NHL Power Rankings
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 12/19/2008
The top three teams in our last NHL power rankings have cemented their respective spots at the top of this week's Power Rankings. However, after that it has been a wide-open field. The Blackhawks and Flyers are two of the biggest gainers this week after consecutive weeks of solid performances. On the opposite side of things the Penguins have fallen considerably to the brink of the Top 10 while the Wild have plummeted after coming close to cracking the Top 5. They now land at No. 17. The following are my current rankings followed by our last ranking and the team's odds to win the Stanley Cup.
1) San Jose Sharks (1) 13/5 - As the Sharks continue their historic start, Vegas continues to lower the odds for the Sharks to bring home Lord Stanley. San Jose has it all: a top defensemen in Dan Boyle; a big-time goaltender, Evgeni Nabokov; and a premier center, Patrick Marleau to go with scoring threats Dan Boyle and Joe Thornton. You have to go back to 1929 to find the last time a team has reached 50 points this fast.
2) Boston Bruins (2) 6/1 - We know Tim Thomas is the best goaltender in the league. The question now is, does Tim Thomas qualify as Most Valuable Player in the league? Thomas has a 1.96 GAA average and a save percentage of .938. Of course, it has not hurt playing behind Zdeno Chara and Dennis Wideman. Boston has proved early on that it is by far the class of the Eastern Conference.
3) Detroit Redwings (3) 3/1 - The defending Stanley Cup Champions surely do not mind the early season historic run that the Sharks have made. For one, the Red Wings are not the top dog in the West and they can enjoy their own success in relative obscurity while the Sharks continue to get the headlines. Marian Hossa continues to be one of the top off-season additions in the entire league.
4) Philadelphia Flyers (11) 12/1 - Winners of five of the past six and 11 of its past 14, the Flyers are the hottest team in the Eastern Conference and they are helping to make the Atlantic Division race one of the most exciting to watch in the league.
4) Chicago Blackhawks (13) 18/1 - Who knew that the NHL was onto something when it scheduled the Blackhawks as the host of the Winter Classic this year against the Red Wings? It was not just the allure of Wrigley Field that drew the outdoor frozen pond but maybe it had something to do with the incredible season Chicago has had. RW Kris Versteeg leads all rookies with 16 assists.
6) Washington Capitals (10) 12/1 - Alexander Semin returns to the lineup for the Capitals and Alexander Ovechkin returns to his playoff form of last season. Ovechkin has 12 goals and 13 assists since Nov. 15 and the Capitals power play is hitting on all cylinders.
7) Montreal Canadians (8) 10/1 - A very uncharacteristic poor power play for the Canadians has not gone unnoticed but the goaltending of Carey Price has been the true story this year. Price is 13-4-4 with a 2.37 GAA and .920 save percentage.
8) New Jersey Devils (14) 30/1 - Look who else has decided to throw their hat into the Atlantic Division race. The Devils are right in the mix of things with the Flyers and Penguins as they all try to catch the New York Rangers. With no Martin Brodeur, it has been no problem for the Devils who have won nine of their past 11.
9) New York Rangers (5) 10/1 - The Rangers missed out on the Mats Sundin sweepstakes and, although they are leading the Atlantic Division, this team is full of underachieving players. The play of Henrik Lundqvist has been seriously inconsistent.
10) Pittsburgh Penguins (4) 9/1 - Marc-Andre Fleury returned to the Penguins lineup Thursday night. They could have used him a lot earlier than that. The Pens have fallen into fourth place in the division behind the shaky goaltending of Dany Sabourin. Still, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby are 1-2 in points in the league and you can never count a team with that kind of scoring power from its centers.
11) Anaheim Ducks (7) 20/1 - Chris Pronger has been as consistent as always on defense for the Ducks. He has 14 assists and a +3 rating. Unfortunately for Anaheim, playing in the Pacific with the Sharks, a division title is probably out of the question.
12) Vancouver Canucks (9) 20/1 - The Canucks made the big mid-season splash by finally winning the services of Mats Sundin. His impact will tell a lot about the remainder of the Canucks season. Roberto Luongo has continued to be a factor in net. His 2.17 GAA is seventh best in the league.
13) Calgary Flames (12) 30/1 - The Flames will have to rely on its penalty kill line, one of the best in the league, to get it out of its recent funk. Miikka Kiprusoff in net and Dion Phaneuf on defense are big reasons why the Flames lead the Northwest.
14) Buffalo Sabres (15) 30/1 - Thomas Vanek has surpassed many people's expectations this year. Not the same can be said for the rest of the team. Their opponents have actually outscored the Sabres, 88-84, through 31 games.
15) Nashville Predators (17) 100/1 - People around the league know who Shea Weber is now. Weber leads all defenders with 11 goals and has also totaled 25 points.
16) Edmonton Oilers (20) 40/1 - Goals have been few and far between this year for Edmonton. They are averaging only 2.63 goals per game through 30 games.
17) Minnesota Wild (6) 28/1 - Las Vegas still has the Wild pegged as a contender despite a December meltdown. After a 3-2 overtime loss to Calgary, the Wild are 1-7 in December.
18) Florida Panthers (25) 60/1 - For every team like the Wild there is a surprise story like the Panthers. With Craig Anderson stepping in at goalie, the Panthers won six of their last eight. Anderson started all but one of those games.
19) Phoenix Coyotes (23) 100/1 - With the acquisition of Olli Jokinen and the emergence of 21-year-old Martin Hanzal along with other relative newcomers, Mikkel Boadker and Peter Mueller, the Coyotes have cracked the Top 20 of the Power Rankings.
20) Carolina Hurricanes (15) 40/1 - Carolina has rarely lost in regulation, but for a team that has struggled in the shootout like the Hurricanes, maybe Carolina wants to prevent games from getting past regulation.
21) Los Angeles Kings (19) 250/1 - The Kings special teams feature the 10th-best penalty kill and 11th-best power play but they have been unable to string together a consistent winning streak.
22) Colorado Avalanche (21) 80/1 - On the other side of the coin, the Avalanche rank 20th in both power play and penalty kill. The team is in danger of falling into last place in the Northwest.
23) Columbus Blue Jackets (18) 125/1 - It's hard to do much of anything when your power play is hitting below 10 percent. The Blue Jackets have only scored on 14 out of a possible 141 power play opportunities. That is by far the worst in the NHL.
24) Ottawa Senators (24) 60/1 - The Ottawa defense is only allowing 2.45 goals a game this year, fourth best in the NHL. However, the defense has been mostly overshadowed by a sputtering offense. The Senators have only scored a putrid 66 goals this season. Through 29 games -- that is the lowest in the NHL.
25) Toronto Maple Leafs (25) 100/1 - A winning streak around Toronto has been about as common as an empty arena to watch the beloved Maple Leafs. But that is exactly what the Maple Leafs were on after a 3-2 win over New Jersey.
25) St. Louis Blues (22) 125/1 - A not so proud member of the century club, the Blues are one of only four teams to have allowed 100 goals already this season. To put that in a rate per game, it's 3.33.
27) Dallas Stars (28) 60/1 - Getting rid of Sean Avery may have been a good PR move but the Stars could use all the help they can get now.
28) Atlanta Thrashers (29) 400/1 - Don't look now but the Thrashers are up a notch to No. 28 in our Power Rankings. The Islanders loss is the Thrashers gain. Atlanta has allowed an abominable 3.6 goals per game.
29) New York Islanders (27) 400/1 - Misery loves company and in this case the Islanders are the company of Tampa Bay in a close race to see which team is the absolute worst in the league. The Islanders have allowed a league-worst 3.68 goals per game and have been outscored by an unheard of 1.16 goals per game.
30) Tampa Bay Lighting (30) 100/1 - The distance between wins for Tampa Bay continues to grow. Getting fired as coach was not so bad after all for Barry Melrose. For one he has nothing to do with this train wreck and in other news he got his gig at ESPN back.