Tuesday December 8th, 2015

Washington makes its first appearance of the season atop our Power Rankings on the strength of a seven-game point streak (6-0-1) and a gutty win over the Montreal Canadiens last week. It wasn’t necessarily the Capitals’ best outing of the season, but thanks to a terrific 33-save performance from Braden Holtby, they hung around long enough to knock off the Eastern Conference leaders.

Even after dropping a 2–1 OT decision to the Jets on Sunday, the Caps boast a stellar 9-3-3 mark since Nov. 1 that speaks to their improved depth, their Barry Trotz-styled structure, and their consistency. Now if only they could win one of those danged coach’s challenges.

Biggest jump: Florida Panthers (22 to 9)

Biggest drop: Arizona Coyotes (11 to 29)

HOW THEY STACK UP AFTER WEEK 9
 
  • 1
    1Washington Capitals
     
    last week: 3
    record: 18-5-2
    How dominant have the Caps been of late? During their just-ended six-game winning streak they spent only 5:35 playing from behind. This is a team that consistently shows up ready to play and once it grabs a lead it rarely lets it go. Last week: 1-0-1

  • 2
    2Los Angeles Kings
     
    last week: 7
    record: 17-8-1
    As one scout told us over the weekend, “the Kings are starting to look like the Kings again.” Jonathan Quick has been sharp in net, with two excellent starts against the Lightning in his past five games. The defense is measured and effective (cue the Drew Doughty for Norris Trophy talk) and their possession game is forcing opponents to spend the night chasing them around the ice. Watch out, though: They play 10 of their next 11 on the road. Last week: 3-0-0

  • 3
    3Dallas Stars
     
    last week: 1
    record: 20-5-2
    The Stars managed to squirrel away six of eight points on their four-game road trip, but that result felt largely unsatisfying, especially after blowing a three-goal, third-period lead in a loss to Calgary and making Edmonton's Anders Nilsson look like Ken Dryden for the second time this season. Last week: 1-0-2

  • 4
    4Montreal Canadiens
     
    last week: 2
    record: 19-6-3
    As if Mike Condon wasn’t under enough pressure trying to take the place of Carey Price. Now he has to deal with a power outage. The Habs have scored two regulation goals in each of their past five games. That’s not much of a margin of error for the rookie goaltender to work with. Last week: 1-2-0

  • 5
    5Detroit Red Wings
     
    last week: 13
    record: 15-8-4
    The Wings continue to work overtime—in eight of their past 10—but they’re making bank in a 7-0-3 run. Some nice work by the third line has been key to the run. Tomas Tatar has six goals and 10 points while Gustav Nyquist chipped in four goals and nine points. Big week ahead, though. We’ll see what they’re made of with games against the Caps and Habs on the schedule. Last week: 3-0-0

  • 6
    6New York Islanders
     
    last week: 12
    record: 15-8-5
    Nice stretch for the Isles, who are 5-0-2 in their past seven including an emotional 2–1 win over the Rangers at home on Wednesday. Their bottom six has come up big of late, scoring six of the team’s past nine goals. Last week: 2-0-1

  • 7
    7Ottawa Senators
     
    last week: 10
    record: 14-8-5
    Nice note over the weekend from TSN on red-hot Sens sniper Mike Hoffman: After his two-goal performance against the Blackhawks on Thursday, Hoffman was scoring 1.39 goals per 60 minutes of even-strength ice time, second only to Rick Nash of the Rangers. I hope they’re readying a big check for the pending RFA. Last week: 2-2-0

  • 8
    8New Jersey Devils
     
    last week: 14
    record: 14-10-3
    If someone in your hockey pool was prescient enough to draft Mike Cammalleri, you may as well just hand them the trophy now. After three multi-point games last week (four goals, three assists), the 33-year-old vet is in fifth place in the league scoring race. He might not stick, but it’s fun while it lasts. Last week: 2-1-1

  • 9
    9Florida Panthers
     
    last week: 22
    record: 13-10-4
    Their five-game winning streak came to an end on Sunday, but the Panthers were the better team in that 4–2 loss to the Devils. Weird to see them give up a goal 26 seconds into that one—as they’ve allowed only 14 first period goals all season, third-best in the league. Last week: 3-1-0

  • 10
    10Chicago Blackhawks
     
    last week: 8
    record: 14-9-4
    While Patrick Kane works on extending his franchise and American-born scoring record—now at 22 straight games and counting—the rest of the Hawks seem to be saving their energy for later in the season. Nice to see Teuvo Teravainen get a shot on the top line, though. The unit looked good in Sunday’s win over the Jets. Last week: 1-1-1

  • 11
    11Minnesota Wild
     
    last week: 21
    record: 14-7-5
    If the Wild were going to work their way out of their recent skid, they needed to do it with defense. And that’s exactly what they did, limiting their opponents to a total of 79 shots on goal and outscoring them 6-1 as they rang up their first three-game winning streak since the first three games of the season. Last week: 3-0-0

  • 12
    12New York Rangers
     
    last week: 4
    record: 18-7-3
    All those bad habits—the turnovers, the sloppy structure, the lack of possession time—came back to bite the Rangers, who have just two wins in their past seven. On the bright side, they actually outshot the Senators in Sunday’s 4–1 victory, the first time they’ve done that to an opponent in six games. Last week: 1-1-1

  • 13
    13Boston Bruins
     
    last week: 9
    record: 14-9-3
    The optimistic B’s fan will point to the eight-game point streak that ended in a loss to the Preds on Monday night as a sign that this team is finding a way to stay in the playoff race. The pessimist will reply by pointing to a string of lackluster efforts and ask whether the Bruins have the heart to be anything more than just another yo-yo team. I’m thinking the optimist won’t like the answer to that one. Last week: 1-1-2

  • 14
    14Nashville Predators
     
    last week: 17
    record: 14-8-5
    The Predators have held their opponents to 20 shots or fewer in six of their past 12 games, including Monday’s 3–2 win over the Bruins. With an unpredictable and unreliable offense dogging them over the past few weeks, this is a pretty decent means of staying in the hunt. Last week: 2-1-1

  • 15
    15Tampa Bay Lightning
     
    last week: 18
    record: 13-12-3
    Not a bad week’s work for a team that has struggled to find itself on the road this season, but it could have been better if not for their impotent power play. The Bolts were handed a season-high six chance against the Kings but came up empty in a 3–1 loss. With just two goals to show for their past 23 chances, it’s clear something has to change. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 16
    16San Jose Sharks
     
    last week: 5
    record: 14-12-0
    The Sharks weren’t all that bad last week. In fact, they were every bit as good as the Ducks and Lightning while dropping their last two. But losing winnable games is a habit that cost them a playoff spot last year ... and it’s one they don’t want to fall into again this time around. Last week: 0-3-0

  • 17
    17St. Louis Blues
     
    last week: 6
    record: 15-8-4
    This might be the most important month of the season for the Blues, with a whopping 16 games on the docket and 11 of them set to be played in the friendly confines of the Scottrade Center. So dropping the first two of those, to a pair of Eastern Conference bottom feeders no less, doesn’t exactly set the table for a prosperous run. Last week: 0-2-1

  • 18
    18Anaheim Ducks
     
    last week: 20
    record: 11-12-5
    There’s no telling how long he can keep it up, but John Gibson has delivered in a string of must-win games to keep the Ducks afloat. The recently recalled netminder was brilliant last week, posting a 0.76 GAA and .968 save percentage to earn NHL First Star honors. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 19
    19Pittsburgh Penguins
     
    last week: 15
    record: 14-10-2
    “Well, we’re going to have to do something to change things up,” Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said after the Pens stumbled through another week. “We’ve definitely underachieved. I am going to have to take a look at few things. Something needs to change.” Clearly one thing already has: the heat under coach Mike Johnston’s seat. Last week: 1-2-0

  • 20
    20Toronto Maple Leafs
     
    last week: 19
    record: 9-13-5
    Nazem Kadri’s gotten plenty of praise from coach Mike Babcock for his effort, but few results on the score sheet. That changed last week, with the No. 1 center scoring twice in a win against the Blues to give him three goals in his past four games. A little more of that, Naz, and the Leafs might make things interesting. Last week: 1-0-2

  • 21
    21Colorado Avalanche
     
    last week: 24
    record: 12-15-1
    Semyon Varlamov still hasn’t found his groove, but he came closer last week than he has in a while. The Avs keeper has won two of his past three starts, stopping 84 of 88 shots in the process (a .955 save percentage). For this team to get a sniff of the wild card race, he has to be this kind of exceptional. Last week: 3-1-0

  • 22
    22Columbus Blue Jackets
     
    last week: 16
    record: 11-16-1
    After a lousy start to the season, Sergei Bobrovsky is finally honing in on his Vezina Trophy-winning form. The Officer has allowed two goals or fewer in 10 of his past 11 starts, including each of his past six, to keep the Jackets in the Metro mix. Last week: 1-1-1

  • 23
    23Edmonton Oilers
     
    last week: 30
    record: 11-15-2
    Who are these guys? A week after they looked dead in the water, the Oilers delivered impressive extra time victories over the Bruins and Stars to set up their second three-game winning streak of the season and pull within three points of a playoff spot. Last week: 3-0-0

  • 24
    24Philadelphia Flyers
     
    last week: 25
    record: 11-11-5
    Don’t look now, but the Flyers have won five of their past seven games to pull to within four points of a wild card spot. Nice to see Wayne Simmonds come to life. The big winger had his best week of the season, with two goals and three points in his last three games while dominating down low with his physical game. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 25
    25Winnipeg Jets
     
    last week: 26
    record: 13-13-2
    Rookie goalie Connor Hellebuyck has delivered on his hype, winning both of his starts last week while stopping 69 of the 71 shots he faced, a .972 save percentage. With the Jets desperate to get back in the Central race, he could see plenty of action the rest of the way. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 26
    26Carolina Hurricanes
     
    last week: 28
    record: 10-13-4
    Where would the ’Canes be without Justin Faulk? The defenseman leads the team with nine goals, all of which have been scored on the power play. His latest, his Sunday’s 5–4 win over the Coyotes, tied the record for most power-play goals by a Hurricanes defenseman in a season. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 27
    27Buffalo Sabres
     
    last week: 23
    record: 11-14-3
    Coach Dan Bylsma’s done a nice job, generally speaking, early in his tenure with the Sabres, but his inability to have them ready when the puck drops is a concern. Buffalo has allowed 26 first-period goals this season, second-most in the league, and is tied with the Flyers for worst goal differential at –13. Last week: 1-2-1

  • 28
    28Calgary Flames
     
    last week: 29
    record: 10-14-2
    “A win’s a win,” coach Bob Hartley told the team’s web site, “but it seems that the later you score in a game you get out more energy, more electricity, more confidence. It was good for our young group.” The Flames staged a pair of third-period comebacks last week. Let’s see what they can make out of those. Last week: 2-0-0

  • 29
    arizona Coyotes
     
    last week: 11
    record: 13-13-1
    Probably just as well that everyone was caught up in the goofy All-Star candidacy of John Scott last week. The controversy obfuscated an awful road trip that saw the ’Yotes drop four in a row, their worst losing streak of the season. Last week: 0-4-0

  • 30
    30Vancouver Canucks
     
    last week: 27
    record: 10-11-8
    A win over the lowly Sabres on Monday night snapped their losing streak at five games, but with a six-game road trip coming up the Canucks aren’t out of the woods just yet. In fact, a team playing regularly with this little emotion is unlikely to remain intact. Have to think the seat under coach Willie Desjardins is starting to warm up. Last week: 1-2-1

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