Tuesday December 1st, 2015

After 24 games, it's time to give the Stars their due. This is a team that has put away its toys and buckled down to play the game the right way. Sure, they’re fast and exciting and dangerous, but they’ve also settled down and made a commitment to doing the little things that set the stage for long-term success. They know they can’t afford to take shortcuts—something they were reminded of by the Senators last week—and that’s brought a consistency to their game that hasn’t been seen in Dallas since the Ken Hitchcock days. You see that in their ability to protect leads—their bête noire last season—and their ability to maintain their focus when they fall behind. And the results are undeniable: a league-high 19 wins, a remarkable 10-2 record on the road, and a perfect 3-0 mark in OT.

No doubt about it: Dallas is the best team in hockey right now.

Biggest jump: New York Islanders (18 to 12)

Biggest drop: Minnesota Wild (11 to 21)

  • 1
    1Dallas Stars
    last week: 2
    record: 19-5-0
    “Last year's effort, last year's results,” Lindy Ruff said after his Stars reverted to old habits in an embarrassing 7–4 loss to the Senators on Tuesday. The team clearly paid attention, returning to top form in wins over the Canucks and Wild during the weekend. Keep an eye on the Stars’ goaltending. With Kari Lehtonen (upper body) on IR, top prospect Jack Campbell could see some action between the pipes this week. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 2
    2Montreal Canadiens
    last week: 3
    record: 18-4-3
    The hockey gods are testing the resilience of the Canadiens. Carey Price is back on the shelf for six weeks after re-injuring his knee in Montreal’s big win over the Rangers on Wednesday, and Brendan Gallagher is out indefinitely after breaking several fingers while blocking a shot. As far as tests go, this is a tough one. Last week: 2-0-1

  • 3
    3Washington Capitals
    last week: 4
    record: 17-5-1
    Braden Holtby has insinuated himself into the Vezina Trophy picture, winning seven straight games to move into the league lead with 15 victories. The Caps have now won five straight and boast the league’s second-best goal differential at +24. Last week: 3-0-0

  • 4
    4New York Rangers
    last week: 1
    record: 17-6-2
    Tough week for the Blueshirts, who lost top center Derek Stepan for 4-6 weeks (broken ribs) and are waiting word on the condition of top-pair defenseman Kevin Klein after he strained his abdominals. The bigger issue: Their sloppy defensive play finally caught up to them, leading to a three-game losing streak that was snapped only when they were gifted a win by Carolina’s Cam Ward on Monday night. As Ryan McDonagh said, this team has some work to do. Last week: 1-3-0

  • 5
    5San Jose Sharks
    last week: 6
    record: 14-9-0
    They’ve won seven of eight and have the return of Logan Couture and Justin Braun to look forward to. It doesn’t say much for their farm system when they feel the need to sign UFA Dainius Zubrus, but the veteran brings some skill as a decent fourth-line stop-gap. Last week: 1-1-0

  • 6
    6St. Louis Blues
    last week: 7
    record: 15-6-3
    Talk about clutch: Of Vladimir Tarasenko’s 14 goals this season, seven have broken a tie, while five others, including his tally on Saturday against the Blue Jackets, provided the equalizer for the Blues. Last week: 1-0-1

  • 7
    7Los Angeles Kings
    last week: 5
    record: 14-8-1
    This team has too much talent to go through a schedule like it just played in November and come out of it only 7-5-1. There are signs of life, though, from Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik (who scored a pair in a come-from-behind win over the hated Blackhawks) suggesting a better month may lie ahead. Last week: 1-0-1

  • 8
    8Chicago Blackhawks
    last week: 8
    record: 13-8-3
    After a dodgy start to their annual circus trip, the Hawks recovered to claim five of six points in California. Can’t say enough about the play of Patrick Kane who had five points this week and has now scored in 19 straight, a record for American-born players. Last week: 2-0-1

  • 9
    9Boston Bruins
    last week: 14
    record: 13-8-1
    The B’s have strung together five consecutive wins, and seven in their past nine, to move back into playoff position. Have to wonder, though, if they can keep this up when their top-ranked power play inevitably cools off. Boston has scored 30.6% of its goals on the PP, second-most in the league. The B’s need to make more hay at even strength. Last week: 2-0-0

  • 10
    10Ottawa Senators
    last week: 15
    record: 12-6-5
    Mike Hoffman’s got the hot stick of late, tickling the twine six times in his past six games including a pair in Sunday’s 4–3 loss to the Coyotes. That gives him 10 on the season, putting the sophomore on pace to top last season’s 27-goal, 48-point performance. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 11
    arizona Coyotes
    last week: 16
    record: 13-9-1
    How’s this for a surprising turnaround: After going 5-5-1 in October the Coyotes went 8-4 in November. They not only are in playoff position, they have pulled to within two points of first place in the Pacific Division. Congrats to coach Dave Tippett for earning his 500th career victory. He’s done a nice job molding this odd mix of young and old talent into a contender, and deserves Jack Adams consideration. Last week: 3-0-0

  • 12
    12New York Islanders
    last week: 18
    record: 13-8-4
    Not many people paid attention when the Isles signed Thomas Greiss in the off-season, but the backup tender has been a great addition. He picked up a pair of wins last week to move to 7-3-2 on the season with a solid .925 save percentage. Last week: 3-0-1

  • 13
    13Detroit Red Wings
    last week: 10
    record: 12-8-4
    Detroit has gone to OT in four straight and six of its past seven games. Nice that they’re collecting points, but the Wings have been outscored 6-0 in the third periods of those six contests. That inability to hold onto a lead is going to come back to haunt them. Last week: 1-0-2

  • 14
    14New Jersey Devils
    last week: 9
    record: 12-9-2
    Banking three of four points from a weekend home-and-home against the Canadiens is something to be proud of, but if the Devils are going to make the playoff cut they have to consistently beat the teams they’re supposed to beat ... and that’s not been happening. They’ve dropped three of their past four against clubs that missed the playoffs last season, including a listless 2–1 loss to the Blue Jackets last Wednesday. Last week: 1-1-1

  • 15
    15Pittsburgh Penguins
    last week: 12
    record: 13-8-2
    It’s no fun dogpiling on Sidney Crosby, especially when he’s on a season-best five-game point streak. But he has just two even-strength points in his past eight games and when you see this team giving away points in extra time to squads like Columbus and Edmonton you have to wonder how many more the Pens will lose while he tries to get his game in order. Last week: 1-0-2

  • 16
    16Columbus Blue Jackets
    last week: 19
    record: 10-15-0
    Go figure: After starting the season 2-10, the Jackets just rang up their most successful November in franchise history by winning eight games. Their recommitment to defensive hockey has been key—Columbus has allowed just 14 goals over its past nine games, an average of 1.56 per. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 17
    17Nashville Predators
    last week: 13
    record: 12-7-4
    Their 11-3-3 start seems like ancient history, doesn't it? Nashville has now dropped five of six, scoring just six goals in the process. How much longer can GM David Poile wait to address that deep hole at center? Last week: 1-1-1

  • 18
    18Tampa Bay Lightning
    last week: 17
    record: 11-11-3
    The Bolts continue to have a tough time with injuries. Tyler Johnson was back on the sidelines just days after returning from a previous injury (the two are said to be unrelated), while Ondrej Palat's lower body rehab has lingered past the original estimation of three weeks. Probably best not to expect too much of a team that’s missing two-thirds of its best line from last season. Last week: 1-2-0

  • 19
    19Toronto Maple Leafs
    last week: 21
    record: 8-11-5
    It’s one thing to make franchise history. It’s something else entirely when that history is made with an Original 6 team. Congrats then to Garret Sparks, who became the first Maple Leaf to ever record a shutout in his NHL debut. Sparks made 24 stops in a 3–0 win over the Oilers on Monday night and made things a whole lot more interesting in Toronto. Last week: 2-2-0

  • 20
    20Anaheim Ducks
    last week: 24
    record: 9-11-5
    Don’t call it a comeback, but an 8-4-3 November has to feel pretty good for a Ducks team that dug itself a deep hole with a 1-7-2 October. Ryan Getzlaf seems to have found his form, recording nine assists in his past six games including five helpers in a 5–3 win over the Flames on Tuesday. Last week: 2-1-1

  • 21
    21Minnesota Wild
    last week: 11
    record: 11-7-4
    The Wild have dropped three straight and six of their past seven games. Coach Mike Yeo is blasting the team’s performance. Captain Ryan Suter is complaining about his defense partner. Sounds like things are coming to a boil in Minnesota. Last week: 0-2-1

  • 22
    22Florida Panthers
    last week: 26
    record: 10-9-4
    Do the Panthers have a monopoly on crazy shootouts? Just a year after taking part in a record-setting 20-round skills session win over the Capitals, Florida again came out on top after nine consecutive shooters scored in Friday’s 3–2 win over the Islanders. Last week: 2-0-0

  • 23
    23Buffalo Sabres
    last week: 23
    record: 10-12-2
    Netminder Chad Johnson came up big for Buffalo over the weekend, allowing just one goal each in consecutive wins over the Hurricanes and Predators. He ended up 3-1-1 in seven appearances in November with a sizzling .954 save percentage. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 24
    24Colorado Avalanche
    last week: 25
    record: 9-14-1
    The Avs continue to lose ground in the West, dropping five of seven, but at least Matt Duchene has found his game. The top line winger was named the NHL’s Third Star of the Month after recording 11 goals and 20 points in 14 November games. Last week: 1-2-0

  • 25
    25Philadelphia Flyers
    last week: 30
    record: 9-10-5
    As wheels-off as the Flyers have been offensively so far this season, they’ve always been able to count on some excellent goaltending. Both Steve Mason (.944) and Michal Neuvirth (.943) rank among the league’s top five in adjusted save percentage. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 26
    26Winnipeg Jets
    last week: 20
    record: 11-12-2
    It’s not just that they had four wins to show for 14 November games. It’s that the Jets played seven of those contests against Central Division opponents and managed just one victory. Winnipeg is now 3-7 against their own this season. That’s gonna leave a dark mark. Last week: 1-2-0

  • 27
    27Vancouver Canucks
    last week: 27
    record: 9-9-7
    What’s gone wrong with Vancouver’s penalty kill? A unit that ranked second last season at 85.7% has fallen to 24th at just 77.2% after allowing 10 goals in its past 33 times shorthanded. Brandon Sutter can’t return to the lineup fast enough. Last week: 1-2-0

  • 28
    28Carolina Hurricanes
    last week: 28
    record: 8-12-4
    They’re not going to win many when netminder Cam Ward is playing like this. He cost his team a very winnable game against the Rangers on Monday night and now has allowed seven goals on the past 29 shots he’s faced (.759 save percentage). Last week: 1-2-0

  • 29
    29Calgary Flames
    last week: 22
    record: 8-14-2
    The Flames can’t fix all their problems overnight, but they might want to start by taking a look at their penalty kill. After allowing four goals on just seven chances last week—two tallies each in losses to Anaheim and San Jose—Calgary now “boasts” the worst PK in the league at a miserable 70.8%. Last week: 0-2-1

  • 30
    30Edmonton Oilers
    last week: 29
    record: 8-15-2
    Man, this is a miserable team, every bit as bad as its league-worst 8-15-2 mark would suggest. And no one should be surprised by that. Yet another tandem of recycled backup netminders and the shallowest defense corps in the league tend to make for a lousy foundation. That said, there’s no reason for panic in Edmonton. Connor McDavid (broken clavicle) is healing quicker than expected, Leon Draisaitl has been brilliant and Darnell Nurse is paying his dues. Yeah, it's exhausting but it's all part of the process. Last week: 1-2-1

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.