For the first NHL Power Rankings of 2017, a long-standing record is being heavily threatened. The Columbus Blue Jackets have won 16 straight games and can break the longest winning streak in NHL history with wins on Thursday and Saturday. Nobody in 1993 would have ever believed that a team in Ohio could possibly break the record, but that is because the Jackets did not exist at the time.
In other news, the Maple Leafs are making a move in the Atlantic Division, and Tuesday night’s California showdown was one to remember.
1. Columbus Blue Jackets (58 points)
Previously 2 (52 points)
Like history? Columbus is going for it on Thursday in Washington. If they can extend their winning streak to 17, which would tie the 1992-1993 Pittsburgh Penguins for the longest winning streak in NHL history, they will have a chance at setting a new record with a home match against the Rangers on Saturday. Cam Atkinson, who is just 16 points away from passing his career high in points, scored twice to help Columbus finish Minnesota’s 12-game winning streak.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins (55 points)
Previously 1 (53 points)
I have seen pieces of paper that are heavier than Pittsburgh current schedule. They played just once this week, and they do not play again until Sunday, when they host the Lightning. That is probably a good thing, however, because Matt Murray is week-to-week after suffering a lower body injury against Carolina last Wednesday. They should be glad that Marc-Andre Fleury is still in black and gold. Evgeni Malkin was on point on New Year’s Eve, with a backdoor assist to Patric Hornqvist in the second period and the overtime winner to put Carey Price and Montreal away. Pittsburgh won 12 games in December for the first time in franchise history and has an 11-game point streak at home.
3. New York Rangers (55 points)
Previously 5 (49 points)
Like hat tricks? The Rangers could not get enough of them this week. Matt Puempel (who?) got one in Arizona on Thursday, and Chris Kreider followed suit in Colorado on Saturday. While there were no hatties on Wednesday, both Kevin Hayes and Michael Grabner scored twice to dispatch the rival Flyers. Henrik Lundqvist also had quite a night on Wednesday, stopping 30 difficult shots for win number 16.
4. Minnesota Wild (50 points)
Previously 4 (48 points)
After the offense shined against the Islanders, the magic that carried the Wild to 12 straight wins ran out after the even hotter Blue Jackets came to town. They got a very early goal in the third period, but that was all the damage that Minnesota could do in a valiant comeback attempt. After a goal and an assist in the last two games, Mikael Granlund finished December with five goals and 10 assists, which more than doubled his point total for the season (10 goals and 19 assists).
5. Montreal Canadiens (54 points)
Previously 6 (47 points)
The top storyline this week was in Nashville. Shea Weber got a rousing ovation in his return to Tennessee, and he scored the game-tying goal in the third period. Alexander Radulov, who was treated very harshly on Tuesday due to his horrible tenure with the Predators, assisted on both Weber’s goal and Max Pacioretty‘s overtime tally. So who got the last laugh? Well, not the Habs twitter handle, which took an miscalculated shot at P.K. Subban and was heavily criticized. The tweet has since been deleted.
6. Chicago Blackhawks (51 points)
Previously 3 (49 points)
Oh, the power of losing to Colorado. Chicago lost in overtime to the Avalanche just before Christmas, and they have won just once in their last six games. Losing 4-1 in the Winter Classic was clearly the most painful of all. Michal Kempny scored his first two career goals this week, and he had the luxury of scoring at Busch Stadium on Monday.
7. Washington Capitals (51 points)
Previously 9 (44 points)
After losing a shootout to New Jersey on Thursday, Washington pulled off three straight wins. None of those wins were more thrilling than the one on Tuesday, when they erased three deficits against Toronto and won on another Alex Ovechkin one-timer. He now has 19 overtime goals in his career, tying Jaromir Jagr for the most all-time. Of course, Ovechkin’s career has been much shorter than that of Jagr’s.
8. San Jose Sharks (48 points)
Previously 7 (45 points)
Talk about a back-breaker. The Sharks lost both games of the home-and-home against Los Angeles, but they had the chances. Fortunately, they will only see Peter Budaj one more time for the remainder of the season, and that is in exactly two weeks. Aaron Dell started on Friday and got his first career shutout on 36 saves against Philadelphia.
9. Anaheim Ducks (48 points)
Previously 13 (41 points)
Despite just three wins in their last six games, the Ducks also have points in all those games. After allowing six goals in Detroit in December, they did the opposite on Wednesday, as John Gibson shut out the Wings on 23 shots. This came after making 51 saves against Philadelphia on New Year’s Day. Ryan Kesler scored a hat trick in that game, which was just enough to get the Ducks into overtime and win in a shootout over the Flyers.
10. St. Louis Blues (45 points)
Previously 11 (43 points)
The Winter Classic has not been kind to home teams this decade, but the Blues broke that trend on Monday, using an offensive push in the back end of the game to pull away from the hated Blackhawks. Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice to become the first player to score twice for a home team in the Winter Classic (No. The Centennial Classic is not the same thing, so Auston Matthews is not included).
11. Edmonton Oilers (45 points)
Previously 12 (42 points)
In boring, expected news, Connor McDavid was named the captain for the Pacific Division. In even more expected news, the Oilers were unable to stop Columbus and their lengthy winning streak on Tuesday. They go out east as they try to close the gap between them and the Ducks/Sharks. Eric Gryba picked a good time to score his first goal of the season, as his mid-air whack was the game-winner against the Kings on Thursday.
12. Ottawa Senators (44 points)
Previously 10 (43 points)
It has now been a full month since Craig Anderson last played in an NHL game, but prayers will still be sent to him while his wife continues to battle cancer. Meanwhile, Mike Condon has done a great job as the new starter, with a 2.35 GAA and eight wins. It would be nice if Ottawa did not go 0-11 on the power play in their last three games, however, as they have now lost three straight games.
13. Philadelphia Flyers (45 points)
Previously 8 (44 points)
They should be lucky that 10-game winning streak existed because they have now lost five straight and seven of eight. As of now, they still own the second wild card spot. Jakub Voracek scored both goals in Wednesday’s loss to the Rangers to stop a nine-game goal drought.
14. Boston Bruins (44 points)
Previously 14 (40 points)
Boston took advantage of a scuffling Buffalo team, but they were (BARELY) shut out in New Jersey, as Brad Marchand had a shot where the puck was more than three-fourths past the line at the Prudential Center. Of course, that is not COMPLETELY over the line. With Florida, Tampa Bay, and Toronto lurking, there is once again little room for error in Boston. Ryan Spooner scored twice in the final three minutes of the third period to put away the Sabres in the away game of the home-and-home on Thursday.
15. Calgary Flames (44 points)
Previously 15 (40 points)
This is a critical stretch for the Flames, with weak opponents left and right. Fortunately, Calgary has done well, winning 11 of their last 15 games in convincing fashion. They went a combined 5-9 on the power play against Colorado and Arizona this week, and Mikael Backlund has now scored at least one goal in five straight games. That burning ring of fire!
16. Tampa Bay Lightning (42 points)
Previously 16 (39 points)
Andrei Vasilevskiy has been put to the test since Ben Bishop went down over two weeks ago, and he is probably getting a C. While he has done well against some of the less dangerous offenses (Detroit and Carolina), he has not been so lucky against others. Washington caused him to be pulled, and Winnipeg notched six goals on Tuesday. Tampa Bay would like to trade Bishop and get a ton in return, but would that ruin their chances at making the playoffs?
17. Los Angeles Kings (42 points)
Previously 17 (38 points)
Considering the fact that they are right on the edge of the playoff picture, this week could not have been bigger. After FINALLY coming home and edging San Jose, they went to the Shark Tank and got two points in what was one of the most exciting games of the season. Jeff Carter fed Tanner Pearson for the overtime goal 58 seconds in, but that was after Peter Budaj saved LA with eight outstanding saves in an action-packed third period. He might not be a permanent option in Las Vegas, but the Golden Knights should be watching closely since Jonathan Quick is not going anywhere.
18. Toronto Maple Leafs (42 points)
Previously 22 (37 points)
Toronto pulled off a five-game winning streak before losing it in an overtime loss in Washington. They have struggled to maintain leads over the last two games, but the first one was the Centennial Classic on New Year’s Day. Auston Matthews scored the fourth goal of that game and added the overtime winner after Detroit pulled off the comeback. He had two points in all three games this week, including one of the slickest spin-o-rama assists you will ever see on Tuesday.
19. Winnipeg Jets (41 points)
Previously 19 (37 points)
Heading into their Florida trip, Winnipeg had the fewest points in the Western Conference outside of Arizona and Colorado. Then their offense took off and snagged wins in both Tampa and Sunrise to jump back into fourth in the Central Division. Nikolaj Ehlers has scored four times in the last three games, and Conor Hellebuyck came through in the second game of the Florida back-to-back with 31 saves and just one goal allowed to the Panthers.
20. Dallas Stars (40 points)
Previously 18 (37 points)
Dallas went 1-1-1 at home this week, with the only win coming against Colorado. They need to beat better teams if they want to make a push for the playoffs, but they at least made things interesting against Montreal. After a temporary lull in mid-December, Tyler Seguin has four goals in his last five games, including two goals and an assist in the victory over the Avalanche on Thursday.
21. Carolina Hurricanes (39 points)
Previously 21 (37 points)
The point streak at home is gone, and now Carolina has to return to worrying about their position in the Metropolitan Division. They are tied with New Jersey, the same team that shut them down in Raleigh on Tuesday, for sixth, and the trek to catch Philly is steep. Sebastian Aho is on a four-game point streak and is the only Carolina player to score in the last two games (two goals).
22. Florida Panthers (40 points)
Previously 23 (37 points)
Florida has had very little luck in extra time of late, but at least they have points in four of their last six games despite just one victory. It would be nice, however, to stop their five-game losing streak at home before the trade talks for Stanley Cup-hungry Jaromir Jagr gain steam. The ageless wonder scored his 756th career goal and added an assist in Florida’s 3-1 victory over Dallas on Saturday.
23. Nashville Predators (39 points)
Previously 18 (36 points)
Pekka Rinne is certainly not losing his job anytime soon, but another Finland goalie is making a push. Juuse Saros has a minuscule 1.16 GAA in his six starts this season, and he recorded his first career shutout in St. Louis on Friday. He has only allowed more than one goal in one game this season, and that was to the previously streaking Flyers. Perhaps Smashville has a long-term option in goal.
24. Vancouver Canucks (41 points)
Previously 27 (33 points)
In the standings, Vancouver is higher, but for a team that was supposed to be rebuilding, baby steps are necessary. Having said that, the Canucks have won five straight, with four of those wins were against the Pacific Division. Imagine how high this team will go if they can sweep the home-and-home against the equally “hot” Flames. Sven Baertschi is in the middle of what could be a permanent breakout. He has four goals in his last three games, including the game-tying and winning goal to dispose the Avalanche on Monday.
25. Detroit Red Wings (37 points)
Previously 25 (34 points)
Their sole win was back on Thursday, when Anthony Mantha took an excellent pass from Thomas Vanek and beat Mike Condon for an overtime win in Ottawa. Mantha broke out in the hyped Centennial Classic, scoring twice and adding an assist. His second goal came in a scrum with just one second remaining to complete an impressive three-goal comeback in the third period to force overtime.
26. New Jersey Devils (39 points)
Previously 26 (33 points)
The offense is still in quicksand after last year’s scoring debacle, but the defense has struggled. Fortunately, the Devils have turned things around over the past three days. They shut out Boston on Monday and added another defensive gem in Carolina. Cory Schneider had been free-falling, but he has been brilliant in 2017, with 51 saves on 52 shots in his last two starts.
27. New York Islanders (36 points)
Previously 28 (34 points)
After Jaroslav Halak‘s agent expressed discontent about the franchise’s three-goalie approach, a verdict was finally made about the odd man out. After being pulled from Thursday defensive debacle in Minnesota, Halak was put on waivers. At least for one day, Thomas Greiss proved he was worthy of the full-time starting spot. He saved 32 of Winnipeg’s 34 shots in a blowout victory on Saturday. Playing Colorado on Friday could be another good day for the German product.
28. Buffalo Sabres (36 points)
Previously 24 (34 points)
We all think about times that could make a hefty impact in the long run. When Jack Eichel called out his team for their embarrassing play, the Sabres responded with an incredible win at Madison Square Garden. Also, Zemgus Girgensons scored shortly after uniting with fellow Latvian Kristaps Porzingis.
29. Arizona Coyotes (27 points)
Previously 29 (27 points)
Colorado is equally struggling, so Arizona can feel good knowing they are not the worst team in the NHL…yet. That does not make sugarcoat their current eight-game losing streak and their deteriorating defense. Five different players had a goal this week, including rookie Christian Dvorak.
30. Colorado Avalanche (25 points)
Previously 30 (25 points)
What do you do when you spend a couple of days in Colorado while your brother prepares to start work in Colorado Springs? Go to an Avs game? Considering Colorado has won just once in their last 11 games and have not won at the Pepsi Center since NOVEMBER 15, I will not watch the Avs-Preds game with high expectations for the home team. Cody McLeod got his first goal/point of the season on a deflection during Colorado’s blowout loss to the Rangers.
Vancouver shuts out Edmonton while allowing less than 20 shots on goal. At least they won.
There are at least 10 goals scored in the Winter Classic in St. Louis. Only half of that total came up.
Columbus breaks the winning streak record AND shuts out New York on Saturday.
Kevin Labanc gets the hat trick on Saturday against Detroit.
Cam Ward allows just one goal against Columbus on Tuesday and wins.