For the fourth straight week, the Anaheim Ducks find themselves at the top of thn.com’s Power Rankings, but the St. Louis Blues continue to remain in hot pursuit. Three of the top seven teams in our rankings are California-based teams. Take that, northeast.
This is getting scary. The Anaheim Ducks are not only beating teams, they’ve scored at least four goals in seven of their past eight games, capped by a 9-1 stomping of the Vancouver Canucks Wedensday night. The only concern now is whether or not the Ducks are peaking too soon.
Nothing has changed at the top or bottom of thn.com’s Power Rankings for this week. (Last week’s rankings are in parentheses.)
1. ANAHEIM (1): The Ducks have won 18 of their past 19, eight in a row and 20 of 22 on home ice. It’s hard to convince a team to not win games, but perhaps if this team is going to experience any adversity this season, it should be now. That’s because they don’t want to be experiencing it four months from now in the playoffs. GM Bob Murray said there’s, “not a chance in hell,” he’ll trade 14-straight-game winner Jonas Hiller.
2. ST. LOUIS (2): Here’s the most amazing thing about the St. Louis Blues this season. They’ve scored 63 more goals than they’ve allowed this season, which is 21 better than both Anaheim and Chicago. They’re 8-1-1 in their past 10 and could make things very interesting in the Western Conference once they make up their games on the Ducks and Blackhawks.
3. PITTSBURGH (3): The only blemish on the Penguins record of late was a 4-3 overtime loss to Edmonton last weekend. After an impressive 4-3 win over Washington Wednesday night, the Penguins now have four days to cool their heels before meeting Florida next Monday night. The most impressive thing about the Penguins is how they’ve excelled without their stars, the latest of whom to leave the lineup being James Neal.
4. CHICAGO (4): With losses on four of their past five games – three of them in overtime or shootout – the Blackhawks are enduring their first slump in the past two seasons. What’s more concerning, though, is No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford, to whom the Blackhawks have hitched their wagon for the long-term, hasn’t won in seven starts and, combined with an injury, hasn’t tasted victory in six weeks.
5. COLORADO (5): With points in each of their past four games and seven of their past eight, Patrick Roy’s troops are proving their early-season success was no fluke. Only a collapse of biblical proportion would prevent the Avs from making the playoffs this season. The Avs finished their 3-2 overtime win over Chicago Tuesday night with just 16 skaters.
6. SAN JOSE (6): At just 13-10-3, the Sharks have the weakest road record of any elite team in the NHL this season, which was why their 2-1 shootout win over Washington Tuesday night was such a noteworthy accomplishment. The Sharks have not only made enormous amounts of hay at home, but they’ve also done so in the shootout, picking up an extra eight of 13 possible points. Only Toronto has earned more.
7. LOS ANGELES (9): The Kings are just 3-6-1 in their past 10 games and are hoping a five-game road trip before their outdoor game will give them an opportunity to get back on track. The trade of Ben Scrivens to Edmonton will give the Kings the chance to give Martin Jones full-time employment at the NHL level as Jonathan Quick’s backup. The Kings have given up a league-low 96 goals.
8. TAMPA BAY (8): After missing three games and four starts with an injured wrist, Ben Bishop continued his run for the Vezina Trophy with an impressive 2-1 victory over the Rangers Tuesday night. Speaking of impressive, Victor Hedman is beginning to show why the Lightning chose him second overall in 2009. He scored his 10th goal against the Rangers and is one off the league lead among defensemen. His next point will be his 27th, which will be a career high for him.
9. BOSTON (9): It looks as though the loss of Dennis Seidenberg on the blueline is proving to be more devastating than expected. The Bruins have been giving up four and five goals on a shockingly regular basis lately and are just 5-5-0 in their past 10. With Loui Eriksson and Shawn Thornton returning, the Bruins had a chance to swat aside the slumping Maple Leafs, but lost 4-3 on a three-assist effort by former Bruin Phil Kessel.
10. MONTREAL (11): The Canadiens looked listless in a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of New Jersey in what might have been Martin Brodeur’s last game in his hometown. The Canadiens are having all kinds of trouble scoring goals. Young forwards Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk have really hit dry spots, but the Canadiens are being carried by superior team defense and goaltending.
11. TORONTO (18): No team in the NHL has picked up more than the nine points the Maple Leafs have in shootouts this season and no team gives up more shots per game. So the Leafs might be doing all this with a mirrors, but they’ve won three in a row and always seem to pick themselves up off the mat when given up for dead. Tyler Bozak has been on fire since coming back from injury.
12. MINNESOTA (13): The ailing Wild got some good news Wednesday when Zach Parise skated for the first time since breaking his foot 11 games ago. Goalie Josh Harding has also returned to the ice and Jared Spurgeon and Mikko Koivu are both on the mend. But none of them is expected to return in the short-term, which means the Wild will have to go through a crucial pre-Olympic stretch without some of their best players.
13. VANCOUVER (10): After watching his team lose 9-1 to Anaheim Wednesday night, coach John Tortorella took the high road, saying, “It does me no good and it does the players no good to discuss anything that happened here.” The Canucks are in trouble. They’ve lost seven of their past eight games, their scoring has dried up and they’re 1-7-3 against California-based teams this season.
14. PHILADELPHIA (12): In a dogfight for a playoff spot, the Flyers embark on a stretch of five very winnable games starting Thursday night with Nashville, the Islanders back-to-back, Carolina and Columbus on the docket. If they’re going to pull away from the pack and secure their spot in the post-season, now would be a good time to do it.
15. WASHINGTON (15): The Capitals are incapable, it seems, of playing with any sense of consistency at all. They’ve lost three in a row, with two of the losses coming in shootouts and the other when Pittsburgh scored the winner with less than two minutes remaining. Coach Adam Oates acknowledged, “We blew it,” in the Pittsburgh game, saying on two goals his lines were out for far too long.
16. NY RANGERS (16): Despite a 2-1 loss to Tampa Tuesday night, the Rangers are starting to get things together on home ice, gaining points in five of their previous games at Madison Square Garden. And that is crucial for the Blueshirts. Including their two outdoor games at Yankee Stadium, the Rangers play 15 of their next 18 in New York City.
17. OTTAWA (21): With points in their past seven games, the Senators are one of the hottest teams in the NHL at the moment. Inconsistency had plagued the Senators early in the season with good games followed up by terrible efforts, but they seem to have rectified that as of late. The Senators play their next nine against and 12 of their next 13 leading to the Olympic break against Eastern Conference teams.
18. DETROIT (15): Pavel Datsyuk, who was named captain of the Russian Olympic team this week, is beginning to concern the Red Wings. A lower-body injury that was supposed to be day-to-day, has stretched to five games and will force him to miss a game against the Rangers Thursday night. He joins Darren Helm, Johan Franzen, Daniel Alfredsson and Johan Gustavsson on the injured list.
19. PHOENIX (14): Thursday night’s home game against Vancouver should be an interesting one. The Canucks are coming off their worst beating of the season and the Coyotes have lost four in a row, scoring just two goals in their past two games. “We’re not very good,” opined Coyotes captain Shane Doan last weekend. “We haven’t been very good for a while. We’ve been fooling ourselves.”
20. COLUMBUS (25): Don’t look now, but the Blue Jackets are coming on with four straight wins. Really, don’t look. Because as soon as anyone seems to take notice of how well the Blue Jackets are playing, that’s when they go into the dumper. With back-to-back games coming up against the slumping Capitals and the last-place Sabres, the Blue Jackets have a wonderful opportunity to enhance their playoff hopes.
21. NEW JERSEY (23): Patrik Elias, who has missed the past seven games with a knee injury, could be ready to go Thursday night when the Devils visit Colorado. In what might have been his last visit to the Bell Center, Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur came away with a 4-1 victory.
22. DALLAS (19): The Stars finally broke a seven-game losing streak with a 5-2 win over Edmonton Tuesday night. It was the Stars longest losing streak in 18 years. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, the Stars undisputed go-to offensive weapons, ran dry during the streak in which the Stars were outscored 26-12.
23. CAROLINA (20): After posting an impressive five straight wins, the Hurricanes have gone two games without scoring a single goal. What was worse, they came up with those efforts in very winnable games against Columbus and Calgary. What’s even worse than that, the Hurricanes clearly were outworked against Calgary and if the Hurricanes hope to stay in the playoff picture, that cannot be the case.
24. NASHVILLE (22): The Predators snapped a three-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over Calgary Tuesday night, but have just two wins to show for their past eight games. With Pekka Rinne still out with an injury, the Predators took a pretty big gamble in dealing for Devan Dubnyk from Edmonton. On the plus side, it got them out of an onerous contract with fourth-liner Matt Hendricks.
25. FLORIDA (27): The Panthers got a new scoreboard courtesy of the fine taxpayers in Broward County, which helped them land the 2015 entry draft. Aside from that, it’s another season to forget for the Panthers, who actually have played pretty well lately, but dug themselves into such a hole that emerging from it will be next to impossible.
26. WINNIPEG (26): Congratulations to Paul Maurice on being named the new coach of the Atlanta Thrashers. Unless and until the Jets begin to change the culture that seems to have carried over from Atlanta, they’re not going anywhere. Maurice, who won his debut with the Jets Monday night, must make that his No. 1 priority. Dustin Byfuglien will continue to play forward until further notice.
27. NY ISLANDERS (24): Go figure this team. It wins four straight against Western Conference competition and seven of eight overall, then loses against the lowly Panthers Tuesday night. Their only other loss during that stretch was to Carolina. The Islanders are starting to score more, thanks to the Thomas Vanek–John Tavares–Kyle Okposo line and some solid play from defenseman Calvin de Haan.
28. CALGARY (28): The Flames have not scored more than two goals in any of their past five games, but they are earning respect around the league for their compete level and unwillingness to quit. The only Flame who is producing, though, is Mikael Backlund, who has three goals in his past three games.
29. EDMONTON (29): The Oilers feel they’ve stabilized their goaltending at least for the rest of this season by acquiring Ben Scrivens from Los Angeles, but the reality is this team is far too light and not near physical enough to seriously compete in the Western Conference. Matt Hendricks will help a little, but he won’t be taking any ice time away from the Oilers overworked youngsters.
30. BUFFALO (30): About the best thing you can say concerning the Sabres at this point is at least they’re not being blown out. Each of their past five games has been a one-goal game, with the Sabres winning two of them and losing two of them in shootouts. The trade watch for Ryan Miller and Matt Moulson continues.