Preds and Pens keep rolling

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We’re not quite at the holiday break yet, but it feels like the NHL is limping to the Christmas finish line. On Sunday, the league put a pause on cross-border travel, which led to more games being postponed.

Does this mean that the NHL won’t be able to go to the Olympics in February? Probably. It’s a shame because we don’t get many opportunities to watch the best players in the world represent their respective countries, but that’s where we are right now.

Hopefully, the season continues after boxing day without a hitch.

1 – Carolina Hurricanes (no. 1 last week):

The Hurricanes continue to sit in top spot. They’ve put together back-to-back wins over Detroit and Los Angeles and they’ve won six of their last seven outings. The last time they lost a game by more than one goal was against Dallas (4-1) on Nov. 30.

2 – Washington Capitals (last week no. 7):

The Caps are coming off a loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday. Yes, they’ve dropped two of their last three, but they’re heading into the week with 43 points, which is tops in the league (Carolina is ahead of them because they have two games in hand). The Caps have the second-best goal-differential at plus-27. They also lead the Eastern Conference in goals scored, with 108 goals.

3 – Tampa Bay Lightning (last week no. 8):

The Bolts had Saturday’s game against Colorado postponed because the Avs are in some Covid-19 trouble, but they should be heading to Vegas on Tuesday. Tampa has won back-to-back games and they’ve picked up points in eight of their last 10 outings.

4 – Toronto Maple Leafs (no. 4 last week):

The Leafs have won back-to-back games, but their last three outings have been postponed. Toronto, like many teams in the NHL, has several players on the Covid-19 list. They won’t be playing until after the Christmas break, too. They’re ninth in the league in goals scored and fifth in goals against heading into their break.

5 – Nashville Predators (no. 10 last week):

The Preds snuck into my top 10 last week, but they deserve even more credit now. They’ve won seven games in a row and they’ve jumped up to second in the Central Division (one point behind Minnesota but they’ve played an extra game). The Preds won’t play again before the Christmas break because they’re battling Covid-19.

6 – Vegas Golden Knights (no. 13 last week):

Unlike a lot of teams, Vegas actually has two games left on the schedule after beating the Islanders in a shootout on Sunday. The Golden Knights have rattled off five wins in a row and eight of their last nine. They’ll open the week in first place in the Pacific Division because they have a game in hand on Anaheim.

7 – Pittsburgh Penguins (no. 11 last week):

The Pens have jumped up the rankings consistently over the last three weeks, as they went from 15th to 11th and into the top 10. Pittsburgh has the longest winning streak in the Eastern Conference at seven games. They haven’t lost a game since Dec. 1 in Edmonton and they haven’t dropped a home date since Nov. 27 against Montreal.

8 – Vancouver Canucks (no. 15 last week):

The Canucks have made big-time jumps up the rankings over the last few weeks. When they fired head coach Travis Green, they were sitting in 28th, but a six-game winning streak has them all the way up into the top 10. They still have ground to make up if they’re going to make the playoffs, but they’re closer than they were a while ago.

9 – Minnesota Wild (no. 3 last week):

The Wild’s schedule has been all over the place over the last few days. Two of their last three games have been postponed and the one they played was a shootout loss to the lowly Sabres. Overall, they’ve dropped three games in a row. That’s why they’ve taken a big of a hit in this week’s rankings.

10 – New York Rangers (no. 2 last week):

The Rangers struggled in the four games they played between last Sunday and Friday. They dropped three of four decisions against tough opponents, but they managed to beat Arizona. They’re officially done before the Christmas, as their game against Montreal on Wednesday was postponed. It’s been a positive half of the season for the Rangers overall.

11 – Colorado Avalanche (no. 6 last week):

The Avs are in Covid trouble and they’ll have to make up four games at some point in the near future. But after a slow start, the Avs started looking good on the ice. Their five-game winning streak came to an end on Thursday in Nashville, but they were playing with two skaters short in that one. They should be more than fine heading into the new year.

12 – Anaheim Ducks (no. 9 last week):

The Ducks continue to be one of the biggest surprises in the NHL in 2021-22. They’ve won four of their last six games and their only losses during that stretch were on the road in Pittsburgh (1-0) and in OT to Arizona (6-5). Technically, they’ll open the week in second place in the Pacific, but like Vegas, they also have 40 points in the standings.

13 – Florida Panthers (no. 5 last week):

The Panthers have dropped three games in a row and that’s why they’re down to this spot in the rankings. All of their games have been postponed before the Christmas break, so they probably won’t be feeling good about where they left off. If you look at the big picture, they’re looking pretty good for a team that had to get rid of their head coach for reasons beyond their control.

14 – St. Louis Blues (no. 12 last week):

The Blues’ eight-game point streak ended on Sunday against Winnipeg, but they’ve been pretty good. They’re 6-2-2 in their last 10 outings. The Blues were supposed to be in Ottawa on Tuesday and Toronto on Thursday, but the pause on cross-border travel has squashed that. Fun fact: Only two teams (Florida and Toronto) have more home wins than St. Louis (11).

15 – Detroit Red Wings (no. 19 last week):

The Wings are coming off a win over New Jersey on Saturday, but they were officially shut down for Covid-19 reasons on Sunday. I mentioned Anaheim as one of the big surprises in the NHL so far, but the Red Wings have to be right up there too. They’ve played more games than most teams in the East, but they’re in a Wild Card spot as of right now.

16 – Los Angeles Kings (no. 24 last week).

The Kings just completed a very tough stretch that saw them beat Minnesota, lose to Tampa in OT, beat Florida, lose to Carolina and take down Washington. That’s not too shabby given the strength of schedule. They’re now just three points behind Edmonton for a playoff spot.

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17 – Edmonton Oilers (no. 22 last week):

The Oilers were in the top 10 for a long stretch early on in the season, but six straight losses sent them tumbling down the rankings. Finally, they were able to post back-to-back wins over Columbus and Seattle last week. They were scheduled to play three games before the break, but they’ve all been postponed. So, that means Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will be first and second in scoring heading into their break.

18 – Chicago Blackhawks (no. 25 last week):

There was a time a long, long time ago, when the Blackhawks were in the basement of the standings and of this list. But right now, they’ve picked up points in four of their last five games. Their minus-25 goal-differential is still third-worse in the league ahead of Arizona and Montreal.

19 – Boston Bruins (no. 14 last week):

The Bruins drop five spots in the rankings because of back-to-back losses to the Golden Knights and Islanders. Their games against Montreal, Ottawa, Carolina and Colorado have all been postponed. The Bruins are still three points behind Detroit for the final Wild Card spot and they have five games in hand. Fun fact: the Bruins are 7-5-1 at home and 7-5-1 on the road this season.

20 – Philadelphia Flyers (no. 26 last week):

The Flyers were in the 26th spot in back-to-back weeks, but they’re moving up thanks to a positive week. They’ve now picked up points in five straight games and they have four victories during that stretch (their only loss came in a shootout against the Habs).

21 – Calgary Flames (no. 21 last week):

The Flames can’t really be judged this week because they didn’t play. They haven’t played since they lost at home to Boston on Dec. 11. Their next game is scheduled on Dec. 27 when they host Edmonton.

22 – New York Islanders (no. 29 last week):

The Islanders lost in a shootout against Vegas on Sunday, but they’re 2-1-1 in their last four outings. They’ll enjoy three days off before they get a crack at the Capitals on Thursday. Four of their next five games will be played at their home rink, which isn’t terrible news.

23 – Winnipeg Jets (no. 18 last week):

The Jets had to deal with some shocking news late last week, as head coach Paul Maurice stepped away from his job. Winnipeg lost in their first game without Maurice, but they managed to pull off a big home win over St. Louis on Sunday. Maybe a new voice is just what the doctor ordered for this struggling squad.

24 – San Jose Sharks (no. 16 last week):

The Sharks have dropped three of their last four games and they have just two wins during their five-game homestand. They were supposed to play home dates against Vancouver and Edmonton this week, but those games were postponed. This group has some work to do.

25 – Dallas Stars (no. 20 last week):

The Stars finally managed to put their five-game losing skid to bed when they beat the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime on Saturday night. They have some pretty wild splits, as they’re 10-3-1 at home and 4-9-1 on the road. They’re going to have to figure that out if they’re going to make a charge at a playoff spot.

26 – Buffalo Sabres (no. 30 last week):

Things haven’t been as terrible for the Sabres as of late. They’ve won two of their last four games, but they’ve collected at least one point in each of those outings. More good news: Alex Tuch, who they acquired from Vegas for Jack Eichel, will make his Sabres debut on Monday against Columbus.

27 – Columbus Blue Jackets (no. 17 last week):

It’s a 10-spot drop for the struggling Blue Jackets. If we use the last 10 games as a reference, the Jackets are 2-7-1. That makes them only one of five teams to win two games or fewer during that stretch. There’s good news if you’re a fan of the team though. Despite these struggles, they’re still just four points behind Detroit for a Wild Card spot.

28 – Ottawa Senators (no. 23 last week):

The Sens dropped back-to-back games heading into Sunday’s clash against the Bruins, but that ended up getting postponed. They won’t get to play again before Christmas because the league has put a pause on cross-border travel. Ottawa’s .357 points percentage is third-worst in the NHL behind Arizona and Montreal.

29 – Seattle Kraken (no. 27 last week):

The Kraken go into the week having lost five of their last six outings, but they’ll have a chance to go into the Christmas break on a high note when they host Arizona on Tuesday. Unlike Vegas, Seattle is a true expansion team. It’s going to take time for them to become competitive.

30 – Montreal Canadiens (no. 31 last week):

The Habs finally won a game when they beat the Flyers on Thursday night, but their season quickly went on pause after that (they played that game in front of an empty Bell Center). Montreal has played better as of late, but that’s not saying much. Only the Coyotes have a worse points percentage this season (the Canadiens are at .274).

31 – New Jersey Devils (no. 28 last week):

The longest losing streak in the NHL belongs to the Devils, as they’ve dropped six in a row. Their last win came on Dec. 8 and their last victory on the road dates back to Nov. 20. They’re one of four teams that have conceded at least 105 goals this season.

32 – Arizona Coyotes (no. 32 last week):

It’s awful to continuously put Arizona in the basement of my power rankings, but that’s where they deserve to be. On a positive note, they managed to beat a good Ducks team in overtime on Friday night. But they still have the worst points percentage in the NHL through 29 games (.241).

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