The season is more than half over (how did that happen!), but some of the best hockey is still to come: Five more outdoor games, the Winter Olympics, and the dash for the postseason. The Ducks and Blackhawks are firmly at the top of the West, and the Penguins are in command of the East. But everything else is up for grabs — especially in the Eastern Conference, where there seems to be a shitf in the playoff picture every day.
Check out this week's NHL Power Rankings and tell us in the comments section where you think your team should be ranked!
1. Anaheim Ducks (37-98-5, Last Week: 1)
The Ducks stumbled against Chicago last week, but bounced back with a big win against St. Louis. And before the loss to the Hawks, Anaheim blew out the Canucks 9-1. This is just a really good, really nasty team. But there's a potential trap ahead: Anaheim meets the Kings for an outdoor game in LA on Saturday. It's supposed to be 79 degrees that day, and unless the ice is perfectly maintained the game could become an injury-fest.
2. Chicago Blackhawks (32-8-11, Last Week: 4)
The defending champs have a tough road ahead to win back-to-back Cups, especially with Anaheim playing insanely good hockey. But in a head-to-head matchup, the Blackhawks showed they're still a dangerous team. Friday's victory against the Ducks was a statement win — and it reminded the NHL that you ignore Chicago at your own peril.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (34-13-2, Last Week: 3)
Pittsburgh had won 13 straight at home before losing to the Panthers 5-1. It's a tough way for a record-tying streak to end, but it's not the end of the world for the Pens. This is the best team in the Eastern Conference, and tasting defeat will help it hone its killer instinct as it heads toward the playoffs. Also: Superstar Sidney Crosby was named captain of the Canadian Olympic team. How will that honor boost Pittsburgh's locker room?
4. St. Louis Blues (33-10-5, Last Week: 2)
After winning seven in a row, the Blues have gone 2-3 and have struggled against some of the best teams in the West (Ducks, Kings, Canucks). St. Louis is only four points behind Chicago in the Central race, but it needs to defeat the top-tier clubs if it wants to win the division. If they don't, the deficit between the Blues and Hawks will grow larger.
5. Colorado Avalanche (31-12-5, Last Week: 6)
After stumbling a bit, the Avalanche have put together four wins in a row and are back on track in the Central Division. Chicago and St. Louis are better teams than Colorado right now, but the Avs are only four points behind the Blues and could make a serious run at second place in the division. But even if they hold on to third, it would be huge for the development of this young team.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning (29-16-5, Last Week: 7)
The Lightning are two points behind the Bruins in the Atlantic, but Tampa Bay is arguably the better team. The Bolts have a +23 goals differential — thanks in no small part to captain Martin St. Louis, who scored a natural hat trick on Saturday — and that will only increase when Steven Stamkos returns to the team. And with goalie Ben Bishop at or near the top of all the major statistical categories, this team has a ton going for it.
7. Boston Bruins (31-15-3, Last Week: 5)
And while the Bruins aren't pushovers, they've hit a rough patch of late. Boston is beating the teams they need to, but losing to the NHL's best, including Anaheim and Chicago. If the B's hope to return to the Stanley Cup Finals, they need to regain their consistency and shut-down defense. And they need to start racking up quality Ws on a regular basis. Defeating the Kings on Monday was a good start..
8. San Jose Sharks (32-12-6, Last Week: 8)
The Sharks have won four in a row to keep pace with the Ducks, but the Ducks keep winning so San Jose remains stuck in second place in the Pacific. The team has a great divisional record at 13-3-2, but, again, so do the Ducks. As long as Anaheim keeps playing out of its mind, San Jose will never be atop the Pacific. But the Sharks could do some damage in the postseason.
9. Los Angeles Kings (29-15-6, Last Week: 9)
LA is 4-4-2 in its last eight games — not good enough in the super-competitive Pacific Division. With 64 points, the third-place Kings are 15 points out of first, which is insurmountable considering how well the Ducks are playing. The Kings are getting solid goaltending from Jonathan Quick, but they can't seem to find the net. The Kings have only scored 20 goals and are at an even goal differential in their last 10 games.
10. Toronto Maple Leafs (26-20-5, Last Week: 16)
Just last week, people around the hockey world wondered what went wrong with the Maple Leafs. Toronto was out of sorts, losing more often than winning, and rumors of a coaching change and big-time trades swirled like polar vortex winds. And then, just like that, the Leafs turned on the jets. Toronto is on a five-game winning streak, and they're blasting up the Atlantic standings. Will the real Maple Leafs please stand up?
11. New York Rangers (27-21-3, Last Week: 13)
The Rangers are in second place in the Metro Division and look to be back on track after a very rough start to the season.
12. Vancouver Canucks (25-16-9, Last Week: 10)
Vancouver is still in the playoff picture, but in a super-competitive Pacific Division the Canucks aren't keeping pace with the Ducks, Sharks, or Kings. And now coach John Tortorella is suspended 15 days after the fracas with the Flames.
13. Minnesota Wild (27-19-5, Last Week: 12)
With 59 points, the Wild have a firm grasp on one of the last two postseason spots in the West.
14. Montreal Canadiens (27-17-5, Last Week: 11)
Six of the Habs' last 12 games have gone to OT or shootouts. They're record in those games is 4-2. But if Montreal wants to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, it needs to start winning in regulation.
15. Philadelphia Flyers (25-19-6, Last Week: 12)
The Flyers are still buzzing around the top of the Metro standings, and with the team signing goalie Steve Mason to a multi-year extension things are looking good in Philadelphia.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets (24-20-4, Last Week: 18)
Columbus is in the hunt for a postseason berth. But if this season has taught us anything it's that this can be a very up and down team.
17.Phoenix Coyotes (23-17-9, Last Week: 19)
The Coyotes are playing good hockey — just not great hockey, which is what it takes to compete in the Pacific.
18. Washington Capitals (22-19-8, Last Week: 14)
After spending some time in second place in the Metro Division, the Caps have slid into the middle of the pack thanks to a rough 0-3-1 week.
19. Detroit Red Wings (21-18-10, Last Week: 17)
If the season ended today, the Red Wings wouldn't make the playoffs. That hasn't happened since 1990 — but it looks like it might happen in 2014.
20. Dallas Stars(21-20-8, Last Week: 18)
Dallas is 2-7-1 in its last 10 games and is near the bottom of the Central Division. Maybe it's time to start thinking about what the Stars will need next season.
21. Winnipeg Jets (22-23-5, Last Week: 26)
The coaching shakeup seems like it worked: The Jets are 3-0 since Paul Maurice took over behind the bench.
22. Ottawa Senators(21-19-9, Last Week: 21)
If the Senators can put a decent string of wins together, they could make a run at a low playoff seed in the East. But that might be asking too much of this team.
23. Nashville Predators (22-22-7, Last Week: 25)
Nashville and Winnipeg are pulling up the rear in the Central Division. But the Preds seem more adrift than the Jets.
24. Carolina Hurricanes(20-19-9, Last Week: 21)
No Metro team can be truly out of the playoff race. But right now Carolina is fading from the conversation.
25. New Jersey Devils (20-19-11, Last Week: 23)
Mediocre is good enough in the Metro Division this season. And that's good news for a very mediocre Devils team looking for an identity.
26. New York Islanders (20-24-7, Last Week: 24)
Whenever it seems like the Islanders are going to pull themselves out of the basement, they take another step backwards. But in the weak Metro Division, they still have a shot at the postseason.
27. Florida Panthers (19-23-7, Last Week: 27)
Florida is 12 points ahead of Buffalo at the bottom of the Atlantic standings. Not being in last place counts as some sort of victory, right?
28. Buffalo Sabres (13-27-7, Last Week: 30)
The Sabres are still a lousy team. But right now they seem more stable than the Oilers and Flames.
29. Calgary Flames (16-27-7, Last Week: 29)
The starting lineup against Vancouver on Saturday was Calgary's enforcer line. The brawl that erupted after the first puck drop was shameful.
30. Edmonton Oilers (15-30-6, Last Week: 28)
The first team to lose 30 games this season earns its place at the bottom of the rankings.
Photo: Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images