Records through November 20
1) Chicago Blackhawks (14-4-4; last week-3) – Well, that didn’t take long for Chicago to get back on top. The Blackhawks are tied for the most points in the NHL with Anaheim but they’ve played one less game. The defending champs are one of the hottest teams in the league (7-2-1 in their last 10) and the United Center is still one of the toughest places in hockey for an opposing team to win (they are 9-1-3 there).
2) St. Louis Blues (14-3-3; last week-6) – Off to their best 20-game start in franchise history, the Blues deserve a major jump in rankings. They have the best goal-differential in the NHL (plus-23), they are 9-1-2 at Scottrade Center and 7-1-2 in their last 10 games. St. Louis at Boston Thursday could be a Stanley Cup Final preview between two very similarly built teams.
3) Phoenix Coyotes (14-4-3; last week-4) – In many other years, the Coyotes would be the talk of the NHL with their fantastic start to 2013-14. Putting aside the fact that they are in backwater Phoenix, they are getting overshadowed by the greatness all around them in the Western Conference (11 of the 14 teams are over .500). The Coyotes are 9-0-1 at Jobing.com Arena.
4) Colorado Avalanche (15-5-0; last week-1) – There was the temptation to drop the Avalanche even further since they regressed towards their mean last week but then they beat Chicago, 5-1, on Tuesday – one of the most legit wins this season in the NHL. Rising star Matt Duchene (12 goals, eight assists) being out with an oblique injury is a major loss but it sounds like it’s not too serious. The next three games – about as tough a stretch as you’ll find – for Colorado should tell us plenty about them: at Phoenix Thursday, at Los Angeles on Saturday and home vs. St. Louis on Wednesday.
5) Los Angeles Kings (15-6-1; last week 12) – The Kings coming on strong is not surprising in the sense that they are a proven, veteran team, but then again, they have won their last four games (longest current streak in the NHL) behind Ben Scrivens (5-1-1, 1.35 GAA, .949 save percentage). Odds are that LA didn’t think he’d play this well with Jonathan Quick out but you can never have too many good goaltenders. The tough part for the Kings is that they’re in the same division (Pacific) with three other Stanley Cup contenders: Anaheim, San Jose and Phoenix.
6) Anaheim Ducks (15-6-2; last week-2) – Anaheim hasn’t played that poorly in the last week but much like the Avalanche, the Ducks are just coming back to Earth after an incredible start. One stat worth monitoring for the Ducks is that they are 8-0-0 at the Honda Center but just 7-6-2 on the road. Still, they have played nearly twice as many road games as home games so that is good news for them.
7) Boston Bruins (14-6-1; last week-7) – The Bruins are one of the hottest teams in the NHL (7-2-1 in their last 10 games) and they have the best goal-differential (plus-21) in the Eastern Conference (third best in the NHL). It is not their fault but Boston has certainly benefited from being in the very weak Eastern Conference (only 7-of-16 teams are currently over .500). Boston passed its first big test of the week: winning back-to-back road games in Carolina on Monday and New York on Tuesday.
8) San Jose Sharks (13-3-5; last week-5) – The Sharks are tied with the Blues for the fewest regulation losses (three) in the NHL but they are lower than you would expect since they are 1-4 in shootouts and 4-2-4 in their last 10 games. San Jose is tied with Colorado for the second best goal-differential (plus-22) in the league. The Sharks are about to embark on their longest homestand of the season – five games – that will take them through the rest of November.
9) Minnesota Wild (13-5-4; last week-9) – The Wild stay in the same spot even though they are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. They are 10-2-1 at Xcel Energy Center but 3-4-2 on the road. Their goal-differential of plus-7 also suggests that this might be a bit of a mirage. It’d be stunning if they surpass either Chicago or St. Louis at the end of the regular season.
10) Pittsburgh Penguins (13-8-0; last week-11) – Trying to choose the second best team in the Eastern Conference will give you an ice cream headache, even in November. We know how good the Penguins can be, but this season are they simply a product of the worst division (Metropolitan) in the NHL ,where only one of the other seven clubs is over .500 entering Wednesday night’s games? They’ll have a chance to impress the doubters with road games in Washington, Montreal and Boston this upcoming week.
11) Toronto Maple Leafs (13-7-1; last week-14) – The Maple Leafs are an up and down team but here’s saying they will be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference when the dust settles. Toronto is 6-3-1 in its last 10 games and 8-2-0 at Air Canada Centre. The Leafs have three more games in a row at home, including two very winnable matchups with Nashville and Columbus.
12) Tampa Bay Lightning (14-7-0; last week-8) – The reality that the irreplaceable Steven Stamkos is not coming back anytime soon has started to surface for Tampa Bay. They’ve lost their last two games, including a humbling 5-2 defeat in Los Angeles on Tuesday. They complete the always difficult California road trip in San Jose on Thursday and Anaheim on Friday. Any points they can get in either of those games would feel like a gift.
13) Washington Capitals (12-8-1; last week-15) – We’ve seen this movie before: the Capitals are one of the hottest teams in the NHL (7-2-1 in their last 10 games) ahead of their showdown with hated rival Pittsburgh Wednesday in DC.. Beating St. Louis, 4-1, on Sunday was very impressive and Washington has four of its next five games at the Verizon Center (8-3-0). The Caps are a league-best 5-1 in shootouts, making up for only seven wins in regulation.
14) Dallas Stars (11-7-2; last week-19) – It is hard to believe but the Stars have become one of the most enjoyable teams to watch if you have NHL Center Ice. They are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and have won three games in a row. In the same night, Tyler Seguin (4 goals, 1 assist) and Jamie Benn (1 goal, 5 assists) had the top individual performances of the season thus far in a 7-3 win at hapless Calgary last Thursday.
15) Montreal Canadiens (11-9-2; last week-16) – Very quietly (if that’s possible), the Canadiens have started to turn things around a bit after a slow start. Coming off a 6-2 beating of the Wild on Tuesday (their best win of the season) and sporting a plus-11 goal-differential, Montreal is a team on the rise. They have a tough back-to-back this weekend though: at Washington on Friday and home vs. Pittsburgh on Saturday.
16) Vancouver Canucks (11-8-4; last week-10) – Truth be told, options for the end of these rankings fall off a cliff after Montreal. The Canucks have actually lost their last five games in a row, culminating in an embarrassing 3-2 shootout loss to the Panthers (at home) on Tuesday. They’ve lost the first three games but their next three are also at Rogers Arena, starting with lifeless Columbus (7-11-3) on Friday.
17) Detroit Red Wings (9-6-7; last week-13) – It would have been nice to drop them out of the top 20, but there weren’t any suitable replacements. Did you know Detroit has lost its last seven games in a row, including three in a shootout and two in overtime? All we can cling to is that the Red Wings still have way too much talent to play this poorly for much longer.
18) Winnipeg Jets (10-10-3; last week-17) – What is it about the Jets? Every time you look at the standings they are exactly at .500. It will take a miracle for the Jets to make the playoffs in the loaded West but they can take solace in the fact that they are 5-2 in shootouts.
19) New York Rangers (10-11-0; last week-18) – The Rangers had a chance to make a statement vs. the Bruins at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday but they couldn’t solve Tuukka Rask (43 saves). Take a number in that regard. New York must have the most backloaded schedule in NHL history since they began the season on a nine-game road trip and now their next five games are on the road too. Young winger Chris Kreider’s (2 goals, 9 assists in 14 games) re-emergence has been promising after last year was mostly a lost season for him.
20) Nashville Predators (10-9-2; last week-not ranked) – Yes, the Predators are in last place in their juggernaut division (Central), but they are over .500, so here we are. They are 5-2-1 at Bridgestone Arena and have won their last two games. Their goal-differential is an unsightly minus-15. Time to get to work on that.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate