Ryan Miller has red-hot Blues back on top of rankings this week; Coyotes down one spot to 17th.
The Blues won five straight games after acquiring Ryan Miller, the first four of those with Miller in net.
John Russell / NHLI
The St. Louis Blues celebrated the arrival of goaltender Ryan Miller by winning five consecutive games, the first four with Miller in net.
They resumed their bid for the President's Trophy by winning games at Phoenix, Nashville, Colorado and Minnesota during that stretch. They stayed atop the Central Division by running their record against their immediate rivals to 18-0-1.
"I think playing well and getting the highest seed possible is really important, because if you're the third seed, there's a collision course," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "If you look at the playoffs right now, there's going to be an awful lot of good teams not get to the second round."
This has driven the Blues back to the top of our rankings. Here is how the NHL pecking order shakes out:
1. Blues 44-14 -7 --
GOOD NEWS: Backup goaltender Brian Elliott is still another bright spot for this team. He has a 1.45 GAA and .921 save percentage in his last two starts. BAD NEWS: They are just 7-10-3 against the Pacific Division, so doubts remain. BOTTOM LINE: The Blues are destined to earn one of the top Western Conference playoff seeds. Then it will be time to judge the Miller trade for real.
GOOD NEWS: Corey Perry had a pair of two-goal performances during a three-game span. BAD NEWS: After enjoying a 20-0-2 start at home this season, the Ducks went 4-6-2 in their next 12 games at Honda Center. BOTTOM LINE: They fell from their lofty perch atop the league by failing to capitalize on a five-game homestand.
GOOD NEWS: Center Jonathan Toews scored six times during a span of four games. BAD NEWS: They lost two road games before bouncing back with a 2-1 victory at Buffalo. BOTTOM LINE: After rolling to a 28-7-7 record, the Blackhawks went 10-6-7 in their first 23 games of 2014.
4. Bruins 43-17 -5 +1
GOOD NEWS: Defenseman Andrej Meszaros scored in his first game since arriving in the trade-deadline deal with the Flyers. BAD NEWS: Forward Daniel Paille left a 5-2 victory over Florida with a minor upper-body injury. BOTTOM LINE: They built their first 10-game road points streak (7-0-3) since 2010-11.
5. Penguins 44-17 -4 -1
GOOD NEWS: Newcomer Lee Stempniak fit right in, earning two assists in his three games after arriving from Calgary. BAD NEWS: They lost their first two games after the Olympic break, one in a shootout. BOTTOM LINE: They must pull out of a post-Olympic lull that saw them lose four times in five games.
GOOD NEWS: Matt Duchene produced 11 points during a seven-game scoring streak. BAD NEWS: Center Paul Stastny suffered a minor back injury and winger P.A. Parenteau suffered a significant knee injury. BOTTOM LINE: The Avalanche lost some significant firepower heading down the stretch. Can they still bid for one of the top seeds?
GOOD NEWS: They rolled out of the Olympic break by taking nine of the possible 12 points (4-1-1). BAD NEWS: How does a team this talented fall into a 2-for-48 funk with the man advantage? San Jose had twice as many shorthanded goals as power-play goals during a 16-game stretch. BOTTOM LINE: Special teams play becomes more critical come playoff time. The Sharks need to be much, much better with the man advantage.
GOOD NEWS: Forward Jeff Carter scored four goals and added five assists during an eight-game push. Goaltender Jonathan Quick won six straight games while compiling a 0.99 goals-against average. BAD NEWS: Newcomer Marian Gaborik failed to produce a point in his first three games with the team. BOTTOM LINE: They solidified their playoff positioning by winning their first eight games coming out of the Olympic break.
GOOD NEWS: New winger Thomas Vanek will elevate this offense once he settles in. BAD NEWS: The Canadiens played seven games in 11 days coming out of the Olympic break. Goaltender Carey Price missed all of them with his lingering Olympic injury. BOTTOM LINE: They lost ground during their painful 1-3 excursion out West.
GOOD NEWS: Defenseman Ryan McDonagh got busy last week and scored three shorthanded goals. BAD NEWS: Newcomer Martin St. Louis contributed just one assist in his first three games. BOTTOM LINE: Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has the Rangers back on track. After allowing 13 goals in three losses (0-2-1) following the Olympic break, he allowed only two goals while winning his next two games.
11. Flyers 33-25 -7 +4
GOOD NEWS: Claude Giroux scored four goals and added three assists in five games. BAD NEWS: Goaltender Ray Emery is still working his way back from a groin muscle strain. BOTTOM LINE: With a stretch of six out of seven games at home, the Flyers could firm up their playoff standing.
GOOD NEWS: Ilya Bryzgalov earned a point in his debut, getting the Wild into a shootout with the powerful Blues. BAD NEWS: They must play 20 times in the final 37 days of the season. BOTTOM LINE: The NHLâs 26th-ranked offense needs a big lift from Mikko Koivu (just off the injured list) and Matt Moulson (just arrived from Buffalo).
GOOD NEWS: Elite center Steven Stamkos finally recovered from his broken leg. BAD NEWS: He scored no points and earned a minus-1 rating in his first three games back. BOTTOM LINE: The Lightning struggled coming out of the Olympic break, going 1-4-2 in their first seven games.
GOOD NEWS: Their 5-1-2 upturn allowed them to keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race. BAD NEWS: They fell into a 0-for-18 funk on the power play. BOTTOM LINE: Their current five-game road trip will tell us whether or not the Leafs will be a serious threat this spring. They opened with a strong 3-1 victory at Anaheim.
GOOD NEWS: Forward Tyler Seguin scored eight points during a two-game outburst. BAD NEWS: Goaltender Jari Lehtonen is sidelined with an apparent concussion and Rich Peverley is sidelined after suffering a cardiac crisis. BOTTOM LINE: The Stars are glad they added veteran Tim Thomas for goaltending protection. He steps in for Lehtonen at the most critical juncture of the regular season.
16. Blue Jackets 34-26 -5 -4
GOOD NEWS: Forward Artem Anisimov scored six goals and added an assist during a six-game surge. BAD NEWS: High-priced winger Nathan Horton scored just four goals in his first 24 games. He finally snapped his goal-scoring slump at 15 games. BOTTOM LINE: They gathered momentum by winning four of five games.
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Mike Smith posted a 1.78 goals-against average and .940 save percentage during a span of nine starts. Forward Mikkel Boedker ended a 13-game goal drought. BAD NEWS: They have been terrible on the road, losing 10 times in a stretch of 11 away games. BOTTOM LINE: The Coyotes stalled coming out of the break, going 3-3-1 in their first seven games.
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Jaroslav Halak won his first start since arriving from Buffalo before the trade deadline. BAD NEWS: Washingtonâs 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at home lowered its division record to 10-13-3. BOTTOM LINE: Perhaps the long-awaited arrival of top prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov will spark this sputtering team.
GOOD NEWS: Their injury-riddled offense fell into the bottom half of the NHL rankings while averaging 2.6 goals per game. BAD NEWS: With Pavel Datsyuk resting his sore knee, the Wings suffered a 1-2-1 downturn. BOTTOM LINE: They must hope long-time Nashville Predators center David Legwand can keep them going until others get healthy.
20. Senators 28-25 -12 +2
GOOD NEWS: Newcomer Ales Hemsky asserted himself with a three-assist game. BAD NEWS: Forward Clark MacArthur is sidelined by a hand injury. BOTTOM LINE: This team won just 13 of its first 30 home games this season. That hasnât made their postseason push any easier.
GOOD NEWS: Center Adam Henrique has scored nine goals and earned 11 points coming out of the Olympic break. BAD NEWS: Goaltender Martin Brodeur is playing out the string after the team did not honor his trade request. BOTTOM LINE: If they make the playoffs, they can thank their special teams. Their power play (20.8 percent) and penalty kill (86.4 percent) both rank in the top 10 in the NHL.
GOOD NEWS: Defenseman Tobias Enstrom recently scored his first power-play goal since Dec. 20. BAD NEWS: Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec was 0-2-1 with a 4.35 goals-against average on a recent homestand. BOTTOM LINE: The Jets undermined their playoff hopes by winning just seven of their first 24 games within the Central Division.
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Eddie Lack posted a 1.79 goals-against average during a stretch of seven decisions (2-4-1). And he buckled as the Islanders scored seven third-period goals at Vancouver. BAD NEWS: Center Henrik Sedin went 12 games without scoring a point and twin brother Daniel has been sidelined by a lower-body injury. BOTTOM LINE: They went more than six weeks without putting together consecutive victories. That 3-12-1 downturn forced GM Mike Gillis to start the makeover.
24. Predators 28-28 -10 -1
GOOD NEWS: Pekka Rinne is back in goal, scraping off the rust from his extended disability. He posted a 2.04 goals-against average and .922 save percentage while losing his first three games back. BAD NEWS: Key forward Craig Smith went six games without scoring a goal. BOTTOM LINE: They fell out of the Western Conference playoff race with an ugly 1-5-2 downturn, which included four consecutive losses. They scored just three goals in those losses.
GOOD NEWS: Winger Alexander Semin scored two goals and added three assists in a five-game stretch. BAD NEWS: Top young forward Elias Lindholm is still learning to score at this level. He produced just two assists during his last 13 games before the Olympic break. BOTTOM LINE: Kirk Muller keeps shuffling lines and rotating goaltenders with uninspiring results.
26. Flames 26-33 -7 --
GOOD NEWS: They established a home-ice advantage while winning seven of eight games in Calgary. BAD NEWS: They won just seven of their first 21 games in their division. BOTTOM LINE: The Flames are trying to sustain their work ethic through the remainder of the season, giving this long-suffering franchise something to build upon.
27. Islanders 25-33 -9 --
GOOD NEWS: Michael Grabner carried his strong Olympic showing back into the NHL fray, producing three goals and two assists in his first six games back. BAD NEWS: They won just six of their first 24 division games this season. That is why they are not returning to postseason play. BOTTOM LINE: Garth Snow overpaid to rent Thomas Vanek, then failed to recoup much of those losses at the trade deadline. The NHLâs most inept franchise maintains his reputation.
GOOD NEWS: Big center Nick Bjugstad scored five points in a six-game span. BAD NEWS: Defenseman Erik Gudbranson suffered a lower-body injury during a 5-2 loss to the Bruins. BOTTOM LINE: Roberto Luongo will suffer ritual abuse between now and this seasonâs end.
GOOD NEWS: Sam Gagner finally broke through, scoring his first goal in 16 games. BAD NEWS: Center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins went five games without registering a point. BOTTOM LINE: Ben Scrivens has to really earn that contract extension with this game. He saw 50 shots in a 4-2 loss at home against his former team, the Kings.
GOOD NEWS: They actually won three straight home games before suffering a 2-1 loss to the Blackhawks. BAD NEWS:: Their power play went 0 for 10 during a four-game stretch. BOTTOM LINE: They rank dead last in the league in goals scored. And donât expect them to improve their scoring after their fire sale.