1) Anaheim Ducks (32-8-5) – Anaheim’s 5-2 win over the Bruins Tuesday convinced us to give them the No. 1 spot for the first power rankings of the New Year. They are still unbeaten in regulation at the Honda Center (18-0-2) and 9-0-1 in their last 10 games overall. The win vs. Boston gave them the most points in the NHL, two more than Chicago in the same amount of games.
2) Chicago Blackhawks (29-7-9) – It was a tough decision to put Chicago second. The Blackhawks are still flying, leading the NHL in goals (167) by a wide margin (12 more than St. Louis). They haven’t suffered a regulation loss in their past 10 games (6-0-4) either.
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3) St. Louis Blues (30-7-5) – Not quite sure why, but it feels like the Blues are still really flying under the radar. This is a legitimate Stanley Cup contender with a roster that is loaded with Olympians. The Blues are the hottest team in the NHL, winners of six straight and they have the best goal-differential (plus-58) in the league.
4) Pittsburgh Penguins (32-12-1) – As expected, Pittsburgh is already boatracing their sad-sack division (17 points ahead of second-place Philadelphia). The Penguins are 19-3-0 at Consol Energy Center with a plus-40 goal differential, both the best marks in their conference. Pittsburgh is hot too, 8-2-0 in its last 10, and winners of its last three.
5) Boston Bruins (28-13-2) – The Bruins started their extremely tough three game road trip in California with a disappointing 5-2 loss to the Ducks Tuesday. Outside of the cushy Eastern Conference, the matchups with the Kings and Sharks should tell us something about a team that has struggled on the road (10-9-0) all season compared to at TD Garden (18-4-2). Who knows? Each contest could potentially be a Stanley Cup Final preview for June.
6) San Jose Sharks (27-11-6) – The margin between the Bruins and Sharks is razor thin so their meeting on Saturday at the SAP Center should be a good barometer for both clubs. More importantly to San Jose (and Team Canada), Logan Couture being out three to five weeks with a broken hand is a huge loss. Like the B’s, the Sharks are great at home (15-1-3) but shaky on the road (12-10-3).
7) Tampa Bay Lightning (26-13-4) – The Lightning are becoming the Senators of last season, a team that pushes through major injuries way better than you could possibly imagine. Steven Stamkos is rapidly recovering (he could play in Sochi) but Tampa Bay has another huge hole in its lineup after goaltender Ben Bishop (who should be on Team USA) is out with a hand injury. Bishop was having a brilliant season, so if he’s out for a while, the Lighting will be in trouble.
8) Los Angeles Kings (26-13-5) – Speaking of injured goaltenders and Team USA, Americans breathed a sigh of relief as Jonathan Quick returned to action last weekend. He gives the Kings a chance to win every time he starts and the U.S. a chance to repeat as Silver medalists or better. The Bill Simmons Memorial Cup is Thursday at Staples Center (Kings vs. Bruins) and the world waits with baited breath to see which of his two bandwagon teams he’ll support that night.
9) Colorado Avalanche (26-12-4) – Patrick Roy’s New Year’s resolution definitely didn’t involve being nicer to his players as he bashed backup goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere on Monday after a 4-3 home loss to the awful Flames. Far be it from us to tell Patrick how to do his job but he might want to ease up just a bit. Colorado’s next two games (vs. Senators Wednesday and vs. Islanders Friday) are at Pepsi Center where they’ve compiled a 15-6-2 record this season.
10) Montreal Canadiens (25-14-5) – Another good team that hasn’t received its due (stateside at least), although not on the same level as the Blues. P.K. Subban put all the drama to rest in Canada for a few days as he was named to Team Canada for Sochi. Montreal will be severely tested in its next two games: at Philadelphia Wednesday and hosting Chicago on Saturday. That's two of the hottest teams in the NHL in four days.
11) Vancouver Canucks (23-13-9) – Roberto Luongo has been in and out with a groin injury, forcing the Canucks to start Eddie Lack and even signing a 43-year-old nobody to be Lack’s backup for a night. Team Canada is the favorite to win in Sochi but with Luongo and Montreal’s Carey Price as their top two goaltending options, therein lies their only obvious issue. Vancouver just started a killer stretch with a 5-4 shootout loss to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. They host St. Louis before a three-game road trip to LA, Anaheim and Phoenix.
12) Phoenix Coyotes (21-12-9) – We have more faith in the Coyotes than anyone else in the world. Maybe it’s simply because enforcer Paul Bissonnette is a must-follow on Twitter. Keith Yandle being snubbed for Team USA was a shock since he’s the most talented offensive defensemen that the U.S. has seen in years.
13) Minnesota Wild (23-17-5) – If you’re a good player on the Wild (Josh Harding, Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu), odds are you are hurt. Ryan Suter must be waking up in a cold sweat these days. Minnesota has won its last three games though, including a 2-1 triumph in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
14) Philadelphia Flyers (22-17-4) – If you’ve followed these power rankings all season, first of all thanks, but also it is crazy that the Flyers have recovered this far from where they started in October and November. Philadelphia is 8-2-0 in its last 10 games. In other Flyers news, Claude Giroux (13 goals, 26 assists) had to have been the toughest omission from Team Canada.
15) Detroit Red Wings (19-14-10) – The one word summary of Detroit’s season thus far and also the "24/7" about them and the Maple Leafs: underwhelming. Just like we kept waiting for HBO’s top notch pseudo reality show/documentary to pick up in intensity, we’ve also wondered when the Red Wings will play consistently well. Losing the Winter Classic at the Big House to Toronto in a shootout had to sting.
16) Toronto Maple Leafs (21-18-5) – One last "24/7" note: you know it was a forgettable series when Phil Kessel, of all people, was the most entertaining player. Watching him play ping-pong in the locker room and show off his bachelor pad with Tyler Bozak wasn't must-see TV, but it's something close. On ice, it's time to give Jonathan Bernier (13-13-4) some rest. He’s started the last six games for Toronto and, what do you know, a guy that’s never been a full-time starter is worn down.
17) Dallas Stars (20-15-7) – Somehow New Year’s Eve came and passed, but we have no idea how Tyler Seguin spent it, and that’s a shame. More importantly to the Stars, they’ve lost their last three games in a row. Dallas’ tour of the tri-state area started with their ugliest loss of the season: a 7-3 loss to the Islanders on Monday. They are at the Devils on Thursday, then Rangers on Friday.
18) Washington Capitals (20-16-6) – The Caps are the only team in the NHL with a goal-differential of zero. They have scored 128 goals (oh, that’s good) but have allowed 128 as well (not so hot). As it stands now, they are eighth in the Eastern Conference, so they need to pick it up.
19) Carolina Hurricanes (18-6-9) – Jeff Skinner (20 goals, 13 assists in 32 games) and Anton Khudobin (won his last three starts, allowed six goals in them) are two reasons to pay attention to the Hurricanes. One of the NHL’s most underrated stars is finally healthy (knock on wood) and Boston’s backup goaltender from last season is getting a chance to show what he can do with Cam Ward still on the shelf. The Hurricanes have won their last four games in a row and they are 5-3-2 in their past 10.
20) Ottawa Senators (19-18-7) – There isn’t a team in the NHL that deserves this spot but somehow a power rankings featuring 19 teams doesn’t have the same ring to it. Give Ottawa credit, they have won four in a row (the sole reason they received this door prize). They are 6-3-1 in their last 10 and their 4-3 win at Montreal on Saturday was one of their best triumphs of this uneven season.
Follow Metro sports writer Rich Slate on Twitter @RichSlate