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NHL Power Rankings: Knights, Bruins Cruising; Leafs, Islanders Losing

It’s been more than a week since our last NHL Power Rankings, but the three-day Christmas break takes the blame. Not much reason to release rankings four in-season days after our previous release. That said, there is now more to digest as we look back on the last 14 days as a whole. Some clubs are already at the halfway point of the regular season. This means that teams that wish to play postseason hockey that aren’t currently in a playoff spot might want to think about going on a run. That said, the standings are still so tight that a wealth of possibilities remain before we blow out the candles on the regular season. Let’s get to it!

1. Tampa Bay Lightning (29-8-2) (1)

Can anyone dethrone the Lightning? Their 60 points pace the NHL as they continue to dominate both ends of the ice. You also might want to get ready to give 23-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy the Vezina Trophy (1.95 GAA, .937 Sv%, 6 SO).

2. Vegas Golden Knights (27-9-2) (3)

Seriously, Vegas? The team everyone thought would be a lottery team is threatening to take down the Western Conference. They are the NHL’s best home team with a 17-2-1 mark at T-Mobile Arena and have won eight in a row. Unbelievable.

3. Winnipeg Jets (23-11-7) (4)

Losing Mark Scheifele long term is going to test the Jets who have grabbed points in seven of their last eight games. Connor Hellebuyck continues to shine and this is a dominant team at home, leading the NHL with 4.11 goals per game on home ice.

4. Boston Bruins (22-10-6) (10)

The Bruins are the NHL’s hottest team and have been for a while. They are 7-0-2 over their last nine and 16-3-2 over their last 21. Tuukka Rask deservedly took home the NHL’s first star of the month after posting a .955 Sv% in December.

5. Los Angeles Kings (24-11-5) (4)

It’s going to be fun watching the Kings and Golden Knights duke it out for the Pacific Division over the season’s second half. The Kings still boast the NHL’s best defense at 2.28 goals against per game.

6. Washington Capitals (25-13-3) (7)

They are still struggling defensively away from home (3.45 GA/GP – 26th), but are 7-1-2 over their last ten. They’ve also won eight straight and ten of their last 11 at home where Braden Holtby has a 2.10 GAA and a .933 Sv%.

7. New Jersey Devils (22-10-7) (9)

If it weren’t for Vegas, the Devils would be the NHL’s most surprising club. John Hynes’ group continues to bank points with a 6-1-3 record over their last ten. They sit just two points back of the Capitals for top spot in the ultra-competitive Metropolitan Division with two games in hand.

8. Nashville Predators (23-11-5) (2)

They have a 2-3-1 record since we had them in the two spot 14 days ago. They probably didn’t deserve to fall six spots, but that’s how competitive this league is. Their offense has dried up with just 11 goals over those six games, punctuated by a shutout loss last night in Vegas.

9. St. Louis Blues (25-15-2) (6)

The Blues have won two straight, but scoring woes continue without Jaden Schwartz. They have yet to score more than three goals in a game without Schwartz and are averaging just 1.67 non-shootout goals per game during his 12-game absence.

10. San Jose Sharks (21-12-4) (12)

They have games in hand on every team ahead of them in the west and they have their leading scorer back. Those games in hand won’t be easy as six of their next seven are on the road, albeit against sliding opponents in the Maple Leafs, Senators and Coyotes.

11. Toronto Maple Leafs (23-16-2) (8)

Thanks to a 3-6-1 mark over their last ten, the Maple Leafs have fallen to third place in the Atlantic, two points behind the Bruins and have played three more games than their rival. That said, people tend to forget this is still a rebuilding club, not yet two seasons removed from finishing dead last in the standings.

12. Columbus Blue Jackets (23-15-3) (13)

Hopefully last night’s 21-save, 2-1 road win gets Sergei Bobrovsky going for this club that is going to need him. After an .891 Sv% in December, Bobrovsky’s struggles have left the Blue Jackets without an identity. With him going, they are a tough team to beat and one that you don’t want to see in the postseason.

13. New York Rangers (21-13-5) (11)

The Rangers have played an overwhelming amount of games at home, 24 of 39 to be exact. The road-heavy portion of their schedule has kicked off with a shootout loss in Detroit and an overtime New Year’s day win over the Sabres where they were the designated road team. They will need some road success to continue making noise.

14. Dallas Stars (22-16-3) (17)

So far, they’ve taken advantage of playing six of their last seven at home, posting a 4-1-1 record in those six games. They’re 14-5-1 at American Airlines Center and play three more at home prior to hitting the east coast for four straight.

15. Anaheim Ducks (19-14-8) (22)

Man, kudos to these Ducks. Despite missing Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Cam Fowler, Corey Perry, Patrick Eaves, Hampus Lindholm and former Duck Sami Vatanen all for extended periods, the Ducks sit in the second Wild Card spot in the west. They’ve received the third best goaltending this season with a team .921 Sv% between John Gibson and Ryan Miller.

16. Carolina Hurricanes (18-13-8) (21)

Look out for the sneaky Hurricanes. After grabbing a point in last night’s overtime loss to Washington, Carolina now occupies the second Wild Card spot in the east. Cam Ward is to thank as he posted a .935 Sv% in his final six games of December while taking the crease away from newcomer Scott Darling.

17. Minnesota Wild (21-16-3) (16)

Fantastic at home, poor on the road. Like other teams (Stars, Rangers) the Wild have posted a great home record (13-4-2) but a poor road record (8-12-1). They hover around the middle of the pack in too many categories to be a true contender, but playing six of their next eight at the Xcel Energy Center could change that.

18. New York Islanders (20-16-4)  (15)

Tough times have hit the Islanders. They have dropped three straight and were thumped 5-1 at home by Boston last night, a place where they were dominating early in the season. They now have the NHL’s worst defense at 3.58 goals against per game.

19. Colorado Avalanche (20-16-3) (23)

Could the Avalanche make a Leafs-like move from dead last to the postseason? After three straight wins they sit three points back of the Ducks for the second Wild Card spot with two games in hand. They are the NHL’s sixth best offense and the fifth best offense at home.

20. Pittsburgh Penguins (20-18-3) (19)

Perhaps a 5-1 road shellacking of the rival Flyers can get this team going. The truth in Pittsburgh is Tristan Jarry is outplaying Matt Murray and it looked like the Penguins were going to ride the hot hand prior to Jarry leaving last night’s win. Jarry is 6-3-2 with a 2.36 GAA and a .922 Sv% versus Murray and his 2.94 GAA and .903 Sv%. The Pens will need Murray to build on last night’s 11-save scoreless relief appearance.

21. Chicago Blackhawks (18-14-6) (14)

Chicago won five straight to get back in it, only to lose four of their next five. They’re still in decent shape to make a run at a Wild Card spot, but scoring 2.52 goals per game on the road (23rd) isn’t going to cut it moving forward.

22. Calgary Flames (19-16-4) (20)

This is still a team without an identity. They just aren’t playing well enough at home to keep up with the teams that are. Their ten home wins are more than just the Oilers, Coyotes and Canucks in the west. Like Chicago, a Wild Card shot is in the cards still.

23. Philadelphia Flyers (16-15-8) (18)

Their eight overtime/shootout losses means they haven’t been good enough in close games. It’s come back to bite them in a tough Metro Division where the occupy last place. Like the Flames, Philly has made their home rink too easy for opponents, winning just eight of 20 at the Wells Fargo Center.

24. Florida Panthers (17-17-5) (28)

The Panthers make a four-spot jump thanks to a five-game winning streak. The bad news is that streak was halted with a 5-1 drubbing in Minnesota that saw James Reimer leave the contest. While it may have been precautionary due to the score at the time, losing Reimer would hurt after he posted a .966 Sv% during the five-game streak.

25. Detroit Red Wings (15-16-7) (26)

Tyler Bertuzzi has three points in five games and is now skating on the team’s top line as the Red Wings looks to see what they have in the 22-year-old. It’s all about the young guys from here on out.

26. Edmonton Oilers (17-20-3) (24)

A 5-0 blowout loss at home to the Kings has surely put a fork in the Oilers’ season. Unlike previous poor Oilers teams, this isn’t likely to be a long time before a return to prominence with number 97 on board. That said, it will be interesting to see what management does as it searches for solutions to this season’s catastrophe.

27. Vancouver Canucks (16-19-5) (27)

Unlike Oilers fans, Canucks fans might just be enjoying this season despite the team’s spot in the standings. Brock Boeser has given the franchise another pillar to build on while Elias Petterson and Olli Juolevi look primed to make the jump next season. A top five pick in this year’s draft is also in the cards.

28. Montreal Canadiens (16-20-4) (25)

No one is enjoying this season in Montreal. Losers of five straight, the Habs have no option but to clean house and start over. Marc Bergevin will not be kept to oversee the rebuild. Carey Price and Max Pacioretty’s trade values have never been lower. Tough times for the league’s most storied franchise.

29. Ottawa Senators (12-17-8) (29)

Another house cleaning candidate here. Problem is Bobby Ryan’s contract is darn near untradeable relative to production, as is Dion Phaneuf’s. One has to wonder if trading franchise pillars Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman is the way to go given their production and reasonable contract situations. The crease may need an overhaul too as Craig Anderson has posted an .896 Sv% and will be 37 to begin next season.

30. Buffalo Sabres (10-20-9) (30)

Not sure if the Sabres will manage to finish behind the Coyotes to nab the best odds in the draft lottery, but having projected number one pick Rasmus Dahlin and 23-year-old stalwart Rasmus Ristolainen skating on the same blueline for years to come would be the boost needed to get Buffalo going again.

31. Arizona Coyotes (9-27-5) (31)

They would prefer to be the ones to get Dahlin.

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