1. Washington Capitals (35-12-6, Last Week: No.2)
The Caps are my new number one mainly because they are the hottest team in the league right now. They have Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin, who are all great scorers. No wonder the Caps have scored the most goals in the league. They are also the only team that has won nine of their last ten games.
2. Chicago Blackhawks (36-13-4, Last Week: No. 1)
I moved this team down mainly because the Caps are red hot at the moment. But I have been moving back and forth between Chicago and Washington for a while. This team is still my favorite to win the West.
3. San Jose Sharks (35-10-8, Last Week: No. 3)
Same ol’ Sharks. Good offense, good defense, good goaltending. Barring another playoff letdown, this team is most likely going to make it to the Western Conference Finals. But they ARE the Sharks, so I guess we’ll see.
4. Vancouver Canucks (33-18-2, Last Week: No. 4)
With guys like the Sedin brothers, Ryan Kesler, and Alex Burrows leading your offense and Roberto Luongo as your goaltender, it’s no surprise that the Canucks are in the top five in scoring AND defense. Only the Blackhawks and Sharks can say that.
5. New Jersey Devils (34-16-2, Last Week: No. 5)
Martin Brodeur is getting it done, but the offense needs to step it up a notch or two if they want to be favorites to win something more than the Atlantic Division. New Jersey is ranked 23rd in goal scoring.
6. Buffalo Sabres (31-14-7, Last Week: No. 6)
This is one team I would watch out for. With Ryan Miller as the goalie, this team could go places. He’s been playing great all year long and is my current favorite to win the Vezina Trophy. Don’t be surprised if the end up in the Eastern Conference Finals.
7. Pittsburgh Penguins (33-20-1, Last Week: No. 7)
The defending Stanley Cup Champions are playing like they did last year. A strong offense, and an “okay” defense. There’s no telling where Crosby and company can go from here.
8. Colorado Avalanche (30-15-6, Last Week: No. 8)
I never would’ve thought that their scoring and defense would both be in the top ten to this point. I really got to give credit to Joe Sacco for coaching this team better than anybody else imagined and Craig Anderson for surprisingly playing like one of the top goaltenders in the NHL.
9. Philadelphia Flyers (26-22-3, Last Week: No. 9)
I don’t think this team is getting as much credit like they should. They are a little better than their record shows, Peter Laviolette has been doing a great job since he came in and this team could at least make it to the second round of the playoffs if guys like Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, even the rookie James van Riemsdyk can get some momentum going heading into April. This team is very underrated.
10. Los Angeles Kings (30-19-3, Last Week: No. 10)
Who would’ve thought that the second and third place teams in the Pacific Division up to this point would be the Kings and Coyotes and not the Ducks and Stars. I knew this team could creep around the playoff corner sometime within the next two to three years, but this team is showing much improvement earlier than I expected. Big ups to Terry Murray and his crew.
11. Phoenix Coyotes (30-18-5, Last Week: No. 12)
Like the Kings, the Coyotes are one of the surprising teams in the West. As a Stars fan, I was kind of disappointed to see Dave Tippett leave Dallas and go to Phoenix. I guess Coyotes’ fans are starting to wonder why Tippett was brought into the desert to begin with. He can take a “Okay” team and make them into a “good” team. This team is going places.
12. Nashville Predators (29-20-3, Last Week: No. 11)
There’s nothing really that great about this team at the moment. They are the only team in my top 12 that has lost at least six of their last ten games. I really hope this isn’t the start of a meltdown because I’m kind of tired seeing this team not really going anywhere.
13. Calgary Flames (26-20-7, Last Week: No. 13)
I picked this team to win the Northwest Division at the beginning of the season and they have disappointed me a little bit. The are vastly underachieving. I mean c’mon! With guys like Jarome Iginla, Rene Bourque leading the offense and two All-Star defensemen (Dion Phaneuf and Jay Bouwmeester) leading your defense, aren’t you suppose to be better than this?
14. Ottawa Senators (29-21-4, Last Week: No. 18)
Ottawa has shown much improvement between this year and last year. Their offense has picked it up quite a bit. The goaltending needs a little work but overall, I like there this team is going. Brian Elliott is doing a nice job but still has a way to go if he wants to be an elite goaltender.
15. Boston Bruins (23-20-8, Last Week: No. 15)
I still think this team can make the playoffs. But if they want to make it, they gotta score some goals. The goaltending is still pretty solid but you can’t win a game 0-0.
16. Minnesota Wild (26-23-4, Last Week: No. 22)
Dear Niklas Backstrom: where is your past dominance? I miss seeing it. Give it a call and tell it to come back. I still believe in you guys (for now).
17. Florida Panthers (23-21-9, Last Week: No. 20)
Can this be the year the Panthers FINALLY get back into the playoffs? If the defensemen can give Tomas Vokoun a little more help over the remainder of the season, then he answer is a sure “YES.”
18. Montreal Canadiens (25-25-5, Last Week: No. 21)
Tomas Plekanec and Mike Cammalleri have both been playing rather well up to this point but it’s the other guys that need to step it up. I don’t think having the 20th best offense in the NHL is going to cut it with Habs fans. Somebody needs to tell Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta to stop dreaming about the good ol’ days in New Jersey and start playing a little better.
19. Atlanta Thrashers (23-21-8, Last Week: No. 17)
So the offense is there but it’s the defense that needs a little work. Ondrej Pavelec and Tobias Enstrom need a little help on the defensive side of the puck. Also, I wonder if Ilya Kovalchuk is REALLY going to get traded or not.
20. St. Louis Blues (23-22-8, Last Week: No. 19)
The Blues haven’t played too bad as of late but they still have some work to do if they want to get into the playoffs. Starting with offense.
21. Detroit Red Wings (25-19-9, Last Week: No. 16)
My, how the mighty have fallen. Only 59 points to this point and only 3-4-3 in their last ten games. I understand this team has had quite a few injuries to key guys but this team really needs to get it going. The Lions, Tigers, and Pistons aren’t any good, so the city of Detroit is pretty much relying on them to have a little success.
22. New York Rangers (24-23-7, Last Week: No. 14)
So was Marian Gaborik brought to this team to basically do all the dirty work for the rest of the team? If so, were seeing the results: 24th best offense in the league. And the defense needs to step it up a little bit as well.
23. Dallas Stars (23-19-11, Last Week: No. 24)
I’m actually starting to believe that Marty Turco could get traded. If so, it better be for a solid defenseman. They need it bad.
24. Anaheim Ducks (24-23-7, Last Week: No. 23)
Like Dallas, the Ducks are getting the job done mostly on offense but can’t get it done on the defensive side of the puck. I wonder what Jean-Sebastian Giguere is doing right now?
25. Tampa Bay Lightning (22-20-10, Last Week: No. 26)
This team really needs to score more if they want any shot at the playoffs. They need to get something going from guys other than Stamkos, St. Louis, and Lecavalier.
26. New York Islanders (23-22-8, Last Week: No. 25)
I’m still not convinced that this team is going to make the playoffs this season, but the Islanders have improved a lot over the past year. Give Kyle Okposo, Matt Moulson, and John Tavares time to grow like they have been and the Islanders could make a nice run over the years to come, but maybe not this year. Much credit to Scott Gordon though. I see nice things coming out of Long Island.
27. Carolina Hurricanes (17-28-7, Last Week: No. 30)
What’s this? The Hurricanes aren’t number 30? Why, yes it is! They have won six of their last ten, so I kinda had to give them a little bit of credit.
28. Columbus Blue Jackets (21-25-9, Last Week: No. 27)
I wonder how Rick Nash is feeling right now. I’m currently picturing him stranded on an island known as the Nationwide Arena and holding up a big cardboard “HELP” sign up into the sky.
29. Edmonton Oilers (16-29-6, Last Week: No. 28)
Twenty-ninth ranked offense, 28th ranked defense/goaltending. This team stinks. Pat Quinn must feel like falling off his throne right now.
30. Toronto Maple Leafs (17-27-10, Last Week: No. 29)
Dear Ron Wilson: You’re a genius and one of the greatest hockey coaches of all time. Why waste your time with these guys? I mean, seriously.
Carter’s NHL Trophy Races:
Hart Trophy (League MVP)
1. Capitals LW Alexander Ovechkin
2. Sabres G Ryan Miller
3. Sharks G Evgeni Nabokov
4. Penguins C Sidney Crosby
5. Sharks LW Dany Heatley
6. Sharks C Patrick Marleau
7. Devils G Martin Brodeur
8. Rangers RW Marian Gaborik
9. Thrashers LW Ilya Kovalchuk
10. Canucks G Roberto Luongo
Vezina Trophy (Goaltender of the Year)
1. Ryan Miller (Sabres)
2. Evgeni Nabokov (Sharks)
3. Martin Brodeur (Devils)
4. Roberto Luongo (Canucks)
5. Tomas Vokoun (Panthers)
Norris Trophy (Defenseman of the Year)
1. Mike Green (Capitals)
2. Duncan Keith (Blackhawks)
3. Chris Pronger (Flyers)
4. Christian Ehrhoff (Canucks)
5. Drew Doughty (Kings)
Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year)
1. Matt Duchene (Avalanche)
2. John Tavares (Islanders)
3. James van Riemsdyk (Flyers)
4. Tyler Myers (Sabres)
5. Niclas Bergfors (Devils)
Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year)
1. Todd McLellan (Sharks)
2. Joel Quenneville (Blackhawks)
3. Bruce Boudreau (Capitals)
4. Jacques Lemaire (Devils)
5. Lindy Ruff (Sabres)