Tuesday January 19th, 2016

Minutes after watching the systematic dismembering of his team Sunday night, Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien stood in awe of the Chicago Blackhawks. “We just played the Stanley Cup champions,” he said in the wake of the 5–2 loss. “I think they look better than last year.”

Hard to argue his point. It took the Hawks some time to relearn how to flex their muscles after being rebuilt (again) in the off-season, but they look deeper, faster and more dangerous by every measure. They’ve used that balance to power a winning streak that’s tied a franchise record and moved them into top spot in the tough Central Division. That run also makes them the obvious choice to take over top spot in the Power Rankings for the first time in 2015–16.

Biggest jump: San Jose Sharks (20 to 5)

Biggest drop: Montreal Canadiens (21 to 30)

  • 1
    1Chicago Blackhawks
    last week: 3
    record: 31-13-4
    Their winning streak is up to 11, tying a franchise record set at the start of the 2012-13 season. Hot starts have been the key, with the Hawks scoring the first goal in each of their past nine games and 10 of their 11 during the streak. Last week: 4-0-0

  • 2
    2Washington Capitals
    last week: 2
    record: 34-8-3
    Is there a better second line in hockey right now than Evgeny Kuznetsov, Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky? The trio combined for 14 points last week and looks capable of providing the consistent secondary scoring the Caps will need if they're going to make noise during the playoffs. Last week: 3-0-0

  • 3
    3Los Angeles Kings
    last week: 4
    record: 28-13-3
    Anze Kopitar celebrated his new eight-year, $80 million deal with his best week of the season. The very, very rich center tied for the league lead with seven points (2-5-7) in three games to earn NHL Third Star of the Week honors. Last week: 1-1-0

  • 4
    4Tampa Bay Lightning
    last week: 11
    record: 24-17-4
    Make it five straight for the surging Lightning, including a big win over the rival Panthers, who'd beaten them twice already this season. Nikita Kucherov continued his strong play, scoring in each game during the streak (4-3-7). Last week: 3-0-0

  • 5
    5San Jose Sharks
    last week: 20
    record: 23-18-3
    Their five-game winning streak came to an end in a shootout versus the Senators, but that little run boosted San Jose from also-ran to runner-up in the Pacific. The Sharks’ offense has come to life, scoring 25 goals in the past six games. They now rank fifth in the league with a 2.84 goals-per-game average. Tomas Hertl (four goals in those six games) looks like he could be a factor down the stretch. Last week: 3-0-1

  • 6
    6Florida Panthers
    last week: 1
    record: 26-15-5
    The Panthers were due for a letdown after winning a franchise-record 12 straight games, but four losses in a row (while being outscored 16-5 in the process) is a steeper drop than was expected. Two home games this weekend against the Blackhawks and Lightning will reveal this team's character. Last week: 0-3-0

  • 7
    7Detroit Red Wings
    last week: 9
    record: 23-14-8
    The Wings have been an under-the-radar success story this season, which probably explains why their recent defensive prowess is going unnoticed. Backed by some elite netminding from Petr Mrazek, they've allowed just nine goals in the past six games to lower their GAA to 2.51 and inch closer to a top 10 ranking. The challenge now is to build on that success while veteran blueliner Nik Kronwall spends the next 2-4 weeks on IR recovering from a knee injury. Last week: 1-0-1

  • 8
    8St. Louis Blues
    last week: 12
    record: 27-15-5
    Weird week for the Blues, who put together what may have been their best effort of the year in a 5–2 win over the Penguins while being weighed down by trade rumors. Hard to ignore all the talk about Kevin Shattenkirk, especially as his defensive play sags. If there's a top-six forward to be had in return, he could be moved. Last week: 3-1-0

  • 9
    9Colorado Avalanche
    last week: 7
    record: 23-21-3
    With Erik Johnson sidelined, the Avalanche called up Chris Bigras and Nikita Zadorov from AHL San Antonio to replace Brandon Gormley (minors) and Nate Guenin (waivers). The move has paid quick dividends, with the revamped blue line holding New Jersey, Columbus and Winnipeg to a total of three goals. There'll be tougher tests ahead, but it's a good sign. Last week: 2-2-0

  • 10
    10Dallas Stars
    last week: 8
    record: 29-12-5
    A little midseason adversity can go a long way for a contending team ... at least, that's what the Stars are telling themselves. They've dropped seven straight on the road (0-4-3) and are 1-4-2 in their past seven, allowing Chicago to blow by them in the Central Division. Last week: 0-1-1

  • 11
    arizona Coyotes
    last week: 5
    record: 22-18-5
    For all they heat he took in the wake of the John Scott fiasco, give GM Don Maloney credit for coming away with defenseman Jarred Tinordi. There's no guarantee the kid ever lives up to the hype that made him a first-round pick back in 2010, but the price was right and the upside is there. Given a chance to develop on the ice rather than the press box, this could turn out to be a steal for the Coyotes. Last week: 1-2-1

  • 12
    12Pittsburgh Penguins
    last week: 6
    record: 21-17-7
    I like the deal that brought Carl Hagelin to Pittsburgh. He brings some speed and versatility to a forward group that could use a little of both, and he should augment a penalty kill that's already top 10. If he can find some chemistry with Evgeni Malkin, he could become a key contributor down the stretch. Last week: 1-1-2

  • 13
    13Philadelphia Flyers
    last week: 22
    record: 20-15-8
    After socking away 11 points in their past six games, the Flyers have made it clear they're not going quietly into the good night. Their offense is slowly coming around, with 18 goals over the past six games and they're showing some resilience, battling back from third-period deficits to pick up points in each of their past three. Last week: 2-0-1

  • 14
    14Vancouver Canucks
    last week: 16
    record: 19-17-10
    Gotta hand it to this team: Just when it seems like the wheels are going to come off, they find a way to squirrel away a few points and keep pace with the pack. They've gone to extra time in four of their past five games, pocketing the bonus point in three of them. Tough stretch ahead, though, with Henrik Sedin on IR until after the All-Star break. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 15
    15New York Islanders
    last week: 17
    record: 24-15-6
    Looked for a while there like the Islanders might take on water with both Travis Hamonic and Johnny Boychuk on IR, but they're finding a way to stay afloat defensively. They allowed just four goals in three games last week, getting solid work from Calvin de Haan and Nick Leddy, who also chipped in offensively with the game-winner against the Rangers on Thursday. Last week: 2-0-1

  • 16
    16Anaheim Ducks
    last week: 15
    record: 19-18-7
    What is it with the Ducks and second periods? Anaheim has allowed 48 goals in the middle frame, tied for most of any team, one year after leading the NHL with 97. Their inability to sustain their intensity cost them again when they were outscored 3-1 in the second period by the Kings on Sunday night. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 17
    17Carolina Hurricanes
    last week: 18
    record: 20-19-8
    Looks like that shot suppression game (a league-best 26.1) is starting to pay dividends. The Canes battled their way into a wild card spot for a spell last week, and even after that 5–0 thumping they suffered against the Pens on Sunday, they’re still just two points out of position. Kinda complicates the whole Eric Staal situation, doesn’t it? Last week: 2-1-1

  • 18
    18Minnesota Wild
    last week: 10
    record: 22-15-8
    If it’s January, it must be time for Minnesota’s midseason swoon. The Wild have lost four in a row and are just 2-5-2 for 2016. Their offense has gone ice gold, getting blanked in their last two games and generating a total of 15 goals in January. Have to think they’ll look to shake up the roster soon, even if it is only a call-up or two from the minors. Last week: 0-3-0

  • 19
    19Boston Bruins
    last week: 25
    record: 23-16-5
    The returns of David Krejci (IR) and David Pastrnak (World Juniors/AHL stint) this week could have a big impact on a Boston team that has scored just 11 goals over the past five games. A little help from Brad Marchand wouldn’t hurt, either. The feisty winger has just one goal in his past 12 games. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 20
    20Calgary Flames
    last week: 14
    record: 20-20-3
    Never know what you're going to get from Jonas Hiller. Forced into action for the first time in a month, he pitches a shutout to cool off the sizzling Panthers, then allows just one goal on 37 shots to win a critical game against the Oilers. Probably a good idea not to count on this run picking up any speed, but it is nice to see the vet come in and give them a couple of stops when they needed ’em. Last week: 1-1-0

  • 21
    21New York Rangers
    last week: 13
    record: 24-16-5
    The Blueshirts continue to bob up and down, a case study in mediocrity. They haven’t been able to string two wins together since late November, largely due to the inconsistency of their defense. Their 2.62 GAA is significantly higher than last season’s 2.28. Last week: 1-2-0

  • 22
    22New Jersey Devils
    last week: 19
    record: 22-19-5
    Mike Cammalleri is back, and not a moment too soon. The Devils lost five of eight and scored just 11 goals with their leading point-getter on the sidelines, dropping out of the playoff mix. If not for Cory Schneider (12 goals allowed in his past eight starts), they’d be an afterthought by now. Last week: 1-2-0

  • 23
    23Ottawa Senators
    last week: 24
    record: 22-18-6
    They managed to pull four points out of their California swing, but the Sens still feel like frauds. They allowed 17 goals during their past four games and now are averaging 2.98 against per game, second-most in the Eastern Conference. Probably not a lot of fruit down that path. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 24
    24Winnipeg Jets
    last week: 27
    record: 21-22-3
    Not enough depth to survive injuries to Mark Schiefele, Drew Stafford and Adam Lowry, not enough discipline to stay out of the box, and not enough penalty killing savvy. It’s a very thin margin for this team. A little less self-sabotaging might go a long way. Last week: 2-2-0

  • 25
    25Buffalo Sabres
    last week: 28
    record: 19-23-4
    The beautiful thing about inconsistency is that the lows will be broken up by the occasional high. The Sabres are in the middle of a high now, going 4-1 in their past five games and allowing just 10 goals in the process. The key to the surge has been their play away from home. Buffalo has won three straight as the visitor. Last week: 3-1-0

  • 26
    26Edmonton Oilers
    last week: 30
    record: 19-23-5
    A series of injuries, including the latest to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (hand), offers this team a ready excuse if another season ends without a playoff berth. Bigger issue though: Edmonton’s inability to take charge against their divisional rivals. In three games against the Pacific last week, the Oilers banked four points while their opponents skated away with five. That’s not good math. Last week: 2-0-2

  • 27
    27Columbus Blue Jackets
    last week: 29
    record: 17-25-4
    Yeah, they’re still 30th in the league, but the Jackets are on a nice 4-3-1 roll that has seen some solid work from Joonas Korpisalo. The rookie netminder was named first star in back-to-back wins over the weekend after holding the Avs and Maple Leafs to two goals on 72 shots (.972 save percentage). With Sergei Bobrovsky coming back from IR on Tuesday, Korpisalo can head to the bench confident that he has something to offer the Jackets. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 28
    28Toronto Maple Leafs
    last week: 23
    record: 16-20-7
    An ugly five-game losing streak has the Leafs on the verge of dropping into the NHL’s cellar. The offense has gone bone dry, scoring just five times during that stretch. They’re getting plenty of shots, averaging 31.2, sixth most in the league, but the lack of finish hurts. Last week: 0-3-0

  • 29
    29Nashville Predators
    last week: 26
    record: 20-17-8
    Forget about the fans voting John Scott as an All-Star Game captain. The bigger scandal might be the league’s selection of Pekka Rinne. The veteran keeper is having a miserable season, posting some of the worst numbers of any starting goalie and allowing three-or-more goals in seven of his past eight outings. That’s a fatal leak for a team with Nashville’s limited offensive resources. Last week: 1-1-1

  • 30
    30Montreal Canadiens
    last week: 21
    record: 23-19-4
    The Canadiens are quickly unraveling, and with just three wins in their past 15 games no one’s job is safe. It’s unfair to pin this on coach Michel Therrien—a man who’d look a lot smarter if only Carey Price wasn’t injured—but if they can’t break out of this tailspin quickly, he might be looking for a new gig. Last week: 0-2-1

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