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Nashville Predators' Wilson and Jones on the team's resurgence
4:31 | NHL
Nashville Predators' Wilson and Jones on the team's resurgence
SI Staff
Tuesday February 17th, 2015

Welcome to the newest installment of our 2014–15 NHL Power Rankings. After six weeks of change at the top the Predators, perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2014-15 season, have held on to their No. 1 spot

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 carefully weighted according to results on the ice during the week, strength of competition, astrological forecasts (future schedule), a series of tosses at the newsroom dart board, spiritual guidance from The Great Beyond via our official NHL-sanctioned ouijaboard, and how high each club came in on each of our writers’ ballots. In some cases another 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 elevate your blood pressure to dangerous levels.

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: 1
    record: 38-12-6
    MUIR (1): With Pekka Rinne dominating between the pipes (.950 save percentage in his past four starts), the Predators have won five in a row to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the Presidents' Trophy contenders. And now that they've added Cody Franson to an already deep blueline and gritty Mike Santorelli to spice up the top nine, Nashville looks like a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
    KWAK (1): Winners of seven of their last eight games, the Preds, now with the best record in the NHL, aren’t flying under the radar anymore. Trading for Toronto’s Franson gives them even more depth in the back-end, where second-year defenseman Seth Jones has also come into his own. He has five goals and 12 points since Jan. 3.
    PAGE (1): The league's top-scoring blueline is about to pad its lead, swapping out Anton Volchenkov's five points Franson's 32. Don't sleep on the impact of Santorelli, though. By most quality of competition stats, Santorelli drew Toronto's toughest forward minutes and still pitched in 29 points and a +7. He'll start on Nashville's third line, but could find himself paired with Mike Fisher and tasked with neutralizing scorers come playoff time.  
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 2
    2St. Louis Blues
     
    last week: 4
    record: 37-15-4
    MUIR (2): How good are the Preds? The Blues have just two regulation losses in their past 18 games and they still can't make up ground on the Central Division leaders. Keep an eye on goaltender Brian Elliott this week. He was 90 seconds away from a share of the franchise record for most shutouts (20) before settling for a shootout win. You can feel that next one is coming soon.
    KWAK (2): A decisive 6-3 win over the Lightning this week showed that the Blues can also keep up in a track meet. Though their power play sorely misses defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, converting just twice in their last 13 opportunities, their defense has stood strong. They limited shot-happy Tampa Bay to just 29 on goal. 
    PAGE (2): The Blues did nothing last week if not prove their ability to both rope-a-dope low-scoring teams (beating Arizona 2–1) and outshoot offensive powerhouses (6–3 over Tampa Bay). There are some indications that St. Louis's trade deadline act will be "once bitten, twice shy" after last year's ransom for Ryan Miller failed to move the needle. And why not? This roster has few holes. 
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 3
    3Montreal Canadiens
     
    last week: 7
    record: 37-15-4
    MUIR (3): May as well turn this space into a weekly Carey Price tribute. Yes, the Habs are more than just an All-World goaltender, but it's no secret that this team will go only as far as he can carry them. His numbers keep inching into how's-he-do-that? territory, including a league-best .942 save percentage at five-on-five and a stunning 1.93 GAA that he managed to shave by a tenth of a point last week by allowing just two goals in three games.
    KWAK (4): Price became the first Canadiens netminder to record a shutout at Joe Louis Arena, when he blanked the Red Wings on Monday night. He’s won 10 of his last 11 starts and is making a strong case for the Hart Trophy. 
    PAGE (4): Price's shutout of Detroit gives him 30 for his career, pushing out Patrick Roy for sole control of fifth place on the Habs' all-time list. There's not much else to say about the Canadiens at this point. If they win the Cup, they should just melt it down to make a Carey Price statue.
    Last week: 3-01

  • 4
    4Chicago Blackhawks
     
    last week: 6
    record: 35-18-4
    MUIR (7): You can almost catch these guys looking at their watches during some games, checking to see whether it's time to start trying hard for a change. Answer: it's not, so they're not. Someone said recently that the Blackhawks aren't a great team, they're a great playoff team and that observation was so right on the money. These guys are going through the motions of an 82-game exhibition season, turning the heat up and down as needed knowing they'll be ready when it matters.
    KWAK (5): Oh, Marian Hossa, there you are! Of course, the Blackhawks winger has long been one of the most consistently great players on a consistently great team, but his recent outburst of seven goals in his last five games has got Chicago thinking about playoff time already and it earned the 36-year-old NHL First Star honors of the week. 
    PAGE (3): Looking up at Nashville and St. Louis but still ever dangerous, the Hawks seem to be the perfect candidate to swing a move at the trade deadline. And yet they're just a year away from Patrick Kane's and Jon Toews's extensions kicking in, forcing some tough decisions about the future of their roster. Would they entertain a major player-for-player swap to net a defenseman? Remember: In advance of their previous fire sale in 2010, they won the Cup.
    Last week: 2-0-1

  • 5
    5New York Rangers
     
    last week: 11
    record: 34-16-5
    MUIR (4): No Henrik Lundqvist, no problem. The Rangers simply juiced up their offense on their recent sweep of a four-game road trip, scoring at least five goals in each to compensate for the, ahem, inconsistencies of backup Cam Talbot. With four of their next five at home, they've got the top spot in the Metro Division squarely in their sights with two games in hand on the first place Isles.
    KWAK (9): Without the benefit of Lundqvist between the pipes, the Rangers are playing like they don’t have the safety net of their All-World goalie and are pushing their offense instead. In their last four games, they’ve scored 22 goals. Defenseman Kevin Klein led the way with six points while rookie forward Kevin Hayes and defenseman Ryan McDonagh each had three goals.
    PAGE (5): Their 6–5 win over the Isles punctuated a meteoric rise up the standings. It's hard to believe, but the Rangers have the East's best goal differential (their +38 puts them six up on the Lightning) and the best goal differential of any team outside the Central's big three. And that's only mostly thanks to Rick Nash.
    Last week: 4-0-0

  • 6
    6New York Islanders
     
    last week: 8
    record: 37-19-1
    MUIR (6): This could be a telling week for the Isles, a team that bookended four wins against hockey's version of tomato cans with clumsy losses to the Bruins and Rangers. After another soft touch in Carolina, they face the Predators, Capitals and a very hungry Canucks team. Their penalty kill is still wretched and I'm a little concerned, too, about that team save percentage that's down to .911, 26th in the league.
    KWAK (6): They made good use of a string of games against league bottom-dwellers before losing that 6-5 rodeo against the Rangers on Monday. But a date with league-leading Nashville awaits on Thursday and should serve as a litmus test for the Metro leaders. 
    PAGE (6): While the Rangers now hold whatever the equivalent is of the New York hockey title belt, there's a solid argument that the Isles are the better team. The depth of their scoring forwards is unrivaled in the entire NHL.  The biggest question on Long Island, as always, is the goalie. In St. Louis and Montreal, Jaroslav Halak did his best work while splitting time as a 1A. How concerned should coach Jack Capuano be with Halak's workload this season?
    Last week: 3-1-1

  • 7
    7Tampa Bay Lightning
     
    last week: 3
    record: 35-18-6
    MUIR (10): I'm not sure anybody wants the nickname “Dump Truck,” but that's the handle that coach Jon Cooper lovingly laid on rookie forward Cedric Paquette, and it looks like it's gonna stick. “Fill it up, get on his back and he can carry you,” Cooper told The Tampa Bay Times, and he wasn't far off. The big forward has seven goals in his past nine games, a stretch that's seen the Bolts line up against some of the league's top teams.
    KWAK (3): Though they dropped three of four games this week, the Lightning are still looking like the fiercest, fastest team in the East. And any question that Tyler Johnson may fade down the stretch seems unfounded. The 24-year-old undrafted center has four goals and six points in his last seven games.
    PAGE (7): They probably would have liked to grab Franson, but they'll probably be fine without him. The Preds are quicker to go all-in with their best players being 32-year-old Pekka Rinne and 29-year-old Shea Weber. The Lightning's captain, Steve Stamkos, is 25 years old and their franchise goalie very well may turn out to be the not-yet-of-drinking-age Andrei Vasilevskiy. They're a threat now, but this Lightning season may be remembered as a prelude to a dynasty. 
    Last week: 1-2-1

  • 8
    8Anaheim Ducks
     
    last week: 5
    record: 35-15-7
    MUIR (12)
    KWAK (7): The injury to goalie Frederik Andersen (neck) has hurt the Ducks badly. Their backups, Ilya Bryzgalov and John Gibson, allowed five or more goals in two games last week. Anaheim's sole win came against the offensively challenged Hurricanes, who still managed to outshoot the Ducks, 36-17. 
    PAGE (8): After weeks of keeping the Ducks in the bottom half of my top 10, I can finally justify it with results (or more accurately, a lack thereof). Things aren't going to get any easier with Sami Vatanen (lower body) and Matt Beleskey (upper) out. Oh, and Ilya Bryzgalov is still bad.
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 9
    9Detroit Red Wings
     
    last week: 2
    record: 31-14-10
    MUIR (9): Three consecutive losses have knocked the Red Wings down a couple of pegs, but it's not time to panic just yet. Starting netminder Jimmy Howard worked off the rust quickly and looked very sharp against the Canadiens on Monday night. The offense could use a boost, though. No telling if AHL leading scorer Teemu Pulkkinen (30-27-57 in 44 games) is the answer, but he'll get his chance to make a contribution this week. In the absence of a spark, GM Ken Holland might want to start working the phones.
    KWAK (11): A down week for the Wings, who had won nine of 10 before losing three last week. Still, they have Howard, who missed a month with a groin injury, in net again. He’s shown a little rust in two starts, including giving up four goals against Winnipeg, but he’ll return to his consistent form, and Detroit is still a better team with him.
    PAGE (9): Howard came back, and he came back rusty. Despite their recent lull, though, the Red Wings have everything they need for a second-half surge: a steadying coach, a veteran leadership group, and a secret weapon. Teemu Pulkkinen emerges from the AHL, where he's scored 30 goals in 44 games. As long as they can pull short, unheralded, and unbelievable forwards from Scandinavia, why ever count the Wings out?
    Last week: 0-2-1

  • 10
    10Pittsburgh Penguins
     
    last week: 9
    record: 35-15-9
    MUIR (14): Carey Price and Pekka Rinne generate all the buzz when talk turns to Vezina Trophy candidates, but Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury is proving that he belongs in the mix as well. The All-Star stopper has stopped 97 of the 99 shots he's faced during his past four starts, posting a .980 save percentage and 0.49 goals-against average. Yes, he still has something to prove in the playoffs, but he can only play the games on the schedule. So far, he looks dialed in and ready to prove his bashers wrong.
    KWAK (8): Remember when the Penguins power play was converting nearly 40% of its chances? Yeah, neither do the Pens, it seems. They haven’t scored with a man-advantage since January, and sooner or later that drought will hurt their record. 
    PAGE (10): As usual, the Pens seem like a nearly complete Cup Contender, but they're not quite there. What's the missing piece here? A defenseman to replace Olli Maata? Another bottom-sixer? They could certainly use both at this point.
    Last week: 2-0-1

[pagebreak]

Gerry Thomas/Getty Images

NHL
Surprising Calgary Flames now in playoff bubble trouble

No one's calling the Flames a team of destiny yet ... but it feels like almost a matter of time, doesn't it? This ragtag bunch continues to amaze with a resiliency that's led to a +34 differential in third period goals and a league-best 10 wins when trailing after two periods. You can pick this team apart all day long, but Calgary is proving to be more than the sum of its parts. Don't sleep on these guys.

Is it time to start believing in the Kings again? Five straight wins may signal the start of their seemingly annual march. And a march it will have to be. With 16 of their last 26 games on the road, Los Angeles will have to be a much better away team (currently 7-12-6) if it has any chance of making it to the postseason. Of course, long odds never seem to phase this team. This is still the one that clawed its way back from a 0-3 playoff series hole, won three Game Sevens all on the road last year and almost went undefeated on enemy ice during the 2012 playoffs.

When it comes to the Wild, I wish there was something else to talk about other than the healing powers of goaltender Devan Dubnyk, but come on. Looking at its past couple of games, this is a team that moves the puck with the dexterity of squirt house leaguers and gives up way too many shots. And yet there's Dubnyk, making all the stops he should be making and a few he shouldn't.

The Middle 10
 
  • 11
    11Washington Capitals
     
    last week: 10
    record: 30-17-10
    MUIR: 16
    KWAK: 11
    PAGE: 11
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 12
    12Calgary Flames
     
    last week: 14
    record: 32-22-3
    MUIR: 8
    KWAK: 15
    PAGE: 16
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 13
    13Winnipeg Jets
     
    last week: 17
    record: 30-19-10
    MUIR: 13
    KWAK: 13
    PAGE: 14
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 14
    14Los Angeles Kings
     
    last week: 19
    record: 26-18-12
    MUIR: 11
    KWAK: 17
    PAGE: 12
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 15
    15Minnesota Wild
     
    last week: 12
    record: 28-21-7
    MUIR: 5
    KWAK: 18
    PAGE: 18
    Last week: 2-1-1

  • 16
    16Vancouver Canucks
     
    last week: 16
    record: 32-21-3
    MUIR: 17
    KWAK: 12
    PAGE: 15
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 17
    17San Jose Sharks
     
    last week: 15
    record: 29-21-8
    MUIR: 18
    KWAK: 14
    PAGE: 17
    Last week: 1-1-1

  • 18
    18Boston Bruins
     
    last week: 13
    record: 28-20-8
    MUIR: 20
    KWAK: 16
    PAGE: 13
    Last week: 0-2-1

  • 19
    19Florida Panthers
     
    last week: 18
    record: 24-19-12
    MUIR: 19
    KWAK: 20
    PAGE: 19
    Last week: 1-2-1

  • 20
    20Philadelphia Flyers
     
    last week: 20
    record: 24-22-10
    MUIR: 15
    KWAK: 21
    PAGE: 22
    Last week: 1-0-2

NHL
Maple Leafs can retool their way to the Stanley Cup by being bold

When it comes to the nightmare scenario of losing their top center and best player, the Stars are better situated than most teams. They are deep, deep, deep down the middle. Jason Spezza is an experienced and capable No. 1 and has some chemistry with Jamie Benn. Cody Eakin brings a strong two-way game to the second unit while crafty veterans Vernon Fiddler and Shawn Horcoff can lock down the third and fourth lines. But while those four can handle the minutes, they can't replace the shots. Seguin at his best is a volume shooter, someone who can and will score from anywhere on the ice. None of the other guys is anything close to a sniper, so they need to generate shots. A lot of 'em. And pray that the next month goes by fast.

Toronto's playoff hopes have all but died, but now begins the rebuild. It begins with stockpiling first-round draft picks, which G.M. Dave Nonis got from Nashville for defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli from. You get the sense that he's not done selling yet, and with enough moves, could the Leafs put themselves in a position to go for top draft prospects Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel? Sitting in 26th place in the league, and having won just one of their last 15 games, you get the sense that maybe it’s an achievable goal.

The Bottom 10
 
  • 21
    21Dallas Stars
     
    last week: 21
    record: 26-22-8
    MUIR: 22
    KWAK: 19
    PAGE: 20
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 22
    22Colorado Avalanche
     
    last week: 22
    record: 24-22-11
    MUIR: 21
    KWAK: 22
    PAGE: 21
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 23
    23Ottawa Senators
     
    last week: 25
    record: 22-23-10
    MUIR: 24
    KWAK: 23
    PAGE: 23
    Last week: 2-1-1

  • 24
    24Columbus Blue Jackets
     
    last week: 24
    record: 24-27-3
    MUIR: 26
    KWAK: 24
    PAGE: 25
    Last week: 1-1-0

  • 25
    25Carolina Hurricanes
     
    last week: 27
    record: 20-28-7
    MUIR: 23
    KWAK: 26
    PAGE: 26
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 26
    26New Jersey Devils
     
    last week: 23
    record: 21-26-9
    MUIR: 27
    KWAK: 25
    PAGE: 24
    Last week: 0-2-0

  • 27
    27Phoenix Coyotes
     
    last week: 28
    record: 20-31-7
    MUIR: 28
    KWAK: 27
    PAGE: 28
    Last week: 0-4-0

  • 28
    28Edmonton Oilers
     
    last week: 29
    record: 16-32-10
    MUIR: 25
    KWAK: 29
    PAGE: 29
    Last week: 1-2-1

  • 29
    29Toronto Maple Leafs
     
    last week: 26
    record: 23-29-5
    MUIR: 29
    KWAK: 28
    PAGE: 27
    Last week: 0-2-1

  • 30
    30Buffalo Sabres
     
    last week: 30
    record: 16-37-3
    MUIR: 30
    KWAK: 30
    PAGE: 30
    Last week: 0-2-0

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