The Chicago Blackhawks find themselves back on top of the Power Rankings thanks to an emotional shutout win on Sunday and steady play that makes them one of the true Stanley Cup contenders. Meanwhile a trio of losses see the Maple Leafs slide.
After an emotional win on Sunday night following the sudden death of their assistant equipment manager Clint Reif, the Blackhawks were doing little celebrating and instead reflecting on the life of their friend. Following the game, captain Jonathan Toews said Reif was just as much a part of the team as any of the players.
The Blackhawks will have to continue to fight through the pain as the season wears on, but if the team’s 4-0 drubbing of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday is any indication, they’ll be just fine. They may find themselves atop this week’s Power Rankings, and Chicago certainly remains among the league’s elite. (Last week’s rankings are in parentheses.)
1. Chicago (4): The Blackhawks have already racked up three shutouts this season, which matches last season’s total with more than half the season remaining. Antti Raanta’s blanking of the Maple Leafs was his second clean sheet in eight starts. Coming up: Three straight against division rivals, beginning Tuesday when Winnipeg visits and followed up by dates at Colorado and at home against Nashville.
2. N.Y. Islanders (10): The Islanders are going to be a streaky team as they start to develop as a team, but things have been moving in the right direction of late. Not only are they winning games, they had the seventh best goal differential of any team over the last week. Coming up: Dates with Montreal, Buffalo, and Washington.
3. San Jose (5): In the last 10 games, no team has a better record than the Sharks. For all the talk about Todd McLellan losing his job, San Jose’s current play has probably cooled what was getting to be a pretty hot seat. Coming up: Battles of California with both the Ducks and Kings before taking on division rival Vancouver.
4. Pittsburgh (6): The mumps situation in Pittsburgh was weird, but it wasn’t enough to break the Penguins’ stride as they posted the second best goal differential over the last week. Coming up: The second half of a home-and-home with Florida, and then the second half of a back-to-back against Tampa Bay.
5. N.Y. Rangers (13): The Rangers have won six in a row, two of those were shutouts, and yet their underlying stats still aren’t much to write home about. But a win is a win, and New York is picking them up in droves. Coming up: They’ll play Washington on Tuesday and look to take a seven-game streak into the break.
6. Nashville (7): Regardless of what they do in the playoffs, did anyone expect Peter Laviolette to have this much of an impact on the team in year one? Pekka Rinne and Filip Forsberg are firmly in trophy races, but the Predators may actually be able to grab an even grander prize. Coming up: Nashville has to work for their time off, as they’ll play Columbus and Boston on back-to-back nights leading into the break.
7. Washington (17): For those who watched the EPIX Road to the Winter Classic premiere, was there a more heartwarming scene than Barry Trotz at the zoo with his wife and son? It was also interesting to see how well he seemingly communicates with his players. Coming up: The Senators and Rangers on back-to-back nights as the Caps look to push their current winning streak to four.
8. Los Angeles (15): It always feels like the Kings are setting up the long con. One moment they look ready to take a step back, the next they’re scoring 10 goals in two games. Coming up: A chance to stretch their win streak to three games against the Calgary Flames, followed by a big divisional date with San Jose.
9. Dallas (25): Tyler Seguin is on pace to score at least 60 goals. Maybe the answer to “Taylor or Tyler?” was Tyler all along. Coming up: A date with the sliding Maple Leafs and a matchup with the Blues.
10. Winnipeg (14): During the writing of these rankings, the Winnipeg Jets probably lost another defenseman to injury. Winnipeg finally looks ready to compete in the West, but the injury bug won’t stop biting. Coming up: The Jets head to Chicago to take on the Blackhawks before a home-and-home with the Wild.
11. Montreal (9): The Habs may get to head home for the holidays, but it won’t be much of a rest as they’re set for four straight on the road following the break. Coming up: Montreal heads to New York tomorrow, and Dec. 29 they’ll play in Carolina.
12. Philadelphia (19): Some are probably weary with Rob Zepp overload, but it’s quite the story. The overtime win against the Jets was spectacular, and Jakub Voracek doesn’t look like he’s going to slow down much. Coming up: Technically the Flyers are on an eight-game road trip, but they get four days off between tomorrows game with Minnesota and their Saturday tilt with Nashville.
13. Columbus (12): Injuries really derailed the Blue Jackets this season, but winning eight of their last nine helped them get back on track. They’re seven points behind the Flyers for the second wild card spot. Coming up: Three straight homes games where they’ll take on Nashville, Boston, and Minnesota.
14. Boston (21): The Bruins sit just one point outside of the final wild card spot, but they’re only one point ahead of the Florida Panthers, who have played three fewer games. Strange to see Boston fighting for a spot just seasons after a Cup win. Coming up: The Predators and Red Wings will visit in the next seven days, but the Bruins will head to Columbus on Saturday.
15. St. Louis (3): Losing Brian Elliott hasn’t been easy, and Martin Brodeur’s 3.59 goals-against average and .882 save percentage is not the answer. Luckily, Jake Allen has stood tall, backstopping the Blues to points in four consecutive starts. Coming up: A home game against Dallas is sandwiched between a home-and-home with the Avalanche.
16. Colorado (26): The Avs have won consecutive contests and young netminder Calvin Pickard is looking like the real deal. His performance in the shootout victory over Detroit was a gem. Coming up: Divisional contests against the Blues and Blackhawks.
17. Detroit (11): Petr Mrazek was pumped up after making a few big saves in the shootout, but his energy wasn’t enough to get the Red Wings over their current shootout woes. Giving up points in the skills competition is becoming a thorn in Detroit’s side. Coming up: The lowly Sabres visit tomorrow before Detoirt heads out on a mini two-game road swing in Ottawa and Boston.
18. Minnesota (16): The bad news is Minnesota is currently on the outside looking in in the Western Conference, trailing the Kings by five points for the final playoff spot. The good news is they have three games in hand on Los Angeles, four on Calgary. Coming up: The Flyers are in town tomorrow before a home-and-home with the Winnipeg Jets.
19. Vancouver (18): Their 4-5-1 record over their last 10 games isn’t pretty, but they won’t mind that two of their next three games are road contests. Away from home ice, the Canucks have an 11-6-1 record, the second best mark in the league. Coming up: Arizona stops by Rogers Arena before road tilts against Anaheim and San Jose.
20. Florida (20): The Cats didn’t have the best week, but they’re still very much in contention in the East. If Florida makes the playoffs, Gerrard Gallant is going to get serious consideration for the Jack Adams. Coming up: The second game of a home-and-home with Pittsburgh, followed by visits to Toronto and Montreal.
21. Tampa Bay (8): Tampa may still hold their status as favorites in the Eastern Conference, but their 3-5-2 mark over their last 10 games isn’t pretty. You never know what he can do, but it’s strange that Steven Stamkos hasn’t yet hit the 20-goal plateau. Coming up: A three-game trip with stops in Pittsburgh, Carolina, and Toronto.
22. Anaheim (1): It’s a big slide for Anaheim this week, thanks in part to a pair of 6-2 drubbings at the hands of the Maple Leafs and Senators. After a huge week, the Ducks fell back to earth pretty hard. Coming up: Anaheim will try and get back on track against the streaking Sharks, who trail the Ducks by seven points for the Pacific Division lead.
23. Ottawa (23): After a pair of wins over the Devils and Ducks, the Senators lost to Montreal on Saturday night. They’re on the road tonight in Washington, but have a pair of home games once the break is over. Coming up: Three of five at home, but after that, it’s out on the road for the Senators.
24. Carolina (29): Carolina has found themselves firmly in the race for either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. And what is going on with Alexander Semin? He is on pace for three goals this season. Yikes. Coming up: Road dates against the Devils and Lightning.
25. Edmonton (30): The Oilers blew a three-goal lead on Sunday night and lost 6-5 in a shootout to the Dallas Stars. You’ve got to feel for Oilers fans. Coming up: The Battle of Alberta will happen twice before the end of 2014, so maybe the Oilers can snap their losing streak then.
26. Arizona (27): Arizona hasn’t named a starter for tomorrow’s game against Edmonton, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see former Oiler Devan Dubnyk get the nod. Talk about insult to injury for the Oilers. Coming up: Before the break the Coyotes have to play a back-to-back which begins tonight in Vancouver before the game against Edmonton.
27. Buffalo (24): After winning four in a row, the Sabres lost two straight by a combined score of 10-2. They picked up a point against the Bruins on Sunday. The massive hit by Boston’s Matt Bartkowski on captain Brian Gionta won’t result in a suspension. Coming up: The Sabres travel to Detroit, and finish 2014 with games against the Islanders, Senators, and Lightning.
28. New Jersey (28): The Devils have been shutout twice in their last three games and are one of the lowest scoring teams in the league with only 77 goals in 35 games. Coming up: Their schedule doesn’t get any easier as they have the Rangers, Penguins, and Red Wings following the holiday break.
29. Toronto (2): The biggest slide in this week’s rankings, the Leafs fall comes on the back of three straight losses in which they’ve surrendered 15 goals and scored only five. A sweetheart schedule to begin the year is going to make things tough down the stretch. Coming up: The final six games of a seven game road trip, which includes stops in Tampa, Minnesota, and Winnipeg.
30. Calgary (22): Bob Hartley may have signed the dotted line at the exact right moment, as the Flames are currently on an eight-game slide in which they failed to score more than once four times. Coming up: Before 2014 comes to a close, they’ll play the Kings and Oilers twice. Not hard to imagine the losing streak stretching to 12.