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NHL Power Rankings: Capitals reclaim top spot as Blackhawks sputter

A lethargic week by the Chicago Blackhawks opened the door for the Washington Capitals to retake the top spot in's NHL Week 16 Power Rankings.

The final Power Rankings before the All-Star break features six teams that missed the playoffs last season among the top 10, which begs a question: Which of them are legit? It’s clear that the Kings have the high-end talent, the experience and the depth to make a serious Stanley Cup run, but the others are still touch-and-go to earn a postseason berth. Even the Panthers, the NHL’s most pleasant surprise over the past six weeks, might be missing a couple of key pieces. With a couple of days off, its time for these clubs to take stock of themselves and decide whether they’ll go all-in ahead of next month’s trade deadline.

Biggest jump: New Jersey Devils (22 to 9)

Biggest drop: Dallas Stars (10 to 16); Minnesota Wild (18 to 24)

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1. Washington Capitals


RECORD: 35-8-3

The record-setting snowstorm curtailed their week, but not before the Caps improved their January mark to 7-1-1 with a win over the Blue Jackets on Tuesday. Evgeny Kuznetsov had four apples in that one, and now leads the league with 28 primary assists. Explain to me why he is not an All-Star. Last week: 1-0-0

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2. Chicago Blackhawks


RECORD: 33-15-4

The Hawks look like a team that has hit the wall after back-to-back losses in the Sunshine State and a listless performance against the Blues. Corey Crawford managed to steal that one with his league-leading seventh shutout of the season, but it feels like the All-Star break can’t come soon enough for these guys. Last week: 2-2-0

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3. Los Angeles Kings


RECORD: 30-15-3

The Vincent Lecavalier deal is paying quick dividends for the Kings. The veteran center has three goals in five games, including a last-second equalizer against the Sharks on Sunday that sparked a 3–2 Los Angeles win in OT. That was their 30th W of the season, the fastest they’ve reached that mark (48 games) in franchise history. Last week: 2-2-0

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4. Tampa Bay Lightning


RECORD: 26-18-4

Their seven-game winning streak fell one shy of their franchise record thanks to a tepid performance against the Panthers, but the Bolts have moved past the distractions of Jonathan Drouin’s trade demand and Steven Stamkos’s contract situation and have their season back on track. Last week: 2-1-0

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5. San Jose Sharks


RECORD: 25-18-4

The Sharks are 7-0-2 in their last nine games, and finally seem to have found some traction at home, where they’re 4-0-2 in their past six games after starting the season 5-12-0 there. Joe Pavelski might be the best player no one talks about. The veteran center picked up his league-leading eighth game-winner on Saturday against Minnesota. Last week: 2-0-1

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6. Colorado Avalanche


RECORD: 26-21-3

The Avalanche have won four straight, but goaltender Semyon Varlamov has been doing all the heavy lifting. He’s allowed a single goal in each of his past four games, posting a hefty .972 save percentage in the process. Last week: 3-0-0

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7. Florida Panthers


RECORD: 28-15-5

The Panthers finally regained their footing after dropping four straight, knocking off last season’s Eastern Conference champions on back-to-back nights—the first time a team has done that since 1990-91. Roberto Luongo has now won seven straight at home, including four shutouts. That’s a first in franchise history. Last week: 2-0-0

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8. arizona Coyotes


RECORD: 24-19-5

The much-improved Yotes earned their 24th victory of the season on Monday night, equaling last year’s total, and with a win over the Jets on Tuesday night they’ll move to within one point of their 2014-15 output. Coach Dave Tippett tried to downplay the “low bar” but this team can head into the All-Star break proud of its start and primed for a fast finish. Last week: 2-1-0

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9. New Jersey Devils


RECORD: 25-19-5

If the Devils were planning on cashing in UFA-to-be Lee Stempniak, they might need to change their thinking. The veteran winger scored four times in three games to earn Second Star of the Week honors from the league, and helped drive New Jersey into a wild card spot. After ripping off four straight wins, the playoffs are a very real possibility. Last week: 3-0-0

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10. Pittsburgh Penguins


RECORD: 23-17-7

After struggling at home earlier this season, the Pens have taken points in seven straight (5-0-2) there after Saturday’s come-from-behind win over the Canucks at Consol. The problem is on the road, where they’ve won just one of their past five. Averaging two goals per game as a visitor won’t get it done. Last week: 2-0-0

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11. Detroit Red Wings


RECORD: 25-16-8

The Red Wings can’t seem to find their groove at the Joe, winning just once in their past eight home games (1-5-2), but Monday’s 4–2 victory over the Islanders in Brooklyn bumped them to 7-1 on the road in January. Several players attributed it to playing a simpler, less showy game. They’ll look to keep it going with two key games in Florida after the break. Last week: 2-2-0

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12. St. Louis Blues


RECORD: 28-16-8

The Blues are making up ground in the Central Division, thanks to the play of Brian Elliott. While the offense has sputtered, the backup keeper has posted a 1.48 goals-against average and a .955 save percentage in his past four starts. Last week: 1-1-0

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13. Anaheim Ducks


RECORD: 21-18-7

The Ducks have won four of their last five games to move back into playoff contention, and their offense seems to be clicking. Anaheim still ranks 30 in goals per game (2.02), but the Ducks have scored at least four goals in five of their past nine. Last week: 2-0-0

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14. Carolina Hurricanes


RECORD: 22-20-8

Eddie Lack has had his ups and downs this season, but after stopping 33 of 35 shots in Sunday’s 5–3 win over the Flames the backup is on a 7-3-2 run. He’s been a big part of an improving penalty kill, allowing just two goals while shorthanded during that 12-game span. Someone deserves a taco! Last week: 2-1-0

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15. New York Rangers


RECORD: 27-17-5

Hard to figure this team out. The Blueshirts manage to string together back-to-back wins for the first time since Thanksgiving, blow their chance to build a real streak with a listless 3–0 loss to the Senators on Sunday, and then survive a third-period meltdown to bounce back against the Sabres. You expect more from this group, but they actually might be nothing more than just another team. Last week: 3-1-0

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16. Dallas Stars


RECORD: 31-14-5

January couldn’t end soon enough for the slumping Stars, but at least they closed out this dismal 3-6-2 month with a 2–1 win over the Flames. Defenseman John Klingberg picked up an assist in that one, just his second in eight games. Hard to tell if he’s hit a wall or if teams have finally figured him out, but there’s not much of a gust behind his play of late. Last week: 2-2-0

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17. Boston Bruins


RECORD: 26-17-5

The B’s haven’t done much home cooking this season, winning just two of their past seven at TD Garden before Saturday’s 3–2 shootout victory over the Blue Jackets, and it could cost them. Just three Eastern teams have worse home records this season. That could be the difference between making the playoffs and teeing up the Top Flites in late April. Last week: 2-1-0

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18. Vancouver Canucks


RECORD: 20-18-11

The Canucks have been one of the season’s top shot-suppression teams, allowing just 28.4 per game on average, but their blueline has sprung a leak of late. Goalies Ryan Miller and Jakob Markstrom have faced an average of 39.1 over the team’s past six outings. All credit to them for Vancouver’s 3-2-1 run. Last week: 1-1-1

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19. New York Islanders


RECORD: 25-16-6

A 4-4-1 January allowed the Isles to keep pace in the Metro, and given how banged up their blue line corps is, maybe that’s all they could have hoped for. But didn’t we all expect a bit more spark from this team? Captain John Tavares may finally be emerging from his funk, with five points in his past six games, and 11 in his past 13, but only three goals. Last week: 1-1-0

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20. Nashville Predators


RECORD: 22-18-8

All-Star Game berth or not, netminder Pekka Rinne has had a rough go of it this season. Nice, then, to see him come up with a couple of solid performances against the Jets and Oilers over the weekend. Rinne stopped 49 of 51 shots and, despite the score, was the difference in Sunday’s 4–1 win over Edmonton. Last week: 2-1-0

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21. Philadelphia Flyers


RECORD: 20-18-8

If the Flyers were playing horseshoes or hand grenades they’d be doing swell, but close isn’t good enough in the tightly packed Eastern Conference. Each of their past five losses has been by a single goal, including all three games this past week. They have to quit giving away games in the third period. Last week: 0-3-0

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22. Calgary Flames


RECORD: 21-23-3

The Flames put up a solid effort in a 2–1 loss to Dallas on Monday night, but moral victories aren’t worth much in the standings these days. Their 2-5-1 stretch is a pretty fair indication of where this team’s at—not good enough, deep enough or experienced enough to mount a real playoff challenge. Last week: 1-3-0

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23. Ottawa Senators


RECORD: 23-20-6

Sunday’s shutout of the Rangers ended a six-game streak of allowing three-or-more goals. The Sens’ year-to-date average of 3.02 goals ranks 28th in the league. Their penalty kill has been a disaster with 40 goals allowed, the second most of any team. On the plus side, they lead the league in puppies per goal. Last week: 1-2-0

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24. Minnesota Wild


RECORD: 23-17-9

Is there anything more predictable in hockey than the Wild going into a January tailspin? Minnesota finished off its most miserable month 3-7-3, including an 0-3-2 mark at Xcel. This looks like a mentally fragile team right now, and one that might need a roster shakeup if things don’t change quickly after the break. Last week: 1-2-1

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25. Winnipeg Jets


RECORD: 21-24-3

Two wins in their past eight games. An offense that’s been held to a single goal in six of eight. Woof. Injuries are an issue, but come on. This team just isn’t good enough. Pressure’s all on GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to cash in his UFAs now. Last week: 0-2-0

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26. Columbus Blue Jackets


RECORD: 18-27-5

Despite posting just three wins in their past 10 games, there’s plenty of good news in Columbus. Rookie keeper Joonas Korpisalo is 3-0-1 in his past four starts, with a sizzling .957 save percentage. The young D tandem of Seth Jones and Ryan Murray is logging heavy minutes, putting up points and staying on the plus side of the ledger. And rookie winger Kerby Rychel is proving that he belongs, with six points in seven games since being recalled from AHL Lake Erie. The building blocks are in place. Last week: 1-2-1

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27. Toronto Maple Leafs


RECORD: 17-20-9

As bad as the Leafs were in Saturday’s 3–2 shootout loss to the Canadiens, there was one positive sign. Toronto’s forwards scored both goals in that sluggish effort, a big step up after they’d accounted for just five in the team’s previous seven contests. Last week: 1-1-1

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28. Buffalo Sabres


RECORD: 19-26-4

Nice to see Zemgus “The Latvian Locomotive” Girgensons back in the lineup and clicking with Jack Eichel on Monday night. The pair showed some real chemistry, counting for a pair of goals against the Rangers and making things happen all over the ice. They’ll be fun to watch in the second half even when the rest of the team isn’t. Last week: 0-3-0

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29. Edmonton Oilers


RECORD: 19-26-5

With losses in three straight, and 14 of their past 19, the Oilers may have dug themselves a hole they won’t be able to climb out of. At least when they try they’ll have Connor McDavid back in the lineup. The top pick is skating with AHL Bakersfield this week and is expected to suit up for the big club after the All-Star break. Last week: 0-3-0

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30. Montreal Canadiens


RECORD: 24-21-4

They finally put an end to their five-game losing streak with a shootout win over the Leafs and had a chance to build on it with a stretch of six games against non-playoff teams. Instead, they got their doors blown off by the cellar-dwelling Jackets and head into the break wondering what it’s going to take to turn this thing around. Last week: 1-2-0