NHL Power Rankings: Blackhawks jump Blues, Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets heat up
1) Anaheim Ducks (37-10-5; last week-1) – The most impressive streak in the NHL this season came to an end Tuesday as the Jets beat the Ducks, 3-2, at the Honda Center, handing Anaheim its first loss in regulation at home (20-1-2). The Ducks are sure to get over it and, if anything, not having to talk about it is probably a good thing moving forward. This Saturday should be fun for Anaheim as all the “diehard hockey fans” in the LA area will see the Ducks battle the Kings at Dodger Stadium.
2) Chicago Blackhawks (32-8-11; last week-3) – Chicago won its first Stanley Cup Final rematch with Boston, 3-2, in a shootout on Sunday. Corey Crawford (19-7-7, 2.44 GAA, .912 save percentage) was the third star of the week in the NHL and while he won’t be going to Sochi, all the Blackhawks really care about is another deep playoff run this spring. Including the Olympic break, nine of the next 10 games for Chicago are away from the United Center.
3) St. Louis Blues (33-11-5; last week-2) – The Blues have slowed down a little bit but they are still only four points back of Chicago with two games in hand. St. Louis has the best goal-differential in the NHL (plus-56). Their 7-1 loss in New Jersey Tuesday was one of the most unexpected results of this season. The snowstorm has to be blamed.
4) Pittsburgh Penguins (34-13-2; last week-4) – Speaking of unexpected results, the Penguins falling 5-1 to the Panthers at Consol Energy Center on Monday – snapping a 13-game home win streak – was shocking. Still, Pittsburgh is 7-2-1 in its last 10 games and you know some other team will have to pay for them getting embarrassed vs. Florida.
5) San Jose Sharks (32-12-6; last week-5) – Very quietly, the Sharks are putting together another great regular season and they are in good position for home ice advantage when the playoffs start. San Jose has won its last four games and they could potentially put together a long streak with three home games in a row then at Edmonton and Calgary. The Sharks are 17-2-3 at SAP Center, the second best home record in the NHL.
6) Colorado Avalanche (31-13-5; last week-6) – Sorry there hasn’t been much movement in the power rankings this week, it seems that most teams are settling into their respective positions. The Avalanche are coming off one of their worst games of the season, a 5-2 loss to Toronto Tuesday. However, Colorado is 7-2-1 in its last 10 games, so it’s not all doom and gloom.
7) Boston Bruins (31-15-3; last week-7) – Backup goaltender Chad Johnson (8-3-0) won two games in the past week, against the Stars and Kings, which doesn’t sound like much. Bup until now, the Bruins didn’t seem to have much faith in him. Boston is enjoying its final extended rest between games break before the Olympics. They are in Philadelphia on Saturday, the first game of the season against the Flyers and those are usually very entertaining tilts.
8) Tampa Bay Lightning (29-16-5; last week-8) – After missing the playoffs last season, not many people would have predicted the Lightning to be in third place in the Eastern Conference and pushing the Bruins for first in the Atlantic Division. With Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard’s knee injury, Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop should leave his phone on until Feb. 11 (deadline for Olympic rosters), expecting a call from Team USA.
9) Los Angeles Kings (29-16-6; last week-9) – LA has lost its last two games and it is 4-4-2 in its last 10. Things won’t get any easier as the Kings play back-to-back games with Anaheim then go to San Jose and Phoenix before hosting Pittsburgh. With all of their offensive talent, it’s hard to explain how the Kings have only scored 131 goals (2.57 per game).
10) Vancouver Canucks (26-16-9; last week-11) – John Tortorella was suspended for 15 days and six games after his over-the-top actions during Saturday’s fight-filled game with Calgary. The Canucks had to know what they were getting into with Tortorella, but coaches in the NHL can’t be baited into low-rent theatrics like that (trying to get into the opposing team’s dressing room). Henrik Sedin’s ironman streak (679 games) is over as he missed Tuesday night’s game in Edmonton (2-1 Canucks win) with a rib injury.
11) Montreal Canadiens (27-17-5; last week-10) – Montreal has treaded water lately, going 4-4-2 in its last 10 games. They have only scored 126 goals and their goal-differential is a meager minus-6.
12) Toronto Maple Leafs (27-20-5; last week-15) – Don’t look now but the Maple Leafs are one of the hottest teams in the NHL with six straight wins. Toronto has two more games left on its road trip: at Dallas and Winnipeg. After that, the Leafs return to Air Canada Centre for three games.
13) Minnesota Wild (27-20-5; last week-12) – Throwing out their no-show in Dallas Tuesday (a 4-0 loss), the Wild are playing well (7-3-0 in their last 10 games). That could change soon though as the Wild host the Blackhawks Thursday then head out on a four-game road trip (Sharks, Ducks, Avalanche, Flames). Minnesota is 9-13-3 on the road, the second worst mark in the Western Conference.
14) New York Rangers (27-22-3; last week-16) – Madison Square Garden is called the “World’s Most Famous Arena” but don’t tell that to the Rangers who are 12-12-3 there, but 15-10-0 on the road. New York made an interesting trade this week, flipping former first round pick Michael Del Zotto for Predators defenseman Kevin Klein. In this case, they are giving up offensive ability for a more prototypical defensemen.
15) Philadelphia Flyers (25-19-6; last week-13) – Steve Mason (19-11-5, 2.56 GAA & .915 save percentage) signed a three-year extension over the weekend. He’s having a nice season, but how many times have we seen Flyers goaltenders completely go off the rails after a few seasons in the City of Brotherly Love? The Flyers are in Columbus to take on the smoking Blue Jackets Thursday before their home showdown with Boston Saturday.
16) Columbus Blue Jackets (25-20-4; last week-20) – You are a true NHL junkie if you know that the Blue Jackets are one of the hottest team in the league. Beating Los Angeles 5-3 Tuesday gave them a franchise record seven consecutive wins. The good times should continue with four of their next five games at home, against Philadelphia, Buffalo, Ottawa and Washington.
17) Phoenix Coyotes (23-17-9; last week-not ranked) – As you can tell, no team really distinguished itself from the remaining squads barely over .500. The Coyotes are 3-7-0 in their last 10 and have earned the moniker of “team that should be way better than it is.” If the playoffs started today, they would miss out on all the fun.
18) Ottawa Senators (22-19-9; last week-18) – The Senators have moved up the Eastern Conference standings by going 7-1-2 in their last 10 games. Their four-game road trip started with a 2-0 shutout in Washington Tuesday. Getting points in Tampa Bay and Columbus should prove to be far more difficult.
19) New Jersey Devils (21-19-11; last week-17) – If you were one of the insane 2,000 or so (actual attendance) that braved a blizzard for Devils-Blues Tuesday, you were rewarded with New Jersey’s best performance of the season. New Jersey is the only team in the NHL left that is winless in overtime and shootouts (0-8). On Sunday, they meet the Rangers at Yankee Stadium – the first NHL game to be played there.
20) Winnipeg Jets (23-23-5; last week-not ranked) – You might understandably do a double-take when you see the Jets ranked, but hear us out. Not only did they slay mighty Anaheim at home in regulation but they have won four straight. That almost makes up for the fact that they’re still tied for last in the Central Division.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate