Friday, August 29, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

San Jose Sharks top NHL Power Rankings, Flyers 19th

1. San Jose Sharks

San Jose Sharks top NHL Power Rankings, Flyers 19th

San Jose´s Justin Braun is leading the NHL in plus/minus this season. (Paul Sakuma/AP)
San Jose's Justin Braun is leading the NHL in plus/minus this season. (Paul Sakuma/AP)

1. San Jose Sharks

After a quarter-season slump, the Sharks are back on top of the hockey hierarchy. They’re winners of six straight, and little-known Justin Braun, a 26 year-old defender picked 201st overall in 2007, is leading the league in plus/minus at +20.

2. Chicago Blackhawks

After recording a point in 12 straight games, Patrick Kane was a no-brainer for the league to name its First Star of November. He's more than worthy of wearing an 'A' on his jersey for the Olympics.

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3. St. Louis Blues

Alexander Steen is relentless. The Swede eclipsed 20 goals for the first time since 2010-11 and is on pace to shatter his previous career-high of 24. The Blues lost two straight in regulation for the first time this season, but they’ve still won seven of their last ten.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins

After a slow start for Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins, things are heating up in Pittsburgh. Geno has 10 points over his last FOUR games and 19 over his last ten. It’s no surprise the Pens are 7-2-1 over that stretch.

5. Los Angeles Kings

An easy way to crack the top five is to earn a point in 13 of your last 14 games. The Kings have done just that, surging up the Western Conference standings to surpass a talented Coyotes team and perennial powerhouse Vancouver.

6. Boston Bruins

The Bruins haven't played since Saturday, which has caused them to fall off the national radar. Still, Boston is 10-2-1 since losing two straight to begin the month of November. Huge games await as they head to Montreal before hosting Pittsburgh this weekend.

7. Colorado Avalanche

The Avs would likely be much more worried about Semyon Varlamov's legal problems if it wasn't for the play of Jean-Sebastien Giguere. JSG is still undefeated on the year, posting a 6-0-0 record including 2 shutouts through seven games.

8. Montreal Canadiens

More scoring threats are emerging for the Habs on offense, but their strengths are clearly their defense and goaltending. Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban are both in the top ten in scoring among defenseman, and top 20 overall in ice time. Having two blue line warriors is a formula for success in the NHL.

9. Anaheim Ducks

Same old story for the Ducks. They're the best team in the league on their home ice (10-0-2), and unremarkable on the road (8-7-3). With only five home games this month, Anaheim could take a tumble.

10. Phoenix Coyotes

Oh, to be a goalie on an offensively talented team. Mike Smith is eighth in the league in wins, despite ranking 56th in GAA. Would those petitioning for him to make Team Canada still support him if they knew that?

11. Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings are looking like the Phillies of the NHL. They have big names like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, but they’re injury-prone and shadows of their younger selves. Yet with their superstars down, the Wings have won four straight. Go figure.

12. Minnesota Wild

Zach Parise has to be a lock for captain of the United States Olympic team. Not only is he talented (leads Minnesota in scoring) and clutch (he sent the 2010 Gold Medal Game to overtime), but he’s also as tough as nails. He missed only one game when he was expected to miss nearly three weeks.

13. Tampa Bay Lightning

The Bolts have slipped from first to fifth in the Eastern Conference after the leg injury to Steven Stamkos, but it could have been much worse. Tampa is still a respectable 4-5-1 without one of the league’s best scoring threats.

14. Dallas Stars

Left-winger Antoine Roussel is really embracing the role of villain. He's fourth in the league in penalty minutes, including six major penalties, and recently became Chicago's new least-favorite player after mockingly celebrating towards Hawks fans following his shootout goal.

15. Vancouver Canucks

Winners of two straight and ready to begin a five-game homestand, the Canucks couldn't want much more. Tortorella's return to Madison Square Garden could have gone better, however, as his squad was manhandled by the Rangers in a 5-2 loss.

16. New York Rangers

Life isn't too bad for Henrik Lundqvist right now. The Rangers are playing well, and the franchise netminder just signed a new seven-year, $59.5 million extension that should keep him in New York for the remainder of his career.

17. New Jersey Devils

Martin Brodeur had his time at the beginning of the season, but Cory Schneider is taking over. The offseason acquisition ranks third among qualified goaltenders in GAA and has only allowed five goals over his past five games.

18. Washington Capitals

Could Nicklas Backstrom take a run at Alex Ovechkin for the team lead in points? It's not likely, but Backstrom trails Ovi by only five and is a much better facilitator. John Carlson needs to step it up if the Caps are going to make a run.

19. Philadelphia Flyers

On November 4th, the Flyers were last in the Metropolitan Division and tied for 28th in the NHL in points. A month later, Philadelphia is tied for a playoff spot. They're 6-3-1 over their last ten and play equally well at home and on the road, which bodes well for them going forward.

20. Toronto Maple Leafs

Yeah, they're a playoff team for now, but they're quickly playing their way out of it. They haven't won a game since November 23, and have only won four since October (2 in a shootout). They're simply too good to be playing this badly.

21. Nashville Predators

Marek Mazanec has done an outstanding job filling in for injured goalie Pekka Rinne. The rookie's record isn't eye-popping, but his 2.09 GAA is. He's singlehandedly keeping the Preds alive in the playoff race.

22. Winnipeg Jets

The Jets made surprisingly easy work of the northeast on their most recent roadtrip, winning at New Jersey before heading to New York to take down the Islanders and Rangers. The road trip gets easier from here, as the Jets travel to Florida.

23. Carolina Hurricanes

I can’t help but feel like the Canes switched to duller uniforms this year to match their play. I also wouldn’t be shocked if the most visited page on their website was the “third jersey schedule”. The black sweater is the most intimidating thing about them.

24. Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets needed a bright young star to turn their season around. It looks like Ryan Johansen might be that guy. The 21 year old from British Columbia is a talented center that has tallied 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) through 28 games so far.

25. Ottawa Senators

The Senators are right off the pace of teams like the Rangers, Devils, Flyers and Canes, but no team considers them a threat. They're also completley unable to defend their own ice, going 4-8-2 at the Canadian Tire Centre (actually the name of the arena).

26. Edmonton Oilers

Ilya Bryzgalov has appeared in four games for the Oilers. On one occasion, he proved to be a serviceable backup. The next, he recorded a 33 save shutout. After that, he gave up four goals on just 23 shots. Finally, an injury. Pretty symbolic of his career.

27. New York Islanders

Fans are really going to miss out when John Tavares is watching the playoffs from his couch. The Isles might be struggling, but Tavares is deserving of being grouped with players the caliber of Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane. Imagine what he’d do with more talent around him.

28. Florida Panthers

Could Tim Thomas actually make the US Olympic team? It's not that farfetched. With an injured Jonathan Quick, Tim Thomas could slot nicely into the number two or three spot. Also props to Krys Barch, who has 1 point for every 44 penalty minutes he's earned.

29. Calgary Flames

The threat of being passed by Edmonton must be pretty scary for the Flames, as they've suddenly won two straight and three out of their last five. Saturday should be the game to watch, as Calgary takes on the Oilers in the Western Conference Toilet Bowl.

30. Buffalo Sabres

Two game point streak! The exclamation point is probably unnecessary for such a small feat, but good for an organization that seems committed to rebuilding the right way.

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