Power Rankings: Penguins hold off white hot Lightning for top spot

Tuesday November 11th, 2014

Welcome to the latest installment of our 2014–15 NHL Power Rankings. Once again our three scribes—Allan Muir, Sarah Kwak and Brian Cazeneuve—have submitted their choices for the league's Top 10 teams. The rankings for the entire 30-team league have been weighted according to how high each club came in on our writers' ballots. In some cases a purely intuitive, wholly unscientific and no doubt deplorable method was used to break ties, rank teams that were chosen by only one or two writers, and antagonize the general public. We've presented the 30 teams in groups, with the Top 10 receiving the most trenchant commentary. Overview paragraphs precede the Middle 10 and Bottom 10. Weekly movement up or down has been noted. So without further ado, commence to stew!

  • 1
    1Pittsburgh Penguins
    last week: 2
    record: 10-2-1
    MUIR (1): This team seems intent on not just winning but humiliating its opponents. The Penguins have outscored their opponents by 24 goals during their seven-game win streak (32-8), smoked them by five three times, posted three shutouts and killed off 37 consecutive penalties. That's what you call utter dominance.
    KWAK (1): The Pens' streak includes three straight road games last week. The off-season acquisition of winger Patric Hornqvist certainly looks like it’s working out well for Sidney Crosby. The captain is now on pace for a jaw-dropping 151-point season.
    CAZENEUVE (1): Pittsburgh has emerged as the class of the league. The Pens have outscored foes by 28 goals this season and have yet to lose on the road. When coaches talk about special teams’ percentages that should add up to 105 or more, consider that Pittsburgh’s is 126.
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 2
    2Tampa Bay Lightning
    last week: 3
    record: 11-3-1
    MUIR (2): The Pens aren't the only team that is blitzing opposing goalies. The Bolts have won six straight, scoring at least four goals in each including the seven-spot they posted against the hapless Blue Jackets on Saturday. Tyler Johnson has four goals in his past three games to move into the top-five in league scoring. Might need to do something about that penalty kill, though—the beleaguered unit has coughed up seven goals in its past 15 chances.
    KWAK (3): Winners of eight of their last nine games—albeit facing largely middling opponents—the Lightning scooted by the Canadiens into the top spot in the Atlantic Division this week. Their offense has been explosive, averaging 3.80 goals per game this season, and deep. Five players have already had multi-goal games this season, including Steven Stamkos, who’s had four.
    CAZENEUVE (2): The last time the Lightning won six games in a row, Tampa Bay went on to win its only Stanley Cup in 2004. Still, the Bolts have some things to work on. There are the woes that Allan mentioned, coming after Tampa Bay spent much of the early part of the season with one of the best penalty kills. But this may be the only team in the East that could conceivably win a very high-scoring series against Pittsburgh.
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 3
    3Anaheim Ducks
    last week: 1
    record: 10-3-3
    MUIR (3): Corey Perry and Francois Beauchemin are on IR with flu-like symptoms caused by a viral gland infection but the whole team's playing like it's battling a bug. The Ducks have played free hockey in four of their past five games and dropped the past three, two in shootouts. Those loser points have allowed them to hold onto top spot in the West but this team is capable of better.
    KWAK (2): Sick Ducks took some of the wind out of Anaheim’s sails this past week, with offensive mavens Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf missing time due to illness. Those three overtime/shootout losses were signs of slowing for the dominant Ducks, who have scored an average of just 1.5 goals per game during their last eight while going 3-2-3.
    CAZENEUVE (3): First the goalies go down and then the Ducks lose Perry. Anaheim has already overcome a number of stumbles this season, and yet the team is still tops in the Western Conference. Life was easy for the Ducks at this time last season when the club was healthy and it didn’t lose at home in regulation until mid-January. If the Ducks are still near the top by Christmas, that will be even more impressive.
    Last week: 0-0-3

  • 4
    4Nashville Predators
    last week: 5
    record: 9-3-2
    MUIR (4): The Predators' annual road trip due to the CMA Awards—who else but Nashville, eh?—was a chart-topping success. An impressive 2-1 win in St. Louis on Saturday closed it out at 4-2-0 and vaulted the Preds back into first place in the Central. Filip Forsberg is building a nice foundation for a Calder Trophy run, collecting five goals and eight points on the roadie.
    KWAK (5): Their wins aren’t emphatic, but neither are their losses. The Preds are becoming masters of taking close games, and that’s in large part due to their goalie, Pekka Rinne. After an injury-plagued 2013-14, the 32-year-old netminder has gotten off to a tremendous start, ranking sixth in the league with a .935 save percentage and 1.81 GAA.
    CAZENEUVE (4): The Preds are the league’s second-best team at even strength. If they could just score on the power play. But count on Nashville’s games being low scoring nearly every night. In 14 contests this season, the Preds have not been involved in a single game in which they have either scored or allowed more than four goals.
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 5
    5St. Louis Blues
    last week: 4
    record: 9-4-1
    MUIR (5): That loss to the Preds put the kibosh on a seven-game winning streak that was built on terrific goaltending (Jake Allen managed to string together 184 minutes of shutout hockey) and one unstoppable line. Jori Lehtera, Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Steen have combined to score 11 of the Blues' past 15 goals, though that stat suggests they could use a bit of support. The return of Paul Stastny from IR should help.
    KWAK (4): Right wing Vladimir Tarasenko, in his third season, has flirted with breakout status—recall his two-goal NHL debut in 2012, a four-game point streak early in 2013—but this season just may be the real deal. Since scoring a hat trick against Dallas on Oct. 28, the 23-year-old has 12 points in seven games, six of them wins for St. Louis. He’s riding a five-game point streak and was named the league's Third Star of the Week, not a bad way to follow up his First Star selection on Nov. 3.
    CAZENEUVE (8): Look out, league: Paul Stastny is back. The Blues forged a six-game win streak even without their big off-season acquisition. Stastny went down with an upper-body injury on Oct. 18 and missed eight games while his team soared. Vladimir Tarasenko can’t hog all the headlines. Stastny’s return gives the Blues another big weapon and they have done more with less already.
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 6
    6Vancouver Canucks
    last week: 8
    record: 11-5-0
    MUIR (6): Let's just write off that miserable performance in Los Angeles on Saturday and focus instead on the fact that this preseason afterthought has won seven of eight and, after Sunday's hard-fought 2-1 win over the Ducks, is within a point of having the top record in the NHL. Defenseman Chris Tanev caught my eye on this road trip. He's smart and consistent, and while he'll probably never bring much offensively, he seems to do all the little things well in his own zone. A really nice player.
    KWAK (7): The rather surprisingly good Canucks came out of the California gauntlet—San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim—last week with mixed results. They were trounced by Los Angeles, but took two points from the Sharks and an ailing Ducks team. They'll play five of their next six at home, where goalie Ryan Miller has been a perfect 4-0-0.
    CAZENEUVE (5): The Canucks made some nice progress during a recent spate of games on the road. Now we’ll see what they can do with five out of the next six at home. It is typical for a franchise that had Roberto Luongo in goal for years to have a strong No. 1 goalie who wins early and often. Now Ryan Miller is tops in the league with 10 victories. Expect that number to climb steadily during the season.
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 7
    7Boston Bruins
    last week: 16
    record: 10-6-0
    MUIR (7): Make it five straight wins for a Boston club whose blueline is being held together by chewing gum and baling wire. They're not always pretty, but the Bruins are getting it done with smart, simple plays in their own end and a surprisingly effective transition game that ensures the puck spends more time in their possession than it does with the opposition. Torey Krug (broken finger) is practicing and should be back in the lineup soon.
    KWAK (9): Credit the Bruins for taking advantage of a soft spot in their schedule and winning five straight over Buffalo, Ottawa, Florida, Edmonton and New Jersey. It could be the sort of run that helps a struggling team regain some confidence, and it sets up a certainly fierce meeting against their rival Canadiens on Thursday night.
    CAZENEUVE (6): The Bruins went from having a surplus of defensemen to having a sudden shortfall in backliners. Yet shorthanded or not, Boston hasn’t lost a contest by more than a goal since Oct. 16. What’s more, the B's can add Zach Trotman and Joe Morrow to the group of defenders it can call upon down the stretch. When they get completely healthy, they should be back to being the Bruins.
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 8
    8Los Angeles Kings
    last week: 10
    record: 8-4-3
    MUIR (9): Watching them lay a beating on the red-hot Canucks on Saturday was a good reminder of just how dominant this team can be when it decides to go for the kill. I'd like to give the Kings more credit for that, but on too many nights they seem content to simply go where the game takes them.
    KWAK (8): Yes, the Kings had a statement win over Vancouver on Saturday, but it’s still been a mixed bag of results for Los Angeles since its hot start. This week, the Kings face SoCal rivals Anaheim twice in four days. The return of injured stars Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar should help L.A. regain some consistency in its lineup and play.
    CAZENEUVE (9): Darryl Sutter has been especially critical of his team’s play recently. One hot goalie and one hot line isn’t enough to sustain a club for the balance of a season. But the Kings often stay in hibernation until springtime. By that time, Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar will be wide awake and (hopefully) healthy and the Kings will have much more than just one road win. Consider the time until then as a long commercial break or just a Hollywood pause.
    Last week: 2-0-1

  • 9
    9Montreal Canadiens
    last week: 7
    record: 10-4-1
    MUIR (13)
    KWAK (6): A solid 4-1 win over Minnesota on Saturday was the Canadiens' first regulation win since Oct. 25. A sign that they’ve recovered after a rough 2-3-1 slide? This week should be illustrative, as the Habs face some teams on the rebound, such as the Bruins and Flyers.
    CAZENEUVE (7): Montreal finally parted ways this week with Rene Bourque, who had failed to score and picked up just two assists in 13 games this season. For a team that is sitting strong in the standings with 21 points, the Canadiens have had significant trouble scoring goals. Montreal has scored just 37 so far, fewer than even the Devils and Oilers. Say this for the Canadiens: They hide their weaknesses well.
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 10
    10Calgary Flames
    last week: 9
    record: 9-6-2
    MUIR (8): So that wasn't exactly the effort they were expecting on Monday night in Carolina, but a 3-2 roadie keeps them within hailing distance of top spot in the Pacific. Amazing how much mileage they're getting out of their defense. Mark Giordano was the NHL's First Star of the Week after going 2-5-7 in three games, but T.J. Brodie and Dennis Wideman have been producing consistently as well. The trio has combined for 14 goals and 42 points through Calgary's first 17 games.
    KWAK (11)
    CAZENEUVE (10): The Flames get stronger as the games move along. Calgary has outscored its opponents 22-11 in third periods and overtimes this season. That’s a sign of an experienced veteran team, which Calgary is not. But for a team that has been in the dumps for years—five straight out of the playoffs and no series wins since 2004—this is a great sign.
    Last week: 2-2-0


Coach Alain Vigneault has been vexed by the Rangers' inconsistency.
AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek

Salary cap crunch coming; win-win trade; a new Semin-al moment

The defending Eastern champion Rangers remain in a funk and coach Alain Vigneault was moved to say that he was disappointed by the Blueshirts' sleepwalk through a home loss to the Oilers on Sunday. New York has its injury issues, but this team has also been hindered by a shortage of size and grit. The Blackhawks were one of the clubs that showed signs of life last week. Their offense came alive, scoring five goals against the Canadiens on Tuesday and five more against the Sharks on Sunday, but the play of Corey Crawford has come to define Chicago. With a 1.75 goals-against average and .932 save percentage, he's been one of the league's best keepers through the first month of the season. Faced with a rather stagnant offense, coach Joel Quenneville reunited Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on a line last week, searching for a spark somewhere in the lineup. What happened? The Hawks promptly put together their two five-goal games. Another resurrection story: The stumbling Islanders kept the buzzards at bay by rattling off three straight road wins after dropping three games in a row including the first two of their Western road trip. One win, over the depleted Ducks, was in overtime, and another came in a shootout with the Kings. But New York allowed only three goals in its three wins while getting some sturdy defensive play, solid goaltending and late heroics from Frans Nielsen. 

We might have been too generous with our assignment of the Wild. Since Zach Parise was sidelined with an upper body injury, Minnesota has dropped three straight and been outscored 11-2 in the process. Goaltender Josh Harding is back practicing with the club, and while there's no timetable for his return, the sooner he's back in their net, the better. Darcy Kuemper's .889 save percentage so far in November just won't cut it.

  • 11
    11Chicago Blackhawks
    last week: 14
    record: 8-6-1
    MUIR: 10
    KWAK: 10
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 12
    12New York Islanders
    last week: 21
    record: 9-5-0
    MUIR: 12
    KWAK: 13
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 13
    13Detroit Red Wings
    last week: 11
    record: 7-3-5
    MUIR: 17
    KWAK: 12
    Last week: 1-1-2

  • 14
    14Winnipeg Jets
    last week: 20
    record: 8-5-2
    MUIR: 11
    KWAK: 16
    Last week: 2-0-1

  • 15
    15San Jose Sharks
    last week: 12
    record: 8-6-2
    MUIR: 14
    KWAK: 14
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 16
    16Toronto Maple Leafs
    last week: 15
    record: 8-5-2
    MUIR: 15
    KWAK: 18
    Last week: 2-1-1

  • 17
    17Minnesota Wild
    last week: 6
    record: 7-6-0
    MUIR: 16
    KWAK: 15
    Last week: 0-3-0

  • 18
    18Ottawa Senators
    last week: 19
    record: 7-4-3
    MUIR: 18
    KWAK: 20
    Last week: 2-1-1

  • 19
    19Philadelphia Flyers
    last week: 23
    record: 7-5-2
    MUIR: 19
    KWAK: 17
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 20
    20Washington Capitals
    last week: 24
    record: 6-5-3
    MUIR: 20
    KWAK: 21
    Last week: 2-0-1

Things don't like quite so grim anymore for the Hurricanes and Coyotes.
Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

The Devils’ atrocious penalty kill—a dismal 65.5%—has already taken them out of so many games this season. Just take this week: In their three losses, each of the game-winners were power play goals. And Cory Schneider hasn't exactly been lights-out in net, either. Elsewhere, a couple of struggling goalies are starting to find their rhythm in Carolina and Arizona. Mike Smith put his early struggles behind him last week, stopping 97 of 102 shots (a .951 save percentage) while leading the Coyotes to a pair of wins in three appearances. Cam Ward has been even better for the Hurricanes, going 5-0 in November with a 1.38 GAA and .946 save percentage.  After missing five games with an upper body injury, center Eric Staal has also brought some stability back to the Canes, who have won four of their last five after going winless in their first eight games of the season. It may be getting late early in Colorado and Dallas, where expectation has exceeded performance so far this season. And just how bad will things get in Buffalo, where the local club might actually be better off playing with sabres than sticks?

Are the Devils wearing out Cory Schneider?

  • 21
    21New York Rangers
    last week: 22
    record: 6-6-2
    MUIR: 21
    KWAK: 22
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 22
    22New Jersey Devils
    last week: 13
    record: 6-7-2
    MUIR: 22
    KWAK: 19
    Last week: 0-4-0

  • 23
    23Carolina Hurricanes
    last week: 29
    record: 5-6-3
    MUIR: 23
    KWAK: 26
    Last week: 3-0-1

  • 24
    24Phoenix Coyotes
    last week: 27
    record: 6-7-1
    MUIR: 24
    KWAK: 24
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 25
    25Edmonton Oilers
    last week: 28
    record: 6-8-1
    MUIR: 27
    KWAK: 27
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 26
    26Colorado Avalanche
    last week: 25
    record: 4-7-5
    MUIR: 26
    KWAK: 25
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 27
    27Florida Panthers
    last week: 18
    record: 4-4-4
    MUIR: 25
    KWAK: 28
    Last week: 0-2-1

  • 28
    28Dallas Stars
    last week: 17
    record: 4-6-4
    MUIR: 29
    KWAK: 23
    Last week: 0-3-0

  • 29
    29Columbus Blue Jackets
    last week: 26
    record: 4-9-1
    MUIR: 28
    KWAK: 29
    Last week: 0-2-1

  • 30
    30Buffalo Sabres
    last week: 30
    record: 3-11-2
    MUIR: 30
    KWAK: 30
    Last week: 0-2-1

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