Nashville Predators return to No. 1 in SI.com's NHL Power Rankings.
Welcome to the newest installment of our 2014–15 NHL Power Rankings. The churn at the top continues with our sixth different No. 1 since the end of December. This week the Predators have climbed back to the peak for the first time since Jan. 13, dislodging the Blues who displaced the Ducks who supplanted the Preds who kicked out the Canadiens who ended the Blackhawks’ four-week stay up there.
Our three sage scribes—Allan Muir, Sarah Kwak and Sam Page—submitted their detailed choices for the top 10 and ranked all 30 teams. Our final order has been weighted according to guidance from sock puppets, our official NHL-sanctioned ouijaboard, and how high each club came in on each of our writers’ ballots. In some cases a purely intuitive, wholly unscientific and undeniably shameful method was used to break ties, rank teams that were chosen by only one or two writers, and curdle your goat.
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 duly noted. So without further ado, commence to stew!
Goalie Henrik Lundqvist’s scary blood vessel injury, sustained last week when a puck hit him in the throat, will keep him out for at least three weeks. That will present a big test for the Rangers, who are 5-5-2 in the games that Lundqvist hasn’t started this season. There's no good time for him to go down with injury, but now seems especially bad with the Rangers playing so well in the New Year. It's all up to Cam Talbot now. As surprisingly good as the Rangers have been in replacing their free agency departures, this team still isn't at the level of last year's Eastern Conference champs. They need good goaltending.
Six straight wins, including shutouts of the Avalanche and Blackhawks, propelled the Wild—a team that was on life support a month ago—back into the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. Devan Dubnyk has completely changed the complexion of this franchise, giving them the kind of reliable goaltending that eluded this team earlier this season. Darcy Kuemper is back up from the minors, but don't expect him to see much action between the pipes during the stretch run.
Unbelievable stat of the week: After knocking off the Sharks in San Jose on Monday night, the Flames are now 17-4-1 against the rest of the Pacific Division, including a 9-2-1 mark on the road against its teams. No other Pacific club has more than 11 divisional wins. You keep waiting for this team to take a step back and it keeps on surprising.
He won't get any love from the voters, but New Jersey's Cory Schneider is playing as well as any of the top Vezina Trophy candidates. Even after a frustrating loss to Edmonton on Monday, Schneider is 7-2-1 with one no-decision, a 1.73 goals-against average and .942 save percentage in 11 appearances since the calendar turned to 2015.
A 5-1 win on Saturday over lowly Edmonton finally broke the spell on the winless-in-11 Maple Leafs. But it doesn’t put an end to their troubles. From now until the March 2 trade deadline, they’ll be waiting for the bell to toll and the rebuild to begin again.
The Coyotes still aren't winning many games, but they're finally getting the goaltending they expected from Mike Smith. Thrust back into the starter's role by the trade of Devan Dubnyk, the veteran keeper has responded with his best regular season hockey in years, posting save percentages of .910 or better in six of his past seven appearances. That 40-save effort against Chicago on Monday night reminded everyone that Smith's still got something left to give.