NHL Power Rankings (February 8 - February 22)
by Jason Schwartz - 02/22/2007
With the trade deadline coming Feb. 27, we are now getting a clearer picture of who will be in and out come playoff time, or in other words, who will be buyers and sellers come trade deadline. The west is pretty much clear except for Colorado -- all the other teams outside of the playoffs in the west will probably be sellers. In the east everyone believes they have a shot except Philadelphia, Florida and Washington. For the first time this season Detroit finds themselves at No. 1 in the power rankings as they continue to roll along. A little piece of advice on trade deadline day: do not put your bets in until 3 p.m. EST, or just limit your bets on that day, as players might be in and out of the lineup, unlike other sports, trade deadline day is usually pretty busy in the NHL.
1. Detroit Red Wings 39-16-6 (2) - Despite a 6-1 embarrassing loss to Philadelphia last week, the Red Wings have definitely earned the respect as the top team in the NHL. They are great in the third period, and of course they continue to get an excellent performance from Henrik Zetterberg (six game-winners in his last 10 games), no forward has been playing better as of late.
2. Nashville Predators 40-18-3 (1) - All the focus is on Peter Forsberg becoming the newest Predator lately but Detroit is playing better than Nashville anyways. I am pretty confused as to why everyone is praising the Forsberg trade; he does have an excellent reputation come playoff time but if he is so fragile in terms of injuries so this is a pretty risky trade on Nashville's part. The Predators decided to put Forsberg on a line with Paul Kariya. This should be an interesting duo, but so far Forsberg has not reached the scoresheet since the trade.
3. Buffalo Sabres 40-15-5 (3) - Buffalo is finding themselves in a lot of overtime games lately as the injuries for them just keep coming. Maxim Afinogenov will be gone for about six weeks, and same for Ales Kotalik and defenseman Jaroslav Spacek. That is the loss of one of their top offensive defensemen, and one of their best forwards in Afinogenov. Now it is time to see their depth on offense come through.
4. New Jersey Devils 37-17-6 (4) - After the 5-4 loss to Pittsburgh at home, there were lots of talks as to whether Brodeur needs to start getting some rest. The next night he came back and got his league-leading 11th shutout of the season, if you can believe it. This is another reason as to why he is MVP-material this season. But I do agree he needs rest; the guy is a proven workhorse. Thirty consecutive starts is way too much, in my opinion.
5. Anaheim Ducks 35-16-10 (5) - It looked like the Ducks were ready to turn their play around after a three-goal comeback win against Phoenix. Teemu Selanne has been great in trying to get them back on track but their offense still is not back to where it was early on yet. Luckily for them San Jose has been struggling.
6. Ottawa Senators 35-22-3 (8) - There was some concern in the goaltending department after Ray Emery got suspended three games for slashing an opposing player. Although shaky at times, backup netminder Martin Gerber won all three games during Emery's suspension. Ottawa is showing that they can win the close games as of late and that will definitely come in handy come playoff time.
7. Dallas Stars 35-21-3 (9) - Mike Smith has shown is he is a very capable backup to Marty Turco. He can make the big saves in critical situations and can steal games. The Stars also picked up some offense by paying a heavy price to acquire Ladislav Nagy, a winger that adds some speed and playmaking ability. Dallas is now tied with San Jose for second in the Pacific Division.
8. Vancouver Canucks 35-21-4 (7) -Wins have not come easy as of late but they are getting it done. Big win on the road against Minnesota, and then another big win in their last game against Anaheim. Vancouver now leads the Northwest Division by four points and has won five straight games.
9. Pittsburgh Penguins 32-18-9 (13) - The consecutive point streak came to an end for the Penguins, as they went on a 14-0-2 stretch before losing to the New York Islanders on a last minute goal. Although more players keep pinching in offensively, who is doing the job defensively? The Penguins have had trouble hanging on to leads in most of their wins the past few games. In fact, they blew three leads in their loss to the Islanders. That trend cannot continue.
10. San Jose Sharks 37-22-1 (6) - The offense has run dry in San Jose as of late. In fact, they set a franchise record for the longest scoring drought during their 5-2 loss to Dallas. Outside of a win against Anaheim, their road trip has not been pleasant and now they are going to have to work hard to get back in position to catch Anaheim in the Pacific Division.
11. Tampa Bay Lightning 34-24-3 (14) - The Lightning have finally caught up to Atlanta in the Southeast Division and are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. Vincent Lecavalier continues to have a strong year as he leads the NHL in goal scoring with 39 and linemate Martin St.Louis is right behind him with 36. It seems that there is not a game that goes by where this dangerous duo does not pitch in on the scoresheet.
12. Calgary Flames 31-21-8 (10) - I feel like I am repeating myself but the weak road play continues to keep this hockey club from really contending. They allowed seven goals against Detroit, and then lose a key division game against the Avalanche on the road. This is what separates them from Vancouver this year; they just cannot win any big games on the road.
13. Minnesota Wild 33-23-5 (15) - Niklas Backstrom continues to hold the starting role while Manny Fernandez recovers form injury. I was really impressed with how he stoned the Dallas Stars in the shootout, not allowing one goal against the NHL's best. He was also good in the 4-1 road win against Nashville, which spoiled Peter Forsberg's debut. A big schedule awaits the Wild as they play five straight divisional games.
14. Atlanta Thrashers 31-22-9 (11) - The Thrashers are showing all the signs of cracking under pressure. Their road trip was horrible and Khari Lehtonen has not been strong for them in goal. Fortunately, they were able to end the road trip with a 3-1 win over Carolina. However, the big test is in their upcoming game against Tampa Bay.
15. Carolina Hurricanes 30-25-7 (16) - The Hurricanes will have a tough time replacing Erik Cole while he is injured for about a month. Maybe they can pickup someone decent at the trade deadline. Carolina has to start picking up their play at home as they have lost five out of their last six at the RBC Center.
16. New York Islanders 29-23-8 (18) - The Islanders continue to play well. They have earned points in 12 of their last 14 games, and are only a point out of a playoff spot. The addition of defensemen Marc-Andre Bergeron should help their power play as he has a bullet from the point. The next two games are key as they play both Toronto and Montreal at home.
17. Montreal Canadiens 31-25-6 (12) - They finally ended their longest losing skid of the season, but it will not be easy for them to make the playoffs. It is bad enough that Alexei Kovalev will be out until about March, but it is even worse that goaltender Cristobal Huet will be out for the rest of the season. Their power play is catching fire again.
18. Colorado Avalanche 29-27-4 (19) - The Avalanche took two of three against Calgary in the past two weeks and fell short despite a strong effort against Vancouver. It all comes down to goaltending for them, as usual, Jose Theodore continues to let them down this season, and it puts more pressure on young goalie Peter Budaj as Colorado will need decent goaltending to have any shot of making the playoffs.
19. Toronto Maple Leafs 29-23-8 (17) - The Leafs could not win any of the big games over the past two weeks as they fell short against both Boston and the New York Islanders. This team needs to start taking advantage of home games as they play in a sold out arena every night but are below .500 at home.
20. St. Louis Blues 26-26-9 (24) - The Blues continue to fight hard every night and upset team after team. Their winning ways could come to an end soon, though, as top forwards Keith Tkachuk and Bill Guerin have a good chance of being dealt at the trade deadline.
21. Boston Bruins 29-26-4 (22) - The Bruins are definitely within playoff range as they have won four out of their last five games. The addition of minor leaguer Brandon Bochenski has already paid dividends, he has five goals and nine points in nine games with Bruins. Goaltender Tim Thomas has also been impressive as of late.
22. New York Rangers 29-26-5 (20) - The Rangers continue to pick up wins against the weaker teams. What is really weird is how much better they are on the road than at home. Apparently the team has no answer to that. Meanwhile Brendan Shanahan is out with a concussion after a nasty collision. Maybe they can wake up at home with an important six-game homestand coming up.
23. Edmonton Oilers 28-26-6 (21) - The Oilers came up empty during their road trip to the Eastern Conference, and the team is really frustrated. With the playoffs seemingly out of reach, I think they will be sellers at the trade deadline.
24. Chicago Blackhawks 22-29-9 (27) - Chicago has not been an easy team to beat as of late, as they are making teams earn wins against them. Unfortunately they are coming up on the wrong end of one-goal games. I will look for them to play a spoiler role down the stretch.
25. Phoenix Coyotes 25-32-3 (23) -Phoenix has gone back to the way they played in October as they are producing little offense and their power plays are almost always going to waste. They have had a tough schedule recently, but it is still inexcusable how poorly they have played in the late stages of some of those losses.
26. Florida Panthers 23-26-12 (28) - Florida finally picked up an overtime win this season as they beat Tampa Bay, 5-4. There are lots of rumors as to who they might sell at the trading deadline; I would be surprised if they traded Olli Jokinen though. This is another team definitely capable of playing the spoiler role, as they are not as bad as their record indicates.
27. Washington Capitals 23-28-10 (25) - No surprise that the Capitals are struggling, Olaf Kolzig is going to be out for about three weeks with a knee injury and he is a big part of this hockey club. Alexander Ovechkin has been cold as of late with only one goal in his last eight games.
28. Los Angeles Kings 20-31-10 (29) - The Kings have been tough to play against with Sean Burke in goal. They have points in seven out of their last eight games. Their last win was a shootout win against the Anaheim Ducks as this team refuses to lay down and die for the rest of the season.
29. Columbus Blue Jackets 23-31-6 (26) - The only bright spot since the last power rankings was shutting out the San Jose Sharks, 3-0. Outside of that, this team has really struggled. They have only won two out of their last nine games.
30. Philadelphia Flyers 16-36-8 (30) - Peter Forsberg is finally gone, and the team has shown some heart since he left. They beat the New York Rangers the game after Forsberg got traded, and they tried to hang in there with Buffalo and Boston offensively. With the loss of one of their top forwards in Mike Knuble for at least one month, this team is going to need a lot of luck to win hockey games.
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