SI Staff
Tuesday March 17th, 2015

Welcome to the newest installment of our 2014–15 NHL Power Rankings. It doesn't matter who they stick in their net—Cam Talbot (photo, above), Mackenzie Skapski, Zarley Zalapski or Alain Vigneault’s footman—the Rangers just keep rolling, and so they remain our top team for the second week in a row. Meanwhile, the Predators have halted their dramatic plunge and now cling to the ninth spot by the skin of their claws. But what to make of the upstart Islanders who were our No. 1 back in the heady days of late November but now seem to be taking on water as the postseason draws ever nearer?

Our three sage scribes—Allan Muir, Sarah Kwak and Sam Page—submitted their detailed choices for the top 10 and dutifully ranked all 30 teams. Our final order has been painfully calculated according to results on the ice during the week, strength of competition vis a vis the Standard & Poor's 500 index, a quick consult with our wily staff witch doctor and how high each club came in on each of our writers’ ballots. In some cases another purely intuitive, wholly unscientific and and utterly inexcusable method was used to break ties, rank teams that were chosen by only one or two writers, and inspire you, gentle reader, to never darken our doorway again.

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!

  • 1
    1New York Rangers
    last week: 1
    record: 44-17-7
    MUIR (1): Henrik who? With their all-world starting goalie on IR, the Rangers have morphed into a defensive juggernaut, allowing one goal or fewer in regulation in each of their past seven games. That, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is a first in New York's long and storied franchise history. Backup Cam Talbot recorded a career-high 38 saves in Sunday’s 2-1 win over Florida and is now 5-0-1 with with a 1.00 GAA, .967 save percentage and a shutout in his last six appearances. What a terrific story.
    KWAK (1): Henrik who, indeed. Of course, the Rangers’ net still belongs to  Henrik Lundqvist, who remains sidelined by a vascular injury. But Talbot’s superb play has made the King’s absence during the last month inconsequential. Going 3-0-0 with a .969 save percentage this week, Talbot helped vault New York to the top of the NHL standings for the first time all season. 
    PAGE (1): Talbot for Hart. Just kidding. Maybe? Speaking of MVPs, the Rangers may have lost theirs for several weeks after Kevin Klein blocked an Alex Ovechkin shot. The coaching staff (rightly) didn't trust Klein with much ice time last season, but he's stepped up with the best season of his career to stabilize the blue line. Nabbing Keith Yandle at the deadline looks even smarter now. 
    Last week: 4-0-0

  • 2
    2Anaheim Ducks
    last week: 3
    record: 44-20-7
    MUIR (2): That was an impressive weekend for the Ducks, who knocked off the red-hot Wild, 2-1, then scored four goals in the third period to stage a dramatic comeback against the Predators. There are still some questions about their goaltending, but the rest of their game seems to be coming together nicely at just the right time.
    KWAK (2): The Ducks stopped a three-game skid by taking down one of the league’s hottest teams (Minnesota), then followed up with a come-from-behind win over the Preds that grabbed the best record in the West. An East coast road swing awaits, including a marquee meeting against the Rangers on Sunday. Potential Stanley Cup finals preview? 
    PAGE (4): With a comical 13-point lead in their division, what's going to keep the Ducks motivated? How about the prospect of playing the rival Kings in the first round, which would be the case if the playoffs started today. Right now, the Kings are the blade dangling over the Anaheim's neck. How many people would honestly pick the Ducks in that matchup?
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 3
    3St. Louis Blues
    last week: 4
    record: 44-20-5
    MUIR (5): Nice to hear that defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is skating and could be back in the lineup soon, possibly next week.  Once he gets his legs under him, we'll see how good the Blues really are. It says here they win the Presidents' Trophy and enter the postseason as the team to beat.
    KWAK (3): Their 23-year old winger Vladimir Tarasenko is making his breakout season of a year ago look pedestrian at this point, shattering his career-best 43 points with 67 in 69 games so far. Though St. Louis holds a slight edge over Nashville in points, the Blues also have a tough road ahead, including four meetings against potential first-round foes Minnesota and Chicago before the end of the season.
    PAGE (2): If you’re looking for a reason to believe that this year’s team will do in the playoffs what the last few very similar-looking squads could not, watch Tarasenko's goal reel. The Blues found themselves in familiar territory on Sunday against the Stars—locked in a 0–0 slog—and Tarasenko busted things open with a sweet move to the slot. A gamebreaker on an otherwise punishing, tight-checking team can make all the difference. Just ask Marian Gaborik and the Kings. 
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 4
    4Tampa Bay Lightning
    last week: 5
    record: 43-21-7
    MUIR (6): Despite suffering some heavy casualties recently, the Bolts have remained fairly consistent. I like they way they bounced back from a pitiful performance on Saturday against the Jets with a resilient effort on Monday against the Canadiens. That 3–2 win moves them to 4–0 against Montreal this season. Think they would like a rematch of last year’s first-rounder?
    KWAK (4): Though the Lightning dropped two close games to Boston (3–2 last Thursday) and Winnipeg (2–1), they book-ended their week with two important wins over divisional rival Montreal that have them tied atop the Atlantic, though the Habs hab a game in hand. Still, you have to like the way the Bolts have had the Canadiens’ number this season.
    PAGE (3): Of maybe all NHL teams, none control their seeding destiny quite like Tampa Bay. After beating the Canadiens on Monday night, they've got Detroit on Friday, then the Bruins twice, Panthers twice, and another Wings-Habs double bill. Their “prize” for playing their division tough could be a first round bout with the B’s, a team that looks very much like this year’s version of the 2012 Kings.
    Last week: 2-1-1

  • 5
    5Minnesota Wild
    last week: 6
    record: 38-24-7
    MUIR (3): Still not a believer? Check out what this team has done on the road. Their 3–1 win Saturday in St. Louis was their seventh straight away from home, tying the franchise record, and it moved them to a league-best 11-1-2 in enemy barns since Jan. 14 when, coincidentally, they acquired Devan Dubnyk in a trade with Arizona.
    KWAK (11)
    PAGE (7): Remember when I said Cam Talbot for Hart? I meant Devan Dubnyk for Hart. Seriously this time. 
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 6
    6Chicago Blackhawks
    last week: 11
    record: 41-21-6
    MUIR (7): No, they haven’t quite flipped the switch just yet, although a 4-0-1 record in their past five games might suggest that they have. The Hawks have been getting by on the exceptional play of Corey Crawford, who has a .958 save percentage during that stretch while waiting for the offense to start carrying its weight. Six goals in a blowout of the Sharks on Saturday was a start. Now let’s see what they do against the Islanders and Rangers this week.  
    KWAK (6): The Blackhawks haven’t really lost a beat since losing their leading scorer last month, and that’s in large part because of Crawford has gone 5-0-1 in his last six starts. Only the Rangers’ Talbot and Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov have boasted better numbers than Crawford’s 1.38 GAA and .958 save percentage this month. 
    PAGE (8): They’re going to win the Stanley Cup and we’re all going to feel bad about forgetting about them. But, hey, consistent greatness is boring. Call me next year when they’re in cap hell and Jonathan Toews is playing 30 minutes a night.
    Last week: 2-0-0

  • 7
    7Montreal Canadiens
    last week: 2
    record: 43-20-7
    MUIR (11)
    KWAK (5): As he closes in on a possible Hart, Carey Price is now coming for our hearts. In the third period of Montreal’s game against the Islanders, the goalie took a quick moment to lean in for a young fan’s selfie during a TV timeout. Though he let in a power play goal a few minutes later, Price held on for the win, his league-leading 38th of the season. 
    PAGE (11)
    Last week: 1-2-1

  • 8
    8New York Islanders
    last week: 7
    record: 43-24-4
    MUIR (13)
    KWAK (9): Dropping four of their last five games, the Islanders ceded first place to the rival Rangers this week, but the silver lining has been getting Kyle Okposo back into the lineup. O.K., so the winger was –5 in three games this week—a slow start can be expected after missing nearly two months—but with a month before the postseason starts, Okposo has enough time to regain his footing.
    PAGE (6): Alright, everyone take a breath. The Isles may be playing their worst hockey of the season down the stretch, but they’re still going to make the playoffs and they’re still going to be a tough out for whoever they draw. Still leading the league by FenClose doesn’t just count for something, it counts for a lot
    Last week: 0-3-0

  • 9
    9Nashville Predators
    last week: 9
    record: 43-21-7
    MUIR (17)
    KWAK (7): The wheels haven’t quite come off of the Predators’ wagon yet, but they could certainly use some tightening. Though Nashville snapped a six-game skid with an overtime win over lowly Arizona last Monday, the Preds have seen their lead in the Central evaporate and are now in danger of setting up a tough first-round series against Chicago. 
    PAGE (5): The Preds gambled and lost, playing Pekka Rinne during a back-to-back in California.The rest of their schedule, though, is butter-soft. Ahem. Actually, it’s all Eastern Conference contenders and bubble Western teams from here on out. 
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 10
    10Detroit Red Wings
    last week: 10
    record: 38-19-11
    MUIR (10): That was an impressive 42-save effort by Petr Mrazek in his return to the lineup in Sunday’s 5–1 win over Pittsburgh, even moreso when you consider he was lit up by those same Pens for four goals on 17 shots in his last appearance back on Feb. 11. Not that there’s a goalie controversy brewing, but with Jimmy Howard posting sub-.900 save percentages in four of his past five games, it’ll be interesting to see if Mike Babcock turns to the kid more often down the stretch.
    KWAK (10): A 7–2 loss at the hands of Philadelphia on Saturday, the Red Wings’ fourth in five games, prompted a wake-up call for Detroit as the veterans held a players-only meeting to shake the team from its doldrums. It responded the next night when Riley Sheahan scored just 81 seconds into an eventual emphatic 5–1 win over Pittsburgh. 
    PAGE (9): Marek Zidlicky is being talked about in Detroit like the second coming of Nick Lidstrom.  Could this having something to do with his 27.3% shooting in the seven games he’s been there? 
    Last week: 1-2-0


  • 11
    11Pittsburgh Penguins
    last week: 8
    record: 39-20-10
    MUIR: 12 
    KWAK (8): Captain Sidney Crosby missed a game last week, and forwards Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist will miss time now. With the Penguins dropping their last two, while being outscored 7–1 against Boston and Detroit, now is the time for Pittsburgh’s depth players to develop some confidence for the spring. With games against golf course-bound New Jersey, Dallas and Arizona on the docket, they could in fact get just that.
    PAGE: 13
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 12
    12Boston Bruins
    last week: 16
    record: 36-23-10
    MUIR (8): I haven't seen anything yet that suggests that the Bruins will be anything more than a speed bump in the first round of the playoffs, but I have to give them credit. Five consecutive wins ahead of Sunday's 2–0 loss to the Capitals all but assured that this team will make the postseason cut. Really like the revamped “first” line featuring veteran Milan Lucic with rookies David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner. The trio has combined for nine goals and 23 points in the past nine games and played the game at a pace that was missing earlier in the season. Have to wonder if David Krejci will be looking for a new winger when he returns to action.
    KWAK: 13
    PAGE: 14
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 13
    13Washington Capitals
    last week: 13
    record: 38-23-10
    MUIR: 15
    KWAK: 12
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 14
    14Vancouver Canucks
    last week: 12
    record: 39-25-4
    MUIR (9): Eddie Lack’s quickly becoming one of my favorite players. Not because he’s been nails since stepping into the No. 1 role in Vancouver—he’s 8-3-1 in his past 12 decisions with a .931 save percentage—but because no one is having more fun playing the game than this guy. From goofing around on social media to belting out the Canadian national anthem to offering his own take on rule changes (“Give goalies a challenge flag on interference calls!”), he makes it impossible not to root for him.
    KWAK: 14
    PAGE: 15
    Last week: 1-1-0

  • 15
    15Ottawa Senators
    last week: 21
    record: 33-24-11
    MUIR (4): The Senators are 8-1-1 in their past 10 and virtually unbeatable when Andrew Hammond steps between the pipes. The rookie has allowed two goals or fewer in each of his first 11 starts, one shy of the NHL record set by Frankie “Mr. Zero” Brimsek back in 1938. It makes you wonder why Dave Cameron went with veteran Craig Anderson last Tuesday in a must-win game against Boston ... and if that decision will ultimately derail Ottawa’s playoff hopes.
    KWAK: 19
    PAGE: 19
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 16
    16Los Angeles Kings
    last week: 15
    record: 34-22-13
    MUIR: 16
    KWAK: 15
    PAGE: 12
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 17
    17Calgary Flames
    last week: 17
    record: 38-26-5
    MUIR: 14
    KWAK: 17
    PAGE: 17
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 18
    18Winnipeg Jets
    last week: 14
    record: 34-23-12
    MUIR: 18
    KWAK: 16
    PAGE: 16
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 19
    19San Jose Sharks
    last week: 18
    record: 34-27-8
    MUIR (21): Not that there’s an ideal moment for a team’s star player and GM get into a public dispute, but the timing could have been better than last week for the skirmish between San Jose’s Joe Thornton and Doug Wilson. With the Sharks needing to get red hot down the stretch—say, nine wins in their final 13 games—the war of words could be a distraction that derails their playoff hopes. Or it could galvanize the team around its former captain and give it the impetus it needs to finish strong. With their next seven games coming up on the road, and this feud hanging over them, the Sharks are the team to watch.
    KWAK (18): Nothing like a little verbal dust-up between the ex-captain and GM to make a desperation playoff push more interesting. After Wilson suggested that Thornton did not deal well with the stress involved in being captain (and thus, stripped him of the C last season), Thornton suggested that his GM “shut his mouth.” This team is likely bound for an awkward off-season; the big question will be whether that will be in four short weeks or not.
    PAGE: 18
    Last week: 1-1-0

  • 20
    20Florida Panthers
    last week: 19
    record: 31-24-14
    MUIR (20): Give it up for Dan Ellis, the veteran third stringer who is doing his best to keep Florida’s faint playoff hopes alive. Ellis, who spent virtually the entire season with AHL San Antonio, has been brilliant in relief of Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya, going 3-1-1 with a 1.95 GAA and a .929 save percentage in five appearances.
    KWAK (21): Since the Great Goalie Debacle, the Panthers have fallen six points out of playoff position, but they can’t really blame emergency backup Ellis. The bigger problem for Florida has been its paltry shot generation: fewer than 25 per game during its last five contests.
    PAGE: 20
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 21
    21Colorado Avalanche
    last week: 20
    record: 32-26-11
    MUIR: 23
    KWAK: 20
    PAGE: 21
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 22
    22Dallas Stars
    last week: 24
    record: 32-28-10
    MUIR: 22
    KWAK: 22
    PAGE: 22
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 23
    23New Jersey Devils
    last week: 22
    record: 29-29-11
    MUIR: 19
    KWAK: 24
    PAGE: 24
    Last week: 1-1-1

  • 24
    24Philadelphia Flyers
    last week: 23
    record: 29-27-15
    MUIR: 24
    KWAK: 23
    PAGE: 23
    Last week: 1-1-2

  • 25
    25Carolina Hurricanes
    last week: 26
    record: 26-34-8
    MUIR: 25
    KWAK: 25
    PAGE: 26
    Last week: 1-2-1

  • 26
    26Columbus Blue Jackets
    last week: 25
    record: 30-35-4
    MUIR: 26
    KWAK: 26
    PAGE: 25
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 27
    27Toronto Maple Leafs
    last week: 27
    record: 27-38-6
    MUIR: 28
    KWAK: 27
    PAGE: 27
    Last week: 1-3-0

  • 28
    28Edmonton Oilers
    last week: 29
    record: 19-39-12
    MUIR: 27
    KWAK: 28
    PAGE: 29
    Last week: 1-1-1

  • 29
    29ARIAARIZON Arizona Coyotes
    last week: 28
    record: 21-41-8
    MUIR: 30
    KWAK: 29
    PAGE: 28
    Last week: 0-3-0

  • 30
    30Buffalo Sabres
    last week: 30
    record: 19-43-7
    MUIR: 29
    KWAK: 30
    PAGE: 30
    Last week: 0-1-2

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