancouver Canucks
     
    last week: 16
    record: 29-20-3
    MUIR: 17
    KWAK: 15
    PAGE: 18
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 17
    17Winnipeg Jets
     
    last week: 15
    record: 27-18-10
    MUIR: 18
    KWAK: 18
    PAGE: 15
    Last week: 1-0-2

  • 18
    18Florida Panthers
     
    last week: 21
    record: 23-7-11
    MUIR: 19
    KWAK: 20
    PAGE: 14
    Last week: 2-0-1

  • 19
    19Los Angeles Kings
     
    last week: 20
    record: 23-18-12
    MUIR: 21
    KWAK: 17
    PAGE: 19
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 20
    20Philadelphia Flyers
     
    last week: 22
    record: 23-22-8
    MUIR: 15
    KWAK: 22
    PAGE: 22
    Last week: 1-0-1

NHL
Flyers, in playoff bubble trouble, not going down easily

He won't get any love from the voters, but New Jersey's Cory Schneider is playing as well as any of the top Vezina Trophy candidates. Even after a frustrating loss to Edmonton on Monday, Schneider is 7-2-1 with one no-decision, a 1.73 goals-against average and .942 save percentage in 11 appearances since the calendar turned to 2015. 

A 5-1 win on Saturday over lowly Edmonton finally broke the spell on the winless-in-11 Maple Leafs. But it doesn’t put an end to their troubles. From now until the March 2 trade deadline, they’ll be waiting for the bell to toll and the rebuild to begin again. 

The Coyotes still aren't winning many games, but they're finally getting the goaltending they expected from Mike Smith. Thrust back into the starter's role by the trade of Devan Dubnyk, the veteran keeper has responded with his best regular season hockey in years, posting save percentages of .910 or better in six of his past seven appearances. That 40-save effort against Chicago on Monday night reminded everyone that Smith's still got something left to give.

The Bottom 10
 
  • 21
    21Dallas Stars
     
    last week: 17
    record: 24-21-8
    MUIR: 22
    KWAK: 19
    PAGE: 20
    Last week: 1-2-1

  • 22
    22Colorado Avalanche
     
    last week: 19
    record: 22-21-11
    MUIR: 24
    KWAK: 21
    PAGE: 21
    Last week: 1-3-0

  • 23
    23New Jersey Devils
     
    last week: 24
    record: 21-24-9
    MUIR: 20
    KWAK: 24
    PAGE: 23
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 24
    24Columbus Blue Jackets
     
    last week: 25
    record: 23-26-3
    MUIR: 23
    KWAK: 23
    PAGE: 25
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 25
    25Ottawa Senators
     
    last week: 23
    record: 20-22-9
    MUIR: 25
    KWAK: 25
    PAGE: 24
    Last week: 0-3-0

  • 26
    26Toronto Maple Leafs
     
    last week: 26
    record: 23-27-4
    MUIR: 26
    KWAK: 26
    PAGE: 26
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 27
    27Carolina Hurricanes
     
    last week: 27
    record: 19-26-7
    MUIR: 27
    KWAK: 27
    PAGE: 28
    Last week: 2-0-1

  • 28
    28Phoenix Coyotes
     
    last week: 28
    record: 20=27=7
    MUIR: 28
    KWAK: 28
    PAGE: 27
    Last week: 2-1-1

  • 29
    29Edmonton Oilers
     
    last week: 29
    record: 15-30-9
    MUIR: 29
    KWAK: 29
    PAGE: 29
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 30
    30Buffalo Sabres
     
    last week: 30
    record: 16-35-3
    MUIR: 30
    KWAK: 30
    PAGE: 30
    Last week: 2-1-0

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