NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 18 Poll
Outdoor hockey dominated the weekend in the NHL, and it's only fitting the Anaheim Ducks were part of the festivities. The NHL's top team took care of the rival Kings at Dodger Stadium. Will they hang on to the top spot in the power rankings this week?
What of the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks? Have they done enough to supplant the Ducks? Where did the blazing-hot Columbus Blue Jackets finish this week?
Our panel is back again to rank both the Ducks and the rest of the league. Voting this week are Jonathan Willis, Allan Mitchell, Lyle Richardson, Carol Schram and myself. The criteria remain the same, and the vote will focus heavily on recent performance, with the overall NHL standings only serving as an anchor point for each team.
Read on to see where every NHL team ranks, and please note the rankings are the result of the panel's voting, not one person's decision on the rankings.
Unless otherwise noted, statistics are courtesy of NHL.com and current through January 26.
30. Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 30
Recent Trend: They snapped a six-game losing streak Sunday, smoking Nashville 4-1 at home.
Big Picture: Their true battle will be avoiding finishing 30th in the league. It will likely be a three-team race for last between the Oilers, Flames and Sabres.
By the Numbers: Nail Yakupov is minus-31 this season. If he doesn't improve on that number, it would be the worst plus/minus in the NHL since Milan Jurcina of the Islanders finished minus-34 in 2011-12.
29. Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 28
Recent Trend: The Sabres ended a five-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory on Saturday against the Blue Jackets. It was their second regulation win in 15 contests.
Big Picture: They are still in the NHL's basement, but they are close to climbing out. All that matters for Sabres fans is what they do with their pending UFAs at the trade deadline.
By the Numbers: Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff had a goal and two assists in the victory against the Blue Jackets. It was his first three-point game since Feb. 19, 2012.
28. Calgary Flames
Last Week: 29
Recent Trend: The Flames won two straight to close the week after losing four in a row and seven of eight.
Big Picture: They are a bad club that will be in the hunt for a chance at the first pick in the 2014 draft. Veteran Michael Cammalleri is a candidate to be moved at the trade deadline.
By the Numbers: David Jones had two goals in a 5-4 win against the Predators on Friday. He had gone without a goal in his previous 17 games.
27. New York Islanders
Last Week: 26
Recent Trend: Despite two losses in their past two games, the Islanders have thrust themselves back into the fringe of playoff contenders. They are 8-4-1 in January but 3-3-1 in their past seven games.
Big Picture: The Islanders probably need another 8-4-1 stretch just to get within striking distance in the East. Their season is on life support, but compared to a month ago when it was dead, it's an improvement.
By the Numbers: Since Dec. 21, Thomas Vanek has nine goals and six assists in 19 games.
26. Florida Panthers
Last Week: 27
Recent Trend: The Panthers rallied from a two-goal deficit Sunday to beat the Red Wings in Detroit. They are 3-1-0 in their past four games and 6-4-1 in their past 11, a respectable stretch for a team that started 3-11-4.
Big Picture: Their season is over, and it's just a matter of how young players develop and what general manager Dale Tallon can get for veterans at the trade deadline.
By the Numbers: Before these past two games, Tim Thomas was on quite the run. He had 13 straight starts with a save percentage of .905 or better and only dipped below .914 twice.
25. Nashville Predators
Last Week: 25
Recent Trend: The Predators are entering "playing out the string" mode after losing 4-1 to the Oilers on Sunday. They've lost two straight and 11 of 16 games this month.
Big Picture: General manager David Poile has already started tinkering with his roster, unloading Kevin Klein and Matt Hendricks in recent trades. It's time to begin looking toward next season.
By the Numbers: Eric Nystrom scored four goals in a loss to the Flames this week. He's the second player to suffer that fate this season, as the Lightning's Martin St. Louis scored four times in a loss to San Jose last Saturday.
24. Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 15
Recent Trend: The Flyers have dropped four straight, the past three in regulation. They are 2-5-2 in their past nine games.
Big Picture: This slump has knocked them from a playoff spot, but their excellent play over the previous six weeks has them right in the mix for a wild-card spot. But they'll need to improve quickly in order to avoid missing the postseason.
By the Numbers: Since signing a three-year contract extension last Saturday, Steve Mason has stopped 64 of 75 shots (.853) in three games. He has been pulled from two of those games.
23. Washington Capitals
Last Week: 20
Recent Trend: The Capitals have tumbled out of a playoff spot as a result of their seven-game losing streak, although they snapped it with a convincing 5-0 win against Montreal on Saturday.
Big Picture: Despite the brutal past two weeks, the Caps are within two points of a playoff spot. But they are definitely heading in the wrong direction.
By the Numbers: The Caps live and die with their power play, which is 1-of-32 over the past eight games. The Caps have two wins over that time.
22. Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 12
Recent Trend: The wheels are coming off in Montreal, where the Canadiens have lost four straight. They have one victory in regulation in their past 11 games.
Big Picture: The Habs remain in control of the first wild-card spot in the East, but if they continue to play like they have over the past month, it will be a temporary position.
By the Numbers: Since Carey Price was named to the Canadian Olympic team on Jan. 7, he is 2-5-0 with a 4.13 goals-against average and .880 save percentage.
21. Winnipeg Jets
Last Week: 23
Recent Trend: Since Paul Maurice replaced Claude Noel behind the bench, the Jets are 6-1-0. They have outscored their opponents 23-13 over that time.
Big Picture: The hot streak has done nothing for the Jets' playoff hopes. They are still miles behind the pack and will be probably be a seller at the trade deadline.
By the Numbers: Ondrej Pavelec has been in net for six of Maurice's games as head coach, allowing 12 goals over that time. He had allowed 13 goals in his previous three starts before Maurice's arrival.
20. Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 17
Recent Trend: The Coyotes are slowly slipping from the playoff picture in the West. They are five points back of Minnesota for the final wild-card spot, but they have two games in hand on the Wild.
Big Picture: They're close, but their poor play has to change if they want to track down a playoff spot. The Stars are right behind them in the standings and starting to heat up.
By the Numbers: Mike Smith has allowed at least four goals 13 times this season. Including last season, he has allowed at least four goals in 23 of his past 78 starts.
19. New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 21
Recent Trend: The Devils had a pair of nice wins against the Blues and Capitals last week, but were destroyed at Yankee Stadium by the Rangers on Sunday. They are 3-3-1 in their past seven games.
Big Picture: A regulation victory Sunday would have propelled them into second place in their division. Instead, they are languishing outside of the playoffs in the East.
By the Numbers: Martin Brodeur has an .899 save percentage this season. Only two goaltenders—Devan Dubnyk and Kevin Poulin—have played at least 25 games and have a worse save percentage.
18. Dallas Stars
Last Week: 24
Recent Trend: The Stars opened January with 1-8-1 record, but have won three straight against the Wild, Leafs and Penguins by a combined 14-1 total.
Big Picture: That brutal 10-game stretch has derailed what was a promising season. The Stars aren't dead in the water just yet, but they have a lot of work to do to crack the top eight in the West.
By the Numbers: Kari Lehtonen has stopped 76 of 77 shots over his past three starts. In five of his previous nine starts, he had a save percentage of .857 or lower.
17. Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 22
Recent Trend: The Hurricanes are quietly hanging around in the East. They have won three straight and are knocking on the door of a top-three spot in the Metropolitan.
Big Picture: They have been not only surviving, but thriving in the absence of goaltender Cam Ward. In the Eastern Conference, anything is possible for the red-hot Hurricanes.
By the Numbers: Manny Malhotra scored two goals on Saturday against the Senators. It was his first two-goal game since March 6, 2011.
16. Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 18
Recent Trend: The Senators had been making up ground in the East, but they have dropped four of five. They were throttled 6-3 on Saturday in Carolina by the Hurricanes.
Big Picture: Even with the slide, the Senators remain in the thick of things in the East. One hot streak over the rest of the season could close the distance.
By the Numbers: Kyle Turris has been a scoring machine in January. He has seven goals in his past eight games.
15. Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 19
Recent Trend: The Leafs' six-game winning streak came to an end this week, as they suffered back-to-back losses to the Stars and Jets.
Big Picture: The Leafs are sitting in third in the Atlantic thanks to their red-hot January. They will begin a three-game homestand Monday.
By the Numbers: It's been a rough month for James Reimer. He is 2-3-0 with an .865 save percentage.
14. Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 16
Recent Trend: The Red Wings continue to make a living off the loser point. Their shootout loss against the Panthers on Sunday puts them at 2-0-1 in their past three and gives them 11 OT/SO losses this season.
Big Picture: Even with all their injuries this season, the Red Wings are in the thick of things for a playoff spot in the East.
By the Numbers: Jonas Gustavsson has 13 wins in 20 games this season. He had 41 in 105 career games entering this season.
13. Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 13
Recent Trend: Their 5-4 overtime win against Phoenix on Sunday helped the Canucks improve to 3-1-0 in their past four games. They appear to be finding themselves after losing eight of nine.
Big Picture: The win created more distance between themselves and the Coyotes for a wild-card berth in the West. They are now one point behind the Kings for third place in the Pacific.
By the Numbers: The Canucks are 6-3 in overtime this season.
12. Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 11
Recent Trend: The Wild are 3-1-1 in their past five games. Goal scoring continues to be a problem, however, as they have just seven goals in those games.
Big Picture: The Wild find themselves securely in a wild-card spot, and there doesn't seem like there will be much fight from anyone outside the top eight. They're in good shape to get back to the playoffs for a second straight season.
By the Numbers: Rookie Darcy Kuemper has allowed 15 goals in eight games this month. He had made three starts in his career entering this season.
11. New York Rangers
Last Week: 10
Recent Trend: They opened the week with tough losses to the Islanders and Blues, but bounced back in a big way by throttling the Devils at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. They are 4-2-0 in their past six games.
Big Picture: They are awfully close to emerging as the second-best squad in the Metropolitan behind the Penguins. They are barely holding off third-place Columbus, however, which has two games in hand.
By the Numbers: Mats Zuccarello has 15 goals in 51 games this season. He had 11 goals in his first 67 games in the NHL.
10. Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 14
Recent Trend: The Blue Jackets had their eight-game winning streak snapped by the league-worst Sabres on Saturday. Consider this a reminder that hockey very rarely makes sense.
Big Picture: This surge has the Blue Jackets in third place in the Metropolitan and looking like a good bet for the playoffs.
By the Numbers: Sergei Bobrovsky is 7-1-0 since returning from a groin injury. He has a .926 save percentage over that time.
9. Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 5
Recent Trend: The Kings are reeling, having lost five straight games. They've scored just eight goals over that time.
Big Picture: They look destined to be on the road in the first round of the playoffs, but if they're not careful, they could slip into one of the wild-card spots in the West.
By the Numbers: One of the biggest culprits for the Kings' offensive woes is Mike Richards. He has one goal in his past 28 games.
8. Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 9
Recent Trend: The Lightning are on a roll, having won three straight and four of six. They have scored 14 goals during their three-game winning streak.
Big Picture: The return of Steven Stamkos is not too far off, and the Lightning have done more than just survive without him. They are pushing the Boston Bruins for first place in the Atlantic and will likely push harder once Stamkos is back.
By the Numbers: The Lightning have gone 19-11-5 in the absence of Stamkos. That's a 101-point pace over an 82-game season without one of the sport's top players.
7. Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 6
Recent Trend: The Avalanche dropped two of three last week after winning four straight. They are 7-3-1 in January and just about secure in a playoff spot.
Big Picture: They are seven points behind the Central-leading Blackhawks, but have two games in hand. With the Ducks running away with the West, the best-case scenario for the Avs is winning the Central.
By the Numbers: Rookie goaltender Sami Aittokallio made his NHL debut Saturday. It marked the first time since the final game of the 2010-11 season that someone other than Semyon Varlamov or Jean-Sebastien Giguere started for the Avs, a span of 180 games.
6. Boston Bruins
Last Week: 7
Recent Trend: The Bruins are 4-1-1 in their past six games and appear to be hitting their stride. During the streak, they defeated the Sharks, Kings and took the Blackhawks to a shootout before losing.
Big Picture: It's looking like it will be a two-team fight for the top of the Atlantic between the Bruins and Lightning. It would take a lot to catch the Penguins for the top spot in the East.
By the Numbers: Jarome Iginla had four points against the Flyers on Saturday. He had four points in his previous 11 games combined.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 4
Recent Trend: The Penguins just keep on rolling. They went 2-1-0 last week and are 7-2-1 in January. They scored at least four goals in six games this month.
Big Picture: They continue to be the front-runners in the East. Either the Bruins or Lightning will need to heat up over the final 30 games or so in order unseat them in the conference.
By the Numbers: Sidney Crosby was held without a point in the Penguins' 3-0 loss to the Stars on Saturday. It was the third time in 13 games he was held off the scoresheet.
4. Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 2
Recent Trend: The Blackhawks are having a January to forget. They lost in regulation at home to the Jets on Sunday, their third straight setback. They are 4-2-5 this month.
Big Picture: These losses, although five have come after 60 minutes, are derailing their chances to win the West. They need to turn things around quickly, as the Blues are nipping at their heels.
By the Numbers: Patrick Kane has one goal in his past 13 games. He had 23 goals in his first 41 games.
3. Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 1
Recent Trend: The Ducks took back-to-back games from the Kings this week, including Saturday's 3-0 shutout at Dodger Stadium. They are 10-2 in January.
Big Picture: It would take a monumental collapse for them to not win the West. Unless complacency sets in or the Blackhawks go nuts over the final two months, the West is theirs.
By the Numbers: The Ducks' power play is 15-of-53 (28.3 percent) in January, a number bolstered by a 6-of-11 showing against the Canucks on Jan. 15.
2. St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 8
Recent Trend: The Blues bounced back from a 7-1 demolishing at the hands of the Devils on Tuesday to beat the Rangers and Islanders in consecutive games. They are 4-4-0 in their past eight games.
Big Picture: No matter how great the team, everyone hits a lull at some point in an 82-game season. They are still in contention for the top spot in the Central and perhaps the best record in the West.
By the Numbers: Goaltender Jaroslav Halak is 5-1-0 in his past six starts, allowing a total of nine goals over that time.
1. San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 3
Recent Trend: The Sharks have ripped off six straight wins to take command of the second spot in the Pacific behind the Ducks. They won five of those six games by one goal.
Big Picture: The Sharks are in a real no man's land. They're nine points behind the juggernaut Ducks, but 10 points ahead of the third-place Kings. They'll undoubtedly have home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
By the Numbers: Backup goaltender Alex Stalock has a nice little shutout streak working. He hasn't allowed a goal in 140 minutes, 49 seconds.