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Super 16: Plenty to play for at the holiday break

by Corey Masisak
If recent history is correct, the number of teams that can win the Stanley Cup is quite large. Expand "recent history" to the past 15 years, and it looks more like the pool of potential Cup winners is a little smaller.

Three times in the past five full seasons, the eventual NHL champion was far from the top of the League standings at the holiday break. In 2012, the Los Angeles Kings had just changed coaches when everyone scattered for a few days in late December. In 2009, the Pittsburgh Penguins were still two months from hiring Dan Bylsma to replace Michel Therrien.

The following table shows this level of parity wasn’t always so probable. Five times in the 10 season prior, the team atop the NHL standings on Christmas Day was the one that finished the season with a parade.

Season Team Dec. 25 record NHL rank
2013-14 Los Angeles Kings 25-9-4 4th
2011-12 Los Angeles Kings 16-14-5 20th
2010-11 Boston Bruins 18-11-4 15th
2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks 24-9-3 4th
2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins 18-12-4 12th
2007-08 Detroit Red Wings 26-7-3 1st
2006-07 Anaheim Ducks 27-5-6 1st
2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes 23-9-2 5th
2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning 14-11-5-1 17th
2002-03 New Jersey Devils 18-9-2-3 7th
2001-02 Detroit Red Wings 26-8-2-1 1st
2000-01 Colorado Avalanche 23-7-5-0 1st
1999-00 New Jersey Devils 19-10-3-2 6th
1998-99 Dallas Stars 20-5-6 1st
1997-98 Detroit Red Wings 22-9-7 2nd

Will the recent run continue, or could a team like the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks or Pittsburgh Penguins reverse the trend?

DISCLAIMER: While the Super 16 is's weekly power rankings, it focuses more on the "power" than the "rankings" when determining the order. It's not always going to look like the League standings and likely will take more of a long view than a short one. If two teams are close the tiebreaker almost always is this: If the two teams started a seven-game series right now, who would prevail? Stop by to see where your favorite team ranks, but stay for the information. All rankings, records and statistics are through the games played Wednesday night.

1. Chicago Blackhawks (23-10-2)

The Blackhawks are one of the most offensively-inclined teams in the NHL and have used three goaltenders at least seven times this season, yet Chicago currently leads the League in goals against per game.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning (21-11-4)

Steven Stamkos is back and having a great season, but Tyler Johnson is having a monster month, and now leads the Lightning with 37 points.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins (22-7-5)

The Penguins have needed replacements, and then replacements for the replacements. The injuries keep mounting, and yet despite missing up to half the opening-night roster, Pittsburgh has lost once in regulation since Dec. 4.

4. Nashville Predators (22-9-2)

The Predators lead the League in goal differential at even strength. They’ve scored the third-most (73) and yielded the fewest (44) at evens.

5. New York Islanders (23-11-0)

Jaroslav Halak has a .919 save percentage and a 2.24 goals against average. He’s got a chance to set the franchise record for both. That was a pretty good signing.

6. Anaheim Ducks (23-8-5)

How can the Ducks go about playing their younger defensemen more? Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen, Josh Manson and Hampus Lindholm have been positive possession players while Francois Beauchemin, Clayton Stone, Mark Fistric, and Eric Brewer are all below the team average.

7. St. Louis Blues (21-10-3)

While the Blackhawks didn’t miss a beat without Corey Crawford, the Blues really miss Brian Elliott. Jake Allen (.903 save percentage) and Martin Brodeur (.892) haven’t been good enough.

8. San Jose Sharks (19-11-5)

The Sharks played well during a four-game losing streak last month that left them at 10-10-4, and the clamoring for drastic change in San Jose was back. The Sharks have continued to play well, and a 9-1-1 stretch later and it might be time to think about adding instead of subtracting to the roster.

9. Los Angeles Kings (17-11-7)

The Kings have climbed to third in Corsi for percentage at even strength, though they are tied for ninth when the game is tied or within one goal and just 19th in Fenwick for percentage in those situations. 

10. Detroit Red Wings (18-8-9)

The Red Wings recently did not win for six consecutive games. During that span, they allowed nine goals and and still procured four points. If that's the worst "slump" of the season, Detroit is going to earn an invitation to the tournament at the end of the season with ease.

11. Montreal Canadiens (22-11-2)

P.A. Parenteau has had a positive Corsi for percentage relative to his team’s mean for six seasons now. That’s a span of four clubs. Teams should stop undervaluing him, probably.

12. Boston Bruins (18-14-3)

David Krejci is back. Zdeno Chara has had some time to get back into his best shape/game form. It’s time for the Bruins to start turning puck possession into points.

13. New York Rangers (18-10-4)

Only seven players in team history have scored at least 45 goals in a season (Mike Gartner did it twice), but Rick Nash has a pretty chance to get considering he’s on pace for 58.

14. Winnipeg Jets (18-10-7)

The Jets continue to play well despite missing their top three defensemen. Well, three of their top four. Their best defensemen is Dustin Byfuglien, and him playing the position and helping the group continue to play well is no coincidence.

15. Washington Capitals (17-11-6)

Braden Holtby's adjusted save percentage since Nov. 1 is .922, and he's been a top-7 or top-8 goaltender the past month. Justin Peters' adjusted save percentage since Nov. 1 is .827, and it might be time for Philip Grubauer to get chances to spell Holtby.

16. Florida Panthers (15-9-8)

Filip Forsberg and Johnny Gaudreau are having great rookie seasons, but Aaron Ekblad could be en route to one of the best seasons by a teenaged defenseman in a long time. He deserves to be right there with the other two in the Calder Trophy discussion.
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