NHL Power Rankings: Detroit Red Wings are No. 1 Through October
I objected a little to doing Power Rankings this early in the season. It probably stems from my utter disgust with the NCAA for not waiting to do them until Week 6 or Week 7 of the college football season, but I digress.
With that, here are the power rankings for the week ending October 30th:
1. Detroit - The pre-eminent pick of most pundits, the Red Wings struggled against the Coyotes as starting netminder Jimmy Howard was sidelined with back spasms. So long as Howard's injury is of a short-term nature, the Red Wings otherwise are operating on all cylinders: penalty kill, faceoffs, shots blocked, power-play efficiency.
2. Los Angeles - They are rolling out of the box and that's without the injured Drew Doughty and with some early struggles by the likes of Anze Kopitar and their first line of Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams. A big concern is the extent of Doughty's injury; however, Jack Johnson and Willie Mitchell are logging major minutes and filling in admirably.
3. Nashville - The Preds don't score much, but with they allow far fewer goals currently giving up the third-fewest goals in the NHL. Ageless wonder Steve Sullivan is leading the goal-scoring attack for the Preds. So long as they possess one of the best GM/head coach combinations in Messrs. Poile and Trotz, they will always be in the playoff conversation.
4. Montreal - Winning in spite of the most wretched PP efficiency, the Habs have been stingy on defense, particularly with their penalty kill. One wonders when the loss of Jaroslav Halak affects this team, either down the road or come playoff time.
5. St. Louis - While they're unbeaten at home and struggling a bit on the road, the Blues are riding high behind the stellar goaltending of Jaroslav Halak, perhaps the highest impact unrestricted free-agent acquisition of the offseason.
6. Tampa Bay - Steven Stamkos is off to a torrid pace toward defense of his Rocket Richard Trophy title. At this rate, he may just add the Art Ross (MVP) trophy to his trophy case. It appears Guy Boucher may have made the right choice in choosing the Bolts over the Blue Jackets.
7. Boston - So glad to see 2009 Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas return as the starting Bruins netminder. But it certainly helps their fortunes when their top line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton are carrying the goal-scoring load so effectively.
8. Calgary - The Flames are proving the pundits wrong—including myself—so far. Behind the torrid goal-scoring of Rene Bourque, the Flames appear to have regained their penchant for finding the back of the net.
9. Washington - While Alexander Ovechkin has recently struggled, the Caps have found a gem in rookie defenseman John Carlson. Will Semyon Varlamov ever beat the injury bug?
10. Toronto - While the Leafs have cooled a bit after coming out of the gates 4-0, their current 5-3 record sure trumps their awful 0-7-1 start from last season. Team captain Dion Phaneuf, who has three assists and is a team-worst minus-five, appears to be trying too hard offensively.
11. Columbus - Considering how badly the Blue Jackets have been plastered in two of their last three losses—by a combined score of 11-4—might be a case of "enjoy it while it lasts," but in winning five of their last six, the Blue Jackets have generally taken advantage of the glut of early-season home games. However, their road record of 3-0 might be their most astounding feat of this young season.
12. Chicago - A glut of early-season road games have left the defending Stanley Cup champions a bit out of gas to start the season. However, bigger concerns are their early struggles against the Central Division teams (2-4) and the injuries to Marian Hossa and Brian Campbell.
13. Philadelphia - The Flyers have played fairly well so far this season, but their questionable goaltending may be their Achilles' heel toward returning to the playoffs.
14. Pittsburgh - The Pens have been up and down so far in this early season, but the struggles of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (1-5 record, 3.35 goals against average, .863 save percentage) have got to have their faithful concerned.
15. Dallas - Kari Lehtonen being free of injury is a pleasant surprise, but their struggles on both the power play and penalty kill have to be addressed. Loui Eriksson has been outstanding when he has shot the puck, registering a blistering 31.3 percent goal-scoring percentage.
16. San Jose - Winners of three of their last four games, the Sharks had to have been encouraged by Joe Thornton's epic night against the New Jersey Devils, with three goals, two assists and a plus-four rating. Prior to that game, Jumbo Joe had two goals, five assists and a putrid minus-nine rating.
17. Colorado - So far, the Avs have proven the doubters wrong about their impending plummet via sophomore jinx for the 11 first-year players from last season's playoff team. Rather, it's Craig Anderson's injured knee that may be the issue that may prove the pundits correct.
18. Vancouver - The 'Nucks have struggled a bit out of the gate, but it's the oddity of Roberto Luongo's 2-3-2 record and backup Cory Schneider's 2-0 record and .968 save percentage that have been the biggest surprise.
19. Atlanta - The Thrashers have been starting to gel after bringing in several Chicago Blackhawk role players, but their defense—or lack of it—will hurt their chances even when starting goaltender Ondrej Pavelec does return from that scary opening night collapse on the ice.
20. Carolina - The youth movement is on in Carolina, but it's the veterans who have lead the way, so far. Their 4-3 road record so far is a positive indicator that the 'Canes might be much-improved, this season.
21. Minnesota - The Wild have outstanding on the power play, with Matt Cullen leading the way in this department. Mikko Koivu and Niklas Backstrom have been stout for the Wild, but the same cannot be said about the others on the team.
22. Phoenix - The Coyotes have been mediocre so far this season, although former third overall pick Kyle Turris has been a pleasant surprise. But until 'Yotes' stalwarts Shane Doan, Ray Whitney and Wojtek Wolski get untracked, they could be digging themselves into an early-season hole.
23. New York Islanders - This plucky bunch has been quite impressive on the power play, and they have been quiet prolific in lighting the lamp while at even strength. Their young guns will have to continue to score to overcome the devastating shoulder injuries to Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo.
24. New York Rangers - With injuries to stars Marian Gaborik and Chris Drury, the Broadway Blueshirts have been staying above water with their young blue-line contingent. Michal Rozsival has been leading the defense, while Brandon Dubinsky has been leading the offense; both players have been logging in significant ice time.
25. Anaheim - What knucklehead predicted that the Ducks would be in the playoff chase? Wait, that knucklehead was me—that serves me right for not looking at their defensive corps, or lack thereof, more closely. Giving up almost 40 shots per game is a recipe for disaster, not to mention a formula for head coach Randy Carlyle being on the hot seat early.
26. Florida - If there is any GM who can turn around the fortunes of a moribund organization, Dale Tallon can. While this team does scrap and put out a consistent effort, the rebuild and the fortunes that go with it are a ways off.
27. Ottawa - The Senators have recently reeled off two consecutive victories, but a lack of secondary scoring, little scoring overall and a porous defense are signs that changes are coming soon in Canada's capital city.
28. Buffalo - There is early trouble afoot in Buffalo as the Sabres have been awful at HSBC Arena with an 0-5-1 mark, most of which were the blowout variety. Could both Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff be on the hot seat?
29. Edmonton - The Oilers should struggle most of this season, but there are encouraging signs with their two premier young stars, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall. Hall finally notched his first career NHL goal against Columbus, then followed it with a goal the next game.
30. New Jersey - Who'd have thought this would happen? John MacLean is already on the hot seat, Ilya Kovalchuk has been benched and the Devils are dysfunctional and an embarrassment.
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