NHL power rankings: Feeling Ducky at the midway point
JAN 09, 2014 5:07p ET
Their 32-8-5 start is the best in franchise annals, and they've gone 17-0-2 at home during that stretch.
"When you have a belief you can win, you're never out of the game," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said after his team staged a late rally to beat the Canucks on Sunday.
That extended roll kept the Ducks atop our Power Rankings. Here is how this week's pecking order shakes out ...
1. Ducks 32-8 -5 --
BAD NEWS: Improbably, their power play fell into a 2-for-34 rut.
2. Penguins 32-12 -1 +1
GOOD NEWS: Center Evgeni Malkin scored twice in his first game since returning from a lower body injury. He ranks fourth in the league with 1.33 points per game.
BAD NEWS: Pascal Dupuis (knee surgery) will be missed on the top line.
3. Blues 30-7 -5 +1
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Brian Elliott (12-1-2, 1.85 goals-against average, .928 save percentage) has kept them rolling. He was 3-0 with a 1.00 GAA and .962 save-percentage last week.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Jaroslav Halak followed a tough December (3.23 GAA, .885 save percentage) by missing time with a nagging illness.
BOTTOM LINE: They kept winning despite losing two-thirds of their top line (David Backes, Alexander Steen) to injuries. Now Backes is back and Steen is progressing.
4. Blackhawks 29-8 -9 -2
GOOD NEWS: They earned at least one point in 10 consecutive games through the weekend.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Corey Crawford lost his first two starts since coming back from a lower-body injury.
BOTTOM LINE: The Blackhawks keep piling up points, but coach Joel Quenneville is concerned about their recent dearth of decisive victories.
5. Sharks 27-11 -6 +1
GOOD NEWS: Joe Thornton earned 12 assists during an eight-game point streak. Defenseman Jason Demers has joined the offense, scoring three goals in an eight-game span.
BAD NEWS: Key forward Logan Couture will miss the next month or so after undergoing hand surgery.
BOTTOM LINE: They are 15-1-3 at SAP Center this season and their schedule is back-loaded with home games. That sets them up for a big finish.
6. Kings 26-13 -5 -1
GOOD NEWS: Jonathan Quick returned from his groin muscle injury and beat the Canucks 3-1 in his first game back. That snapped a five-game Kings losing streak.
BAD NEWS: Center Mike Richards scored just one point and earned a minus-5 during an 11-game span.
BOTTOM LINE: Quick wants to earn the starting assignment for the Olympics, so L.A. can expect his best effort the next few weeks.
7. Bruins 28-13 -2 --
GOOD NEWS: They won five of their first six games against Pacific Division foes, bolstering their shot at a top Eastern Conference seed.
BAD NEWS: Streaky power forward Milan Lucic scored just one goal in a 15-game span.
BOTTOM LINE: The Bruins keep developing good young players. Defenseman Torey Krug and winger Reilly Smith are two more examples of why this team stays on top.
8. Lightning 26-13 -4 +1
GOOD NEWS: They were on a 7-1-1 roll until suffering a surprising 5-3 loss at Edmonton on Sunday.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Ben Bishop suffered a minor hand injury during that loss.
BOTTOM LINE: With the Olympics spurring Steven Stamkos to a rapid recovering from his broken leg, this team seems destined for a big finish.
9. Avalanche 27-12 -4 +3
GOOD NEWS: Their explosive offense features six forwards with 24 or more points and five with double-digit goal totals.
BAD NEWS: One of those forwards, P.A. Parenteau, could be sidelined until after the Olympics with a knee injury.
BOTTOM LINE: A seven-game homestand offered an opportunity to regain traction. They started that stretch 3-0-1 before inexplicably losing to Calgary on Monday.
10. Canadiens 25-15 -5 --
GOOD NEWS: They survived a six-game trip by winning three games and earning an overtime point, then returned home to edge Florida 2-1.
BAD NEWS: They still rank in the NHL's bottom third in goals scored.
BOTTOM LINE: The Canadiens entered the week with the fourth-best team GAA and penalty-killing unit in the league. Special teams is their identity.
11. Canucks 23-13 -9 -3
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Roberto Luongo's latest injury doesn't appear to be serious.
BAD NEWS: The Canucks lost four consecutive games, including team-defining games at Los Angeles and Anaheim.
BOTTOM LINE: They have drifted to the edge of the playoff race. They need secondary scorers like David Booth to start producing.
12. Flyers 23-17 -4 +2
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Steve Mason went 7-1-2 in December despite posting ordinary ratios (2.92, .899).
BOTTOM LINE: The Flyers went on a 20-7-4 tear after starting the season 1-7-0. Claude Giroux is playing like a Hart Trophy candidate again after going goalless in his first 15 games.
13. Stars 20-15 -7 -2
BAD NEWS: Losses to Montreal, Detroit and the (gulp) New York Islanders dropped the Stars to 10th place in the Western Conference.
BOTTOM LINE: After 41 games, they were on pace for 94 points. That would be awesome in the East, but that may not be good enough to reach the playoffs in the West.
14. Capitals 20-16 -6 -1
GOOD NEWS: Philipp Grubauer (5-2-3, 2.20 GAA, .932 save percentage) has emerged as the new No. 1 goaltender.
BAD NEWS: How does Alex Ovechkin have 31 goals and a minus-17 rating? How is that even possible?
BOTTOM LINE: A four-game losing streak plunged this team back toward the .500 mark. It is hard to imagine the Capitals getting past the first round of the playoffs.
15. Coyotes 21-12 -9 --
GOOD NEWS: Captain Shane Doan recovered from Rocky Mountain spotted fever and rejoined the power-play unit.
BAD NEWS: Speedy winger Radim Vrbata scored just twice during a five-week stretch.
BOTTOM LINE: Perhaps goaltender Mike Smith will finally start playing well enough to merit his Team Canada Olympic selection.
16. Wild 23-17 -5 --
GOOD NEWS: Defenseman Ryan Suter scored four times and added two assists last week to fill some of his team's offensive void.
BAD NEWS: Top center Mikko Koivu will miss the next month after suffering a broken ankle.
BOTTOM LINE: Remember when Wild tore through the NHL in October? That was a while ago. Injuries and illness have taken a heavy toll. Goaltender Josh Harding may be the biggest loss.
17. Red Wings 19-14 -10 --
GOOD NEWS: Power forward Johan Franzen recovered from his concussion and resumed practicing.
BAD NEWS: They won just one of their first eight shootout games and just six of their first 23 home games.
BOTTOM LINE: As coach Mike Babcock gets the band back together, expect the Wings to finally do some real damage in the Eastern Conference.
18. Maple Leafs 21-18 -5 --
GOOD NEWS: They regained some of their early form with a 4-0-2 spurt. Goaltender Jonathan Bernier had a .950 save percentage during a six-game stretch.
BAD NEWS: That progress came to a screeching halt during a 7-1 loss to the Rangers on Jan. 4.
BOTTOM LINE: The Leafs went a mere 4-13 in their first 17 games that ended in regulation time this season. How long can they live off of overtime and shootout points?
19. Rangers 22-20 -3 --
GOOD NEWS: The return of captain Ryan Callahan from the injured list moves them closer to full strength offensively.
BAD NEWS: Skilled defenseman Michael Del Zotto can't play his way out of coach Alain Vigneault's doghouse.
BOTTOM LINE: After scoring just once in 11 games, Rick Nash sprang to life with a two-goal performance. Is this a sign for better things to come for the New York offense?
20. Senators 19-18 -8 +5
GOOD NEWS: They finally pulled themselves together after a 5-0 loss at Boston to win four consecutive games.
BAD NEWS: They won despite missing center Jason Spezza due to his nagging hip injury.
BOTTOM LINE: This turnaround comes at a good time because the Senators will spend much of January on the road due to an arena schedule conflict.
21. Hurricanes 18-16 -9 +3
GOOD NEWS: Jeff Skinner scored six times last week as Carolina rolled to a four-game winning streak. He scored 16 times in a span of 16 games.
BOTTOM LINE: They won just nine of their first 22 games at home this season. It is hard to make the playoffs doing that.
22. Devils 17-18 -9 -2
GOOD NEWS: Since starting the season 1-5-4, the Devils went 16-13-4 in their next 33 games.
BAD NEWS: Cory Schneider has just five victories in 19 games despite posting a 2.13 goals-against average.
BOTTOM LINE: They are walking a tightrope with good goaltending, solid defensive play and very little offense beyond the ageless Jaromir Jagr.
23. Jets 19-22 -5 -2
GOOD NEWS: Winger Evander Kane picked up his play by scoring 11 points (seven goals and four assists) in 11 games.
BAD NEWS: Somehow their power play still ranks just 27th in the league. Kane scored just one power-play goal in his first 37 games.
BOTTOM LINE: Falling to the wrong side of .500 is a bad, bad thing in the hyper-competitive Western Conference.
24. Predators 19-19 -6 -2
GOOD NEWS: They built a modest four-game point streak before losing 2-1 at Carolina on Sunday.
BAD NEWS: Netminder Carter Hutton allowed two shaky goals while making his first start since Dec. 27. Furious coach Barry Trotz said that this effort was "not good enough for this league."
BOTTOM LINE: Like the Jets, they remain a long cab ride from playoff contention.
25. Blue Jackets 19-20 -4 -2
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky recovered from a groin muscle injury suffered in early December.
BAD NEWS: Defenseman Jack Johnson (11 points, minus-11 rating after 43 games) played his way out of US Olympic consideration.
BOTTOM LINE: They are hanging around the edge of the Eastern Conference playoff race despite losing top gun Marian Gaborik to a collarbone injury.
26. Panthers 16-21 -6 +1
GOOD NEWS: Veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski finally returned after recovering from last year's hip surgery.
BAD NEWS: A brief 2-0-1 upturn was not enough to make this team relevant.
BOTTOM LINE: GM Dale Tallon is in a tough spot. His new ownership wants to win some games, but what he really needs to do is hit the reset button and take his lumps.
27. Oilers 14-27 -5 +2
GOOD NEWS: They snapped a four-game losing streak by toppling the Lightning 5-3 on Sunday.
BAD NEWS: That left them 3-22-4 against teams currently holding a playoff position.
BOTTOM LINE: This team is summed up best by young scorer Nail Yakupov, whose minus-25 rating after 42 games is unimaginably bad.
28. Islanders 16-22 -7 +2
GOOD NEWS: They went 6-3-2 during an 11-game span to start their climb out of the Eastern Conference cellar. Then John Taveras had a five-point game to lead a 7-3 trashing of Dallas.
BAD NEWS: A 3-2 loss to Hurricanes prompted coach Jack Capuano to question their heart again.
29. Flames 15-22 -6 -3
GOOD NEWS: The return of puck-rushing defenseman Dennis Wideman ought to help Calgary's power play at some point.
BAD NEWS: They scored just once during a four-game losing streak and won just twice in a span of 10 games.
BOTTOM LINE: Brian Burke is still sorting through his GM candidates, so the inevitable fire sale is on hold.
30. Sabres 12-26 -4 -2
GOOD NEWS: Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff scored eight points in 13 games after scoring just seven in his first 28.
BAD NEWS: They won just three of their first 19 road games.
BOTTOM LINE: Ted Nolan has made this team less terrible, but the Sabres remain the NHL's most profound disappointment.