The Anaheim Ducks are doing to the NHL what the Chicago Blackhawks did last season.
Week after week, month after month the result is the same. The Ducks earned their 17th victory in 18 games by blanking the depleted Detroit Red Wings 1-0. They improved their home record to 17-0-2. Goaltender Jonas Hiller earned his 14th consecutive victory.
Those are crazy numbers, especially for a team in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
“When it comes down to it, we have guys who are willing to pay the price and get the job done,” Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said after the Detroit game. “At the end of the day, (Hiller has) been the top player for us. When you have him in the net with full confidence, it’s tough to score on him. It felt like every line brought something well to the table offensively and defensively."
The Ducks remain atop our NHL Power Rankings. Here is how this week’s pecking order shakes out:
GOOD NEWS: Andrew Cogliano scored six goals in a span of 10 games. He produced points in five of seven games.
BAD NEWS: Top center Ryan Getzlaf missed Sunday’s game with a lower-body injury. He departed the previous game after blocking a shot with his foot.
BOTTOM LINE: Their schedule is back-loaded with home games, so they will be hard to knock off the top perch.
GOOD NEWS: Winger James Neal missed 20 games due to injuries and a suspension, but he still has 17 goals and 19 assists this season.
BAD NEWS: Gritty forward Joe Vitale will miss the new few weeks with an upper body injury.
BOTTOM LINE: After overcoming a slew of injuries, this team is finally getting closer to full strength. This is not good news for the rest of the league.
ST. LOUIS BLUES
GOOD NEWS: Shutdown defenseman Roman Polak is back at practice, bolstering this team’s already impressive depth.
BAD NEWS: Top scorer Alexander Steen remains sidelined by post-concussion syndrome, although he is skating with the team.
BOTTOM LINE: The Blues’ success hasn’t been a fluke. They are sending 10 players to the Sochi Olympics.
GOOD NEWS: They had the NHL’s second-ranked offense and fourth-best power play coming into this week.
BAD NEWS: Due largely to an injury, goaltender Corey Crawford won just once between Nov. 29 and Jan. 11.
BOTTOM LINE: The Blackhawks can outscore teams in the regular season, but they will need to regain last spring’s defensive form if they want to defend their Stanley Cup.
SAN JOSE SHARKS
GOOD NEWS: They won six consecutive home games before suffering a 1-0 loss to the Boston Bruins.
BAD NEWS: Logan Couture (hand surgery) is just the latest injury hit for this team. The Sharks have already lost more man games to injury than in each of their previous 82-game seasons.
BOTTOM LINE: Outstanding depth has allowed the Sharks to keep winning with fill-ins all over the lineup.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
GOOD NEWS: They killed 16 of 17 penalties during their recent five-game homestand.
BAD NEWS: Winger Dustin Brown scored just 16 points in his first 46 games this season. The Kings need much more from him.
BOTTOM LINE: They went 3-1-1 during a five-game homestand after getting Jonathan Quick back in goal. That is very good, but not good enough to keep pace with the Ducks.
GOOD NEWS: Ruffian Shawn Thornton returned to battle after serving his 15-game suspension for overzealous enforcement activities.
BAD NEWS: They were outscored 9-4 in ugly losses at Anaheim and Los Angeles.
BOTTOM LINE: Just imagine how good the Bruins could become if they got serious offense from their top two forward lines.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
GOOD NEWS: Forward Valtteri Filppula scored 16 points during a 13-game span while doing his best Steven Stamkos imitation.
BAD NEWS: While Stamkos is skating with the Lightning, he still isn’t close to playing with them.
BOTTOM LINE: They won seven of eight road games to continue their quest for one of the top Eastern Conference seeds. The return of goaltender Ben Bishop will only strengthen that bid.
GOOD NEWS: After losing four straight games in late December, the Avalanche responded with a 5-1-1 surge.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender J.S. Giguere is struggling with back spasms.
BOTTOM LINE: Paul Stastny and Ryan O’Reilly are putting up numbers in the “walk” year of their contracts. If Colorado can keep this two, it will have a dynamic offense for years to come.
GOOD NEWS: After allowing 13 goals in his previous starts, Price allowed just two goals while winning his next two games.
BAD NEWS: The P.K. Subban Soap Opera continues. Let’s face it, he drives coach Michel Therrien crazy with his adventurous play.
BOTTOM LINE: They still rank in the NHL’s bottom third offensively. That better change between now and the playoffs.
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Roberto Luongo and defenseman Alexander Edler are getting healthy again.
BAD NEWS: They went 2-3-2 during a span of seven road games, scoring just 11 times. They suffered a 1-0 shutout at Los Angeles to start this week.
BOTTOM LINE: They are great in their own end, ranking first in the NHL in penalty killing and sixth in goals-against average. But can they find more scoring?
GOOD NEWS: They worked back into the playoff picture by winning 10 consecutive home games before a poor outing against the Lighting.
BAD NEWS: Winger Steve Downie played his way into the press box as a healthy scratch. Coach Craig Berube cited his decline in intensity.
BOTTOM LINE: After allowing 10 goals in losses to Tampa Bay and the New York Rangers, they need to refocus in the defensive zone.
GOOD NEWS: Dany Heatley lives! He turned back the clock with two-point efforts in back-to-back games.
BAD NEWS: How long can the Wild keep winning with goaltender Josh Harding and top center Mikko Koivu on injured reserve?
BOTTOM LINE: After losing their last six games in December, the Wild won five of their first six games in January.
NEW YORK RANGERS
GOOD NEWS: They earned at least a point in seven of eight home games, going 5-1-2 during that span.
BAD NEWS: They still rank just 23rd in goals scored per game. How is that possible with all of that talent?
BOTTOM LINE: King Henrik Lundqvist finally played like royalty last week, going 3-0-1 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .943 save percentage.
GOOD NEWS: They earned at least a point 13 times in a span of 17 games.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Braden Holtby went from Dec. 7 to mid-January without winning a game.
BOTTOM LINE: They Capitals are just muddling along, using the NHL’s second-ranked power play to offset most of their defensive mistakes.
GOOD NEWS: Radim Vrbata perked up with five assists in three games last week.
BAD NEWS: The Coyotes lost four of six games during a recent homestand. They allowed nine goals while losing back-to-back games there. Then they took to the road and fell at Winnipeg 5-1. Uh, oh.
BOTTOM LINE: How is Mike Smith on the Canadian Olympic team? His 2.95 goals-against average ranks 34th in the league this week. That is not playoff-caliber work.
DETROIT RED WINGS
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Jimmy Howard’s hip flexor injury does not appear to be serious.
BAD NEWS: This is just not the same team with Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Alfredsson, Johan Franzen and Darren Helm all on the shelf with injuries and illness.
BOTTOM LINE: From Dec. 6 into mid-January, this former juggernaut has earned just three victories in regulation time. Will the Wings ever get back to full speed?
GOOD NEWS: No. 2 goaltender Dan Ellis made some great saves during a 4-2 loss to the Islanders. The Stars gave the puck away 11 times in front of him.
BAD NEWS: Their six-game losing streak, all in regulation, is their worst slide since the 1995 season.
BOTTOM LINE: They need to get their top scorers rolling again. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin produced just one point between them during a five-game span.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
GOOD NEWS: Key forward Dave Bolland is finally getting back on the ice. He has missed most of the season after suffering a lacerated ankle tendon.
BAD NEWS: They allowed 21 goals during a four-game losing streak.
BOTTOM LINE: The Leafs stayed in the playoff hunt by leading the league in shootout victories. But how long can they keep that up?
GOOD NEWS: A six-game point streak (5-0-1) moved them back into the Eastern Conference playoff mix.
BAD NEWS: Milan Michalek had just 19 points and a frightening minus-19 rating after 46 games.
BOTTOM LINE: General manager Bryan Murray got a two-game extension, allowing the franchise to stay on its steady course.
GOOD NEWS: Forward Jiri Tlusty is back to active duty after recovering from the removal of his appendix. Top center Eric Staal returned after missing three games with a lower body injury.
BAD NEWS: The Hurricanes lost their first game 2-0 at Calgary with the top line reunited.
BOTTOM LINE: Despite their injuries, they showed some offensive life while scoring 13 goals during a three-game home winning streak. And Anton Khudobin (6-2-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .935 save percentage) is saving them on goal.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
GOOD NEWS: They came into the week with the NHL’s fourth-best penalty killing unit and fifth-best goals-against average.
BAD NEWS: Only three teams are scoring fewer goals per game.
BOTTOM LINE: In the post-Kovalchuk Era, the Devils desperately need to locate a go-to forward younger than Jaromir Jagr.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is looking more like his old self. Also, Boone Jenner scored three goals in a two-game burst.
BAD NEWS: Their penalty killing unit ranked just 24th this week. Given this team’s offensive limitations, that has to change.
BOTTOM LINE: Their schedule turned favorable, featuring five of six games at home. This is their chance to make a move. The Jackets started that stretch by rallying for a 3-2 victory over Tampa Bay.
GOOD NEWS: Cornerstone goaltender Pekka Rinne has increased his exercise level while coming back from his post-surgical hip infection.
BAD NEWS: They lost six of their first seven games in January to go south of the .500 mark.
BOTTOM LINE: In Rinne’s absence, they rank in the bottom third of the NHL in scoring defense. This dooms them to another season outside of the playoffs.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
GOOD NEWS: John Taveras broke loose with 10 points and a plus-9 rating during four games last week. Not surprisingly, the Islanders won all four games.
BAD NEWS: Their penalty killing ranks dead last in the NHL.
BOTTOM LINE: This team is playing to its full offensive potential, but it is lagging at the defensive end of the ice.
GOOD NEWS: The team finally fired failed coach Claude Noel, replacing him with Paul Maurice.
BAD NEWS: Dustin Byfuglien has been a mess on defense. One of Noel’s final moves was moving him back to forward. Getting Byfuglien and Evander Kane (currently out with a hand injury) playing their best hockey will be high on Maurice’s to-do list.
BOTTOM LINE: This team allowed 26 goals during a five-game losing streak. Maurice has a lot of work in the defensive zone. He started well, earning a 5-1 victory in his first game behind the bench.
GOOD NEWS: New owner Vincent Viola doesn’t like to lose games or money.
BAD NEWS: They won just three games from Dec. 19 to mid-January.
BOTTOM LINE: It is amazing they have won as many games as they have with the NHL’s worst power play and second-worst penalty killing unit.
GOOD NEWS: They rose up to upset the Penguins, proving they have enough talent to play with the elite teams.
BAD NEWS: That was just one of four victories from Dec. 10 into mid-January.
BOTTOM LINE: GM Craig MacTavish promised major moves after taking over the hockey operation. Fans are still waiting.
GOOD NEWS: They have managed to win some close games. Of their first 16 victories, 13 game by one goal.
BAD NEWS: Mike Cammalleri suffered a concussion, depleting an already feckless attack.
BOTTOM LINE: The Flames plunged toward the Western Conference basement by losing seven of eight games – five by shutout.
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Ryan Miller is preparing for his Olympic assignment by making highlight reel saves.
BAD NEWS: The Sabres score just 1.6 goals per game, easily the worst average in the league.
BOTTOM LINE: The hiring of GM Tim Murray allows the Sabres to finally get serious about rebuilding this roster.