The NHL’s holiday break has come to a close, but nothing is set—yet. Last season, the Hurricanes had the league’s eighth-worst record after Christmas, St. Louis was only starting to climb out of the cellar, Boston was fifth in the East and Winnipeg topped the West. With teams about to embark on the second half of the season and 2020 approaching, here’s how we see team’s stacking up this week:
31. Detroit Red Wings | 9-26-3 | Previous Ranking: 31
The Red Wings rank last in goals for, goals against, penalty killing and shot attempts for per 60 minutes. That’s next-level tanking. Detroit is on pace for the worst goal differential (-146) since the 1999–00 Atlanta Thrashers.
30. New Jersey Devils | 12-19-5 | Previous Ranking: 30
Trading Taylor Hall officially waved the white flag on this season, but at least the Devils created some joy ahead of the holidays by trouncing the Blackhawks 7–1. Still, New Jersey has lost nine of its last 12 games and rank among the league’s worst teams in generating shots and scoring chances.
29. Los Angeles Kings | 15-20-4 | Previous Ranking: 29
The Kings went on a six-game road trip—where they had the league’s worst record—and went 3-1-2, scored three goals per game and picked up a win against the Bruins. L.A. is in full rebuild mode, but at least all-decade lists will gin up happy memories from the team’s championship years.
28. Anaheim Ducks | 15-18-4 | Previous Ranking: 26
The Ducks tried to land on the nice list with a 6–5 win against the Islanders, but lost in a blowout to the Rangers with several players out. Anaheim has slowly started to rev up its offense but has nothing to show for it with a 3-6-0 record in its last nine games.
27. Chicago Blackhawks | 15-17-6 | Previous Ranking: 25
Chicago reeled off four unanswered goals to comeback from a two-goal deficit and beat the Avalanche, on the road, behind one of Kirby Dach’s best games of his rookie season. The Blackhawks haven’t had trouble proving they are are far from a playoff team this year, but the team has at least given hope there won’t be a lengthy rebuilding period.
26. Ottawa Senators | 16-18-4 | Previous Ranking: 27
Defenseman Thomas Chabot logged 33-plus minutes in three consecutive games, which should count as some type of malpractice with the Sens in a non-playoff situation. Ottawa has scrounged points in seven of its last eight games while Anthony Duclair, Tyler Ennis & Co. continue to find the scoresheet.
25. New York Rangers | 17-15-4 | Previous Ranking: 24
With points in six of his last eight games, Chris Kreider has been playing well enough to up his trade value if the Rangers part ways with the eight-year veteran at the deadline. Former first-round picks Filip Chytil and Brett Howden have performed well enough while the odd one of the bunch, Lias Andersson, demands a trade out of NY.
24. San Jose Sharks | 16-20-2 | Previous Ranking: 22
New coach, same problems: The Sharks have allowed at least 44 shot attempts in four of interim coach Bob Boughner’s first five games, while displaying an aversion to playing a complete 60 minutes. It’s going to sink in at some point that the Sharks are close to missing the playoffs for the third time in the last 22 seasons.
23. Columbus Blue Jackets | 17-14-6 | Previous Ranking: 28
Here’s something to ease John Tortorella’s blood pressure through the holidays: the Blue Jackets notched a five-game winning streak, despite losing multiple players to injury. Columbus has been effective at limiting teams’ scoring chances (it ranks second and fifth in shots against and high danger attempts against allowed per game, respectively), giving way to more than a few wins when the team’s offense decides to do something.
22. Minnesota Wild | 18-15-5 | Previous Ranking: 21
The Wild went on a goal-scoring bonanza in a 8–5 defeat of the Coyotes, tying the franchise single-game goal record, but returned home and dropped a goose egg in a 6–0 loss to the Jets. Since Dec. 3, Minnesota has as many power-play goals for as short-handed goals against, which generally isn’t a good thing.
21. Buffalo Sabres | 17-14-7 | Previous Ranking: 20
After a three-game losing skid, the Sabres bounced back with a 3–2 win against the Kings. Linus Ullmark has provided solid goaltending but Carter Hutton has a 0-4-3 record, .855 save percentage and 4.72 goals against average in his last seven starts, giving the Sabres close to no room for error.
20. Florida Panthers | 18-13-5 | Previous Ranking: 17
Who needs a $70 million goalie when there’s one playing well for a 50th of the price? Backup Chris Driedger has a .948 save percentage and 1.68 goals against average in three starts this season. Bobrovsky had played much better in December, but he surrendered six goals in a 6–1 loss to the Lightning and tied Martin Jones as the only netminders to give up four goals 12 times this season.
19. Vancouver Canucks | 19-15-4 | Previous Ranking: 19
Alex Edler and Thatcher Demko have returned from injury, giving the Canucks a slight reprieve heading into the New Year. After a shaky November, Vancouver has stabilized and is now currently on a three-game winning streak with wins against the Knights, Penguins and Oilers.
18. Montreal Canadiens | 18-13-6 | Previous Ranking: 23
The Canadiens have been good, not great through 37 games in the 2019–20 season. That wouldn’t ordinarily be a problem, but the Habs missed the playoffs with 96 points last year and are on pace for 93 this year. Montreal will end the year on a seven-game road trip, but it will at least play 14 of its next 21 at home and try to jump ahead.
17. Nashville Predators | 18-12-6 | Previous Ranking: 18
A turning point, maybe? The Predators notched a four-game point streak in an East Coast road trip, including a 4–3 overtime win against the Bruins. Roman Josi scored seven goals in his last five games after a 12-game scoring drought, and Pekka Rinne turned in back-to-back decent performances.
16. Edmonton Oilers | 20-16-4 | Previous Ranking: 10
After starting the year well in Edmonton, backup Mike Smith has regressed and posted a .839 save percentage and 4.49 goals against average in his last five appearances. Goaltending helped mask Edmonton’s deficiencies—depth scoring, an underperforming offense at even strength and an average blue line—but it has caught up now that Connor McDavid is in a mini “slump.”
15. Dallas Stars | 20-14-4 | Previous Ranking: 7
The Stars have sputtered since Jim Montgomery was fired and, for the second time this season, need things to turnaround, quick. Dallas has gone 1-3-0 in its last four with a 61% penalty kill. Take a step back further to just after the Stars’ 12-game point streak, and the team has gone 5-6-3 while being outscored 48–38 and outshot 445–396. That’s average. Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov are both on pace for their fewest goals as a Dallas Star.
14. Calgary Flames | 19-15-5 | Previous Ranking: 13
Since interim coach Geoff Ward slid Elias Lindholm to center and paired him with Matthew Tkachuk, the Flames own close to 60% of scoring chances when both players are on the ice. Mixing up the lines has helped, especially when Lindholm and Tkachuk combined for six points to help end a three-game losing streak.
13. Tampa Bay Lightning | 18-13-4 | Previous Ranking: 14
In Tampa Bay’s last 20 games, the team’s power play has been clicking and converting over 30% of its power-play chances. The Lightning have shown flashes of last season’s dominance, but they haven’t been consistent enough to turn that into long-lasting success.
12. Winnipeg Jets | 21-14-2 | Previous Ranking: 9
Blake Wheeler passed Ilya Kovalchuk as the Jets’ franchise points leader in a 6–0 win over the Wild. His two-point game, along with Connor Hellebuyck’s third shutout of the season, helped end a short losing streak. After playing the league’s second-easiest schedule, the Jets’ next 12 games are a buzzsaw, where they face: St. Louis (twice), Toronto (twice), Colorado, Boston, Vancouver, Tampa Bay, Nashville, Minnesota and Montreal.
11. Vegas Golden Knights | 20-14-6 | Previous Ranking: 12
Vegas’s team defense hasn’t been as stingy as the previous two seasons but at least Shea Theadore has stepped up with offensive contributions, tallying eight points in his last five games. The Golden Knights’ top two lines have been rolling and Vegas is gaining ground now that there’s stable backup goaltending.
10. Philadelphia Flyers | 21-11-5 | Previous Ranking: 16
The Flyers are up again, courtesy of back-to-back, two-goal games from James van Riemsdyk. He now has six in his last five games after scoring six in his first 31. Philadelphia has outscored its opponents 20–7 in its last four games and now owns the league’s second-best home record.
9. Arizona Coyotes | 21-14-4 | Previous Ranking: 8
The Coyotes forgot how to play defense, falling in a 8–5 loss to the Minnesota Wild. Other than that Arizona has been mostly good and Clayton Keller has been even better, collecting 13 points in his last 11 games. Something about Darcy Kuemper?
8. Toronto Maple Leafs | 20-14-4 | Previous Ranking: 15
Since Sheldon Keefe took over, the Leafs have compiled an 11-4-0 record, outscored opponents by a 60–41 margin, and have generated close to 10% more high danger attempts per game. The defense hasn’t been perfect, but at least Michael Hutchinson tallied the team’s first win for a goaltender not named Frederik Andersen.
7. Carolina Hurricanes | 22-13-2 | Previous Ranking: 6
Before Andrei Svechnikov pulled off the Michigan goal in October, no one had pulled it off in an NHL game. Well, Svechnikov did it again in a 6–3 win over the Jets. Hurricanes fans have a lot to be cheery about between that, Sebastian Aho playing The Elf on the Shelf and Carolina owning the league’s eighth-best record.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins | 21-11-4 | Previous Ranking: 7
With Brian Dumoulin and Justin Schultz both out with lower-body injuries, rookie defenseman John Marino has emerged and ascended to the team’s top pairing next to Kris Letang. Marino has more points than Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko, and he’s one of the many previously unknown names that have led the Penguins to a 7-2-0 record in December despite a flurry of injuries.
5. New York Islanders | 23-9-3 | Previous Ranking: 5
The Islanders allowed eight goals to the Predators, and then surrendered another six to the Ducks four nights later. That isn’t enough to cause panic as the Isles have scored 3.2 goals per game in December and have maintained its buzzing power play.
4. Boston Bruins | 22-7-9 | Previous Ranking: 2
The Bruins have lost eight of their last 10 games. That seems … not good? Boston got back on track with a 7–3 win over the Capitals but had a pair of injury scares with Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy exiting early.
3. Colorado Avalanche | 23-11-3 | Previous Ranking: 4
Heading into the New Year, the Avalanche should be fully healthy for the first time since the beginning of the season once Cale Makar returns. Colorado has been held together in part but tandem goaltender Pavel Francouz, who went 6-0-1 with a .942 save percentage across seven appearances in December.
2. St. Louis Blues | 24-8-6 | Previous Ranking: 3
Maybe no adversity is too much for the Blues? St. Louis is riding a six-game winning streak, outscoring opponents 24–11 along the way.
1. Washington Capitals | 26-7-5 | Previous Ranking: 1
The Capitals have won 10 of their last 13 games, and they have done that even though they’ve scored the second-fewest power-play goals in that span. The Caps have been the league’s unquestioned best team in the first three months of the 2019-20 season.