1. Boston Bruins (16-7-1)
Great team all across the board. Great offensively and probably the best defensive team in the league. Very good at killing penalties which could serve them well down the road. Tyler Seguin has been very impressive this season with 24 points so far. Tim Thomas is once again in the running for the Vezina Trophy.
2. Detroit Red Wings (16-7-1)
Best defensive team in the Western Conference. Jimmy Howard has done a great job this year. He has a 1.83 goals against average, which is the second lowest among all goaltenders.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (16-7-4)
Great offensive team. James Neal and Evgeni Malkin (49 combined points) have been very good at leading this team’s offensive unit.
4. New York Rangers (15-5-3)
Another great defensive NHL team led by a great goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist. Don’t be surprised if they are in the Eastern Conference Finals.
5. Philadelphia Flyers (15-7-3)
A great offensive juggernaut that can get in your face. They're led by Claude Giroux who is making a great case to be an early Hart Trophy favorite. He has 32 points already.
6. Vancouver Canucks (14-10-1)
The Sedin twins have 55 combined points so far. Anybody surprised by this? didn’t think so. Much credit goes to Cory Schneider for the success he’s having (7-4-0, 2.12 GAA).
7. San Jose Sharks (14-8-1)
It’s interesting to note that the Sharks are one of the best defensive teams in the league but have the absolute worst penalty killing unit.
8. Florida Panthers (14-8-4)
Never thought that I would see THREE Panthers players in the top 20 in scoring entering December. Kris Versteeg (28 points), Tomas Fleischmann (27) and Stephen Weiss (26) have been key factors for this team.
9. Minnesota Wild (16-7-3)
One of the more underrated teams in the NHL. They have a top five defensive unit and not one but two solid goaltenders in Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom.
10. Chicago Blackhawks (16-8-3)
Arguably the best offensive team in hockey led by FOUR players who already have at least 26 points: Jonathan Toews (29), Patrick Kane (28), Patrick Sharp (26) and Marian Hossa (26).
11. St. Louis Blues (14-9-3)
And the the NHL’s goals against average leader is (drum roll please) Brian Elliott?? Yes that’s right. Brian Elliott has been the main reason why the Blues have 14 wins and a top 10 defensive team right now. He has a 1.53 GAA, which leads all NHL goalies.
12. Phoenix Coyotes (13-9-3)
One of the worst teams when it comes to scoring on the power play, converting on only 11 percent of the time when they have a man-advantage.
13. Edmonton Oilers (13-11-3)
A very good offensive team that has a great chance of making the playoffs this year if they keep it up. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Smyth have led this offensive unit well. The three players have 83 combined points!!
14. Buffalo Sabres (14-11-1)
The Sabres have one of the top five penalty-killing units this season. Teams have only scored goals 14 percent of the time when having a man-advantage against the Sabres.
15. Los Angeles Kings (13-9-4)
The Kings have one of the worst offensive teams in the entire league. They only average 2.30 goals per game. Thankfully they have a great defensive unit to cover that, led by goaltender Jonathan Quick.
16. Toronto Maple Leafs (14-10-2)
This team would be so much better if they had a better defensive unit. They allow an average of 3.26 goals per game and have one of the worst penalty-killing units in the league as well.
17. Montreal Canadiens (11-11-5)
The Canadiens have one of the best penalty-killing units. Teams only score goals 11 percent of the time when they have a man-advantage against the Habs.
18. Dallas Stars (15-10-1)
The Stars are 4-7-1 after winning 11 of their first 14 games. They rank among the bottom 10 in power-play scoring scoring only 14.8 percent of the time.
19. Nashville Predators (12-10-4)
I wonder how far this team’s defensive numbers would drop if the didn’t have Ryan Suter and Shea Weber (35 combined points). Don't forget Pekka Rinne (10 wins, 2.57 GAA).
20. Washington Capitals (13-11-1)
If this team wants to see the playoffs and make Dale Hunter look good as an NHL coach, they should get better defensively. They give up an average of 3.16 goals per game.
21. Colorado Avalanche (12-13-1)
This team has done a great job scoring when they have the man-advantage (scoring 21.8 percent of the time, third in the NHL). But they need to get better goaltending. If I were coach Sacco, I would put J.S. Giguere between the pipes more often. He’s been in eight games and has a remarkable 1.86 GAA. That alone should tell you that you might have something good with him, while Semyon Varlamov only has a 2.89 GAA in the 19 games he’s been in.
22. Winnipeg Jets (11-11-4)
The Jets are one of the better offensive teams in the league, ranking among the top 10 in total goals. This team could stay in the playoff picture if they continue to get good play from guys like Evander Kane, Kyle Wellwood and Bryan Little. But what they really lack is goaltending. The team has already given up 82 goals in their 26 games and their starting goalie Ondrej Pavelec has a GAA over 3.00.
23. Calgary Flames (11-12-2)
When your team leader in points (Alex Tanguay) only has 17 points through 25 games, that could say that your team is bad on the offensive side of the puck. They average 2.30 goals per game. Only four teams have scored fewer goals.
24. Ottawa Senators (12-11-3)
I understand that they are playing very well on the offensive side of the puck (3.03 goals per game), but if this team wants to sniff the playoffs this year, they have to get better play from their defense. Eighty-nine goals through 26 games isn’t good at all. And their top goaltender Craig Anderson has a 3.43 GAA, which isn’t good either.
25. New Jersey Devils (12-12-1)
Offensively, they have got to step up (they're currently averaging 2.48 goals per game). The Devils aren’t even that great when they are on the power play, scoring just 12 percent of the time. I understand that this is a defense-first team and has been for many years, but still. Score a goal every so often and you might get things done. But on a more positive note, their penalty-killing unit is awesome! Second to none.
26. Tampa Bay Lightning (11-12-2)
Tampa just isn’t getting it done. After that three-game winning streak at the start of November, they’ve only won three of their last 10 games. Dwayne Roloson has only won six of his 15 games and has a 3.51 GAA. You would also think with guys like Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lacavalier (65 combined points between the three players) on your team, you might have one of the top offensive teams in the league. But they don’t. They have only scored 67 total goals, which ranks 19th in the NHL.
27. Anaheim Ducks (7-13-5)
This team can’t score to save their lives. Only the Islanders have scored fewer goals. And I don’t think the hiring of Bruce Boudreau is going to help their offensive woes.
28. New York Islanders (8-11-5)
The worst offensive team in the league. Fity-two total goals through your first 24 games is awful. Aside from Matt Moulson, you pretty much have no offensive weapons or any big-time goal scorers.
29. Columbus Blue Jackets (7-16-3)
Like I’ve mentioned before in an earlier power rankings article, the Blue Jackets are the only team in the league to rank among the bottom six in total goals, total goals against, power-play percentage and penalty-killing percentage.
30. Carolina Hurricanes (8-16-4)
The Canes can’t defend their way out of a paper bag. Simple as that.
Carter’s 2012 NHL Awards Race:
Hart Trophy (Most Valuable Player)
1. Phil Kessel (Maple Leafs): 32 points
2. Claude Giroux (Flyers): 32 points
3. Joffrey Lupul (Maple Leafs): 30 points
4. Jonathan Toews (Blackhawks): 29 points
5. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Oilers): 29 points
Norris Trophy (Top Defenseman)
1. Erik Karlsson (Senators): 23 points, 21 assists
2. Marc-Andre Bergeron (Lightning): 20 points, 17 assists
3. Brian Campbell (Panthers): 20 points, 18 assists
4. Kris Letang (Penguins): 19 points, 16 assists
5. Nicklas Lidstrom (Red Wings): 18 points, 12 assists
Calder Trophy (Top Rookie)
1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Oilers): 29 points, 12 goals
2. Craig Smith (Predators): 21 points, 8 goals
3. Luke Adam (Sabres): 18 points, 9 goals
4. Matt Read (Flyers): 17 points, 10 goals
5. Adam Henrique (Devils): 17 points, 6 goals
Vezina Trophy (Top Goaltender)
1. Brian Elliott (Blues): 10-2-0, 1.53 GAA
2. Jimmy Howard (Red Wings): 15-5-1, 1.83 GAA
3. Tim Thomas (Bruins): 12-4-0, 1.93 GAA
4. Josh Harding (Wild): 6-2-1, 1.96 GAA
5. Jonathan Quick (Kings): 11-6-4, 1.97 GAA