On a seven-game win streak the Pittsburgh Penguins remained atop SI.com's NHL Power Rankings despite a challenge from the white hot Tampa Bay Lightning.
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!
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.
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?