NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 14 Poll
Last week, the Nashville Predators' dream season continued with yet another remarkable achievement: Unseating the Chicago Blackhawks from the top spot in our power rankings, and thereby ending that team's five-week run at No. 1.
Nashville currently sits first in the NHL in points, second in goal differential and is the only club in the league with fewer than 10 regulation losses. It's a pretty incredible turnaround after a couple of difficult seasons, and it's just one of the stories we'll look at in this week's rankings.
As always, our expert panel—Dave Lozo, Steve Macfarlane, Allan Mitchell, Lyle Richardson, Carol Schram and myself—have voted to determine the ranking of the league's 30 teams, and that ranking is based on what's happened so far and what we expect to happen in the future. It does not mirror the NHL standings exactly.
Read on to see where all 30 teams are ranked and which rises to the top this week.
News and statistics are courtesy of NHL.com, war-on-ice.com and behindthenet.ca and are current through the start of action on December 29. Our experts participate in weekly voting for B/R's NHL power rankings. Once a vote is cast for a specific team, it's assigned a value—30 points for the No. 1 team in the rankings, 29 points for the second spot and so on. The totals are then added up to create the power rankings.
30-26: Buffalo Sabres-Philadelphia Flyers
30. Buffalo Sabres (Last week: 30): It's now been a month since Buffalo last won a hockey game in regulation time; they are the worst team in the league and a unanimous choice for the No. 30 slot in these rankings.
29. Edmonton Oilers (Last week: 29): The Oilers had an opportunity to climb ahead of the Sabres in the real NHL standings on Sunday but lost to Florida. Even so, Edmonton managed to beat Chicago on Friday and is an almost respectable 3-2-2 since Todd Nelson assumed full control of the club's coaching duties.
28. New Jersey Devils (Last week: 28): The Devils went 1-1-1 on the week and are 3-3-1 overall since the firing of Peter DeBoer. Like the Oilers, they've been almost respectable since their coaching change.
27. Arizona Coyotes (Last week: 25): Arizona beat Winnipeg last week but had a couple of really ugly losses, dropping a 6-0 decision to St. Louis and then falling 5-1 to Ottawa. Mike Smith was in net for all three of those games, and the win stands as the only time he's cracked a 0.900 SV% in any given game since December 1.
26. Philadelphia Flyers (Last week: 26): The news that Steve Mason would miss two weeks to injury was a blow to the Flyers, who haven't posted a regulation win since Christmas and will now be forced to lean on Ray Emery, who presently sports a 0.889 save percentage on the year and who has allowed six goals on the last 18 shots he's faced.
25-21: Carolina Hurricanes-Toronto Maple Leafs
25. Carolina Hurricanes (Last week: 27): Carolina is 3-1-1 in the month of January, and Cam Ward's name is starting to pop up in trade rumours. With their season done, the Hurricanes have no incentive to keep their starting goalie, who has reinvigorated his career with a couple of strong months.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets (Last week: 21): The Blue Jackets slip after consecutive losses in which they were outscored by a combined total of 10-4. Sergei Bobrovsky has allowed nine goals on 71 shots since signing a big-money extension on Friday.
23. Colorado Avalanche (Last week: 24): A good week for the Avs in which they won all three of their games ends up moving them up only one slot in our rankings. However, Colorado has won five of its last six games and is now only four points behind Los Angeles for the final wild-card slot in the West.
22. Minnesota Wild (Last Week: 19): The video of Mike Yeo's profanity-laced tirade against his team in practice on Wednesday has been making the rounds but hasn't had much impact on his personnel. The Wild are currently on a five-game losing streak, and three of those losses came after the coach lost his temper.
21. Toronto Maple Leafs (Last week: 22): Toronto is just 1-1 under new head coach Peter Horachek, but apparently the dismissal of Randy Carlyle has our panel optimistic enough to move the Leafs up one spot anyway.
20-16: Ottawa Senators-Florida Panthers
20. Ottawa Senators (Last week: 23): The Senators oddly jump three spots after a modest 1-1-1 performance last week. Ottawa's underlying numbers have climbed dramatically since the team made a coaching change at the start of December, but so far, that hasn't really paid off in the standings.
19. Calgary Flames (Last week: 20): The Flames squeaked out a 1-0 win over Vancouver on Saturday, ending a string of three consecutive regulation losses. The club has been hot and cold all year but, at the moment, is only one point out of a postseason berth.
18. Dallas Stars (Last week: 16): Dallas has lost four consecutive games and surrendered three goals or more in each of those losses. This comes on the heels of a stretch when the team won eight of nine contests to claw its way back into sight of the playoffs.
17. Vancouver Canucks (Last Week: 15): Consecutive losses to Florida and Calgary drop the Canucks two slots this week. The good news for the team is that Ryan Miller seems to have found his game; he's 4-2-1 with a 0.943 save percentage over his last seven starts.
16. Florida Panthers (Last week: 18): Florida went a perfect three-for-three on a Western Canadian road swing this week. The trip will finish in Winnipeg on Tuesday, at which point the Panthers can go home for two weeks and reflect on how much nicer the weather is in Sunrise. Jonathan Huberdeau was excellent, picking up five points in those three games.
15-11: Boston Bruins-Detroit Red Wings
15. Boston Bruins (Last week: 17): Don't look now, but the Bruins have some traction. Boston's team has won three straight and is 6-1-3 in its last 10 games; even when the team loses of late, it's done a good job of getting points. That's important because the Panthers are only one point back and have three games in hand.
14. Winnipeg Jets (Last week: 13): The Jets won two games and lost two games. It could have been an extremely successful week if not for a blown 4-2 lead against Anaheim on Sunday. Even so, they're hanging in there despite a defence decimated by injury.
13. San Jose Sharks (Last week: 14): The Sharks went 2-2 on the week but got thumped 7-2 by the Blues on Thursday; weirdly, that was the second time in less than a week that San Jose lost by that exact score to that exact team.
12. Los Angeles Kings (Last week: 11): The Kings have lost three straight games and five of their last six contests. The club is actually playing reasonably well, but Jonathan Quick has completely fallen apart; in 12 games over the last month, Quick has a miserable 0.865 save percentage.
11. Detroit Red Wings (Last week: 12): Detroit won two of its three games last week, with all of those games coming on the road. Henrik Zetterberg's scoring touch is back too; he now has five goals in his last 10 contests after recording only one marker in his previous 20 games.
10. Montreal Canadiens
Record: 26-12-3 (55 points)
Last Week: 7
Recent Trend: Montreal lost both of its games last week, bringing a run of six straight wins to a halt. That, combined with Detroit's success, reduced the Habs' lead on the Red Wings to a single win.
Big Picture: The Canadiens have a 109.0 PDO and a 47.7 percent Corsi number in score-tied situations over the last month. That's the team in a nutshell: Slightly below average in terms of the shot metrics, with a wicked save and shooting percentage.
By the Numbers: Max Pacioretty has scored a goal in four straight contests and is now up to 18 on the season. He's also plus-22 on the year thanks to a ridiculously good Corsi rating combined with a 0.952 on-ice save percentage.
9. Washington Capitals
Record: 22-11-8 (52 points)
Last Week: 9
Recent Trend: Washington is 8-1-2 in its last 11 games and went 2-0-1 over the last week, continuing an exceptional run for the team. The only time the Captials seem to lose these days is on the second night of back-to-back starts for Braden Holtby, who has played 17 straight games and been exceptional outside of those instances.
Big Picture: This is a strong five-on-five team with an Alex Ovechkin-led power play. If Barry Trotz can get the penalty kill going, look out.
By the Numbers: Almost everything the Capitals generate on the power play gets given back on the penalty kill; they've scored 29 goals with the man advantage but allowed 29 when down a man. If not for the difference in shorthanded goals (they've scored three and allowed one), they'd only be breaking even on special teams.
8. St. Louis Blues
Record: 26-13-3 (55 points)
Last Week: 8
Recent Trend: The Blues have won four straight games, running up a combined 25 goals over that span and twice crushing the Sharks by identical 7-2 scores.
Big Picture: There isn't any question who the three best teams in the Central Division are, but it's extremely fair to wonder what order they'll finish in. With Nashville currently in first, it's possible we'll see a first-round matchup between two legitimate contenders in St. Louis and Chicago once again.
By the Numbers: Kevin Shattenkirk leads the NHL with 23 power-play points, two more than Philadelphia's Claude Giroux.
7. New York Rangers
Record: 24-11-4 (52 points)
Last Week: 10
Recent Trend: Frankly, this team is ridiculous. New York has won five straight games and 13 of its last 14 overall. There isn't a hotter team in the league at the moment.
Big Picture: After losing some significant pieces following last year's run to the Stanley Cup Final, a step back was expected. That does not appear to be in the cards.
By the Numbers: Tanner Glass hasn't played since December 29, and the Rangers are a lot better for it. Through 29 games, he has one assist and a minus-12 rating. There are only two years left on that contract after this one.
6. Anaheim Ducks
Record: 27-10-6 (60 points)
Last Week: 4
Recent Trend: The Ducks lost to the Rangers on Wednesday but managed to salvage a shootout win against Winnipeg after being down 4-2 heading into the third period for a 1-1 week.
Big Picture: Anaheim is tied for first in the NHL in total points but sits 16th in the league in goal differential. A charitable interpretation is that injuries are obscuring what a good team they are; a cynical interpretation is that they're an average team riding a ridiculous streak.
By the Numbers: Ignoring empty-net goals, the Ducks have won exactly one game by more than a single goal since the end of October. They're piling up the wins, but the margin for error is non-existent.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins
Record: (25-10-6, 56 points)
Last Week: 5
Recent Trend: The injury-decimated Penguins won a game in overtime and lost a game in overtime last week but are 3-1-1 over their last five games.
Big Picture: Pittsburgh is one win out of first in the conference despite having its show run by the mumps, but as always, it will all be for naught if the team can't put together a decent playoff run.
By the Numbers: It's a two-man show in Pittsburgh right now. Eleven days (and 11 goals) into 2015, the Penguins have yet to score one when one of Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin hasn't figured.
4. New York Islanders
Record: 28-13-1 (57 points)
Last Week: 3
Recent Trend: After losing to Vancouver on Tuesday, the Islanders visited New Jersey and Columbus on back-to-back nights and won both games. They're 4-2-0 on their current seven-game road trip, which is now effectively over as their final opponent is the Rangers.
Big Picture: The Islanders have looked like a contender all year, though they've also had some luck in the shootout. If Pittsburgh ever gets healthy, they may find it difficult to hold onto their lead of the Met (the Pens are one point back and have a game in hand).
By the Numbers: Ryan Strome has nine points in his last seven games and fired a career-high eight shots against Columbus on Saturday (though he didn't score). The 2011 fifth overall pick now has 30 points in 42 games on the season and looks poised to do better in the back half.
3. Chicago Blackhawks
Record: 28-13-2 (58 points)
Last Week: 2
Recent Trend: Chicago has slipped a little in the eyes of the panel thanks to an ugly recent habit of alternating wins and losses, something that continued this week and now stretches back six games.
Big Picture: They're probably the best team in the league, and these little ups and downs don't really matter all that much. Besides, if 0.500 represents a low point for the team, that says something in itself.
By the Numbers: Johnny Oduya has been struggling badly, but he did manage a goal in Chicago's 4-1 rout of Minnesota on Sunday. He's at an incredible -22.4 Relative Corsi this year, meaning the Blackhawks' shot-attempt differential is 22 worse in an average hour with him on the ice than it is without him.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
Record: 27-12-4 (58 points)
Last Week: 6
Recent Trend: The Lightning have won three straight games and seven of their last eight contests overall.
Big Picture: Currently first in the East and just two points back of first in the league overall, the Lightning have proven that last year's regular-season success was no fluke.
By the Numbers: Andrei Vasilevskiy is staking his claim to the backup position. With Evgeni Nabokov struggling this season, 20-year-old Vasilevskiy has gone 3-1-0 with a 0.937 save percentage for the Lightning.
1. Nashville Predators
Record: 28-9-4 (60 points)
Last Week: 1
Recent Trend: Nashville has won three in a row and is 6-0-2 in its last eight games; its only losses in that span came against Anaheim and Chicago, and both of those games went to the shootout.
Big Picture: The shockingly good Predators have served notice that 2014-15 isn't just about making the playoffs—it's about making a play for the Cup. Not that the road will be easy; if the playoffs started today, they'd face Los Angeles in the first round and the winner of the Chicago-St. Louis clash in the second.
By the Numbers: Nashville's current offensive leader is (drum roll please) Colin Wilson. Wilson, whose career-high in points is 35, has 13 in his last 10 games to lead the club in scoring over that stretch. That represents half of his total offensive output this season.