Here are the power rankings for the week ending January 15, 2010:
1. Chicago: They blew a four-goal lead last week, and followed it up with another loss, their first multi-loss game since November. While they recovered somewhat with a solid 3-0 victory last night against Columbus, a brutal eight-game road swing will be their sternest test between now and the playoffs.
2. San Jose: The Sharks have flattened a bit from their eight-game winning streak from a few weeks ago. Of greater concern is their exceeding their home loss total from last year only slightly past the halfway point.
3. New Jersey: Riding the exceptional play from captain—and U.S. Olympic captain—Jamie Langenbrunner, who has registered 40 points in 43 games. It does appear Martin Brodeur needs a break, especially after stopping 51 shots in their 1-0 victory against the Rangers.
4. Buffalo: A hot team, going 7-0-1 over their last eight games, and have only one regulation loss in their last 13 games. Like the Blackhawks, a brutal road swing begins. Questions still remain on their blueline, but stout goaltending and forward depth continue to carry them.
5. Washington: Winners of four of their last five games, the Caps are really starting to light the lamp; however, so long as Semyon Varlamov remains out of the lineup, their offensive prowess can only carry them so far, particularly come playoff time.
6. Pittsburgh: Appear to have rebounded a bit, having won three of their last four, including their last two on their northwest Canada swing. But their Power Play has got to get back on track, given their talent.
7. Phoenix: While not winning a lot of games, the Desert Dogs continue to pick up points. They have to find a way to win more often at home—then again, it would help to have attendance in excess of four figures.
8. Vancouver: Three straight losses? Hey, it happens. But with an impending 14-game road swing (yes, you read that right), the 'Nucks absolutely need to take advantage of their remaining home game opportunities.
9. Los Angeles: Ended a three-game losing streak last night, which followed a three-game winning streak. This is a team with too much firepower to struggle to put the puck into the back of the net, as they recently have.
10. Calgary: Losing at home to Pittsburgh? Not so bad. Losing to Columbus, at home? Cause for concern. A team in desperate need of goal-scoring support for 'Kipper.
11. Nashville: The Preds began their northwest Canada swing (is everyone in the league on a northwest Canada swing?) with two straight victories. What's most impressive is who their leading goal-scorers are: Martin Erat and Patric Hornqvist, not exactly two guys from which you expect your scoring to come from.
12. Colorado: Playing better as of late, but, back-to-back losses to the 'Canes and 'Isles may come back to haunt them. Some goal-scoring support for Craig Anderson might go a long way towards their playoff push.
13. Detroit: Winners of five of their last seven games, the Wings continue to defy rumblings of their demise. However, blowout losses to the likes of the Isles and Ducks justify the cause for concern. One more thing: I was wrong in my preseason concerns over the Wings' netminding; Jimmy Howard's the real deal.
14. Boston: The Bruins snapped their three-game slide last night. Losing (in no particular order) centers Patrice Bergeron and Marc Savard (knee), as well as defensemen Andrew Ference and Mark Stuart to injury has really affected their fortunes as of late.
15. Minnesota: While they lost last night, this team continues to surprise the pundits—OK, they surprised me too (so, I guess they really haven't surprised the pundits). Solid goal tending and, get this, offensive firepower have sparked their recent fortunes.
16. New York Islanders: First off, I apologize to the Isles for criticizing other teams that lost to them. This team's grit can be an example to many NHL squads, on what it means to compete. And that list of NHL squads are primarily occupied by the latter half of these power rankings.
17. Philadelphia: No better way to squelch an impressive four-game winning streak—each victory by at least a three-goal margin, mind you—than with a 4-0 loss to the lowly Leafs. If they can withstand the Caps offensive onslaught tomorrow, a six-game homestand might get this team back in the playoff hunt.
18. New York Rangers: The Broadway Blueshirts are playing a bit better as of late, going 4-1-3 over their last eight games, but the lack of goal-scoring, not to mention the continued strain on Hendrik Lundquist, will continue to plague them.
19. Montreal: Last night's victory aside, the Habs cannot find the back of the net, and no matter how well Cary Price or Halak play, they will continue to struggle in their efforts to make the playoffs.
20. Ottawa: Can someone please explain how this team is still in the playoff hunt? Devastating injuries, a lack of goal-scoring, blowout losses, losing streaks—when will the clock strike midnight?
21. Dallas: The Stars aren't bright, deep in the heart of Texas. Losers of six of their last seven games, being so inept on the road and with an awful power play, it may be time to rebuild this once-proud franchise.
22. St. Louis: Appeared to have rebounded a bit, winning their last three games in a row. More importantly, the last two came at home, a place where they've surprisingly struggled for victories when Andy Murray was behind the bench. Can they now repeat last season's surge towards the playoffs?
23. Anaheim: Their impressive five-game win streak came to a crashing halt last night, losing to the Kings. Getting Ryan Getzlaf back is a huge help, towards any playoff push.
24. Atlanta: The Thrash have won two of their last three, but that one loss was an 8-1 shellacking at the hands of the Caps. Well, that was an all-too common theme for Atlanta, as their goaltending woes continue.
25. Tampa Bay: The Bolts continue to win one, lose one, pretty much in that order. This team needs to get on a roll if they have any ideas of returning to the postseason.
26. Florida: The Panthers are 2-0-1 in their last three games, but blowing a 4-1 lead against the Caps was devastating. The Panthers aren't an exciting team to watch, but they're gritty and they have great goaltending and a solid defensive corps. If only they had (quite) a bit more offense.
27. Columbus: Their three-game winning streak was, as expected, a tease, for a team who's destined for the draft lottery once again. The Blue Jackets are now back to the level they were when Ken Hitchcock took over as coach—in short, last season was an aberration.
28. Carolina: Much like how many lower-level teams can learn from the Isles' grit, there are just as many teams who can learn about organizational pride, from the 'Canes. It's just the injuries, and their wretched start, won't amount to anything beyond jeopardizing their lottery position.
29. Toronto: The Leafs' ended their four-game losing streak, as well as their streak of losing six of their previous seven games. Wasn't this team supposed to be built on defense? You could've fooled me.
30. Edmonton: Losers of 13 of their last 14 games, the Oil take ineptitude to yet another level. Pat Quinn and Tom Renney deserve so much more.