After a lot of the league's top teams provided uneven efforts two weeks ago, most of the usual suspects returned to form this week. The Vancouver Canucks, Anaheim Ducks, St. Louis Blues and Pittsburgh Penguins all put forth perfect weeks, but how much did it help them move up the power rankings?
The experts are back again to provide the answers. Voting this week are Adrian Dater, Jonathan Willis, Allan Mitchell, Lyle Richardson, Carol Schram, Rob Vollman and myself. The criteria remain the same, and the vote will focus heavily on performances in the last week, with the overall NHL standings only serving as an anchor for each team.
Did we get it right? Of course, we did. We're experts. But if you would like to voice displeasure in the comments or tell us what a great job we are doing, begin this slideshow and fire away in the comments when you're done.
Last week: 30
Recent Trend: You have to hand it to the Sabres—they may be careening toward one of the worst seasons in NHL history, but they are consistent. They've lost five of six, although they beat the Senators 2-1 in a shootout on Tuesday. Still, they haven't earned a regulation win in their past 12 contests.
Big Picture: It's a bleak picture. Barring something miraculous, the Sabres will likely be in the NHL's basement at season's end.
By the Numbers: They have just two wins in regulation this season. The 1974-75 Washington Capitals, the worst team in NHL history, had 21 points in 80 games. The Capitals won eight games—all in regulation, as there was no overtime then—which puts the Sabres on pace for the fewest regulation wins in NHL history.
Last week: 29
Recent Trend: The Islanders are giving the Sabres a run for their money for NHL's worst team of late. They have one win in their past 13 games, a 3-2 shootout victory on the road against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.
Big Picture: Competing in the Metropolitan Division means a team is never out of it, but the Islanders need to turn things around soon.
By the Numbers: The Islanders have been outshot in six of seven games in December. The biggest differential came in the only game they won this month, a 48-28 thrashing against the Sharks.
Last week: 27
Recent Trend: The Oilers lost their third in a row Sunday, falling 3-2 in Anaheim. They've scored four goals in their past three games after racking up 14 goals in three games prior to this losing skid. There's not much in the way of consistency with Edmonton.
Big Picture: There's nothing to see here this season for the Oilers. They're buried deep in the Western Conference and could have a chance at their fourth first-overall pick in five seasons if the lottery balls bounce their way.
By the Numbers: With 14 goals in 31 games, David Perron is well ahead of pace to reach his first 30-goal season. His career high came with the St. Louis Blues when he had 21 goals in 57 games during the 2011-12 season.
Last week: 19
Recent Trend: The Rangers snapped a four-game losing streak Sunday night with a 4-3 shootout win against the Flames. They rallied from a 2-0 deficit for the win. It was the fourth straight game they had fallen behind 2-0.
Big Picture: The victory Sunday launched the Rangers from seventh to fourth in the Metropolitan and within two points of a playoff spot. They have four games remaining on their season-long nine-game homestand.
By the Numbers: Since signing his seven-year contract extension two weeks ago, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has allowed three goals or more in five of his six starts.
Last week: 26
Recent Trend: They've won three of five, all by scores of 2-1, all in overtime. After a 4-3 shootout loss to the Rangers on Sunday night, the Flames are 2-0-1 since firing general manager Jay Feaster after less than three years on the job.
Big Picture: Despite the recent string of moderate success, the Flames will be contending for a top-five pick in next year's draft.
By the Numbers: Goaltender Karri Ramo has been sharp over his past five starts. He is 4-1-1 with a .940 percentage over that time.
Last week: 21
Recent Trend: The Jets had a real test of a week, facing the Blues, Stars and Avalanche in the cozy confines of MTS Centre in Winnipeg. The team failed miserably, going 0-2-1.
Big Picture: This team misses the East something fierce. Their 33 points have them last in the Central, but they would have the Jets right in the hunt for a playoff spot in the conference they left after last season.
By the Numbers: Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec is 2-6-2 in his past 10 starts and has allowed at least five goals in three of those starts. His five-year, $19.5 million contract runs through the 2016-17 season.
Last week: 23
Recent Trend: The Flyers have lost five of seven, but they may have suffered their most gut-wrenching loss of the season Sunday. Leading the Washington Capitals 4-1, they allowed three goals over the final 9:20 and let the game get to overtime. The Capitals would go on to win in a shootout.
Big Picture: Luckily for the Flyers, they are in the Metropolitan, which means they are in the playoff hunt. They have a rematch with the Caps on Tuesday and a home-and-home with the Columbus Blue Jackets this week, so they can gain ground really quickly.
By the Numbers: Flyers captain Claude Giroux scored his seventh goal of the season. The Flyers had been 6-0 in games in which he scored before the collapse.
Last week: 25
Recent Trend: Consistency has been an issue for the Senators all season, but they're showing signs they could be turning things around. They have picked up points in four of their past five games (2-1-2) to inch their way up the Atlantic Division standings.
Big Picture: They're not far off from a wild-card spot in the East. Six of their remaining eight games this month are at home. But six of those eight games are against teams with winning records.
By the Numbers: Goaltender Craig Anderson has been pulled three times this season. He was not removed from a game for ineffectiveness once last season.
Last week: 28
Recent trend: The Panthers have strung together some solid performances of late. They've won five of six, including a 2-1 road win against the Canadiens on Sunday.
Big picture: Despite the hot streak, they are still 10 points back of a playoff spot. They've got a three-game road swing to contend with this week, as they'll face the Leafs, Senators and Jets.
By the numbers: The Panthers have the 30th-ranked power play and 28th-ranked penalty kill. Their special teams have been plenty bad during this run: they are 0-for-16 on the power play and have killed just 13-of-19 penalties in their past six games.
Last week: 20
Recent Trend: The Devils had lost five of six before defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-0 on Saturday night. They have four wins in their past 12 games.
Big Picture: They were beginning to slip in the division before beating the Lightning. They will get three days off before a pair of home games with the Senators and Ducks this week.
By the Numbers: Goaltender Martin Brodeur made 33 saves in that win against the Lightning. It was the most saves Brodeur had made in a shutout since he stopped 51 shots against the New York Rangers on Jan. 12, 2010 at Madison Square Garden.
Last week: 16
Recent Trend: The Maple Leafs put the breaks on a free-fall with a convincing 7-3 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. Prior to the victory, they had lost three straight.
Big Picture: Despite the recent slide, the Leafs are still in control of the final wild-card spot in the East. The schedule softens a bit over the rest of the month, too, as they will play four of their next seven games against teams below them in the standings.
By the Numbers: The Leafs outshot two of their three opponents last week. They had previously outshot three teams all season.
Last week: 13
Recent Trend: It seems the slew of injuries that has befallen the Red Wings is finally catching up to them. They have lost five in a row and will be without goaltender Jimmy Howard (knee) for two to four weeks and center Stephen Weiss (groin) until at least after Christmas. Forward Johan Franzen also left Sunday's game against the Lightning after taking a hit to the head.
Big Picture: The good news for the Red Wings is they have banked enough points up until now to have a playoff position. Also, after they face Anaheim on Tuesday, four of their next five games are against nonplayoff clubs.
By the Numbers: The Red Wings are 5-8-6 at home. It's the worst home record for any team currently sitting in a playoff spot in the NHL.
Last week: 18
Recent Trend: The Hurricanes are really enjoying December. After going 1-0-2 last week, they are 4-2-2 this month.
Big Picture: Four wins in eight games may not sound like a hot streak worthy of mention, but it has pushed the Hurricanes into a playoff spot in the Metropolitan. They play three of their next four games at home after wrapping a four-game Western swing.
By the Numbers: The Hurricanes are 21-of-24 (87.5 percent) on the penalty kill this month, raising their season average to 81.4 percent, 17th in the NHL.
Last week: 22
Recent trend: Since starting goaltender and reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky went down with a groin injury last week, the Blue Jackets have been doing quite well. They are 3-1-1 in their past five games without Bobrovsky.
Big picture: The Blue Jackets are making a charge up the standings and are a stone's throw from third place in the Metropolitan Division. Four of their next five games are against teams within the division.
By the numbers: Ryan Johansen has 12 goals in 33 games while averaging 18:06 of ice time per game. Only Colorado's Matt Duchene (14 goals with 18:01 per game) has more goals with less average ice time than Johansen.
Last week: 24
Recent Trend: Last week could not have gone better for the Predators. They entered with five straight losses but earned victories against the Rangers, Stars and Sharks.
Big Picture: Despite the nice run of play last week, they are still quite the distance away from a playoff spot in the West. The fact they are in the brutally difficult Central Division does them no favors.
By the Numbers: Goaltender Carter Hutton won all three games last week and allowed a total of four goals in the victories. In his previous three starts, which took place in early November, he allowed a total of 14 goals.
Last week: 7
Recent Trend: The Canadiens have dropped three of four, including a lackluster 2-1 home loss to the Florida Panthers on Sunday. The offense has nearly gone dry, as they have scored a mere three goals in their past four games.
Big Picture: This little skid is nothing to get worried about just yet. The Canadiens have three tough Western Conference opponents (Phoenix, St. Louis, Nashville) on the docket this week, so things could get troublesome if they continue to stumble.
By the Numbers: The Canadiens will play their league-high 21st home game of the season on Tuesday. They will follow that with a six-game road trip.
Last week: 12
Recent Trend: The Stars continue to hover around .500. They defeated the Winnipeg Jets 6-4 on Saturday to improve to 3-2-2 in December.
Big Picture: Their 15-11-5 record would be something worthy of playoff contention in most years, but it has them well outside of the top eight in the West. Their one saving grace is while they are eight points behind the Wild for the final playoff spot, they have four games in hand.
By the Numbers: Tyler Seguin has been a pure binge scorer of late. He has been held without a goal in eight of his past 11 games, but he has scored four, three and two goals in the other three games.
Last week: 17
Recent Trend: The Capitals have won four of five and six of eight, helping them stake their claim to second place in the Metropolitan.
Big Picture: With three games this week against teams below them in the division, the Capitals can cement their No. 2 spot.
By the Numbers: Alex Ovechkin has 27 goals in 31 games. He can't score 50 goals in the season's first 50 games, as he missed two games with an upper-body injury. He could join Jari Kurri, Mario Lemieux, Cam Neely and Alexander Mogilny in the unofficial 50-in-50 club.
Last week: 10
Recent Trend: The Wild salvaged a tough week with a 2-1 comeback win against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday. They are 4-3-0 in their past seven games after losing four straight to close November.
Big Picture: They are clinging to a playoff spot in the West and will play four of their next five games on the road. The good news is three of those four teams (Flyers, Rangers, Jets) are below .500.
By the Numbers: The Wild have scored two goals or fewer in nine of their past 11 games. The futility has dropped them to 27th (2.20) in the NHL in goals per game.
Last week: 15
Recent Trend: The Lightning have been treading water since Steven Stamkos went down a broken leg last month. They went 2-1-1 last week and concluded it with a 3-0 loss in New Jersey on Saturday and a 3-0 win in Detroit on Sunday.
Big Picture: After a big win against the Red Wings, Tampa gets to face four nonplayoff teams in the next seven games. It's an opportunity to create some separation from teams nipping at their heels in the East.
By the Numbers: It took 33 days for Stamkos to go from broken leg in Boston to skating in New Jersey for the first time since the injury. It's about time we as a civilization asked Stamkos to donate his body to science to study its healing powers. Thirty-three days to heal from an injury like that is superhuman.
Last week: 14
Recent Trend: After jumping to a 14-4-3 start, the Coyotes have largely been playing .500 hockey. Their 2-1-0 week leaves them at 4-5-2 in their past 11 games.
Big Picture: Their record (18-9-5) is impressive by any measure, but it has them just outside of a playoff spot in the West. They Coyotes will look to make headway as they embark on a four-game Eastern trip that starts Tuesday in Montreal.
By the Numbers: The Coyotes have scored six goals in a game three times in 32 games this season. They had scored at least six goals in a game three times over 212 games the previous three seasons.
Last week: 9
Recent Trend: The Avalanche are living off their 14-2-0 start in a major way right now. They are 7-7-1 since setting the league on fire over their first 16 games and are 2-3-1 in December.
Big Picture: With the way the West is, the Avalanche can't play .500 hockey from here on out and make the playoffs. Their next six games include a home-and-home with Dallas and matchups with the Blackhawks, Sharks and Kings.
By the Numbers: The Avalanche are 0-of-26 on the power play in their past 10 games.
Last week: 5
Recent Trend: The Bruins were rolling along with five straight wins before they were bludgeoned 6-2 in Vancouver on Saturday. It was just their third regulation loss (10-3-1) in their past 14 games.
Big Picture: The Bruins are sitting atop the Eastern Conference and will likely be competing for the conference's top spot all season. Their next nine games are against teams currently outside of a playoff spot.
By the Numbers: Goaltender Tuukka Rask was pulled during the third period of the loss to the Canucks. It was the first time he was yanked from a contest since Feb. 8, 2012.
Last week: 3
Recent Trend: The Sharks have lost five of six, but they aren't exactly tanking. They've only been outshot once during tailspin and have fallen victim to some goaltenders standing on their heads.
Big Picture: It seems crazy to say about a team with a 20-7-6 mark, but if they lose a few more in a row, they could plummet from the playoff picture. But a three-game win streak could push them atop the Pacific Division. Such is life in the West.
By the Numbers: The Sharks have been dominant at home (11-1-1) but mediocre on the road (9-6-3). It's a trend to keep in mind as they visit St. Louis and Los Angeles this week.
Last week: 11
Recent Trend: The Canucks are the NHL's hottest team, having won seven straight by a combined score of 24-8. They defeated the Boston Bruins 6-2 on Saturday to complete a five-game homestand at 5-0.
Big Picture: What does a seven-game win streak in the Western Conference get you? It has pulled them from a team fighting for the final wild-card spot to a team with a small lead for the first wild-card spot.
By the Numbers: Not only are the Canucks perfect in December, but so is their penalty kill. They are 20-of-20 facing shorthanded situations this month.
Last week: 6
Recent Trend: Riddled with injuries to their blue line (Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi), the Penguins are 8-1 in their past nine contests. They won 4-1 in Detroit on Saturday without all four of their key defensemen and backup goaltender Jeff Zatkoff in net.
Big Picture: They will be the beneficiary of playing in the Metropolitan all season. They are just about a lock to win the division, so the question becomes if they'll finish with the conference's best record or not.
By the Numbers: Matt Niskanen, one of the few defensemen on this team who is healthy, has been steady this season. He averages fewer than 20 minutes per game, but played 29:26 in that win against the Red Wings, a career high.
Last week: 4
Recent Trend: The Ducks held off a feisty Oilers squad on Sunday night, earning a 3-2 victory to extend their winning streak to six games. They had lost eight of 11 prior to the streak but now are trying to chase down the Blackhawks for the top spot in the West.
Big Picture: The Ducks will head East to play their next four games on the road against the Red Wings, Devils, Islanders and Capitals. There's a decent chance the Ducks will return home from this trek winners of 10 straight.
By the Numbers: Teemu Selanne scored his fourth goal of the season Sunday. He had zero goals and one assist in his previous 19 games.
Last week: 8
Recent Trend: The Blues took care of business against inferior competition last week, earning wins against the Jets, Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets. The three victories improve them to 9-3-0 in their past 12 games.
Big Picture: The Blues are four points back of the Blackhawks for the best record in the NHL, but they have four games in hand on Chicago.
By the Numbers: Maybe Alexander Steen won't cool off completely this season. He has 22 goals in 31 games, but only two in his past seven games, which is still a very respectable pace.
Last week: 1
Recent Trend: The Kings had their six-game winning streak snapped in Chicago on Sunday, losing 3-1 to the Blackhawks in the week's marquee matchup. It was just their second regulation loss in 19 games, and all but three have been played without No. 1 goaltender Jonathan Quick.
Big Picture: They continue to push the Anaheim Ducks for first place in the Pacific Division and have a great chance at taking over the top spot this week. They begin a four-game homestand Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers.
By the Numbers: The three goals scored by the Blackhawks on Sunday snapped the Kings' streak of eight straight games of allowing two goals or fewer.
Last week: 2
Recent Trend: A hiccup in Toronto is the Blackhawks' only blemish in their last five games, which have been otherwise superb. They snapped the Kings' six-game winning streak Sunday with a 3-1 victory and have outscored opponents 22-7 in their past four wins.
Big Picture: They continue to hold the top spot in the league standings with a 24-7-5 mark and 53 points. The only question for the Blackhawks is if they can win the Presidents' Trophy for the second season in a row.
By the Numbers: The Blackhawks have 94 even-strength goals this season. That's more than the total goals for 21 teams.