NHL power rankings: Blues muscle their way to the top
FEB 05, 2014 5:59p ET
The St. Louis Blues are playing the NHL's best hockey as the Olympic break neared. They won four of five games heading into the final week and they finish out with three more home games.
"If we don't bring our good game, we're going to have some sour feelings afterwards -- we've learned that lesson," Blues captain David Backes said. "We've got nothing to save it for. Some guys are flying across the world, but there's nothing to save it for. Go out there and leave it all out there."
Their 4-3 victory over Nashville left them 14-0-1 in the Central Division. They closed in on the Chicago Blackhawks, who were 9-8-3 in their first 20 division games.
That is how the Blues topped the slumping Anaheim Ducks in our weekly ratings. Here is how the pecking order shakes out:
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1 Blues 37-12-6 +3
GOOD NEWS: Second-year winger Vladimir Tarasenko assumed a bigger role in the offense, scoring three times and adding two assists during a six-game surge.
BAD NEWS: Versatile forward Vladimir Sobotka will miss the Olympics -- and several weeks of NHL action -- with his untimely knee injury.
BOTTOM LINE: Their longest losing streak this season is two games. They are the only NHL team to avoid a major slump this season.
2 Ducks 40-13-5 -1
GOOD NEWS: Ryan Getzlaf has scored 18, 16 and 16 points during the previous three months.
BAD NEWS: Their power play finally cooled off. After scoring six power-play goals against Vancouver Jan. 15, they converted just four of their next 26 tries.
BOTTOM LINE: They finally hit a lull. During a five-game home stand the Ducks lost three of their first four games. They went 22-0-2 in their first 24 games at home.
3 Penguins 39-15-2 -1
GOOD NEWS: Winger James Neal broke out of his slump by scoring his first goal in nine games.
BAD NEWS: Defenseman Kris Letang recovered from knee and elbow injuries, and then returned to the shelf with a lingering illness.
BOTTOM LINE: Their home-ice dominance (16 victories in a 17-game span) kept them atop the Eastern Conference. Overall they won 23 of their first 27 home games this season.
4 Blackhawks 34-10-14 -1
GOOD NEWS: They killed off 25 penalties before their streak ended in Los Angeles.
BAD NEWS: They lost five of six games before scoring a 5-3 victory over the reeling Kings.
BOTTOM LINE: They wear down teams with their offensive depth. The Blackhawks lead the NHL with six players with 40-plus points.
5 Bruins 36-16-3 +1
GOOD NEWS: Defenseman Dougie Hamilton got more involved in the offense, scoring goals in consecutive games.
BAD NEWS: Zdeno Chara will miss two games while carrying the flag for the Slovakian Olympic delegation.
BOTTOM LINE: They kept rolling by winning five of six games heading into the final week before the Olympic break.
6 Avalanche 36-15-5 +2
GOOD NEWS: Back-up goaltender J.S. Giguere won his first game since Dec. 6.
BAD NEWS: Center Paul Stastny missed time with a minor ankle injury.
BOTTOM LINE: They will hate to take the Olympic break. Their 2-1 comeback victory in overtime at New Jersey was their fourth in a row and their ninth in 11 games.
7 Sharks 35-16-6 -2
GOOD NEWS: Rookie Matt Nieto scored twice against the Philadelphia Flyers after scoring just four goals in his first 44 games this season.
BAD NEWS: They failed on 16 consecutive power plays before Nieto broke through.
BOTTOM LINE: They staggered toward the Olympic break by losing four times in a five-game span.
8 Lightning 32-19-5 -1
GOOD NEWS: Top center Steve Stamkos has finally recovered from his broken leg. He hopes to play one game before the Olympic break.
BAD NEWS: Key forward Valtteri Filppula has been hobbled by a lower-body injury.
BOTTOM LINE: They stalled out by going 5-4-1 over 10 games. But they will be different stretch run team with a healthy Stamkos.
9 Rangers 31-23-3 +2
BAD NEWS: Captain Ryan Callahan became tabloid fodder with his contract haggling. He is a pending free agent and GM Glen Sather threatened to trade him if he didn't sign a contract extension this week.
BOTTOM LINE: They won nine of 12 games heading into the final pre-Olympic week.
10 Blue Jackets 29-23-4 +7
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky went 10-2-0 with a 2.17 goals-against average in 12 starts after missing 14 games with a groin muscle strain.
BAD NEWS: Injury-plagued winger Marian Gaborik was trying to get healthy enough to play in the Olympics. Is that really a good idea?
BOTTOM LINE: They roared up the Eastern Conference ladder with a 14-game unbeaten streak (11-0-3), highlighted by a 4-2 victory at Anaheim.
11 Maple Leafs 30-22-6 +3
GOOD NEWS: Phil Kessel scored three goals and dished out four assists in three games last week. He scored 20 points in 15 January games.
BAD NEWS: Power forward David Clarkson has just three goals in 36 games. Now he has to come back from an elbow injury.
BOTTOM LINE: The Leafs finally regained their traction with a 10-1-1 run.
12 Kings 30-22-6 -3
GOOD NEWS: Center Anze Kopitar had a three-point game against the Chicago Blackhawks, his third of the season.
BAD NEWS: During a 26-game struggle, high-priced center Mike Richards had one goal, eight points and a minus-11 rating.
BOTTOM LINE: After the starting the season 25-8-4, the Kings went 5-14-2 in their next 21 games.
13 Canadiens 30-21-6 -3
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Carey Price stopped 103 of 107 shots during three excellent starts.
BOTTOM LINE: The Habs lost steam while earning just two victories plus a consolation point during an eight-game stretch.
14 Wild 30-21-7 -1
GOOD NEWS: Winger Zach Parise scored three goals and added five assists in three games last week.
BAD NEWS: Center Mikko Koivu is still recovering from his broken ankle. He is skating again, but he is not practicing with the team.
BOTTOM LINE: They got a little healthier with the return of defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who missed 15 games with a foot injury.
15 Flyers 28-23-6
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Steve Mason pulled himself together and earned two shutouts in a span of three starts.
BAD NEWS: Key defenseman Kimmo Timonen has been hobbled by a lower-body injury.
BOTTOM LINE: The Flyers pulled out of their tailspin by handling Detroit at home and then winning games at Los Angeles and San Jose during a West Coast swing.
16 Coyotes 26-20-10
GOOD NEWS: Forward Antoine Vermette scored seven goals and added three assists during seven games.
BOTTOM LINE: They can only hope their 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins finally jars them out of .500 mode.
17 Canucks 27-22-9 -5
GOOD NEWS: Coach John Tortorella returned after serving his 15-day suspension for going postal against the Calgary Flames.
BAD NEWS: The Canucks went 2-4 during his absence, then lost 2-0 at Detroit in his first game back.
BOTTOM LINE: Center Henrik Sedin's return from a rib injury did not spark this flagging offense. Barring a big turnaround, this team is headed toward a big makeover for next season.
18 Red Wings 25-19-12
GOOD NEWS: Top forward Pavel Datsyuk edged closer to active duty after missing 14 games with a knee injury.
BAD NEWS: Their 2-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks was just their second regulation victory since Jan. 11.
19 Stars 26-21-9 +3
GOOD NEWS: Top gun Tyler Seguin had three goals and six assists during a five-game point streak.
BAD NEWS: Defenseman Stephane Robidas won't return from his leg injury until after the break.
BOTTOM LINE: After losing their first six games in the New Year, the Stars got points in seven of their next 10 games (5-3-2) to regain relevance.
20 Predators 25-23-9 +3
GOOD NEWS: Defenseman Roman Josi is flourishing with partner Shea Weber. Josi produced 13 points in 17 games.
BAD NEWS: The Predators haven't strung together three or more victories since mid-December.
BOTTOM LINE: Their 1-7 record in shootouts has them outside of the playoff bracket looking in.
21 Senators 25-21-11 -2
GOOD NEWS: Forward Stephane Da Costa came up from the AHL to score twice against Columbus and once against Pittsburgh.
BAD NEWS: Defenseman Chris Phillips missed time with a lower-body injury.
BOTTOM LINE: The Senators hit a 2-2-2 rut while encountering a tough schedule stretch.
22 Capitals 25-23-9 -2
GOOD NEWS: Perhaps Martin Erat's Olympic appointment will perk him up. He joins the Czech squad as an injury replacement.
BAD NEWS: Top defenseman Mike Green may be sidelined until after the Olympics with a concussion.
BOTTOM LINE: They earned just one point during a six-game winless streak within the Metropolitan Division. That is a pretty good formula for missing the playoffs.
23 Devils 23-21-13 -2
BAD NEWS: The Devils allowed late goals in three consecutive games and lost two of them in overtime.
BOTTOM LINE: Their come-from-ahead loss to the visiting Colorado Avalanche extended their frustrations.
24 Islanders 22-28-8
GOOD NEWS: Kyle Okposo stayed hot -- producing seven points in five games -- even as the Islanders fell into another long slide.
BAD NEWS: Pending free agent Thomas Vanek rejected a long-term contract offer, forcing the team to shop him around before the trade deadline.
BOTTOM LINE: Their rally toward playoff contention stalled during a five-game winless streak.
25 Jets 28-25-5
GOOD NEWS: Youngster Jacob Trouba had 19 points and a plus-14 rating during a span of 28 games.
BAD NEWS: Top winger Evander Kane is on the shelf until after the Olympics, this time due to a hand infection.
BOTTOM LINE: The Jets won eight of their first 10 games under new coach Paul Maurice. If only they had changed coaches sooner.
26 Hurricanes 25-21-9
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Cam Ward is back from his rehabilitation assignment.
BAD NEWS: He has been the team's third-best netminder this season. It remains to be seen if his return will help the team or hurt it.
BOTTOM LINE: The top line is finally producing. Winger Alexander Semin scored seven times in eight games. So there is hope.
27 Flames 21-28-7 +3
GOOD NEWS: They enjoyed their first 5-0-0 home stand since Feb. 7-15, 1997.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Kari Ramo suffered a MCL injury and won't return until after the Olympic break.
BOTTOM LINE: Led by forward Mikael Backlund (four goals in three games), the Flames came to life offensively. They scored 20 goals during their five-game surge.
28 Panthers 22-27-7 -1
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Tim Thomas seems interested in returning next season. That may convince the team not to move him before the trade deadline.
BAD NEWS: After 55 games, no Panther had more than 26 points.
BOTTOM LINE: They apparently are putting off their fire sale until after the Sochi Games. Why wait?
29 Oilers 19-33-6 -1
GOOD NEWS: Winger David Perron scored five goals and had two assists during an eight-game stretch.
BAD NEWS: Opponents outshot the Oilers 144-80 during three games.
BOTTOM LINE: They won four times in a five-game span to move six points out the NHL basement. So there's that.
30 Sabres 15-32-8 -1
GOOD NEWS: Winger Drew Stafford scored a goal in his first game back after missing four with an upper-body injury.
BAD NEWS: A 3-2 loss to Edmonton extended their home winless streak to seven games (0-4-3).
BOTTOM LINE: They have shown more life under new coach Ted Nolan, but a 4-8-4 stretch kept them in the NHL's cellar.