Another epic Winter Classic is in the books. We can't wait to hear what was said on the ice on HBO's final episode of 24/7. Until then, let's take a look at the third edition of our power rankings. With 2011 in the books, we see the same top three teams from last week. As much as the New York Rangers have shown that they deserve the No. 1 spot, the Boston Bruins still retain it, barely.
Here are the rest of the rankings:
1. Boston Bruins
Last week: 1
So what if they lost to Dallas? The Bruins are still hands-down the best team in the league. Once again, the fact that they are in the top five in goals scored and No. 1 in goals against is more impressive than anything the Rangers have done.
2. New York Rangers
Last week: 2
They're not the best team in the NHL, but they are certainly the hottest.
A huge pickup that went under the radar this offseason was signing Mike Rupp. He's not only a leader in the locker room, but he steps up in big games like he did in the Winter Classic and in the Stanley Cup back in 2003. He'll be a valuable asset down the stretch.
3. Chicago Blackhawks
Last week: 3
A big win over Detroit keeps the Blackhawks in the No. 3 spot. How long will this last? The way the Red Wings have been playing, winning four of their last five and approaching Chicago for the division lead, it probably won't last long.
4. Detroit Red Wings
Last week: 6
The Red Wings have scored the same amount of goals as the Blackhawks, and they've allowed 23 fewer goals because of Jimmy Howard's Vezina-like performance this season.
Howard leads the league in wins with 24, has four shutouts, a GAA of 1.99 and a .927 save percentage.
So why is Chicago ahead of Detroit?
Read the Blackhawks caption to find out.
5. Vancouver Canucks
Last week: 5
The Canucks are 6-2-1 in their last nine games.They still dominate the league with a 23.9 powerplay percentage. This is both a good and bad.
It's good because it exemplifies their offensive prowess.
It's bad because no team wants to be too reliant on its powerplay. If a team can't score on even strength, (which the Canucks can—they have 99 even-strength goals) they may struggle down the stretch when the powerplay goes dry.
6. Philadelphia Flyers
Last week: 4
The Flyers have to know that the Winter Classic was just another game on the regular-season schedule. The hype building it up to it may have given some the mentality that it's bigger than a regular-season game. But that's all it is. One regular-season loss.
It's interesting that only one home team has won a Winter Classic game. The Bruins did it in 2009. Perhaps the hype and anticipation becomes too much for the home team to handle in the game.
7. Nashville Predators
Last week: 11
Shea Weber has returned to practice. In his absence, the Predators haven't missed a beat. They've won three in a row, including a huge divisional matchup against St. Louis.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins
Last week: 8
Maybe the Penguins should have paid that extra million and a half to get Jaromir Jagr. He really made them regret it in his return to Pittsburgh this past week with a beautiful goal and a Flyers win.
9. St. Louis Blues
Last week: 7
The Blues are still a great defensive team, but they failed in three consecutive tests against top-notch division rivals. They lost twice to the Red Wings and once to the Preds. That said, they bounced back well against the Coyotes with a 4-1 victory.
10. San Jose Sharks
Last week: 9
No, they don't lead the Pacific anymore, but they have five games in hand on the Kings.
11. Los Angeles Kings
Last week: 18
What a difference a coach makes. The Kings are 4-0-3 with Darryl Sutter now, with a favorable home schedule in January.
12. New Jersey Devils
Last week: 14
The Devils are in the playoff picture but are light years behind the Bruins, Rangers, Flyers and Penguins in terms of being a championship contender. It'll be interesting to see if they decide to rebuild anyway and trade Zach Parise at the deadline.
13. Florida Panthers
Last Week: 16
Bold 2012 prediction: The Panthers won't make the playoffs.
This division-leading team is consistently ranked low because they allow more goals than they score. That's a bit of a problem. With Washington getting hot, it won't be surprising to see the Panthers on the outside looking in soon.
14. Ottawa Senators
Last week: 15
Bold 2012 prediction No. 2: The Senators won't make the playoffs.
That being said, it's impressive to see what the Sens have done when they were expected to be one of the worst teams coming into the season.
Still, they've allowed the second-most goals in the league, and 12 of their 20 wins have been one-goal wins. That's not sustainable. Expect the Sens to slow down.
15. Winnipeg Jets
Last week: 20
All right. So they're 9-2-1 in their last 12 home games. Let's see how the Jets do now that their schedule gets tougher in January. They play nine of 13 games on the road.
16. Colorado Avalanche
Last week: 19
The Avs are steamrolling past everyone in the NHL, having won nine of their last 10. That being said, here are three stats that make their run a bit misleading:
1) Seven of their last 10 games in December were at home.
2) Seven of their last nine wins have been by just one goal.
3) They're 7-0 in shootouts this season. There are no shootouts in the playoffs.
17. Washington Capitals
Last week: 23
The Caps have won four in a row. You know why?
He has eight points in four games and is showing why he's the heart and soul of the team. Hopefully for the Caps, he can keep this up and lead the Capitals to the playoffs.
18. Dallas Stars
Last week: 13
It's not that the Stars haven't played well. It's just that Winnipeg, Ottawa, Colorado, New Jersey and Washington have all been on fire.
The Stars beat the Bruins, which is an impressive win. But other than that they've been a pretty pedestrian team. They've lost three of their last four, including a strange loss to the Blue Jackets.
19. Minnesota Wild
Last week: 10
They finally won a game, but other than that, the collapse is alive and well in Minnesota.
20. Toronto Maple Leafs
Last week: 12
The Maple Leafs have lost six of their last nine and find themselves on the outside looking in. The team does not have an answer at goaltending. Both James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson have struggled mightily. Neither has a GAA lower than 3.00, and they're pretty much canceling out Joffrey Lupul's and Phil Kessel's success.
21. Phoenix Coyotes
Last week: 17
Possible move to Seattle for the Desert Dogs on the way?
22. Tampa Bay Lightning
Last week: 25
The Lightning have a four-game home winning streak, and their January schedule is favorable with plenty of games at the St. Pete Times Forum.
They seem to have solved their goaltending problems with Mathieu Garon. That being said, he's been Jekyll and Hyde just like the Lightning. Some games he's amazing like when he held the Flyers to just one goal in a Bolts win. Other times, like Tuesday night against the Maple Leafs, he's atrocious.
23. Calgary Flames
Last week: 21
Bad news: The Flames have lost four straight, and they play Boston this week at the TD Garden.
Good news: Home stand on the way.
24. Buffalo Sabres
Last week: 22
Ville Leino may play Saturday. This is great news for the injury-riddled Sabres, who are slowly starting to recover.
2012 Bold Prediction No. 3: The Sabres recover and make the playoffs.
25. New York Islanders
Last week: 29
Nice little string of victories for the Isles, albeit they were against Edmonton, Calgary and Carolina.
26. Montreal Canadiens
Last week: 24
It's kind of sad when a team's main concern isn't that they've lost seven of their last eight games.
27. Edmonton Oilers
Last week: 26
The loss of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins won't help the Oilers, but Edmonton fans are smiling at the prospect of Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle leading their team in the next decade. This team will be exciting to watch.
Perhaps drafting an elite defender will turn Edmonton into a cup contender in the next few years.
28. Carolina Hurricanes
Last week: 27
Well at least Jeff Skinner is on his way back.
29. Anaheim Ducks
Last week: 28
The Oregon Ducks might be the more popular team with webbed-feet in Southern California after their Rose Bowl performance.
30. Columbus Blue Jackets
Last week: 30
The Jackets have lost seven games this season after leading in the third. Ouch.
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