1. New York Rangers (14-2-2, last week No. 2) – Finally, a little shakeup at the top of the power rankings! New York is on fire as it haswon itslast nine games in a row and is off to its best start in franchise history. New York is tied with Montreal for the best goal-differential in the NHL (plus-25) and it hasallowed the fewest goals in the league (32).
2. Dallas Stars (15-4-0, last week No. 4) – The Rangers, Stars and Canadiens have clearly separated themselves as the NHL’s elite teams so far this season. The Stars have won their last three games and they are 8-2-0 in their last 10. Dallas’ explosive offensive has scored an NHL-best 68 goals.
3. Montreal Canadiens (14-3-2, last week No. 1) – Nothing is wrong with the Canadiens, it’s just that the Rangers and Stars both had better weeks. Colorado came to the Bell Centre and beat Montreal 6-1 on Saturday, the most shocking result thus far in 2015-16. Goaltender Carey Price was at practice on Wednesday so he should be returning to game action shortly, great news for the Canadiens and their fans.
4.Nashville Predators (11-3-3, last week No. 6) – For now, Nashville is the second-best team in the Western Conference (the Predsare tied with St. Louis but have played two less games). The Predators will be celebrating Thanksgiving on the road as their next five games are away from the Music City. They have the second-best goal-differential in the West (plus-13) and they have allowed the second-fewest goals (40).
5.Los Angeles Kings (12-6-0, last week No. 8) – The Kings have won their last three games and they are 7-3-0 in their last 10 to reclaim first place in the Pacific Division. They have allowed the fewest goals in the West (38) and they are 5-1-0 on the road this season. LA kicked off its five-game road trip with a 3-2 shootout win in Philadelphia on Tuesday.
6.St. Louis Blues (12-6-1, last week No. 3) – The Blues would be in first or secondplace in any other division but their own (Central). As far as losses go, Tuesday’s 3-1 setback in Columbus was pretty bad. Even worse, center Jori Lehtera (2 goals, 8 assists) left that game and went to the hospital after taking a stick to the throat area.
7. Washington Capitals (11-4-1, last week No. 5) – The Capitals aren’t playing poorly (6-3-1 in last 10 games) but the Rangers have created some distance between them (sevenpoints). Washington is tied with the Islanders, one point ahead of Pittsburgh and two ahead of New Jersey. In all likelihood, the Caps willbe playing for second-place all season because it’s hard to see the Rangers getting caught (barring major injuries).
8. Minnesota Wild (10-4-3, last week No. 7) – The Wild would be in second-place in every other division but the Central,where they reside in fourth-place. Oh, and they are just two points ahead of Chicago – so good luck with that. All hope is not lost for Minnesota, though, because it has the best home record in the West (7-1-0).
9. New York Islanders (10-6-3, last week No. 12) – The Islanders are still a bit of an enigma, it’s tough to figure them out. A home-and-home set with the Canadiens this weekend (Friday in Brooklyn and Sunday in Montreal) should provide some clarity. New York has a goal-differential of plus-10, which is solid.
10. Pittsburgh Penguins (11-7-0, last week No. 11) – The Penguins continue their slow march (sorry) up the rankings. They are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games and they picked up a nice 4-3 win over the Wild on Tuesday. Defenseman Olli Maatta suffered a scary upper-body injury (that required a trip to the hospital) after he got shoved into the boards and door by Minnesota’s bench.
11. Chicago Blackhawks (10-7-1, last week No. 10) – Chicago was treading water (it iscloser to last place in the Central than first place) but it has picked it up lately by winning its last two games. The Blackhawks will be out of town for a while: their next six games (the rest of November) are all away. They are in Canada for three games then conclude with three in California.
12. New Jersey Devils (10-7-1, last week No. 18) – This is downright shocking. It’s hard to figure, based on pre-season expectations, that theDevils sit as a top 15 team and one closing in on the top 10.It means nothing, but they would be in second-place in either the Atlantic or Pacific Division.
13. San Jose Sharks (10-8-0, last week No. 22) – The Sharks don’t merit this much of a leap from last week but again, what else can I do? San Jose has won their last three games including a 5-4 win at Boston on Tuesday led by former Bruin Joe Thornton who had a goal and two assists. The Sharks have three more games left on their road trip but they are 7-3-0 away from home this season.
14. Ottawa Senators (8-5-5, last week No. 16) – By default (since the rest of the division is very mediocre), the Senators are in second-place in the Atlantic. Ottawa has dropped its last two games (both in overtime) but they are 5-3-2 in their last 10. They host Columbus on Thursday and Philadelphia on Saturday, a good chance to get their home record (3-3-4) over .500.
15. Vancouver Canucks (7-6-6, last week No. 9) – The Canucks are slipping (3-4-3) like you read about. The good news for them is that they play in the worst division in the NHL (Pacific) so they are still only four points out of first-place. They are at Winnipeg on Wednesday then they have a back-to-back at Rogers Arena this weekend vs. Chicago on Saturday and New Jersey on Sunday.
16. Florida Panthers (8-7-3, last week No. 19) – Florida is right smack dab in the middle of the messy Atlantic Division. They have won their last two games, including a 1-0 shutout of rival Tampa Bay on Monday. The Panthers don’t have to leave home for more than a week as their next four games (Ducks, Rangers, Kings and Islanders) are all at BB&T Center until next Friday.
17. Detroit Red Wings (9-8-1, last week No. 15) – One of the underrated storylines to follow this season in the NHL is whether the Red Wings can continue their amazing playoff streak (24 years in a row). I know I’ve questioned this the last few seasons but trust me, in 2015-16 it is going to be really close. Detroit won 4-3 at Ottawa on Monday but they are 5-5-0 in their last 10 games and their goal-differential is -4.
18. Boston Bruins (8-8-1, last week No. 14) – The Bruins are a textbook example of an up-and-down team. They can’t seem to put together any legitimate win streak and they are an NHL-worst 2-6-1 at TD Garden. They host the Wild on Thursday before a home-and-home with the Maple Leafs which should provide some joy.
19. Arizona Coyotes (9-8-1, last week No. 17) – Arizona has dropped its last two games but they are still only one point behind San Jose and Vancouver. At Montreal on Thursday will be difficult but then they go to Winnipeg and host the Ducks and Flames, a winnable segment of their schedule. If you gave their front office a lie detector test, I think that they’d be surprised that they are ahead of Anaheim and Calgary.
20. Tampa Bay Lightning (8-9-3, last week No. 20) – Injuries aren’t an excuse since every club gets them but the Lightning have had worse luck than most in this regard so far this season. Still, to be under .500 at this point and 3-6-1 in their last 10 games is unacceptable for the defending Eastern Conference champions. That’s why their next three games-all at Amalie Arena-against the Rangers, Ducks and Kings are so critical.
21. Buffalo Sabres (8-9-1, last week No. 21) – The Sabres continue to fly under the radar and play well (6-3-1 in last 10 games). Buffalo’s next four games are brutal: at Blues, at Stars, vs. Blues and vs. Predators. However, they are only four points behind Ottawa in the Atlantic Division which is crazy if you think about it.
22. Anaheim Ducks (6-9-4, last week No. 23) – Things get weird down here and not in a good way. Anaheim has somewhat dug themselves out of their horrific start but they remain three games under .500 and their goal-differential is -14 so those are tough numbers to ignore. They are 2-6-1 on the road this season and will have a chance to fix that with games at Florida on Thursday and Tampa Bay on Saturday.
23. Winnipeg Jets (5-7-3, last week No. 13) – The Jets are a complete mess: they have lost their last five games, they are 3-6-1 in their last 10 and their goal-differential is -12. In the Central, that’s a death wish as they are now only three points ahead of last-place Colorado. Winnipeg’s next three games (Canucks, Coyotes and Avalanche) are all at the MTS Centre where they are .500 this season (3-3-1).
24. Colorado Avalanche (7-10-1, last week No. 26) – I don’t think that the Avalanche are terrible but the combination of a bad start and playing in by far the toughest division (Central) has led them to this position. Their goal-differential is zero and they are 5-5-0 in their last 10 games. A 5-1 beating in Toronto was pathetic but they have three more games left on this road trip (Pittsburgh, Washington and Winnipeg).
25. Toronto Maple Leafs (6-9-4, last week No. 28) – I never thought I’d say this but Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer (6-2-3, .930 save percentage, 2.19 goals against average) is playing great as he earned the NHL’s third star of the week. Toronto is 5-3-2 in its last 10 games so there is a slight glimmer of hope. Friday at Carolina is another chance to pick up some points.
26. Columbus Blue Jackets (7-12-0, last week No. 30) – The Blue Jackets are finally starting to play to their potential as they have won three straight games. Their 3-1 win over St. Louis on Wednesday had to be their best moment of the season. They are tied with Carolina for last-place in the Metropolitan Division but only two points behind the Flyers.
27. Calgary Flames (7-12-1, last week No. 27) – The Flames are 5-5-0 in their last 10 games but it will take a much bigger push to get back to relevancy. A 3-2 win over the Devils on Tuesday was a nice start, up next they host the Blackhawks on Friday before a three-game road trip to Anaheim, Arizona and San Jose. Their goal-differential (minus-26) is by far the worst in the league.
28. Philadelphia Flyers (6-8-4, last week No. 24) – No teamin the NHL is playing worse than the Flyers, who are 2-6-2 in their last 10 games. Rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere scored his first career NHL goal in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Kings. He could be a big part of what Philly hopes is a much brighter future.
29. Carolina Hurricanes (6-10-2, last week No. 25) – You can bank on the Hurricanes being down here all season-long. They are awful and their goal-differential (minus-18) is tied for the second-worst in the NHL. The only way that things could get worse for the team is if they are moved (which has to be a real possibility) to another more worthy city.
30. Edmonton Oilers (6-12-0, last week No. 29) – Not to kick Oilers fans when they’ve been down for the balance of the past decade but honestly, how tough does it have to be to root for Edmonton? Plus, it’s not like there are probably many other entertainment options there in the dead of winter that don’t involve large amounts of alcohol. The Oilers are 3-7-0 in their last 10 games and they have lost two in a row.