Monday, February 8, 2016

NHL Power Rankings: Flyers, Rangers battle for basement

All was quiet on the NHL front this past week. The Sharks and Avs remain supreme, while the Flyers remained idle.

NHL Power Rankings: Flyers, Rangers battle for basement

(Tom Mihalek/AP file photo)
(Tom Mihalek/AP file photo)

Even though realignment caused perennial Western Conference powerhouses Detroit, to join the East, the West is simply stronger from top to bottom. The Sharks are taking notes from the Blackhawks' magical run to start last season, and now have a chance to hit double-digit games without a regulation loss.

Meanwhile, must-see action comes to Philadelphia on Thursday night - though maybe not in a good way. The Rangers take on the Flyers in a matchup that should go a long way in proving who the worst team in the Metropolitan Division is.

Let's begin.

1. San Jose Sharks (8-0-1) (Last week: 1)

Just about as easy a placement as it gets. When deciding the number one team, a good rule of thumb is to give it to the only teamin the league that still has a 0 in the loss column. Patrick Marleau and Tomas Hertl are tied for second in the league in goals, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun are tied with an NHL-best plus-10 rating.

2. Colorado Avalanche (8-1-0) (Last week: 2)

They finally lost a game, but the Avs bounced back in a huge way, traveling cross-country and shutting the Penguins out in their own barn. Jean-Sebastien Giguere has experienced an incredible resurgence in net, going 3-0 with two shutouts while backing up Semyon Varlamov.

3. Chicago Blackhawks (6-1-2) (Last week: 5)

The defending champs are playing like they want a repeat. They've won five of their past six, with the lone loss coming in a shootout. The Blackhawks are about to enter a crucial stretch, with 10 games against teams outside our top ten.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins (7-2-0) (Last week: 3)

The Avs may have gotten the best of the Pens, but Sidney Crosby got the best of fellow Cole Harbour product - and past number one overall pick - Nathan MacKinnon. Crosby broke out one of the nastiest dangles of the season to get around the rookie in a move that surely humbled the youngster.

5. St. Louis Blues (Last week: 7)

A 2-0-1 week got the Blues right back in the top five after their one week hiatus. They've scored at least three goals in each of their first seven games. Not too shabby for a team that was supposed to be filled with offensive question marks.

6. Anaheim Ducks (7-2-0) (Last week: 6)

They aren't the best offensively, defensively, or in net, but the Ducks are solid everywhere. While they may not be the flashiest, the Ducks are a fundamentally sound hockey team that rely on a mixture of young guys and veterans, which is nearly always a recipe of success.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs (7-3-0) (Last week: 4)

The Maple Leafs are already tied for the Eastern Conference lead in points, and they're only going to get better. Dave Clarkson, the team's big offseason signing, returns to the ice this week after serving a 10-game suspension he earned for leaving the bench to fight during the preseason.

8. Phoenix Coyotes (6-2-2) (Last week: 13)

In just two weeks, the Coyotes have skyrocketed from 26th in the power rankings all the way to the top ten. They haven't lost in regulation since October 8th, a span of seven games. Not only has Mike Smith been lights out defending his own net, he's even managed to find the opponent's. The crowd-pleasing goalie goal was the first of its kind this season.

9. Boston Bruins (5-2-0) (Last week: 11)

Surprisingly, the Bruins have had the most trouble on their home ice. They're 2-2 at TD Garden and 3-0 away from it, but still have an Atlantic Division best plus-10 goal differential.

10. Detroit Red Wings (6-3-1) (Last week: 8)

It's hard to not include a team that's compiled 1.3 points per game over their first 10 games in the top third of the league, but the Red Wings did everything they could to be excluded. After handing the Avalanche their first loss of the season Detroit has tanked, losing in blowout fashion to Phoenix and Ottawa.

11. Montreal Canadiens (5-4-0) (Last week: 9)

They might be 5-4, but they aren't all too far removed from being 9-0. Each of their four losses have come by one goal, and each of their wins have come by two or more. It’s tough to believe any team could have a +10 goal differential with a record so close to .500, but the Habs are doing it.

12. Tampa Bay Lightning (5-3-0) (Last week: 12)

Up until Boston torched them 5-0, the Lightning had won five of their last six, including impressive wins over the Blackhawks, Kings, and Wild. They'll be rewarded for having to face the Bruins and Blackhawks back-to-back by following it up with games against the Panthers and Devils.

13. Vancouver Canucks (6-4-1) (Last week: 15)

There are few guys in the league as talented or creative as Henrik Sedin. The center has 10 assists and 13 points through 11 games, while his brother Daniel is having a fine season of his own, posting 10 points. John Tortorella got a taste of New York revenge when his squad beat the Islanders in overtime, even if it wasn't at Madison Square Garden.

14. Los Angeles Kings (6-4-0) (Last week: 14)

The Kings may have a winning record, but they've also been the beneficiaries of luck. They're a league best 3-0 in shootouts, yet just 2-4 in games decided in regulation. They're strong offensively as a group, but they lack a player that can single-handedly change the game.

15. Nashville Predators (5-4-1) (Last week: 17)

WHO?!?!? SETH JONES! The rookie defenseman continues to wow, proving that he has more than just a wicked slapper in his offensive repertoire by pulling off a nifty toe-drag and beating Carey Price top shelf. It'll be no small task for the Preds to make the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference, but surprisingly they have a shot.

16. Carolina Hurricanes (4-2-3) (Last week: 20)

The Canes are second in the Metropolitan Division, but that’s nothing to brag about as they still find themselves ranked outside the top half of the league. They're averaging over a point per game and are amidst a two-game winning streak, but they just lack any consistency that the league's best pride themselves on.

17. Calgary Flames (4-3-2) (Last week: 10)

A 1-2-0 week dropped the Flames all the way to sixth in the Pacific Division. What's killing them is their goaltending. Joey Macdonald and Karri Ramo are both stopping less than 90 percent of the shots they face, resulting in them giving up close to four goals per game. It may behoove them to check in on Ryan Miller’s availability.

18. Minnesota Wild (4-3-3) (Last week: 14)

They win three. They lose three. They'll need to be more consistent, but the Wild have enough scoring power to propel them to the playoffs. Hey Dany Heatley, feel free to remember how to score a goal.

19. Washington Capitals (4-5-0) (Last week: 23)

Alex Ovechkin is the best goal scorer in the NHL and there's no close second. With nine goals already, Ovi should easily eclipse the 50 mark on the year and potentially make a run at 60. Vanek could be just the piece the Caps need to complete the puzzle.

20. New York Islanders (3-3-3) (Last week: 18)

How about Frans Nielsen? His 11 points and a +5 rating through nine games lead the team, while captain John Tavares isn't too far behind with nine. Outside of a 6-1 blowout over Phoenix three weeks ago, every game the Isles have played has been decided by a goal. They'll need to be better than 2-3-3 in one goal games.

21. Winnipeg Jets (4-5-1) (Last week: 19)

Dustin Byfuglien has seven points but none have them have been goals. BuffDaddy will need to light the lamp if the Jets have any hope of righting the ship.

22. Columbus Blue Jackets (4-5-0) (Last week:22)

Marian Gaborik is finally starting to find a groove in his new home and is now averaging a point per game. Sergei Bobrovski isn't having as good a year as last year, but he's still only giving up 2.49 goals on average.

23. Edmonton Oilers (3-6-1) (Last week: 26)

The Oilers have way too much talent to finish in last place. Need an example? Taylor Hall just broke The Great One's record of fastest time to score two goals, taking just eight seconds to find the back of the net twice

24. Ottawa Senators (3-3-2) (Last week: 21)

They've played six of their first eight on the road, so some home games should be a huge benefit to them. They’ve treaded water thus far, but it’s time for them to make a move in one direction or the other.

25. Florida Panthers (3-6-1) (Last week: 25)

They may not be winning, but the Panthers are keeping up with some of the game's best teams. They've dropped one goal decisions to the Preds, Bruins and Blackhawks while beating the Wild over their last four.

26. Dallas Stars (3-5-0) (Last week: 24)

The difference between a good team and a bad team is how they perform on the road. Right now, the Stars just simply aren't getting it done outside the Lonestar state, and that's why they're last in the Western Conference.

27. New Jersey Devils (1-5-3)

Welp, the blind squirrel found the nut. After a brutal West Coast road trip, the Devils smoked the Rangers 4-0, then proceeded to lose 4-1 against Columbus. With Schneider getting a majority of the playing time in net, let’s see if the team can find a little more consistency.

28. Philadelphia Flyers (1-7-0) (Last week: 30)

The Flyers got a full week’s rest in their game leading up to the Rangers on Thursday, and the timing couldn’t be better. The Flyguys were able to heal up injuries to crucial players Vinny Lecavalier and Scott Hartnell and learn Craig Berube’s system. Let’s see if they can’t get things going against the reeling Rangers.

29. Buffalo Sabres (1-8-1) (Last week: 29)

I don’t care how good Ryan Miller is. Scoring 1.3 goals a night just won’t get it done, even if the Sabres were playing two goalies in the same net. Just how bad will Buffalo’s offense be if they deal Vanek?

30. New York Rangers (2-5-0) (Last week:28)

In their only game last week, the Rangers got manhandled by the Devils and lost captain Ryan Callahan for a month with a broken thumb. Luckily, the latest round of renovations at Madison Square Garden is almost complete. The Blueshirts will finally be able to play a home game soon enough.

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