Go to the head of the class and collect your gold star if you predicted at the beginning of this season that Rick Nash would be returning to Columbus as an All-Star Game selection.
Nash is going, which he should, and Henrik Lundqvist is not. No matter, the Rangers don’t mind. They swept California for the first time since it became a three-game road trip and have won 13 of their past 14, outscoring their opponents by a 51-22 margin.
For that reason, the Rangers find themselves atop the thn.com Power Rankings for the first time this season. (The last rankings, which were done Dec. 22, are in parentheses.)
1. N.Y. RANGERS (5): The Rangers are the only team in the NHL that has not lost yet in 2015 and the way they’ve been playing, it might be 2016 before they lose again. They’ve lost just one of their past 14. Coming up: A huge home game against the Islanders tomorrow, then three on the road.
2. ST. LOUIS (15): Only two NHL teams have scored more goals than the Blues have this season – Tampa Bay and Toronto. The Blues have scored 24 regulation-time goals in their past four games. Coming up: The next five straight at home, where the Blues are 15-4-1 this season.
3. NASHVILLE (6): The Predators don’t have a regulation loss in 2015 and halfway through the season, the Predators have a leading contender for four trophies - Calder (Filip Forsberg), Norris (Shea Weber), Vezina (Pekka Rinne) and Adams (Peter Laviolette). Two home games to start the week, then four of their next five on the road.
4. BOSTON (14): The Bruins have a 7-2-3 record since Dec. 17, which was basically the first game in which both Zdeno Chara and David Krejci were in the lineup in almost two months. Coming up: Three games against Eastern Conference opponents at home.
5. TAMPA BAY (21): The Bolts blueline corps took an enormous hit when it was learned that Radko Gudas will miss the rest of the regular season with a knee injury, but they’ve been 4-0-1 in his absence. Coming up: A stretch of six of seven on the road ends with games in Philadelphia and Boston. Then five of the following six are at home.
6. WASHINGTON (7): The Capitals haven’t lost in regulation in 2015 and have done so only once in their past 17 games. Goalie Braden Holtby made his 18th straight start and his 24th consecutive appearance in a 3-1 win over Detroit on the weekend. Coming up: Colorado and Philadelphia at home, before Barry Trotz makes what will undoubtedly be an emotional return to Nashville Friday night.
7. ANAHEIM (22): The Ducks salvaged Teemu Selanne Night on Sunday, overcoming a two-goal deficit to beat Winnipeg 5-4 in a shootout Sunday night for their second shootout win in three games. Coming up: Home games against Toronto and New Jersey, then a quick trip to Los Angeles.
8. N.Y. ISLANDERS (2): One sign of a truly contending team is its ability to pull itself out of a funk and the Islanders have done a good job at that a couple of times this season, most recently with back-to-back victories after losing two on the road. Coming up: Another “road” game tonight against the Rangers, then the next 10 straight against Eastern Conference opponents.
9. CHICAGO (1): The Blackhawks have been on a ‘win-one, lose-one’ pattern since the beginning of 2015 and the nadir of their season came in a 5-2 loss to Edmonton Friday night. Coming up: Home games against Winnipeg, Dallas and Arizona, then the seven straight on the road.
10. PITTSBURGH (4): It’s hard to believe the Penguins power play could struggle with the kind of personnel they can throw out there, but their overtime power play goal in a 2-1 win over Montreal Saturday was their first in seven games. Coming up: Two home games sandwiched around their last-ever visit to Nassau Coliseum.
11. MONTREAL (11): The Canadiens power play is historically bad this season, particularly on the road where they’re scoring on just 8.6 percent of their opportunities. Coming up: Back-to-back road games in Columbus and Ottawa before playing seven of their following eight at the Bell Centre.
12. FLORIDA (20): Perhaps they just like playing in front of big crowds, but the Panthers are a force to be reckoned with when they play on the road. They’re 10-6-6 away from the BB&T Center and have won four of their past five on the road. Coming up: They’ll try to sweep western Canada in Winnipeg tomorrow night before playing their next five at home.
13. DETROIT (17): Goalie Jimmy Howard was rewarded for his bounce-back season by being named to the All-Star Game, but chances are he’ll have to miss it after suffering a groin injury in Detroit’s 3-1 loss to Washington Saturday. Coming up: A six-game road trips ends with games in Buffalo and St. Louis, then it’s home for the next three.
14. COLORADO (16): With five wins in their past six games, the Avs have almost certainly waited too long to salvage a playoff spot this season. Goalie Semyon Varlamov is 6-2-0 since returning from a lingering groin injury. Coming up: The Avs hit the road for five straight, four of them against Eastern Conference teams.
15. WINNIPEG (10): The Jets are finally getting healthy again after going much of the past month without four of their top six defensemen and Evander Kane. They won in a shootout after blowing a lead in Los Angeles Saturday, then lost in a shootout after blowing a lead in Anaheim two nights later. Coming up: A short trip home for a game against Florida tomorrow night, then the next two on the road.
16. TORONTO (29): The Leafs endured one of their more tumultuous weeks of the season, and that’s saying something for this team, before picking up a much-needed win over Columbus. Coming up: Six of their next seven on the road, which could be a make-or-break considering the Leafs are 7-8-3 away from the Air Canada Centre.
17. CALGARY (30): After missing 29 games with an abdominal injury, Mikael Backlund has three goals and five points in three games, including the only goal in a 1-0 win over Vancouver Saturday night. Coming up: Four straight on the road, including all three California teams.
18. VANCOUVER (19): The Canucks managed to score only one goal in 120 minutes against Florida and Calgary on home ice. Coming up: The Canucks are embarking on a five-game road trip, which isn't a bad thing considering they’re 12-6-2 away from Rogers Arena.
19. SAN JOSE (3): Sharks veteran Patrick Marleau recently sold his home for $4.1 million, so does he figure he’s going to be traded? Not exactly. He moved into a home that was custom built for him, which means he’ll probably get traded. Coming up: On the road in Arizona tomorrow night then the next seven at home
20. LOS ANGELES (8): The Kings will be without two of their more productive players for an extended period of time, with Tyler Toffoli being diagnosed with mononucleosis and Tanner Pearson suffering a fractured fibula. Coming up: Four straight at home this week, starting tonight against Toronto.
21. OTTAWA (23): Senators GM Bryan Murray is reportedly looking for a top-six forward, but isn’t likely to find it in Todd Bertuzzi, who signed a tryout contract with their minor league team last week. Coming up: The Senators end a four-game road trip when they visit Jason Spezza for the first time tomorrow night.
22. DALLAS (9): After an encouraging stretch in which they won eight of nine, the Stars have fallen back into the pack with four straight losses. Goaltending has been a huge letdown for them. Coming up: Jason Spezza faces his Ottawa teammates for the first time tomorrow night in the first of a three-game home stand.
23. COLUMBUS (13): Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky responded to a four-year contract extension worth $29.7 million by allowing nine goals on 71 shots (.873 save percentage) in back-to-back losses to Toronto and the Islanders. Coming up: Home to Montreal and the Rangers, then the next three on the road.
24. ARIZONA (26): When the Coyotes blow up, they blow up real good. In their past four losses, they’ve given up a total of 24 goals. One reason? They’re 6-for-12 on the penalty kill in their past three losses. Coming up: Home to San Jose and Calgary, then the next eight straight on the road.
25. CAROLINA (24): The Hurricanes are a respectable 3-1-1 to start 2015, with their only regulation loss coming in a 3-2 setback to Nashville, one of the top teams in the league. Coming up: Home games against Colorado and Vancouver. The Hurricanes are a respectable 9-8-2 at home.
26. PHILADELPHIA (12): The Flyers continue to waste superb seasons from both Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux, who sit first and fifth in NHL scoring, respectively. Coming up: Home to Tampa Bay tonight, then back-to-back in Washington and at home to Vancouver Wednesday and Thursday night.
27. NEW JERSEY (28):Patrik Elias was chosen to go to the All-Star Game, but he made no secret of his opinion that nobody on the Devils deserved to be chosen. And he’s right. Coming up: A three-game road trip through California begins Wednesday night.
28. EDMONTON (25): The Oilers are actually 2-2-1 in 2015 and have 5-2 wins over the Islanders and Chicago. They’re 3-2-2 since the disastrous streak in which they won just one of 21 games. Coming up: A four-game road trip, with three of the games against Eastern Conference teams.
29. MINNESOTA (18): After and expletive-laced diatribe that had the television beeping device working overtime, Mike Yeo stormed off the ice during practice. He’s probably wanted to do the same during the games lately. Coming up: On the road for their next two and six of their next eight.
30. BUFFALO (27): There was a time when the Sabres were actually within shouting distance of the playoffs, but with their team losing seven straight, their fans will be pleased to know they’re right back in the thick of the Connor McDavid Sweepstakes. Coming up: Three at home, then a five games on the road, where they have two wins this season.