Nashville Predators challenge Chicago Blackhawks at the top of SI.com's new NHL Power Rankings.
Welcome to the latest installment of our 2014–15 NHL Power Rankings. The Blackhawks continue to hang on to their perch at No. 1 for the fourth week in a row as the surprisingly tough Predators make another run at the top, a spot they last occupied four weeks ago. Our three scribes—Allan Muir, Brian Cazeneuve and Sarah Kwak—submitted their choices for the league's Top 10. The rankings for the all 30 teams have been weighted according to ancient Babylonian accounting principles, Vedic astrology, and 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!
Will a quiet week for the Sharks—just one game, a 3-1 loss to the Kings—prove to be a boon or a curse? Sure, what team wouldn’t relish the extra rest? But the layoff could cool the league’s hottest team, and San Jose can’t afford to languish. With 43 points, the Sharks remain on the playoff bubble in the West.
Paul Maurice is coaching like the second coming of Dick Irvin up in Winnipeg, but even that legendary bench boss wouldn't be able to cope with the loss of his top-four defensemen (Toby Enstrom, Jacob Trouba, Zach Bogosian and Mark Stuart) to injury. Maurice has the Jets competing, though, and there just might be enough of an us-against-the-world vibe around that team to handle the loss of winger Evander Kane for the next five weeks as well.
Mark this one under the cliché “The game was not as close as the score indicated.” The Canucks were outshot, 31-14, in their recent 2-1 loss to the Ducks. And this included some decent penalty killing that held Anaheim to just one shot on goal in four man advantages. At times, Vancouver slams on the breaks and plays with unexpected malaise. At the heart of that is goalie Ryan Miller, who followed up two shutouts earlier this season with 11 goals allowed in three games. Now after giving up five against the Rangers on Dec. 13, he has allowed just five during his last three starts. You just don’t know what you’ll get with these Canucks.
With a 9-1-1 mark in December—and a chance to tie a franchise record for victories in a month with a win over the Wild on New Year's Eve—the Blue Jackets might deserve even more credit than we're giving them. They're getting solid goaltending, balanced scoring and some terrific special teams play, with the power play clicking at 28.1% and the penalty kill shutting down 89.7% of chances so far this month.
The Wild’s Fenwick For percentage is top 5 in the league, and they average 31.7 shots per game, third best in the West, yet they continue to wallow five points out of playoff position. In a similar spot last season, they turned things around to make the playoffs, but now with center Mikael Granlund (upper body) out for four weeks, the Wild will need some spectacular play to help them compete for a postseason spot this year.
Here’s a riddle for the day: Just how many coaches does it take to screw up the Devils? Either GM Lou Lamoriello will grow his reputation as a brilliant mind or the team's new multi-headed coaching monster will simply exacerbate what has become a real mess over in Newark.