- While the Capitals seem to have found a cure for their Stanley Cup hangover, the surging Sabres are hanging close with the contenders at the top.
The best team in hockey is...Buffalo? After momentarily reaching the top spot in the standings last week, there’s no doubting the Sabres have climbed their way into the conversation. What's even more remarkable: Jack Eichel, though he has 28 points, has just five goals. If he starts scoring more, look out. It's a testament to the power of young stars. Eichel is 22; Jeff Skinner is only 26; Rasmus Dahlin is just 18. This could be a team in it for a long time.
31. Los Angeles Kings | Record: 8–14–1 | Previous Ranking: 31
The Kings have been dealt a bad hand in net, but there's just not much else positive going on here.
30. St. Louis Blues | Record: 8–11–3 | Previous Ranking: 30
The Blues might not be the only team to have allowed Patrik Laine to score five goals, but it's certainly not a good look for their defense. A win over the Predators last week was a sign of life, but the struggles still continue in St. Louis.
29. Florida Panthers | Record: 9–9–4 | Previous Ranking: 23
The boost from Roberto Luongo hasn't come, and now he might have some knee issues. Could be a lost season for the Panthers if they continue to spiral again.
28. Ottawa Senators | Record: 9–12–3 | Previous Ranking: 27
It's amazing the Sens survived Uber-gate as well as they did. Given the reports of turmoil in the locker room last year, the fact they haven't completely fallen apart is amazing.
27. Arizona Coyotes | Record: 9–11–2 | Previous Ranking: 26
A rough stretch this past week. It’s safe to consider Dylan Strome a bust with the trade to Chicago for Nick Schmaltz.
26. New Jersey Devils | Record: 9–10–4 | Previous Ranking: 29
Who's the goalie? Not sure it matters—neither Keith Kinkaid nor Cory Schneider is getting it done as the Devils are 1–2–3 in their last six.
25. Philadelphia Flyers | Record: 10–11–2 | Previous Ranking: 20
The need for a consistent goaltending solution becomes more evident by the game. Firing Ron Hextall could be a sign of more change to come.
24. Edmonton Oilers | Record: 10–11–2 | Previous Ranking: 17
Ken Hitchcock should bring structure and discipline to the squad. Managing that while letting Connor McDavid run free will be a challenge.
23. Chicago Blackhawks | Record: 9–10–5 | Previous Ranking: 22
The Jeremy Colliton era is off to a rocky start. But let's wait a bit more before judging.
22. Detroit Red Wings | Record: 10–11–3 | Previous Ranking: 24
The Red Wings have been competitive, but without the consistent results. Things are better in Detroit, at least from the start of the year.
21. Pittsburgh Penguins | Record: 9–8–5 | Previous Ranking: 25
Is it time for another in-season shakeup? That might be a bit premature, but it's certainly worked for the Penguins before.
20. Vegas Golden Knights | Record: 12–12–1 | Previous Ranking: 28
The Golden Knights are slowly starting to rise, having won four of their last five, but it may prove to be too little too late. There's a contender in there somewhere.
19. Vancouver Canucks | Record: 11–13–2 | Previous Ranking: 13
The Canucks are falling back to Earth, as expected. We might have to wait until next year for it to last.
18. Carolina Hurricanes | Record: 11–9–3 | Previous Ranking: 19
Carolina seems to play better under Curtis McElhinney—see his latest three-game winning streak. Might be worth switching to him long term?
17. Anaheim Ducks | Record: 10–10–5 | Previous Ranking: 21
Is there a market for Ryan Getzlaf? He's still playing well, but would Anaheim get rid of its longtime face of the franchise?
16. New York Rangers | Record: 13–10–2 | Previous Ranking: 15
Filip Chytil is on a role; Henrik Lundqvist is playing great. This is a team, this past weekend excluded, that's responding to David Quinn and playing accordingly.
15. Montreal Canadiens | Record: 11–8–5 | Previous Ranking: 12
Things are starting to fall apart, as evidenced by a four-game losing streak. This may be the return to the mean we expected for Montreal.
14. Dallas Stars | Record: 12–10–2 | Previous Ranking: 16
Anton Khudobin hasn't been good in net. Not a long-term solution for Dallas, which has dropped three of its last four games.
13. New York Islanders | Record: 12–9–2 | Previous Ranking: 14
Barry Trotz has been a godsend. In general, this is a team playing with far more defensive consistency and structure than last season.
12. Calgary Flames | Record: 14–9–1 | Previous Ranking: 11
The Flames have five players with 20 or more points. Only two other players have 10 or more. Is that a sustainable chasm?
11. San Jose Sharks | Record: 12–8–4 | Previous Ranking: 6
The early-season inconsistency is creeping back in; we know the talent is there. What's driving the inconsistency remains to be seen.
10. Columbus Blue Jackets | Record: 14–8–2 | Previous Ranking: 10
In the main, Sergei Bobrovsky has rounded back into form. Not perfect, but certainly better than the start of the year.
9. Winnipeg Jets | Record: 13–7–2 | Previous Ranking: 5
So Patrik Laine is back, huh? He continues this, and the Jets will be just fine.
8. Boston Bruins | Record: 13–7–4 | Previous Ranking: 7
Tuuka Rask has been good since his return. And Jaro Halak continues to play well. That's two dependable goalies for the long run.
7. Washington Capitals | Record: 14–7–3 | Previous Ranking: 18
Washington is starting to look more and more like last year's team, riding a six-game winning streak. Not a coincidence it has coincided with Tom Wilson's return.
6. Colorado Avalanche | Record: 13–6–1 | Previous Ranking: 8
Quietly, the Avs have recovered from their early November swoon; they're scoring in bunches again.
5. Minnesota Wild | Record: 14–7–1 | Previous Ranking: 4
The Wild pulled out an impressive 4–2 win against Winnipeg last week. Goalie Alex Stalock has shown he can carry this team for a bit.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs | Record: 17–8–1 | Previous Ranking: 3
A mid-week, two-game losing streak isn't much to worry about, especially since Toronto responded with a 6–0 blanking of the Flyers and a 4–2 win over Boston. The Leafs are just fine.
3. Nashville Predators | Record: 17–6–1 | Previous Ranking: 1
Nashville had a real bad loss against St. Louis after an impressive win against Tampa Bay. Can't win 'em all, though.
2. Buffalo Sabres | Record: 16–6–2 | Previous Ranking: 9
No one wants to play Buffalo right now. Great goaltending from Carter Hutton; the Jeff Skinner trade was a home run. Nothing, seemingly, can go wrong for the team that’s won nine straight.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning | Record: 17–6–1 | Previous Ranking: 2
Buffalo is undoubtedly the hottest team, but Tampa Bay has been steady all year long. And for that, we keep them at the top for now.