The Capitals, Blues and Bruins haven’t ceded their top-three positions in the standings in over a month. Boston and St. Louis each have a lead of at least seven points in their respective divisions, while Washington holds a two-game lead despite Pittsburgh’s best efforts to try to win as many games with as few healthy players as possible. There are a few late risers, namely the Lightning, and as the schedule creeps toward the All-Star break, here is how we see the rest of the league stacking up this week:
31. Detroit Red Wings | 12-32-3 | Previous Ranking: 31
Dylan Larkin isn’t sulky about his All-Star Game selection, Filip Hronek’s play has added hope to the rebuild, Jonathan Bernier has provided solid goaltending, the Red Wings won back-to-back games for the fourth time all year and not everything in Detroit is doom and gloom. The Red Wings still have a 12-point lead on last place, though.
30. Anaheim Ducks | 17-24-5 | Previous Ranking: 27
The Ducks honored Corey Perry—sitting in a suite at the Honda Center while serving his suspension—and Andrew Cogliano in their first return to Anaheim. The latter helped the Stars shutout Ducks. One foot in the past. One in the painful present. As a franchise, Anaheim is stuck between both.
29. Ottawa Senators | 16-22-8 | Previous Ranking: 28
Tank mode, initiated. The Senators are riding an eight-game losing streak—the team’s longest losing skid of the season—while being outscored by a 2:1 margin.
28. Los Angeles Kings | 18-25-5 | Previous Ranking: 29
A positive spin: The Kings aren’t last in the Western Conference, they’re 7-7-3 since Dec. 10 and Tyler Toffoli has played close to a point-per-game pace in that stretch. L.A. isn’t going anywhere this year, but the team has been capable of a four- or five-goal performance every now and then and at least Toffoli is upping his trade value.
27. New Jersey Devils | 17-22-7 | Previous Ranking: 30
Four-and-a-half seasons, two No. 1 overall picks, Taylor Hall gift-wrapped in a trade and one playoff victory—that, as much as anything, led to the Devils’ decision to fire GM Ray Shero. Leave it to the Devils to beat the Lightning a few hours later, one night after defeating the Caps. Since Dec. 14, the Devils have the eighth-most wins (8) of any team in the league.
26. Chicago Blackhawks | 21-20-6 | Previous Ranking: 24
Dominik Kubalik scored in four straight games during the Blackhawks’ recent homestand, and his 18 goals now top Victor Olofsson for most by a rookie this season. Shooting 30.3% since Dec. 19., the Czech winger has totaled 15 points in his last 12 games while doing most of his damage at even strength. Chicago sits near the bottom of the Central, but coach Jeremy Colliton has done enough to stay off the hot seat so far.
25. San Jose Sharks | 21-23-4 | Previous Ranking: 26
The Sharks scraped a few wins but in the process lost Logan Couture, who is expected to be out six weeks with a fractured left ankle. San Jose has almost no depth down the middle and now might be the time when hoping for a high lottery pick might replace the hope for a last-gasp playoff push. According to MoneyPuck, the Sharks have a 19.9% chance to make the playoffs (eighth-worst) but a 5.3% chance to win the draft lottery (eighth-best).
24. Buffalo Sabres | 21-19-7 | Previous Ranking: 23
Free fallin’, now I’m free fallin’… The Sabres have been outscored 49-35 with a 5-8-1 record in the last month of play and lost ground in the Atlantic while the Lightning and Leafs rocket up the standings.
23. Minnesota Wild | 20-20-6 | Previous Ranking: 22
The Wild have lost six of their last seven games, dropping four at home and slipping to 12th in the Western Conference. Even with a seven-game homestand on the way, it’s unlikely Minnesota does enough to become buyers at the trade deadline. That’s OK—the Wild haven’t made it past the first round of the playoffs since 2015 and taking time to rebuild is better than treading in mediocrity ad nauseam.
22. Montreal Canadiens | 20-20-7 | Previous Ranking: 21
After slumping hard to open the New Year, Carey Price turned in two staunch performances in net and stopped 72 of 73 shots in wins against the Senators and Flames. The Canadiens needed that, as the team was dropping fast on an eight-game losing streak. New acquisition Ilya Kovalchuk has already chipped in, too, with an overtime goal against the Sens and four points in his first five games with the Habs.
21. New York Rangers | 22-19-4 | Previous Ranking: 25
Make way, “Prince” Igor Shesterkin has arrived in New York. The 24-year-old Russian netminder won his Madison Square Garden debut against the Devils, two nights after defeating the Avalanche. Shesterkin is viewed as the heir apparent to Henrik Lundqvist, who has one year remaining on his contract, and had a pristine .933 save percentage and 1.70 goals against average in 133 KHL games. Meanwhile, Artemi Panarin has been scorching since Christmas (22 points in nine games) and trails only Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Nathan MacKinnon on the NHL’s points leaderboard.
20. Columbus Blue Jackets | 23-16-8 | Previous Ranking: 20
The Blue Jackets have beaten the Golden Knights, Bruins, Capitals and Islanders in the last month of play. Even without Panarin, Matt Duchene and Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus has three fewer points now than it did at this point last season. Rookie goaltender Elvis Merzlikins recorded his first career shutout in Vegas, bolstering his .950 save percentage and 1.63 goals against average in his last eight starts.
19. Winnipeg Jets | 25-18-4 | Previous Ranking: 14
No team has attempted fewer high-danger shot attempts than the Jets and, besides the Red Wings, no other team has surrendered more high-danger goals per 60 minutes, either. That’s not a dichotomy to strive for. Winnipeg is barely hanging onto the last wild-card spot.
18. Edmonton Oilers | 25-18-5 | Previous Ranking: 17
After an uneasy December, the Oilers warded off panic with three straight road wins against the Bruins, Leafs and Canadiens.. Edmonton’s power play (29.9%) has never waned and is on pace to finish as the fifth-best extra-man unit in almost four decades. Still, the Oilers have an ever-recurring need for depth forwards, help on the blue line and a boost in net.
17. Calgary Flames | 25-18-5 | Previous Ranking: 18
Goaltender Cam Talbot helped the Flames win the Battle of Alberta but, more importantly, his hot stretch keyed a five-game winning streak. Former 1A Dave Rittich has played just twice in the New Year.
16. Nashville Predators | 21-17-7 | Previous Ranking: 19
Pekka Rinne became the 12th goalie to score a goal in the NHL and three nights later Juuse Saros blanked the Jets with a 28-save shutout—his first of the season. If there’s any confidence to be gained from either’s performance, it would be a huge benefit to a Predators team with the second-worst team save percentage this season.
15. Philadelphia Flyers | 24-16-6 | Previous Ranking: 15
For the first time since being diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, Oskar Lindblom returned to the Wells Fargo Center and received a standing ovation from the 19,866 fans in attendance on Jan. 11. Previously, the Flyers announced defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere would miss three weeks following arthroscopic knee surgery. The defense has survived without Ghost at his best and Philadelphia has remained right on the playoff bubble.
14. Florida Panthers | 24-16-5 | Previous Ranking: 16
With Sergei Bobrovsky scratched due to an upper-body injury, backup Chris Driedger earned his fifth victory in seven starts while Jonathan Huberdeau broke the Panthers’ franchise record for most career points in a victory over the Leafs. The Panthers are tied for fourth in the league in goals scored and have tallied 4.38 goals per game in the past month.
13. Vancouver Canucks | 25-18-4 | Previous Ranking: 13
Through the team’s first 47 games, the Canucks have proven that they’re a solid offensive team with a good power play, better goaltending and a trio of top-flight talent (Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Quinn Hughes) to get excited about. Vancouver’s defense has been hit or miss, but there’s nothing else obscuring what this team actually is.
12. Vegas Golden Knights | 24-19-6 | Previous Ranking: 9
After winning four straight, the Golden Knights turned around and lost three in a row to the Penguins, Kings and Blue Jackets—all at home. Vegas is looking to add a defenseman, according to The Athletic, which would provide a lift to a team that hasn’t been as good in its own end this year. The Golden Knights don’t play another home game until Feb. 8.
11. Arizona Coyotes | 26-18-5 | Previous Ranking: 12
The Coyotes have been anchored by the Darcy Kuemper–Antti Raanta goaltending tandem, but the team has lost both to lower-body injuries. Third stringer Adin Hill has filled in with mixed results but, on a positive note, defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson returned to action for the first time since suffering a cracked fibula in mid-October.
10. New York Islanders | 28-13-4 | Previous Ranking: 7
The Islanders snapped a nine-game streak without a power-play goal on Monday night, but that was about the only good thing to come out of its 6–2 loss to the Rangers. The Isles will have its first chance to avenge its loss against the Blueshirts on Thursday night.
9. Carolina Hurricanes | 27-17-2 | Previous Ranking: 10
Justin Williams, 38, is back with the Hurricanes. Practicing at least. While the team waits for his on-ice return, the Hurricanes notched two shutouts in a back-to-back against the Coyotes and Kings and went 5-2-0 during its five-game homestand. Carolina has killed off 14 of 15 power plays in the last five games after its penalty kill plummeted in late December.
8. Colorado Avalanche | 25-15-6 | Previous Ranking: 8
Despite attempting more than 12 shots per game more than their opponents, the Avalanche have won just twice in their last nine games. Goal scoring isn’t the issue and Colorado’s defense hasn’t been bad. However, Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz have combined for the fifth-worst team save percentage since Dec. 27 and neither has provided the Avs with consistency in net this season.
7. Dallas Stars | 27-15-4 | Previous Ranking: 11
The Stars’ six-game winning streak, driven by a hot power play (35%) and even better goaltending (Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin combined for a .958 save percentage and 1.33 goals against average), came to an end after losing 2–1 to the Sharks. The power play is nice but it masks Dallas’s deficiencies at even-strength, where it ranks 27th in goals for per 60 minutes.
6. Toronto Maple Leafs | 25-16-6 | Previous Ranking: 3
Surrendering 18 goals across three games usually isn’t a winning formula. The Leafs did just that, with the ugliest of those defeats coming in an 8–4 loss to the Panthers. With Morgan Rielly now out for eight weeks with a fractured foot, Toronto’s blue line isn’t in a position to help give Frederik Andersen any extra support. The Leafs have little to no room to maneuver under the salary cap and will have to count on players like Tyson Barrie and Rasmus Sandin step up.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins | 29-12-5 | Previous Ranking: 5
How many teams could lose its top center and top winger and suffer little-to-no ill effects? Not many. With Jake Guentzel out and Sidney Crosby just returning Tuesday night (with a four-point performance), the Penguins reeled off three-straight road wins against the Golden Knights, Avalanche and Coyotes before taking down the Wild at home. Expect them to be linked to any top-six wing on the trade block.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning | 28-14-4 | Previous Ranking: 6
The Lightning collected 10 straight wins—matching the single-season franchise record set by last year’s team—before they fell 3–1 to the Devils on Sunday. Beyond its high-powered offense, Tampa Bay’s defense has morphed into a top-five unit while ranking first in expected goals allowed per 60 minutes (2.16) during its winning streak.
3. Boston Bruins | 27-9-12 | Previous Ranking: 4
For the second time this season, David Pastrnak had a point streak of at least 12 games. Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr are the only two other Bruins to accomplish that. Pastrnak has been on a tear, and there’s a realistic chance he crosses the 60-goal mark this season. In the things not to be proud of category, Brad Marchand might’ve had the worst shootout attempt, ever, when he skated by the puck, resulting in a failed attempt and a Flyers win.
2. St. Louis Blues | 30-10-7 | Previous Ranking: 2
With goals in four straight games, David Perron matched his point total from last year (46) and already secured back-to-back 20-goal seasons. Not bad for the Central’s last man into the All-Star game. Twenty-year-old center Robert Thomas has grown into his potential and has given the Blues extra depth on the team’s third line, helping the Blues become the second team to 30 wins.
1. Washington Capitals | 31-11-5 | Previous Ranking: 1
The Capitals only allowed 22 shots, but still found a way to lose 5–1 to the Devils. There’s areas to be worried about—an ailing power play and Braden Holtby trending downward—but the Caps were due for a sluggish few weeks until they get back on track again.