NHL Power Rankings: Ducks are mighty impressive
The Anaheim Ducks have been nearly flawless at home this season, going 13-0-2 in their first 15 games at the Honda Center. That explains how the team soared into the Pacific Division lead.
“We like winning in general, but at home we’ve been able to stave off losing in regulation,” power forward Dustin Penner told reporters. “We haven’t had a lot of home games, so we put a lot of emphasis on them.”
Ryan Getzlaf has played like a Hart Trophy candidate, scoring 23 points in a 17-game span. Corey Perry scored 21 goals in his first 35 games. With Teemu Selanne snapping a scoring slump and Jakob Silfverberg back from the injured list, the Ducks could become even more dangerous.
That is why they remain on top of our NHL power rankings.
Here is how this week’s pecking order shakes out.
For more puck coverage, check out The Iceman Cometh.
1 Ducks 24-7-5
GOOD NEWS: Winger Jakob Silfverberg is back after missing 24 games with a broken hand. He is skating with Saku Koivu and Andrew Cogliano
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Viktor Fasth is still working his way back to 100 percent. Fortunately, rookie Frederik Andersen (8-1-1, 1.74 goals-against average and .938 save percentage) excelled in his place.
BOTTOM LINE: They celebrated their ascension to No. 1 by extending their winning streak to five games.
2 Blackhawks 25-7-5
GOOD NEWS: Patrick Sharp scored eight points during a three-game outburst. Also, Bryan Bickell’s return after a month’s disability restores some of Chicago’s offensive depth.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Corey Crawford remains sidelined by a lower-body injury.
BOTTOM LINE: Antti Raanta has been a lifesaver, going 6-1-1 with a 2.41 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage in his first nine games.
3 Blues 22-7-4 +1
GOOD NEWS: T.J. Oshie scored 15 points in 14 games playing with Alexander Steen and David Backes on the torrid top line.
BAD NEWS: Backes exited Monday night’s game woozy after taking a blow to the head. That put his streak of 274 consecutive games played in jeopardy.
BOTTOM LINE: The Blues finally face some real injury adversity. How will they bear up?
4 Sharks 21-7-6 -1
GOOD NEWS: Tomas Hertl (15 goals, 24 points) continues his quest for the rookie scoring title.
BAD NEWS: Logan Couture scored just two goals during a 15-game stretch.
BOTTOM LINE: The Sharks hit a six-game lull (1-4-1) that knocked them out of the top spot in our power poll.
5 Bruins 23-9-2
GOOD NEWS: Rookie Reilly Smith boosted the injury-depleted offense by scoring four goals and adding two assists in his past five games.
BAD NEWS: Tough guy Shawn Thornton is sitting out on a 15-game NHL suspension, which he appealed. And Daniel Paille (concussion) joined this team’s extensive injury list.
BOTTOM LINE: They have plowed on through injury and illness to keep aim on a top Eastern Conference seed. Boston’s 9-0-1 home-ice unbeaten streak has helped.
6 Kings 23-8-4
GOOD NEWS: Defenseman Matt Greene returned to the fray after missing 18 games with an upper-body injury.
BAD NEWS: The Kings still have work to do with the NHL’s 20th-ranked power play.
BOTTOM LINE: After an impressive road trip, the Kings have a chance to ride that momentum through a four-game homestand.
7 Penguins 24-10-1
GOOD NEWS: Marc-Andre Fleury came into the week leading the league in victories and ranking seventh in goals-against average.
BAD NEWS: Defenseman Kris Letang will be on injured reserve through the holidays.
BOTTOM LINE: This team keeps finding ways to win, even as youngsters Robert Bortuzzo, Simon Despres and Brian Dumoulin had to log big minutes.
8 Avalanche 22-10-1
GOOD NEWS: Center Paul Stastny came to life. After scoring no points and earning a minus-7 rating during a span of nine games, he blew up the Dallas Stars with two goals and two assists.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Sergei Varlamov’s monthly goals-against average have risen from 1.76 in October to 2.40 and 3.32 in November and December.
BOTTOM LINE: The Avalanche reverted to their more familiar .500 form this month. Is that the new normal for this team?
9 Canucks 20-10-6
GOOD NEWS: The Canucks allowed just eight goals while running their winning streak to seven games. They went 20-for-20 on the penalty kill during that span.
BAD NEWS: Alex Burrows is struggling to regain his pre-injury form. He has no goals and three assists in 17 games.
BOTTOM LINE: It wasn’t easy, but the Canucks have finally embraced coach John Tortorella’s aggressive checking scheme.
10 Canadiens 21-12-3
GOOD NEWS: Winger Rene Bourque returned to active duty after missing the last seven games with an upper-body injury.
BAD NEWS: After winning their first four games this month, the Canadiens lost three of their next four outings.
BOTTOM LINE: General manager Marc Bergevin is still prowling for a significant offensive help.
11 Coyotes 18-10-5
GOOD NEWS: After defenseman Derek Morris rejoined the team, the Coyotes got closer to full strength.
BAD NEWS: Captain Shane Doan missed multiple games due to illness.
BOTTOM LINE: Since mid-November the Coyotes have been just a .500 team. They remain one of the NHL’s top offensive teams, but they also rank among the worst defensive teams at even strength and short-handed.
12 Capitals 18-13-3 +3
GOOD NEWS: Remember when Alexander Ovechkin was at odds with coach Adam Oates? That seems like a long time ago. He scored 27 goals in his first 31 games this season.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Braden Holtby had to regroup after getting pulled early in two of three starts.
BOTTOM LINE: The Capitals made their move up the ladder with a 6-1-1 surge.
13 Lightning 20-11-3 -1
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Ben Bishop leads all American-born NHL goalies against in save percentage, making him a solid Olympic candidate. He entered the week tied for second in victories (17) and fourth in goals-against average.
BAD NEWS: Steven Stamkos will be sidelined at least until late January.
BOTTOM LINE: Since losing Stamkos, the Lightning went 7-6-3 in their next 16 games. Fortunately playing .500 hockey might keep them in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
14 Wild 20-11-5
GOOD NEWS: Supplemental scorer Mikael Granlund is nearing a return after missing nine games with a concussion.
BAD NEWS: The Wild came into the week ranked 28th in goals scored per game. Goaltender Josh Harding has been great, but he can’t go it alone.
BOTTOM LINE: After pushing 10 games over .500, the Wild fell into a 4-6-1 rut.
15 Red Wings 15-12-9 -2
GOOD NEWS: They are in the Eastern Conference now. It is hard to fall out of the playoff race on that side of the league.
BAD NEWS: Most of their top players are injured, including goaltender Jimmy Howard and forwards Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Stephen Weiss.
BOTTOM LINE: Unbelievably, the injury-riddled Red Wings won just two of 15 home games during a remarkable stretch of futility at Joe Louis Arena.
16 Stars 16-12-5
GOOD NEWS: Sergei Gonchar lives! The veteran defenseman had as many points in one game at Winnipeg (four) as he had in all of October and November.
BAD NEWS: The Stars still have the second-worst power play the NHL. How is that possible with that talent?
BOTTOM LINE: This team needs to clean up its special teams and goaltending to get into the playoff bracket.
17 Rangers 16-17-1
GOOD NEWS: Forward Chris Kreider has been a clutch player, scoring four of his eight goals in the third period.
BAD NEWS: Captain Ryan Callahan will be sidelined through mid-January with a sprained MCL in his left knee.
BOTTOM LINE: This team won’t gain traction until goaltender Henrik Lundqvist gets back to his more typical Vezina form.
18 Flyers 15-15-4
GOOD NEWS: Michael Raffl jumped up to the top line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek and helped that line deliver 11 points in two games.
BAD NEWS: Brayden Schenn went 11 games without scoring a goal.
BOTTOM LINE: Progress has come in fits and starts for the Flyers, who came into the week slightly over .500 ( 14-12-3) since Craig Berube became coach.
19 Maple Leafs 17-16-3 +1
GOOD NEWS: Young defenseman Morgan Rielly is making strong case for staying with the team for the duration of the season.
BAD NEWS: David Clarkson has missed a third of Toronto’s games due to suspensions. And when he has played, he hasn’t played well. Clarkson scored just two goals and four assists in 23 games.
BOTTOM LINE: By losing nine times in 12 games – including five times in regulation -- the Maple Leafs fell back into the pack.
20 Devils 13-15-6 -1
GOOD NEWS: After missing 11 games with an ankle injury, Stephen Gionta is getting back to full speed.
BAD NEWS: Their offense still ranks in the NHL’s bottom third, negating the benefit of strong penalty killing.
BOTTOM LINE: After Devils climbed over .500 at 9-8-5, they won just four of their next 12 games.
21 Jets 15-16-5
GOOD NEWS: Top forward Evander Kane finally returned to active duty after missing the past two weeks with a lower-body injury. He scored a goal and added an assist in his first game back.
BAD NEWS: Key defenseman Dustin Byfuglien failed to a score a goal in 11 consecutive games.
BOTTOM LINE: By winning just seven of their first 19 home games, the Jets fell well off the Western Conference playoff pace.
22 Hurricanes 14-13-7
GOOD NEWS: Winger Alexander Semin is back in the lineup. He has been sidelined since suffering a concussion on Nov. 16.
BAD NEWS: The Canes entered the week with the NHL’s third-worst power play.
BOTTOM LINE: This team does have goaltending depth, but can GM Jim Rutherford turn one of them into near-term help?
23 Predators 16-15-3
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Carter Hutton earned the NHL's Third Star last week after posting a .948 save percentage.
BAD NEWS: Elite rookie defenseman Seth Jones has played his way into third-pairing minutes.
BOTTOM LINE: After a 0-4-1 slump, the Predators got back over .500 with a three-game winning streak. But they remain miles out of the Western Conference playoff bracket.
24 Senators 14-15-6
GOOD NEWS: Rookie Cody Ceci wasted no time making a contribution, scoring his first NHL goal in overtime to lead his team to a victory over the Blues.
BAD NEWS: Center Jason Spezza went ice cold, scoring just three goals during a span of 25 games.
BOTTOM LINE: They finally stabilized by going 4-2-2 in a stretch of eight games.
25 Oilers 11-22-3
GOOD NEWS: Explosive winger Taylor Hall scored five times in six games.
BAD NEWS: Defenseman Corey Potter earned a two-game suspension for an illegal hit against the Ducks.
BOTTOM LINE: The Oilers are getting more competitive, at least, with Ilya Bryzgalov in the house. Earlier this season they suffered nine losses by three or more goals.
26 Panthers 13-17-5 +3
GOOD NEWS: With veteran Tim Thomas injured, Scott Clemmensen stepped up and won back-to-back starts.
BAD NEWS: Top youngsters Erik Gudbranson (lower body) Jonathan Huberdeau (foot) were hobbled by injuries.
BOTTOM LINE: The Panthers were 3-9-4 when Kevin Dineen got pink-slipped. Under new coach Peter Horachek, they began the long climb out of the NHL’s cellar by winning five times in the last six games. Playoff contention seems unlikely, but they are making their new owners much happier.
27 Flames 13-16-5 -1
GOOD NEWS: Elite rookie Sean Monahan scored in his second game back from a broken foot.
BAD NEWS: Offensive defenseman Dennis Wideman (broken hand) remains on injured reserve.
BOTTOM LINE: Brian Burke finally put general manager Jay Feaster out of his misery, firing him in advance of the NHL’s holiday break. Now the rebuilding will begin in earnest.
28 Blue Jackets 14-16-4 -1
GOOD NEWS: Defenseman James Wisniewski (upper body) and forward Marian Gaborik (knee sprain) are getting healthy.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky may be sidelined into January with his groin muscle injury. Back-up Curtis McElhinney (lower-body injury) also went down. No. 3 goaltender Mike McKenna has been pushed into the starting role.
BOTTOM LINE: After a painful November, the Blue Jackets went 4-2-1 in their first seven games this month.
29 Sabres 8-23-3 +1
GOOD NEWS: They actually earned a point four times in a span of 10 games. That beats losing every single game.
BAD NEWS: They are on a pace to score 137 goals. And they have no chance of getting back into playoff contention this season.
BOTTOM LINE: Pat LaFontaine is taking his time assembling a hockey staff that will help him reshape the franchise for years to come.
30 Islanders 9-19-7 -2
GOOD NEWS: This team has plenty of offensive talent, led by cornerstone center John Tavares.
BAD NEWS: They entered the week with 17 losses in their previous 20 games. Wasn’t this team in the playoffs just last spring?
BOTTOM LINE: We’ll say it again: How has coach Jack Capuano lasted this long with the hockey team in a free-fall?