- The Lightning continue to look unstoppable, but Vegas, Pittsburgh and Calgary are all doing impressive things of their own.
Another week, another runaway top ranking for Tampa Bay. How do you stop this team? No one's quite figured it out. They've lost two in a row once—that was in November. The fact that Steven Stamkos is more than 20 points behind the team's leading scorer suggests he has another level to get to.
The one weakness that you could, maybe, argue is the bottom of the defensive core. But the top three—Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Anton Stralman—are so good, and will play major minutes come playoffs, so it might not matter what's going on at the bottom right now. Tampa Bay is far and away the best team in the league. Everyone else is playing catch up.
31. Ottawa Senators | Record: 15–23–5 | Previous Ranking: 27
This is closer to the team that we were expecting before the season started. Unfortunately for Ottawa, that isn't a good thing.
30. Los Angeles Kings | Record: 17–23–3 | Previous Ranking: 30
Even with the injuries, on the whole, the goaltending has bounced back in nice way.
29. St. Louis Blues | Record: 16–19–4 | Previous Ranking: 28
Ryan O'Reilly has been everything the Blues could've wanted and is currently on a five-game point streak. It's just the rest of the team that's been an issue.
28. Philadelphia Flyers | Record: 15–20–6 | Previous Ranking: 25
Okay, so Carter Hart might not be the savior just yet. But he's only 20. Give it some time.
27. Chicago Blackhawks | Record: 16–21–7 | Previous Ranking: 29
Patrick Kane's wonderful year is being lost in the rest of the turmoil in Chicago. But, as ever, he's playing great hockey and he had three assists when the team snapped the Penguin’s eight-game winning streak on Sunday.
26. Arizona Coyotes | Record: 18–21–3 | Previous Ranking: 26
Alex Galchenyuk hasn't been bad—he has seven goals and 14 assists—but to see the numbers that Max Domi is putting up in Montreal must make the Yotes pretty annoyed.
25. Detroit Red Wings | Record: 16–21–7 | Previous Ranking: 24
It's starting to become a race to the bottom for the Wings, and giving up a three-goal lead to Florida isn't exactly a good look. They held their own for a while against Washington on Sunday, but couldn’t finish the job.
24. Carolina Hurricanes | Record: 19–17–5 | Previous Ranking: 23
Justin Faulk has had a pretty underwhelming season, which kills his trade value. For that matter, everyone on the blue line has had underwhelming years. But four straight wins for the Canes has them (storm) surging for a bit.
23. New Jersey Devils | Record: 16–18–7 | Previous Ranking: 31
Mackenzie Blackwood was a second-round pick, so his play isn't that surprising. We'll see how long it lasts for the 22-year-old, though, who sat out of Sunday’s game with an injury.
22. Edmonton Oilers | Record: 20–19–3 | Previous Ranking: 17
It was a quick honeymoon with Ken Hitchcock. Will the relatively minor shakeups make things better? Not sure, but they have a couple wins to start off the new year after a rough ending to December.
21. Minnesota Wild | Record: 20–17–3 | Previous Ranking: 19
Two wins to start 2019, but things still seem shaky. Have to wonder—when does the sell-off come?
20. Florida Panthers | Record: 17–16–7 | Previous Ranking: 22
Getting some good performances of late from James Reimer. Interested to see what impact, if any, Chris Wideman has on defense.
19. New York Rangers | Record: 17–17–7 | Previous Ranking: 21
The win against Nashville, followed by nothing-burgers against Pittsburgh, Colorado and Arizona might say more about Nashville than it does about the Rangers.
18. Dallas Stars | Record: 22–17–4 | Previous Ranking: 20
The Stars have big problems off the ice now. Is the prelude to a fire sale?
17. Anaheim Ducks | Record: 19–17–7 | Previous Ranking: 15
Any good will the Ducks built up in late November and early December has been erased with their play during the end of the month. Their start to January hasn’t been so great either.
16. Colorado Avalanche | Record: 20–14–8 | Previous Ranking: 9
In this latest slump, it hasn't been the defense plaguing Colorado. The offense has hit a bit of wall. The Avs have no chance if the offense isn't humming.
15. Vancouver Canucks | Record: 20–21–4 | Previous Ranking: 18
Bad loss to New Jersey aside, the Canucks have risen from their mid-year slump to play at least close to the level they were at in the beginning of the season.
14. Montreal Canadiens | Record: 22–15–5 | Previous Ranking: 14
Losing a close game in Tampa Bay without Carey Price is an accomplishment itself. And now Price is back. Good news all around in Montreal.
13. New York Islanders | Record: 23–13–4 | Previous Ranking: 16
The Islanders turned to Robin Lehner and the results have been great, with impressive victories over Toronto and Buffalo. Looks like they'll ride him for the foreseeable future.
12. Buffalo Sabres | Record: 22–14–6 | Previous Ranking: 7
The winning streak that propelled them to the top of the league sure seems like a long time ago. This is still a young team. Patience is required.
11. Boston Bruins | Record: 24–14–4 | Previous Ranking: 12
Hopefully, the Winter Classic gave the broader hockey world a look at just how good David Pastrnak is. He doesn't get quite the publicity that other young stars get.
10. San Jose Sharks | Record: 23–13–7 | Previous Ranking: 10
Defense has been largely lacking in the last week or so, despite the offense keeping pace. Regardless, it’s been working as the Sharks have won four of their last five.
9. Columbus Blue Jackets | Record: 24–14–3 | Previous Ranking: 8
Another hot team, led by better (though still not his usual level) play from Sergei Bobrovsky.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins | Record: 23–13–6 | Previous Ranking: 13
Quietly, the Pens are back in the race. It's been good goaltending and a lot of good play from Phil Kessel.
7. Nashville Predators | Record: 25–15–3 | Previous Ranking: 6
The Preds broke out their late malaise with a nice win over Washington. But six straight losses before that is quite concerning.
6. Vegas Golden Knights | Record: 26–15–4 | Previous Ranking: 11
Good health has helped Vegas climb. So has beating up on the bottom rungs of the Pacific Division. But there was a reason the Golden Knights were the Cup finalists last year.
5. Washington Capitals | Record: 25–12–4 | Previous Ranking: 4
We can dismiss the slow start. This is a team to watch in the East. Looking like the juggernaut from the playoffs.
4. Calgary Flames | Record: 26–13–4 | Previous Ranking: 5
Wins against Winnipeg and San Jose were bookended by a few rough losses. It comes down to, as always, goaltending for the Flames.
3. Winnipeg Jets | Record: 26–13–2 | Previous Ranking: 2
The Jets got smoked by Calgary, the team right below them in the rankings. What gives? On the whole, Winnipeg has a better defense and goaltending situation.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs | Record: 27–12–2 | Previous Ranking: 3
Frederik Andersen's health is something to watch for. He's been lost in all the offense, but he's been quite good.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning | Record: 32–8–2 | Previous Ranking: 1
The Lightning are starting to look unstoppable. They entered the week 10 points ahead of the next best team. The runaway Presidents’ Trophy favorite.