NHL Power Rankings: Rhythm of Success in St. Louis; Penguins Are Flying

Rachid Issoulaimani@Rachid_IContributor IMarch 14, 2012

NHL Power Rankings: Rhythm of Success in St. Louis; Penguins Are Flying

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    The last chapter of the regular season has begun. While some teams are struggling to get into the playoffs, others like the St. Louis Blues and the Pittsburgh Penguins are sending the word around the league that they will be hard to beat.

    Here is the latest look at where each NHL team belongs in our ranking.

    The ranking has been made before Tuesday's games.

30. Columbus Blue Jackets

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    The Blue Jackets are among the worst teams in goal scoring and goals against. More, their penalty killing is dead last in the league. As for the power play, they are at the bottom of the standings. There is nothing to be cheerful of, especially when everyone one knows Rick Nash is playing his last games with the organization.

    The Blue Jackets are likely doomed to lose for another few years.

29. Edmonton Oilers

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    The Oilers have lost four of their last five games. Despite their ranking, the young team is showing some very good offensive skills. Indeed, they are standing first in the league on the power play. This is an odd situation for a team that is perishing at the 29th position. Consistency and a stronger defensive squad will be helpful.

28. Montreal Canadiens

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    It has been an endless season for the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge. Pierre Gauthier has put himself on the ejection seat by taking doubtful decisions. The result—they have the second-worst home record in the NHL. Despite the return of Andrei Markov, the team will still be fragile.

    The Habs will likely have a chance to draft among the top three at this year's draft.  


27. New York Islanders

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    Unfortunately, it seems to be an eternal building process in Long Island. They haven't made the playoffs since 2007. The Isles will obviously miss the spring tournament for a sixth straight season. 

    It is hard for a team to expect more goals when John Tavares, P.A. Parenteau and Matt Moulson are the only players who put numbers on the scoring sheet. This can explain why they have the worst goal differential with a minus-46.

26. Minnesota Wild

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    Injuries are the story of the season in Minnesota. Key players such as Koivu, Bouchard, Latendresse and Backstrom are all out of action and it hurts. The Wild are the worst offensive team in the League with 150 goals in 69 games. Their power play is also suffering from the lack of scoring with a low 14.7 percent.

25. Carolina Hurricanes

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    The hurricane has hurt Carolina's team. They only won nine games on the road. Although, their game has improved a little bit lately. Since the month of February they maintained a record of 8-3-6 and Cam Ward has played well in the last four games. He will be a good candidate for the Canadian hockey team at the world championship.

    Jim Rutherford has made one of the best moves this season by trading Tomas Kaberle and his heavy contract to Montreal.

24. Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Since the hiring of Randy Carlyle the Leafs went 1-4-0. Worst than that, since February, their record is 5-12-2. Let's face it, they dug their grave. Jonas Gustavsson and James Reimer did not meet the expectations. Without Joffrey Lupul, out for the remainder of the season, it will be very difficult to catch up eight points and make the playoffs.

23. Anaheim Ducks

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    The Ducks played desperate hockey for a while but the reality has hit the organization. With two consecutive losses, it will be difficult to reduce the nine-point gap that separates them from the eighth place.

    This is obviously a disappointing season for Ryan Getzlaf who has an embarrassing production of nine goals. It's a different story for Teemu Selanne. It's hard to imagine the veteran player retiring after another great season.

22. Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Steven Stamkos will score more than 50 goals this season. Yet, that won't be enough to have a pass for the playoffs. The team has allowed 233 goals so far and there must be a sense of urgency to improve their defensive play. The players were outscored 14 to 7 in the last three games. Dwayne Roloson and Dustin Tokarsi will not make miracles.

21. Winnipeg Jets

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    Two straight losses have pushed back the Jets to four points from Washington and five points from Florida. They are mostly engaged in a race against the Sabres and the Capitals. Winnipeg have to win against the Capitals this week if they wish to stay in the playoff run.

20. Buffalo Sabres

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    With Ryan Miller, everything is possible. He has been the key behind the success of his team. Their latest win against Montreal has moved them two points away from the Capitals and the eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek will need to maintain a high level of intensity.

19. Los Angeles Kings

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    The Kings are involved in a playoff race with Calgary, San Jose, Colorado and Phoenix. Among those teams, they probably have the best goalkeeper. Jonathan Quick has seven shutouts already this season and if there is one man who can make the difference, it's him. His teammates will need Quick at his best because they are struggling offensively.

18. Calgary Flames

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    Like the Kings, the Flames are involved in a tough race in the Western Conference. Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay combined 13 points in their last three games. If Michael Cammalleri can find his scoring touch, the Flames will be a dangerous team to play against.

17. Washington Capitals

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    The loss of Nicklas Backstrom is hurting the Capitals. Nonetheless, consecutive wins against Tampa Bay, Boston and Toronto have put them back on track. They are one point away from Florida and the first place of the Southeast Division. Washington's road record is 12-18-3. They will need to play better on the road because eight of their last 13 games will be on opponent's ice.

16. San Jose Sharks

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    The Sharks are going through hard times. They won a first game this month, after losing five games in a row. Their slump might be explained by the fact that they were scoreless on the power play during those five games. The positive side is they played fewer games than Colorado, who are ahead by one point.

15. Florida Panthers

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    After losing two of their last three games, the Panthers stopped the bleeding with a win against the Hurricanes. The Panthers must avoid a losing streak because they are chased by the Capitals and the Jets. The next three games may be critical for Florida.

14. Colorado Avalanche

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    The Avalanche are followed by three hungry teams. They played more games than the teams below them and because of that they will have to put a winning streak on the board. Semyon Varlamov was solid last week, winning three games out of four.

13. Phoenix Coyotes

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    Dave Tippett is definitely an underrated coach. He has done such a great job with a team that has supposedly not enough assets to make it to the playoffs. Unfortunately, last week wasn't pretty with a 1-2-1 record. They are ranked seventh in the Western Conference with the worst power play in the NHL. Hence the importance of taking advantage of their opportunities.  

12. Ottawa Senators

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    Ben Bishop had a great debut with the Sens last week with a 2-0-1 record, a goal-against average of 2.27 and a save percentage of .926. They are comfortably positioned with 81 points for the seventh place of the Eastern Conference. Erik Karlsson scored twice in his last game against Buffalo. He plays like a Norris recipient.

11. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Chicago did beat the Red Wings and the Rangers last week in two very close games. Ray Emery gained the trust of Joel Quenneville. He was the starting goalie in the last seven games. He allowed seven goals in his last four starts. Meanwhile, no one knows when Jonathan Toews, who suffers from a concussion, will be back.

10. Dallas Stars

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    Dallas won five straight games and is only one point away from Chicago. It's impressive, especially because they beat Vancouver and San Jose one after the other last week. Michael Ryder is in a good sequence. The winger has four points in the last three games.

9. Boston Bruins

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    The Bruins slowed down a bit. The last two games have been demanding for the players and this resulted in two losses. Boston will make the playoffs but they could be overtaken by Ottawa for the first place in the Northeast Division. However, the Senators have played two more games than Boston.

8. New Jersey Devils

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    The team with the best penalty killing of the league won four straight games. Martin Brodeur gave up three goals in his last three starts and Ilya Kovalchuk scored four goals and had three assists last week. There are not many teams who will want to face the Devils in the first round of the playoffs.

7. Philadelphia Flyers

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    The enigmatic Ilya Bryzgalov was named the first star of the week. He recorded back-to-back shutouts in his last two games. The Flyers won't do anything to distract the Russian goalie. If he's hot, give him as many starts as he wants. 

6. Nashville Predators

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    The incredible Pekka Rinne will dictate the destiny of the Predators. If he was playing in a big market, this player would be treated like superstar. Andrei Kostitsyn knows about big market. This other enigmatic player has been putting numbers on the sheet since his arrival with the Predators. If Alexander Radulov decides to come back with Nashville, the team will become a Cup contender.

5. Detroit Red Wings

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    Detroit never felt the need to use a high draft pick to choose a goaltender. When Jimmy Howard got injured a few games ago, Joey MacDonald came in. He was another example of a marginal goalie who became great in a glorious organization.

    The Red Wings lost two out of their last three games last week and they are moving away from the first place of the Central Division. But when a team has a goal differential of plus-55, there is no reason to worry.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    The Penguins are flying on the ice. In their last 10 games their have a record of 9-0-1. Is it relevant to remind that Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang are injured? When it's not Malkin, it's James Neal, Chris Kunitz or Jordan Staal. How hard it will be for the other teams when Crosby and Letang will both be back in the lineup? Good Luck.

3. Vancouver Canucks

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    It hasn't been a good week for the Canucks, losing two of their last three games. Despite last week's poor performance, Vancouver is still five points away from the first place overall. That would assure them a home ice advantage during the whole playoffs. For that, the twins will have to play better. They are pointless in their last five games. 

2. New York Rangers

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    The name of the game is goaltending and Henrik Lundqvist has a terrific season. He's a Vezina candidate. Although losing three of their last four games, the Rangers are more than ever in the race to win the Presidents' Trophy. The Blueshirts will have the opportunity to prove what they are capable of when they'll host the Penguins and a certain Sydney Crosby on Thursday.

1. St. Louis Blues

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    Perfect week, perfect team? At the beginning of the season, it would have been Utopian to even think that the Blues would have been ranked first overall in the NHL. Well, everything is possible. Jaroslav Halak registered three consecutive wins, allowing three goals in as many games. It's remarkable to have such a success without any players with more than 50 points in their roster. Without a doubt, Ken Hitchcock will win the Jack Adams.