1. Chicago Blackhawks (Last Week: 3; 19-8-1, 39 points) - Chicago is tied for the league's most wins (19) and has the league's best goal differential (plus-33). For the metrics crowd, they also have the league's best Corsi percentage (55.4%). That measures the amount of shots a team attempts in comparison to its opponent to gauge puck possession. The Blackhawks' seven-game win streak isn't just a run. It's vindication for what previously was a quietly dominant start.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 2; 18-6-3, 39 points) - Pittsburgh sent out a lineup Monday night that was missing injured regulars Beau Bennett, Pascal Dupuis, Patric Hornqvist, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, and Olli Maatta. It makes me wonder: would the Penguins be better off in that situation or an alternate universe in which only Sidney Crosby was missing? Regardless, this incarnation of the Pens lost in overtime to the Rangers, 4-3.
3. Nashville Predators (LW: 5; 18-7-2, 38 points) - Pekka Rinne pitched his third shutout of the season and won his 18th game in 24 starts on Tuesday at Colorado. Rinne owns a 1.81 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage, both second in the league and the best among starting goalies.
4. St. Louis Blues (LW: 6; 18-8-2, 38 points) - St. Louis responded to back-to-back loses against Chicago and Nashville with three straight wins, including Martin Brodeur's first two victories with the team.
5. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 9; 17-6-6, 40 points) - Detroit has nine wins in its last 12 games and has taken the lead in the Atlantic Division. Coach Mike Babcock called this Red Wings team the best since the one that lost in the Cup Final in 2009.
6. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 7; 19-6-5, 43 points) - The Ducks have the NHL's most points, but lost Corey Perry for three to four weeks due to a left knee injury. It's also worth noting that despite the stellar record, Anaheim is a pedestrian plus-seven in goal differential.
7. New York Islanders (LW: 1; 19-9-0, 38 points) - The Islanders blew three-goal leads in their last two games, against the Blues and Wild, and now trail Pittsburgh in the Metropolitan Division.
8. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 4; 18-8-3, 39 points) - The Lightning have lost three of their last four, including defeats to Buffalo and Columbus.
9. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 8; 18-9-2, 38 points) - There are nine teams within five points of Anaheim's league-leading 43. The Canucks' hot start puts them in that mix.
10. Minnesota Wild (LW: 12; 15-10-1, 31 points) - Nino Niederreiter scored his 11th goal of the season to complete Minnesota's 5-4 come-from-behind win against the Islanders on Tuesday. As of Thursday, he's up to 12. Cal Clutterbuck, who Minnesota dealt to Long Island to get Niederreiter, has scored 15 times in 96 games over two seasons since the trade.
11. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 10; 18-10-2, 38 points) - This might be the only thing written in English about the present-day Habs that isn't a long-form story on P.K. Subban.
12. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 13; 14-9-5, 33 points) - The Kings dropped consecutive games to the Flyers and Sabres. That sounds pretty awful on the surface, but Los Angeles outshot the two bottom-feeders by a combined 61-28 margin. Sounds like some bad puck luck.
13. Calgary Flames (LW: 11; 17-10-2, 36 points) - The Flames are 29th in Corsi percentage (44.7%), leading many to believe they could burn out … Sorry, I had to.
14. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 15, 15-9-5, 35 points) - The Jets have picked up at least a point in seven straight games despite two roadblocks: injuries that forced the team to move Dustin Byfuglien back to defense for the last two, and Evander Kane's two-game suspension hit from behind for a hit from behind that will keep him out through Thursday.
15. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 20; 16-9-3, 35 points) - On December 11, 2013, the Leafs had 35 points and were dead set on defying the importance of possession stats. We all know how that ended, as Toronto crashed, burned, and missed the playoffs with a league-worst 42.9 Corsi percentage. This season, with five wins in its last six games, Toronto has 35 points as of Wednesday - good enough for fourth place in the Atlantic Division. But be wary of their Corsi percenrage: 46.6%, 26th in the league.
16. San Jose Sharks (LW: 18; 15-11-4, 34 points) - On one hand, the Sharks have won five of six. They'd be in position for a playoff spot if the season ended now. On the other hand, Sunday's loss gave Edmonton its first win in four weeks.
17. Washington Capitals (LW: 19; 13-10-4, 30 points) - Alexander Ovechkin snapped a four-game goalless drought when he scored twice to lead Washington to its third straight win in Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
18. Boston Bruins (LW: 14; 15-12-1, 31 points) - The Bruins lost three of four on a West Coast trip. They expect to get Zdeno Chara back Thursday for a 2013 Stanley Cup Final rematch against Chicago. Chara hasn't played since October 23 because of a torn left posterior cruciate ligament.
19. Florida Panthers (LW: 17; 11-8-7, 29 points) - Aaron Ekblad has registered a point in five straight games (three goals, four assists) and could be the first defenseman to win the Calder Trophy since Tyler Myers in 2009-10.
20. New York Rangers (LW: 16; 12-10-4, 28 points) - Kevin Klein had a part of his ear sliced off by a high stick Monday, had it sewn back on, then scored in overtime to beat Pittsburgh. "Pain is only temporary," Klein said after the game with a stream of blood on his face, fulfilling every idealistic hockey stereotype and/or making John McClane look soft.
21. Dallas Stars (LW: 22; 10-13-5, 25 points) - Dallas might have lost five of six, but Tyler Seguin now leads the league with 22 goals and 36 points.
22. Colorado Avalanche (LW: 21; 9-13-6, 24 points) - After returning for two games, Semyon Varlamov reinjured his groin and will miss a couple of weeks, according to coach Patrick Roy.
23. New Jersey Devils (LW: 25; 11-13-5, 27 points) - Jaromir Jagr had a goal and an assist Monday and passed Marcel Dionne to for fifth all-time in points with 1,770. Considering much of his career came in the dead-puck era and he spent three seasons in the KHL, Jagr's accomplishments are even more impressive than just the numbers.
24. Ottawa Senators (LW: 24; 11-11-5, 27 points) - Ottawa became the first team to fire its coach this season when it let Paul MacLean go Monday, less than two seasons after he won the Jack Adams Award. The biggest question that remains is whether MacLean's doppelganger comes in a package deal wherever he goes next.
25. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 23; 10-15-3, 23 points) - The Coyotes only have two wins in their last 10 games and are now 13th in the 14-team Western Conference.
26. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 28; 10-15-2, 22 points) - Columbus has won four straight on the back of Sergei Bobrovsky, who has a .948 save percentage in that span and stopped 52 shots in a 4-3 win in Florida last Thursday.
27. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 27; 9-13-5, 23 points) - This feels like the Bizarro Flyers - solid goaltending with weaknesses everywhere else. Steve Mason owns a .917 save percentage for one of the four teams without 10 wins.
28. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 26; 8-16-3, 19 points) - The Hurricanes are another that haven't hit double figures. Carolina has lost four of five and has seven goals in that span.
29. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 29; 7-17-5, 19 points) - The Oilers are one of six different teams that have won the West since the 2004-05 lockout. The other five teams (Anaheim, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Vancouver) have at least 33 points this year and three lead a division. Edmonton has lost 13 of 14 games and is tied for the fewest points in the league.