NHL Power Rankings: Capitals hold No. 1 as Oilers skyrocket

The young, rebuilding Oilers have surprised by catching fire and climbing 17 spots in SI.com’s Week 10 NHL Power Rankings.
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Mid-December is a long way removed from mid-April, but this is worth noting just the same: If the NHL season were to end today, the Edmonton Oilers would have earned a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Now, there’s every reason to believe that this remarkable situation—built on six consecutive wins and some dismal play from their Pacific Division bunkmates—won't last. The Oilers, as they proved while allowing 49 shots to Boston on Monday night, remain a deeply flawed team, especially in the defensive zone. But thanks to some remarkable goaltending from Cam Talbot and Anders Nilsson, and a deep and dangerous group of forwards, they're finding ways to win games they would have thrown away earlier in the season.

With their next three on the road, this streak will face a stiff challenge. But with only one playoff spot in the Pacific truly spoken for, and Connor McDavid's return just around the corner, Edmonton is getting closer to the point where it will have to be taken seriously.

Biggest jump: Edmonton Oilers (23 to 6)

Biggest drop: New York Rangers (12 to 21)

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1. Washington Capitals

PREVIOUS: 1

RECORD: 21-6-2

Braden Holtby is the best goalie in hockey right now. After making a season-high 44 stops in a 4–1 win over the Penguins on Monday night, he’s on an 11-0-1 tear during which he’s posted a 1.75 goals against average and .944 save percentage. As good as they are, there’s no way the Caps find themselves in first place in the East without him. Last week: 3-1-0

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2. New York Islanders

PREVIOUS: 6

RECORD: 18-8-5

Another nice week for the Isles, who rang up three divisional wins to extend their point streak to 10 games (8-0-2). Special teams have played a huge role in that success, with power play clicking at a sizzling 31.8% and the penalty kill getting it done 96.2% of the time over that stretch. Last week: 3-0-0

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3. Los Angeles Kings

PREVIOUS: 2

RECORD: 19-9-2

The Kings have dropped two straight after winning six in a row, but they were the better team in both losses, outshooting the Sabres and Senators by a combined 66-42 and dominating possession by a wide margin. Consider those games a minor hiccup for a team that looks as dangerous as any these days. Last week: 2-1-1

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4. Dallas Stars

PREVIOUS: 3

RECORD: 22-6-2

Last season’s Stars were not a good team. So when last season’s habits start creeping into their play, the results are predictable. They got way too loosey-goosey while nearly blowing a four-goal lead to the Hurricanes, and melted down against the physical challenge of the Blues. With some key divisional contests on the horizon, this team needs to find its focus. Last week: 2-1-0

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5. Chicago Blackhawks

PREVIOUS: 10

RECORD: 17-10-4

The latest reminder that Corey Crawford is, in fact, an elite NHL netminder: a four-game winning streak that includes back-to-back shutouts of the Jets and Canucks and a sizzling .984 save percentage. Tough to imagine Canada’s World Cup squad not including him among its three netminders. Last week: 3-1-0

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6. Edmonton Oilers

PREVIOUS: 23

RECORD: 14-15-2

They showed their youthful inexperience this past week, blowing third period leads to both the Bruins and Rangers, but the Oilers still found a way, stretching their unlikely winning streak to six games. Rookie Leon Draisaitl continues to impress, putting up eight points during that stretch, including four assists in the 7–5 win over New York. Last week: 3-0-0

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7. Minnesota Wild

PREVIOUS: 11

RECORD: 15-7-6

Smothering defense, and some dandy relief work by backup keeper Darcy Kuemper, helped the Wild extend their point streak to seven games (4-0-3). They’ve allowed just three regulation goals over their past six games, which sounds like a pretty good formula for piling up the points. Last week: 1-0-1

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8. Detroit Red Wings

PREVIOUS: 5

RECORD: 16-9-6

A loss to the Sabres Monday night ended Detroit's point streak at 13 games, but more importantly continued a troubling trend. Buffalo scored twice in the final five minutes to steal that one, making it nine times in the past 14 games that the Wings have coughed up a third-period lead. Coach Jeff Blashill pointed to a lack of confidence as the culprit. The pressure's on him to address that. Last week: 1-1-2

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9. Boston Bruins

PREVIOUS: 13

RECORD: 16-9-4

Monday’s frustrating loss to the Oilers emphasized a disturbing trend: the B’s just can’t get it done at home. That OT defeat dropped their mark at the TD Garden to 6-7-2 on the year, the worst home record of any team currently in the playoff mix in either conference. With five of their final seven December games there, now’s the time to address this matter. Last week: 2-0-1

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10. Montreal Canadiens

PREVIOUS: 4

RECORD: 20-8-3

The Habs put their four-game losing streak behind them with a 3–1 win over the Senators on Saturday. One of their best games in recent memory no doubt, but nowhere near as memorable as that Let It Go video. After watching that “tribute” you'll agree it's a good thing those guys know how to play hockey. Last week: 1-2-0

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11. Ottawa Senators

PREVIOUS: 7

RECORD: 16-10-5

Sure, their win over the Kings on Monday night added two big points to their total, but man, the Sens have been brutal these past two games. They allowed a franchise record 27 shots against the Habs in the first period of Saturday’s 3–1 loss, and then “bounced back” by allowing Los Angeles to dominate them for 60 minutes. Coach Dave Cameron needs to find a different button to push. Last week: 2-2-0

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12. Colorado Avalanche

PREVIOUS: 21

RECORD: 14-16-1

The Avs are the league’s worst possession team—by far—but Semyon Varlamov is bailing them out. Colorado’s keeper has allowed just seven goals over his past five games, stopping 160 of 167 shots for a .958 save percentage. Last week: 2-1-0

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13. Calgary Flames

PREVIOUS: 28

RECORD: 13-14-2

Is it time to start believing in the Flames? Sure, they almost gave away a game to the Rangers on Saturday, but they pulled it out in OT to make it a perfect 5-0 home stand and stretch their winning streak at the Saddledome to nine straight, one shy of the franchise record. Last week: 2-0-0

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14. New Jersey Devils

PREVIOUS: 8

RECORD: 15-11-4

The Devils had a five-game points streak snapped in Sunday’s 4–0 loss to the Islanders. Still, a 3-1-2 mark in their past six games has New Jersey in the hunt. Good to hear Adam Henrique wasn’t seriously injured last week and should be good to go against the Sabres on Tuesday. Last week: 1-1-1

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15. Tampa Bay Lightning

PREVIOUS: 15

RECORD: 15-13-3

Even with Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin, Cedric Paquette, Erik Condra and Joel Vermin on the sidelines, and Steven Stamkos mired in a career-worst nine-game goal drought, the Bolts have managed to win four of their past six games and creep closer to the wild card peloton. Last week: 2-1-0

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16. Florida Panthers

PREVIOUS: 9

RECORD: 14-12-4

The flu hit the Panthers hard last week, and may have cost them their chance to knock off the Bruins and move into a playoff position on Saturday. It's a reasonable excuse, but for a team that is operating with a thin margin of error, this one might come back to haunt them. Last week: 1-2-0

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17. St. Louis Blues

PREVIOUS: 17

RECORD: 17-10-4

A 2-3 record was not what this team was expecting out of a five-game home stand, especially when those losses came at the hands of Toronto, Philadelphia and Colorado. When inconsistency becomes a team’s trademark, it’s only a matter of time before something changes. Last week: 2-2-0

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18. Pittsburgh Penguins

PREVIOUS: 19

RECORD: 15-11-3

Busy week for the Pens, who said goodbye to veteran winger Pascal Dupuis and head coach Mike Johnston before swapping defenseman Rob Scuderi to Chicago for Trevor Daley. The latter’s puck skills should mesh nicely with the more aggressive coaching stylings of new man Mike Sullivan. Last week: 1-1-1

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19. Carolina Hurricanes

PREVIOUS: 26

RECORD: 12-14-4

What a couple of weeks for the Canes, who have won four of five and almost pulled off the comeback of the season after falling behind 4–0 in the first period in Dallas. The offense has come up big, scoring five or more goals in four consecutive games for first time since 1987, as per Elias. Last week: 2-1-0

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20. Nashville Predators

PREVIOUS: 14

RECORD: 15-10-5

The Preds are treading water and this time it’s not the forwards who are to blame. Pekka Rinne is just 2-6-2 in his past 10 games. He’s allowed three or more goals in seven of them while posting a dismal .884 save percentage. Is age finally starting to catch up to the 33-year-old? Last week: 1-2-0

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21. New York Rangers

PREVIOUS: 12

RECORD: 18-9-4

Looks like the sins of the past have caught up to the Rangers. New York has been sloppy with the puck all season, but some spectacular goaltending by Henrik Lundqvist glossed it over early on. Now the Rangers are spending even more time chasing the play (27th in puck possession, according to War-On-Ice.com), and it's killing them. They've dropped four of five and eight of their past 10. Last week: 0-2-1

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22. Philadelphia Flyers

PREVIOUS: 24

RECORD: 12-12-6

While Michal Neuvirth and Steve Mason spin magic between the pipes, the league's 29th-ranked offense keeps the Flyers mired in mediocrity. If someone other than Claude Giroux started delivering, this team might actually make some noise. Last week: 1-1-1

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23. Buffalo Sabres

PREVIOUS: 27

RECORD: 13-15-3

Just call ’em the Spoilers. Buffalo snapped Los Angeles’s six-game winning streak with a 2–1 overtime triumph on Saturday and then ended Detroit’s 13-game point streak with a come-from-behind 2–1 victory on Monday. Ryan O'Reilly continued his team MVP season, scoring in both. Last week: 2-1-0

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24. Toronto Maple Leafs

PREVIOUS: 20

RECORD: 10-13-5

With a week between games, the biggest story in Toronto was the news of an impending logo change. That’s one way to sell a bunch of jerseys. Another way: sign Steven Stamkos this summer. Last week: 1-0-0

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25. Anaheim Ducks

PREVIOUS: 18

RECORD: 11-13-5

So much for the benefits of practice time. Despite having five days between games, the Ducks laid a massive egg in their lone game of the week, a 5–1 rout at the hands of the Canes. Rumors were swirling Saturday morning that coach Bruce Boudreau was on his way out, but he survived ... for now. The four-game road trip that kicks off Thursday in Buffalo could be his Waterloo. Last week: 0-1-0

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26. Winnipeg Jets

PREVIOUS: 25

RECORD: 14-14-2

So, pending free agents Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Jacob Trouba are reportedly asking for a combined $152 million to extend their contracts, eh? Sounds like GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has some tough decisions ahead, especially with regards to RFA Trouba and his aggressive eight-year, $56 million ask. Last week: 1-1-0

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27. San Jose Sharks

PREVIOUS: 16

RECORD: 14-14-1

Their five-game road trip that kicks off Tuesday night in Montreal might be exactly what this team needs to break out of a brutal six-game losing skid. The last time the Sharks went East they won six straight and reeled in a franchise record. They could use another round of that mojo. Last week: 0-2-1

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28. arizona Coyotes

PREVIOUS: 29

RECORD: 14-14-2

They finally snapped their five-game losing skid with a 2–1 OT win over the Wild, but coughed up five the next night to Carolina to drop another one. And they’re still somehow in second place in the Pacific. Last week: 1-1-1

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29. Vancouver Canucks

PREVIOUS: 30

RECORD: 11-12-8

Thank heavens for the loser point, eh? Even after dropping a league-worst eight games in OT or the shootout, the Canucks have collected enough scraps to still own a share of second place in the Pacific. For now. Last week: 1-1-0

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30. Columbus Blue Jackets

PREVIOUS: 22

RECORD: 11-18-3

With just one win in their past eight, the Jackets are now the leaders in the Auston Matthews sweepstakes. To their credit, though, the defense has toughened up a bit in the absence of Sergei Bobrovsky, allowing two goals or fewer in regulation in six of their past seven. Last week: 0-2-2