No NHL team had held down the No. 1 spot in three straight thn.com Power Rankings, until this week when the Anaheim Ducks became the first to do it. And why not? They’re in first overall in the NHL, they haven’t lost at home in regulation time in 20 games this season and are the hottest team in the league with a 9-1-0 mark in their past 10.
Sounds like solid reasoning to us. Here are this week’s rankings, along with last week’s in parentheses:
1. ANAHEIM (1): When San Jose beat the Ducks 3-1 in late December, they became the only team to beat Anaheim in regulation in almost five weeks. The Ducks then went out and posted a four-game winning streak, meaning they’ve lost once in regulation time in their past 18 games. Don’t look now, but Corey Perry is third in goals with 24, seven behind Alex Ovechkin, and has a history of torrid second halves of the season.
2. ST. LOUIS (2): The team that wasn’t supposed to be able to score this season has been proving us wrong. The Blues are riding a league-high six-game winning streak and have scored at least five goals in four of those games. With a 5-2 win over Edmonton in which they thoroughly dominated Tuesday night, the Blues hit the 30-win mark in their 42nd game. That marked the fastest to 30 wins in franchise history
3. PITTSBURGH (4): Like the Blues, the Penguins have been scoring a ton, but that’s to be expected from this group. Including shootout winners, the Penguins have scored at least five goals in four of their past five games. At the other end of the ice, the Canadian Olympic team might have wanted to take Marc-Andre Fleury solely for shootout situations. Fleury has stopped all 11 shooters he’s faced in three shootouts this season and dating back to last season, has won eight straight shootouts.
4. CHICAGO (3): Given all their offensive talent and big-game experience, you’d think the Blackhawks would be a little better in overtime and shootouts. In fact, the Blackhawks haven’t won in extra time since Nov. 29, a span of five games. Overall, the Blackhawks are 4-9 in games that go beyond 60 minutes. Patrick Kane still holds down second place in NHL scoring, but has just one assist in his past five games.
5. COLORADO (9): After the Avs lost 4-3 to the Calgary Flames Monday night, Jean-Sebastien Giguere blamed the loss on bad bounces and the way the Avs played in front of him, but coach Patrick Roy would have none of it, saying Giguere did not play well. That kind of accountability is part of the reason the Avs are flourishing on the ice, if not the box office. Crowds for their past two home games have been south of 13,000.
6. SAN JOSE (5): The Sharks have already lost 162 man-games to injury and have seven forwards out of the lineup. After losing rookie of the year favorite Tomas Hertl, the Sharks sent Logan Couture for surgery on his injured right hand after finding out he wasn’t on the Canadian Olympic team. The Olympic break will give Couture an extra three weeks to heel, if it’s needed.
7. BOSTON (6): Perhaps that Tyler Seguin trade didn’t turn out so one-sided after all. Reilly Smith, of all people, who came over in the deal along with Loui Eriksson, leads the Bruins in goals with 15, despite being eighth among forwards in ice time with just 14:27 per game. Smith trails only David Krejci among Bruins in points and only Zdeno Chara in power-play goals.
8. TAMPA BAY (7): The biggest news out of Tampa came when Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, who runs the Canadian Olympic team, left the best player in Lightning history, Martin St-Louis, off the Canadian roster. The consummate pro, St-Louis did not let it affect his game. In fact, he went out and scored twice in a 4-2 win over Winnipeg. It will be interesting to see how the dynamic between Yzerman and St-Louis plays out.
9. LOS ANGELES (8): The Kings inability to score has caught up with them. They’ve lost six of their past seven and haven’t scored more than two goals in any of those losses. Since coming back from a groin injury that had kept him out since Nov. 12, Jonathan Quick is 1-0-1 with a 0.96 goals-against average and a .956 save percentage. Quick was supposed to start his comeback in the American League last weekend, but bad weather prevented him from travelling to Manchester.
10. VANCOUVER (10): In a development that has to be driving coach John Tortorella nuts, the Canucks gave up goals in the last two minutes of their past two games and ended up losing both in shootouts. The loss to Pittsburgh was especially painful, given that the Canucks battled back from a two-goal deficit and were up two goals themselves before surrendering two in a span of 16 seconds.
11. MONTREAL (13): The Canadiens are having trouble scoring goals and it’s easy to see why, given they’re 3-for-33 on the power play in their past nine games. That included going 0-for-4 with five shots in a 3-1 loss in Philadelphia Wednesday night. On the other side of special teams, things have been going much better, with the Canadiens ranked third in penalty killing in the league and third in the NHL with five shorthanded goals.
12. PHILADELPHIA (15): The Flyers are not the hottest team in the league at the moment, but they’ve managed to dig themselves out of a gargantuan-sized hole after going 2-10-0 to start the season. The Flyers won five of six on a post-Christmas road trip in which five games were against Western Conference teams. The Flyers find themselves firmly in possession of a playoff spot and are primed for a much better second half.
13. MINNESOTA (21): Wild coach Mike Yeo seems to have saved his job – at least for now – after his team followed up a six-game losing streak with a three-game winning streak. Suffice to say the Wild would be fully in favor of players having to wear mandatory foot protection. So far they’ve lost Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Jared Spurgeon to shot-blocking foot injuries and Marco Scandella was questionable for Thursday night after taking a shot to his foot Tuesday against Los Angeles.
14. PHOENIX (11): The Coyotes went just 4-3-5 in the 12 games they didn’t have their captain and inspirational leader, Shane Doan, while Doan suffered through a bout of Rocky Mountain Fever. But he didn’t take long to make an impact, registering a goal and an assist in a 6-0 win over Calgary Tuesday night in just his second game back after missing exactly a month of action.
15. DETROIT (16): The Red Wings face Murderers’ Row in California with three games in four nights against San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim. The only consolation is the road has been a very comfortable place for the Red Wings this season. They’re 13-4-3 on the road this season. What puzzles is that at the Joe Louis Arena, where the Wings almost always play before sellout crowds, they’re just 6-10-7 this season.
16. NY RANGERS (20): With points in five of their past six games, the Rangers have suddenly clawed their way back into the playoffs in the worst division in hockey. The Rangers have won four of their past five on the road, including a huge 3-2 win over Chicago at the United Center Wednesday night. That’s the good news. The bad news is the Rangers play only once on the road in January. (Curiously, both outdoor games at the end of the month are at Yankee Stadium, but the Rangers are listed as the visiting team.)
17. WASHINGTON (17): The Capitals are in something of a freefall with losses in six of their past seven games and only one win since Christmas. Their poor play of late does not auger well for the Capitals, who face a brutal stretch of nine road games and four back-to-back scenarios in their next 13 games. Alex Ovechkin has just one goal in his past six games.
18. TORONTO (18): After an emotional shootout win in the Winter Classic, the Leafs promptly went out and lost back-to-back games at home by a combined score of 12-4. After all but seizing the No. 1 job in goal, Jonathan Bernier was pulled in a 7-1 loss to the Rangers last Saturday, then allowed four goals and looked very shaky in a 5-3 loss to the Islanders Tuesday night.
19. DALLAS (12): It’s not just that the Stars have lost their past three games, it’s how they’ve lost them. In defeats to Montreal, Detroit and the Islanders, the Stars were outscored by a 18-8 margin. That prompted coach Lindy Ruff to shuffle his lines, taking rookie and Russian Olympian Valeri Nichushkin off the top line with Tyler Seguin and Canadian Olympian Jamie Benn and replacing him with Rich Peverley.
20. CAROLINA (24): Only a blizzard of biblical proportions was able to stop the Hurricanes, who were forced to miss their game in Buffalo Tuesday night because of a snowstorm. Speaking of snowstorms, Jeff Skinner is on quite a flurry himself, scoring six goals and nine points in the four victories. The Hurricanes will face the Sabres in the make-up game on Feb. 25.
21. OTTAWA (23): The Senators were flying high with four straight wins, then blew a third-period lead to lose to Colorado in overtime Wednesday night. Captain Jason Spezza missed all four victories with a lower-body injury, but came back for the Colorado game and scored a goal. Erik Karlsson is tied for the league lead in goals among defensemen with 10 and is now just two points behind Duncan Keith for the points lead.
22. NASHVILLE (22): Predators coach Barry Trotz blasted backup goalie Carter Hutton after the Predators lost 2-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes Sunday, saying, “We had lots of chances and just zero saves today.” Ouch. To the surprise of nobody, Hutton was on the bench watching as Marek Mazanec stopped 26 of 28 shots in a 3-2 win over San Jose two nights later.
23. NEW JERSEY (19): The Devils have scored more than two goals just once in their past seven games and they ended up losing that game 5-3 to Chicago last weekend. On the injury front, Adam Larsson was dispatched to Albany of the American League to get some playing time after missing 21 straight games with a knee injury.
24. NY ISLANDERS (26): The Islanders finally showed the offense they are capable of producing in a 7-3 win over Dallas Monday, followed by a 5-3 win over Toronto the next night. The Islanders have won five of their past six games and six straight on the road, but they’ve probably dug themselves too deep a hole to climb back into the Eastern Conference playoff race.
25. COLUMBUS (25): In what can only be described as a curious development, no NHL team is more well represented on the Russian Olympic team than the Blue Jackets, who have goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, defensemen Nikita Nikitin and Fedor Tyutin and center Artem Anisimov on the roster. There was something of a minor kerfuffle when defenseman Jack Johnson, who played in 2010, was left off the American roster.
26. WINNIPEG (18): Can this team ever just win one game and lose one game? The Jets, true to their bizarre form they’ve displayed all season, followed up a three-game winning streak with a four-game losing skid in which they surrendered 18 goals. As a result, coach Claude Noel is on the hot seat for the umpteenth time in Winnipeg, but GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, in case you haven’t noticed, is not one for making quick decisions.
27. FLORIDA (27): After getting to within four points of a playoff spot in December, the Panthers find themselves in a familiar position. They’re nine points out and fading fast. Veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski made his season debut after undergoing hip surgery last season and played almost 16 minutes in a 5-4 shootout win over Nashville last weekend.
28. CALGARY (29): The Flames don’t want to be this bad, they really don’t. The effort is there most nights, but the results aren’t because this team simply isn’t equipped to compete at the NHL level. In a strange statistical quirk, the Flames have cemented themselves as the third-worst team in the NHL. Not only are they 28th in the standings, but they’re 28th in both goals for and goals against.
29. EDMONTON (28): For the second time in a week, Oilers coach Dallas Eakins had his players arrive at Rexall Place for an 8 a.m. practice, reasoning that everyone else in the city has to get up to go to work, so why not them? Probably has something to do with the fact that his team has lost five of its last six games and gives five-goal games to its opponents the way a clown gives out balloon animals.
30. BUFFALO (30): It’s all about the future for the Sabres, who Thursday named Ottawa assistant GM Tim Murray to be their new GM. Murray’s most pressing order of business will be getting the situation with American Olympic goalie Ryan Miller resolved. He has two months before the March 5 trade deadline to either move Miller or try to get him to agree to a long-term contract.