NHL Power Rankings: Defending champs starting strong in 2020
Give credit where it’s due for the St. Louis Blues.
At this time last season they were among the bottom-ranked teams in the NHL Power Rankings, and it didn’t look all that hopeful for them. Instead they went on the mother of all runs during last season’s second half, won the Cup after doing it the hard way all through the postseason and then started this year as the No. 1 team in the Power Rankings as well.
They fell out of the No. 1 spot quickly and they lost Vladimir Tarasenko early on this year in a terrible blow to their repeat chances, but the Blues have efficiently continued to play at a high level while setting the pace in the Western Conference.
With both the Bruins and Capitals slipping a little bit around the holidays, the Blues will gladly step into the top Power Rankings spot for the new year and hope that they can play up to last year’s standard in the second half. Jaden Schwartz and David Perron were both point-per-game players for the Blues in December, and Alex Pietrangelo was strong with four goals and 12 points in 13 December games while averaging over 24 minutes of ice time per game. The .951 save percentage for a resurgent Jake Allen helped out quite a bit in December’s Blues surge as well.
Now on to the Power Rankings:
31. Detroit Red Wings
(10-28-3, rank last week: 31)
The minus-68 goal differential might not even accurately describe just how bad its been for the Wings this season. Mike Green had two points and a minus-13 in the month of December. Gross.
30. New Jersey Devils
(14-19-6, rank last week: 30)
It was a solid New Year’s Day win for a Devils team over the Bruins in a season where they are otherwise circling the drain in the Metro Division.
29. Los Angeles Kings
(17-21-4, rank last week: 29)
Tyler Toffoli, Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe have kept things respectable for the Kings with strong months of December, but this is an L.A. hockey club going nowhere.
28. San Jose Sharks
(17-21-3, rank last week: 28)
The Sharks are 2-7-1 in their last 10 games and freefalling out into nothing. What a waste of the talent on this roster.
27. Ottawa Senators
(16-19-5, rank last week: 27)
Anders Nilsson, Marcus Hogberg and Craig Anderson have combined for an .894 save percentage in the month of December. That needs to be improved upon quite a bit.
26. Anaheim Ducks
(16-19-5, rank last week: 26)
Hampus Lindholm was a minus-10 in 13 games during the month of December. That pretty much sums up how things are going for the Ducks in the dog days of the season.
25. Chicago Blackhawks
(18-17-6, rank last week: 27)
Eight goals and 18 points in 15 games for Patrick Kane in the month of December, and the Blackhawks have won three games in a row while trying to fight their way out of the Central Division basement.
24. Minnesota Wild
(19-17-5, rank last week: 22)
It’s good to see Devan Dubnyk back with the Wild and once again providing them with strong goaltending between the pipes. It hasn’t resulted in wins lately for the Wild, but it should over time.
23. Buffalo Sabres
(17-17-7, rank last week: 20)
The Sabres have lost four games in a row, are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games and once again are doing their swan dive out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.
22. Montreal Canadiens
(18-16-6, rank last week: 16)
The Habs have lost three games in a row and again are falling back in the Atlantic Division with not enough of anything really. The zero goal differential kind of tells the story.
21. Nashville Predators
(18-15-6, rank last week: 14)
The Predators had an .883 save percentage from their goaltenders during the month of December. Nashville, you have a major problem if that doesn’t change.
20. New York Rangers
(19-16-4, rank last week: 24)
Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Ryan Strome were all point-per-game players for the Rangers in December as New York continues to hang around toward the bottom of the Metro Division.
18. Columbus Blue Jackets
(18-14-8, rank last week: 23)
The NHL fined John Tortorella $20,000 for his comments berating the review system and then set up an additional $25,000 in fines if he opens his mouth again for the next couple of years. Happy Holidays, Torts!
17. Edmonton Oilers
(21-17-4, last week: 18)
The Oilers are 3-7-0 in their last 10 games and are sinking down in the Pacific Division as both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have cooled off quite a bit.
16. Vancouver Canucks
(21-15-4, rank last week: 21)
Jake Virtanen and Tanner Pearson stepped up to give the Canucks some extra scoring in the month of December, Jakob Markstrom posted a .927 save percentage and Vancouver is riding a five-game winning streak. Needless to say they are in a good place.
15. Arizona Coyotes
(22-16-4, rank last week: 8)
Two goals and four points in seven games along with a minus-2 rating thus far for Taylor Hall. Not exactly a giant impact for a team that’s gone 4-6-0 in its last 10 games.
14. Florida Panthers
(20-14-5, rank last week: 17)
Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov were the only Panthers players in double-digits during the month of December, so they could clearly use some more offense in Florida.
13. Winnipeg Jets
(22-15-3, rank last week: 13)
Nine goals and 20 points in 13 games during the month of December for Mark Schiefele, but the Jets in general are slumping a bit with a 4-5-1 record in their last 10 games.
12. Toronto Maple Leafs
(22-14-5, rank last week: 12)
The Leafs are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games and finally forming something of a push toward the Bruins in the Atlantic Division. It looks like the coaching change is beginning to take hold.
11. Vegas Golden Knights
(22-15-6, rank last week: 13)
Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault are all coming off strong Decembers with Vegas now headlining the Pacific Division.
10. Tampa Bay Lightning
(21-13-4, rank last week: 16)
The Lightning have won three in a row, seem to be putting things together and are in a good spot to make a playoff run in the second half of the year. They sit among the top three in the Atlantic right now.
9. Philadelphia Flyers
(22-13-5, rank last week: 6)
The Flyers are in a decent spot, but they coasted with a 5-5-0 record in their last 10 games headed into the new year and need to get back into the winning ways to keep up their playoff pace.
8. Carolina Hurricanes
(24-14-2, rank last week: 9)
Ten goals in the month of December for Sebastian Aho, who it seems has finally put that whole offseason offer sheet business behind him.
7. Colorado Avalanche
(23-13-4, rank last week: 3)
The Avs have dropped three in a row and hit the holiday season doldrums. On the bright side, it looks like they’ve finally found a way to bring the best game out of Valeri Nichuskin, who had five goals and nine points in the month of December.
6. Dallas Stars
(23-14-4, rank last week: 11)
A major league comeback win in the Winter Classic caps off a three-game winning streak for the Stars, who are shooting up the standings in the Western Conference.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins
(24-11-4, rank last week: 7)
Now Jake Guentzel is hurt as well? I don’t know what’s more impressive. The vast array of Penguins injuries or the fact they’re still forging ahead despite them.
4. New York Islanders
(25-10-3, rank last week: 3)
A big win over the Capitals this week puts them into a better place after a losing streak around the Christmas break probably put a damper on Santa Trotz’s holiday.
3. Boston Bruins
(24-7-10, rank last week: 4)
The bad news is that the Bruins are now 0-6 in the shootout this season. The good news is that there is no shootout in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
2. Washington Capitals
(27-9-5, rank last week: 1)
The Capitals get dinged for not even showing up to the pre-Christmas break finale in Boston, and for Tom Wilson going on a rampage trying to take guys out in the last few games.
1. St. Louis Blues
(26-9-6, rank last week: 2)
The Blues have won eight out of 10 headed into the new year and end an amazing 2019 where they were rounding up the basement in the Central Division at this time last year.