NHL Power Rankings: Predators retake top spot as Canadiens plunge

Tuesday January 13th, 2015
Eye Test: How can Shea Weber's stats be this bad?

Welcome to the latest installment of our 2014–15 NHL Power Rankings. After one week at the top, the Canadiens have been replaced by the surprising and tenacious Predators, who last last occupied No. 1 back on December 2. Our three scribes—Allan Muir, Brian Cazeneuve and Sam Page—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, guidance from a ouija board, 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!

The Top 10
  • 1
    1Nashville Predators
    last week: 4
    record: 28-9-4
    MUIR (3): Some stats nerds are concerned about the Predators' possession numbers, but how can you argue with the end results? At the midway point of the season, Nashville has the best record in the NHL and, maybe even more impressively, is 12-3-2 within the battle-tested Central Division. The Preds are deep, disciplined and confident. They've made me a believer.
    CAZENEUVE (1): With points in eight straight games, the Preds remain perhaps the NHL’s biggest surprise of the season. James Neal (lower body injury) is back and skating on the second line with Mike Fisher and Colin Wilson. Neal has been out since Dec. 30, but this club didn’t miss a beat.
    PAGE (1): Losing breakout star Ryan Ellis for an extended period would be a serious blow to most teams, but the Predators should keep rolling with Seth Jones next up on the defensive depth chart.
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 2
    2Chicago Blackhawks
    last week: 2
    record: 28-13-2
    MUIR (7): They've alternated wins and losses during their past seven games, including a hideous 5-2 defeat in Edmonton on Sunday night. With a seven-game road swing looming, they need to find level ground in games against the Jets and Stars this week.
    CAZENEUVE (3): They'll hold a team scrimmage in Columbus later this month, otherwise known as the NHL All-Star Game. Hats off to the team and its voters in the No. 3 media market who stuffed the ballot boxes and gave just rewards to Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford. It’s a wonder that Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull weren't added to the team as extras. But on the down side, Chicago’s play has dipped a bit of late. The Hawks haven’t won consecutive games in regulation time in a month, but they still remain near the top of the league standings.
    PAGE (2): A five-day break for the Hawks couldn't come at a better time, as they've played some of their worst hockey of late. Yet they've mostly kept winning, a testament to their greatness.
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 3
    3Anaheim Ducks
    last week: 3
    record: 27-10-6
    MUIR (6): They've won three of their last four, knocking off top opponents like the Blues and Predators and mounting an impressive comeback to beat Winnipeg on Teemu Selanne night. So why does every recent viewing of the Ducks leave me wanting more? I love their ability to win the close ones, but it's okay to bring out the whupping stick every now and then.
    CAZENEUVE (2): After beating the Jets for their 11th straight one-goal triumph at the Honda Center, the Ducks have set an NHL mark for consecutive one-goal wins on home ice. In all, 18 of their last 20 wins have come by a single goal and they now have a 21-0-6 mark in such games this season. They’ve also played in 16 that have been decided in overtime or a shootout. They obviously know how to win close games, and that should bode well for the playoffs.
    PAGE (6): They're are going to keep winning one-goal games, and I'm going to keep ranking them lower than I should, and come playoff time one of us here is going to be proved right.
    Last week: 1-1-0

  • 4
    4St. Louis Blues
    last week: 9
    record: 26-13-3
    MUIR (2): When I called this team “a whole different kind of dangerous” last week I might have been underselling it. Like the Rangers, the Blues are getting it done at both ends of the ice, outscoring their opponents 24-8 while running up a four-game win streak. With their next five at home, they're poised to take a run at the Central Division lead.
    CAZENEUVE (6): Wow, seven goals in San Jose followed by six goals in Arizona, then seven at home against San Jose and five more against Carolina. Who are these guys? And how about TJ Oshie, who didn’t have a multi-point game in his first 15 contests of the season, but had three in a row—and nine points overall—on his latest streak?
    PAGE (7): Relegated to third-wheel status in the Central, the Blues have done something amazing: score 25 goals in four games, playing a system that's supposed to kill offense.
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 5
    5Tampa Bay Lightning
    last week: 5
    record: 27-13-4
    MUIR (5): It's not that 7-3 thrashing they suffered in Philly on Monday night that has the Bolts worried, it's the string of injuries to some of their key competitors. Radko Gudas is essentially out for the season, and both Tyler Johnson and Victor Hedman were hurt in the loss. No timetable yet on the last two, but considering the roles they play, anything beyond a couple games is going to hurt.
    CAZENEUVE (7): Tampa Bay got a double dose of bad news on Monday when  Johnson and Hedman left their ugly blowout by Philadelphia and didn’t return. Johnson, the club’s leading scorer with 45 points, may have to miss his first All-Star game as a result of his injury. The club called up Vladislav Namestnikov as a roster replacement. Hedman, a reliable defenseman, also missed the first 19 games of the season with a fractured finger. The road ahead is going to be a big test for this team.
    PAGE (3): Johnson and Nikita Kucherov's breakout season would transform the offense of most teams, but on the Lightning they're just two more bullets in the chamber for an explosive top six. Johnson's injury obviously removes that shell for the time being.
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 6
    6New York Rangers
    last week: 8
    record: 24-11-4
    MUIR (1): How can you deny top spot to a team that's won 13 of 14, including an impressive sweep of California? The Rangers are the most complete team in hockey right now, and the only one ranking in the top-five in both goals per game (3.13, fourth) and goals-against (2.33, fifth). And man, is Henrik Lundqvist clicking: He has an 11-1 record with a 1.57 GAA and .939 save percentage in his past 12 starts.
    CAZENEUVE (9): The Rangers were California Dreamin’ last week, completing a statewide sweep with a 4-1 win in Anaheim, a 4-3 victory in Los Angeles that was a tiny measure of revenge for their loss in the Stanley Cup finals last spring, and a 3-1 win in San Jose where Dan Boyle returned to mess up his former team. New York has now won won five in a row and their 13-of-14 streak has turned them from a playoff outsider to a team that, if it stays hot at the right time, could forge another long playoff run through a weak conference that is ripe for the sweeping.
    PAGE (8): Before the season, coach Alain Vigneault expressed little confidence that defenseman Kevin Klein could replace Anton Stralman. Neither did I. Klein has proved us both wrong.
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 7
    7New York Islanders
    last week: 6
    record: 28-13-1
    MUIR (9): Nice to see struggling Chad Johnson pick up a win (his first since Nov. 21) on Saturday because there's a good chance the Isles will need more of a contribution from the beleaguered backup down the stretch. Jaroslav Halak has been great—he earned his 22nd win of the season on Friday and is now just 10 away from a share of the franchise record—but his career high is 57 appearances in a season and he now has 30. They can't afford to overwork him.
    CAZENEUVE (4): In their 5-2 victory over Columbus on Sunday, every single Islander was on the ice for a goal and 15 finished the game as plus players. The win moved New York ahead of Pittsburgh in the Metro Division standings and marked the first time since 1990 that the Isles have led a division this late in the season. Their supposedly killer seven-game road trip has been anything but, as they’d gone 4-2 heading into Tuesday night’s divisional showdown with their torrid arch-rivals, the Rangers.
    PAGE (5): Mikhail Grabovski is this team's real MVP. The analytics darling is easily handling the toughest minutes and biggest opponents, something nobody on the Islanders has done in a long time.
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 8
    8Pittsburgh Penguins
    last week: 7
    record: 25-10-6
    MUIR (10): When you consider all that the Penguins have been through this year—the injuries, the mumps epidemic, Pascal Dupuis's blood clot—it's truly amazing that they're on pace for 112 points, a total that would be the second-highest in franchise history. Coach Mike Johnston's ability to consistently squeeze points out of an AHL/NHL hybrid lineup should have him in the running for the Jack Adams Award.
    CAZENEUVE (4): The Pens still need to locate their power play in order to be serious contenders this spring. They began the season with 19 goals in their first 46 chances with the man advantage, then lost their edge and managed to score only 10 in their next 88 tries. The Pens have always been a little predictable on the PP, with Evgeni Malkin set up in the same place, Sidney Crosby lurking behind the net, one quarterback and a few cutters. Are their problems due to a simple lack of execution or the way their opponents have gotten wise and are reacting to them? Answers please, and soon.
    PAGE (4): Your heart breaks for blueliner Olli Maatta who will miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury after having the mumps and a tumor removed all in the same year. Bad news for the Penguins, too, because he's good.
    Last week: 1-0-1

  • 9
    9Washington Capitals
    last week: 10
    record: 23-11-8
    MUIR (4): I'll say it again: This team is now 13-1-5 in its past 19 games and has suffered just one regulation loss since Dec. 3. Amazing. Full marks to Barry Trotz, who has his Capitals playing the sort of smart, structured hockey that could carry them deep into the playoffs ... assuming they keep getting exceptional goaltending from Braden Holtby.
    CAZENEUVE (10): The Caps have failed to record a point only once since Dec. 2 after knocking off Detroit and Colorado over the weekend. But it was about this time last season when they went into a tailspin and it seemed as though anyone who wasn’t named Ovechkin had trouble scoring. Ovi has now produced points in six of his last seven games, and the guy who was an ugly -35 last season is now +10. With better play at both ends of the ice, this team is reflecting his improvement.
    PAGE (10): Trotz's Predator teams always turned it on in the second half. Looks like his Caps are going to do the same thing.
    Last week: 3-0-1

  • 10
    10Montreal Canadiens
    last week: 1
    record: 26-12-3
    MUIR (8): Home losses to the Pens and Lightning put the kibosh on Montreal's six-game win streak and ended the Alex Galchenyuk first line experiment ... at least for now. Coach Michel Therrien promoted Tomas Plekanec in his place and reworked the struggling power play, trying to kickstart a unit that's connected just once in the past seven games. Games this week against Columbus and Ottawa could get the Habs back on track.
    CAZENEUVE (8): The Habs have scored the first goal in their last six games. So they start fast. Then again, their last two were a 4-2 loss to Tampa Bay and a 2-1 overtime defeat by Pittsburgh. So much for finishing. At least they've allowed more than two goals only once since Dec. 5. That  stinginess that will serve them well in the rigors of playoff hockey.
    PAGE (9): I still don't like Therrien's tactics enough to rank them any higher, but goalie Carey Price erases the sins of teammates and coaches alike.
    Last week: 0-1-1


Steve Babineau/Getty Images

Detroit hasn’t played consecutive games without securing a point all season. That’s how these Red Wings have been this season: never too high, nor too low. They seem to plug people into different situations almost seamlessly, and now they'll count on backup keeper Petr Mrazek with starter Jimmy Howard out for two-to-four weeks due to a groin tear. 

The Bruins and Kings remain on the cusp of the playoffs, a surge away from giving themselves some breathing room and a slump away from needing oxygen tanks to keep their postseason hopes alive. It's probably not a coincidence that Boston is on a 7-2-3 roll since getting top defenseman Zdeno Chara and first-line center David Krejci back in the lineup after long spells on IR. No fluke either that the Bruins have won three straight since being put on notice by new CEO Charlie Jacobs last week. Maybe that's fear or maybe the gears are starting to mesh. To their credit, they're playing something closer to Bruins hockey lately than they have all season.

The tragic hilarity of the Canucks having everything but their goaltending come together this season was underscored by Roberto Luongo's bittersweet return to Vancouver last week ...

In Toronto, the Maple Leafs finally have a new victim behind the bench in Peter Horachek, who is trying find a balance. His team has been giving up fewer shots (66 total in their last three games) and goalie Jonathan Bernier, who had been facing 33 per night, has to be happy about that. Now they just have to figure out how to score in their new system and win on the road where they are 2-7-0 in their last nine away outings. 

The Middle 10
  • 11
    11Detroit Red Wings
    last week: 13
    record: 22-11-9
    MUIR: 13
    PAGE: 11
    Last week: 2-1-0

  • 12
    12Boston Bruins
    last week: 20
    record: 22-15-6
    MUIR: 11
    PAGE: 14
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 13
    13Los Angeles Kings
    last week: 15
    record: 20-13-10
    MUIR: 15
    PAGE: 12
    Last week: 1-1-1

  • 14
    14Florida Panthers
    last week: 19
    record: 20-11-9
    MUIR: 12
    PAGE: 16
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 15
    15Vancouver Canucks
    last week: 11
    record: 23-14-3
    MUIR: 18
    PAGE: 13
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 16
    16Winnipeg Jets
    last week: 14
    record: 21-14-8
    MUIR: 14
    PAGE: 17
    Last week: 1-1-1

  • 17
    17San Jose Sharks
    last week: 12
    record: 22-16-5
    MUIR: 16
    PAGE: 15
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 18
    18Calgary Flames
    last week: 17
    record: 22-18-3
    MUIR: 19
    PAGE: 19
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 19
    19Colorado Avalanche
    last week: 25
    record: 18-17-8
    MUIR: 17
    PAGE: 20
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 20
    20Toronto Maple Leafs
    last week: 18
    record: 22-18-3
    MUIR: 22
    PAGE: 18
    Last week: 1-2-0

Streaky Blue Jackets now in serious playoff bubble trouble

To think the Wild were in Sam Page's Top 10 earlier this season. But this feels like the week where they either stop the bleeding or raise the white flag. Minnesota has just two wins in its last 10 games and outside of a good effort against Chicago, the Wild's pulse has been hard to detect in most of their recent losses. No one's expecting much from their game against the Penguins, but they need to wring four points out of Buffalo and Arizona. Anything less and big changes could be coming.

Down in the cellar, the Sabres seem to have upped their pursuit of Connor McDavid again, and this time there may be little to stop them as the Oilers are showing signs of life.

  • 21
    21Dallas Stars
    last week: 16
    record: 18-16-7
    MUIR: 21
    PAGE: 21
    Last week: 0-2-1

  • 22
    22Columbus Blue Jackets
    last week: 21
    record: 18-19-3
    MUIR: 20
    PAGE: 24
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 23
    23Ottawa Senators
    last week: 22
    record: 17-16-8
    MUIR: 23
    PAGE: 23
    Last week: 1-1-1

  • 24
    24Minnesota Wild
    last week: 23
    record: 18-18-5
    MUIR: 28
    PAGE: 22
    Last week: 0-3-1

  • 25
    25Philadelphia Flyers
    last week: 26
    record: 17-19-7
    MUIR: 25
    PAGE: 25
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 26
    26Phoenix Coyotes
    last week: 24
    record: 16-21-4
    MUIR: 24
    PAGE: 27
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 27
    27New Jersey Devils
    last week: 28
    record: 15-21-8
    MUIR: 27
    PAGE: 26
    Last week: 1-1-1

  • 28
    28Carolina Hurricanes
    last week: 29
    record: 13-24-5
    MUIR: 26
    PAGE: 28
    Last week: 1-1-1

  • 29
    29Edmonton Oilers
    last week: 30
    record: 10-24-9
    MUIR: 29
    PAGE: 30
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 30
    30Buffalo Sabres
    last week: 27
    record: 14-26-3
    MUIR: 30
    PAGE: 29
    Last week: 0-3-0

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