When your trusty correspondent informed Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland at the team’s rookie tournament in Traverse City in September that The Hockey News had picked his team to miss the playoffs, Holland was incredulous.
He spent much of the next two days making a case for his Red Wings, saying that if Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg could stay healthy and their goaltending could improve, they could surprise some people.
Well, there’s surprising people, then there’s knocking their socks off. The Red Wings are near the top of the league in the NHL standings and, for this week at least, at the top of thn.com’s weekly Power Rankings. (Last week’s ranking in parentheses.)
1. DETROIT (4): Third-string goalie Petr Mrazek had his shutout streak ended at 132:42 when he allowed one late in the third period of a 3-1 win over Arizona Saturday, which marked the Red Wings third straight win and ninth in their past 10. Coming up: If the Wings can get through a stretch in which they play seven of their next nine on the road, they should be fine.
2. NASHVILLE (3): After getting some of the kinks out in a loss to Anaheim in his first game back from a knee injury, goalie Pekka Rinne looked more like his brilliant self in a 3-2 overtime win over the Rangers Saturday afternoon. Coming up: The Preds take a 21-3-1 record at Bridgestone Arena into a four-game homestand.
3. MONTREAL (5): With 34 saves over Boston in a 3-1 win Sunday night, Carey Price helped the Canadiens sweep the Bruins this season and moved into a tie for fourth place with Bill Durnan in all-time franchise wins with 208. Can he catch Jacques Plante at 314? Coming up: Three games at home against non-playoff teams Philadelphia, Edmonton and Toronto.
4. MINNESOTA (17): The Wild dug itself into such a hole that even a five-game winning streak hasn’t been enough to get back into a playoff spot. But with four shutouts in nine starts and three in his past four, perhaps Devan Dubnyk can lead the way. Coming up: Three of the next four at home, with the road game just a puddle jump away in Winnipeg.
5. TAMPA BAY (2): With key defensemen Radko Gudas, Matt Carle and now Jason Garrison out with injuries, calls for the Lightning to acquire an NHL-caliber defenseman before the trade deadline will grow louder. Coming up: The Lightning spend most of the remainder of the month on the road, with seven of their next nine away from the Amalie Arena.
6. ANAHEIM (6): The Ducks appear to have jumped to the front of the queue in the Tyler Myers Sweepstakes. The Ducks need a right-hand shot defenseman and covet Myers, with Cody Franson being a possible consolation prize. Coming up: The Ducks end a five-game road trip with games in Florida and Carolina.
7. CHICAGO (9): After nearly three weeks on the road and demoralizing losses to San Jose and Minnesota in which they failed to score a goal, the Blackhawks salvaged their trip with wins over Central Division rivals Winnipeg and St. Louis. Coming up: After a seven-game road trip wrapped around the all-star break, the Blackhawks are now home for eight straight.
8. ST. LOUIS (1): After a run of 12-0-1, the Blues landed with a thud, getting outscored 11-3 in back-to-back losses to Columbus and Chicago. Vladimir Tarasenko continues his red-hot pace with four goals in the past five games. Coming up: The Blues will try to get back on track with a home game against Arizona Tuesday before a two-gamer through Florida.
9. N.Y. ISLANDERS (11): There was a joke going around that the Islanders might not allow Mikhail Grabovski’s father go back home. He has been the Islanders best player in the past three games, coinciding with his father’s visit. Coming up: After some uneven play, the Islanders have an opportunity to gather some steam with home games against Edmonton, Toronto and Columbus.
10. CALGARY (15): The Flames are embarking on the annual Dads’ Trip, but there is a lot more at stake for them than male bonding on their two-game trip through California. A couple of wins would help cement a playoff spot. Coming up: Games in San Jose and Los Angeles, followed by four straight at home.
11. WASHINGTON (16): With the exception of a 3-1 loss to Philadelphia Sunday, the Capitals have been firing on all cylinders lately. Leading the way: none other than Alex Ovechkin with 11 goals in his past 11 games. Coming up: A huge three-game road trip through California, followed by another road game against Pittsburgh.
12. VANCOUVER (20): The Canucks may have put forth their best all-round performance of the season in a 5-0 win over Pittsburgh Saturday night. More will be necessary as the season enters its dog days. Coming up: A busy remainder of the month with 10 games in just 18 days, with eight of them coming on the road.
13. PITTSBURGH (12): Given how Jim Rutherford operates, expect the Penguins to be an active player leading up to the trade deadline. They could use help on defense and in their bottom-six and Rutherford has never been shy about making big deals. Coming up: A home game against the surprising Red Wings, then two on the road in Ottawa and Chicago.
14. BOSTON (8): The Bruins are having some major problems against their nemesis. A 3-1 loss to Montreal Sunday night dropped the Bruins to 0-4-0 against the Canadiens this season, 1-8-2 in their past 11. Carey Price is 21-8-3 against the Bruins in his career. Coming up: Home to Dallas and Tyler Seguin, then six of their next seven on the road.
15. N.Y. RANGERS (10): Rangers coach Alain Vigneault kept his top line of Derek Stepan between Rick Nash and Martin St-Louis on the bench for significant stretches of a 3-2 overtime loss to Dallas Sunday. Coming up: Four straight on the road, starting with Toronto Tuesday night.
16. PHILADELPHIA (13): After abruptly leaving the Flyers 3-1 win over Washington Sunday afternoon with a shutout still intact, goalie Steve Mason went back to Philadelphia for further examination. Coming up: On the road in Montreal, then home-and-home against Buffalo and Columbus.
17. SAN JOSE (7): What to make of this team? It closes out January playing some of its best hockey of the season, then opens February with three losses in four games, including defeats to Edmonton and Carolina. Coming up: Two at home to Calgary and Washington, then on the road in Arizona.
18. WINNIPEG (21): The Jets have gone through a tumultuous time with the Evander Kane circus, but have still managed to pick up points. They’re undefeated in regulation in their past three games, all of which have been played without Kane. Coming up: Home to Minnesota Tuesday night, then four of the next five on the road.
19. COLUMBUS (27): Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but defenseman Ryan Murray is hurt again. He suffered a high ankle sprain Friday night and is expected to be out four-to-six weeks. Coming up: Home to Los Angeles for Scott Hartnell’s 1000th career game tonight, another at home and five on the road.
20. FLORIDA (28): Chalk it up to growing pains. The Panthers went into Saturday’s third period against Nashville with a 2-0 lead, but blew the cushion and lost in a shootout. But they have points in each of their past three. Coming up: Home to Anaheim Tuesday, then seven of their next eight on the road.
21. LOS ANGELES (19): Already short staffed on defense, the Kings lost defenseman Alec Martinez day-to-day with concussion-like symptoms in a 4-2 win over Tampa Bay on the weekend. Coming up: A five-game road trip wraps up tonight in Columbus, then the Kings are home for their next four.
22. DALLAS (14): Losing to Buffalo can put a damper on any road trip, but the Stars rebounded nicely from their loss to the Sabres Friday night with a 3-2 overtime win over the Rangers the next night. Coming up: The three-game road trip wraps up in Boston Tuesday night when Tyler Seguin returns to his old stomping grounds in Boston.
23. CAROLINA (23): With all the talk of tanking going on among the bottom feeders, the Hurricanes obviously are not listening. They’ve gone 9-3-3 since the calendar turned to 2015. Coming up: At home to Anaheim, then back on the road in Minnesota and Ottawa.
24. COLORADO (18): After making a spirited run for a playoff spot, the Avs have lost their past three and were held scoreless in two of the three losses. Big decisions to make leading up to the trade deadline. Coming up: Four games at home, where the Avs are just 13-10-3 this season.
25. NEW JERSEY (22): With three weeks left to the trade deadline, Jaromir Jagr said he would not ask for a trade, but would accept one. “If it’s good for the team, I’m gone,” Jagr told Rich Chere of NJ Advance Media. “If they feel they’ve got a good offer, they’ll trade me. I don’t have to ask.” Let the speculation begin. Coming up: Home to Edmonton tonight, then on the road to Chicago and Nashville.
26. TORONTO (29): After enduring the worst losing streak in franchise history, the Leafs finally got a win over Edmonton Saturday night. There was little rejoicing. Coming up: Home to the Rangers, then on the Leafs make their last-ever visit to Long Island Thursday night before an always electric atmosphere in Montreal Saturday.
27. EDMONTON (26): The Oilers have played much better under Todd Nelson, but scored just one goal in two games in consecutive losses to Pittsburgh and Toronto. Coming up: The next five in a row on the road, with four of them coming against Eastern Conference opponents. The Oilers are a respectable 10-9-1 vs. the east this season.
28. ARIZONA (24): Since being embarrassed by Chicago in a 6-1 loss prior to the all-star break, the Coyotes are a far more respectable 3-2-2 since then. But it is far too late now. Coming up: On the road for two difficult tests against Chicago and St. Louis. Then two tough ones at home against San Jose and the Rangers.
29. OTTAWA (23): After exploding for seven goals against Arizona last weekend, the Senators scored just three in consecutive losses to New Jersey, Washington and Columbus. Two of those games were on home ice. Coming up: On the road to Buffalo Tuesday night, then a five-game home stand.
30. BUFFALO (30): Pretty tough to win games when you register only 10 shots on goal, but the Sabres almost managed to do that in a 3-2 loss to the Islanders Sunday. Coming up: Home to Ottawa and Philadelphia, then on the road to New Jersey and Philadelphia.