We are now halfway through the season’s schedule, so it’s a good time to revise the Bayesian Power Rankings. Because of the parity in the league, there are 22 teams that still have a solid chance of making the playoffs, while only 3 teams, the Oilers, Blue Jackets and Hurricanes, are really out of the race. For now, the rankings have decided that the Blackhawks and Devils are the favorites to meet in the Stanley Cup final, although with only 36% odds of winning the Cup between the two of them the field is still wide open.
Here are the power rankings, up to and including games on Tuesday January 5th:
O rat: Offensive rating. The typical number of goals you would score against an average team. Higher is better.
D rat: Defensive rating. The typical number of goals an average team would score on you. Lower is better.
T rat: Total rating. O rat – D rat. Your typical margin of victory against an average team. Higher is better.
Schd: Schedule difficulty (the average T rat of your opponents). Higher means harder.
PPts: Predicted number of points at the end of the year. The standard deviation is about 14 at this point in the schedule.
PO: Odds of making the playoffs, in percentage.
Cup: Odds of winning the Stanley Cup, in percentage.
Rank Team O rat D rat T rat Schd PPts PO Cup
1 Chicago Blackhawks 2.95 2.24 0.71 0.00 115 99 21
Comment: I am slightly proud of the fact that VUKOTA, almost alone among pre-season prognosticators, picked the Blackhawks to be #1 overall. Forgotten in their abundance of offensive talent is that the Blackhawks are the #1 defensive team in the league, with the lowest shots-against and the lowest goals against.
2 San Jose Sharks 3.01 2.46 0.56 0.02 110 94 12
Comment: Alone among the elite teams of the league, the Sharks are not outshooting nor outchancing their opponents: they're just finishing better, which you can do when your top line is Thornton, Marleau and Heatley. The Sharks' combined special teams percentages are 107%.
3 Vancouver Canucks 2.95 2.43 0.52 -0.04 101 83 9
Comment: #3 despite being on the playoff bubble? The Canucks have finally found their groove, with 6 wins, 4 of them by 3 goals or more, and an OTL in their last 6 games. The Sedins combined for 47 points in 15 games in December. If Vancouver can weather their NHL-record 6 week road trip in February, they'll be a dangerous playoff opponent.
4 New Jersey Devils 2.78 2.29 0.48 -0.06 113 99 15
Comment: It finally struck me how indestructible Martin Brodeur's shutout record could be after Ryan Miller recorded his 17th career shutout recently. Miller, a quality goaltender in his 5th full NHL season, has 17 shutouts. Brodeur has 106 and counting. He's not the greatest goaltender in NHL history, but there may never be another like him.
5 Washington Capitals 3.08 2.69 0.39 -0.03 106 93 10
Comment: The best thing for the Capitals would be for Mike Green to prove to team Canada why they were wrong to leave him off the team. With Alexander Semin signing a 1-year deal, they may have only two chances to do so.
6 Calgary Flames 2.59 2.27 0.33 0.00 103 85 6
Comment: The Flames have been a two-man show for 6 years now, and when Iginla and Kiprusoff are firing on all cylinders the formula works. Jay Bouwmeester is +13, a welcome change from Florida when he couldn't buy a plus to save his life, though on the worrisome side his Corsi is still hideous.
7 Buffalo Sabres 2.58 2.33 0.26 -0.09 105 93 7
Comment: You have to respect a team that comes back from a 3-goal deficit twice in a row, though you don't want to make a living out of it. Amazingly for such a good team, the Sabres don't have anybody with more than 11 goals (Tim Connolly, Thomas Vanek) or 32 points (Connolly).
8 Los Angeles Kings 2.84 2.64 0.20 0.12 98 73 3
Comment: One of the most heartening things for the Kings was how they won 7 of 8 in December without Ryan Smyth or, indeed, much from Anze Kopitar. Wayne Simmonds, Brad Richardson and Drew Doughty are establishing themselves as quality players.
9 Phoenix Coyotes 2.52 2.36 0.16 -0.02 98 74 3
Comment: Anybody waiting for the Coyotes to fall back to Earth doesn't realize that their fundamentals are sound: zone advantage, outshooting their opponents by 129 shots at even strength, and great goaltending. If they would learn to stop taking penalties (they've given up 22 more power-plays than their opponents), they'd be even better.
10 Boston Bruins 2.45 2.29 0.16 -0.10 97 83 4
Comment: VUKOTA predicted at the beginning of the season that the Bruins would get excellent goaltending, but it didn't expect it from Tukka Rask. The team's solid defensive play has masked several disappointments, chiefly David Krejci, Michael Ryder and Dennis Wideman.
11 Colorado Avalanche 2.85 2.70 0.15 0.04 98 72 2
Comment: Craig Anderson has faced more shots than any other goaltender in the NHL, and has held up well. While other teams may worry about their goaltenders being well rested for the playoffs, the Avalanche must focus on getting into the playoffs.
12 Nashville Predators 2.77 2.68 0.08 0.08 97 66 2
Comment: Who's the MVP for the Predators? I'd probably go with Shea Weber, although Patric Hornqvist has provided reliable offense and good two-way play with a team-leading +55 Corsi.
13 Pittsburgh Penguins 2.75 2.70 0.06 -0.05 98 86 3
Comment: The ratings are not impressed with the Penguins' latest 4-game losing streak, before which they were ranked 8th, and a single win against Atlanta won't redeem them. Is there a more striking absentee from the MVP discussion than Evgeni Malkin?
14 Detroit Red Wings 2.42 2.44 -0.02 0.03 91 44 1
Comment: After Johan Franzen's injury in October, I said that the Wings "missing the playoffs altogether is no longer unthinkable." If not for Jimmy Howard and Pavel Datsyuk, it might already be a done deal. Todd Bertuzzi's been good, but his penalties are still hurting the team.
15 Dallas Stars 2.75 2.82 -0.07 0.06 89 39 1
Comment: The Stars may well be the best team to miss the playoffs, a victim of the cutthroat Western Conference. Some were bemoaning Mike Modano's absence from the US Olympic team, but the fact is, at 39, he could barely crack the Dallas roster if he wasn't Mike "the Franchise" Modano.
16 Philadelphia Flyers 2.65 2.73 -0.07 0.02 86 47 1
Comment: It's not inconceivable for the Flyers to be this year's Penguins, with a midseason coaching change just the thing to jump-start Philadelphia. The top 4 of Pronger, Timmonen, Coburn and Carle has been fantastic, but the offense, besides Mike Richards, has been anemic.
17 New York Rangers 2.51 2.62 -0.11 -0.09 87 54 1
Comment:Every year the Rangers are terrible, and every year they manage to sneak into the top 8 at the end. How? Two reasons: weak Eastern Conference, and Henrik Lundqvist. Marian Gaborik has been involved in 49% of the team's goals, not that far behind the NHL record of 57% by (who else?) Mario Lemieux.
18 Florida Panthers 2.72 2.88 -0.16 -0.04 82 34 1
Comment: The Panthers' greatest impact on the NHL this season may well be how the Thrashers handle the Ilya Kovalchuk situation.
19 Atlanta Thrashers 2.90 3.08 -0.19 0.01 85 41 1
Comment: The wheels have finally come off the Atlanta bus. It was inevitable: the Thrashers have, by far, the worst shot differential in the NHL, and they stayed in it thanks to crazy sniping by Kovalchuk and Afinogenov, and stand-on-your-head goaltending from Pavelec and, of all people, Johan Hedberg. The second half of that equation has ended: the Thrashers have given up 40 goals in their last 9 games, all losses.
20 Montreal Canadiens 2.42 2.61 -0.19 -0.01 84 37 0
Comment: Markov for MVP? It certainly looks that way, as the defenseman's return has sparked a 7-1 run and Montreal is 8th in the East. Interestingly, it looks like the Canadiens will trade their other MVP, Jaroslav Halak.
21 Anaheim Ducks 2.71 2.89 -0.19 0.07 80 17 0
Comment: No, I didn't expect the Ducks to be 25th in goals-against either. While the top forwards, especially Perry and Ryan, have been excellent, the goaltending tandem of Hiller and Giguere has only been good on paper, and the loss of so many defensemen has spread Scott Niedermeyer too thin.
22 Tampa Bay Lightning 2.48 2.67 -0.20 -0.04 85 42 1
Comment: A pretty good run for the Lightning, having picked up 11 points in their last 7 games, but they're being outshot by 5 shots a game and, unsurprisingly, outscored by about 0.3 goals per game.
23 Ottawa Senators 2.66 2.87 -0.20 -0.08 87 52 1
Comment: I doubt any player in the NHL has underperformed expectations as much as Jason Spezza, but there are other bright spots on the Senators. Peter Regin has put up good numbers in a limited role, and his +9 is not luck.
24 St.Louis Blues 2.57 2.82 -0.25 0.06 80 19 0
Comment: Things won't go well when your top 4 offensive players (Boyes, Backes, Kariya and MacDonald) all underperform. While coaching changes are known to light a fire under disappointing teams, it's too little too late to save the Blues' season.
25 Minnesota Wild 2.54 2.80 -0.27 0.07 81 18 0
Comment: Maybe it was Lemaire all along? Those who claimed Minnesota's goaltending was a team creation are being vindicated, while those who anointed Josh Harding the best backup in the NHL appear to be wrong.
26 Toronto Maple Leafs 2.73 3.01 -0.28 -0.03 78 20 0
Comment: Those of us who read Gabriel Desjardins already knew that the Leafs weren't as bad as their record indicated, but combining the NHL's 3rd worst shooting percentage with its worst save percentage will never be a winning combination.
27 Edmonton Oilers 2.67 3.01 -0.34 0.11 75 10 0
Comment: As expected after the injury to Ales Hemsky, the Oilers suck. Among the few bright lights have been Dustin Penner and Lubomir Visnovsky, who may be the most underrated defenseman in the NHL.
28 Columbus Blue Jackets 2.51 2.95 -0.44 0.04 74 7 0
Comment: At what point will the Jackets give up on Steve Mason? Hitchcock-coached teams are not known for being 29th in goals-against, and blame must fall squarely on the shoulders of the goaltending.
29 New York Islanders 2.34 2.81 -0.47 -0.05 78 17 0
Comment: There's a solid argument that Kyle Okposo should have been on team USA, as good young offensive forwards who help defensively are a precious commodity.
30 Carolina Hurricanes 2.45 3.08 -0.63 -0.04 65 3 0
Comment: The Hurricanes will soon be unloading salary. No dramatic moves have been made yet, but that may be for lack of trading partners. Before the draft lottery, the Hurricanes' optimal strategy would no doubt have been to consolidate their stranglehold on last place… which is roughly what they're doing anyway.
Tom Awad is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
You can contact Tom by clicking here or click here to see Tom's other articles.