Tuesday November 17th, 2015

Sure, the Canadiens have been knocked out of top spot for the first time this season by a Rangers team that can’t seem to lose, but how about those Sabres? The organization was hoping to take baby steps toward respectability this season, but it’s on the verge or a man-sized leap. One key area of improvement: puck possession. According to War-on-ice.com, the Sabres have cranked their team Corsi up to 50.5% this season, a huge leap up from 37.5% in 2014-15. They’re also a +2.2 on shot differential, after being –11.4 last year. And with both Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian likely to return to action this week, their best hockey might still be ahead of them.

Biggest jump: Colorado Avalanche (29 to 20)

Biggest drop: Winnipeg Jets (12 to 23)

HOW THEY STACK UP AFTER WEEK 6
 
  • 1
    1New York Rangers
     
    last week: 3
    record: 14-2-2
    Sure, too many of their wins have been squeakers but nine straight is still nine straight. And maybe the fact that they’re finding ways to win despite running into a few obstacles along the way should be viewed as a positive. The Rangers haven’t yet played their best hockey. Maybe they’ll find it when they get for their franchise-record 10th straight win this week. Last week: 3-0-0

  • 2
    2Dallas Stars
     
    last week: 2
    record: 14-4-0
    Nice to see them get a couple wins against divisional bunkmates Minnesota and Winnipeg last week. The Stars were brutal against the Central last season, winning just eight of 29 games. That said, they won’t play the big boys—the Blues and Blackhawks—until mid-December. We’ll see what they’re really made of then. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 3
    3Montreal Canadiens
     
    last week: 1
    record: 14-3-2
    There’s still no firm timetable for Carey Price’s return, but you have to think the Canadiens are looking impatiently in his direction. Mike Condon has crashed back down to earth after a brilliant start, allowing 10 goals on just 71 shots (an .859 save percentage) in his last three appearances. Last week: 2-0-1

  • 4
    4Los Angeles Kings
     
    last week: 6
    record: 11-6-0
    A couple of lackluster performances against Arizona and Columbus aside, the Kings have been terrific during their recent 11-3 run. Both Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik scored this past week. With a five-game road trip commencing this week, a little offense from those slumping veterans would go a long way. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 5
    5New Jersey Devils
     
    last week: 8
    record: 10-6-1
    After mopping the ice with the Penguins on Saturday, the surprising Devils have won 10 of their past 13. The penalty kill has been a huge part of the team’s recent run. After a three-for-three night against the Pens, New Jersey has killed off 25 of the opposition’s past 27 chances. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 6
    6Nashville Predators
     
    last week: 9
    record: 10-3-3
    Nashville’s much-maligned offense went off last week, converting a touchdown against both Ottawa and Winnipeg. While scoring a lot helps, scoring first might be more predictive. The Preds are 9-1-1 this season when they get on the board first. Last week: 2-0-1

  • 7
    7Washington Capitals
     
    last week: 5
    record: 11-4-1
    Hard not to focus on Alex Ovechkin—especially when he’s launching a career-high 15 shots as he did Tuesday night against Detroit—but if you’re watching the Caps, spare a few moments for No. 92. Evgeny Kuznetsov hasn’t simply been brilliant. He’s been consistent, a quality that eluded him last season. He’s also been dynamite away from the Verizon Center, ranking second in both assists (3.56) and points (4.75) per 60 minutes played on the road. Last week: 1-1-1

  • 8
    8Chicago Blackhawks
     
    last week: 11
    record: 10-7-1
    The Hawks looked more like themselves after getting Duncan Keith back in the lineup, efficiently dispatching the Blues and Flames in a weekend back-to-back. The veteran defenseman hit the ice running, playing a season-high 27:34 against St. Louis and chipping in a goal and an assist over the weekend. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 9
    9Minnesota Wild
     
    last week: 10
    record: 10-3-3
    Their modest three-game winning streak was snapped on Saturday night in Dallas, but the Wild should be happy it got that far. They’re getting outshot on a nightly basis and their power play is circling the drain, going 0-for-13 in their past four games. Where would this team be without Devan Dubnyk? Last week: 2-0-1

  • 10
    10St. Louis Blues
     
    last week: 4
    record: 12-5-1
    If this was a measuring-stick week for the Blues, well, they came up short. Although they shut out the red hot Devils, they followed up by allowing 10 goals in back-to-back losses to the Rangers and Hawks. St. Louis is now just 4-5-1 against teams in playoff position. They’re good, but they don’t feel like a Stanley Cup contender just yet. Last week: 2-2-0

  • 11
    11New York Islanders
     
    last week: 15
    record: 10-6-3
    The Isles took two out of three on their annual SoCal road trip then laid a beating on the visiting Coyotes on Monday night in what may have been their best home game of the year. Thomas Greiss, who earned the wins in San Jose and Anaheim, is providing solid depth in goal. Last week: 3-1-0

  • 12
    12Pittsburgh Penguins
     
    last week: 7
    record: 10-7-0
    Pittsburgh’s solid record isn’t fooling anybody, least of all the Penguins themselves. Evgeni Malkin went off on a rant after the team was shutout by the Devils on Saturday, saying “We don't play right. We don’t play hard. We're mad at each other.” A closed door meeting followed. Should be an interesting week ahead. Last week: 1-2-0

  • 13
    13Buffalo Sabres
     
    last week: 19
    record: 8-8-1
    With a 5-1-1 mark in their past seven, the Sabres have reached the .500 mark (or what passes for it in the NHL) for the first time 2013. Is it time to talk playoffs yet? Linus Ullmark has allowed two goals or fewer in four of his past five starts. If he can maintain something close to that pace, Buffalo is at least in the mix for a wild card. Last week: 2-0-1

  • 14
    14Boston Bruins
     
    last week: 10
    record: 8-7-1
    Boston’s shockingly potent power play has kept them afloat during the early weeks of the season. Now maybe the penalty kill is ready to start chipping in. Though the unit still ranks 30th in the league, it has killed 11 of the past 12 five-on-four situations. It’s not much, but it is a start. Last week: 1-1-0

  • 15
    15Detroit Red Wings
     
    last week: 17
    record: 9-8-1
    Even the return of Pavel Datsyuk couldn’t shift the Wings out of neutral. They continue to spin their wheels, turning in a frustrating effort one night (a 3–1 loss in Boston) then following it up with a solid performance like their 4–3 OT win over the Sens. Nearing the 20-game mark, it might be time to recognize that inconsistency as the nature of this team. Last week: 2-2-0

  • 16
    16Ottawa Senators
     
    last week: 13
    record: 8-5-5
    Heading out to a Sens game? Better tell the sitter you’ll probably be late. Ottawa has played 18 games so far this season. Nine of them, a league high, have gone to overtime or a shootout. They’ve dropped each of the past three though, including two at home. Those are points that could come back to haunt them. Last week: 1-1-2

  • 17
    17Anaheim Ducks
     
    last week: 16
    record: 6-8-4
    Looks like the Ducks haven’t found their stroke quite yet, although there are some encouraging signs. Ryan Getzlaf finally scored his first of the season (albeit into an empty net) and doghouse denizen Carl Hagelin broke out with a three-point night in a 4–1 win over the ’Canes on Monday. Now if they can just get goaltender Frederik Andersen (eight goals allowed on his last 56 shots) back on track. Last week: 1-1-1

  • 18
    18San Jose Sharks
     
    last week: 21
    record: 9-8-0
    That 2–1 victory over the Sabres on Saturday night wasn't just the Sharks’ first in Buffalo in a decade. It marked their first consecutive wins since their four game streak that opened this season. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 19
    arizona Coyotes
     
    last week: 22
    record: 9-8-1
    Oliver Ekman-Larsson, currently working on six-game scoring streak, is having another terrific season. Unfortunately, he’s not doing much on the power play—no goals and just four assists. Then again, the rest of Arizona’s D has combined for two total points with the extra man, which helps explain why it ranks 30th with the man advantage. Last week: 2-2-0

  • 20
    20Colorado Avalanche
     
    last week: 29
    record: 7-9-1
    A nice week for the Avs, who opened up their season-long seven-game road trip with three consecutive wins, outscoring the Flyers, Bruins and Habs 13-3 in the process. If management was seriously thinking about trading Matt Duchene, his 4-4-8 week either changed their minds ... or raised their asking price. Last week: 3-0-0

  • 21
    21Columbus Blue Jackets
     
    last week: 26
    record: 6-12-0
    Don’t look now, but the Jackets are 4-2 over their past six. They’ve scored 20 goals during that stretch (just over three per game) and held their opponents to 16 (just over 2.5 per game). Both averages are moving in the right direction. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 22
    22Florida Panthers
     
    last week: 27
    record: 8-7-3
    A nice bounce-back week for the Cats, who’d dropped their five decisions previous to this past week. Aaron Ekblad scored a pair of last-minute goals to power a sweep over the rival Lightning, becoming the first player in 12 years to do that in back-to-back wins. Last week: 3-1-0

  • 23
    23Winnipeg Jets
     
    last week: 12
    record: 8-9-2
    Hard to imagine a road trip going any worse without a Griswold behind the wheel. The Jets dropped four straight to divisional rivals and were outscored 21-8, allowing a string of 12 unanswered goals in the process. Actually, with a power play that’s gone 1 for 27 in November they should probably consider themselves fortunate things haven’t gone worse. Last week: 0-4-0

  • 24
    24Vancouver Canucks
     
    last week: 18
    record: 7-6-6
    The reeling Canucks have now dropped six of their past seven after blowing a 3–0 lead in a 4–3 OT loss in Montreal on Monday night. That was Vancouver’s league-high sixth loss in three-on-three play. No other team has lost more than three. Last week: 1-2-1

  • 25
    25Tampa Bay Lightning
     
    last week: 20
    record: 8-9-3
    The Bolts actually delivered one of their best efforts of the season on Monday night, but the end result—a last-second, 1–0 loss to the Panthers—continued a brutal stretch that’s seen them lose nine of 12. Hard to figure this team’s scoring troubles. After leading the league in goals last season, Tampa has been shut out four times and held to one goal on five other occasions. Last week: 1-2-1

  • 26
    26Toronto Maple Leafs
     
    last week: 30
    record: 5-9-4
    Their three-game winning streak was snapped at the last second by the red-hot Rangers, but the Leafs are getting some results by playing Mike Babcock hockey. Helps that James Reimer has been on his game lately. The putative backup rang up five consecutive games with an improved save percentage, with each of his past three starts topping .945. Last week: 3-1-0

  • 27
    27Calgary Flames
     
    last week: 25
    The Flames coughed up four goals to the Hawks on Sunday night—no surprise considering they’ve allowed four or more in eight of their past 12 games, bumping their league-worst goals-against average to 3.74. There isn’t an offense in the league that can compensate for that. Last week: 1-3-0

  • 28
    28Carolina Hurricanes
     
    last week: 23
    record: 6-10-2
    The Canes rank second in possession and second in face-offs, but last in shooting percentage. You sure can’t fault the effort this team is making, but the skill just isn’t there. Last week: 0-2-2

  • 29
    29Edmonton Oilers
     
    last week: 28
    record: 6-12-0
    This is the fourth consecutive week that the Oilers have gone 1-2, and it doesn’t take a degree in hockey analytics to recognize that’s not a pattern that predicts long-term success. Still, Edmonton’s getting some real leadership from Taylor Hall, who is playing perhaps the best two-way hockey of his career. Last week: 1-2-0

  • 30
    30Philadelphia Flyers
     
    last week: 24
    record: 6-8-3
    GM Ron Hextall made a big stink about having to call up top prospect Shane Gostisbehere for Saturday’s game against the Hurricanes, then sat back and watched the rookie blueliner emerge as the best player on the ice. Sure, he got the benefit of protected ice time, but man he looked good. And Jake Voracek finally scored? What a day for Flyers fans, eh? Last week: 1-2-0

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