NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 12 Poll
There was a changing of the guard at the top of the power rankings this week, as the Washington Capitals pushed their way past the Dallas Stars into first place.
That wasn't the only change. We've seen some traditional powers reassert themselves and some of the early leaders this season slump badly over the past few weeks. Parity is in evidence as clubs struggle to differentiate themselves from the NHL pack and teams at both the top and the bottom of the rankings make big moves based on the latest trends.
I'll be your host as we go through the happenings of the last week, but the rankings that follow aren't solely based on my opinion. Instead, we've assembled the usual panel of B/R hockey writers—Adrian Dater, Allan Mitchell, Lyle Richardson, Carol Schram and yours truly—and had everyone submit their own lists. The rankings that follow are based on the group average.
Read on to see where your team ranks and what happened in hockey this week.
30-26: Columbus Blue Jackets-Anaheim Ducks
30. Columbus Blue Jackets (last week: 30)
Losses to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas stretched the Columbus Blue Jackets' losing streak to five games this week, a run that was finally broken on Thursday with a wild 7-5 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Columbus scored on one in three shots it took in that contest as the Coyotes' goalies imploded completely. The Jackets then blew a two-goal lead in the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers before managing to win in the shootout on Saturday. Star centre Ryan Johansen was held pointless in the three games he played and has now gone nine contests without a goal.
29. Edmonton Oilers (last week: 21)
The Edmonton Oilers' four-game road trip didn't go very well. It started with an overtime win, a game stolen by goaltender Cam Talbot after the Oilers were heavily outplayed and outshot, and it finished with three consecutive losses in which Edmonton gave up 13 combined goals. Centre Anton Lander has gone 45 games (stretching back to last season) without scoring a goal.
28. Toronto Maple Leafs (last week: 29)
The Toronto Maple Leafs picked up points in all three games they played this week, though Saturday's 5-0 triumph over the Los Angeles Kings was the club's only win. Prior to that blowout, the Leafs fell in overtime to both Tampa Bay and the San Jose Sharks. The 26-save shutout agianst L.A. was Jonathan Bernier's first win of the season.
27. Vancouver Canucks (last week: 23)
The Vancouver Canucks lost three of four this week. The team's lone win was a shootout victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday, but that triumph was followed by a shootout loss to the Florida Panthers on Sunday. Offence from anyone other than the Sedin twins remains a work in progress while starting goaltender Ryan Miller's work has been hit-and-miss.
26. Anaheim Ducks (last week: 26)
For a month now, the Anaheim Ducks have basically tread water with a 0.500 record. That continued this week, as all of Anaheim's 44 shots were turned aside by goalie Chad Johnson in a 2-0 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, but that game was followed by a 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. Ryan Getzlaf remains stuck at a single goal this year, that coming in a November 16 contest against the Carolina Hurricanes.
25-21: Pittsburgh Penguins-Buffalo Sabres
25. Pittsburgh Penguins (last week: 15)
It's a little too early to say Mike Johnston wasn't a problem or that Mike Sullivan isn't a solution, but the first week under the Pittsburgh Penguins' new coaching regime did not go well. The Pens lost four straight, all in regulation, with thee of those four contests being played at home. Shot volume hasn't been a problem, but the Penguins haven't had any finish; they averaged more than 37 shots per game, but the opposition goalies combined for a 0.973 save percentage.
24. Carolina Hurricanes (last week: 20)
It wasn't a terrible week for the Canes, but it wasn't great, either. All the games were close as the team went 1-1-1, not really falling out of position but also not gaining ground the way it needs to do. Jeff Skinner picked up another hat-trick, his second in three games, in Tuesday's overtime loss to Philadelphia.
23. Arizona Coyotes (last week: 22)
The Coyotes had a weird week. On Thursday, Arizona lost 7-5 to Columbus as the Blue Jackets scored on one-third of the shots they took. Two days later, one of the two goalies who played in that one, Louis Domingue, started against the Islanders and turned aside all of the 25 shots he faced. Domingue's career NHL save percentage is now 0.917 over nine contests, and it's possible he will steal some minutes away from the hapless Anders Lindback (4-5-1 record, 0.891 save percentage).
22. Calgary Flames (last week: 24)
The Calgary Flames pushed their winning streak to seven games this week but also saw that streak come to an end, with regulation losses to both the St. Louis Blues and Detroit over the weekend. Our panel saw enough to bump the Flames up two spots as a result, but this big push by Calgary wasn't enough to get the team into playoff position, and the Flames sit one point back of Vancouver for the final berth in the Pacific.
21. Buffalo Sabres (last week: 27)
The Sabres collected five of a possible eight points in Week 12, beating the Ducks and Red Wings but falling in a shootout to the Chicago Blackhawks and in regulation to the Devils. Much of the credit must go to goalie Chad Johnson, who played in all three games in which Buffalo collected points, stopping 102 of 105 shots (0.971 save percentage) in the process.
20-16: San Jose Sharks-New Jersey Devils
20. San Jose Sharks (last week: 25)
An ugly run of six consecutive losses came to an end on Tuesday, when San Jose topped the slumping Montreal Canadiens 3-1. The rest of the week was less successful (1-1-1), but even so, a 2-1-1 record to start a five-game road trip isn't bad, and it's particularly good when the half-dozen games immediately prior were filled with nothing but defeats. Joe Pavelski recorded six points over the final three games of the week to get back to a point-per-game scoring pace.
19. Winnipeg Jets (last week: 17)
The Winnipeg Jets played just two games last week, and although they went 0.500, it's surely disappointing to the team that it beat the New York Rangers but lost to divisional rival St. Louis. Dustin Byfuglien scored the game-winning goal against New York and now has 10 points in his last 10 contests.
18. Colorado Avalanche (last week: 28)
The Colorado Avalanche are on a bit of a run, winning all three games they played in Week 12. Combined with previous wins over the Nashville Predators and St. Louis, the club has now won five straight contests and finds itself only three points back of Nashville for the final wild-card slot in the West. The difference has mostly been Semyon Varlamov, who has stopped all but nine of the 270 shots he's faced in the month of December (7-1-0, 0.966 save percentage).
17. Philadelphia Flyers (last week: 19)
Philadelphia took five of a possible six points in Week 12, beating Carolina and Vancouver at home but then falling in the shootout to the Blue Jackets in Columbus. Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek seem to be helping each other out; each recorded points in all three games. Voracek went from one goal on the season to three this week, while Couturier went from just eight points to 12.
16. New Jersey Devils (last week: 12)
After a 2-0 shutout win over the Sabres on Tuesday, the rest of the Devils' week was downhill. A 5-1 loss to Florida, a 2-1 loss to Anaheim and a 2-1 shootout loss to Boston wrapped up a difficult stretch for New Jersey. Lee Stempniak picked up points on three of the five goals the Devils scored in those four games.
15-11: Tampa Bay Lightning-Nashville Predators
15. Tampa Bay Lightning (last week: 16)
The Lightning climb one spot this week after winning three of four games. Aside from beating up on bottom feeders Columbus and Toronto, the Bolts managed an important regulation win over the Ottawa Senators that moved them to within two points of the final wild-card slot in the West. Steven Stamkos scored against Washington on Friday to end a 10-game goalless drought, then tallied two more markers in the victory over Ottawa.
14. Ottawa Senators (last week: 14)
Ottawa had a 50-50 week, beating Los Angeles and San Jose in regulation but also failing to record a point in losses to Washington and Tampa Bay. It's the second time in 10 days the Sens have failed to record a point against the Lightning, and with a potentially tight wild-card race shaping up, those points are going to be missed.
13. Florida Panthers (last week: 18)
The Panthers bounce up and down like a yo-yo in these rankings, and it's no wonder. They win five in a row, then lose three of four games. This week was a good one, seeing Florida win all four games it played and move to within three points of the floundering Canadiens for the lead in the Atlantic. Jaromir Jagr's goal against Vancouver on Sunday moved him into fourth on the NHL's all-time goal-scoring list.
12. Detroit Red Wings (last week: 7)
A three-game losing streak caused our panel to drop the Wings five spots, though Detroit managed to bring the slump to an end on Sunday with a 4-2 victory over the Calgary Flames. Brad Richards scored a goal and had five shots in the win. Despite rather limited ice time, he is scoring well of late, recording three points and 16 shots in his last four games.
11. Nashville Predators (last week: 13)
Nashville has fallen to fifth in the Central Division after losing two of three games this week, though a regulation win over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday was decidedly well-timed. Pekka Rinne has been a major part of his team's current funk. Over his last 25 games, the Predators' star goaltender has gone just 10-9-6 with a 0.900 save percentage.
10. New York Rangers
Record: 19-12-4, 42 points
Last week: 10
New York built up a formidable lead in the Metropolitan with a red-hot start to the season, but the club is well on its way to squandering that lead. The Rangers lost three of four this week and are an ugly 3-9-2 over their last 14 games. The team is still comfortably in the postseason, with a five-point lead on New Jersey, but it needs to arrest this decline.
By the Numbers
Dan Girardi's game is a total mess at the moment. In an average hour of five-on-five play, New York gets outshot 35-25 with him on the ice. His relative Corsi number is a brutal minus-23.5, meaning in an average hour, New York's shot-attempt differential is 24 better with Girardi on the bench than it is when he's on the ice. He plays tough minutes, but the results are so brutal when he's on the ice they can't be excused.
9. New York Islanders
Record: 18-11-5, 41 points
Last week: 5
After winning three straight and jumping up our rankings last week, the New York Islanders dropped three consecutive games and slipped right back down again this week. New York managed a total of two goals in losses to Florida, Colorado and Arizona and missed a golden opportunity to leapfrog the struggling Rangers in the Metropolitan Division.
By the Numbers
John Tavares was held pointless last week, and this is getting to be far too common an occurrence. He has just three points in his last 12 games despite routinely logging in excess of 20 minutes per game. Of late, Mikhail Grabovski has been the Isles' most productive centre offensively; he has points in three of the last four games he's played.
8. Montreal Canadiens
Record: 20-11-3, 43 points
Last week: 4
Montreal's dominance of the Atlantic Division is suddenly in jeopardy. The Boston Bruins have been on quite a run and have come within a single point of the Canadiens. The Habs didn't help themselves this week, losing three straight games in regulation. The club is now 2-7-0 in the month of December, with the offence drying up at the same time as the goaltending falters.
By the Numbers
Mike Condon, who was thrust into the starting role when Carey Price got hurt, has struggled mightily. He is 0-5 in his last five starts, with a 0.850 save percentage, making it clear he's not doing enough. In four of five games, he's faced a maximum of 23 shots (he faced 29 in the other) and has allowed three or more goals in four of those matches.
7. Minnesota Wild
Record: 17-8-6, 40 points
Last week: 9
The Wild won two of three games last week, but that lone loss may come back to bite them. After scoring 11 combined goals in wins over the Rangers and Canucks, Minnesota dropped a 3-2 decision to the Predators in Nashville on Saturday. That loss allowed the Predators to claw to within two points of the Wild.
The good news for Minnesota is it has played just 31 contests, the lowest number in the Central Division. As long as it makes good on those games in hand, home ice at the start of the playoffs is a real possibility.
By the Numbers
Devan Dubnyk is back and playing well for the Wild, but don't expect him to play the same ridiculous number of games he was prior to his injury. Backup Darcy Kuemper stepped in brilliantly during Dubnyk's absence and gave his coaches a reason to trust him. Kuemper went 3-0-2 with a 0.943 save percentage in the interim and has earned the right to play at least semi-regularly.
6. Boston Bruins
Record: 19-9-4, 42 points
Last week: 11
Don Sweeney's revenge? After a summer in which the general manager was heavily criticized for his moves, the Bruins team he revamped is coming together rather well. Boston picked up seven of a possible eight points this week and would have run the table if not for a brilliant goalie performance by Cam Talbot on Monday. The club has just one regulation loss in its last 15 games (11-1-3) and is now one point out of first in the Atlantic with two games in hand on current leader Montreal.
By the Numbers
Landon Ferraro had one point in 17 career games with Detroit when the Bruins claimed him off waivers in November. He's delivered nicely since, however. He recorded two points this week and has seven in 13 games since joining Boston. The Bruins now have four high-scoring centres; over the last 10 games Ferraro, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Ryan Spooner have combined for 35 points.
5. Los Angeles Kings
Record: 20-10-2, 42 points
Last week: 3
The Kings had a lousy week, dropping two of three games and allowing five goals in losses to Ottawa and Toronto. Still, these games came at the end of a road trip in which the team went 3-2-1 overall, so it's probably not worth getting too worked up about it. Additionally, the Kings are well ahead of the rest of the Pacific Division, and at this point, it seems highly unlikely any of the clubs behind them will be able to catch up and knock them out of first.
By the Numbers
Jonathan Quick was in net for that game against the Senators, and after suffering through an off-night, he redeemed himself in his next start against Montreal, turning aside 45 shots in the shutout victory. He is now 8-1-1 with a 0.935 save percentage over his last 10 starts and hasn't had two consecutive games with a sub-0.900 save percentage in better than a month.
4. Chicago Blackhawks
Record: 20-11-4, 44 points
Last week: 6
An overtime win over the Sharks on Sunday pushed Chicago into a tie for second in the competitive Central Division. It was the third consecutive win for the Blackhawks and their seventh victory in their last nine games. However, that isn't enough to give Chicago much of a lead on the pack, as St. Louis, Minnesota and Nashville are all within six points and all have games in hand.
By the Numbers
Patrick Kane fired seven shots and recorded two points and a plus-four rating in Sunday's win over San Jose. His record-breaking point streak came to an end on Tuesday, but he has points in all three games since being held off the scoreboard by Colorado. He's six points ahead of the Stars' lethal Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin duo in the Art Ross Trophy race.
3. St. Louis Blues
Record: 20-10-4, 44 points
Last week: 8
St. Louis had the kind of week it needed to have. The Blues won all three games they played, including victories over Central Division rivals Winnipeg and Nashville. Given how competitive the division is, a three-game winning streak doesn't offer a lot of safety, but it did allow St. Louis to climb into second place while simultaneously opening up a bit of a gap between the Jets and Predators, teams on the playoff bubble.
By the Numbers
Vladimir Tarasenko scored goals in each of the Blues' wins this week. His personal goal-scoring streak now extends to five games, and he has markers in seven of his last eight contests. He's just one goal back of Jamie Benn for the NHL lead.
2. Dallas Stars
Record: 24-7-2, 50 points
Last week: 1
The Stars aren't quite lapping the field at this point of the season, but that's only because Washington has been making a steady push in the East. Out West, nobody is closer than six points to the Stars' record, and the gap by goal differential is even larger.
By the Numbers
Jamie Benn isn't just contending for the NHL scoring lead thanks to his work at even strength or on the power play—he's also among the league's most offensive players in shorthanded situations. Entering action on Sunday, Benn's four shorthanded points was tied for first in the NHL.
1. Washington Capitals
Record: 24-6-2, 50 points
Last week: 2
Nothing to see here, just a five-game winning streak. Oh, and by the way, the Caps haven't lost consecutive games all season. Washington has now tied Dallas for first overall in the NHL but has the benefit of both a game in hand and a superior goal differential. After a 7-3 victory over the Rangers on Sunday, Washington also now enjoys an eight-point lead in the Metropolitan Division.
By the Numbers
Nicklas Backstrom recorded three assists on Sunday, helping out with Washington's game-tying goal, go-ahead goal and insurance marker as part of a six-goal onslaught that erased a 3-1 New York lead. That brought his total up to seven points over the four games this week and pushed him to 31 points in just 29 games on the season.