For the fourth week in a row, the Boston Bruins are at the top spot. It’s tough not to put them there if they have a +47 total goal differential.
They are great in all aspects of the game, Claude Julien is a genius behind that bench, and they have a great special teams unit that can be a key factor through the remainder of the season and the playoffs.
Rounding out the top five, I have the Red Wings at the No. 2 spot once again. I think they are the best team in the Western Conference.
The Canucks are at No. 3, the Rangers and their strong defensive team are at No. 4, and the Flyers are at the fifth spot with their high-flying (no pun intended) offensive unit.
Here’s how I see the NHL teams ranked from No. 1 through No. 30.
1. Boston Bruins (21-9-1)
Last Week: No. 1
As mentioned earlier, there’s really no reason why they shouldn’t be No. 1 once again. 108 goals for (third in NHL) and 61 goals against (first in NHL). It’s hard to dispute those numbers.
2. Detroit Red Wings (20-10-1)
Last Week: No. 2
Other than their penalty-killing unit not being up to par, I would say the Red Wings have the strongest team in the Western Conference right now, despite them being five points behind the hated Blackhawks—mainly because they are much stronger defensively.
3. Vancouver Canucks (19-11-2)
Last Week: No. 3
The Canucks have the best power-play unit in the entire NHL, scoring on just over 25 percent of their chances. Their PP unit is one of the reasons why they have already scored 106 total goals this season. Those Sedin twins are pretty good, too.
4. New York Rangers (18-8-4)
Last Week: No. 4
Has anybody seen the HBO 24/7 series with them and the Flyers yet? It’s just as awesome as last year’s! They would be a little higher on my list if they could score a few more goals like the Bruins, Red Wings and Canucks do.
5. Philadelphia Flyers (20-8-3)
Last Week: No. 5
The Flyers are still one of the NHL’s top offensive teams. It will be interesting to see how strong this team can be without Claude Giroux and Chris Pronger gone for the year.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins (18-11-4)
Last Week: No. 6
Without Crosby, their offense remains very good. We all saw that on Saturday night when they absolutely plastered the Sabres 8-3. Like the Flyers and their issues with their star players, it will be interesting to see how far this team can go with Crosby officially on the injured list once again.
7. Chicago Blackhawks (21-8-4)
Last Week: No. 10
Last night’s 4-2 win over the Flames was Joel Quenneville’s 600th coaching win of his career. Knowing that, I would say that Quenneville has this whole coaching thing working well for him. The Blackhawks are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. No other team has a better record in their last 10.
8. St. Louis Blues (19-9-4)
Last Week: No. 9
This team has changed its ways ever since Ken Hitchcock arrived; they have won nine of their last 12 games. Last night was arguably their best offensive game of the year, scoring six goals. It’s surprising, too, since they only average 2.56 goals per game.
9. Minnesota Wild (20-8-5)
Last Week: No. 7
After winning 12 of their last 14 games, the Wild have dropped three in a row. So, I dropped them a couple spots.
10. San Jose Sharks (17-10-3)
Last Week: No. 8
It’s interesting how they lead the NHL in shots per game, but they still only average 2.86 goals per game. And their power-play-scoring percentage isn’t even among the Top 10.
11. Florida Panthers (18-9-6)
Last Week: No. 11
The Panthers put an end to their three-game losing streak with wins over the Flames and Hurricanes. I can’t wait to see how well they do against the Bruins on Friday night.
12. Nashville Predators (17-11-4)
Last Week: No. 16
After dropping seven of their last nine games heading into their Dec. 8 game against the Blue Jackets, I bet the team had a little meeting and said something along the lines of, “Hey guys, let’s put together this winning thing and move up the Western Conference standings and Carter’s Power Rankings.” I bet that’s what happened. And it worked!
13. Edmonton Oilers (14-15-3)
Last Week: No. 12
Even though this team only has 31 points through 32 games, I still think the Oilers have one of the better teams in the NHL. They are still in the top half of the league in total goals, goals against and penalty-killing percentage and rank sixth in power-play percentage.
14. Phoenix Coyotes (16-13-3)
Last Week: No. 13
Their loss on Saturday night against the Rangers marks their sixth loss in the last nine games. If it weren’t for the Blues, they would have the NHL’s worst power-play unit.
15. New Jersey Devils (18-13-1)
Last Week: No. 22
OK, so wait a second…at this time last week, the Devils were only ranked 25th in the NHL in total goals. And now they are 10th? HUH? Anyways, big ups to the Devils on the four-game winning streak and winning six out of seven games. Hopefully, they can continue their success throughout the remainder of the season.
16. Montreal Canadiens (13-13-7)
Last Week: No. 19
After recording 217 total points in just under two-and-a-half seasons with the Habs, Jacques Martin is out as head coach. It's going to be interesting to see if the Habs can make the playoffs under Randy Cunneyworth. With the Habs only two points behind the eighth-place Maple Leafs, I say it’s possible.
17. Buffalo Sabres (16-13-3)
Last Week: No. 14
The Sabres are a confusing team to figure out. A win here, a loss there, a couple wins here, a few more stinkers there. Since their four-game winning streak dating from Nov. 4-11, they haven’t won consecutively.
18. Toronto Maple Leafs (16-13-3)
Last Week: No. 18
Since winning three in a row during Thanksgiving week, the Leafs have only won two of their last eight games.
19. Washington Capitals (16-14-1)
Last Week: No. 15
Since Dale Hunter was given the coaching job, I haven’t seen much of a spark. The Caps have only won four of their eight December games.
20. Dallas Stars (18-12-1)
Last Week: No. 20
Despite getting crushed by the Devils a few days ago, Richard Bachman has played well in his first four starts. 3-1 with a 2.08 GAA isn’t too bad.
21. Winnipeg Jets (15-13-4)
Last Week: No. 23
Since getting crushed by the Red Wings last week, the Jets have played very good defensive hockey, only giving up five goals in their last three games combined. Taking advantage of having all these December home games, they are currently 6-1 at home this month, and that one loss was only by a single goal.
22. Los Angeles Kings (14-14-4)
Last Week: No. 17
Alright, Darryl Sutter. Let’s see what you can do with this team that can’t score a goal to save its life.
23. Calgary Flames (14-15-4)
Last Week: No. 21
I’m just guessing, but I don’t think the Flames are having much fun playing away from home. After winning three in a row at home over the Hurricanes, Avalanche and Oilers, the Flames have gone on the road for four games and lost them all against the Predators, Lightning, Panthers and Blackhawks.
24. Colorado Avalanche (15-17-1)
Last Week: No. 24
After winning three in a row over the Devils, Blues and Red Wings, the Avalanche have only won two of their last six games. And both of those wins were by a single goal.
25. Ottawa Senators (15-14-4)
Last Week: No. 25
The Sens have only won five of their last 13 games and are pretty much the worst defensive team in the league.
26. Tampa Bay Lightning (14-16-2)
Last Week: No. 26
Back-to-back wins over the Flames and Blue Jackets is nice and all, but that still doesn’t take away from the fact that they give up 3.34 goals per game.
27. New York Islanders (10-14-6)
Last Week: No. 27
A shootout win over the Wild could end up being the biggest win of the season for the Islanders (not that there are very many wins to pick from).
28. Carolina Hurricanes (10-18-6)
Last Week: No. 30
29th in goals against, 27th in power-play percentage and 26th in penalty-killing percentage. Ouch!
29. Anaheim Ducks (9-18-5)
Last Week: No. 28
It doesn’t look like Bruce Boudreau has been much of a factor for the Ducks. The team is only 2-5-1 since he got there.
30. Columbus Blue Jackets (9-20-4)
Last Week: No. 29
27th in goals, 28th in goals against, 26th-best power-play unit and 28th-best penalty-killing unit.
Carter’s 2011-12 NHL Award Races:
Hart Trophy (Most Valuable Trophy):
1. Phil Kessel (TOR): 39 points
2. Claude Giroux (PHI): 39 points
3. Steven Stamkos (TB): 37 points
4. Evgeni Malkin (PIT): 36 points
5. Marian Hossa (CHI): 36 points
Vezina Trophy (Top Goaltender):
1. Brian Elliott (STL): 13-2, 1.43 GAA, .948 save percentage
2. Tuukka Rask (BOS): 6-4-1, 1.82 GAA, .939 save percentage
3. Tim Thomas (BOS): 15-5, 1.83 GAA, .943 save percentage
4. Jean-Sebastian Giguere (COL): 5-4, 1.86 GAA, 927 save percentage
5. Jimmy Howard (DET): 19-7-1, 1.91 GAA, .929 save percentage
Norris Trophy (Top Defenseman):
1. Erik Karlsson (OTT): 29 points
2. Brian Campbell (FLA): 25 points
3. Shea Weber (NSH): 24 points
4. Dustin Byfuglien (WINN): 23 points
5. Alexander Edler (VAN): 22 points
Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year)
1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (EDM): 33 points
2. Adam Henrique (NJ): 25 points
3. Craig Smith (NSH): 24 points
4. Matt Read (PHI): 20 points
5. Luke Adam (BUF): 20 points