As we’re well into the month of November, there has been some movement in the latest power rankings. Some teams have “come back down to earth” from their spectacular starts, while others are starting to assert themselves in their usual position of NHL dominance.
With that, here are the power rankings for the week ending November 19th:
1. Detroit (Last Ranking – LR: 1) – The Red Wings have benefited from their recent six-game homestand and have reeled off four consecutive wins. Add to that the welcomed return of Brian Rafalski and the return to form of captain Nicklas Lidstrom and you have a team who’s asserted themselves as a preeminent NHL power.
2. Washington (LR: 6) – With only one regulation loss in their last ten games, the Caps have found their stride to the top of the Eastern Conference standings. They are getting help from their usual stalwarts – Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green and Alex Semin – but are also getting major contributions from new players John Carlson and Karl Alzner who appears to be finally getting acclimated to the NHL. If only Semyon Varamov could get healthy – it would take the workload rigors away from starting netminder Michael Neuvirth.
3. Los Angeles (LR: 3) – I had this team set for the top of the power rankings, but to lose their first home game – it had to happen eventually, but – against the ‘up and down’ Blue Jackets, while giving up three consecutive goals? I couldn’t do it, then. However, the Kings will rebound with authority and should eventually rise to the top of the rankings and possibly the Western Conference standings. Their league-leading Penalty Kill (PK) mark, particularly their 100% home (games) kill rate, is other-worldly.
4. Philadelphia (LR: 8) – I’ve questioned their goaltending in the past few rankings – no more. Rookie Sergei “Bob” Bobrovsky has proven to be the real deal, posting a 10-2-1 record and the Flyers are arguably the NHL’s hottest team, going 8-1-1 over their last ten games. Bobrovsky might be this year’s Steve Mason and could not only nab the Calder Trophy, but could challenge for the Vezina.
5. Vancouver (LR: 7) – A tough loss against the Penguins, but the ‘Nucks have really started to live up to expectations after their usual struggles out of the gate. Their goaltending, including backup Cory Schneider, is solid and their power play efficiency of late (41% over the previous six games) has been lethal.
6. Montreal (LR: 9) – The Habs have rectified their early-season power play struggles, and Cary Price has been solid in net, but they will be tested with the loss of defenseman Andrei Markov (knee).
7. Boston (LR: 2) – This drop in the rankings is a result of the Bruins recent struggles in losing four of five games. However, the B’s have rebounded in winning their last two games. Boston cannot experience any scoring droughts like they had in losing three of four games, in which they scored one goal or less in each game. Tim Thomas is not THAT good.
8. Columbus (LR: 10) – No, this is not a typo. No, this is not a homer pick. It’s one thing to pound the St. Louis Blues, 8-1, but it’s another thing to go into Staples Center and beat the previously undefeated LA Kings, 5-3. Like the Bruins, it is still difficult to get a read on the Blue Jackets, be it that most wins are decided by a goal and that most of the losses are of the blowout variety, but they have yet to experience back-to-back losses and that speaks volumes of a new attitude in Columbus.
9. San Jose (LR: 17) – After winning three games in a row and four of five on a recent homestand, the Sharks then lost their last two road games in overtime. They do need to become a more consistent road team as they’ve been in the past, but they also need to find a consistent ‘go to’ starting netminder, or at least a consistent plan on divvying up the workload.
10. St. Louis (LR: 4) – Losers of three games in a row and going 0-4-1 in their last five games, including a pounding against the Blue Jackets a week ago, the Blues are struggling. Are their struggles a ‘coming back to earth’, the effect of the glut of injuries or merely a precursor of things to come? Perhaps their upcoming two-game homestand against two struggling teams in Ottawa and New Jersey can ‘right the ship’.
11. Anaheim (LR: 27) – After reeling off a six-game winning streak, the Ducks have righted the ship after a disastrous start to the season. While their questionable defensive corps has played much-improved hockey, it remains to be seen whether they can sustain their recent solid play.
12. Pittsburgh (LR: 19) – The Penguins have been playing much better as of late, particularly improving upon their wretched 2-5 record in their new arena. Marc-Andre Fleury is starting to play much better and the Pens will need that to continue while they wait for the return of Selke Trophy finalist Jordan Staal.
13. Phoenix (LR: 21) – The Coyotes have reeled off a three-game winning streak via the goal-scoring of Ray Whitney – not a surprise – and Lauri Korpikoski – a big surprise. Shane Doan’s injury hurts their chances significantly, but Wojtek Wolski’s inability to get the puck in the net – 2 goals on 31 shots or a 6.5% scoring percentage – is most disconcerting.
14. Tampa Bay (LR: 5) – The Lightning have begun to rectify an atrocious November start in which they lost seven of their first eight games by winning their last two contests. The Bolts have to provide some scoring support for Steven Stamkos and they should establish Dan Ellis as their starting netminder, as Mike Smith has struggled with a 3.66 GAA and a .868 save percentage.
15. Chicago (LR: 16) – The Blackhawks are starting to show signs of life after winning their last two games. However, a five-game road swing will test their mettle. The Hawks really need to get production out of their top-line performers, as the two Patrick’s – Kane and Sharp – are a combined -15 +/- rating.
16. Colorado (LR: 12) – I honestly don’t know how this team continues to stay in the hunt given all of their injuries, particularly to starting goalie Craig Anderson and three members of their defensive group. But, with an impressive young arsenal of talent, speed and depth, the Avs might be able to hang in there, even with the sometimes shaky Peter Budaj in net.
17. Dallas (LR: 11) – After a horrific three-game road trip, one in which they were outscored 12-3, the Stars rebounded at home to post two victories against solid Western Conference foes. While Mike Riberio has finally found the back of the net, they will need him to continue to score to take the pressure off of Kari Lehtonen, who has been able to stay healthy, thus far.
18. Minnesota (LR: 18) – Except for their prolific power play, the Wild just cannot score goals. When your two leading goal-scorers have six and five goals, respectively, that puts a great deal of pressure on world-class netminder Niklas Backstrom. So much for the push to go up-tempo – it sure seems like shades of Jacques Lemaire hockey.
19. New York Rangers (LR: 13) – Marian Gaborik returned to the Blueshirts’ lineup in epic fashion by posting a hat trick in just his second game back from his shoulder injury. Also encouraging was Martin Biron’s play in relief of Henrik Lundquist due to illness.
20. Nashville (LR: 15) – As cliché as it might sound, the Preds just find ways to win. Of course, having nine of your next ten games on the road would cause most teams to slump somewhat. Much like the Wild, the Preds just do not have a ‘go to’ goal scorer, with three players tied for the club lead with merely five goals.
21. Ottawa (LR: 25) – The Senators are a streaky team, to be sure, but they were beneficiaries of a recent soft schedule, save for two impressive road wins against the Canadiens and the Bruins. Brian Elliot seems to have established himself as the starting netminder for the Sens.
22. Carolina (LR: 20) – If you want to follow a club who doesn’t win or lose close games, Carolina is your team. In their last four victories, the ‘Canes outscored their opponents by a margin of 24-6. In their last three losses, they were outscored 7-22 and all of which had Cam Ward in net.
23. Toronto (LR: 23) – The Leafs rebounded from a dreadful eight-game winless streak by winning their last two games. Now that phenom Nazem Kadri has been brought up to their big squad, the hope is that Kadri can provide Phil Kessel with some goal-scoring support, as Clarke MacArthur has cooled from his torrid start to the season.
24. Atlanta (LR: 14) – The Thrashers just seem to be inconsistent, the downside of trying to meld so many changes in personnel to start the season. Dustin Byfuglien has been a pleasant surprise both as a scorer and in adapting to playing the blueline. Ondrej Pavelec has solidified himself as the starting goalie.
25. Florida (LR: 26) – It’s no secret that the Panthers are scoring-impaired, but when your two defensemen are your leading scorers, well that presents a problem. They’re very lucky that Tomas Vokoun has been so stout in goal for them – otherwise, the countdown to the draft lottery would have been on in South Beach.
26. Buffalo (LR: 30) – While they apparently have an abhorrence for completing their games in 60 minutes – they had five consecutive games go past the regulation time period, the Sabres are showing signs of life and being competitive. They sure could use some offensive spark from Thomas Vanek and Tim Connolly as well as a return to Vezina Trophy form by Ryan Miller.
27. Calgary (LR: 22) – The Flames have dimmed, having lost seven of their past eight games. Captain Jarome Iginla has got to wonder how much longer he wishes to stay around this dwindling organization.
28. New Jersey (LR: 29)- Just when it appeared that they’d started to climb out of the NHL basement, the Devils lost four of their next five games. Now, if they could only convince team CEO/President/GM Lou Lamoriello that it may be time to blow this team up and start again – wait, that won’t happen? Well then, it will be a long few seasons at the Rock (Prudential Arena).
29. Edmonton (LR: 28) – The Oilers have struggled with a 2-10-3 mark in their last 15 games, most losses of which were of the blowout variety. Add to that a recent groin injury to starting goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin and, were it not for the Islanders struggles, the Oilers appeared to have had the early track on landing the number one overall draft pick, next June.
30. New York Islanders (LR: 24) – So, recently-fired head coach Scott Gordon was the problem? It couldn’t be inept goaltending, key injuries, a lack of scoring or a lack of overall talent, could it? That 0-10-1 streak must have been a fluke. Until a change is made at levels above the head coach, the Isles will be no better than a middling AHL-level squad.