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NHL Power Rankings: Dangerous Stars grab top spot for first time

Fast, exciting and dangerous, the Dallas Stars have risen to No. 1 in's weekly NHL Power Rankings.

After 24 games, it's time to give the Stars their due. This is a team that has put away its toys and buckled down to play the game the right way. Sure, they’re fast and exciting and dangerous, but they’ve also settled down and made a commitment to doing the little things that set the stage for long-term success. They know they can’t afford to take shortcuts—something they were reminded of by the Senators last week—and that’s brought a consistency to their game that hasn’t been seen in Dallas since the Ken Hitchcock days. You see that in their ability to protect leads—their bête noire last season—and their ability to maintain their focus when they fall behind. And the results are undeniable: a league-high 19 wins, a remarkable 10-2 record on the road, and a perfect 3-0 mark in OT.

No doubt about it: Dallas is the best team in hockey right now.

Biggest jump: New York Islanders (18 to 12)

Biggest drop: Minnesota Wild (11 to 21)

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1. Dallas Stars


RECORD: 19-5-0

“Last year's effort, last year's results,” Lindy Ruff said after his Stars reverted to old habits in an embarrassing 7–4 loss to the Senators on Tuesday. The team clearly paid attention, returning to top form in wins over the Canucks and Wild during the weekend. Keep an eye on the Stars’ goaltending. With Kari Lehtonen (upper body) on IR, top prospect Jack Campbell could see some action between the pipes this week. Last week: 2-1-0

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2. Montreal Canadiens


RECORD: 18-4-3

The hockey gods are testing the resilience of the Canadiens. Carey Price is back on the shelf for six weeks after re-injuring his knee in Montreal’s big win over the Rangers on Wednesday, and Brendan Gallagher is out indefinitely after breaking several fingers while blocking a shot. As far as tests go, this is a tough one. Last week: 2-0-1

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3. Washington Capitals


RECORD: 17-5-1

Braden Holtby has insinuated himself into the Vezina Trophy picture, winning seven straight games to move into the league lead with 15 victories. The Caps have now won five straight and boast the league’s second-best goal differential at +24. Last week: 3-0-0

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4. New York Rangers


RECORD: 17-6-2

Tough week for the Blueshirts, who lost top center Derek Stepan for 4-6 weeks (broken ribs) and are waiting word on the condition of top-pair defenseman Kevin Klein after he strained his abdominals. The bigger issue: Their sloppy defensive play finally caught up to them, leading to a three-game losing streak that was snapped only when they were gifted a win by Carolina’s Cam Ward on Monday night. As Ryan McDonagh said, this team has some work to do. Last week: 1-3-0

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5. San Jose Sharks


RECORD: 14-9-0

They’ve won seven of eight and have the return of Logan Couture and Justin Braun to look forward to. It doesn’t say much for their farm system when they feel the need to sign UFA Dainius Zubrus, but the veteran brings some skill as a decent fourth-line stop-gap. Last week: 1-1-0

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6. St. Louis Blues


RECORD: 15-6-3

Talk about clutch: Of Vladimir Tarasenko’s 14 goals this season, seven have broken a tie, while five others, including his tally on Saturday against the Blue Jackets, provided the equalizer for the Blues. Last week: 1-0-1

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7. Los Angeles Kings


RECORD: 14-8-1

This team has too much talent to go through a schedule like it just played in November and come out of it only 7-5-1. There are signs of life, though, from Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik (who scored a pair in a come-from-behind win over the hated Blackhawks) suggesting a better month may lie ahead. Last week: 1-0-1

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8. Chicago Blackhawks


RECORD: 13-8-3

After a dodgy start to their annual circus trip, the Hawks recovered to claim five of six points in California. Can’t say enough about the play of Patrick Kane who had five points this week and has now scored in 19 straight, a record for American-born players. Last week: 2-0-1

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9. Boston Bruins


RECORD: 13-8-1

The B’s have strung together five consecutive wins, and seven in their past nine, to move back into playoff position. Have to wonder, though, if they can keep this up when their top-ranked power play inevitably cools off. Boston has scored 30.6% of its goals on the PP, second-most in the league. The B’s need to make more hay at even strength. Last week: 2-0-0

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10. Ottawa Senators


RECORD: 12-6-5

Mike Hoffman’s got the hot stick of late, tickling the twine six times in his past six games including a pair in Sunday’s 4–3 loss to the Coyotes. That gives him 10 on the season, putting the sophomore on pace to top last season’s 27-goal, 48-point performance. Last week: 2-1-0

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11. arizona Coyotes


RECORD: 13-9-1

How’s this for a surprising turnaround: After going 5-5-1 in October the Coyotes went 8-4 in November. They not only are in playoff position, they have pulled to within two points of first place in the Pacific Division. Congrats to coach Dave Tippett for earning his 500th career victory. He’s done a nice job molding this odd mix of young and old talent into a contender, and deserves Jack Adams consideration. Last week: 3-0-0

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12. New York Islanders


RECORD: 13-8-4

Not many people paid attention when the Isles signed Thomas Greiss in the off-season, but the backup tender has been a great addition. He picked up a pair of wins last week to move to 7-3-2 on the season with a solid .925 save percentage. Last week: 3-0-1

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13. Detroit Red Wings


RECORD: 12-8-4

Detroit has gone to OT in four straight and six of its past seven games. Nice that they’re collecting points, but the Wings have been outscored 6-0 in the third periods of those six contests. That inability to hold onto a lead is going to come back to haunt them. Last week: 1-0-2

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14. New Jersey Devils


RECORD: 12-9-2

Banking three of four points from a weekend home-and-home against the Canadiens is something to be proud of, but if the Devils are going to make the playoff cut they have to consistently beat the teams they’re supposed to beat ... and that’s not been happening. They’ve dropped three of their past four against clubs that missed the playoffs last season, including a listless 2–1 loss to the Blue Jackets last Wednesday. Last week: 1-1-1

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15. Pittsburgh Penguins


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RECORD: 13-8-2

It’s no fun dogpiling on Sidney Crosby, especially when he’s on a season-best five-game point streak. But he has just two even-strength points in his past eight games and when you see this team giving away points in extra time to squads like Columbus and Edmonton you have to wonder how many more the Pens will lose while he tries to get his game in order. Last week: 1-0-2

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16. Columbus Blue Jackets


RECORD: 10-15-0

Go figure: After starting the season 2-10, the Jackets just rang up their most successful November in franchise history by winning eight games. Their recommitment to defensive hockey has been key—Columbus has allowed just 14 goals over its past nine games, an average of 1.56 per. Last week: 2-1-0

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17. Nashville Predators


RECORD: 12-7-4

Their 11-3-3 start seems like ancient history, doesn't it? Nashville has now dropped five of six, scoring just six goals in the process. How much longer can GM David Poile wait to address that deep hole at center? Last week: 1-1-1

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18. Tampa Bay Lightning


RECORD: 11-11-3

The Bolts continue to have a tough time with injuries. Tyler Johnson was back on the sidelines just days after returning from a previous injury (the two are said to be unrelated), while Ondrej Palat's lower body rehab has lingered past the original estimation of three weeks. Probably best not to expect too much of a team that’s missing two-thirds of its best line from last season. Last week: 1-2-0

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19. Toronto Maple Leafs


RECORD: 8-11-5

It’s one thing to make franchise history. It’s something else entirely when that history is made with an Original 6 team. Congrats then to Garret Sparks, who became the first Maple Leaf to ever record a shutout in his NHL debut. Sparks made 24 stops in a 3–0 win over the Oilers on Monday night and made things a whole lot more interesting in Toronto. Last week: 2-2-0

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20. Anaheim Ducks


RECORD: 9-11-5

Don’t call it a comeback, but an 8-4-3 November has to feel pretty good for a Ducks team that dug itself a deep hole with a 1-7-2 October. Ryan Getzlaf seems to have found his form, recording nine assists in his past six games including five helpers in a 5–3 win over the Flames on Tuesday. Last week: 2-1-1

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21. Minnesota Wild


RECORD: 11-7-4

The Wild have dropped three straight and six of their past seven games. Coach Mike Yeo is blasting the team’s performance. Captain Ryan Suter is complaining about his defense partner. Sounds like things are coming to a boil in Minnesota. Last week: 0-2-1

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22. Florida Panthers


RECORD: 10-9-4

Do the Panthers have a monopoly on crazy shootouts? Just a year after taking part in a record-setting 20-round skills session win over the Capitals, Florida again came out on top after nine consecutive shooters scored in Friday’s 3–2 win over the Islanders. Last week: 2-0-0

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23. Buffalo Sabres


RECORD: 10-12-2

Netminder Chad Johnson came up big for Buffalo over the weekend, allowing just one goal each in consecutive wins over the Hurricanes and Predators. He ended up 3-1-1 in seven appearances in November with a sizzling .954 save percentage. Last week: 2-1-0

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24. Colorado Avalanche


RECORD: 9-14-1

The Avs continue to lose ground in the West, dropping five of seven, but at least Matt Duchene has found his game. The top line winger was named the NHL’s Third Star of the Month after recording 11 goals and 20 points in 14 November games. Last week: 1-2-0

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25. Philadelphia Flyers


RECORD: 9-10-5

As wheels-off as the Flyers have been offensively so far this season, they’ve always been able to count on some excellent goaltending. Both Steve Mason (.944) and Michal Neuvirth (.943) rank among the league’s top five in adjusted save percentage. Last week: 2-1-0

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26. Winnipeg Jets


RECORD: 11-12-2

It’s not just that they had four wins to show for 14 November games. It’s that the Jets played seven of those contests against Central Division opponents and managed just one victory. Winnipeg is now 3-7 against their own this season. That’s gonna leave a dark mark. Last week: 1-2-0

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27. Vancouver Canucks


RECORD: 9-9-7

What’s gone wrong with Vancouver’s penalty kill? A unit that ranked second last season at 85.7% has fallen to 24th at just 77.2% after allowing 10 goals in its past 33 times shorthanded. Brandon Sutter can’t return to the lineup fast enough. Last week: 1-2-0

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28. Carolina Hurricanes


RECORD: 8-12-4

They’re not going to win many when netminder Cam Ward is playing like this. He cost his team a very winnable game against the Rangers on Monday night and now has allowed seven goals on the past 29 shots he’s faced (.759 save percentage). Last week: 1-2-0

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29. Calgary Flames


RECORD: 8-14-2

The Flames can’t fix all their problems overnight, but they might want to start by taking a look at their penalty kill. After allowing four goals on just seven chances last week—two tallies each in losses to Anaheim and San Jose—Calgary now “boasts” the worst PK in the league at a miserable 70.8%. Last week: 0-2-1

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30. Edmonton Oilers


RECORD: 8-15-2

Man, this is a miserable team, every bit as bad as its league-worst 8-15-2 mark would suggest. And no one should be surprised by that. Yet another tandem of recycled backup netminders and the shallowest defense corps in the league tend to make for a lousy foundation. That said, there’s no reason for panic in Edmonton. Connor McDavid (broken clavicle) is healing quicker than expected, Leon Draisaitl has been brilliant and Darnell Nurse is paying his dues. Yeah, it's exhausting but it's all part of the process. Last week: 1-2-1