NHL Power Rankings: Teams That Have Surprised out of the Gate

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NHL Power Rankings: Teams That Have Surprised out of the Gate
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We're not even two weeks into the 2012-2013 NHL campaign, but you can already pick up on some of the strengths and weaknesses of various teams throughout the league.

The Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks are on fire to start the season, while some former playoff teams look nothing like contenders.

Here's a look at my latest NHL power rankings, complete with teams that have opened eyes early on the ice (in italics).

 

1. Chicago Blackhawks (6-0-0)

 

Complete with an undefeated record so far, the Blackhawks are steamrolling their competition, led by the surprisingly strong play of goaltender Corey Crawford.

 

2. San Jose Sharks (5-0-0)

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Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have come out firing and the Sharks made Vancouver look silly on Sunday. This team has always been in contention, but the letdown against St. Louis in the playoffs last season cast a lot of doubts. Ranked first in goals allowed per game and second in goals per game, the Sharks are looking to put last season behind them.

 

3. Boston Bruins (4-0-1)

The Bruins are exhibiting the fierce, tough-minded mentality that could see them go straight to the Stanley Cup Finals this season, ranked in the top 10 in goals per game and goals allowed per game.

 

4. St. Louis Blues (5-1-0)

This team's depth is out of this world and it's not out of the question that the Blues come out of the West this season. When Chris Stewart has four goals off the back line, you rank third in goals per game.

 

5. Tampa Bay Lightning (4-1-0)

The Lightning have fired it up to start the season, complete with new acquisition Sami Salo. How does five assists in five games sound? After going 38-36-8 last season, Tampa Bay looks to have a little extra something with Solo on board.

 

6. New Jersey Devils (3-0-1)

It would be ignorant to expect the Devils to be the same team without Zach Parise and Petr Sykora, but that doesn't mean they can't be a very good team. The overtime loss to the Canadiens notwithstanding, the Devils have played well from the start.

 

7. Anaheim Ducks (3-1-0)

Daniel Winnik has five goals already and the Ducks are rolling after beating Nashville in a shootout on Saturday. The defense figures to catch up to this team, though.

 

8. Montreal Canadiens (3-1-0)

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So much for a slow start to the season. The Canadiens have won three straight games behind Andrei Markov and you've gotta love the coaching of Michel Therrien. For a team that finished with the third-fewest points in the NHL last season, this has been a huge surprise.

 

9. Pittsburgh Penguins (3-2-0)

The Penguins have not gotten off to the start they imagined, but we all know how talented this team is and it should be only a matter of time before they hit their stride. 

 

10. Minnesota Wild (2-2-1)

The Wild may sport a mediocre record, but they still have Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Dany Heatley, and the close game against St. Louis showed they are a challenge that will only improve with time together on the ice.

 

11. Ottawa Senators (3-1-1)

Things haven't gone the way of the Senators the past two games, but as long as you have goaltender Craig Anderson, you are set up to succeed. Ottawa ranks fourth in goals per game allowed. The Senators are looking to avenge their early exit in the playoffs last season.

 

12. Winnipeg Jets (3-1-1)

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You can't complain about the early work the Jets have done. A balanced team with a great home crowd, Winnipeg appears to be on the upswing. Despite missing out on the postseason in 2011, the Jets have some life now.

 

13. Detroit Red Wings (2-2-1)

The Red Wings started off in god-awful fashion, but encouraging efforts against Minnesota and Chicago has them in the top 15 for now.

 

14. Vancouver Canucks (2-2-2)

Alex Burrows has played well in relief of Ryan Kesler, but that hasn't changed the fact that the Canucks are 2-2-2. Kesler is the backbone of this team and Vancouver needs him back badly.

 

15. New York Rangers (2-3-0)

After a slow start, the Rangers have looked much better as of late, beating Boston and Toronto in their last three games. This squad's scoring power, complete with Marian Gaborik, only figures to emerge to the forefront as the season wears on.

 

16. New York Islanders (2-2-1)

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The Islanders are going to have their ups and downs being a young team, but they've shown some promise early in the season. The defense needs to improve, but the offense is exciting. For a squad that finished with the fourth-fewest points in the NHL last season, there's an air about the Islanders that seems different.

 

17. Los Angeles Kings (2-2-1)

Two games with Anze Kopitar, two wins. That's not a coincidence, folks. The Kings are back on track after a rough start to the season and they figure to only go up from here.

 

18. Edmonton Oilers (3-2-0)

The Oilers need to work on their defense, but this is a young, exciting team that can swing the puck into the net with conviction. A strong start figures to help the group's confidence moving forward.

 

19. Dallas Stars (2-3-1)

The glorious return of Jamie Benn was deadened by the Stars' 2-1 loss to Columbus on Monday. Still, the combination of Jaromir Jagr and Benn could be interesting.

 

20. Buffalo Sabres (2-3-0)

The Sabres aren't scoring enough to have letdowns on defense. The result has been a 2-3 start. Buffalo must improve its defense to make a major impact this season.

 

21. Nashville Predators (1-2-3)

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It doesn't matter how good you are defensively if you can't score. Ten goals in six games, including a 4-0 shutout at the hands of Phoenix? Predators they are not so far.

 

22. Carolina Hurricanes (2-3-0)

The Hurricanes were pumped up by some experts in the preseason, but the back-and-forth, seesaw nature of this team gives me headaches. Consistency please.

 

23. Toronto Maple Leafs (2-3-0)

The Maple Leafs are giving up an alarming amount of goals. Also, where is Phil Kessel? You either believe in yourself or you don't and the Maple Leafs don't believe in themselves right now.

 

24. Philadelphia Flyers (2-4-0)

Injuries combined with poor play on both sides of the puck have the Flyers looking bewildered. Beyond the 7-1 victory over Florida (which may be the worst team in the league right now), I haven't seen much to like about Philadelphia.

 

25. Columbus Blue Jackets (2-3-1)

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Winning two games so far is nothing to be ecstatic about, but the 2-1 victory over Dallas on Monday, combined with spirited efforts against Detroit and Chicago, has this team showing life after a dismal 2011 campaign.

 

26. Colorado Avalanche (2-3-0)

Ryan. O'Reilly. Two words. One name. Sign him. Now. Back-to-back spankings at the hands of San Jose and Edmonton is proof enough that this squad needs the 21-year-old center desperately.

 

27. Phoenix Coyotes (2-4-0)

After allowing 20 goals in five goals, Phoenix got back on track on Monday against Nashville, coming away with a 4-0 victory. That's the Coyotes team we know. 

 

28. Calgary Flames (1-2-1)

The victory over Edmonton on Saturday notwithstanding, the Flames are not only a mediocre team, they are boring. Time to create some more "fan days" in Calgary.

 

29. Washington Capitals (1-3-1)

It's not realistic to expect the Capitals to instantly catch on to Adam Oates' system, but for now, there are plenty of areas to work on. The win over Buffalo on Sunday was encouraging, though.

 

30. Florida Panthers (1-4-0)

Injuries have decimated this team, but you wonder if the Panthers also outplayed their talent last season. It certainly looks that way now, ranked 29th in goals allowed per game and 30th in goals per game. The 7-1 loss to Philly on Saturday was hard to watch.

 

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