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  • How much should we buy into the hot streaks of Winnipeg and Calgary after seeing how quickly Buffalo came back down to earth a couple weeks ago?
By Jeremy Fuchs
December 18, 2018

This is a week of taking stock. How much do we put into the hot streaks in Winnipeg and Calgary? How much do we put in the cold streaks of Buffalo and Colorado? Is Anaheim for real? Can anyone catch Tampa Bay?

Guilty of putting too much into Buffalo's surge, we'll be cautious this week of Calgary and Winnipeg. But it's certainly possible both teams will be No. 2 and No. 3 in the next edition of these rankings.

31. Chicago Blackhawks | Record: 10–19–6 | Previous Ranking: 29

In 2014, the Blackhawks and the Kings played an electric Western Conference Final, a year after a terrific matchup in 2013. To see how far the two have fallen is pretty stark. Now without Corey Crawford, it doesn’t look like the Blackhawks’ will emerge from their slump anytime soon.

30. Los Angeles Kings | Record: 11–20–3 | Previous Ranking: 30

The Kings could essentially be tied with the Blackhawks in last, seeing as they lost all four of their games on a road trip last week and have just one win in December. 

29. St. Louis Blues | Record: 12–15–4 | Previous Ranking: 31

The Blues showed a lot in the 1–0 win over Winnipeg a couple of weeks ago, but then showed very little in the 7–2 loss to Calgary on Sunday.

28. New Jersey Devils | Record: 11–13–7 | Previous Ranking: 28

The Devils scrounged up a comeback win against Vegas and got a point in a shootout loss to Nashville, but the core struggles are still evident. Everyone except Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier should be on the market.

27. Florida Panthers | Record: 12–13–6 | Previous Ranking: 24

It's been a struggle for the Panthers, and the schedule certainly isn't light this week as they head to Buffalo and Toronto.

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26. Philadelphia Flyers | Record: 12–15–4 | Previous Ranking: 26

And the day has finally come: Dave Hakstol is gone. Now with a new GM and bench boss, the focus can switch to what's happening on the ice. Not that it would happen, but what do you think the Flyers could get for Claude Giroux?

25. Arizona Coyotes | Record: 14–16–2 | Previous Ranking: 23

The Yotes, who have lost five of their last six, are a different team without Antti Raanta. It's going to be a challenge for the rest of the year.

24. Ottawa Senators | Record: 5–16–4 | Previous Ranking: 25

An exciting overtime win against Nashville on Monday avenged a loss to the Predators last week. But as the struggles seem to continue as a whole, there's probably a number of trade candidates on the roster, from Mark Stone to Colin White and Chris Tierney.

23. Detroit Red Wings | Record: 14–15–5 | Previous Ranking: 22

Things seemed to turn around a bit in November for Detroit, but three straight losses last week weren't very promising for the Red Wings. 

22. Carolina Hurricanes | Record: 14–13–5 | Previous Ranking: 20

Rookie Andrei Svechnikov is coming on strong with five points in his last five games. He's going to be a stud for the Canes.

21. New York Rangers | Record: 14–13–5 | Previous Ranking: 19

It's been a tough December after a great November for the Rangers, who have lost five of their last six. But for a mediocre team, that's to be expected.

20. Vancouver Canucks | Record: 16–16–4 | Previous Ranking: 27

If the Canucks can ever get a defensive star to match the kids up front, watch out. Vancouver has rebounded a bit after a rough stretch, having won five of its last six games.

19. Pittsburgh Penguins | Record: 15–12–6 | Previous Ranking: 21

Matt Murray was fine in his return, an overtime victory over the Kings, but we'll wait for a much bigger test to truly judge, like Wednesday night at Washington.

18. New York Islanders | Record: 16–12–4 | Previous Ranking: 18

Before the Islanders' 4–0 win against the Avalanche on Monday, the last contender they beat was San Jose in the first week of the season. 

17. Dallas Stars | Record: 16–14–3 | Previous Ranking: 12

After a four-game winning streak, the Stars have found themselves on the other side of the spectrum with a three-game losing streak. 

16. Montreal Canadiens | Record: 17–12–5 | Previous Ranking: 16

The Canadiens looked to be picking it back up again, with wins in six of their last nine games, but a 4–0 loss to the Bruins on Monday showed a more sluggish team.

15. Columbus Blue Jackets | Record: 18–12–3 | Previous Ranking: 13

The combination of Artemi Panarin and Cam Atkinson is lethal. But after that duo and Pierre-Luc Dubois, there's just not enough offense for the Blue Jackets.

14. Minnesota Wild | Record: 17–13–2 | Previous Ranking: 11

After beating up on two mediocre teams in Montreal and Florida, the Wild hung tight against the Flames, but couldn't pull it out.

13. Vegas Golden Knights | Record: 19–15–2 | Previous Ranking: 15

Another one of the hottest teams in the league with 10 wins in 14 games, though those didn't come against anyone too impressive besides Washington.

12. Boston Bruins | Record: 18–12–4 | Previous Ranking: 14

Back-to-back losses against Pittsburgh and Buffalo, and you have to wonder if the deficit the Bruins built up is too much to overcome.

11. Edmonton Oilers | Record: 18–13–3 | Previous Ranking: 17

The Ken Hitchcock move is paying off with more consistent play. But losing Oscar Klefbom to injury is killer. 

10. San Jose Sharks | Record: 18–11–5 | Previous Ranking: 10

The Sharks are quietly starting to heat up these last couple weeks, with six wins in seven games. This is the contender we all looked forward to in the preseason. 

9. Anaheim Ducks | Record: 19–11–5 | Previous Ranking: 8

The Ducks are succeeding despite the odds, with nine wins in their last 10 games. Can they keep this up while being so banged up?

8. Colorado Avalanche | Record: 18–10–6 | Previous Ranking: 4

Colorado has proved to be an odd group, capable of blowing out opponents and then getting blown out. Would Alex Pietrangelo be a fit once he's healthy?

7. Buffalo Sabres | Record: 20–9–5 | Previous Ranking: 5

The good times were never going to last, but that streak is enough of a cushion to weather the hard times. Bouncing back after a tough loss against Washington with a win against Boston is nice.

6. Washington Capitals | Record: 20–9–3 | Previous Ranking: 9

The Caps are on fire right now, though it's worth noting they didn't play anyone tough until last Saturday against Buffalo, when Washington won in a shootout with Pheonix Copley in net. Alex Ovechkin having back-to-back hat tricks certainly seemed to help keep things going last week, as well. 

5. Calgary Flames | Record: 22–10–2 | Previous Ranking: 7

It's mostly been Mike Smith in net, and he's been very good. The Flames are winning shootouts and close games.

4. Winnipeg Jets | Record: 22–9–2 | Previous Ranking: 6

The Jets got an impressive win over Tampa Bay, ending the Lightning's eight-game winning streak. Outside of the Bolts, they're probably the hottest team in the league right now.

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3. Nashville Predators | Record: 22–10–2 | Previous Ranking: 3

Take away a tough West Coast swing, and the Preds have been very good of late.

2. Toronto Maple Leafs | Record: 21–10–2 | Previous Ranking: 2

Yes, it wasn't a pretty loss to Tampa Bay, but it did require a Herculean effort from Andrei Vasilevskiy. Toronto can hang with the Bolts.

1. Tampa Bay Lightning | Record: 25–7–2 | Previous Ranking: 1

Tampa Bay is the best team, and it's not even close right now. And yeah, Vasilevskiy sure looks healthy, doesn't he?

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