NHL Power Rankings Through 30-35 Games

The word “playoffs” is getting thrown around more and more as we approach the midpoint of the NHL season.

Todd McLellan must feel like Jim Mora some days in Edmonton. You know, the former Indianapolis Colts’ coach who just wanted win a game. In McLellan’s case, make that three in a row or even two straight in regulation — both feats have proven elusive for the Oilers thus far.

In all seriousness, the season isn’t even half over, but the media in many markets are already magnifying the post-season implications — for better or worse — with every passing game.

And the fans are eating it up, overreacting accordingly — one way or the other.

Don’t get me wrong, the standings are becoming more and more meaningful, but there’s still a long way to go in this marathon.

That said, the next edition of these Power Rankings will be part of my Midseason Standings Predictions — to be published early in the New Year once all 31 teams have played 41 games. That piece projects how the second half will play out, including the playoffs, while also reflecting on my offseason and preseason predictions, which have been hit and miss to say the least.

Until then, this edition of the Power Rankings through 30 to 35 games will have to stand the test of time. So here goes nothing . . . Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, all that fun stuff!

1) Tampa Bay Lightning




LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 5-0-0-0 — 3-0 win over St. Louis, 4-3 overtime win over Winnipeg, 5-2 win over Colorado, 6-2 win over New York Islanders, 5-2 win over San Jose

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: At Arizona on Thursday, at Colorado on Saturday, at Vegas on Dec. 19, home to Ottawa on Dec. 21, home to Minnesota on Dec. 23

ANALYSIS: Rolling right along on another five-game winning streak, the Lightning struck down a few of the league’s better teams in the process. Splitting up Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, at least temporarily, sparked Tampa again. Tyler Johnson and Brayden Point have been clicking lately, providing enough secondary scoring to make the Lightning seem unstoppable. This juggernaut is firing on all cylinders right now, reclaiming top spot in these Power Rankings.

2) Nashville Predators




LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 4-0-0-1 — 7-1 win over Vancouver, 4-3 shootout loss to Vegas, 5-2 win over Dallas, 5-3 win over Boston, 3-2 shootout win over Anaheim

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: At Edmonton on Thursday, at Calgary on Saturday, home to Winnipeg on Dec. 19, home to Carolina on Dec. 21, at Dallas on Dec. 23

ANALYSIS: The Predators are absolutely looking like the team to beat in the Western Conference right now, with only one regulation loss in their last 12 games — ironically, a 5-3 defeat to Vancouver on Nov. 30, which Nashville emphatically avenged on Wednesday night. The Predators are 11-2-0-2 since Kyle Turris debuted on Nov. 11, and he’s produced three goals and 14 points in those 15 games with Nashville — the clear winner of that blockbuster trade, at least in the present. The Predators are getting even scarier now that they are getting healthy again — welcoming back Ryan Johansen and Scott Hartnell for Wednesday’s blowout, with Ryan Ellis still to come as a ringer of sorts in the New Year, if not sooner. Very scary!

3) Winnipeg Jets




LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 2-2-1-0 — 5-1 win over Vancouver, 4-3 overtime loss to Tampa Bay, 6-4 loss to Florida, 5-1 loss to Detroit, 5-0 win over Ottawa

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: Home to Chicago on Thursday, at St. Louis on Saturday, home to St. Louis on Sunday, at Nashville on Dec. 19, at Boston on Dec. 21

ANALYSIS: Almost unbeatable at home, the Jets have won seven in a row with points in 11 straight at Winnipeg — where they are 11-2-1-0 overall. However, the road hasn’t been nearly as rewarding at 7-6-4-0 with five consecutive losses away from Winnipeg (0-3-2-0). That is concerning, even if the Jets are soaring towards having home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The other concern for Winnipeg is Dustin Byfuglien’s lower-body injury, listed as week-to-week and not expected to resume skating until after Christmas. All things considered, the Jets have tons to be happy about from this first half — from Connor Hellebuyck’s goaltending to Kyle Connor’s emergence as a front-line forward to Tyler Myers’ resurgence as a top-flight defender. Credit Paul Maurice for pushing the right buttons too, at least at home.

4) St. Louis Blues




LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 4-1-0-0 — 3-0 loss to Tampa Bay, 3-2 overtime win over Buffalo, 6-1 win over Detroit, 3-0 win over Dallas, 4-3 win over Montreal

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: Home to Anaheim on Thursday, home to Winnipeg on Saturday, at Winnipeg on Sunday, at Calgary on Dec. 20, at Edmonton on Dec. 21

ANALYSIS: Losing Jaden Schwartz (ankle) for at least six weeks could be crippling to some teams, but the Blues have been getting good at overcoming injury adversity. They have had plenty of practice playing short-staffed already this season and managed to get by just fine — actually, better than fine. Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester are banged-up too, but Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn and the rest of the Blues should be able to persevere again, then pick up where they left off whenever Schwartz gets back. I’ve doubted St. Louis because of injuries before, but not this time — not unless we learn Pietrangelo is going to be out long-term as well.

5) Los Angeles Kings

LAST RANKED: 13 (+8)



LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 4-1-0-0 — 5-1 loss to New Jersey, 3-2 overtime win over Carolina, 4-3 overtime win over Ottawa, 5-2 win over Minnesota, 3-1 win over Chicago

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: At New York Rangers on Friday, at New York Islanders on Saturday, at Philadelphia on Dec. 18, home to Colorado on Dec. 21, at San Jose on Dec. 23

ANALYSIS: Los Angeles is coming off the league’s longest winning streak of the season — at eight games — and Anze Kopitar has been leading this resurgence all the way. He should be in the MVP conversation, a Hart Trophy candidate as of today, but the Kings are bouncing back as a whole from a down year last season. Even Marian Gaborik is now healthy and producing offensively. Once Jeff Carter comes back, the Kings will be deeper than anybody envisioned this season — and better than anybody expected too, topping the Pacific Division.

6) Washington Capitals

LAST RANKED: 10 (+4)



LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 4-1-0-0 — 5-2 win over Colorado, 3-1 loss to New York Islanders, 4-2 win over New York Rangers, 6-2 win over Chicago, 4-1 win over San Jose

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: At Boston on Thursday, home to Anaheim on Saturday, at Dallas on Dec. 19, at Arizona on Dec. 22, at Vegas on Dec. 23

ANALYSIS: The Metropolitan Division is madness — with eight teams separated by eight points, top to bottom — but Washington is rising to the top again, winning five of its last six and eight of its last 10, including a 4-3 triumph over Columbus to start December. The Capitals are missing T.J. Oshie at the moment, but Tom Wilson and Brett Connolly have been filling in admirably at even strength and on the power play, respectively. Wilson, especially, has become a force as of late, flanking Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on the top line. That dynamic duo, along with Braden Holtby in goal, continues to carry the Capitals, but Washington’s depth might be underrated this season. Barry Trotz is getting contributions up and down his lineup, and it’s showing in the standings.

7) Toronto Maple Leafs

LAST RANKED: 11 (+4)



LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 3-2-0-0 — 4-2 loss to Philadelphia, 1-0 win over Edmonton, 4-3 win over Pittsburgh, 2-1 shootout win over Calgary, 2-1 loss to Vancouver

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: At Minnesota on Thursday, at Detroit on Friday, home to Carolina on Dec. 19, at Columbus on Dec. 20, at New York Rangers on Dec. 23

ANALYSIS: Mixed results, to put it mildly for the Maple Leafs, who lost their first game of the season without Auston Matthews on Tuesday. Toronto had been 5-0 without its young star prior to falling in Philly, though backup goalie Curtis McElhinney stole Sunday’s win over Edmonton. Frederik Andersen has stolen his share of points lately too, but that’s not to take anything away from the Leafs. They are still a good team, with the potential to get better as they go.

8) Vegas Golden Knights




LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 4-0-0-1 — 3-2 shootout loss to Carolina, 5-3 win over Dallas, 4-3 shootout win over Nashville, 4-3 shootout win over Anaheim, 3-2 overtime win over Arizona

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: Home to Pittsburgh on Thursday, home to Florida on Sunday, home to Tampa Bay on Dec. 19, home to Washington on Dec. 23, at Anaheim on Dec. 27

ANALYSIS: This slight drop is more about other teams rising again than Vegas falling. Nine of the Golden Knights’ 30 games have extended beyond regulation, with Vegas losing only twice. This expansion team is a perfect 5-0 in overtime, with a 2-2 record in shootouts. That helps pad the points total, but we’re past the point of waiting for the bottom to fall out on Vegas. Marc-Andre Fleury is back between the pipes now and it’s evident the Golden Knights are going to be playoff contenders. There’s that word again — playoffs!

9) Columbus Blue Jackets




LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 2-3-0-0 — 7-2 loss to Edmonton, 1-0 win over Arizona, 5-3 win over New Jersey, 4-1 loss to New Jersey, 4-3 loss to Washington

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: Home to New York Islanders on Thursday, at Carolina on Saturday, at Boston on Dec. 18, home to Toronto on Dec. 20, at Pittsburgh on Dec. 21

ANALYSIS: John Tortorella didn’t want to talk about that Edmonton blowout, but his Blue Jackets are clearly underachieving at the moment. This time last year, Columbus was in the midst of a 16-game winning streak. The current roster should be capable of going on a run again, but the Blue Jackets need to find a way to get Cam Atkinson and Alex Wennberg going. Artemi Panarin has settled in alongside Pierre-Luc Dubois and Josh Anderson, but this should be a four-line team and those middle-six have left a lot to be desired. If they get going, Columbus will be climbing.

10) New Jersey Devils




LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 2-3-0-0 — 5-1 win over Los Angeles, 5-2 loss to New York Rangers, 5-3 loss to Columbus, 4-1 win over Columbus, 5-0 loss to Arizona

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: At Montreal on Thursday, home to Dallas on Friday, home to Anaheim on Dec. 18, home to New York Rangers on Dec. 21, home to Chicago on Dec. 23

ANALYSIS: Just when it looked like the Devils were dropping off, they bounced back with a convincing victory to halt L.A.’s eight-game winning streak. Led by Taylor Hall and his two-goal effort, so let’s hope his knee is OK. Sami Vatanen hasn’t been showing up on the scoresheet for New Jersey yet — at least not the way Adam Henrique has been for Anaheim — but that deal should work out for the Devils in time. At worst, it’s destined to be a win-win. Losing Hall for any length of time would obviously hurt, but Cory Schneider should be able to backstop New Jersey to some 2-1 wins if need be.

11) Dallas Stars

LAST RANKED: 15 (+4)



LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 2-3-0-0 — 5-2 win over New York Islanders, 2-1 shootout win over New York Rangers, 5-3 loss to Vegas, 3-0 loss to St. Louis, 5-2 loss to Nashville

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: At New Jersey on Friday, at Philadelphia on Saturday, home to Washington on Dec. 19, home to Chicago on Dec. 21, home to Nashville on Dec. 23

ANALYSIS: Off to a good start on their tour of the Metropolitan Division, sweeping the New York teams, the Stars hit the road on a three-game losing skid but have won nine of their last 13 games. It’s always fun to see how the Central teams, like Dallas, match-up against the Metro since those are widely considered the league’s two strongest divisions. So far, so good for the Stars, who also blanked the Islanders 5-0 in Dallas back on Nov. 10. Worth noting, Kari Lehtonen has been between the pipes for the Stars’ last three wins. Also worth noting, Alex Radulov left Wednesday’s win with a lower-body injury, so that could be a big loss for Dallas.

12) Pittsburgh Penguins

LAST RANKED: 18 (+6)



LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 2-3-0-0 — 2-1 loss to Colorado, 4-3 loss to Toronto, 4-3 overtime win over New York Islanders, 4-3 loss to New York Rangers, 5-1 win over Buffalo

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: At Vegas on Thursday, at Arizona on Saturday, at Colorado on Dec. 18, home to Columbus on Dec. 21, home to Anaheim on Dec. 23

ANALYSIS: Still playing .500 hockey to date, the Penguins really haven’t looked the part of two-time defending Stanley Cup champions. Sure, they have been missing Matt Murray and Justin Schultz lately, but Pittsburgh hasn’t been itself from Day 1. Just when the Penguins show signs of turning it on — they did win four in a row recently, scoring five goals in three of those victories and four in the other — that hangover slows them down again, as evidenced by now losing three of their last four. Pittsburgh will face former goalie Marc-Andre Fleury tonight, and although these next three games appear “easier” on paper, nothing is coming easy for the Penguins this season.

13) Chicago Blackhawks

LAST RANKED: 14 (+1)



LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 3-2-0-0 — 3-2 overtime win over Florida, 3-1 win over Arizona, 3-2 overtime win over Buffalo, 6-2 loss to Washington, 3-1 loss to Los Angeles

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: At Winnipeg on Thursday, home to Minnesota on Sunday, at Dallas on Dec. 21, at New Jersey on Dec. 23, at Vancouver on Dec. 28

ANALYSIS: Tonight, in Winnipeg, should be an intriguing test for Chicago, which has won three in a row — scraping by a few of the league’s bottom feeders — following a five-game losing skid that also saw the Blackhawks get downed twice by Dallas (in a shootout and in overtime) and dropped by Nashville in another one-goal game. The Jets are another big step up in competition, so it’ll be interesting to see if Chicago can rise to the challenge. As of now, the Blackhawks wouldn’t be a playoff team and they’ll need to start winning within their division to change that.

14) New York Islanders




LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 1-3-1-0 — 5-2 loss to Dallas, 3-1 win over Washington, 3-1 loss to Boston, 4-3 overtime loss to Pittsburgh, 6-2 loss to Tampa Bay

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: At Columbus on Thursday, home to Los Angeles on Saturday, home to Detroit on Dec. 19, home to Anaheim on Dec. 21, home to Winnipeg on Dec. 23

ANALYSIS: This stretch in the schedule shaped up as something of a litmus test for the Islanders and they aren’t passing as a top-10 team so far. Looking back, the Islanders built up a lot of momentum by beating mediocre teams, but they haven’t been able to hang with the big boys for the most part. That doesn’t mean the Islanders won’t be able to get their game to that level, but the measuring stick continues against Columbus, Los Angeles, Winnipeg and even Anaheim ahead of Christmas. The Islanders need to win a couple — or a few — of those games to be taken seriously again. Goaltending is still iffy for the Islanders, but their top-six forwards are for real.

15) San Jose Sharks

LAST RANKED: 12 (-3)



LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 2-2-1-0 — 4-3 overtime loss to Minnesota, 5-0 win over Ottawa, 5-4 overtime win over Carolina, 4-1 loss to Washington, 5-2 loss to Tampa Bay

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: At Calgary on Thursday, at Vancouver on Friday, at Edmonton on Dec. 18, home to Vancouver on Dec. 21, home to Los Angeles on Dec. 23

ANALYSIS: Brent Burns is heating up at an opportune time, with the Sharks about to play six straight against Pacific Division rivals. San Jose needs more goals from Burns and better goaltending from Martin Jones going forward. If the Sharks get both, they will be formidable, especially if their power play stays hot — having scored six goals on man advantages over San Jose’s past three games, with two in each.

16) Boston Bruins

LAST RANKED: 23 (+7)



LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 4-1-0-0 — 3-2 overtime win over Detroit, 3-1 win over New York Islanders, 6-1 win over Arizona, 5-3 loss to Nashville, 3-0 win over Philadelphia

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: Home to Washington on Thursday, home to New York Rangers on Saturday, home to Columbus on Dec. 18, at Buffalo on Dec. 19, home to Winnipeg on Dec. 21

ANALYSIS: First off, my apologies to Brad Marchand who, in fact, has been the same scoring machine as last season and is on pace for new career highs in goals and points despite being sidelined by a concussion, missing eight of Boston’s 28 games. I was wrong in that assumption — saying Marchand wasn’t the same scoring machine in the last edition of these Power Rankings — and was promptly corrected by Boston fans, then reminded by Marchand as he scored Wednesday’s overtime winner against Detroit. That was his 12th goal and 25th point in his 20th game of the season, which would prorate to 49 goals and 103 points over 82 games. If he stays healthy the rest of the way, Marchand is still on pace for 44 goals and 93 points over 74 games — exceeding last season’s career highs of 39 goals and 85 points over 80 games. As for the Bruins, they are one of the hottest teams in the league right now — winning nine of their last 11 games and, rightfully, surging up these Power Rankings. That’s not sucking up — that’s reality.

17) Minnesota Wild

LAST RANKED: 21 (+4)



LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 4-1-0-0 — 2-1 shootout win over Calgary, 4-3 overtime win over San Jose, 3-2 overtime win over Anaheim, 5-2 loss to Los Angeles, 2-1 overtime win over St. Louis

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: Home to Toronto on Thursday, home to Edmonton on Saturday, at Chicago on Sunday, at Ottawa on Dec. 19, at Florida on Dec. 22

ANALYSIS: The Wild are coming on strong, having won five of their last six games, including a 4-2 victory over Vegas on Nov. 30. Minnesota is finally getting healthy, with Jared Spurgeon nearing a return and Zach Parise progressing towards his season debut too. However, Devan Dubnyk got hurt against Calgary, so that’s a huge concern if the Wild have to turn to Alex Stalock in goal. Regardless, this has been an impressive run and Minnesota is trending up in the present — as to be expected of a Bruce Boudreau team in the regular season.

18) New York Rangers

LAST RANKED: 8 (-10)



LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 2-2-0-1 — 3-2 loss to Ottawa, 2-1 shootout loss to Dallas, 5-2 win over New Jersey, 4-2 loss to Washington, 4-3 win over Pittsburgh

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: Home to Los Angeles on Friday, at Boston on Saturday, home to Anaheim on Dec. 19, at New Jersey on Dec. 21, home to Toronto on Dec. 23

ANALYSIS: Lacking centre depth in general, the Rangers are really missing Mika Zibanejad and could have certainly used him against his former team in Ottawa on Wednesday. That concussion has been hurting the team as a whole, including the power play, and the schedule is unrelenting for the Rangers between now and Christmas, so hopefully Zibanejad returns sooner than later for their sake. Michael Grabner is still finding ways to score — that includes leading the league in empty-net goals — but some of the Rangers’ higher-profile forwards have cooled off and need to heat up again to keep this New York team in the playoff mix.

19) Calgary Flames

LAST RANKED: 16 (-3)



LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 2-1-0-2 — 2-1 shootout loss to Minnesota, 4-2 win over Vancouver, 3-2 overtime win over Montreal, 2-1 shootout loss to Toronto, 5-2 loss to Philadelphia

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: Home to San Jose on Thursday, home to Nashville on Saturday, at Vancouver on Sunday, home to St. Louis on Dec. 20, home to Montreal on Dec. 22

ANALYSIS: Calgary is certainly one of those middle-of-the-pack teams, having lost seven of its last 11 games but managing to stay in the playoff mix. Anaheim and even Edmonton seem to be improving — the Oilers are 2-0 against the Flames in the Battle of Alberta this season, building up a 6-1 lead before winning 7-5 at the Saddledome on Dec. 2 — so Calgary is going to have to find another gear to stay in the race throughout the second half. The Flames’ much-hyped defence needs to step up for that happen, and Mike Smith can’t take a step back either.

20) Anaheim Ducks




LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 2-0-1-2 — 3-2 win over Carolina, 3-2 overtime loss to Minnesota, 3-0 win over Ottawa, 4-3 shootout loss to Vegas, 3-2 shootout loss to Nashville

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: At St. Louis on Thursday, at Washington on Saturday, at New Jersey on Dec. 18, at New York Rangers on Dec. 19, at New York Islanders on Dec. 21

ANALYSIS: Earning points in five straight, the Ducks are definitely going to be a dangerous team if and when they get fully healthy. Just as Ryan Getzlaf got back again, his longtime linemate Corey Perry got hurt in Monday’s home win over the Hurricanes and is now listed as week-to-week. Ryan Kesler could be returning sooner than later, along with Nick Ritchie and Hampus Lindholm, but there remains uncertainty surrounding the playing future of Patrick Eaves. All in all, Anaheim’s lineup is coming together nicely and Adam Henrique is proving to be a perfect fit there. The Ducks are entering a difficult stretch, with a six-game road trip that wraps up in Pittsburgh on Dec. 23, but things are starting to look up for Anaheim.

21) Edmonton Oilers

LAST RANKED: 26 (+5)



LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 3-2-0-0 — 7-2 win over Columbus, 1-0 loss to Toronto, 6-2 win over Montreal, 4-2 loss to Philadelphia, 7-5 win over Calgary

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: Home to Nashville on Thursday, at Minnesota on Saturday, home to San Jose on Dec. 18, home to St. Louis on Dec. 21, home to Montreal on Dec. 23

ANALYSIS: Still alternating wins and losses to start December, Edmonton is inching towards .500 thanks to winning six of its last 10 games. The Oilers do appear to be turning a corner, coming off an impressive road trip where they were robbed by McElhinney in Toronto but chased Sergei Bobrovsky and Carey Price in scoring lopsided victories over Columbus and Montreal, respectively. That is the first time this season that Edmonton has strung together three straight quality performances despite not getting the middle result. As mentioned off the hop, the Oilers have yet to win three in a row or even two straight in regulation. Accomplishing that tonight won’t be easy since Nashville has had Edmonton’s number with a 9-0 record since the Predators hired Peter Laviolette prior to the 2014-15 season. The Oilers will now play 15 of their next 16 games against Western Conference opponents, starting tonight, so they really need to make hay — and some headway — over this stretch. If the Oilers keep spinning their tires, Edmonton will get stuck on the outside looking into the playoffs come spring. Yes, I said it — playoffs!

22) Philadelphia Flyers

LAST RANKED: 27 (+5)



LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 4-1-0-0 — 4-2 win over Toronto, 4-1 win over Vancouver, 4-2 win over Edmonton, 5-2 win over Calgary, 3-0 loss to Boston

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: Home to Buffalo on Thursday, home to Dallas on Saturday, home to Los Angeles on Dec. 18, home to Detroit on Dec. 20, at Buffalo on Dec. 22

ANALYSIS: Winners of four straight, including a sweep of Western Canada, the Flyers are suddenly flying high again following a miserable 10-game losing streak. Ron Hextall gave Dave Hakstol a vote of confidence during that difficult time — after getting shut out on home ice, extending the skid to double-digits — and Brian Elliott got his confidence back by beating his former club in Calgary, then becoming one of the NHL’s stars of the week. Philadelphia’s power play heated up again, as did Wayne Simmonds and Michael Raffl. Hakstol broke up his big three — separating Jakub Voracek from Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier, who had comprised one of the league’s highest-scoring lines through two months of the season — and it worked, with Simmonds taking Voracek’s spot and Voracek sparking the second line alongside Raffl and Valtteri Filppula. Things are looking up in Philly and the “fire Hakstol” chants have died down, for now.

23) Montreal Canadiens

LAST RANKED: 24 (+1)



LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 2-2-1-0 — 6-2 loss to Edmonton, 3-2 overtime loss to Calgary, 4-3 loss to St. Louis, 10-1 win over Detroit, 6-3 win over Detroit

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: Home to New Jersey on Thursday, at Ottawa on Saturday, at Vancouver on Dec. 19, at Calgary on Dec. 22, at Edmonton on Dec. 23

ANALYSIS: Carey Price returned from injury on a five-game winning streak — highlighted by that 10-1 drilling of Detroit — but the Habs have since lost three straight at home, with Price getting chased by low-scoring Edmonton in their last outing. Now coming off a four-day break, the Canadiens close out a five-game homestand tonight against the Devils and should be desperate to bounce back before heading out on a seven-game road trip to wrap up their 2017 schedule. Montreal needs some positive momentum as 2018 rolls around and maybe next week’s getaway to Western Canada will be good for the Canadiens. Or maybe not. Time will tell.

24) Vancouver Canucks

LAST RANKED: 17 (-7)



LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 1-4-0-0 — 7-1 loss to Nashville, 5-1 loss to Winnipeg, 4-2 loss to Calgary, 4-1 loss to Philadelphia, 3-0 win over Carolina

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: Home to San Jose on Friday, home to Calgary on Sunday, home to Montreal on Dec. 19, at San Jose on Dec. 21, home to St. Louis on Dec. 23

ANALYSIS: Any team that loses two-thirds of its top line to injury is going to struggle, and the Canucks are no exception — dropping four straight since losing Bo Horvat (6 weeks, fractured ankle) and three in a row since also losing Sven Baertschi (4-6 weeks, fractured jaw). Vancouver has only scored a combined five goals in those four losses. Forward depth was a strength for the Canucks early on, but Brandon Sutter (upper-body) has also been sidelined and Derek Dorsett (neck) was forced to retire last month. That has left rookie sensation Brock Boeser flanking the Sedin twins — without his regular linemates, Horvat and Baertschi — and the Canucks haven’t been getting much in the way of secondary scoring lately. It’s going to be a long month for Travis Green if Jim Benning can’t trade for help up front between now and the All-Star break. Without reinforcements, expect Vancouver to plummet in the standings — and attendance has already been a problem there, making the Canucks an even tougher sell if the on-ice product slumps.

25) Carolina Hurricanes

LAST RANKED: 22 (-3)



LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 1-2-2-0 — 3-2 shootout win over Vegas, 3-2 loss to Anaheim, 3-2 overtime loss to Los Angeles, 5-4 overtime loss to San Jose, 3-0 loss to Vancouver

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: At Buffalo on Friday, home to Columbus on Saturday, at Toronto on Dec. 19, at Nashville on Dec. 21, home to Buffalo on Dec. 23

ANALYSIS: California wasn’t kind to Carolina, with the Hurricanes getting swept despite earning two loser points as some consolation. Carolina has only won three of its last 11 games and save percentage continues to be a problem. Scott Darling hasn’t been the answer to the Hurricanes’ woes in goal. The underlying numbers — the advanced stats — are still favourable for Bill Peters’ club on most nights but, at the end of the day, it comes down to wins and losses. Good teams find ways to win, no matter what, and Carolina isn’t there yet.

26) Florida Panthers

LAST RANKED: 29 (+3)



LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 2-1-1-1 — 3-2 overtime loss to Chicago, 2-1 overtime win over Detroit, 7-3 loss to Colorado, 6-4 win over Winnipeg, 5-4 shootout loss to New York Islanders

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: At Colorado on Thursday, at Vegas on Sunday, at Arizona on Dec. 19, home to Minnesota on Dec. 22, home to Ottawa on Dec. 23

ANALYSIS: Is the glass half full in Florida? The Panthers have earned points in eight of their last 11 games — albeit only five wins, plus three loser points. That’s still positive progress under new coach Bob Boughner, and the Panthers are healthy with the exception of Roberto Luongo, who will be sidelined for upwards of a month with a lower-body injury. If James Reimer can hold the fort better than he did the last time Luongo was out, Florida could heat up over its next five games and possibly get into a playoff position in the Atlantic Division by Christmas.

27) Ottawa Senators

LAST RANKED: 19 (-8)



LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 1-3-1-0 — 3-2 win over New York Rangers, 3-2 loss to Buffalo, 5-0 loss to San Jose, 4-3 overtime loss to Los Angeles, 3-0 loss to Anaheim

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: Home to Montreal on Saturday, home to Minnesota on Dec. 19, at Tampa Bay on Dec. 21, at Florida on Dec. 23, at Boston on Dec. 27

ANALYSIS: The Senators were desperate for that win over the Rangers on Wednesday and will have to play desperate hockey throughout the second half after digging themselves a deep hole by losing 12 of their last 14 games — with only two loser points over that span. Of course, those struggles coincide with Ottawa’s return to North America after acquiring Matt Duchene and winning its first two games with him in the lineup — over his former club, Colorado — in Sweden. It’s been an absolute nightmare ever since for everybody in the Senators’ organization, including Eugene Melnyk, Pierre Dorion and Guy Boucher. Erik Karlsson went an unfathomable 10 games without a point and Derick Brassard went 20 games without a goal. Craig Anderson and Mike Condon weren’t performing any better in net, but maybe the Senators can right the ship now — starting with Saturday’s outdoor game against the rival Canadiens. Or maybe not. The last time Ottawa won a game — to end a seven-game skid — the Sens proceeded to lose five in a row again. But anything to take the attention off trade speculation surrounding Karlsson.

28) Colorado Avalanche

LAST RANKED: 25 (-3)



LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 2-3-0-0 — 5-2 loss to Washington, 2-1 win over Pittsburgh, 7-3 win over Florida, 5-2 loss to Tampa Bay, 4-2 loss to Buffalo

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: Home to Florida on Thursday, home to Tampa Bay on Saturday, home to Pittsburgh on Dec. 18, at Los Angeles on Dec. 21, at Arizona on Dec. 23

ANALYSIS: Colorado is back in the basement of the Central Division, facing long odds to make the playoffs after losing seven of its last 10 games. Two of those three wins were impressive — knocking off Pittsburgh and Winnipeg — but the Avalanche haven’t been able to maintain their early-season success and momentum. Nathan MacKinnon is still on pace for a big year, but the supporting cast is tailing off and Colorado doesn’t have the depth to compete in that division. Chalk it up as another “building” year for the Avs.

29) Buffalo Sabres

LAST RANKED: 30 (+1)



LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 2-1-2-0 — 3-2 win over Ottawa, 3-2 overtime loss to St. Louis, 3-2 overtime loss to Chicago, 4-2 win over Colorado, 5-1 loss to Pittsburgh

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: At Philadelphia on Thursday, home to Carolina on Friday, home to Boston on Dec. 19, home to Philadelphia on Dec. 22, at Carolina on Dec. 23

ANALYSIS: Don’t look now, but the Sabres have earned points in four straight following a four-game losing streak. Buffalo would have to go on a real burner to get back into playoff contention — with only four wins going back to the beginning of November (4-10-4-0) — but that third seed in the Atlantic may not be out of reach with 51 games to go for the Sabres. They have to build on this little bit of success and bag more points from their next three at home before heading out on the road for seven in a row, including the Jan. 1 Winter Classic outdoor game in New York City, while the world-junior tournament takes place in Buffalo through Jan. 5. That 10-game stretch could make or break Buffalo’s season, but it’ll be an uphill battle the rest of the way for Phil Housley, Jack Eichel and all the Sabres.

30) Detroit Red Wings

LAST RANKED: 28 (-2)



LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 1-2-2-0 — 3-2 overtime loss to Boston, 2-1 overtime loss to Florida, 6-1 loss to St. Louis, 5-1 win over Winnipeg, 10-1 loss to Montreal

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: Home to Toronto on Friday, at New York Islanders on Dec. 19, at Philadelphia on Dec. 20, at Boston on Dec. 23, at New Jersey on Dec. 27

ANALYSIS: With Ottawa getting back into the win column, no team is skidding as badly as Detroit right now. The Red Wings have lost 10 of their last 11 games, earning five loser points but also suffering three blowout defeats. It’s been an embarrassing stretch for Henrik Zetterberg and company, and it’s becoming evident that Ken Holland will be a seller at the trade deadline. Mike Green will most likely be moved, but his value is trending down — pointless in six games and a combined minus-six since last scoring on Nov. 28. Jeff Blashill must be on thin ice in Detroit too, now seeming like the favourite to be the first coach fired this season. Nothing positive to report for the Red Wings.

31) Arizona Coyotes




LAST 5 GAMES RECORD: 1-3-1-0 — 3-1 loss to Chicago, 1-0 loss to Columbus, 6-1 loss to Boston, 3-2 overtime loss to Vegas, 5-0 win over New Jersey

NEXT 5 GAMES SCHEDULE: Home to Tampa Bay on Thursday, home to Pittsburgh on Saturday, home to Florida on Dec. 19, home to Washington on Dec. 22, home to Colorado on Dec. 23

ANALYSIS: Losers of four straight and seven of their last eight, the Coyotes finally get a five-game homestand after a road-heavy start to the season — playing a record 21 away games through the first 66 days, with limited success outside of Arizona (4-13-3-1). Not that their home record has been any better (3-8-1-0), but with Antti Raanta now healthy and seemingly rounding into form, perhaps the Coyotes can gain a little traction heading into the holiday break. Arizona will be hoping Clayton Keller heats up again, along with Max Domi, Dylan Strome and others. Getting Jakub Chychrun back certainly helps on defence, so the Coyotes could still trend up — at least slightly, in the weeks and months to come — but the playoff ship has already sailed in all likelihood.

Updated Power Rankings Through 30-35 Games

1) Tampa Bay Lightning

2) Nashville Predators

3) Winnipeg Jets

4) St. Louis Blues

5) Los Angeles Kings

6) Washington Capitals

7) Toronto Maple Leafs

8) Vegas Golden Knights

9) Columbus Blue Jackets

10) New Jersey Devils

11) Dallas Stars

12) Pittsburgh Penguins

13) Chicago Blackhawks

14) New York Islanders

15) San Jose Sharks

16) Boston Bruins

17) Minnesota Wild

18) New York Rangers

19) Calgary Flames

20) Anaheim Ducks

21) Edmonton Oilers

22) Philadelphia Flyers

23) Montreal Canadiens

24) Vancouver Canucks

25) Carolina Hurricanes

26) Florida Panthers

27) Ottawa Senators

28) Colorado Avalanche

29) Buffalo Sabres

30) Detroit Red Wings

31) Arizona Coyotes

Power Rankings Through 20-25 Games

1) St. Louis Blues

2) Tampa Bay Lightning

3) Nashville Predators

4) Vegas Golden Knights

5) Columbus Blue Jackets

6) Winnipeg Jets

7) New Jersey Devils

8) New York Rangers

9) New York Islanders

10) Washington Capitals

11) Toronto Maple Leafs

12) San Jose Sharks

13) Los Angeles Kings

14) Chicago Blackhawks

15) Dallas Stars

16) Calgary Flames

17) Vancouver Canucks

18) Pittsburgh Penguins

19) Ottawa Senators

20) Anaheim Ducks

21) Minnesota Wild

22) Carolina Hurricanes

23) Boston Bruins

24) Montreal Canadiens

25) Colorado Avalanche

26) Edmonton Oilers

27) Philadelphia Flyers

28) Detroit Red Wings

29) Florida Panthers

30) Buffalo Sabres

31) Arizona Coyotes

Preseason Power Rankings

1) Edmonton Oilers

2) Pittsburgh Penguins

3) Dallas Stars

4) Tampa Bay Lightning

5) Washington Capitals

6) Chicago Blackhawks

7) Columbus Blue Jackets

8) Toronto Maple Leafs

9) Winnipeg Jets

10) Anaheim Ducks

11) Minnesota Wild

12) Nashville Predators

13) Montreal Canadiens

14) Calgary Flames

15) Buffalo Sabres

16) Philadelphia Flyers

17) New York Islanders

18) New York Rangers

19) San Jose Sharks

20) Boston Bruins

21) Carolina Hurricanes

22) Vancouver Canucks

23) Los Angeles Kings

24) St. Louis Blues

25) Florida Panthers

26) Arizona Coyotes

27) New Jersey Devils

28) Ottawa Senators

29) Colorado Avalanche

30) Detroit Red Wings

31) Vegas Golden Knights