NHL Power Rankings: Last year's champs back on top

Flyers goalie Ray Emery. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

Claude Giroux scored! Now the hockey world can go back to normal.

Let's get right to the rankings:

1. Chicago Blackhawks (12-2-4)

Last year’s Stanley Cup champs are back atop the power rankings for the first time this year. Their resume thus far has been impressive, as the Hawks have yet to lose a game in regulation since October 26. Let’s see how they defend their home ice in a big top-five matchup against Phoenix on Thursday.

2. Colorado Avalanche (14-3-0)

Anyone could have guessed that the Avs were going to lose an away game at some point this season. What wasn’t so easy to predict was that it would be at the hands of the Hurricanes. Still, they’re tied with Chicago atop the Central Division and Matt Duchene looks like a top-ten player in the league at just 22 years old.

3. Anaheim Ducks (15-4-1)

I really wanted to give the Ducks the top spot. I really did. But they went down in flames on Tuesday, dropping a bad one to the Panthers. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and blame it on the cross-country flight.

4. St. Louis Blues (11-2-3)

Nobody knows how long Alex Steen's stretch of dominance will last, but it's been a heck of a run so far. The 29 year-old winger is tied with the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos for the league lead in goals and trails only Stamkos and Sidney Crosby by one in the point column.

5. Phoenix Coyotes (13-4-2)

Maybe hockey can be played in the desert after all. A huge overtime win over St. Louis should give the 'Yotes confidence that they can hang with the league’s elite. Shane Doan is still getting it done at 37 years old, leading the team with eight goals.

6. Minnesota Wild (11-4-4)

Just how good is the top of the Central Division? The Wild are sixth in the power rankings and FOURTH in their division. Little-known Josh Harding is well on his way to becoming a household name, leading the league in GAA at 1.22.

7. San Jose Sharks (11-2-5)

November hasn’t been too kind to the Sharks, which is difficult to comprehend considering they only have two regulation losses in 18 games. Still, San Jose is only 1-1-3 on the month after going 10-1-2 in October.

8. Boston Bruins (11-5-1)

“Two U’s, Two K’s, Two Points!” Tuukka Rask has been huge for the B’s of late, leading the league in save percentage and shutouts. Zdeno Chara has had a relatively quiet year thus far, scoring just three goals and totaling six points.

9. Tampa Bay Lightning (13-5-0)

Poor Tampa. Just as the Bolts were putting together a strong case to be considered the best in the Eastern Conference, Steven Stamkos suffered a horrific leg injury that required surgery and will keep him out indefinitely. Hard to believe they can keep their hot start up without him.

10. Pittsburgh Penguins (11-7-0)

It’s been a quiet week for the Penguins, who did't play since Saturday. The layoff could have affected Sidney Crosby and Co. as the Pens only tallied one goal on the Flyers and Ray Emery in a 2-1 loss Wednesday.

11. Toronto Maple Leafs (11-6-1)

How long will the platoon in net last? It’s tough to say when both Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer are both playing at a starter’s level. Bernier is 7-4 with a 2.17 GAA and .936 save percentage while Reimer has been just as good, posting a 2.30 GAA and .942 save percentage during his 4-2-0 reign in net.

12. Los Angeles Kings (11-6-1)

The Kings have finally found their groove over their past eight games, going 5-2-1 over that stretch. The shootout loss to Buffalo was hard to swallow as the Kings outshot the Sabres 45-17 over 65 minutes of action, made even more difficult by losing Jonathan Quick to an injury in overtime.

13. Washington Capitals (10-8-1)

All is right in Washington at the moment as Alex Ovechkin leads the league in goals and the Caps finally have a winning record. Interestingly, the Caps are 4-0-0 against the Eastern Conference in November but just 1-1-1 against the Western Conference.

14. Vancouver Canucks (11-7-2)

Henrik and Daniel Sedin, fresh off of signing matching four-year, $28 million contacts, are proving they’re worth every penny. The sibling duo has combined for 37 points this year and Henrik’s 17 assists are tops in the league.

15. Detroit Red Wings (9-5-4)

Pavel Datsyuk may not actually lead the league in any statistic but wow, what a talent. The 35-year-old still has the best hands in the game and proves it on a nightly basis with his creativity and vision. Ageless wonder Daniel Alfredsson is also doing his part, chipping in 14 points.

16. Montreal Canadiens (9-8-2)

The Habs are a middle-of-the-road team, but just imagine how much they’d be struggling if it wasn’t for their special teams play. They rank sixth in the league in penalty-killing, while sitting third in power-play percentage. Get P.K. Subban some help up north!

17. New Jersey Devils (6-7-5)

Just as everyone wrote them off, the Devils are playing some of the best hockey in the league. They’re 3-0-1 over their last four, including two shutouts (one of which was a 5-0 drubbing of Nashville). One 41-year-old, Jaromir Jagr, is leading the team in scoring while another 41-year-old, Martin Brodeur, is standing on his head in net of late.

18. New York Rangers (9-9-0)

They’re 9-9-0 overall and 7-3-0 over their last ten, but I just can’t rank them above New Jersey after the Devils went into MSG and beat the Blueshirts, 3-2. Captain Ryan Callahan might not be a monster on the stats sheet, but his heart and leadership is invaluable to the Rangers.

19. Carolina Hurricanes (7-7-4)

The 'Canes owe an awful lot to their defense for staying in the playoff hunt thus far. Over the past four games, Carolina has yet to score more than two goals, yet still found a way to go 3-0-1 over that span. Tuesday’s win over Colorado was an enormous win and should motivate them moving forward.

20. Winnipeg Jets (9-9-2)

Just as I was about to call for Claude Noel’s head, the Jets find themselves on a nice three-game winning streak to catapult themselves back to .500. Only problem for Winnipeg is their division. 90 points likely won’t be enough to get a playoff spot in the competitive Western Conference.

21. Nashville Predators (8-8-2)

Pretty rough November for Seth Jones, as his plus-minus has dropped from even to -6 and he’s only registered one assist. The team’s fall has been similar, as the Preds have dropped three straight and five of their last seven.

22. Dallas Stars (9-7-2)

Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are studs, but what in the world has happened to Erik Cole. The left winger has just five points in 17 games and his -11 rating is four worse than anyone else on the roster. Kari Lehtonen is a brick wall in net, giving up just 2.18 goals per game.

23. New York Islanders (7-9-3)

I LOVE this young core the Islanders have put together. It might not make them winners this year, but moving forward with John Tavares, Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Thomas Vanek (if they can re-sign him) would make the Isles one of the most electrifying offenses in the league for years to come.

24. Philadelphia Flyers (7-10-1)

I still think what Ray Emery did was stupid, but I can’t help but believe it has motivated the Flyers. Since the incident, the Flyers are 4-1-1 and have put up 11 goals over their past three games. Steve Mason is clearly the number one guy in net.

25. Ottawa Senators (7-7-4)

Eighteen points in 18 games, but how do you lose 5-0 at home to the Flyers? Just a miserable loss that proves how inconsistent Ottawa is. Bobby Ryan (19 points) has been a bright spot for the Sens, but Craig Anderson simply can’t duplicate what he did last year.

26. Columbus Blue Jackets (6-10-1)

Well, at least they finally snapped that five-game losing streak. Still, the Blue Jackets are clearly the least-talented team in the Metropolitan Division. On the bright side, Columbus fans can watch real talent when the city hosts next year’s All-Star Game?

27. Calgary Flames (6-9-3)

When only one skater has more than 12 points and none of your goalies have a save percentage better than .900, it’s probably not going to be a good season. The Flames aren’t as bad as the bottom three, but they aren’t much better, either.

28. Florida Panthers (4-11-4)

With Kevin Dineen out and Peter Horachek in as head coach, the Panthers casually ended their nine-game skid by beating the NHL’s hottest team, the Ducks, 3-2. Unfortunately, they’re the only team in the league without multiple wins on the road (1-7-1).

29. Buffalo Sabres (4-15-1)

The Sabres are bad, but everyone expected them to be. After a win on Tuesday, they have a chance to do the impossible on Friday by winning back-to-back games. That’s highly unlikely though, as Buffalo seems to have set their wins per month limit to two.

30. Edmonton Oilers (4-14-2)

Just spare us all and trade Nail Yakupov already. The whole situation has become such a mess that it seems impossible to get it straightened out in a timely manner. Teams like the Rangers could use him, so why not get value for him while you still can?