NHL Power Rankings 2015-16: Canadiens Falling As Winter Classic Nears


The Montreal Canadiens are spiraling out of control.

The Habs got off to a franchise-best 9-0-0 start to the season and opened up a double-digit lead in the Atlantic Division. But since No. 1 goalie and reigning MVP Carey Price came out of the lineup because of an injury on Nov. 25, Montreal has a record of 4-11-1, which has dropped it to second place in the division.

The whole team has struggled in Price’s absence. The Canadiens have the seventh-worst save percentage and third-worst shooting percentage at even strength since Price suffered his injury.

The Canadiens enter the NHL Winter Classic against the rival Boston Bruins on New Year’s Day under a ton of pressure. A loss on that kind of stage would magnify the team’s recent struggles even more.

Let’s take a look at the latest NHL power rankings. All records current as of Dec. 30.

1. Washington Capitals (25-6-2, Last week: 2): An eight-game win streak, the longest active run in the league, has propelled the Capitals to No. 1 in the power rankings. This team is playing like a runaway locomotive that cannot be stopped.

2. Dallas Stars (27-8-2, Last week: 1): The Stars still sit atop the Western Conference standings, but a bad 6-3 loss to the lowly Blue Jackets on Tuesday night was a bit troubling.

3. Los Angeles Kings (23-11-2, Last week: 3): The Kings have taken advantage of a poor division with wins in six of their last 10 games.

4. St. Louis Blues (23-12-4, Last week: 5): Scoring depth has been key to St. Louis’ recent run of seven wins in the last 10 games. All four lines are contributing offensively.

5. Florida Panthers (21-12-4, Last week: 11): Jaromir Jagr is now just eight goals behind Brett Hull for third on the all-time list. That’s pretty impressive.

Oh, by the way, the Panthers sit atop the Atlantic Division.

6. Chicago Blackhawks (21-13-4, Last week: 4): Giving up five goals to the Coyotes is far from ideal, but it’s not so bad when Patrick Kane chips in three points (one goal, two assists) in a 7-5 win. The veteran winger leads the league in scoring with 53 points.

7. New York Islanders (20-12-5, Last week: 6): The Isles have won two of their last three following a three-game skid. A 6-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night was a confidence-booster for a team that’s been inconsistent scoring goals all season.

8. Boston Bruins (20-12-4, Last week: 8): The Bruins have taken points from 16 of their last 20 games and enter the Winter Classic on a high note after a 7-3 demolition of the Senators on Tuesday night.

9. Minnesota Wild (19-10-6, Last week: 10): Minnesota has one more game to finish a brutal December schedule in which it’s gone an impressive 8-3-2 thus far.

10. New York Rangers (20-12-4, Last week: 7): The Rangers are not a very good team outside of Henrik Lundqvist. Their puck possession has been really bad (third-worst Corsi percentage in the league), but they’re overcoming it by shooting a league-best 9.6 percent at even strength. When that number regresses closer to the mean, New York will be in trouble. Luckily for the Blueshirts, a goalie like Lundqvist is capable of stealing games when his offense provides very little.

11. Montreal Canadiens (21-15-3, Last week: 9): Semin would have been useful in the Winter Classic.

12. Nashville Predators (18-12-7, Last week: 13): A 3-1-1 record during a five-game stretch against quality opponents is an encouraging sign for Nashville entering 2016.

13. Detroit Red Wings (18-12-7, Last week: 12): Detroit’s three-game road trip did not go as planned, as it was beaten by a combined score of 7-2 in the final two games against the Wild and Jets.

This team needs to acquire a goal-scorer before the trade deadline.

14. Ottawa Senators (18-13-6, Last week: 14): The difference in the quality of Ottawa’s performance with and without defenseman Erik Karlsson on the ice is staggering.

15. New Jersey Devils (18-14-5, Last week: 15): John Hynes has to be the favorite, or at least one of the top candidates, for the Jack Adams Award. He’s done a tremendous coaching job with a team most people picked to finish in the bottom five of the standings.

16. Arizona Coyotes (17-16-3, Last week: 20): Arizona’s lackluster .917 save percentage isn’t a huge deal when it’s shooting at 9.5 percent at even strength, the second-highest in the league. Eventually, though, the Coyotes will regress a bit and the goaltending must improve.

17. Tampa Bay Lightning (18-15-4, Last week: 16): The Lightning have lost three of their last five games and have two difficult matchups at home against the Rangers and Wild before beginning a tough five-game Western Conference road trip.

18. Pittsburgh Penguins (17-15-3, Last week: 17): Pittsburgh is 3-6-1 in its last 10 games, even though its play is improving under new head coach Mike Sullivan.

19. Vancouver Canucks (14-15-9, Last week: 25): The Canucks are 3-1-1 entering a brutal January schedule.

20. Philadelphia Flyers (15-13-7, Last week: 18): The Flyers are 5-3-2 in their last 10 games, but it’s difficult to win games consistently when you rank 29th in goals scored per game. Philly isn’t receiving much offense outside of the Claude Giroux line.

21. San Jose Sharks (17-16-2), Last week: 19): A horrendous 6-3 loss to the Avalanche was the Sharks’ third defeat in the last four games, bringing their December record to 3-7-2.

22. Winnipeg Jets (17-17-2, Last week: 21): December has been a roller-coaster for Winnipeg, but a matchup against the Coyotes on New Year’s Eve gives the Jets a chance for a three-game win streak before they begin January with a brutal four-game road trip.

23. Anaheim Ducks (14-15-6, Last week: 23): The Ducks have won back-to-back games for just the third time all season, and better times should be on the horizon for Anaheim with four matchups against inferior opponents over the next week.

24. Colorado Avalanche (18-17-2, Last week: 23): An 8.6 even-strength shooting percentage, fourth-best in the league, has been the key to Colorado winning seven of its last 10 games.

25. Calgary Flames (17-17-2, Last week: 26): Calgary has a .905 save percentage at even strength this season, a concern that has been magnified over the last five games, three of which the Flames have lost. Luckily for Calgary, it plays in the weakest division in the league and should remain in the playoff race throughout the campaign because of that.

26. Buffalo Sabres (15-17-4, Last week: 27): Buffalo’s 6-3 come-from-behind win over Boston last week was a sign of progress. It also reinforced that Ryan O’Reilly is one of the league’s most underrated players.

27. Edmonton Oilers (15-20-3, Last week: 22): The Oilers have lost six of their last seven games following a six-game win streak. This skid has dropped them into a tie with the Leafs for the second-worst record in the league.

28. Toronto Maple Leafs (13-15-7, Last week: 28): Jonathan Bernier was supposed to be the Leafs’ goalie of the future. It’s hard to see that happening now, though.

29. Carolina Hurricanes (15-17-5, Last week: 29): Over the last week, Carolina beat two good teams in Chicago and New Jersey and lost to Washington by one goal. Not a bad way for the Hurricanes to end a dismal 2015.

30. Columbus Blue Jackets (14-22-3, Last week: 30): John Tortorella, in his latest outburst, called the Blue Jackets “embarrassing” and “weak mentally.”

Thumbnail photo via Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports Images

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