Here are the power rankings for the week ending October 30th:
1. Detroit – The preeminent pick of most pundits, the Red Wings struggled against the Coyotes as starting netminder Jimmy Howard was sidelined with back spasms. So long as Howard’s injury is of a short-term nature, the Red Wings otherwise are operating on all cylinders.
2. Los Angeles – They are rolling out of the box and that’s without Drew Doughty (injury) and with some early struggles by the likes of Anze Kopitar and their first line of Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams. While the extent of Doughty’s injury is a bit concerning, fellow defensemen Jack Johnson and Willie Mitchell have logged in major minutes and have done a nice job filling the void of the young blue-liner.
3. Nashville – The Predators don’t score much, but with they allow far fewer goals currently giving up the 3rd fewest goals in the NHL. Ageless wonder Steve Sullivan is leading the goal-scoring attack for the Preds. The Preds will always be in the playoff conversation as long as GM David Poile and coach Barry Trotz are at the helm
4. Montreal – Despite having one of the worst power plays in the league, the Habs have provided a stingy defense and a very good penalty kill. One wonders when the loss of Jaroslav Halak will affect the team down the road.
5. St. Louis – While they’re unbeaten at home and struggling a bit on the road, the Blues are riding high behind the stellar goaltending of Halak.
6. Tampa Bay – Steven Stamkos is off to a torrid pace towards defense of his Rocket Richard Trophy title. At this rate, he may just add the Art Ross (MVP) trophy to that trophy case. It appears Guy Boucher may have made the right choice in choosing the Lightning over the Blue Jackets.
7. Boston – So glad to see 2009 Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas return as the starting Bruins netminder. But it certainly helps their fortunes when their top line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton are carrying the goal-scoring load so effectively.
8. Calgary – The Flames are proving the pundits wrong so far, including yours truly. Behind the torrid goal-scoring of Rene Bourque, the Flames appear to have regained their penchant for finding the back of the net.
9. Washington – While Alexander Ovechkin has recently struggled, the Caps have found a gem in rookie defenseman John Carlson.
10. Toronto – While the Leafs have cooled a bit after coming out of the gates 4-0, their current 5-3 record sure trumps their awful 0-7-1 start from last season. Captain Dion Phaneuf, who has three assists and is a team-worst minus-5, appears to be trying too hard offensively.
11. Columbus – Considering how badly the Blue Jackets have been plastered in two of their last three losses – by a combined score of 11-4 – they have generally taken advantage of the glut of early season home games. However, their road record of 3-0 might be their most astounding feat of this young season.
12. Chicago – A glut of early season road games have left the defending Stanley Cup champions a bit out of gas to start the season. However, their bigger concerns are their early struggles against the Central Division teams (2-4) and the injuries to Marian Hossa and Brian Campbell.
13. Philadelphia – The Flyers have played fairly well so far this season, but their questionable goaltending may be their Achilles heel towards returning to the playoffs.
14. Pittsburgh – The Pens have been ‘up and down’ so far in this early season, but the struggles of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (1-5 record, 3.35 GAA, .863 Save%) have got to have their faithful concerned.
15. Dallas – Kari Lehtonen is a pleasant surprise, but their struggles on both the PP and Penalty Kill have to be addressed. Loui Eriksson has been outstanding when he has shot the puck, registering a blistering 31.3% goal-scoring percentage.
16. San Jose – Winners of three of their last four games, the Sharks had to have been encouraged by Joe Thornton’s epic night against the New Jersey Devils, with three goals, two assists and a +4 +/- rating. Prior to that game, Jumbo Joe had two goals, five assists and a putrid -9 rating.
17. Colorado – So far, the Avs have proven the doubters wrong about their impending plummet via sophomore jinx for the eleven rookies from last year’s playoff team. Rather, it’s Craig Anderson’s injured knee that may be the issue that may prove the pundits correct.
18. Vancouver – The Canucks have struggled a bit out of the gate, but it’s the oddity of Roberto Luongo’s 2-3-2 record and backup Cory Schneider’s 2-0 record and .968 Save% that has been the biggest surprise.
19. Atlanta – The Thrashers have been starting to gel after bringing in several role players from Chicago. Their defense, however, will hurt their chances even when starting goaltender Ondrej Pavelec does return from that scary opening night collapse on the ice.
20. Carolina – The youth movement is on in Carolina, but it’s the veterans who have lead the way, so far. Their 4-3 road record so far is a positive indicator that the ‘Canes might be much-improved this season.
21. Minnesota – The Wild have outstanding on the power play, with Matt Cullen leading the way in this department. Mikko Koivu, and Niklas Backstrom have been stout for the Wild, but the same cannot be said about the others on the team.
22. Phoenix – The Coyotes have been mediocre so far this season, although former third overall pick Kyle Turris has been a pleasant surprise,. But until ‘Yotes’ stalwarts Shane Doan, Ray Whitney and Wojtek Wolski get untracked, they could be digging themselves into an early-season hole.
23. New York Islanders – This plucky bunch has been quite impressive on the power play, and they have been quiet prolific in lighting the lamp while on even-strength. Their young guns will have to continue to score to overcome the devastating shoulder injuries to Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo.
24. New York Rangers – With injuries to stars Marian Gaborik and Chris Drury, the Broadway Blueshirts have been staying above water with their young Blueline contingent. Michal Rozsival has been leading the defense, while Brandon Dubinsky has been leading the offense.
25. Anaheim – What knucklehead predicted that the Ducks would be in the playoff chase? Wait, that knucklehead was me – that serves me right for not looking at their defensive corps, or lack thereof, more closely. Giving up almost 40 shots per game is a recipe for disaster, not to mention a formula for head coach Randy Carlyle being on the early hot seat.
26. Florida – If there is any GM who can turn around the fortunes of a moribund organization, Dale Tallon can. While the Panthers scraps and puts out consistent effort, the rebuild and the fortunes that go with it are a ways off.
27. Ottawa – The Senators have recently reeled off two consecutive victories, but a lack of secondary scoring, little scoring overall and a porous defense are signs that changes are coming soon in Canada’s capital city.
28. Buffalo – There is early trouble afoot in Buffalo as the Sabres have been awful at HSBC arena going 0-5-1 in their first six games. Could both Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff be on the hot seat?
29. Edmonton – The Oilers should struggle most of this season, but there are encouraging signs with their two premier young stars in Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall. Hall finally notched his first career NHL goal against Columbus, then followed it with a goal the following game.
30. New Jersey – Who’d have thought this would happen? John MacLean is already on the hot seat, Ilya Kovalchuck has been benched and the Devils are dysfunctional and an embarrassment.