NHL Power Rankings 2015-16: Panthers Surging With 10-Game Win Streak

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Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo

Photo via Dec 22, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo (1) makes a save in the first period of a game against the Ottawa Senators at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Panthers weren’t expected to contend in the NHL’s Eastern Conference for at least another season, but it appears they are ahead of schedule.

The Panthers own the league’s longest active win streak at 10 games. It’s also the longest win streak since the 2013-14 campaign when the Boston Bruins and Anaheim Ducks both won more than 10 games in a row.

Florida has opened up a five-point lead in the Atlantic Division, and if it continues to consistently win games, we might see general manager Dale Tallon become a buyer in the trade market. He certainly has the assets, whether it’s draft picks or talented young players, to make a major deal.

Here are this week’s NHL power rankings. All records are updated as of Jan. 6.

1. Washington Capitals (29-7-3, Last week: 1): The Capitals are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games and defeated the Bruins 3-2 on Tuesday night despite Boston shutting their top line down. This team’s depth is outstanding.

2. Dallas Stars (28-10-4, Last week: 2): The Stars have lost three games in a row for the first time all season after a 6-2 defeat to the Rangers on Tuesday night. Dallas still has an eight-point lead over the Kings for the best record in the Western Conference, though.

3. Los Angeles Kings (25-12-2, Last week: 3): The Kings had their five-game win streak snapped Monday night in Colorado, but they’ve now opened a commanding 10-point lead in the Pacific Division.

4. Florida Panthers (24-12-4, Last week: 5): Jaromir Jagr has played a pivotal role in Florida’s remarkable win streak. The 43-year-old winger leads the team with 29 points and 14 goals, and he’s three goals away from tying Brett Hull for third place on the all-time list.

5. Chicago Blackhawks (24-13-4, Last week: 6): Chicago has the NHL’s second-longest active win streak at four games and has won seven of its last 10 games.

6. St. Louis Blues (23-14-5, Last week: 4): St. Louis has lost three straight games by a combined score of 10-4. They begin a three-game road trip Wednesday.

7. New York Islanders (22-13-5, Last week: 7): A 6-5 win over the Stars on Sunday proved the Islanders have the offensive firepower to make up for bad goaltending, but that kind of play isn’t sustainable. Backup goalie Thomas Greiss has an .866 save percentage in two January starts.

8. Minnesota Wild (21-11-7, Last week: 9): The Wild allowed just eight goals total over a difficult five-game stretch against quality opponents. They went 3-1-1 with wins over Detroit and St. Louis.

9. New York Rangers (22-14-4, Last week: 10): The Rangers are struggling in puck possession with the fifth-worst Corsi percentage in the league, but their offense is heating up (fourth-most goals scored per game) and Henrik Lundqvist is standing tall in net. They have a league-high PDO (save percentage plus shooting percentage) of 102.9, so it’s not a matter of if they’ll regress, but when.

10. Montreal Canadiens (22-16-3, Last week: 11): Montreal followed its convincing 5-1 win over the rival Bruins in the Winter Classic with a disappointing defeat to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night. The Habs are 2-8-0 in their last 10 games. At least Brendan Gallagher has returned from injury.

11. Detroit Red Wings (20-13-7, Last week: 13): Back-to-back wins was precisely what Detroit needed after a brutal stretch of two wins in nine games from Dec. 11 through Dec. 31.

12. Boston Bruins (20-14-4, Last week: 8): The Bruins have lost five of their last six games, and their upcoming five-game road trip couldn’t have come at a better time. Boston’s 11-3-2 road record is the best in the Eastern Conference.

13. Nashville Predators (19-14-7, Last week: 12): Nashville has lost three of its last four games and scored one goal in regulation in three of those contests. This team doesn’t have the scoring depth to overcome Pekka Rinne’s struggles in net. He has to be more consistent for this team to contend in the playoffs.

14. Ottawa Senators (19-15-6, Last week: 14): Penalty killing has become a real concern for the Senators. They rank 28th in penaly kill percentage after allowing six power-play goals in their last four games.

15. New Jersey Devils (20-15-5, Last week: 15): Devils goalie and likely Vezina Trophy finalist Cory Schneider has little room for error with his team averaging 2.3 goals scored per game, the fourth-fewest in the league.

16. Tampa Bay Lightning (19-17-4, Last week: 17): The Jonathan Drouin trade request became public after his agent Allen Walsh recently shared it with the world on Twitter. Now the Lightning must deal with another distraction involving the possibility of a highly skilled young player leaving the organization before next season.

17. Arizona Coyotes (19-16-4, Last week: 16): John Scott, a 6-foot-8 enforcer with no skill, won the All-Star Game vote. It’ll be fun watching him try to keep up with the pace of the new 3-on-3 ASG format.

18. Pittsburgh Penguins (19-15-5, Last week: 18): A home-and-home with the Blackhawks is an excellent test for Pittsburgh. The Pens played well Tuesday, but Chicago escaped Pittsburgh with a 3-2 win.

19. Winnipeg Jets (19-19-2, Last week: 22): A pair of 4-1 victories in January is an encouraging sign for a Jets team that ended 2015 on a sour note.

20. Anaheim Ducks (16-15-7, Last week: 23): Desperate times call for desperate measures. The Ducks are the lowest scoring team in the league, forcing head coach Bruce Boudreau to play the trap in recent games against the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets.

21. San Jose Sharks (18-17-2), Last week: 21): The Sharks have the fifth-worst record in the league, which is great news for the Bruins because Boston owns San Jose’s 2016 first-round draft pick.

22. Colorado Avalanche (18-17-2, Last week: 24): Colorado is making a surge up the standings with a 6-2-2 mark in their last 10 games, including a very impressive 4-1 win over the Kings on Monday night.

23. Calgary Flames (19-18-2, Last week: 25): The Flames have the worst special teams in the league. They rank 30th in both power play and penalty kill percentage.

24. Philadelphia Flyers (16-15-7, Last week: 20): The Flyers went 0-3-0 on their swing through California but returned home with an impressive win over the Canadiens on Tuesday night.

25. Vancouver Canucks (15-16-9, Last week: 19): The Canucks are a below-average team, but they’re just three points away from being in a position to host a Round 1 playoff series. That’s life in the horrendous Pacific Division.

26. Carolina Hurricanes (16-17-7, Last week: 29): If the Hurricanes could score at a more consistent rate, they wouldn’t be too bad. Carolina normally dominates puck possession and the goaltending is improving, but it ranks 26th in goals scored per game.

27. Edmonton Oilers (17-21-3, Last week: 27): The Oilers fell out of a playoff spot in the Pacific Division almost as quickly as they climbed into one. Three wins in your last 10 games will do that.

28. Toronto Maple Leafs (15-15-7, Last week: 28): The Leafs have taken points from eight of their last 10 games, but they still aren’t close to a playoff spot. The recent results are encouraging, though.

29. Buffalo Sabres (15-21-4, Last week: 26): Buffalo has lost five straight games and sits only one point above the Blue Jackets for the league’s worst record. The Sabres might as well tank and try to draft American center Auston Matthews with the No. 1 pick.

30. Columbus Blue Jackets (15-23-3, Last week: 30): Wins over Washington and Dallas were quite impressive for Columbus, but this team still is awful. At least head coach John Tortorella hasn’t called the team “embarrassing” this week.

Thumbnail photo via Robert Mayer/USA TODAY Sports Images

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