The Anaheim Ducks have risen to the top of the NHL power rankings the hard way.
They won back-to-back games at Chicago and St. Louis. On consecutive nights they knocked off the defending Stanley Cup champions and one of the league’s hottest teams.
For good measure they came home and throttled the New York Islanders, 5-2, to run their point streak to six games.
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Anaheim’s top line has been the league’s best line lately. Dustin Penner, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry combined for 40 points (21 goals, 19 assists) during a span of 12 games.
Coach Bruce Boudreau credited special teams improvement for his team’s upturn. “We’ve worked at it really hard,” he told reporters. “The first 15 games, we were atrocious on both of them. But the last 18 games, we’ve been really good at both of them. We work hard and get on the same page.”
GOOD NEWS: Perry scored goals in six consecutive games, producing seven goals and two assists during that streak. Getzlaf ran his point streak to 12 games, scoring six goals and adding nine assists.
BAD NEWS: Mathieu Perreault scored 11 points in October, then just four in November. Now he is out with a lower-body injury.
BOTTOM LINE: After spending weeks on the road, look for the Ducks to rack up a lot of Ws at home – where they were 11-0-2 after Monday’s victory. 2 Blackhawks 22-6-5 -1
GOOD NEWS: They heated up with the man advantage, scoring power-play goals in five consecutive games.
BAD NEWS: Struggling goaltender Corey Crawford added a lower body injury to his woes. He will miss about three weeks.
BOTTOM LINE: Antti Raanta has done a solid job (3-0-1 with a 2.16 goals-against average and .922 save percentage) filling in for Crawford, but the Blackhawks need to rally defensively as the Kings did after losing Jonathan Quick. 3 Sharks 19-6-6 -1
GOOD NEWS: The energetic play of rookies Matt Nieto and Freddie Hamilton proves this team has strong organizational depth.
BAD NEWS: After suffering just three regulation losses in their first 27 games, they lost their next three games by a combined score of 13-5.
BOTTOM LINE: They need to fix their power play, which went 0 for 9 in those three losses. San Jose is too talented to slump for long.
4 Blues 20-6-3 -1
GOOD NEWS: Second-year forward Jaden Schwartz has nine points and a plus-7 rating during a 10-game span.
BAD NEWS: After scoring 17 goals in his first 18 games, Steen has scored just three goals in his last 10 games.
BOTTOM LINE: The Blues have developed a bad habit of starting games sluggishly. So coach Ken Hitchcock cracked his whip in practice.
5 Bruins 21-8-2 -1
GOOD NEWS: The depleted Bruins hope to get defenseman Johnny Boychuk back from the injured list soon.
BAD NEWS: Elite two-way winger Loui Eriksson suffered another concussion, forward Chris Kelly suffered a broken leg and defenseman Dougie Hamilton suffered a lower-body injury.
BOTTOM LINE: Injuries, the flu bug and Shawn Thornton’s suspension for jumping Brooks Orpik have pushed this group to its physical limit. 6 Kings 20-7-4 +1
GOOD NEWS: No. 3 goaltender Martin Jones earned back-to-back victories. Jonathan Quick need not rush back from his groin strain. BAD NEWS: Quick is just now preparing to test his injured groin muscle on the ice. He may still be weeks from returning, which undermines his Olympic chances.
BOTTOM LINE: This team can check. Excluding shootouts, they have held opponents to two goals or less in 15 straight games. 7 Penguins 21-10-1 +1
GOOD NEWS: Evgeni Malkin bounced back from a two-game injury absence to resume his torrid scoring pace. He had five goals and 15 assists during a 10-game streak. BAD NEWS: Winger James Neal earned a five-game suspension for mindlessly kneeing an opponent in the head. He had scored nine goals and eight assists during a 10-game outburst.
BOTTOM LINE: Even with Neal missing from the line-up, the Penguins simply overpower most opponents.
8 Avalanche 20-9-0 -3
GOOD NEWS: Defenseman Ryan Wilson (back) is getting close to playing again. But veteran forward Alex Tanguay (knee) suffered a setback along the comeback trail.
BAD NEWS: Top forward Matt Duchene went five games without scoring.
BOTTOM LINE: Goaltender Semyon Varlamov was critical to this team’s early success. He must bounce back from allowing eight goals at Edmonton.
9 Canucks 18-10-5 +8
GOOD NEWS: Back-up goaltender Eddie Lack earned his first NHL shutout to fend off the visiting Hurricanes.
BAD NEWS: Struggling defenseman Alexander Edler missed two games with an undisclosed injury.
BOTTOM LINE: They finally regained traction by winning five games in a row, including a 3-1 victory over previously torrid Colorado.
10 Canadiens 19-10-3 +2
GOOD NEWS: Winger Max Pacioretty stayed hot, scoring nine times in a span of 10 games.
BAD NEWS: The Canadiens could still use a real No. 1 center to generate a more consistent attack. This is why GM Marc Bergevin is doing some holiday shopping.
BOTTOM LINE: With goaltender Carey Price locked in, the Canadiens used a 9-0-1 streak to scurry up the Eastern Conference ladder.
11 Coyotes 17-8-5 -2
GOOD NEWS: Big center Martin Hanzal is playing large with 80 hits to go with his eight goals and 14 assists in his first 26 games.
BAD NEWS: The Coyotes lost seven times (four times in regulation play) during a 10-game stretch to fall off the Western Conference pace.
BOTTOM LINE: They need to clean up their 27th-ranked penalty killing unit ASAP.
12 Lightning 17-10-3 -2
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Ben Bishop allowed no more than one goal during five consecutive games.
BAD NEWS: Despite that, life without Steven Stamkos is most difficult. The Bolts lost seven times in a span of 10 games after starting the season 14-5-0.
BOTTOM LINE: GM Steve Yzerman will have some sleepless nights as his team tries to stay in the playoff hunt without its superstar.
13 Red Wings 15-9-8 -2
GOOD NEWS: Top forward Pavel Datsyuk has finally recovered from his concussion-like symptoms.
BAD NEWS: During a nine-game span, goaltender Jimmy Howard went 1-4-4 with a 2.92 GAA and .903 save percentage.
BOTTOM LINE: Coach Mike Babcock is battling through his most challenging season in Motown. It’s a good thing he knows what he is doing.
14 Wild 18-9-5 -1
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Josh Harding won 13 of his first 14 starts on home ice this season.
BAD NEWS: They are in tough stretch of schedule, playing seven of eight games on the road against some of the league’s top teams. BOTTOM LINE: As the visiting team, the Wild will have a tougher time keeping Zach Parise and Jason Pominville away from tough match-ups.
15 Capitals 17-12-2 -1
GOOD NEWS: Alexander Ovechkin is still on pace to score more than 60 goals this season. BAD NEWS: Defenseman Mike Green didn’t score a goal in his first 24 games this season.
BOTTOM LINE: This team will need tighter defensive play and more consistent goaltending to earn a top seed in the East.
16 Stars 14-10-5 -1
GOOD NEWS: Coach Lindy Ruff is delighted with the speed provided by the Cody Eakin line, with Antoine Roussel and Ryan Garbutt on the wings.
BAD NEWS: Center Vernon Fiddler remains sidelined by an upper-body injury.
BOTTOM LINE: It took a bit of time to adapt, but now rookie forward Valeri Nichuskin is making a good offense better. Is this team ready to make a big push?
17 Rangers 15-16-1 -1
GOOD NEWS: Power forward Rick Nash regained his timing by scoring four goals and adding two assists during a seven-game span.
BAD NEWS: Star-crossed defenseman Marc Staal suffered another concussion.
BOTTOM LINE: Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist gained Ranger-for-Life status with his new contract, so now it’s time for him to steal some victories for this franchise.
18 Flyers 13-14-3
GOOD NEWS: Top forward Claude Giroux scored five goals and added eight assists during a 14-game surge. Jakub Voracek snapped a 12-game goal-scoring slump.
BAD NEWS: Key forward Vincent Lecavalier could miss the next month with a fractured back.
BOTTOM LINE: The suffered some defensive slippage during their challenging six-game road trip. They blew a third-period lead at Ottawa – and the Senators had won just two of 16 games when trailing after two periods. 19 Devils 12-14-6
GOOD NEWS: Rookie winger Reid Boucher has played his way onto the top line with Travis Zajac and Jaromir Jagr.
BAD NEWS: One this teams’ most dynamic offensive players lately has been Cam Janseen, its enforcer. That is good for Cam, bad for the team.
BOTTOM LINE: The schedule finally turns for the Devils, who played 20 of their first 33 games on the road. Now they can make their move.
20 Maple Leafs 16-12-3
GOOD NEWS: Defenseman Jake Gardiner finally gathered steam with five points in eight games.
BAD NEWS: A team desperate for wins couldn’t afford to lose defenseman Dion Phaneuf to a two-game NHL suspension. He has played the third-most minutes in the league the last three years.
BOTTOM LINE: Advanced metrics suggested the Leafs would start falling this season. And they did. An injury curse has only made things worse. 21 Jets 14-14-4 +1
GOOD NEWS: They won four of six games on a road trip back East to see their old friends.
BAD NEWS: They remained seven games out of the Western Conference playoff bracket when they returned home.
BOTTOM LINE: This team needs to get top gun Evander Kane healthy and productive again to have any chance to gain ground.
22 Hurricanes 13-13-6 -1
GOOD NEWS: Forward Jeff Skinner finally got hot, scoring six points (five goals, one assist) in three games last week.
BAD NEWS: This team continues to underachieve offensively, ranking 24th in scoring and 27th in power-play efficiency.
BOTTOM LINE: They mustered a three-game winning streak before shooting blanks during a 2-0 loss at Vancouver. Fighting the gravitational pull of the .500 mark is difficult.
23 Predators 14-14-3 +2
GOOD NEWS: The Predators outshot their opponents by an average margin of 31 to 28 during a five-game span.
BAD NEWS: They lost all five of those games while being outscored 18-7. BOTTOM LINE: Forwards Matt Cullen (13 points in 30 games) and Viktor Stalberg (just three goals) are among those failing Nashville’s offense. As a result the Preds are in a free fall from playoff contention.
24 Senators 12-14-6
GOOD NEWS: Clarke MacArthur scored his 10th and 11th goals of the season in a shootout victory over the Flyers. He has been one of the top additions for the season.
BAD NEWS: The Senators allowed four games in that game, showing whey rank a dismal 26th in goals-against average.
BOTTOM LINE: A team that expected to bid for a good playoff seed is just fighting to stay alive. GM Bryan Murray keeps working the phones.
25 Oilers 11-18-3 +1
GOOD NEWS: After starting the season 4-15-2, they went 6-3-1 in their next 10 games.
BAD NEWS: They still rank 29th in the league in goals-against average.
BOTTOM LINE: Dallas Eakins has the team playing much, much better. But the turnaround came too late. The Western Conference powers pulling away.
26 Flames 11-15-4 +2
GOOD NEWS: Veteran Mike Cammalleri scored 10 goals in his first 22 games. BAD NEWS: He also has a minus-10 rating. And he has just one goal in his last eight games. BOTTOM LINE: Forward Jiri Hudler (27 points in 29 games) and defenseman Kris Russell (15 points, plus-6 rating) are among the veterans other teams may covet closer to the trade deadline.
27 Blue Jackets 13-15-3
GOOD NEWS: Their power play has remained above average, despite all the injuries.
BAD NEWS: The loss of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to a groin muscle strain further doomed this shorthanded team.
BOTTOM LINE: This team appears headed for a makeover. The Marian Gaborik gambit didn’t pay off, but at least the franchise isn’t stuck with a long-term deal.
28 Islanders 9-18-5 -3
GOOD NEWS: Top offensive prospect Ryan Strome earned his call-up by tearing up the AHL. BAD NEWS: Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s grim struggle prompted the team to put him on waivers. Not surprisingly, nobody claimed him.
BOTTOM LINE: The Islanders went 2-13-2 in their last 17 games and didn’t fire Jack Capuano. That is astounding. 29 Panthers 10-17-5
GOOD NEWS: Defenseman Brian Campbell has 15 points in 31 games while playing better than 27 minutes per game. His minus-2 rating is miraculous under these conditions.
BAD NEWS: Maybe Aleksander Barkov isn’t ready for the NHL after all. The teenager produced just one goal and two assists during a 21-game span. BOTTOM LINE: GM Dale Tallon would like to hold a fire sale, but his new owners aren’t keen on losing every single game.
30 Sabres 7-22-2
GOOD NEWS: Cody Hodgson is the one Sabre providing any offense. He has 18 points (including eight on the power play) in his first 30 games.
BAD NEWS: Forward Ville Leino protested his “healthy scratch” status, even though he had exactly zero goals at the time.
BOTTOM LINE: Pat LaFontaine is moving deliberately to build a hockey staff and assess his assets. The total makeover has just begun.