NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 16 Poll

Adrian Dater@@adaterNHL National ColumnistJanuary 18, 2016

NHL Power Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 16 Poll

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    David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

    We have a change at the top of the Bleacher Report NHL Power Rankings. Move over, Washington Capitals, to make room for the defending Stanley Cup champions.

    The Chicago Blackhawks have now won 11 in a row after Sunday's victory over the Montreal Canadiens. Chicago overtook the Dallas Stars for the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference. The Capitals still own the most points in the league, but a 4-1 loss to lowly Buffalo on Saturday didn't help their cause in the voting of B/R staffers that included myself, Carol Schram, Jonathan Willis, Lyle Richardson, Allan Mitchell and Steve MacFarlane.

    The Canadiens, once the darlings of the B/R voters, continue their slide down the rankings. Find out where they and the other 28 teams rank in the following slideshow. 

    Have a beef with the picks? Let us know and why.

30-26: Toronto Maple Leafs-Ottawa Senators

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    30. Toronto Maple Leafs (last week: 27)

    Just when you were ready to start buying in a little on the Leafs, they go and lose five in a row. The latest loss was a 3-2 decision to Boston Saturday. Of the 16 Eastern Conference teams, only four have scored fewer goals than Toronto's 108. 

    It looks like the race is on now for the Maple Leafs in the chase to the bottom and a chance at potential No. 1 pick Auston Matthews.

    29. Columbus Blue Jackets (last week: 30)

    Columbus has looked a bit better since the Ryan Johansen-Seth Jones trade. The Jackets' 2-1 victory over Colorado Saturday night was their second in a row, and Jones has responded well to the increased ice time he's seen under new coach John Tortorella.

    Jackets fans probably hope things don't get too much better, though. That would cost them the best chance at Matthews in the draft.

    28. Buffalo Sabres (last week: 28)

    Buffalo got a great win Saturday over Washington. Now, it heads out West for games starting Monday in Arizona, then Colorado. 

    That said, Buffalo is 3-7-0 in its last 10, and the playoffs are too far gone. Unlike last year, however, the Sabres are competitive most every night, and the future should be brighter. That's the hope anyway.

    27. Edmonton Oilers (last week: 28)

    Let's face it, it looks like just another lost season in Edmonton. Connor McDavid, contrary to a November report from Sportsnet's Mark Spector, has not returned early from his broken clavicle. He should be back by February or early March, but there won't be any meaningful hockey left for him to play. The team did not step up in his absence. Wait till next year.

    OK, OK, it's only a little past the midseason mark. But there is no evidence the Oilers are anything better than the last several years: losers.

    26. Ottawa Senators (last week: 17)

    They got a nice win Saturday in Los Angeles. But they remain an unimpressive team. Their goals for/against differential is minus-13 (125-138). The goaltending and defense have settled into average at best for a while now. The Sens need a more dynamic center, and they need a real team identity. This club just always seems to mostly win one and lose one.

26-21: Calgary Flames-Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    25. Calgary Flames (last week: 25)

    The Flames are playing better, including a 6-0 blowout of hot Florida last week. They are in the hunt for a playoff spot, a tribute to the team after a brutal start. But the Flames still can't seem to sustain anything long term. After beating Tampa Bay at home last week, they lost two straight at home to Arizona and San Jose.

    Those are the kinds of losses the Flames can't withstand much longer if they want to be a postseason team again.

    24. Winnipeg Jets (last week: 26)

    The Jets got a nice 1-0 win Friday in Minnesota. Now, they have a four-game homestand, beginning Monday against Colorado. They need to get at least six of the possible eight points to seriously get back in the playoff hunt. Trade rumors continue to swirl around the team, especially around potential unrestricted free-agent Dustin Byfuglien, according to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

    23. Vancouver Canucks (last week: 24)

    The Canucks entered Saturday 6-3-1 in their previous 10. They're an almost impossible team to peg, because they are always capable of winning some 3-2 game with the front line and the goaltender they have. 

    The trouble is, they can't seem to sustain much beyond the occasional two- or three-game win streak.

    22. Carolina Hurricanes (last week: 22)

    You know what? The Hurricanes are hanging in there. They entered Sunday's big game with Pittsburgh 5-2-3 in their previous 10 and are within range of a playoff spot. That said, they looked bad in a 5-0 loss to the Pens.

    It will be interesting to see what management decides to do as the trade deadline gets closer. The conventional thinking is they should move out some higher-priced property on the rental market, but if they're close enough to a playoff spot, their fans will be miffed if they don't become buyers instead.

    21. Pittsburgh Penguins (last week: 16)

    The Pens continue to tread water. They're a boring team to watch, which is an incredible thing to say for a team with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel on it. 

    But the Pens play with little passion and little physicality. Yet they still have a shot at a playoff berth if they can somehow string something together. They haven't been able to do that all year, though. They got a nice win Sunday over Carolina, and there is no question Crosby is playing better. So, there is still hope.

20-16: Anaheim Ducks-Montreal Canadiens

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    20. Anaheim Ducks (last week: 21)

    Their 86 goals remain dead last in the West, but the defense and goaltending have been good of late, enough to keep the Ducks well in the picture for a Pacific Division playoff spot. The Ducks dealt Carl Hagelin to Pittsburgh early Saturday morning in a package deal that brought David Perron to Anaheim.

    Was that really what the Ducks needed most? Probably not, but general manager Bob Murray likes to make things happen.

    19. Colorado Avalanche (last week: 15)

    After Saturday's desultory showing in Columbus, a 2-1 regulation loss, the Avs fell to 1-3-0 in their previous four games—after everybody in Denver was starting to get excited again about the team. They are right there in the hunt for a wild-card spot, but they aren't going to get one with efforts such as Saturday's against one of the worst teams in the league.

    18. San Jose Sharks (last week: 23)

    San Jose's overtime victory over Dallas Saturday night was the club's fifth win in a row. The Sharks are back in the hunt for both Pacific Division and wild-card playoff spots. Tomas Hertl scored a nice goal in OT against former teammate Antti Niemi to win a 4-3 decision over Dallas.

    This team is always a roller-coaster ride.

    17. Philadelphia Flyers (last week: 18)

    Sunday's 2-1 shootout win at Detroit improved the Flyers to 5-0-1 in their last six games. They still can't score, but goalie Michal Neuvirth has been very good of late. This team continues to hang around and is right on the heels of Montreal for a wild-card spot.

    Claude Giroux's shootout goal Sunday was a beauty.

    16. Montreal Canadiens (last week: 12)

    This isn't just a little dip anymore. Things are starting to get downright panicky in Montreal, where the media and fans are all over coach Michel Therrien and GM Marc Bergevin.

    Friday saw the club deal away a former first-round draft pick, Jarred Tinordi, in a three-way deal that brought John Scott to Montreal and his subsequent demotion to the St. John's IceCaps. Scott and unproven D-man Victor Bartley came to Montreal. That's not the kind of deal Habs fans have been wanting management to make to improve the club.

    Carey Price continues to get closer to returning, which obviously can't come too soon. But there is no doubt that Montreal has failed the "step up" test with Price gone, and that hurts the character of the club going forward.

15-11: New Jersey Devils-Boston Bruins

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    Ralph Freso/Associated Press

    15. New Jersey Devils (last week: 20)

    Cory Schneider was tremendous in leading the Devils to a big 2-0 win over Arizona Saturday at Gila River Arena. He made 38 saves in a 2-0 shutout. The Devils had a tough couple of games previously in St. Louis and Colorado but got a nice win before that in Minnesota. 

    I like this team. It plays tough under coach John Hynes, and Schneider gives the Devils a good chance of winning almost every night. Would it be nice if GM Ray Shero could add another scorer at the deadline? Yes, it would.

    14. Nashville Predators (last week: 19)

    Nashville's shutout Saturday of Minnesota gave it three of a possible last four points and stopped the bleeding after a few straight losses following the acquisition of Ryan Johansen from Columbus.

    A very big test awaits Tuesday night against the Blackhawks. If they can manage a win there, the Preds will be on the right path again toward a Western Conference playoff spot. If not, they will be in a dogfight with several other teams the rest of the way.

    13. Tampa Bay Lightning (last week: 14)

    Things are finally starting to get back to normal in Tampa Bay. They took a four-game winning streak into Sunday's game with rival Florida. Goalie Ben Bishop has been very good, including a shutout of the Avalanche in Denver last week. 

    What happens with Jonathan Drouin remains to be seen, but fans can trust that GM Steve Yzerman won't get caught in a short sale, just because Drouin and his agent, Allan Walsh, want out of Tampa.

    12. Arizona Coyotes (last week: 11)

    The Coyotes stubbed a toe Saturday in getting shut out at home to New Jersey. The game before that, they blew a 2-0 late third-period lead and lost in overtime to Detroit. 

    Still, they are 6-2-2 in their last 10. Rookie goalie Louis Domingue has been a nice surprise while starter Mike Smith convalesces in his rehab from injury. Don't forget about old man Shane Doan, too. He's got 16 goals. Not bad for a 39-year-old.

    11. Boston Bruins (last week: 13)

    Boston's 3-2 win over Toronto Saturday was its second in a row after a turbulent period surrounding the Winter Classic. Coach Claude Julien has kept his club disciplined enough to be there in the playoff hunt, after an offseason in which many people wrote the B's off. 

    They have a big decision to make with potential UFA forward Loui Eriksson, however. Should the Bruins re-up with the streaky Swede? Or do they deal him at the deadline for other needs? Should be interesting.

10. New York Islanders

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Record: 24-15-6, 54 points

    Last week: 10

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    The Isles played Sunday at home against Vancouver and got a point but won't play again until Friday in Ottawa. Entering Sunday, they had won two in a row and were 6-4-0 in the previous 10. They are doing what they need to do, in other words, to get toward a playoff spot, though it's been tough sledding.

    Travis Hamonic will be lost to the team for the next couple weeks, at least, with a lower-body injury. That is a tough loss, so it's incumbent upon captain John Tavares to really get it going, something that really hasn't happened yet this year.

    By the numbers

    After being above the 50 percent mark much of the year, New York's puck-possession numbers have slipped some of late. Their overall Corsi-for Percentage was 49.6 entering Sunday. The loss of Hamonic isn't likely to improve that stat much, either.

9. New York Rangers

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Record: 24-16-5, 53 points

    Last week: 9

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    The Blueshirts have been in win-one, lose-one mode for a couple weeks now, but that's better than the losing streak they had before that, which dropped them down in the standings significantly. 

    Henrik Lundqvist earned his 20th victory of the season in a Saturday shootout win over Philadelphia. The road win still only upped their record to 2-7-2 in their last 11 away from Madison Square Garden. 

    By the numbers

    The Rangers are getting more pucks on net of late, which is a good sign. Their 31 shots on goal in Saturday's win at Philly marked the third straight road game they put 30 or more on net (35.3 average). For a team with still only a 47.6 Corsi-for Percentage entering Sunday, it needs more time like that in the opposing end.

8. Minnesota Wild

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Record: 22-15-8, 52 points

    Last week: 8

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    No question, the Wild are slumping. Saturday's 3-0 loss to Nashville was the team's fourth straight. The Wild have just five goals in the last five games. The forwards are just kind of drifting around too much lately, not playing that hard-to-the-net Wild style that usually makes them successful.

    Now, the Wild go on the road against the three California teams. Someone needs to step up and stop the bleeding with this team.

    By the numbers

    A big part of the problem of late has been the start to games. The Wild have allowed the first goal in four straight games and eight of their last 10. This is a team that plays much better with a lead, so that first goal is huge.

7. St. Louis Blues

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Record: 26-15-7, 59 points

    Last week: 7

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    Brian Elliott made a career-high 46 saves Saturday night in an exciting 4-3 overtime win over Montreal. That took the sting out of a horrible 4-1 home loss the game before that against Carolina.

    Despite being solidly in the playoff picture, the Blues just have not looked like the kind of dominant regular-season team of years past. That is evident in their goal differential. It is as average as it gets: 121 goals for, 121 against.

    By the numbers

    The Blues were outshot 49-22 in the OT win against Montreal. That is the kind of disparity that coach Ken Hitchcock just hates to see. He likes his team to have the puck more than the other guys, and while the Blues still have a respectable Corsi-for Percentage of 52.0, there's no doubt Hitchcock wants to see that number improve.

6. Detroit Red Wings

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 23-14-8, 54 points

    Last week: 6

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    The Red Wings were nine minutes away from being shut out Thursday night in Arizona, but two late goals and a brilliant split of the defense by rookie Dylan Larkin set up the overtime winner by Danny Dekeyser.

    Coach Jeff Blashill has done a great job integrating kids such as Larkin into a lineup that still relies a lot on veterans such as Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader. Mike Green's return to health has made the Wings power play dangerous again, too.

    It was something of a disappointment Sunday night, however, losing in a shootout at home to Philadelphia after such a strong road trip.

    By the numbers

    Petr Mrazek, 23, is really coming on of late in the Detroit net. He had won his previous five starts entering Sunday.

    Mrazek's .930 save percentage and 2.15 goals-against average are among the league leaders. He has seemingly taken control of the No. 1 goalie job ahead of veteran Jimmy Howard.

5. Florida Panthers

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    Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 26-14-5, 57 points

    Last week: 5

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    Well, the long winning streak came to an end last week in Western Canada. That, not surprisingly, coincided with the loss of No. 1 defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who was hurt on a hit from Edmonton's Matt Hendricks that earned him a three-game suspension.

    Everything else is positive for the Panthers, though, as a playoff spot looks more secure by the day. 

    By the numbers

    The power play continues to be the team's big issue. It ranked 27th in the league entering Sunday, and the loss of Ekblad for at least a couple more games isn't likely to help. Florida could use a big guy to set screens and make trouble in front of the opposing net.

    Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet speculated that GM Dale Tallon might try to get one of his former players in Chicago, Dustin Byfuglien, for just such a task. But it won't be easy swinging a deal with Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, who is known as a hard bargainer.

4. Los Angeles Kings

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    Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 28-13-3, 59 points

    Last week: 3

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    Everything is going just fine again with the Kings, who are winning games and also keeping their fans happy by doing things such as signing their best player to a long-term team. 

    Anze Kopitar will stay a King for a long time after signing an eight-year, $80 contract extension last week. It was nice to see Vincent Lecavalier score a goal again, even if it came in a losing cause Saturday against Ottawa. Vinny scored another goal in Sunday's win over Anaheim.

    By the numbers

    The Kings continue to be the best puck-possession team in the league. Entering Sunday's game, their Corsi-for Percentage of 56.1 was a full two points better than the next best team, Nashville. On the negative side, eight other teams in the West had scored more goals than the Kings' 115 entering Sunday. It's hard to win 2-1 every night, though the Kings do it pretty consistently.

3. Dallas Stars

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Record: 29-12-5, 63 points

    Last week: 3

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    No question about it, the Stars are slipping some, even if it isn't showing fully in our rankings just yet. But another week like the last two, and Dallas might be much closer to the 10th spot than the first. The Stars have been on the road a lot lately, though, so let's give them a bit of a break on that.

    Still, the defense and goaltending haven't been great of late. That has always been the worry with this club, and maybe for good reason.

    By the numbers

    Dallas has to prove it can win on the road if it wants to win over the toughest critics who think the club is a paper tiger. The Stars haven't been doing a good job of that lately. They are 0-4-3 in the last seven games away from American Airlines Arena.

2. Washington Capitals

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Record: 34-8-3, 71 points

    Last week: 1

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    I voted to keep the Caps No. 1 overall but was outvoted by my peers. So, I'm innocent here, Washington.

    But I don't blame my colleagues too much. Losing to Buffalo Saturday was not the act of a team that aims to be the best. But this is the NHL. Parity and all that.

    Braden Holtby left Sunday's game after consulting with a trainer, which immediately panicked Caps Nation. But the problem was later described as dehydration, according to Katie Brown of NHL.com. He should be fine.

    By the numbers

    Washington's plus-52 goal (149-97) differential is by far the widest in the league. That's why I still believe the Caps are the best team in the league, even if my colleagues don't get it (joking here, guys). 

1. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Record: 31-13-4, 66 points

    Last week: 2

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    With eleven wins in a row after Sunday's 5-2 triumph over Montreal, this team continues to play with the hunger of a team that hasn't won a thing. Pretty remarkable for one that actually has three Stanley Cups since 2010. 

    Chicago coach Joel Quenneville got a well-deserved three-year contract extension last week. Jonathan Toews is heating up again, too. This is bad news for the West.

    By the numbers

    Toews led the team in scoring last season with 66 points. Patrick Kane already has 69 points, and there are 34 more games left on the Hawks' regular-season schedule.

    Statistics from Puckalytics.com, HockeyDB.com and NHL.com were used in compiling this list.

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