The Chicago Blackhawks have played 34 games this season and in almost half of them – 14 to be exact – they have scored at least five goals. It’s no surprise they are by far the highest scoring team in the NHL and it should come as no shock that the defending champs head our Power Rankings for this week. (Last week’s ranking in parentheses.)
1. CHICAGO (2): After enduring their first dip with three straight losses, the defending champions came back with a vengeance, winning three straight and outscoring their opponents 19-6. With Corey Crawford out up to three weeks with a groin injury, the Hawks depth in goal will be tested. But as long as they keep putting up six and seven a game, they should be all right.
2. LOS ANGELES (4): The Kings were humming along just fine without No. 1 goalie Jonathan Quick thanks to the heroics of Ben Scrivens, then comes along Martin Jones, who goes 4-0-0 and pitches back-to-back shutouts. His teammates have responded in kind, scoring at least three goals in each of the past five games, all wins.
3. ANAHEIM (5): Corey Perry may be scoring in bunches, with goals in seven straight, but the defense pairing of Ben Lovejoy and Cam Fowler has been huge in keeping pucks out at the other end. In a 2-0-2 stretch against some of the toughest opponents in the Western Conference, Fowler and Lovejoy were on the ice for two even-strength goals. The Ducks still have not lost a game in regulation at home.
4. BOSTON (6): Anybody getting the feeling the Bruins are just warming up for a monster second half? They’ve won five of their past six and are starting to feast upon their inferior Eastern Conference competition. The Bruins will be tested though. They have to deal with long-term absences of Chris Kelly and Shawn Thornton up front and Dougie Hamilton and Adam McQuaid at the back end.
5. ST. LOUIS (8): When St. Louis and Winnipeg Jets played to a scoreless tie in the first period of Tuesday night’s game, that represented a major victory for the Blues, who had been outscored 10-1 in the first periods of their previous four games. Predictably, Alex Steen’s torrid scoring streak has cooled somewhat. His goal against the Jets was his first in five games.
6. SAN JOSE (1): The THN Curse strikes again. Last week we had the Sharks in the No. 1 spot, then they promptly went out and lost four in a row. Yeah, the Islanders are plucky and all, but you don’t blow a two-goal lead to one of the worst teams in the NHL on home ice. In the four losses, the Sharks have given up an uncharacteristic 16 goals in regulation.
7. PITTSBURGH (3): The good news is the Penguins have points in seven of their past eight games. The less encouraging news is that the only regulation loss came to the Boston Bruins, the team with which they’ll likely be battling all season for first place in the Eastern Conference. After giving up five goals to Toronto in late November, the Penguins have tightened up, giving up just eight goals in their next six games.
8. MONTREAL (9): Things were going so well for the Canadiens until they ran into the brick wall known as the L.A. Kings. To that point, the Kings and Canadiens had been the hottest two teams in the league. With two potentially easier opponents in Philadelphia and the New York Islanders on the docket, the Canadiens are hoping to start another 10-game run in which they pick up at least a point.
9. COLORADO (7): Things have cooled considerably in mile high country since an 8-2 pounding at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers a week ago. The Avs have lost three of their past four, with their lone win coming over Calgary. In successive losses to Western Conference powers Vancouver and Phoenix, the Avs managed to score only two goals.
10. MINNESOTA (10): The Wild opened a three-game road trip with a 2-1 loss to Anaheim Wednesday night, which dropped them to 5-7-3 on the road. And there’s no mystery to their woes. The Wild can’t score much away from the Xcel Energy Center, with just three goals in their past three road games.
11. VANCOUVER (14): What to make of the Canucks, who bookended a five-game winning streak with wins over the Carolina Hurricanes? One thing is certain: the Canucks second line of Ryan Kesler between Mike Santorelli and Chris Higgins won’t be the second line for long if it keeps playing the way it has and coach John Tortorella continues to come up empty in his search for someone to play with the Sedins.
12. WASHINGTON (15): Barring an injury, Alex Ovechkin will win both the Rocket Richard Trophy and Cy Young Award. The Capitals, meanwhile, have picked things up right around their customary time, with wins in five of their past six games. With seven wins and two losses in the shootout, the Capitals have picked up more points in the skills contest than any other team in the league.
13. PHOENIX (11): The Coyotes went 2-1-1 on their recent road trip. They welcomed back defenseman Zbynek Michalek after a nine-game absence for a 3-1 win over Colorado Tuesday night, but played the game without the services of No. 1 goalie Mike Smith and captain Shane Doan, along with lynchpin defenseman Derek Morris and versatile forward Lauri Korpikoski.
14. DETROIT (12): Steve Yzerman agreed to suit up for the alumni game at the Winter Classic, but the Wings might want to see if he’d be interested in playing a real game for them. The Red Wings have been plagued by inconsistency, both in effort and results. They seem to be running out of gas, the way they did after taking a 2-0 lead, then losing 3-2 in a shootout to Florida Tuesday night. Back-to-back losses to the Panthers – not good.
15. TAMPA BAY (15): Back-to-back overtime losses to Winnipeg and Washington gave the Lightning just one win in its past five games, with the lone victory coming over Ottawa. Goalie Ben Bishop had not been getting much goal support until Tuesday night, when his mates scored five for him against Washington. The downside was the Lightning couldn’t stop the Alex Ovechkin four-goal tsunami and ended up losing 6-5 in a shootout.
16. TORONTO (16): Toronto’s playoff prospects are suddenly in jeopardy and things don’t get any better for the Leafs, who face St. Louis, Chicago and Pittsburgh in their next three games. One thing they can build on was the fact they outplayed the Los Angeles Kings Wednesday night in a 3-1 loss without Dion Phaneuf in the lineup.
17. CAROLINA (23): The Hurricanes posted their first three-game winning streak of the season with impressive victories over Washington, Nashville and San Jose, then came back to earth with losses in their first two games of a western road trip. They did show some pluck, however, coming back from three goals down take Edmonton to overtime Tuesday night.
18. DALLAS (13): You could excuse a crowd of just 8,567 for the game against Philadelphia Saturday because there was an ice storm going on. But just 12,542 announced for a game against the defending Stanley Cup champions? Rookie Valeri Nichushkin continues to impress and make his way up the rookie scoring race.
19. WINNIPEG (18): The Jets propensity to win one, then lose one has them spinning their wheels in the Western Conference. They went 4-2-0 in a six-game road swing through the Eastern Conference before dropping their first one back home against the St. Louis Blues Tuesday night. Evander Kane, out for the last four with a lower-body injury, is not progressing as quickly as the Jets hoped he would.
20. NASHVILLE (20): The Predators put the breaks on a very ugly five-game losing streak with a road win over the New York Rangers Tuesday night. Of course, the Predators were without goalie Pekka Rinne for all five games and stalwart defenseman Shea Weber for three of those losses. Goalie Carter Hutton played for the first time since Nov. 10 Tuesday night and responded with a 4-1 win.
21. NY RANGERS (24): When asked about his team being just one point out of a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division despite being a sub-.500 team, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said that would be a case of looking at the glass as being half full. That’s about the only thing the Rangers could be optimistic about these days, since they’ve lost four of their past five.
22. PHILADELPHIA (17): The Flyers posted a 2-3-1 record on a six-game road trip, but finished it with a thud when they were thumped in a 7-2 loss to Chicago Wednesday night. And they’ve had a hard time stopping the bleeding lately, losing their last three games by a combined score of 17-7.
23. NEW JERSEY (22): Losers of four of their past five games, the Devils have fallen out of the playoffs in the Metropolitan Division, but not by much. The Devils were going to get a day off Wednesday, but coach Peter DeBoer instead decided to put his team through its paces after it blew a 3-1 lead to Columbus and lost 5-4 Tuesday night.
24. CALGARY (24): Even with points in three of their past five games, the Flames have been unable to gain much traction in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. Will they get a boost from the firing of GM Jay Feaster?
25. OTTAWA (25): The Senators won their first shootout game – and scored their first shootout goal – of the season Monday night, but followed that up with another shootout loss the next night. The Senators are three games under .500 at the Canadian Tire Centre. Only two other teams – Edmonton and Buffalo – are further from the even mark on home ice.
26. COLUMBUS (26): The Blue Jackets have had announced crowds of under 12,000 for each of their three past home games. But the locals who are staying away are actually missing a pretty decent team. Columbus has won its past four straight at home by a combined score of 14-6. Five of those goals were against New Jersey Tuesday night, a game in which the Jackets overcame a two-goal deficit to win.
27. EDMONTON (28): The Oilers have been on a lose-win loop for the past nine games, which won’t even be close enough to get them back into contention for a playoff spot, but it’s a lot better than the way they played through the first quarter of the season. Things don’t get much easier for the Oilers, who host the Bruins before embarking on a four-game road trip against Vancouver, Anaheim, L.A. and Colorado.
28. FLORIDA (29): With three wins in their past four games, the Panthers might just be on the verge of turning the corner. The Panthers were impressive in successive victories over Detroit in a home-and-home series and have been getting some improved play from veteran Tim Thomas. One of the worst teams in the shootout since it was introduced, the Panthers are 3-4 this year and Thomas is 3-1.
29. NY ISLANDERS (27): The Islanders put the brakes on a horrific 10-game losing streak with a gutsy, come-from-behind shootout win over San Jose on the road Tuesday night. The wildly underachieving Islanders are not convinced that firing Jack Capuano would solve their woes, which means Capuano likely isn’t going anywhere in the short term.
30. BUFFALO (30): Want to hear something crazy? The Sabres are the best shootout team in the NHL. Their 2-1 win over Ottawa in penalty shots Tuesday night made them 4-0. In fact, the Sabres have one more win in shootouts than they have in regulation and overtime. No team has fewer points (seven) than the Sabres have on the road this season.
Ken Campbell is the senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. To read more from Ken and THN’s other stable of experts, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Ken on Twitter at @THNKenCampbell.