NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 15 Poll

Jonathan Willis@jonathanwillisNHL National ColumnistJanuary 6, 2014

NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 15 Poll

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    The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks took the top spot in last week's power rankings, but they're facing tough competition this week and are one of three clubs vying for first overall in the NHL. Can they hang on? Who might displace them? And where does everyone else fit in?

    Our panel is back again to provide the answers. Voting this week are Adrian DaterDave LozoAllan MitchellLyle RichardsonCarol SchramRob 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 point for each team.

    Read on to see where every NHL team ranks this week. 

30. Calgary Flames

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    Brad Watson/Getty Images

    Last Week: 30

    Recent Trend: Losses and lots of them. The Flames have not won a game in regulation going back to December 4, and they have lost four contests in a row. 

    Big Picture: It used to be that the Edmonton Oilers were all alone at the bottom of the Western Conference, but the Flames' rapid fall has them mired in 13th, which not only isn't far in front of their provincial rivals but puts them well back of everybody else. 

    By the Numbers: Sean Monahan scored a goal against Philadelphia on December 31; it is his only point in the last eight games. Since scoring six goals and nine points in his first eight games with the Flames to earn a stay in the NHL, Monahan has only five goals and eight points in his last 26 contests.       

29. Edmonton Oilers

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    Last Week: 29

    Recent Trend: A win over the Lightning on Sunday brought a four-game losing streak to a close. Unfortunately, the Oilers' next two games are against St. Louis and Pittsburgh before the team embarks on a four-game road swing, so the joy may be short-lived. 

    Big Picture: The Oilers still hold down last place in the West and 29th in the NHL but are now only one point behind Calgary and two back of the Islanders, so they may yet make some (embarrassingly modest) progress in the standings. 

    By the Numbers: First-year NHL'er Martin Marincin played 17:14 against the Lightning, the highest total in seven games to date this season. Recalled from Edmonton's AHL affiliate, Marincin has worked his way up to the second pairing of the Oilers' weak defensive depth chart and hasn't looked out of place there. 

28. Buffalo Sabres

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    Last Week: 27

    Recent Trend: The Sabres have been roughly 0.500 of late and a true 0.500; in the team's last 10 games it has a 5-3-2 record. 

    Big Picture: In many ways, while Ted Nolan's team has improved dramatically, those improvements don't matter. Buffalo sits seven points behind the New York Islanders, and the Islanders are more than 10 points out of a playoff spot. The only question is whether the Sabres will pick first overall or not this summer, something that suddenly seems plausibly in doubt. 

    By the Numbers: Linus Omark picked up an assist on the game-winning goal over New Jersey on Saturday night; it is his first point in six games since being acquired from the Edmonton Oilers. 

27. New York Islanders

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    Last Week: 28

    Recent Trend: The Islanders appear to have pulled out of the slump that dropped them to the bottom of the Eastern Conference, winning four of their last six games and losing the other two contests by just a single goal. 

    Big Picture: While New York's recent successes are encouraging for the team, they are also too little too late. Even in the weak Metropolitan Division, the Islanders are more than 10 points outside the postseason picture. 

    By the Numbers: Much of New York's turnaround can be attributed to the return to health of Evgeni Nabokov, who is 4-3-2 with a 0.926 save percentage after coming back from a month away. He's been even better if we discount the second game of a set where head coach Jack Capuano started him twice in two nights; doing that those numbers rise to 4-2-2 with a 0.933 save percentage.

26. Nashville Predators

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    Last Week: 23

    Recent Trend: Nashville has lost three consecutive games and eight of its last 10. 

    Big Picture: If the Predators had as many wins as losses over their last 10 (say 5-3-2 rather than 2-5-3) they would be one-point back of the final wild-card spot in the West; instead they are seven points out and stuck with Winnipeg as a team outside the playoff chase but well ahead of Edmonton and Calgary. 

    By the Numbers: Going strictly by the counting numbers, Seth Jones' November likely killed his Olympic hopes. In 13 games prior he had six points and an even rating, and in 16 games since he has seven points and is minus-one. In November, however, he went minus-10 with just three points in 14 games. 

25. Winnipeg Jets

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    Last Week: 25

    Recent Trend: Winnipeg has dropped a trio of games consecutively now after winning three in a row immediately prior. All three losses came on the road; the Jets have one regulation win in their last 10 road games. 

    Big Picture: Six points out of the playoffs, Winnipeg really can't afford to alternate three wins and three losses. The club isn't entirely out of the postseason picture, but it is awfully close. 

    By the Numbers: Ondrej Pavelec, the goalie enshrined as Winnipeg's starter and possessor of a long-term contract, is 11-21 on the season with a 0.901 save percentage. Al Montoya, the backup on a dirt-cheap one-year deal, is 8-5 with a 0.921 save percentage. The bad news is that Pavelec isn't underperforming his career number (0.906) by that much, while Montoya is decidedly overperforming his (0.908).

24. Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Last Week: 19

    Recent Trend: The Jackets have been trading wins and losses for a while now; currently they have just a single victory in their last four games. 

    Big Picture: Never say never in the Met, but with 40 points Columbus looks to be almost out of the playoff race. A six-point gap at this point isn't a death sentence, but it will be tough to make up.  

    By the Numbers: One of the Jackets' big problems is their lack of offensive punch. That is exemplified by the fact they have won just three of 17 games when the other team scores first,which puts them 27th in the NHL in that category. 

23. Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Last Week: 24

    Recent Trend: Toronto has two regulation wins in its last 22 games and got thumped 7-1 by the New York Rangers on Saturday, a game in which the club allowed 50 shots.  

    Big Picture: A hot start to the season has the Maple Leafs still in the postseason but by their collective fingernails. A big cushion has evaporated; the club is now only two points up on Ottawa for the final wild-card spot in the East.   

    By the Numbers: Three of the four NHL forwards with more than 15 games played, and no points play in Toronto. Colton Orr (31) and Frazer McLaren (20) lead the way, while Jerred Smithson (17) is tied with Pittsburgh's Zach Sill for the third-most games without a point. 

22. New Jersey Devils

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    Last Week: 14

    Recent Trend: New Jersey has been trading wins and losses for a month now. Currently the team is on a two-game losing streak after winning its previous two. 

    Big Picture: The Devils are near the back of a group of 10 teams fighting for two wild-card spots and two playoff slots in the Metropolitan Division; all 10 teams are spaced by only 10 points. 

    By the Numbers: New Jersey is 0-6 in shootouts. With a little bit of luck in the NHL's game-deciding gimmick it would be in the playoffs right now. 

21. Carolina Hurricanes

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    Last Week: 26

    Recent Trend: A victory over Nashville on Sunday pushed Carolina to four consecutive wins. Prior to this run the Hurricanes had lost five in a row and eight of nine. 

    Big Picture: Ah, the Metropolitan Division. Only there can a team like Carolina sewer three weeks of hockey and yet still find itself a single point out of a home-ice playoff berth.

    By the Numbers: Andrej Sekera has 24 points in 41 games this season, just five shy of his career high of 29 and double the 12 he managed last season.

20. Florida Panthers

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    Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 17

    Recent Trend: After a great stretch of games following the firing of Kevin Dineen, Florida has dipped again. The team has just one regulation win in its last six games.

    Big Picture: If the season ended today, Florida would be looking at picking fifth in the NHL entry draft. The team is, however, only eight points out of second in the Metropolitan, so it may not have abandoned its playoff hopes just yet.

    By the Numbers: A few eyebrows were raised when the Panthers drafted Aleksander Barkov second overall this past summer. He currently leads the team in scoring with 21 points and has more than half of those in his last 11 games (3G, 8A, 11PTS). 

19. Washington Capitals

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    Last Week: 16

    Recent Trend: Washington has a single win its last seven games, a stretch that includes losses to Buffalo, Ottawa, Carolina and most recently a slumping Minnesota Wild franchise. 

    Big Picture: The familiar refrain: Despite a terrible run of hockey, the Capitals are in good shape because they play in the Metropolitan Division. The club is currently tied with Philadelphia for second but sits in third thanks to the regulation/overtime wins tiebreaker. 

    By the Numbers: The Capitals' 12 regulation/overtime wins tie them with Edmonton for 26th in the league. Without shootout victories they would be sunk. 

18. Philadelphia Flyers

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    Last Week: 15

    Recent Trend: The Flyers haven't lost back-to-back games since early December; they have five wins in their last six and are 8-2-1 in that stretch. 

    Big Picture: Philadelphia's fantastic run has pushed them up the Eastern Conference standings, and if the playoffs started today they would have home-ice advantage, sitting behind only Pittsburgh in the Metropolitan Division. 

    By the Numbers: According to BehindtheNet.ca, no player in the league (minimum five games played) has taken minor penalties more frequently than Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo. Rinaldo's 3.6 minors per hour of even-strength ice time is more than three times as many as he draws and nearly three times as many as the next Flyers regular (Steve Downie).

17. Phoenix Coyotes

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    Last Week: 13

    Recent Trend: The Coyotes don't have a regulation win in their last 10 games, and their two overtime victories required third-period heroics to force overtime against two of the league's weaker teams (Ottawa and Edmonton). 

    Big Picture: Phoenix's weak performance has been survivable thanks to a coincidental fall by the Minnesota Wild, but it is a slump that has brought both playoff bubble teams close to the pack of trailing clubs in the West. Currently the Coyotes hang on to the final wild-card slot. 

    By the Numbers: Dave Tippett's team has a reputation as a buttoned-down defensive team, but the club is averaging three goals against per game (25th in the NHL). It ranks 26th in shots against per game too (33.0). 

16. Ottawa Senators

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    Last Week: 22

    Recent Trend: Ottawa has won four straight games and five of their last six after a stretch where they posted a lone regulation win in 10 games.

    Big Picture: With Toronto and Detroit faltering, the Senators only sit two points out of a wild-card spot. 

    By the Numbers: Senators winger Bobby Ryan, passed over for Team USA, ranks third among all American skaters in even-strength points with 28. Only Patrick Kane (34) and surprisingly Kyle Okposo (32) have more. 

15. New York Rangers

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    Last Week: 21

    Recent Trend: The Rangers have won five of their last seven games and lit up Toronto by a 7-1 score on Saturday. 

    Big Picture: The weakness of the Eastern Conference and improved play from New York has seen the team climb out of the basement and into the playoff race; currently the club is only two points out of second in the Metropolitan. 

    By the Numbers: On a team with big names like Brad Richards and Rick Nash and American Olympians Ryan Callahan and Derek Stepan, the leading scorer is none other than Mats Zuccarello, a 5'7" Norwegian who has a career-best 30 points in 42 games.   

14. Minnesota Wild

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    Last Week: 20

    Recent Trend: Minnesota finally managed to string together a pair of wins and not a moment too soon. A victory Thursday over Buffalo ended a six-game losing streak and a stretch of 10 contests without a regulation win.  

    Big Picture: The Wild's slump has put their playoff ambitions in jeopardy. With 49 points, Minnesota is technically tied for the final wild-card berth with Phoenix, but both the Coyotes and Stars (47 points) have three games in hand. 

    By the Numbers: One of the nicer under-reported stories in the league this year is the return of Nino Niederreiter. Last season in the majors he had one point and a minus-29 rating in 55 games for the Islanders; this year he has 21 points and a plus-eight rating in 44 games. 

13. Vancouver Canucks

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    Last Week: 9

    Recent Trend: Vancouver has lost four straight games. Defeats at the hands of Anaheim and Los Angeles are somewhat understandable, but they were preceded by losses against a Steven Stamkos-less Tampa Bay and the Flyers.

    Big Picture: The Canucks are comfortably in the playoffs but not in a great position; if the postseason started today they would be looking at a first-round matchup against Chicago. 

    By the Numbers: Disappointing winger David Booth continues to slump; he has a single assist and has gone minus-two in his last eight contests. His 10 points on the year represents a drop even from the middling numbers he posted in his first year in Vancouver.

12. Montreal Canadiens

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    James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 11

    Recent Trend: Montreal has won one of its last four games, a streak that follows a stretch of three wins in four games. 

    Big Picture: Despite playing 0.500 hockey of late, the Canadiens have an eight-point cushion on a playoff spot and are only one point behind Tampa Bay for second in the Atlantic Division. 

    By the Numbers: Sophomore centre Alex Galchenyuk seems to have hit a bit of a rough patch of late. He has just two points in his last 10 games and has gone minus-seven in that span. More troubling is that he has only five shots in his last seven games. 

11. Detroit Red Wings

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    Last Week: 12

    Recent Trend: Detroit's long losing stretch has come to an end, but the team is only managing to swap wins and losses more or less evenly of late. 

    Big Picture: A bubble team in the East, Detroit is facing a tough stretch of hockey, with games in San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim in a span of four days next week. 

    By the Numbers: Coming off serious injury last season, Todd Bertuzzi has struggled to produce this year. He has just 10 points in 37 games, the worst pace of his NHL career.

10. Dallas Stars

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    Last Week: 10

    Recent Trend: The Stars' general trend of recent success hit a bump in the road this week, with the team dropping its last two decisions against Montreal and Detroit. Prior to that Dallas had gone seven games without a regulation loss. 

    Big Picture: Dallas sits two points back of the final postseason berth in the West, but with the Coyotes slumping that's an awfully thin margin. 

    By the Numbers: Veteran winger Ray Whitney has seen his point totals drop-off dramatically this season. Most of it can be attributed to a career-low 5.6 shooting percentage; he has only four goals on 71 shots. But if he keeps shooting he's going to start scoring eventually. Even at 41 he isn't done. 

9. Colorado Avalanche

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    Last Week: 18

    Recent Trend: Colorado snapped a four-game losing streak by beating Columbus on Tuesday and has now won three straight, including a victory over the high-flying San Jose Sharks on Saturday.

    Big Picture: The Avs are their own middle tier in the Central Division. They sit seven points back of St. Louis in second but seven points ahead of Minnesota in fourth. 

    By the Numbers: Semyon Varlamov's return to his early-season form after a mini-slump has been a big part of Colorado's success. He posted a 0.944 save percentage in winning eight of his first nine starts, then dipped to just a 0.903 save percentage in a 5-7-0 stretch that took in most of November. He doesn't have a regulation loss in his last 10 decisions, and his save percentage over those games sits at a superb 0.936. 

8. Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 8

    Recent Trend: Tampa Bay has done a nice job holding together without Steven Stamkos but has been only middling of late, with a 2-2-1 record and a Sunday loss to Edmonton most visible in the rearview mirror.

    Big Picture: The Lightning sit second in the Atlantic Division, four points back of Boston for the top spot and only one ahead of third-place Montreal. 

    By the Numbers: Jean-Philippe Cote played his first game of the season on December 19 and now has eight under his belt as a member of the Lightning. It's notable because the 31-year-old hasn't seen the majors since 2005-06, when he went pointless in eight games for Montreal. 

7. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Last Week: 7

    Recent Trend: Pittsburgh has four regulation wins in its last five games and is 16-3-1 in its last 20.

    Big Picture: With 63 points, the Penguins have a whopping 17-point lead on Philadelphia in the Metropolitan Division and sit only four points out of first place in the NHL.  

    By the Numbers: Jussi Jokinen cleared waivers last season and then was dealt to Pittsburgh in exchange for a conditional seventh-round draft pick in a move that saw his old team retain salary. Since that trade Jokinen has 41 points in 54 regular-season games for the Penguins. 

6. San Jose Sharks

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    Bill Smith/Getty Images

    Last Week: 5

    Recent Trend: The last 10 games have been challenging for San Jose. Aside from a lone game against the Oilers (a 5-1 win), every contest the team has played has come against one of the big nine in the West and five of them against Chicago, St. Louis, Anaheim or Los Angeles. With a little help from the shootout, San Jose went 7-3-0 in that span. 

    Big Picture: With 60 points the Sharks are seven back of the league- and division-leading Anaheim Ducks. 

    By the Numbers: Joe Thornton is tied for third in NHL scoring with 48 points and is the only player in the NHL with more assists (43) than Sidney Crosby (40). Despite this he is unlikely to be a member of Team Canada at the Sochi Games.

5. Los Angeles Kings

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    Juan Ocampo/Getty Images

    Last Week: 4

    Recent Trend: A Saturday win over Vancouver brought a halt to a five-game Kings losing streak.

    Big Picture: Los Angeles has a comfortable grip on a playoff spot, but its problems of late have made it vulnerable in a battle for position. If that Saturday game had gone the other way Vancouver would hold down third in the Pacific, and Los Angeles would be looking at a playoff date with Chicago in the first round. 

    By the Numbers: Martin Jones' 0.950 save percentage may lead the NHL, but with Jonathan Quick healthy again he's bound for the minor leagues. 

4. Boston Bruins

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    Last Week: 6

    Recent Trend: Boston just wrapped up a soft stretch in its schedule where it played nine consecutive games against teams outside the postseason but went a mediocre 5-3-1. That comes to an end as it takes a trip through the Pacific this coming week. 

    Big Picture: As Pittsburgh is the recognized power in the Metropolitan, so Boston is in the Atlantic. The Bruins may only hold the division by four points, but their plus-35 goal differential is better than second- and third-place Tampa Bay and Montreal combined. 

    By the Numbers: The Tyler Seguin trade mostly keyed in on Loui Eriksson as the return from Dallas, but Reilly Smith has been excellent for the Bruins and currently sits second in club scoring with 32 points in 42 games. One caveat: His 15 goals are fuelled by a likely unsustainable 20.8 shooting percentage. 

3. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Bill Smith/Getty Images

    Last Week: 1

    Recent Trend: There are two ways of looking at Chicago's recent record. An optimist would say the team has points in 10 straight games, while a pessimist would point out that the Blackhawks have lost two of three and three of five. 

    Big Picture: The defending champions are a lock for the playoffs; the only question is whether they will be able to secure first in the league during the regular season or not.

    By the Numbers: Patrick Kane had a difficult week, putting up one assist and a minus-one rating in four games. It brought an end to a 14-game point streak in which he posted 25 points and meant that he missed posting points in every December game he played by just a single contest.  

2. St. Louis Blues

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    Last Week: 3

    Recent Trend: St. Louis has won five straight games and has a single regulation loss (to San Jose) in its last 13. 

    Big Picture: The Blues have 63 points, four back of Anaheim for first in the NHL, but no team can top their current 82-game 126-point pace. 

    By the Numbers: The Blues are also the NHL's most dominant five-on-five team at the present moment, scoring 1.60 goals for every one against. 

1. Anaheim Ducks

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    Last Week: 2

    Recent Trend: Anaheim has won three straight games and 13 of its last 14, with the only loss coming at the hands of the San Jose Sharks. 

    Big Picture: The Ducks are neck-and-neck-and-neck with Chicago and St. Louis for the Presidents' Trophy; they are tied with the Blackhawks at 67 points and have a game in hand, while the Blues are four points back with three games in hand on Anaheim. 

    By the Numbers: One of the remarkable things about Anaheim is its record when trailing after the first goal of the game. No other team in the league is better than 0.500 in those situations, while the Ducks boast a 13-5-1 record and 0.684 winning percentage.