Streaking Blues take top spot in first post All-Star break Power Rankings

Tuesday February 3rd, 2015

Welcome to the latest installment of our 2014–15 NHL Power Rankings. Coming out of the All-Star Break, the carousel at the top continues to spin with a fifth different No. 1 since the end of December. This time the rampaging Blues have displaced the Ducks who had displaced the Predators who had displaced the Canadiens who had ended the Blackhawks’ four-week stay at No. 1. Our three scribes—Allan Muir, Brian Cazeneuve, and Sarah Kwak—submitted their detailed choices for the league’s top 10, and ranked all 30 teams. Our final rankings have been weighted according to guidance from our official NHL-sanctioned ouija board, the price of pork bellies divided by the average snowfall in Moose Jaw last week and how high each club came in on our writers’ ballots. In some cases a purely intuitive, wholly unscientific and undeniably loathsome method was used to break ties, rank teams that were chosen by only one or two writers and antagonize you, our gentle readers.

We’ve presented the 30 teams in groups, with the Top 10 receiving the most trenchant commentary. Overview paragraphs precede both 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
    1St. Louis Blues
    last week: 4
    record: 32-13-4
    MUIR (1): Maybe it’s that new guy named Brodeur they added in the front office. Or maybe it’s an unstoppable first line that has combined for 23 goals and 51 points in the last 11 games. Either way, the Blues are the hottest team in hockey, going 10-0-1 in a torrid stretch that has pulled them to within two points of top spot in both the Central Division and the Western Conference. The challenge now is to maintain something close to that sizzling pace with Norris Trophy candidate Kevin Shattenkirk sidelined indefinitely by abdominal surgery.
    CAZENEUVE (1): As ace defenseman Shattenkirk—who leads all NHL defensemen in assists (32) and, with 40 points, ranks second in scoring behind the FlamesMark Giordano—heads for surgery, St. Louis must will put its trust in backliners Alex Pietrangelo, Barrett Jackman, Ian Cole and Jay Bouwmeester, all of whom have been good, but must be better. The Blues have won five straight games while playing a weak part of their schedule. 
    KWAK (1): Averaging more than four goals per game in 2015, St. Louis is the hottest team in hockey. But the absence of All-Star defenseman Shattenkirk absence could hamper the Blues’ second-ranked power play (24.6%); more than half of Shattenkirk’s points this season have come with the man advantage.
    Last week: 3-0-0

  • 2
    2Nashville Predators
    last week: 3
    record: 32-11-6
    MUIR (3): It hasn’t always been pretty, but maligned backup Carter Hutton has kept the Predators afloat while Pekka Rinne is rehabbing a knee injury. Nashville has picked up points four times in their last five games (2-1-2), most recently in Hutton’s 21-save shutout of the Penguins on Sunday. Rinne is practicing and should be back at some point this week, but you’ve got to give Hutton credit—the Preds were in first place in the Central when he was asked to take over and they’ll be in first when he leaves.
    CAZENEUVE (2): Nashville has had to bounce back from two blankings this season, one of which came last Friday when they dropped a 3–0 decision to the Avalanche. If the Preds had lost on Sunday to the Penguins, it would have been the first time in 2014–15 that Nashville had suffered back-to-back regulation losses. Instead, Hutton blanked Pittsburgh 4–0. Talk about a confidence boost. The Predators now head home, where they will play seven of their next eight games.
    KWAK (2): Nashville has gone 3-2-2 without Rinne, who has been nursing a sprained knee. His value has been evident during this stretch, but the Predators are doing enough to maintain their place at the top of the standings. Backup Hutton has been better since a disastrous 5–2 loss to the Red Wings last month.
    Last week: 2-1-2

  • 3
    3Anaheim Ducks
    last week: 1
    record: 32-12-6
    MUIR (5): Maybe two losses aren’t a big deal, especially in the wake of a solid six-game winning streak. But good teams should bring their best when challenged, and the Ducks offered little resistance in weekend losses to the Sharks and the Blackhawks. I still think Anaheim GM Bob Murray will make a significant move to bolster his roster, probably sooner rather than later.
    CAZENEUVE (3): After an 8-1-0 start to 2015, the Ducks have dropped their last two games, against San Jose and Chicago, by a combined score of 10–4. Anaheim appears to have a lock on the Pacific Division. The Ducks haven’t lost three in a row in regulation this season. Look for coach Bruce Boudreau to tinker with his left wings, perhaps moving Matt Beleskey up to the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and putting Patrick Maroon on the second line with Ryan Kesler and Kyle Palmeiri.
    KWAK (4): After a run of six straight wins against middling teams, Anaheim hit speed bumps against quality competition, dropping three-goal decisions on back-to-back days. Ilya Bryzgalov’s fourth start of the season didn’t give anybody much confidence in the Ducks’ backup goalie situation—he gave up six goals on 25 shots before getting pulled in the second period against the Sharks.
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 4
    4Detroit Red Wings
    last week: 7
    record: 29-12-9
    MUIR (2): I’m guessing that my colleagues won’t agree with this enthusiastic ranking, but I’m bullish on the Red Wings. Here’s a team that could have spent the last month treading water after starting goalie Jimmy Howard suffered a groin injury on Jan. 10. Instead, Detroit has won seven of eight while he’s been on the shelf, and went 9-3-0 in January to stay hot on the heels of the Canadiens and the Lightning. Can we start talking now about Mike Babcock for coach of the year?
    CAZENEUVE (7): This is the calm before the flights—the four-day respite before a month that includes nine road games and just two games at Joe Louis Arena. But the Wings may not want the rest. Even Babcock admitted this week to being surprised by how well his team has played. Detroit won nine of 12 games in January, and scored on one of every three of its power plays. On the negative side, without Howard in the lineup, the Red Wings have also allowed power play goals in one of every three shorthanded situations. That means that this good run can be even better if their PK tightens things up.
    KWAK (3): Detroit has won five of its last six games, scoring more than three goals in each victory. Though the Wings have enjoyed the successes of young stars in waiting, such as Gus Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, it has been led during the current stretch by Henrik Zetterberg, who has five goals and 10 points in the last six games.
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 5
    5Tampa Bay Lightning
    last week: 5
    record: 32-15-4
    MUIR (4): If only the Bolts could play every game by the bay. They set a new franchise record last week by winning their 10th straight at Amelie Arena, and now lead the league with 21 home victories. Tampa Bay is getting contributions from sources expected (Ben Bishop’s eight straight home wins) and unexpected (five goals from depth forward Cedric Paquette in his last three games). And now Andrei Vasilevskiy's in the mix, replacing Evgeni Nabokov. The Lightning are going to be tough down the stretch.
    CAZENEUVE (4): Tampa Bay has needed to prove that it can be more than the Steven Stamkos show. At times, we’ve seen growth from Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat and others. This week it was Paquette, who scored five goals, including his first career hat trick on Jan. 29 against Detroit, making him the first rookie since 1993 to zap the Red Wings for three goals in a game. Paquette didn’t even crack the top 100 picks when Tampa Bay snared him in the fourth round of the 2012 draft. Depth will be a big factor in how the Lightning survive this month, with eight of their 12 games on the road in February, and home games against the Kings, the Ducks, the Blues and the Blackhawks.
    KWAK (5): Third-line center Paquette is feeling much more at home now. After being told by the team that he could find a more permanent residence than the downtown hotel room he’d occupied since late October, the 21-year-old rookie has been settling in nicely on the Tampa Bay scoresheet, earning the NHL’s Second Star of the Week honors.
    Last week: 3-1-0

  • 6
    6Montreal Canadiens
    last week: 6
    record: 32-14-3
    MUIR (6): It’s hard not to focus on the Hart Trophy-worthy exploits of Carey Price—two more shutouts last week and just five goals allowed in his last five games (150 shots)—but how about a little love for Max Pacioretty? With 23 goals he’s a top-10 sniper, and after he scored the winners in 1–0 victories over the Capitals and the Rangers, he now has five game-winning goals this season. That’s some quiet excellence there.
    CAZENEUVE (5): Since Jan. 20, Price has been the First Star in four of the Montreal’s victories, which pretty much makes him too hot to touch without a goalie mitt. In January, he was 7-1-1 with a 1.53 goals-against average, a .951 save percentage and a pair of shutouts. He was also the NHL’s First Star last week. As the goalie goes, so goes his team. Right now, the Canadiens are following his superb lead.
    KWAK (7): Price made 40 saves in a 3–2 win over the Stars last Tuesday, but that wasn’t even the highlight of his week. He followed that effort up with back-to-back shutouts against the Rangers and Washington—1–0 shutouts, no less—to bring the Canadiens’ winning streak to five. Though Montreal lost 3–2 to the Coyotes on Sunday, the Habs are just one point out of first place in the East with two games in hand on the front-running Lightning.
    Last week: 4-1-0

  • 7
    7New York Islanders
    last week: 2
    record: 32-16-1
    MUIR (11)
    CAZENEUVE (6): How do you figure these guys? They shut out the Rangers in Madison Square Garden and then score 21 goals in a four-game span against the Penguins, the Canadiens, the Flyers and New York (again). Then this same bunch produces two stinkers in consecutive three-goal losses to the Bruins and the Red Wings. Are the Islanders serious Stanley Cup challengers or a team that’s moving forward on a longer journey and may need to enter its new home in Brooklyn before it contends for anything resembling a title? We’ll need the playoffs to get the ultimate answers, but New York is certainly fun to watch.
    KWAK (6): Life without Kyle Okposo (whose injury has been reported as a detached retina), who is expected to be out of the lineup for six weeks with an upper body injury, will be a tough adjustment for the Islanders, who have dropped two of three since he went down. They’ll definitely miss the trigger-happy winger, who leads the team with 3.35 shots per game. His replacements will need to emulate his puck-hungry habits.
    Last week: 1-2-0

  • 8
    8Boston Bruins
    last week: 14
    record: 27-16-7
    MUIR (7): I’ve been in “Show Me” mode with Boston the past couple weeks and, well, I guess they have shown me. With just two regulation losses in the last 17 games (both to the Blue Jackets, of all teams) and Tuukka Rask back in Vezina Trophy form (a .949 save percentage and a 1.61 goals-against average in 11 January starts), the B’s finally look like a club that is capable of challenging for the Eastern crown. Sure would like to see them add a top-four D-man, though. Anyone know where they could find a Johnny Boychuk-type?
    CAZENEUVE (8): Boston looked like its old self in January. The Bruins have earned at least a point in 13 of their last 14 games thanks to timely scoring, superb goaltending from Rask and, to read the players’ tweets, some inspiration from the NFL Patriots. Boston’s last two games—a 5–2 win over the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum, and a 3–1 victory over defending champion L.A. at home—were examples of how good this team can be, and why, regardless of seed number, the Bruins are a threat to go on a long playoff run.
    KWAK (10): Suffering only one regulation loss since Dec. 29, Boston has rebounded nicely from the panicky start that had plenty of people wondering if the Bruins would even make it to the postseason. Rask’s .949 January save percentage ranked third among starters, but the huge difference-makers have been defenseman Zdeno Chara and center David Krejci, who both missed time due to injuries. Their respective returns have seemed to really stabilize the group.
    Last week: 3-0-1

  • 9
    9Chicago Blackhawks
    last week: 9
    record: 32-17-2
    MUIR (9): Four regulation wins in 13 January games would bump most teams from the top 10 but the Hawks showed just enough to remind us of how dangerous they can be. Patrick Kane is making an honest run at his first scoring title, racking up eight points in his last five games to move into a tie for second place, just two points behind leader Jakub Voracek.
    CAZENEUVE (9): Chicago outshot San Jose 31–20 in its last road game, but still dropped a 2–0 decision. Since the beginning of January, the Blackhawks haven’t played hungry for an extended stretch. Coach Joel Quenneville isn’t one to panic, but he has been fiddling with his players’ ice time while trying to light some fires. If you get the sense that we haven’t seen the best of Chicago, look no further for improvement than the club’s eight-game home stand that starts on February 9. 
    KWAK (8): Halfway through a grueling seven-game road trip and the Blackhawks are treading water, beating Anaheim but dropping decisions against the Kings and the Sharks last week. Chicago will need to finish the trip strong if it wants to keep pace with the Blues and the Predators in the Central.
    Last week: 3-2-0

  • 10
    10New York Rangers
    last week: 8
    record: 29-15-4
    MUIR (8): What a season Rick Nash is having. After netting a pair in Monday’s 6–3 victory over the Panthers, he leads the NHL in even strength goals (23), and is tied for the lead in total and shorthanded goals (31 and four, respectively). He’ll need to stay sharp this week as the Rangers face two of the league’s toughest defensive teams; on Wednesday night against the Bruins at MSG, and on Saturday against the Predators in Nashville.
    CAZENEUVE (11):
    KWAK (12):
    Last week: 3-2-0


Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images

With two 4–0 defeats in their last three games, the Penguins are showing the wear of the season and it’s safe to say they’ve hit a slump, going 2-4-2 since mid-January. Remember their great power play that couldn’t be stopped earlier in the season? It is now down to sixth-best in the NHL, just a tick ahead of Arizona. Sidney Crosby has no goals and a lone assist to show for his last five games, and only four goals in his last 13. He's also –4 for 2015. With Evgeni Malkin out of the lineup, Pittsburgh needs its captain to avoid a long slump. With a swing through Western Canada coming up, the Pens will be looking to get for more consistent offense from him. 

Reasons to believe the Capitals can make a Stanley Cup run

Three big wins last week over the Kings, the Ducks and the Blackhawks showed that the Sharks can turn it up against the big boys. We’re a little concerned about their lapses against lesser opponents, though. The shootout loss to the Oilers on Monday night wasn’t the first time that San Jose had been pushed around by a bottom feeder. It’s on coach Todd McLellan to keep his fish focused.

The Jets, having dropped their last three games (and giving up 15 goals in the process), are seeing their once rock-solid position in the West’s top 8 begin to soften. They hold a six-point cushion for the wild card, but it seems that their playoff hopes will rest on their goaltending. Undrafted rookie Michael Hutchinson has been a revelation (with a 1.90 goals-against and a .935 save percentage in his first 21 games), but in his last two starts, he’s allowed nine goals. 

For Wild fans, Arizona may be considered an outpost of heaven because goalie Devan Dubnyk has been a godsend. Since he was traded from the Coyotes on January 14, Minnesota has gone 5-1-1, pulling out of what seemed to be a death spiral. Also helpful: Zach Parise has regained his scoring touch, with seven goals in his last seven games. 

Alas, Los Angeles is fading. Could the defending Cup champ actually miss out on spring hockey?

The Middle 10
  • 11
    11Pittsburgh Penguins
    last week: 11
    record: 28-14-8
    MUIR: 12
    KWAK: 9
    Last week: 2-2-2

  • 12
    12San Jose Sharks
    last week: 13
    record: 27-17-7
    MUIR: 10
    KWAK: 11
    Last week: 3-0-1

  • 13
    13Washington Capitals
    last week: 12
    record: 25-15-10
    MUIR: 14
    KWAK: 13
    Last week: 1-2-2

  • 14
    14Calgary Flames
    last week: 15
    record: 28-20-3
    MUIR: 13
    KWAK: 16
    Last week: 3-2-0

  • 15
    15Winnipeg Jets
    last week: 10
    record: 26-18-8
    MUIR: 17
    KWAK: 15
    Last week: 1-4-0

  • 16
    16Vancouver Canucks
    last week: 16
    record: 27-18-3
    MUIR: 21
    KWAK: 14
    Last week: 1-3-0

  • 17
    17Dallas Stars
    last week: 19
    record: 23-19-7
    MUIR: 19
    KWAK: 17
    Last week: 2-2-0

  • 18
    18Minnesota Wild
    last week: 22
    record: 23-20-6
    MUIR: 16
    KWAK: 21
    Last week: 3-0-1

  • 19
    19Colorado Avalanche
    last week: 20
    record: 21-18-11
    MUIR: 15
    KWAK: 22
    Last week: 2-0-1

  • 20
    20Los Angeles Kings
    last week: 17
    record: 21-16-12
    MUIR: 20
    KWAK: 18
    Last week: 1-2-0

With seven losses in their last eight games and an eight-point gap separating Florida from the East’s second wild card slot, this next week should pretty much tell the playoff story for the Cats. If they can secure five of six points from the Kings, the Predators and the Ducks at the BB&T Center this week, they’ll be right back in the mix. If not, will be time to strip this thing for parts.

Philadelphia is, well, not quite flying, but it’s certainly improving, with four straight wins and perhaps one last gasp at a playoff run. 

Jakub Voracek said during the All-Star break that it would take 25 wins in the final 34 games for the Flyers to grab a playoff berth. Hey, only 21 to go. The penalty kill that was murder on their chances earlier in the season might be coming around after killing off 13 of its last 14 chances. If Philly can straighten that mess out, anything’s possible for this team.

Don’t look now, but the Sabres have lost 14 straight. How bad would this team be without its 6–1 record in shootouts?

The Bottom 10
  • 21
    21Florida Panthers
    last week: 18
    record: 21-17-10
    MUIR: 18
    KWAK: 19
    Last week: 1-3-0

  • 22
    22Philadelphia Flyers
    last week: 25
    record: 22-22-7
    MUIR: 22
    KWAK: 20
    Last week: 4-0-0

  • 23
    23Ottawa Senators
    last week: 23
    record: 20-19-9
    MUIR: 24
    KWAK: 23
    Last week: 2-1-1

  • 24
    24New Jersey Devils
    last week: 26
    record: 19-22-9
    MUIR: 23
    KWAK: 24
    Last week: 2-0-1

  • 25
    25Columbus Blue Jackets
    last week: 21
    record: 21-24-3
    MUIR: 25
    KWAK: 26
    Last week: 1-3-0

  • 26
    26Toronto Maple Leafs
    last week: 24
    record: 22-25-4
    MUIR: 29
    KWAK: 25
    Last week: 0-3-1

  • 27
    27Carolina Hurricanes
    last week: 27
    record: 17-26-6
    MUIR: 27
    KWAK: 27
    Last week: 1-1-1

  • 28
    28Phoenix Coyotes
    last week: 28
    record: 18-26-6
    MUIR: 28
    KWAK: 28
    Last week: 2-2-1

  • 29
    29Edmonton Oilers
    last week: 29
    record: 14-28-9
    MUIR: 26
    KWAK: 29
    Last week: 3-2-0

  • 30
    30Buffalo Sabres
    last week: 30
    record: 14-33-3
    MUIR: 30
    KWAK: 30
    Last week: 0-3-0

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