NHL Power Rankings For December 21

For the fourth time this year in these power rankings, a new team has claimed the top spot. The Washington Capitals have been on an absolute tear and have supplanted the Dallas Stars as the best team in the NHL. The Blackhawks, Bruins, and Avalanche all made sigificant gains in the polls this week, while the Penguins, Oilers, and Islanders all took a few steps back. Below are your power rankings for the Week of December 21 and, as always, feel free to make your voice heard in the comments section.

1. Washington Capitals (24-6-2) - Last Week: 2

Our nation's Capital has a game in hand over last week's No. 1 Stars, so D.C. gets the nod this week. The Caps have won eight of their last 10 and five in a row while Braden Holtby continues to shine under a heavy workload. The offense has gotten hot, too, as the Caps have outscored their opposition 20-11 during the current winning streak.

2. Dallas Stars (24-7-2) - Last Week: 1

Make no mistake, the Stars are still possibly the best team in hockey. They certainly have the best offense (they've scored 10 more goals than the next closest team, the Bruins) and Jamie Benn leads the league in scoring with 22 goals. He and Tyler Seguin are also tied for second in points with 44.

3. Boston Bruins (19-9-4) - Last Week: 11

Remember the gloom-and-doom start to Boston's season, and claims from fans and media that it was going to be a long year? Well the Bruins sure don't. They've picked up points in nine of their last 10 games and won three-straight. Patrice Bergeron's 16 power play points are second-best in the league and the NHL's top power play unit is converting 28.9 percent of its man advantages. Tuukka Rask is also looking more like the Vezina winner of old after winning his last five starts. He has allowed just four goals in that span to go along with two shutouts.

4. St Louis Blues (20-10-4) - Last Week: 9

Vladimir Tarasenko has goals in seven of his last eight contests and the Blues have won three in a row, but the depth players need to pick it up. The 18th ranked offense is is only scoring 2.53 goals per game and though injuries have plagued the Notes so far this year, the lower lines need to pick up the scoring.

5. Chicago Blackhawks (20-11-4) - Last Week: 7

Patty Kane's impressive point streak may be over, but the Blackhawks are still among the hottest teams in the league as they've won seven of their previous nine contests. Corey Crawford has three shutouts in his last six games and has only registered a save percentage below the league average of .916 just once in the month of December.

6. Montreal Canadiens (20-11-3) - Last Week: 3

The Habs are in a serious slump. Victorious in just one of their last eight contests, it would be easy to blame the surrogate goaltending in Carey Price's absence, but the offense has been the real culprit here; they've scored more than two goals just one time in the December.

7. Los Angeles Kings (20-10-2) - Last Week: 4

The Kings have lost three of their last four and are coming off of a 5-0 blanking by the lowly Maple Leafs in backup goaltender Jhonas Enroth's first real stumble of the season. The goalies have been great so far, though, as both sport goals-against averages below 2.20 on he season.

8. Minnesota Wild (17-8-6) - Last Week: 10

The Wild have claimed points in nine of their last 10 games to move up to fifth in the Western Conference. Despite a bottom-third penalty kill of 77.9 percent the Wild have actually allowed the third-fewest goals this season.

9. Detroit Red Wings (17-9-7) - Last Week: 8

Losers of just one regulation game in their past 10, Detroit has fallen just shy of shooting up in the rankings. Though their last three losses have come to the Devils, Sabres, and Flames, the Red Wings will have a mild rest of December in which to refind their winning ways.

10. New York Rangers (19-12-4) - Last Week: 6

The struggle is real for the New York Rangers. They've surrendered five or more goals in five of their last six contests. Henrik Lundqvist has stopped 90 percent of shots he's faced just once in his last five appearances. The King, and the Rangers in general, have to be better.

11. New York Islanders (18-11-5) - Last Week: 5

Three-straight losses to the Panthers, Avalanche, and Coyotes have the Isles reeling. Their next five games will come against teams with losing records, though, so they've got a good shot to get back on track before the start of the new year.

12. Florida Panthers (18-12-4) - Last Week: 16

Don't look now, but the Panthers have won four in a row, and I will continue to link Barkov's shootout goals because this kid has some of the sauciest paws around.

13. Nashville Predators (16-11-6) - Last Week: 13

After a hot start, Nashville has been stuck in neutral for most of the season. Pekka Rinne continues to struggle and until he finds his game between the pipes, Nashville isn't going anywhere.

14. Ottawa Senators (17-12-5) - Last Week: 12

The Sens have traded wins and losses for the duration of December, and close out 2015 against the Panthers, Devils, and Bruins twice.

15. Colorado Avalanche (17-16-1) - Last Week: 24

Where did these guys come from? The seventh-ranked offense has honed its scoring touch as of late with five-straight wins, but it's the defensive zone where the biggest changes have been coming from; Colorado has allowed more than two goals just twice in its last 10 contests. Patrick Roy reaffirmed his faith in Semyon Varlamov, and has been rewarded with six-straight wins and a save percentage of .950 or higher in each of those starts.

16. Tampa Bay Lightning (17-14-3) - Last Week: 17

Things are slowly getting better in Tampa. The only three losses the Lightning have suffered in December have come against the Capitals and Kings, and they're trending up while hanging just outside the last playoff spot.

17. New Jersey Devils (16-14-5) - Last Week: 14

Cory Schneider continues to be a beacon of hope in New Jersey, but his recent struggles in games against the Islanders and Panthers prove just how desperately the inept Devils offense needs him to carry the lion's share of the workload.

18. Philadelphia Flyers (14-12-7) - Last Week: 23

Even with two losses to the Blue Jackets in December, the Flyers are showing signs of life. Steve Mason picked up his second shutout of the year on Thursday, and Wayne Simmonds continues to rack up penalty minutes and points alike.

19. San Jose Sharks (16-15-2) - Last Week: 19

The Sharks maintain some of the more impressive special teams in the league, but they've struggled recently in five-on-five. Marin Jones needs to be a more consistent presence in net - a .889 save percentage over his last six starts is unsightly.

20. Pittsburgh Penguins (15-14-3) - Last Week: 15

It's quickly becoming apparent that Mike Johnston was not the problem in Pittsburgh. The Pens are still winless under new head coach Mike Sullivan and have scored three or more goals just twice in December.

21. Vancouver Canucks (12-14-9) - Last Week: 22

The Canucks have won just three games this month, though they have stolen a number of points by forcing games into overtime. Until the goaltending situation becomes more stable, the Canucks are a non-factor.

22. Winnipeg Jets (15-15-2) - Last Week: 18

Paul Maurice is finally taking measures to shore up some discipline issues that have been dogging the Jets all year now, but the Jets still have a ways to go in a multitude of facets. At least Connor Hellebuyck has been as advertised since being brought up from the minors with five wins in seven appearances.

23. Arizona Coyotes (15-15-2) - Last Week: 21

The Desert Dogs have dropped seven of their last 10. They've also put leading All-Star voter John Scott on waivers for the third time this year. No matter what happens with the newest development in this saga, we're just two weeks away from actually seeing him in the All Star Game, which would be glorious.

24. Calgary Flames (15-16-2) - Last Week: 27

Sean Monahan finally came alive in December to pot 10 points in nine games thus far. Johnny Gadreau has been equally as hot, but all is not well in Calgary - the Flames are dead last in both power play and penalty kill conversions.

25. Buffalo Sabres (14-16-4) - Last Week: 25

The Sabres are hanging in there. They shut out the Ducks and lost to the Blackhawks in a shootout in their most recent outings, but games against the Bruins, Islanders, and Capitals twice to close out the month will be a challenge.

26. Carolina Hurricanes (13-15-5) - Last Week: 26

Carolina has won five of its last eight contests and played the Stars, Flyers, and Panthers close in those three losses, so it's not all bad in Raleigh. The Canes would like to see more consistent play out of goaltending tandem Cam Ward and Eddie Lack, though.

27. Edmonton Oilers (14-18-2) - Last Week: 20

And they were playing so well, too. The Oilers have dropped three-straight by a combined score of 13-3.

28. Toronto Maple Leafs (11-13-7) - Last Week: 29

After a shaky return to the NHL, Jonathan Bernier finally got that ellusive first win, in shutout fashion against the Kings, no less.A return to form for Bernier would mean an interesting goalie stable in Toronto,

29. Anaheim Ducks (12-14-5) - Last Week: 28

The Ducks have been all over the board as they have neared the short holiday break, but John Gibson has been a calming presence for an otherwise erratic squad.

30. Columbus Blue Jackets (13-19-3) - Last Week: 30

Another week, another slate of Blue Jackets disappointments. At least Joonas Korpisalo looked great in his first NHL win.

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