NHL Power Rankings (November 22 to December 6)
by Jason Schwartz - 12/07/2006
With an impressive road trip, Anaheim has taken over the No. 1 spot on the rankings. Lots of big drops and jumps in this week's rankings as Ottawa and Calgary finally crack the top 15. The drops included such teams as Toronto, Minnesota and Pittsburgh. The team that took the biggest leap was the Ottawa Senators, who jumped 13 spots with their impressive improvement since the last power rankings. The team that took the biggest drop was the Pittsburgh Penguins as they drop eight spots while Sidney Crosby was out of the lineup for a couple of games.
1. Anaheim Ducks 20-3-6 (3) - They continue to dominate teams at home. They picked up their most impressive win of the season in a 5-0 pounding of their division rival, the San Jose Sharks. Just as impressive was the 3-2 comeback win against Edmonton on the road against a very hostile crowd.
2. Buffalo Sabres 21-4-2 (1) - The injury list has finally receded, and the Sabres are still in first place in the Eastern Conference. They did have some impressive wins during the past two weeks, but an OT loss to the Montreal Canadiens and a disastrous 7-4 loss to the Washington Capitals knocked them off their No. 1 perch.
3. San Jose Sharks 28-8-0 (2) - After a disappointing loss to Anaheim, the Sharks went on a five-game winning streak. Their young defense and goaltending tandem both continue to impress me.
4. Atlanta Thrashers 18-7-4 (10) - Just when the Thrashers look to be going downhill, they manage to pick up points in seven straight games, going 6-0-1. Marian Hossa continues to give the Thrashers an MVP performance this year as he leads the league in scoring.
5. Nashville Predators 17-6-3 (4) - Nashville is getting their first taste of the injury bug, as top centerman Jason Arnott will be out until late December. More importantly, starting goaltender Tomas Vokoun could be out for another month. Do not hesitate too much to bet on the Predators though; their backup goalie Chris Mason has looked solid in relief.
6. Detroit Red Wings 15-7-4 (5) - In the absence of starting goaltender Dominik Hasek, the Red Wings got blasted in a 6-2 loss against their current division leader, the Nashville Predators. After that loss, the Wings finally ended their five-game winless streak, and Hasek has been as solid as ever this season. With their usual backup goalie Chris Osgood injured, the Wings are now forced to currently go with an unproven goaltender in Joey MacDonald as Hasek's relief.
7. Montreal Canadiens 15-8-3 (9) - I cannot say enough about the Canadiens this season, they can beat you in an offensive battle or a defensive battle. Although Huet had a weak outing in his last game against Boston, he continues to be one of the best goalies in the league. The highlight of Montreal's past two weeks was a thrilling overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres on the road.
8. Dallas Stars 18-9-0 (4) - Dallas has not looked too good offensively the past week, and has had trouble keeping leads. They lost back-to-back games against the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks; they blew third period leads in both games, very disappointing for a team that is so disciplined defensively.
9. Ottawa Senators 15-12-1 (22) - Finally the Senators have come around, and are starting to play dominant hockey. They have won eight of the past nine games, and usually win by more than one goal. As I have said before, do not be afraid to play the puckline on this team when the odds are not to your liking. Besides, the Senators usually lose games decided by one goal.
10. New Jersey Devils 14-9-2 (11) - After going a disappointing 0-3-1 record during their west coast swing, the Devils picked up important wins against division opponents (Philadelphia and Pittsburgh). They have been excellent in games decided by one-goal, going 10-1-2.
11. New York Islanders 14-10-3 (17) - The current leaders of the Atlantic Division have lost their leading scorer Alexei Yashin for probably a month due to a knee injury. Although it looked like cause for concern, the Islanders managed to pick up huge road wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers.
12. Carolina Hurricanes 15-11-3 (7) - After playing their worst game of the season against the New York Islanders, the Hurricanes bounced back with an impressive 5-1 road win over the red hot Boston Bruins. The Hurricanes got great news this week as they were able to activate one of their top forwards from last season, Cory Stillman. He should be back in the lineup very soon and he should add some offensive punch.
13. Edmonton Oilers 14-10-2 (13) - The Oilers looked to be going downhill as they surprisingly lost three straight games at home before shutting out the Vancouver Canucks on the road. The Oilers offense will be suffering for a bit, as two of their top forwards are out with injury. Ales Hemsky should be out until mid-December, and leading goal scorer Ryan Smyth is expected to be out for possibly 2-6 weeks.
14. Minnesota Wild 14-11-2 (8) - With the absence of two of their top forwards, the Wild have been slipping in the standings. They should be up the rankings soon, though, as the tandem of Pavol Demitra and Marion Gaborik will return in the next few games.
15. Calgary Flames 13-10-2 (18) - Just like a replication of last season, Calgary is making up for their horrible start to the season by racking up wins at home, as they have won 10 in a row on the home ice. Their road play has not improved much, however, and they have a long six-game road trip starting on Dec. 14. After that we will see if they can still get back into the thick of things.
16. New York Rangers 13-10-4 (15) - The goaltending just has not been consistently there this year, along with the defense. Some games the Rangers look great, but they need to find scoring from someone outside of Brendan Shanahan and their first line, their top four scorers have combined for nearly 70 percent of their goals. There is good news for the Rangers, however, as they will not be seeing the Buffalo Sabres again for the rest of the regular season, and they could not win one out of the four meetings between the two teams.
17. Boston Bruins 13-10-2 (23) - Boston has really turned their game around and are starting to put pucks in the net. The Bruins have won seven of their last 10, the goaltending from Tim Thomas has been consistently good and the team feels like they are finally clicking.
18. Toronto Maple Leafs 13-11-5 (12) - Toronto has hit their first cold streak of the season; their last two games they have blown two-goal leads in the third period. The way Boston and Ottawa are playing, the Leafs could find themselves at the bottom of the very competitive Northeast Division soon. The pressure is definitely on for them to start winning again soon.
19. Colorado Avalanche 12-13-2 (21) - The Avalanche are a bit of a wild card still this season as they are capable of beating any team in the league on any night, but some nights they just cannot seem to capitalize on their scoring chances. Their 7-3 win against Edmonton was their most impressive offensive performance this year, but then they end up only scoring one goal in their next two games.
20. Washington Capitals 11-9-6 (20) - The Capitals ended their long winless streak in impressive fashion, as they knocked off Tampa Bay, Dallas and outscored Buffalo in a 7-4 win. Olaf Kolzig has been nothing short of excellent, and has been a big reason why Washington has had great confidence lately.
21. Tampa Bay Lightning 13-13-2 (16) - This team continues to be streaky. After winning three straight, they are now winless in four straight. The schedule is only going to get harder in the upcoming weeks as the goaltending continues to be their main issue.
22. Pittsburgh Penguins 11-11-4 (14) - They managed to gain two points in the two games in which young star forward Sidney Crosby was out of the lineup. The Penguins have not been that bad offensively, the goaltending and defense has lacked a bit the last couple of games, though. The Penguins continue to struggle against the Florida Panthers, as they lost to them for the 13th time in their last 14 meetings.
23. Vancouver 13-14-1 (19) - At the beginning of the season the offense was getting scoring from a lot of different sources, then the offense slowly got worse. Now it is at rock bottom, as goaltender Roberto Luongo is barely getting any support offensively from the Canucks. The frustrating part is that they know how to create scoring opportunities, but they just cannot finish, they are 7th in the league in shots on goal but average just over two goals a game, go figure.
24. Florida Panthers 9-15-5 (24) - One of the leaders of the Panthers has decided to hang his skates up. Future hall-of-famer Joe Nieuwendyk was forced to retire due to back injuries. The Panthers are struggling, and are glad to get that disastrous month of November out of the way. The team is slowly fading out of the playoff picture and their youth has to start producing more if they want to stay anywhere near the playoffs by midseason.
25. Chicago Blackhawks 10-12-3 (27) - A new coach, and already the Blackhawks have improved. The more offensive-minded approach of new coach Denis Savard has to sit more comfortably with the players, as they managed to steal wins against Dallas, Nashville and they gained a point in a shootout loss to Minnesota. The goaltending from Nikolai Khabibulin has been exceptional. Top forward Martin Havlat should be ready to play this week, and he should make Chicago a much bigger threat with his offensive prowess.
26. Phoenix Coyotes 10-15-0 (26) - Even with all their injuries, the Coyotes continue to put a good effort forward each night. They continue to have trouble winning on the road, though. Mike Comrie, one of the team's top forwards, should be back from injury within the next couple of games.
27. Philadelphia Flyers 8-15-4 (28) - The Flyers are starting to give a more consistent effort at this point in the season. The injuries are starting to slowly pile up, though, and I highly doubt they will be able to get back on track anytime soon.
28. Los Angeles Kings 10-15-4 (25) - The Kings picked up a rare divisional win against Anaheim, as they finally beat the Ducks after losing three close games to them. The Kings have only won four out of 12 games against divisional opponents.
29. Columbus 8-16-2 (29) - I want to congratulate Columbus on finally beating the Colorado Avalanche in regulation for the first time in their history (23 games in total against Colorado). Goaltender Fredrik Norrena has been hot in goal lately, as he shutout Edmonton and Colorado on the road in consecutive games. Things might be finally looking up for the blue Jackets and new head coach Ken Hitchcock.
30. St. Louis 7-16-3 (30) - Losers of five straight, the Blues are finally healthy on defense and it has not been pretty so far. The Blues got dominated in a 5-1 loss to Detroit last game as the Blues could not muster out a good effort on the night of Brett Hull's retirement ceremony. The Blues could possibly get in even more trouble, the long-term injury to goaltender Curtis Sanford, and the consistent injuries to their other goalie, Manny Legace, will put pressure on third string goaltender Jason Bacashihua. Bacashihua is capable of stealing games for the blues though, and he is a skilled goalie as I recall seeing him play numerous times last season.