The NHL's 2021-22 season continues to see some shifts in the schedule due to COVID-19 postponements, but some teams have weathered the storm a bit better than others. What is the key takeaway from each team's play since mid-December? We break it all down here, while unveiling the latest 1-32 rankings.
How we rank: A panel of ESPN hockey commentators, analysts, reporters and editors rates teams against one another -- taking into account game results, injuries and upcoming schedule -- and those results are tabulated to produce the list featured here.
Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to the last edition, published on Jan. 12. Points percentages are through Tuesday's games.
1. Florida Panthers
Previous ranking: 2
Points percentage: 0.731
Next seven days: @ EDM (Jan. 20), @ VAN (Jan. 21), @ SEA (Jan. 23), @ WPG (Jan. 25)
Takeaway: Best in the business. The Panthers have spent the past month on easy mode, and it shows. Florida hasn't suffered a loss since Dec. 16, is averaging six (!) goals per game, has been perfect short-handed and is firing nearly 40 shots on goal per game during that span. And there's no sign the Panthers will be slowing down.
2. Colorado Avalanche
Previous ranking: 3
Points percentage: 0.736
Next seven days: @ ANA (Jan. 19), @ LA (Jan. 20), vs. MTL (Jan. 22), vs. CHI (Jan. 24)
Takeaway: It's Cale Makar's world ... and we're lucky to be living in it! No, really. The Avalanche have continued to stupefy teams with their explosive offense (hello, Mikko Rantanen!) but Makar's game has been a revelation for Colorado. The 23-year-old has serious swagger locking down the blue line and scoring highlight-reel goals. The total package.
3. Carolina Hurricanes
Previous ranking: 1
Points percentage: 0.750
Next seven days: vs. NYR (Jan. 21), @ NJ (Jan. 22), vs. VGK (Jan. 25)
Takeaway: Doin' it all (and doin' it well). It says something about the Hurricanes that a 6-0 loss to Columbus last week was the first time they've been shut out all season. Carolina's just consistently been that good. Even the dips can't dull its shine. Since mid-December, the Hurricanes boast the NHL's best power play and average over four goals per game, while limiting chances against. Onward, and upward.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning
Previous ranking: 5
Points percentage: 0.720
Next seven days: @ ANA (Jan. 21), @ SJ (Jan. 22)
Takeaway: Andrei Vasilevskiy, MVP. The Lightning have played more than anyone since mid-December and have four players that are in the top 12 in scoring. But it was getting Vasilevskiy back from COVID-19 protocols that seemed to solidify Tampa's game again. Vasilevskiy is top three in wins and save percentage since returning, and he helps the Lightning look lethal.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs
Previous ranking: 4
Points percentage: 0.708
Next seven days: @ NYR (Jan. 19), @ NYI (Jan. 22)
Takeaway: Late-game letdowns. Between COVID-19 problems and provincial capacity restrictions, the Leafs have played only six games in 30 days. But it's clear lately Toronto has had a hard time finishing teams off. Multigoal leads against Colorado, Vegas and St. Louis all evaporated, and the Leafs failed to come out on top after being tied in the third period in Arizona. Toronto needs to work on its closing act.
6. Boston Bruins
Previous ranking: 13
Points percentage: 0.639
Next seven days: vs. WSH (Jan. 20), vs. WPG (Jan. 22), vs. ANA (Jan. 24)
Takeaway: Boston's back, baby. Where have these Bruins been? As Tuukka Rask returns to the net, Boston's finally looking like its old self. The scoring is consistent (over four goals per game), while they've tightened up defensively, and the Bruins' stars are all aligned. Finally.
7. Vegas Golden Knights
Previous ranking: 12
Points percentage: 0.600
Next seven days: vs. MTL (Jan. 20), @ WSH (Jan. 24), @ CAR (Jan. 25)
Takeaway: Fortress frustrations forming. There's been no home-ice advantage for the Golden Knights lately. In the past month, Vegas is 2-4-2 at T-Mobile Arena, while going undefeated over that stretch on the road. It's a strange turn of events given the Golden Knights' home barn was once among the NHL's toughest buildings in which to play. Can it be again?
8. New York Rangers
Previous ranking: 6
Points percentage: 0.692
Next seven days: vs. TOR (Jan. 19), @ CAR (Jan. 21), vs. ARI (Jan. 22), vs. LA (Jan. 24)
Takeaway: Resiliency is real. The Rangers have a way of not getting rattled. At least not in the past month. Lose 5-1? Come back next game and win 4-1. Key players fall out of lineup? Depth scoring and better defense fill the void. In a challenging season for everyone, New York is standing out for how it's weathering the storm(s).
9. Minnesota Wild
Previous ranking: 11
Points percentage: 0.671
Next seven days: @ CHI (Jan. 21), vs. CHI (Jan. 22), vs. MTL (Jan. 24)
Takeaway: Stay the course. Minnesota ended calendar year 2021 in a slide, but thanks to balanced contributions (and a lighter schedule), the Wild have been rebounding nicely to recapture some of the magic that drove them through the early season. And Kirill Kaprizov seems to be coming into his own at just the right time for Minnesota.
10. Washington Capitals
Previous ranking: 9
Points percentage: 0.663
Next seven days: @ BOS (Jan. 20), vs. OTT (Jan. 22), vs. VGK (Jan. 24)
Takeaway: Hittin' the skids? Let's face it: Washington has been dominant all season. The team was due for some adversity. Now it's all about comeback season. The Capitals dropped five of their first six games in 2022, their worst stretch of the campaign by far, while averaging fewer than three goals per game. But as Washington gets healthy again, this midseason slump is likely to fade fast.
11. Pittsburgh Penguins
Previous ranking: 10
Points percentage: 0.671
Next seven days: vs. OTT (Jan. 20), @ CBJ (Jan. 21), vs. WPG (Jan. 23), vs. ARI (Jan. 25)
Takeaway: Bend, don't break. The Penguins were flying high into 2022 ... then turbulence hit. How they navigate the bumps will tell us -- and them -- a lot. Louis Domingue has stepped up in net and Kris Letang is firing from the blue line, but Sidney Crosby has one goal since Dec. 10 and Kasperi Kapanen has gone ice cold. Time to pick it up.
12. St. Louis Blues
Previous ranking: 8
Points percentage: 0.654
Next seven days: @ SEA (Jan. 21), @ VAN (Jan. 23), @ CGY (Jan. 24)
Takeaway: Crazy for Kyrou. Jordan Kyrou is having a moment. The forward was named to his first All-Star Game last week. He was the breakout performer in this season's Winter Classic. He's top 10 in league scoring over the past month. He's a threat seemingly every shift. And he's just darn fun to watch.
13. Nashville Predators
Previous ranking: 7
Points percentage: 0.622
Next seven days: vs. WPG (Jan. 20), vs. DET (Jan. 22), @ SEA (Jan. 25)
Takeaway: Yes, they're for real. Are we still questioning whether the Predators could contend? Because the past month has shown positive signs in that respect. Juuse Saros is (still) underrated, Filip Forsberg (when not in COVID-19 protocols) is playing into a major payday and Roman Josi anchors a blue line as well as anyone. The recent dip in results should be a blip on the radar.
14. Los Angeles Kings
Previous ranking: 20
Points percentage: 0.563
Next seven days: vs. COL (Jan. 20), @ NJ (Jan. 23), @ NYR (Jan. 24)
Takeaway: Exceeding expectations. The Kings weren't jumping off the page early. That's changed in the past month. L.A. was on a 7-3-0 run (before running into Timo Meier's five-goal night on Monday), which was one of the league's best stretches. It quietly pushed the team into second place in the Pacific Division, and the Kings' overall success feels sustainable too, thanks to excellent goaltending and strong two-way play.
15. Calgary Flames
Previous ranking: 15
Points percentage: 0.600
Next seven days: @ EDM (Jan. 22), vs. STL (Jan. 24)
Takeaway: Is the honeymoon over? That long COVID-19 pause took something out of the Flames. Darryl Sutter's once exceptionally stingy group has allowed more than four goals per game the past month and earned only two victories in their past six outings. Have they lost that loving feeling with Sutter's defense-first system? Or is this the inevitable come down from a hot start? Time will tell.
16. San Jose Sharks
Previous ranking: 21
Points percentage: 0.550
Next seven days: @ SEA (Jan. 20), vs. TB (Jan. 22)
Takeaway: It's Timo time. The Sharks have had a good month overall. Timo Meier has had a great one. That stretch culminated in a five-goal performance against L.A. this week, but even before that Meier was locked in. His eight goals and 16 points in 10 games is near the top of the league since mid-December, and he's helped carry the Sharks to an impressive early 2022.
17. Anaheim Ducks
Previous ranking: 14
Points percentage: 0.549
Next seven days: vs. COL (Jan. 19), vs. TB (Jan. 21), @ BOS (Jan. 24)
Takeaway: Re-tooling ... or rebuilding? It has been an ugly month for Anaheim. COVID-19 absences undoubtedly played a role, but two wins in 10 games is poor no matter the justification. Has the magical run by these Ducks petered out? Or is this setback a temporary lapse? Giving up nearly four goals per game won't help them rebound. A return to full health -- with All-Star John Gibson back in net -- might help get them turned around.
18. Winnipeg Jets
Previous ranking: 19
Points percentage: 0.571
Next seven days: @ NSH (Jan. 20), @ BOS (Jan. 22), @ PIT (Jan. 23), vs. FLA (Jan. 25)
Takeaway: Riding the wave. The Jets are another Canadian club whose schedule has been stymied by provincial capacity restrictions. Plus, Winnipeg has faced its worst COVID-19 outbreak to date. You just might not know it from its results. Winnipeg won four of the first five games it played since mid-December, outscoring opponents 15-7 in those victories. And it looks like reinforcements are on the way too, in the form of Blake Wheeler skating again post-injury.
19. Dallas Stars
Previous ranking: 16
Points percentage: 0.528
Next seven days: @ BUF (Jan. 20), @ DET (Jan. 21), @ PHI (Jan. 24), @ NJ (Jan. 25)
Takeaway: Big drama in Big D. Rick Bowness isn't mincing words. Dallas has five wins in the last month, and its coach is calling out the team's competitiveness while admitting there are players he'd like to healthy scratch, if only he could. Bowness has even demoted top defenseman John Klingberg to try kick-starting his group. Will the strategies work long term? We'll see.
20. Vancouver Canucks
Previous ranking: 18
Points percentage: 0.500
Next seven days: vs. FLA (Jan. 21), vs. STL (Jan. 23), vs. EDM (Jan. 25)
Takeaway: Rough road rules. The Canucks have basically spent the entire past month on the road. And while the team is still benefiting from its Bruce Boudreau bump, its results of late haven't been so consistent, particularly against top teams like Carolina, Florida and Tampa. Does Vancouver, with plenty of ground to gain in the Pacific, have what it takes to really compete in the playoff mix?
21. Edmonton Oilers
Previous ranking: 17
Points percentage: 0.543
Next seven days: vs. FLA (Jan. 20), vs. CGY (Jan. 22), @ VAN (Jan. 25)
Takeaway: Everything is awful. Setting aside the COVID-19 issues with which Edmonton has dealt -- because frankly, what team hasn't experienced that this season? -- it's painful watching the Oilers try to dig themselves out of this current state. Edmonton hasn't won a game in the past month, goaltender Mike Smith is injured again, Connor McDavid's been pushed to the second line and there's a growing sense of frustration over what Edmonton's front office can -- or will -- do to patch the holes.
22. Detroit Red Wings
Previous ranking: 22
Points percentage: 0.513
Next seven days: vs. DAL (Jan. 21), @ NSH (Jan. 22)
Takeaway: Slowdown in Motor City. The Red Wings entered December on a high, but lately they've hit some potholes. Detroit just hasn't been scoring much, or as often, as it was earlier, getting shut out twice in the past week alone. The Red Wings relied heavily on rookie Lucas Raymond all season, but he's registered just two goals since Dec. 1. The next few weeks will be pivotal.
23. New York Islanders
Previous ranking: 25
Points percentage: 0.500
Next seven days: vs. ARI (Jan. 21), vs. TOR (Jan. 22), vs. PHI (Jan. 25)
Takeaway: Up and runnin'. Don't look now, but the Islanders are turning a corner. They recently peeled off their first three-game win streak of their season, won five of their past seven at the new UBS Arena digs, and the team finally has genuinely positive momentum. There's a lot of work left to do, but New York seems ready for the challenge.
24. New Jersey Devils
Previous ranking: 24
Points percentage: 0.446
Next seven days: vs. ARI (Jan. 19), vs. CAR (Jan. 22), vs. LA (Jan. 23), vs. DAL (Jan. 25)
Takeaway: First goal wins. The Devils really, really need to score first (at least in this last month). When it hasn't, New Jersey isn't winning (0-4). When it does, outcomes are vastly improved (4-1-0). It's a tough mental spot to be in for a team, knowing the first goal of a game can seemingly have that much influence on the result.
25. Philadelphia Flyers
Previous ranking: 27
Points percentage: 0.436
Next seven days: vs. CBJ (Jan. 20), @ BUF (Jan. 22), vs. DAL (Jan. 24), @ NYI (Jan. 25)
Takeaway: Better luck next year? If the past month has proven anything, it's that the Flyers will need a miracle to salvage their season. Eight straight losses going into Tuesday night was bad enough. Scoring more than two goals in only one of those games was worse. The fact that an eight-game skid wasn't even Philadelphia's longest of the season? Well then.
26. Columbus Blue Jackets
Previous ranking: 23
Points percentage: 0.486
Next seven days: @ PHI (Jan. 20), vs. PIT (Jan. 21), vs. OTT (Jan. 23)
Takeaway: Stop the bleeding. The Blue Jackets played eight games in the past month, and in that span gave up the second-most goals in the league (36). A 9-2 loss to Florida prompted coach Brad Larsen to tell his players not to give up on themselves, or the season. Nearing the halfway point, Columbus has to figure out its defensive issues to salvage a potential playoff bid.
27. Ottawa Senators
Previous ranking: 29
Points percentage: 0.375
Next seven days: @ PIT (Jan. 20), @ WSH (Jan. 22), @ CBJ (Jan. 23), vs. BUF (Jan. 25)
Takeaway: Big break for Batherson. Ottawa has played four games so far in 2022, meaning there's a lot of ground for it to cover in the second half of this season. The man to help them do it? Drake Batherson. He's been the Senators' do-everything player all season, and in their few recent outings as well, proving why he's a worthy first-time All-Star selection. If Ottawa manages any kind of push from here, no doubt it'll be led by Batherson.
28. Chicago Blackhawks
Previous ranking: 26
Points percentage: 0.462
Next seven days: vs. MIN (Jan. 21), @ MIN (Jan. 22), @ COL (Jan. 24)
Takeaway: Flower Power prowess. The Blackhawks certainly fell in a rut over the past month, going 1-4-3 into early January. But then Marc-Andre Fleury returned from COVID-19 protocols to save the day. Chicago's netminder settled in and reeled off a 4-0-1 run to get the Blackhawks back on track and feeling good, finally, for the new year.
29. Seattle Kraken
Previous ranking: 28
Points percentage: 0.342
Next seven days: vs. SJ (Jan. 20), vs. STL (Jan. 21), vs. FLA (Jan. 23), vs. NSH (Jan. 25)
Takeaway: Keep pointing fingers. The Kraken have had an underwhelming start and a difficult past month (at 1-7-1). Whose fault is it that Seattle's been so sub-par? Well, take your pick. Lately, criticism has fallen on head coach Dave Hakstol, poor work in the expansion draft by GM Ron Francis, a dearth of scoring, consistently weak goaltending and more. Placing blame won't help Seattle get rolling, though.
30. Buffalo Sabres
Previous ranking: 31
Points percentage: 0.397
Next seven days: vs. DAL (Jan. 20), vs. PHI (Jan. 22), @ OTT (Jan. 25)
Takeaway: Growing goaltender graveyard. It's difficult to win games without good goaltending. It's even harder without anyone healthy enough to play the position. The Sabres have watched one goalie after another go down with injury during the past month, and only putting up about two goals per game hasn't helped take the pressure off whoever is in net. Buffalo needs a boost on both ends, badly. After a 43-save performance, is Michael Houser the answer in goal?
31. Arizona Coyotes
Previous ranking: 32
Points percentage: 0.297
Next seven days: @ NJ (Jan. 19), @ NYI (Jan. 21), @ NYR (Jan. 22), @ PIT (Jan. 25)
Takeaway: Vejmelka on the verge. The Coyotes don't win a ton of games, but they do get some solid goaltending. Karel Vejmelka stole a victory for Arizona over the Maple Leafs last week, and he has been a steady presence this past month as the Coyotes keep battling for consistency.
32. Montreal Canadiens
Previous ranking: 30
Points percentage: 0.276
Next seven days: @ VGK (Jan. 20), @ COL (Jan. 22), @ MIN (Jan. 24)
Takeaway: One right move. The best thing Montreal did this past month was hire Chantal Machabée as its vice president of communication. The first six games it played in 2022 between COVID-19 issues and capacity restrictions resulted in no other victories.