NHL Power Rankings 2015-16: Ducks, Sharks Surge Into All-Star Break Red-Hot

by abournenesn

Jan 27, 2016

The Anaheim Ducks are a curious case.

They sit outside of a playoff spot in the Western Conference entering the All-Star break despite finishing with the second-best record in the NHL last season and returning most of the same roster plus some improvements.

Anaheim’s main issue has been scoring, evidenced by their 30th-ranked offense. It’s a strange problem for a team with so much skill and depth in its lineup.

Bad luck is mostly to blame. The Ducks’ PDO (save percentage plus shooting percentage) is well below the mean, primarily because of a league-low 5.6 shooting percentage. Many Ducks players also are shooting well below their career averages, including captain and No. 1 center Ryan Getzlaf at 3.5 percent. He’s shot 11 percent or better in eight of his previous nine seasons.

Luckily for Anaheim, there weren’t any significant underlying problems over the first half of the season. Their puck possession has been solid with the third-best Corsi percentage in the league, and the goaltending has been good, as well, with a .915 save percentage, fifth-best in the West.

The Ducks enter the break on a 7-3-0 run after beating the Boston Bruins 6-2 on Tuesday night. As expected, the Ducks’ shooting percentage is climbing back to normal levels. They have scored three or more goals in seven of those 10 games.

Anaheim general manager Bob Murray was smart to not fire head coach Bruce Boudreau when the pressure to make changes mounted. He didn’t panic, and neither did his team, and now it’s primed for a second-half surge.

Here are this week’s NHL power rankings. All records current as of Jan. 27.

1. Washington Capitals (35-8-3, Last week: 1): Washington is 7-2-1 in its last 10 games and leads the league with an astounding plus-55 goal differential.

2. Chicago Blackhawks (33-16-4, Last week: 2): Chicago has won 13 of its last 16 games to take a three-point lead for the best record in the Western Conference. General manager Stan Bowman just received a well-deserved contract extension.

3. Los Angeles Kings (30-15-3, Last week: 3): The Kings have played mediocre hockey over the last week-and-a-half, but they still are in a much better position entering the All-Star break than they were last season. It would take a huge collapse for L.A. to lose its lead in the Pacific Division.

4. Dallas Stars (31-14-5, Last week: 4): Dallas is 3-6-1 in its last 10 games, with wins over such inferior teams as Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg. The Stars rank second in goals scored per game, but they’ve averaged less than two tallies over the last eight contests.

5. St. Louis Blues (28-16-8, Last week: 6): St. Louis has taken points from eight of its last 10 games to keep pace with Dallas and Chicago in the Central Division.

6. Florida Panthers (29-15-5, Last week: 5): Re-signing young center Aleksander Barkov, the No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft, to an extension worth just $5.9 million per season for six years was a brilliant move. Barkov is a promising two-way forward whose game projects to approach Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar levels.

Roberto Luongo also is red-hot in net.

7. Boston Bruins (29-18-5, Last week: 7): The Bruins’ 5-1-0 run was halted by their loss to the low-scoring Ducks. Still, the B’s are in good shape entering the All-Star break in third place in the Atlantic Division.

8. Detroit Red Wings (25-16-8, Last week: 9): Petr Mrazek’s .932 save percentage might be the most underplayed story in the league this season. The Czech netminder is having a fantastic season for Detroit.

9. Tampa Bay Lightning (26-18-4, Last week: 8): The Lightning are 8-2-0 in their last 10, and it’s all come without disgruntled forward Jonathan Drouin, who remains Tampa Bay property for now.

10. New York Islanders (25-16-6, Last week: 10): The Isles come out of the break with a tough three-game stretch against the Wild, Capitals and Red Wings. It’s a good test for a New York club that has underwhelmed a bit this campaign.

11. New York Rangers (27-17-5, Last week: 11): The Blueshirts have won six of their last 10 games thanks to an offense that’s heating up. New York has scored three or more goals in six of those games and ranks fifth in goals scored per game on the season.

12. Minnesota Wild (23-17-8, Last week: 12): The Wild are 2-6-2 in their last 10 games, but they aren’t in danger of missing the playoffs because the Pacific Division is so terrible. If Minnesota plans to win a playoff round, however, it must upgrade an offense that’s struggled throughout the season and ranks 20th in goals per game and 23rd in power-play percentage.

13. San Jose Sharks (26-18-3), Last week: 19): The Sharks have been so inconsistent this season. They go on an impressive run of victories, then follow it with a streak of many losses.

They’re currently in an 8-2-0 run, and veteran forward Patrick Marleau, who was the subject of trade rumors at the beginning of the season, is on pace for another 30-goal campaign.

14. New Jersey Devils (25-20-5, Last week: 13): The Devils need to get Vezina Trophy-caliber goalie Cory Schneider some offensive support before the trade deadline. It’s going to be difficult for New Jersey to hold a playoff spot with the league’s 28th-ranked offense.

15. Carolina Hurricanes (23-20-8, Last week: 20): The Hurricanes dominated the Blackhawks in a 5-0 home win Tuesday night. Bill Peters should be among the leading candidates for the Jack Adams Award for his work in Carolina. The Canes rank sixth in puck possession (53.1 Corsi percentage) and first in faceoff percentage at even strength.

16. Anaheim Ducks (22-18-7, Last week: 24): Second-line center Ryan Kesler and veteran D-man Kevin Bieksa propelled the Ducks in Tuesday’s victory in Boston. Vancouver Canucks fans still are mad these players didn’t play well in Boston during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

17. Montreal Canadiens (24-22-4, Last week: 15): How bad is it in Montreal? Habs fans are booing P.K. Subban at the Bell Centre.

18. Arizona Coyotes (24-20-5, Last week: 16): Arizona has lost five of its last seven games, and its first three games after the break are against the Kings, Blackhawks and Ducks. This could be the stretch where the Coyotes fall out of a playoff spot for good.

19. Nashville Predators (23-18-8, Last week: 17): Nashville is on a much-needed three-game win streak following a stretch of six losses in seven games. Veteran goalie Pekka Rinne has a save percentage above .950 during this win streak.

20. Colorado Avalanche (26-22-3, Last week: 23): A 3-1 win over the Stars earlier in the week put the Avalanche in a tie with the Wild for a wild-card playoff spot. Colorado must acquire some blue line help before the trade deadline to maintain this pace, though.

21. Pittsburgh Penguins (24-17-7, Last week: 18): Pittsburgh shut out New Jersey on Tuesday night with goals from Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby, along with a great performance from No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins have won three straight entering the break.

22. Ottawa Senators (23-21-6, Last week: 14): The Sens have lost six of their last 10 games, dropping them all the way to sixth in the Atlantic.

23. Vancouver Canucks (20-19-11, Last week: 21): Vancouver is an average, inconsistent hockey team. It ranks 24th in goals scored per game, 24th in GAA, 24th in power-play percentage and 18th in penalty killing. That’s not good enough to make the playoffs.

24. Philadelphia Flyers (20-18-8, Last week: 22): A three-game skid halted any momentum Philly had generated before the All-Star break. The Flyers now sit eight points out of a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division.

25. Winnipeg Jets (22-24-3, Last week: 25): The Jets have to make a decision on whether to re-sign or trade defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and forward Andrew Ladd. Each player becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1, and according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Winnipeg is “going to take a real run at trying to sign (Byfuglien).”

26. Calgary Flames (21-23-3, Last week: 26): Calgary has the fifth-worst record in the league, and its road woes are a major reason why.

27. Edmonton Oilers (19-26-5, Last week: 27): That sound you hear is Oilers fans’ excitement over injured center Connor McDavid being cleared for contact.

28. Toronto Maple Leafs (17-21-9, Last week: 28): Catch-up hockey is losing hockey.

29. Buffalo Sabres (20-26-4, Last week: 29): The Sabres ended a three-game skid with a 3-2 win over the Senators on Tuesday night. Robin Lehner posted a .940 save percentage against his former Ottawa teammates.

30. Columbus Blue Jackets (19-27-5, Last week: 30): It’s been a tough season in Columbus. Sometimes, laughter is the best medicine.

Thumbnail photo via Tim Fuller/USA TODAY Sports Images

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