With the NHL season about 10 games in, we have a fairly decent perspective on what teams really have going for them. Out west there are lots of surprises worth taking note of, but how many will be able to hang on for a playoff berth? That remains to be seen.
Below are my Power Rankings as of Oct. 27, 2009.
1. Colorado Avalanche - The Avs have been flying high all season and have gotten scoring from everyone, especially Wolski, Statsny, and O'Reilly. Craig Anderson has been phenomenal for Colorado and having a 4-0 record at home is a sign of good things to come. With a four-game road trip on the horizon, the NHL could see if the Avs are truly capable of keeping their winning record alive.
2. Los Angeles Kings - Having won four straight, the Kings are among the hottest teams in the NHL. The Kings' firepower could easily close the gap on Colorado in the future, but as of now, they take a back seat to the Avs. Kopitar, Smith, Brown, and Frolov are leading this team in all the right ways. With a game Wednesday night against the San Jose Sharks, the Kings get their second opportunity to get a win over the Sharks, the question is can they do it on the road?
3. Calgary Flames - The Flames are red-hot right now, getting scoring from all their key players. Add into the mix a talented defensive corps and you have a team capable of going deep in the playoffs. Miikka Kiprusoff is off to a stellar start and shows no signs of weakness—which is likely why the Flames have won three straight.
4. Chicago Blackhawks - Just one point behind Los Angeles, the Blackhawks are a scary team to see on your schedule. Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane both have 10 points in 11 games and show no signs of stopping their offensive charge. The Hawks' defense is suffocating and their goaltending is usually solid, but with occasional crease hiccups, the Hawks may need to address problems in net later in the season.
5. San Jose Sharks - Facing the Pacific-leading Kings on Wednesday night could prove a good time to show strength or crumble under pressure. For the Sharks to reclaim top-dog status in the West, they need a win over Los Angeles; but regardless of their position the Sharks are a solid team. A slow start hurt the Sharks early on, but the addition of Dany Heatley has so far been a good investment.
6. Dallas Stars - A somewhat rough start may have kept Dallas from being the top dog in the Pacific, but the Stars are finding talent in youth like Loui Eriksson, James Neal, and Jamie Benn. Brenden Morrow—after missing most of last season—is back to his old form, while Marty Turco and Alex Auld have held down the crease duties quite well. Injuries are again an issue with Dallas, with Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen having missed most of the season so far.
7. Vancouver Canucks - Roberto Luongo may have struggled early on, but his team is on the up-swing now. Henrik Sedin picked up the slack left by his brother, and the Canucks are looking like a solid team all around in the West. Their away record is a little weak, but solid play at home has helped them stay in positive position. A three-game winning streak has things looking good in British Columbia.
8. Phoenix Coyotes - After a fast start, the Coyotes have slowly cooled down, especially after losing two straight. The Coyotes new defense-first style under first-year head coach Dave Tippet has the team heading in the right direction. Solid goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov has the team looking to make the playoffs. Ten points in 10 games from Shane Doan isn't too shabby, either.
9. Columbus Blue Jackets - Last week, the Jackets chalked up three losses and lost their last game against Los Angeles, but Columbus is still in the playoff hunt and seems to be switching positions with Phoenix in the points race for eighth in the division daily. With Rick Nash's 15 points in 10 games and Steve Mason playing well, the Jackets seem like a solid team, even with the slip-ups.
10. Edmonton Oilers - Dustin Penner is finally meeting expectations in Edmonton, but an up and down season and two straight losses barely have the Oil above the Coyotes in the race for the playoffs. Edmonton is capable of better than seventh position in the West, but with a game against the visiting Colorado Avalanche, things in Edmonton may get worse before they get better.
11. St. Louis Blues - Having played only nine games and a slow start has left the Blues scraping for points of late. Chris Mason has struggled a bit more than would be expected and Andy McDonald isn't showing his usual talent for assists, but if the Blues can find their stride, they should be a playoff team. The loss of T.J. Oshie to an appendectomy will only make things harder.
12. Detroit Red Wings - Although Chris Osgood is surely a Hall of Fame goalie, his numbers this season have been terrible. The play from backup Jimmy Howard has been just as bad. The Wings aren't as solid as last year, but still have more talent than their record gives them credit for. It's a rare sight to see the Red Wings being outscored, and even more rare for consistent losing by the Winged Wheel.
13. Nashville Predators - A 3-6-1 record is a prime example of why the Preds are so low. Goaltending issues again plague Nashville, who just cannot seem to catch a break. If the Preds can't record a win over the limping Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night, then just stick a fork in them for the season.
14. Anaheim Ducks - Utterly putrid may be one way to describe the Anaheim Ducks, and underachieving may be another. The Ducks have way too solid goaltending to be this low, but errors by Jonas Hiller in his time as a starter have caused the Ducks some issues. Additionally, sophomore Bobby Ryan's lack of scoring, and difficulties to find the net for the rest of Anaheim's top players, may leave the Ducks on the outside looking in come spring. Having lost four in a row, including to the Toronto Maple Leafs, doesn't help any.
15. Minnesota Wild - The Wild are 3-0 at home, and 0-8 on the road. Regardless of the amount of talent you have, that's just terrible. Mikko Koivu and Andrew Brunette are the only bright spots on the team right now. The only other real positive I can say about Minnesota is at least they're not the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Ken Armer is a Community Leader for the NHL and the Dallas Stars for Bleacher Report. He also covers the Anaheim Ducks for SoCalSportsHub.com and covers the Texas and Dallas Stars for Hockey54.com. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
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