The Anaheim Ducks are doing to the NHL what the Chicago Blackhawks did last season.
Week after week, month after month, the result is the same. The Ducks earned their 18th victory in 19 games by destroying the Vancouver Canucks 7-1 Wednesday before finally losing Friday night in Chicago. Wednesday’s win allowed the Ducks to tie an NHL record reached by the 1967-68 Montreal Canadiens for compiling 18 wins in a 19-game span. Anaheim is now 18-0-2 at home, and goaltender Jonas Hiller just ended a run of 14 consecutive victories.
Those are crazy numbers, especially for a team in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
"When it comes down to it, we have guys who are willing to pay the price and get the job done," Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said after a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings last weekend."At the end of the day, (Hiller has) been the top player for us. When you have him in the net with full confidence, it’s tough to score on him. It felt like every line brought something well to the table, offensively and defensively."
It’s no surprise that the Ducks remain atop our NHL Power Rankings. Here’s how the rest of this week’s pecking order shakes out.
1. Ducks 37-9 -5 —
GOOD NEWS: As if the Ducks didn’t have enough offensive threats already, forward Andrew Cogliano scored seven goals in an 11-game stretch.
BAD NEWS: When you’ve earned points in 41 of 50 games, how bad could things be?
BOTTOM LINE: The Ducks’ schedule is back-loaded with home games, so they will be hard to knock off the top perch.
2. Penguins 34-12 -2 +1
GOOD NEWS: Winger James Neal missed 20 games due to injuries and a suspension, but he still has 17 goals and 19 assists this season.
BAD NEWS: Gritty forward Joe Vitale will miss the next few weeks with an upper body injury.
BOTTOM LINE: After overcoming a slew of injuries, this team is finally getting closer to full strength. This is not good news for the rest of the league.
3. Blues 32-10 -5 +1
GOOD NEWS: Shutdown defenseman Roman Polak is back in the lineup, bolstering this team’s already impressive depth.
BAD NEWS: Top scorer Alexander Steen remains sidelined by post-concussion syndrome, although he is skating with the team.
BOTTOM LINE: The Blues’ success hasn’t been a fluke. They are sending 10 players to the Sochi Olympics.
4. Blackhawks 32-8 -11 -2
GOOD NEWS: They had the NHL’s second-ranked offense and fourth-best power play coming into this week.
BAD NEWS: Due largely to an injury, goaltender Corey Crawford won just once between Nov. 29 and Jan. 11.
BOTTOM LINE: The Blackhawks can outscore teams in the regular season, but they will need to regain last spring’s defensive form if they want to defend their Stanley Cup.
5. Sharks 31-12 -6 +1
GOOD NEWS: They won six consecutive home games before suffering a 1-0 loss to the Boston Bruins on Jan. 11.
BAD NEWS: Logan Couture (hand surgery) is just the latest injury hit for this team. The Sharks have already lost more man-games to injury than in each of their previous 82-game seasons.
BOTTOM LINE: Outstanding depth has allowed the Sharks to keep winning with fill-ins all over the lineup.
6. Kings 29-14 -6 -1
GOOD NEWS: They killed 16-of-17 penalties during their recent five-game homestand.
BAD NEWS: Winger Dustin Brown scored just 16 points in his first 46 games this season. The Kings need much more from him.
BOTTOM LINE: They went 3-1-1 during a five-game homestand after getting Jonathan Quick back in goal. That record is very good, but not good enough to keep pace with the Ducks.
7. Bruins 30-15 -3 —
GOOD NEWS: Ruffian Shawn Thornton returned to battle after serving his 15-game suspension for overzealous enforcement activities.
BAD NEWS: They were outscored 9-4 in ugly losses at Anaheim and Los Angeles.
BOTTOM LINE: Just imagine how good the Bruins could become if they got serious offense from their top two forward lines.
8. Lightning 29-16 -5 +1
GOOD NEWS: Forward Valtteri Filppula scored 16 points during a 13-game span while doing his best Steven Stamkos impression.
BAD NEWS: While Stamkos is skating with the Lightning, he still isn’t close to playing with them.
BOTTOM LINE: They won eight of their last 10 road games to continue their quest for one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference. The return of goaltender Ben Bishop will only strengthen that bid
9. Avalanche 31-12 -5 +3
GOOD NEWS: After losing four straight games in late December, the Avalanche responded with a 7-1-1 surge.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender J.S. Giguere is struggling with back spasms.
BOTTOM LINE: Paul Stastny and Ryan O’Reilly are putting up numbers in the "walk" year of their contracts. If Colorado can keep these two, it will have a dynamic offense for years to come.
10. Canadiens 27-17 -5 —
GOOD NEWS: After allowing 13 goals in his previous three starts, Price showed signs of improvement, allowing just two goals for two wins before surrendering three to the Devils on Tuesday.
BAD NEWS: The P.K. Subban soap opera continues. Let’s face it: He drives coach Michel Therrien crazy with his adventurous play.
BOTTOM LINE: They still rank in the NHL’s bottom third offensively. That better change between now and the playoffs.
11. Canucks 25-16 -9 -3
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Roberto Luongo and defenseman Alexander Edler are getting healthy again.
BAD NEWS: They’ve lost five straight road games while scoring only five times.
BOTTOM LINE: They are doing well in their own end, ranking second in the NHL in penalty killing and 11th in goals-against average. But can they find more scoring?
12. Flyers 25-19 -5 +2
GOOD NEWS: They worked back into the playoff picture by winning 10 consecutive home games before back-to-back poor outings against the Lightning and Rangers.
BAD NEWS: Winger Steve Downie played his way into the press box as a healthy scratch. Coach Craig Berube cited his decline in intensity.
BOTTOM LINE: After allowing 10 goals in losses to Tampa Bay and the New York Rangers, they need to refocus in the defensive zone.
13. Wild 27-19 -5 +3
GOOD NEWS: Dany Heatley lives! He turned back the clock with two-point efforts in back-to-back games.
BAD NEWS: How long can the Wild keep winning with goaltender Josh Harding and top center Mikko Koivu on injured reserve?
BOTTOM LINE: After losing their last six games in December, the Wild won six of their first eight games in January.
14. Rangers 26-21 -3 +5
GOOD NEWS: They earned at least a point in seven of their last nine home games.
BAD NEWS: They still rank just 24th in goals scored per game. How is that possible with all of that talent?
BOTTOM LINE: King Henrik Lundqvist is playing like royalty again, winning four of his last five while allowing seven goals over that span.
15. Capitals 22-18 -8 -2
GOOD NEWS: They earned at least a point 14 times in a span of 18 games.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Braden Holtby went from Dec. 7 to mid-January without winning a game.
BOTTOM LINE: The Capitals are just muddling along, using the NHL’s top-ranked power play to offset most of their defensive mistakes.
16. Coyotes 23-16 -9 -1
GOOD NEWS: Radim Vrbata perked up with five assists in three games last week.
BAD NEWS: The Coyotes lost four of six games during a recent homestand. They allowed nine goals while losing back-to-back games at Jobing.com Arena. Then they took to the road and fell at Winnipeg 5-1. Uh oh.
BOTTOM LINE: How is Mike Smith on the Canadian Olympic team? His 2.95 goals-against average ranked 34th in the league this week — not exactly playoff-caliber work.
17. Red Wings 21-17 -10 —
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Jimmy Howard’s hip flexor injury does not appear to be serious.
BAD NEWS: The Wings haven’t been the same this season, as Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Alfredsson, Johan Franzen and Darren Helm have all dealt with injury or illness.
BOTTOM LINE: From Dec. 6 into mid-January, this former juggernaut has earned just three victories in regulation time. Will the Wings ever get back to full speed?
18. Stars 21-19 -8 -7
GOOD NEWS: No. 2 goaltender Dan Ellis made some great saves during a 4-2 loss to the Islanders. The Stars gave the puck away 11 times in front of him.
BAD NEWS: The Stars have lost seven of their last eight.
BOTTOM LINE: They need to get their top scorers rolling again. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin produced just one point between them during a five-game span.
19. Maple Leafs 25-20 -5 -1
GOOD NEWS: Key forward Dave Bolland is finally getting back on the ice. He has missed most of the season after suffering a lacerated ankle tendon.
BAD NEWS: The Leafs have been hot and cold lately, following three straight wins with four consecutive losses before their current three-game winning streak.
BOTTOM LINE: The Leafs stayed in the playoff hunt by leading the league in shootout victories. But how long can they keep that up?
20. Senators 21-19 -9 +5
GOOD NEWS: A six-game point streak (5-0-1) moved them back into the Eastern Conference playoff mix.
BAD NEWS: Milan Michalek had just 19 points and a frightening minus-19 rating after 46 games.
BOTTOM LINE: General manager Bryan Murray got a two-year extension, allowing the franchise to stay on a steady course.
21. Hurricanes 20-19 -9 +3
GOOD NEWS: Forward Jiri Tlusty is back to active duty after recovering from the removal of his appendix. Top center Eric Staal returned after missing three games with a lower body injury.
BAD NEWS: The Hurricanes lost their first game 2-0 at Calgary with the top line reunited.
BOTTOM LINE: Despite their injuries, the Canes showed some offensive life while scoring 13 goals during a three-game home winning streak. And Anton Khudobin (6-2 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .935 save percentage) is saving them in goal.
22. Devils 20-19 -11 -2
GOOD NEWS: They came into the week with the NHL’s fourth-best penalty killing unit and fifth-best goals-against average.
BAD NEWS: Only three teams are scoring fewer goals per game.
BOTTOM LINE: In the post-Kovalchuk Era, the Devils desperately need to locate a go-to forward younger than Jaromir Jagr, who is 41.
23. Blue Jackets 24-20 -4 —
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is looking more like his old self. Also, rookie Boone Jenner scored three goals in a two-game burst.
BAD NEWS: Their penalty kill is escaping just 80 percent of the opposition’s opportunities. Given this team’s offensive limitations, this number needs to improve.
BOTTOM LINE: Their schedule turned favorable, featuring five of six games at home. This is the Jackets’ chance to make a move. They started that stretch by rallying for a 3-2 victory over Tampa Bay on Monday.
24. Predators 21-22 -7 -2
GOOD NEWS: Cornerstone goaltender Pekka Rinne has increased his exercise level while coming back from his post-surgical hip infection.
BAD NEWS: They lost six of their first seven games in January to fall south of the .500 mark.
BOTTOM LINE: In Rinne’s absence, they rank in the bottom third of the NHL in scoring defense. This dooms them to another season outside of the playoffs.
25. Islanders 19-24 -7 +5
GOOD NEWS: John Taveras broke loose with 10 points and a plus-9 rating during four games last week. Not surprisingly, the Islanders won all four games.
BAD NEWS: Their penalty killing ranks dead last in the NHL.
BOTTOM LINE: This team is playing to its full offensive potential, but it is lagging at the defensive end of the ice.
26. Jets 22-23 -5 -5
GOOD NEWS: The team finally fired failed coach Claude Noel, replacing him with ex-Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice. Some new energy could help the wavering Jets.
BAD NEWS: Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien has been a mess on the counterattack. One of Noel’s final moves was moving him back to forward. Getting Byfuglien and Evander Kane (currently out with a hand injury) playing their best hockey will be high on Maurice’s to-do list as Winnipeg’s new head coach.
BOTTOM LINE: This team allowed 26 goals during a five-game losing streak. Maurice has a lot of work to do in the defensive zone. He started well, though, earning a 5-1 victory in his first game behind the bench followed by a victory in Calgary.
27. Panthers 18-23 -7 —
GOOD NEWS: New owner Vincent Viola doesn’t like to lose games or money.
BAD NEWS: They won just four games from Dec. 19 to mid-January.
BOTTOM LINE: It is amazing they have won as many games as they have with the NHL’s worst power play and third-worst penalty kill.
28. Oilers 15-30 -6 +1
GOOD NEWS: They rose up to upset the Penguins, proving they have enough talent to play with elite teams.
BAD NEWS: That was just one of four victories from Dec. 10 into mid-January.
BOTTOM LINE: GM Craig MacTavish promised major moves after taking over the hockey operation. Fans are still waiting.
29. Flames 16-26 -7 -3
GOOD NEWS: They have managed to win some close games. Of their first 16 victories, 13 came by one goal.
BAD NEWS: Mike Cammalleri suffered a concussion, depleting an already feckless attack.
BOTTOM LINE: The Flames plunged toward the Western Conference basement by losing nine of 11 games — five by shutout.
30. Sabres 13-27 -7 -2
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Ryan Miller is preparing for his Olympic assignment by making highlight-reel saves.
BAD NEWS: The Sabres have scored under 1.7 goals per game, easily the worst average in the league.
BOTTOM LINE: The hiring of GM Tim Murray allows the Sabres to finally get serious about rebuilding this roster.