NHL Power Rankings (November 8 to November 21)
by Jason Schwartz - 11/21/2006
The New York Islanders are really starting to prove their critics wrong (including myself), and have now made the Atlantic Division a 4-team battle for the time being. I also witnessed probably two of the biggest upsets of the year so far as Philadelphia and Chicago both came into Anaheim and won at about 4 to 1 underdogs (and the Phoenix coyotes were not too far off either). Calgary is starting to get hot and now only see themselves 5 points behind the Minnesota Wild for first place in the Northwest Division. I do not think any team has been surging like the Carolina Hurricanes though, as they improved the most in the power rankings, jumping from the 15th spot to the 7th spot. The team that took the biggest downfall was the Vancouver Canucks, they fell 7 spots down to number 19.
1. Buffalo Sabres 16-3-1 (1) - Found themselves lose twice to the Ottawa senators in one week. Skilled forwards Maxim Afinogenov has come back earlier than expected from injury, however, two of Buffalo's starting defenseman still have a spot on the injured list (Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder). Buffalo's has not really had much trouble winning in their last ten games but their defense has not been much help, as the Sabres have let up nearly 4 goals a game during that span.
2. San Jose Sharks 15-6-0 (3) - San Jose is one of the hottest teams in the league right now. They have won 8 of their last 10 games and have played great both at home and on the road. They have a huge divisional game coming up on road against the first-place Anaheim Ducks (November 21).
3. Anaheim Ducks 14-2-5 (2) - Yikes! Talk about a bad stretch, they receive a rare home loss against the struggling Philadelphia Flyers, and then lose to the offensively-challenged Chicago Blackhawks in a shootout. Their win over Phoenix in their last game was not too convincing either. In their last three home games the Ducks' goaltending has recently struggled for the first time this year, and their penalty-killing has not been looking too sharp as of late either.
4. Nashville Predators 12-4-2 (5) - Good goaltending continues to bail out their young defenseman, Nashville only has one regulation loss in their last 14 games. Their only loss came in an important game against the only team that is trying to contend with them in the Central Division, the Detroit Red Wings.
5. Detroit Red Wings 12-5-2 (8) - the wings continue to get it done with defense. Goaltender Dominik Hasek does not have to work much considering the Red Wings allow the least shots per game in the NHL (by a wide margin I might add). Their amazing 9-game winning streak was snapped on the road against a desperate Calgary Flames hockey club.
6. Dallas Stars 13-6-0 (4) - Still hanging in there with the big boys of the Pacific Division despite the struggles they were facing on offense. Their offense did break out of a bad slump by scoring 10 goals in their past two games.
7. Carolina Hurricanes 12-7-3 (15) - Well I mentioned last time that captain Rod Brind'Amour was slowly leading the Hurricanes back to the top, well it looks like they reached the top a lot sooner than expected. All the top forwards for the Hurricanes are playing excellent, and the team as a whole is now tied for 2nd in the league in goals per game.
8. Minnesota Wild 12-6-1 (6) - Did not look too good on their 5-game road trip going 2-3 (both wins were in a shootout). They did show some great resiliency in their 7-6 win over Nashville though, as they battled down from a 6-3 deficit late in the 2nd period against a good hockey club. One positive for the Wild lately has been the exceptional play of rookie netminder Niklas Backstrom, the backup goalie has stopped nearly 95% of the shots he has faced, and has allowed less than 2 goals a game in 5 games. This means that you should not be hesitant to bet on the Wild if star goalie Manny Fernandez is not expected to start.
9. Montreal Canadiens - 11-5-3 (9) - One of the best goalies from last season, Cristobal Huet, is really starting elevate his game and showing that he was not just a one-year wonder. Montreal has won 4 out of the past 5 games Huet has started. On the negative side, the Canadiens have lost the last two games in which their other goalie, David Aebischer, has started. Aebischer played so poorly that he was pulled during each of his two losses.
10. Atlanta Thrashers 12-7-3 (7) - Goaltender Khari Lehtonen is struggling heavily in net and as a result, the Thrashers have let the Carolina Hurricanes right back in the race for the Southeast Division. After a 4-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, the Thrashers are now on a season-high, 4-game losing skid. If Khari Lehtonen does not start playing decently soon, the Thrashers will be trying to catch up to Carolina all season.
11. New Jersey Devils 12-6-1 (14) - The Devils are getting back to playing more of a sound defensive game over the last 2 weeks and ultimately lead the very tightly grouped Atlantic Division. New Jersey has won 6 out of their last 7 games and will now test themselves son the road as they visit the west coast.
12. Toronto Maple Leafs 11-6-4 (11) - Even with Mats Sundin out of the lineup, the Leafs are still playing decent hockey. They beat their arch rival Montreal in dominant fashion, and have found themselves on the wrong end of some 1-goal games. Number one goalie Andrew Raycroft is already back from the injured list.
13. Edmonton Oilers 11-8-1 (17) - The Oilers ended their 4-game winless streak with a 4-1 win over Columbus, the Oilers have currently won 4 of the last 5 games. Their next 5 games are at home where they play excellent hockey. Dwayne Roloson has been spectacular in goal, as he has stopped 94% of the shots he faced over the past 6 games.
14. Pittsburgh Penguins 9-7-2 (10) - Last couple of weeks have not been too good for the Penguins, as they are now currently out of a playoff spot, but they have played less games than the majority of the NHL. Penguins have done a great job so far of winning when it counts the most, as they are 6-1 in divisional games.
15. New York Rangers 11-9-1 (13) - They have been getting a bit of a better goaltending performance from goaltender Henrik Lundqvist but the Rangers still can't seem to catch much fire yet. Their most recent losses could be blame don their offense as they have only gotten 3 goals in their last 3 losses with the great offensive talent they have. Their schedule is going be really tough the next couple of weeks.
16. Tampa Bay Lightning 10-9-1 (18) - When the Lightning traded for goalie Marc Denis during the offseason they were very optimistic that their goaltending problems were done, how wrong they have been so far. Denis is splitting playing time with rookie netminder, Johan Holmqvist. The Lightning's penalty kill is currently the worst in the league, but it is not huge issue I guess since they do not take many penalties.
17. New York Islanders 9-6-3 (22) - I'm speechless when it comes to this team. I said twice that they were close to becoming a below average team again, and they continue to make me look foolish. They are currently 3-0-1 on their road trip (which ends November 21 against Toronto), and the fact that they were able to shutout the Dallas Stars at home is an accomplishment in itself. Islanders do not have a great offense, but their defense is playing good, and their goaltending has been surprisingly good. The odds I see on the Islanders still does not reflect the way they have been playing, and with an exceptional shootout lineup they are capable of pulling off big upsets.
18. Calgary Flames 9-7-2 (23) - The Flames are starting to finally heat up, and of course at the same time so is star goaltender Mikka Kiprusoff. Calgary has been shutting down the opposition just like last season, the have also been playing the role of spoiler lately as they stopped Anaheim's streak and Detroit's winning streak. The Flames are currently on a 6-game winning streak and are definitely back into the mix of things in the Northwest Division.
19. Vancouver Canucks 10-10-1 (12) - Vancouver has done a pretty good job outplaying opponents this season and I am surprised they are only a .500 team with Roberto Luongo in net. The offense is mainly to blame for them jus being an average hockey club, their offense have scored 2 or less goals in 8 of their last 9 games. They need to get scoring from more sources before they became a below average hockey club.
20. Washington Capitals 8-6-6 (16) - Washington continues to get exceptional goaltending (something that was definitely absent last season). Their shootout losses have been hurting them though, as they are 0-4 in shootouts this season. If you can believe it, they have yet to score a goal in the shootout on 10 chances. If you look at their record from a bettors perspective (include OT loses and shootout losses as regular losses), their record is really more like 8 wins and 14 losses rather than 8-6-6.
21. Colorado Avalanche 9-9-2 (19) - Unlike last season, the Avalanche are struggling at home this season. They have not been playing that badly though and have recently struggled to find a way to come out on top in close games, this can mainly be blame don their weak 3rd period play this season. 4 out of their next 5 games are going to be important divisional games, a good stretch can really help them gain some ground in the standings.
22. Ottawa Senators 8-11-1 (20) - Ottawa continues to slip down the rankings, and even though I sound like a broken record, they are way too good to stay down here for much longer. Ray emery is now getting more starts in goal instead of the struggling Martin Gerber. One positive the Senators can take from the past week was that they were able to beat the Buffalo Sabres twice. One thing that has really plagued Ottawa this season though is their inability to grind it out in one-goal games (which was also a problem in last year's playoffs as well). Their record in games decided by one goal is 1-8-1, the worst in the NHL.
23. Boston bruins 8-7-2 (24) - Boston is currently riding a 4-game win streak, all wins were decided by one goal. Their defense has gotten a bit better as defenseman Brad Stuart came back from injury on November 9, and had a helping hand in getting Boston back towards a .500 record. Marc Savard has played one of the biggest roles in getting Boston back near the playoff race, as he has gotten points in 9 of his past 10 games.
24. Florida Panthers 7-10-4 (21) - Florida can't seem to pull a winning streak together as they have only won back-to-back games once all year. Their offense, which was really hot early on, has started to cool down with the injury to Todd Bertuzzi. They have some tough games ahead of them with multiple games against the Atlanta Thrashers and the desperate Ottawa Senators.
25. Los Angeles Kings 7-11-4 (25) - After a brutal 7-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks, the Kings got their revenge by coming from behind in the 3rd period against the Sharks 4 days later that resulted in a 4-2 win. Los Angeles has had trouble hanging onto leads the past week as they blew a 3-1 lead in the 3rd period to Philadelphia, and then blew a 3-goal lead to Phoenix (which they ended up winning in the end 5-3). The Kings have the unfortunate pleasure of playing San Jose, Dallas, Calgary, and New Jersey in their next 4 games.
26. Phoenix Coyotes 6-14-0 (28) - Things are definitely looking up for the coyotes, Curtis Joseph is starting to steal them some hockey games, and the signing of Yanic Perreault has really paid dividends for their offense. The Coyotes are no longer a team that teams will be beating down on as they are starting to show more resiliency late in hockey games. When their top forwards come back from injury we might see a huge turnaround for them in the standings.
27. Chicago Blackhawks 7-10-2 (30) - Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin is back from injury and looked solid in the two games he recently started. Khabibulin kept the Hawks in games in which they should have probably had no chance in. In one of the biggest upsets of the year, the Blackhawks defeated Anaheim 4-3 in a shootout win, but overall their offense is still one of the worst around, and if leading scorer Radim Vrbata is out for any extended period of time things could get even uglier for Chicago. Right now they are a popular pick to usually go under the goal total.
28. Philadelphia Flyers 5-13-2 (29) - Peter Forsberg's return to the lineup definitely gave the Flyers a boost as they managed to shovel home 7 goals in a victory over the heavily favored Anaheim Ducks. The Flyers followed that up with an impressive 4-3 comeback win over the Los Angeles Kings. All momentum was stopped though at the end of their west coast swing when they lost 6-1 to the San Jose Sharks.
29. Columbus Blue Jackets 5-12-1 (26) - Got to feel bad for those Blue Jacket fans as year after year they continue to find their team near the bottom of the standings. Columbus has the worst offense in the league, and they have already been shutout 4 times this season. They are currently on a 5-game losing streak and have only won 3 out of their last 14 games.
30. St. Louis Blues 5-123-2 (27) - The Blues have lost 6 out of their last 7 games by more than an average of two goals. They lost to both the Chicago Blackhawks and the Columbus Blue Jackets (two of the worst teams in the league right now) and got manhandled during their road trip to Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. They are 1-7-1 on the road, but they play decent hockey at home.