See? What did I tell you. I'm full of surprises!
Well, the NHL season is off to a very interesting start. We're about 15-20 games through the season, and while some things have been a return to the yearly traditions we've come to know and love, some things this year have been completely unpredictable. And on top of that, the standings may not tell the whole story, because let's face it, sometimes, numbers lie. So here's my attempt at an NHL Power Rankings.
For each team, I will also be posting their ranking from both ESPN's and TSN's websites as well.
Sidenote: Be sure to scroll over each image for my witty/stupid captions.
Rookie of the Year?
ESPN Rank: 3
TSN Rank: 5
It was a close call, but I've got to give the #1 nod to the boys in Philly right now, who are doing one whale of a job proving that their "cinderella" run to the Stanley Cup Final last year was no fluke. They have points in each of their last 10 games, and 9 of those last 10 have been wins. In addition, young goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is making a very serious statement for the Calder Trophy, being tied for the league lead in victories with 11. Oddly enough, he's tied with Michael Neuvirth, also a rookie, and probably his biggest competition for that award right now.
Proving once again that kids can play hockey.
ESPN Rank: 1
TSN Rank: 1
They're 3 points behind the Washington Capitals for the league lead, and 2 points behind my #1 Flyers, but also have 2 games in hand, and odds are they'll make up those points no problem with the way they've been playing. The Kings had a nice 6-game win streak snapped last night by their NorCal rival Sharks, but that's just one minor hiccup on a road that's otherwise been beautiful for the Kings so far this year. They currently lead the much-more-competitive Western Conference, and are showing no signs of slowing down, with one of the top Penalty Kill units in the NHL. Backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier put in a pretty good performance, which is good for starter Jonathan Quick, meaning he'll get a few more nights off this year, and be more fresh for the first round of the playoffs.
Here we go again...
ESPN Rank: 2
TSN Rank: 2
The Wings are heating up in Detroit, and that only spells trouble for the rest of the National Hockey League. If history tells us anything, it's that when Detroit goes on a rampage, there's no stopping them. They're sitting second in the West, one point behind the Kings, with one less game played. The rate things are going, I would not be surprised at all if this team ran away with the Western Conference title by the end of this year. In addition, Brian Rafalski is healthy again, and Daniel Cleary is on a lovely scoring run.
Not an uncommon sight these days.
ESPN Rank: 5
TSN Rank: 4
The defense in Washington has looked much more solid this year, particularly from guys not named Mike Green. Calder Trophy-candidate John Carlson and co. are keeping the puck out of their net more, and giving rookie goaltender Michael Neuvirth a chance to win games, which he's definitely doing being tied for the league lead in wins with 11. But it just wouldn't be the Washington way if this defense didn't contribute offensively as well, and they have, with only one defensive regular still at 0 in the goal column (Jeff Schultz). They've also been white-hot on their home ice, going 9-1-0 so far to start this season.
Sidenote: my top 3 for the rookie of the year right now: Neuvirth, Carlson, and Sergei Bobrovsky of Philadelphia (not necessarily in that order).
One of very many that will happen this season.
ESPN Rank: 4
TSN Rank: 3
Their impressive 8-1-1 record in their last 10 games is nothing to scoff at, and they've been that good particularly because of their white-hot powerplay unit, which is quickly making its case for the league's top spot. Their 23 points is tied for second in the West with Detroit, but they have played two more games, and they didn't exactly look stellar in last night's overtime loss to the struggling Buffalo Sabres. They are talented, but they do need to win games like this in which they should be taking the full two points if they want to really have any shot at ending Canada's Stanley Cup drought.
"Okay guys... whose car do you think got flipped over and burned this time?"
ESPN Rank: 7
TSN Rank: 6
Things have been good in the Bell Center, having won 7 of their last 10 games. The Habs also have the benefit of a very strong road record in this early season, only having lost twice on opposition ice. They have hit a big problem though with the loss of defensive-regular Andrei Markov to injury, and the biggest question now is will whoever replaces him step up and fill in that very large gap?
That is quite the head scratcher... is it not?
ESPN Rank: 8
TSN Rank: 8
Things have gotten ugly in St. Louis, as the team has been bitten hard by the injury bug, most recently T.J. Oshie. Things haven't been good on the ice as a result as the Blues have lost four straight (one of which in a shootout), and were absolutely crushed by Columbus 8-1. St. Louis is left scratching its head and hoping that their very limited roster and system depth can do enough to pull this team out of its losing slump.
Kinda funny how that helmet resembles the appearance of his actual head... white and hairless.
ESPN Rank: 12
TSN Rank: 11
The Ducks have discovered how to win, even when they're not playing their best hockey. The majority of the victories in their recently-snapped 6-game win streak were by no means pretty, but they're finding a way to get two points out of games where they may not be their best. Additionally, some of the wins over that run were big ones, defeating white-hot Tampa Bay as well as division-rival San Jose. Defenseman Toni Lydman has been getting a lot of recognition from the NHL media lately, with his +11 rating being in the top 10 in the league.
Overtime... oh so sweet.
ESPN Rank: 17
TSN Rank: 9
Things are good on Broadway right now, as the Rangers are playing cohesive, and effective hockey for the first time in a while, having won 3 straight, the most recent an overtime victory over the always-difficult Pittsburgh Penguins. They most need to work on their record at home though, as they are a mediocre 4-5-1 on Madison Square Garden ice.
Blackout jerseys... going strong.
ESPN Rank: 6 (←what!?)
TSN Rank: 10
The Sharks have still been a far cry from the former superpower they have been over the past several years. They've been streaky, one night looking unstoppable, while the next being average at best. The defense looks out of sorts, and neither Niemi or Nittymaki (try saying that five times fast...) has looked anything better than decent in goal so far this year. However, the inconsistency seems to be leveling out as they looked strong and resilient against the west-leading Kings last night for their third straight victory.
Seriously... Thomas... that mask is ridiculous.
ESPN Rank: 9
TSN Rank: 7
The Bruins are also experiencing some serious injury woes, as David Krejci has become the most recent victim. They've also been streaky, following up an excellent come-from-behind victory over the Penguins with two disappointing losses. They need to start getting some of the talent back if they want to avoid slipping into a freefall down the standings, and their 5-4-1 record over their last 10 is a very dangerous warning sign that a significant slip could be on the horizon.
Look who stole the starting job.
ESPN Rank: 16
TSN Rank: 17
No love for the Sens from the analysis giants this week, but I disagree. Their 7-3-0 last ten, including a big 5-2 win over the Thrashers, is a testament to the fact that this team has been playing well lately, maybe just not the most consistently. Brian Elliot is starting to grab a chokehold on the starting job in the crease in Ottawa, putting up far more consistent numbers over the once-expected-to-start Pascal Leclaire.
Once again... life in the desert.
ESPN Rank: 18
TSN Rank: 21
Just when it looked like the Coyotes were down for the count and ready to be written off as a one-year-wonder, the Desert Dogs put together three straight wins to jump up to a tie for the 8th position in the West. They're still struggling to find consistency, but the potential is there, and Phoenix is right on the brink of tapping into it and taking off much like they did last season. The other encouraging factor: they're getting points from tough teams, such as Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Detroit.
Pretty much describes the season in Pittsburgh.
ESPN Rank: 11
TSN Rank: 14
The Pens haven't exactly had the greatest season in comparison to more recent years, and their 9-8-2 record, while being good for fourth in the East, has been more or less a disappointment for the faithful in Pittsburgh. They've been plagued with blown leads, loss of points, and terrible goaltending all season long. In fact it wouldn't surprise me if Marc-Andre Fleury finished the year off elsewhere after Brent Johnson has put up far better numbers this year. Most surprising this year, the Pens have been uncharacteristically bad on their own ice, going 3-5-1 in their new CONSOL Energy Center.
Enthusiasm... maybe a bit early?
ESPN Rank: 20
TSN Rank: 22
The Av's are currently clinging to the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, but by the skin of their teeth as the Coyotes are hot on their heels. They responded to their injury crisis by making an emergency deal for defenseman Ryan O'Byrne but may have sacrificed a significant part of their future assets to get him. And the question remains will this last-minute acquisition solve the Avs' problems in back?
Seriously... we have the #1 powerplay?
ESPN Rank: 14
TSN Rank: 12
Minnesota's a curious group this year. They boast the best powerplay in the entire NHL (very different from their previous reputation of being excellent penalty killers), yet they only boast a 5-4-1 record in their last 10 outings, and their 18 points are only good enough for 11th in the West. They need to put together some consistent games if they want to have any hope of jumping up into the playoffs.
Hotly pursued... in more ways than one.
ESPN Rank: 10 (
TSN Rank: 23
Nashville hasn't done well lately after starting off with one of the hottest starts in the league this year. The Preds last regulation win... October 24th. They ended last week with a pair of shootout victories to put some points on the board, but fell back into the losing slump tonight with a loss once again at Philadelphia. They've got to stop the freefall or risk having that excellent start go completely to waste.
What is this puck you speak of?
ESPN Rank: 13
It's been hard times for the defending Cup champs. The 'Hawks are sub-.500 at home and not a whole lot better on the road. They're in 7th in the west, but they hit a freefall streak that was ended by barely holding on for an overtime win over Anaheim. They're now away on a 6-game road swing, the "Circus Trip," as it's called. It's early, yes, but it's already safe to say this is a crucial point in the season if the Blackhawks want to turn things for the better this season.
Wait... how bad are we doing?!
ESPN Rank: 24
TSN Rank: 26
The Sabres haven't been good this season, that's for sure. However, things look like they might be on the turnaround in Western New York. They've won their last two games, and have a .500 record in their last 10 games. They still need to get better on their own ice, however, as they've only managed to walk away with two points twice. And it'd be nice of Tyler Myers and co. could give Ryan Miller some help.
Super skates.... ACTIVATE!
ESPN Rank: 15
TSN Rank: 18
Their 6-4-0 last ten hasn't been too shabby, and Matthieu Garon's 1.28 GAA is tops of the NHL. They could use a little more in the offense department however, only having scored 41 goals so far this year. They however, are tied for the fewest games played in the Western Conference, which could make a difference when they catch up, particularly if they can put a few wins on the board.
Marty St. Louis... proving that midgets can succeed in the NHL.
ESPN Rank: 21
TSN Rank: 20
The once white-hot Lightning have been brought down to earth for now, having lost 3 straight and falling down to 8th in the East. Steven Stamkos has stayed on fire though, and he continues to lead the NHL in both goals (15) and points (28). The Lightning still have the potential to turn things around, but it'd be nice if their defense can shore up, having surrendered 54 goals already this season.
"How dare you spell my last name wrong!!!!"
ESPN Rank: 23
TSN Rank: 19
The Thrashers are great on the powerplay this year and Dustin Byfuglien has been a great addition this year, staying at the top of the pile in terms of scoring among defensemen. However, Atlanta has still been dysmal defensively, ranking 29th in the NHL in goals allowed per game, according to ESPN. That needs to change if they want to have any shot at being in the top 8 come spring time.
His tongue hanging out would not look odd here, would it?
ESPN Rank: 19
TSN Rank: 15
The Stars haven't had much to be happy about, having been solid to start the year but since falling off. They finally snapped a 3-game losing skid by a skin-of-their-teeth win over Anaheim tonight. Marc Crawford and their coaching staff won't be angry, but won't be particularly happy that the win came from a questionable call on a video review play.
ESPN Rank: 22
TSN Rank: 16
The Panthers are one game below .500 on the season, but have only played 15 times this season. Their record on the road is dysmal however, going only 2-6-0 on opposition ice. Their scoring is also lead by two defensemen, showing the incredible inexperience in their offense. Their defense has been stingy however, letting in an impressively-low 39 goals behind the goaltending of Scott Clemmenson and Tomas Vokun.
On second thought, maybe Eric Staal was not the best choice for a mentor for the younger and much shorter Jeff Skinner.
ESPN Rank: 25
TSN Rank: 25
They're 8-9-0 overall, which really isn't much reason to worry, but the Hurricanes have been streaky, looking great one night before being completely flat the next. They're giving up goals at far too high a pace right now, showing some definite flaws in their pretty lackluster defense. Cam Ward has got to be itching for some support back there. However, on the bright side, rookie Jeff Skinner has been a breath of fresh air this year, giving the Hurricanes something to be excited about for years to come.
"You are thinking of trading me WHERE?!?"
ESPN Rank: 26
TSN Rank: 24
The Flames have lost their last two straight and six of their last seven. Jay Bouwmeester has continued his mediocre play on defense, and the Flames really look just completely lost. The clock is ticking on the Sutter brothers no question, and the rumors of Iginla being in LA by spring are looking less and less crazy with each loss.
"Look at this guys ear! Look at it!"
ESPN Rank: 28
TSN Rank: 28
The Leafs are showing about as much playing brilliance as they are grammatical correctness in their team name. Nazem Kadri and Luke Schenn have been strong for young kids, but the fact of the matter is Toronto continues to tumble back to the form that we've come to know about them for close to the past decade.
The Canadian version of Blue Steel just is not the same.
ESPN Rank: 30
TSN Rank: 29
The City of Champions continues to be a strictly ironic title right now, as the Oil can't seem to get anything together. First-overall draft pick Taylor Hall is struggling in his first year, and the Oil have even contemplated sending him down to the AHL to get some seasoning. Jordan Eberle has still managed to give a few highlights, but that's about the only bright spot in Edmonton right now, particularly after returning from a road trip in which they lost all three games by a margin of at least 4 goals.
Long Island is apparently no stranger to the "Jersey Shore" fist pump.
ESPN Rank: 29
TSN Rank: 27
There's little to cheer about on Long Island right now. The Isles have lost 10 straight games, and have just earned the honor of being the first team in the NHL to fire their head coach. Dwayne Roloson has been stingy in goal, but there's just nothing in front of him to even give him a chance at winning these games. Pretty much the only hope for the Islanders right now is to get a boost from new players trying to impress the new coach.
What does this guy have in common with the team from Anaheim? A name with an unfortunate tendency to rhyme with the word "suck."
ESPN Rank: 27
TSN Rank: 30
I still think there's absolutely no excuse for how bad this team has played. A lineup with talents like Ilyia Kovalchuck, Patick Elias, and goaltender Martin Broduer shouldn't be this low in the standings. And to add to the woes, captain Jamie Langenbrunner, hotshot rookie Matt Taormina, and superstar Zach Parise are all out with injuries.