Maybe it took the circus coming to down to get the Chicago Blackhawks completely refocused.
With Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey turning the United Center into a big top, the Blackhawks took to the road for a seven-game excursion. They had allowed four or more goals in three of their four games prior to departure.
Their struggle continued with a 5-1 loss at Colorado. But then the Blackhawks reeled off 6-3, 2-1, 5-1, 3-2, 2-1 (SO) and 5-2 victories to reestablish themselves as the team to beat in the NHL.
They regained the top spot in our power rankings. Here is the new pecking order:
GOOD NEWS: Puck-rushing defenseman Duncan Keith enjoyed a six-assist week to spark the Blackhawks offense. He scored points in 13 of the 15 November games.
BAD NEWS: Brandon Pirri fell into a seven-game scoring slump. That is hard to do in this talented lineup.
BOTTOM LINE: No. 3 goaltender Antti Raanta won two starts during that six-game streak, helping keep Corey Crawford fresh and the Blackhawks rolling. This team has no holes.
SAN JOSE SHARKS
GOOD NEWS: Brent Burns is back! The former defenseman delivered his first career hat trick in his new role as a power forward.
BAD NEWS: Winger Martin Havlat went nine games without scoring a goal.
BOTTOM LINE: Depth up front, depth on depth, quality in goal . . . what’s not to like about this team?
ST. LOUIS BLUES
GOOD NEWS: In his last full season in Calgary, Jay Bouwmeester scored 29 points with a minus-21 rating in 82 games. This season he had 19 points and a plus-13 rating after 26 games.
BAD NEWS: After scoring 17 goals in 48 games last season, center Patrik Berglund has scored just once this season. He converted 23 percent of his shots last season and just 2.3 percent of his shots this season.
BOTTOM LINE: Losses at San Jose and Los Angeles reminded the Blues they really aren’t the best team in the league – yet.
GOOD NEWS: Rookie defenseman Torey Krug scored seven goals in his first 27 games, putting him on a 20-goal pace.
BAD NEWS: Center Patrice Bergeron had just one power-play point in his first 27 games.
BOTTOM LINE: Allowing the fewest goals per game is a good way to build a gaudy won-loss record.
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Semyon Varlamov proved his early success was not a fluke. This team still has the NHL’s fourth-lowest goals-against average.
BAD NEWS: Varlamov still has some legal issues to clean up.
BOTTOM LINE: The Avalanche have six forwards with 16 or more points this season. So which line should opponents focus on?
GOOD NEWS: Corey Perry put 106 shots on goal and scored 15 times in his first 29 games.
BAD NEWS: Veteran goaltender Jonas Hiller let his ratios (2.94 goals-against average, .896 save percentage) in November.
BOTTOM LINE: They are running neck and neck with the Kings for the “Best of LA” crown.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
GOOD NEWS: Anze Kopitar took charge offensively, scoring points in 10 games during a 14-game stretch.
BAD NEWS: The Kings scored just seven goals in five games, going 0 for 18 on the power play.
BOTTOM LINE: Fill-in goaltender Ben Scrivens has stepped in for injured starter Jonathan Quick and played at an even higher level. Disaster was averted.
GOOD NEWS: Evgeni Malkin finally broke out, scoring nine points in four games last week while earning a plus-5 rating.
BAD NEWS: Top defenseman Kris Letang had a minus-4 rating in his first 19 games.
BOTTOM LINE: After losing four times in a five-game span, the Penguins gained points in seven of their next eight games.
GOOD NEWS: Winger Radim Vrbata scored 10 points during a nine-game stretch.
BAD NEWS: The Coyotes remain dead last in the NHL in attendance. How long can this franchise operate losing huge amounts of money?
BOTTOM LINE: After starting the season 13-4-2, the Coyotes slipped into a 2-3-2 rut.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
GOOD NEWS: They scored nine goals in back-to-back home victories over the Flyers and Rangers.
BAD NEWS: With Steven Stamkos out with a broken leg, such W’s have been tough to come by. The Lightning suffered a 2-4-1 downturn.
BOTTOM LINE: Their schedule eases up in December. That should help the Bolts stay in the playoff race while Stamkos heals.
DETROIT RED WINGS
GOOD NEWS: After scoring just six points during an 11-game span, Johan Franzen scored seven points in a four-game span.
BAD NEWS: Henrik Zetterberg will miss at least a few weeks while resting a herniated disc.
BOTTOM LINE: Zetterberg is a brilliant two-way player. Overcoming this loss will be a huge challenge for Detroit.
GOOD NEWS: Winger Max Pacioretty finally hit stride, scoring eight times during a seven-game span.
BAD NEWS: Key forward David Desharnais went 13 games without generating a point before producing six points in six games.
BOTTOM LINE: Pacioretty’s scoring burst propelled the Canadiens to a seven-game points streak at 6-0-1.
GOOD NEWS: This team checks like crazy when Josh Harding starts in goal. They have allowed an average of 23 shots in his 14 victories. He went 8-2-2 with a 1.88 goals-against average, .926 save percentage and one shutout in November.
BAD NEWS: Former No. 1 goaltender Niklas Backstrom is earning big bucks to watch hockey. His 2.78 goals-against average and .896 save percentage won’t get him many starts.
BOTTOM LINE: With the top scorers scoring and Harding stopping pucks, the Wild have some staying power.
GOOD NEWS: Alex Ovechkin scored 21 goals in his first 25 games.
BAD NEWS: No. 2 goaltender Michal Neuvirth went onto injured reserve with a lower-body injury.
BOTTOM LINE: The Capitals are walking a tightrope. During a 12-game span, they earned just one victory in regulation time. They have no margin for error.
GOOD NEWS: Only three Western Conference teams had more road victories coming into Tuesday’s action.
BAD NEWS: Top gun Tyler Seguin cooled off, then bowed out of the lineup with concussion-like symptoms.
BOTTOM LINE: The Stars like their defensive prospects, but losing veteran Stephane Robidas to a broken right leg was a tough blow to absorb.
NEW YORK RANGERS
GOOD NEWS: Rookie winger Chris Kreider bolstered the Blue Shirt offense by scoring 16 points in his first 21 games.
BAD NEWS: Henrik Lundqvist has been the second-best goaltender on the team.
BOTTOM LINE: This team can’t keep losing home games. Their loss to the Winnipeg Jets was the fourth setback in five games at Madison Square Garden.
GOOD NEWS: At least the Canucks are trying to score. They ranked third in the league with 32.9 shots per game.
BAD NEWS: Power forward Alex Burrows will miss several weeks after needing surgical repairs on his broken jaw.
BOTTOM LINE: The Canucks sank into the NHL’s pack while winning just four of 13 games in November.
GOOD NEWS: They soared back into the playoff race by going 8-2-1during an 11-game stretch last month. They allowed two or fewer goals 11 times during a 14-game span.
BAD NEWS: Key forward Vincent Lecavalier bowed out of action with back spasms.
BOTTOM LINE: The coaching change has its desired impact. The Flyers are playing like the Flyers again for Craig Berube.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
GOOD NEWS: Defenseman Andy Greene enjoyed a rare six-game scoring streak.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Cory Schneider is getting restless after playing just 12 of his teams’ first 28 games.
BOTTOM LINE: Despite ranking 26th in scoring offense, the Devils pushed toward the .500 mark with excellent team defense.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
GOOD NEWS: Phil Kessel stayed busy in his first 27 games, putting 107 shots on goal and scoring 14 times.
BAD NEWS: The Leafs staggered through November with a 4-6-3 record, losing their last four games of the month.
BOTTOM LINE: They have begun a seven-game stretch against Western Conference teams, so they better regroup in a hurry.
GOOD NEWS: Marek Mazanec earned NHL's rookie of month honors while posting a .932 save percentage in place of the ailing Pekka Rinne.
BAD NEWS: Only one Predator scored more than 15 points in the first 27 games.
BOTTOM LINE: The Predators have remained viable despite the loss of Rinne to a post-operative hip infection. But they can’t stay in the playoff hunt by hovering around .500.
GOOD NEWS: They won three of their first four games on their critical six-game road trip.
BAD NEWS: Top forward Evander Kane went back on the shelf with a lower body injury.
BOTTOM LINE: They finally played to their potential while throttling the Rangers 5-2 at Madison Square Garden. Ollie Jokinen had his first two-goal game since Feb. 26, which was also at MSG.
GOOD NEWS: Veteran goaltender Cam Ward got healthy and beat the Devils and Senators in back-to-back starts.
BAD NEWS: Eric Staal is the only Cane with more than 13 points after 27 games.
BOTTOM LINE: This team doesn’t score enough or check enough to reach the playoffs in the new postseason format.
GOOD NEWS: Clark MacArthur scored 20 points in his first 28 games with a plus-10 rating.
BAD NEWS: The Senators won just four of their first 14 home games. How did that happen?
BOTTOM LINE: General manager Bryan Murray needs to find a wing man for top center Jason Spezza ASAP. Unfortunately, his ownership won’t let him spend to the salary cap.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
GOOD NEWS: Newcomer Thomas Vanek had eight points and a plus-3 rating in his first 11 games with this team.
BAD NEWS: A six-game losing streak sent the Islanders plunging from the Eastern Conference playoff race.
BOTTOM LINE: General manager Garth Snow might be the best goaltender in the organization. That is not a positive.
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Devan Dubnyk finally snapped out of his season-long funk.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov was just getting acclimated when he suffered a lower body injury.
BOTTOM LINE: By earning four of six points on a three-game road trip, the Men of Oil showed signs of becoming relevant this season.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
GOOD NEWS: Playmaking forward Ryan Johansen filled the team’s offensive void with a six-point week.
BAD NEWS: By the time injured forwards Nathan Horton and Marian Gaborik are healthy, the Jackets could be well off the playoff pace.
BOTTOM LINE: At least they are getting key forward Brandon Dubinsky back after a six-game absence.
GOOD NEWS: Perennial scorer Mike Cammalleri scored 10 goals in his first 19 games this season.
BAD NEWS: Rookie forwards Sean Monahan (foot fracture) and puck-rushing defenseman Dennis Wideman (broken hand) joined defenseman Mark Giordano (broken ankle) and forward Curtis Glencross (knee) on the injured list.
BOTTOM LINE: These devastating injuries might extinguish the Flames until next season. But it’s not like they had any real change to reach the playoffs.
GOOD NEWS: GM Dale Tallon has some interesting trade chips to move for some longer-term assets.
BAD NEWS: His new ownership didn’t expect to hold a yard sale shortly after finalizing the team purchase.
BOTTOM LINE: The Panthers have a handful of good young players to build with, but Tallon is handcuffed by all the terrible contracts bogging down the Florida payroll.
GOOD NEWS: Pat LaFontaine is earning good PR while assembling his new hockey management team.
BAD NEWS: The Sabres are god awful.
BOTTOM LINE: Interim coach Ted Nolan and proud veteran goaltender Ryan Miller will help this team salvage some games, but better days are years away.