NHL Power Rankings: Riding 5-Game Win Streak, Pittsburgh Penguins Join NHL Elite

Tom Schreier@tschreier3Correspondent INovember 29, 2010

NHL Power Rankings: Riding 5-Game Win Streak, Pittsburgh Penguins Join NHL Elite

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    Washington, Philly and Detroit remain among the NHL's finest, but things have gotten shuffled beneath them.

    Pittsburgh and Atlanta have kicked it into high gear: Both teams have big win streaks going.

    Alexander Semin's hat trick helped the Capitals bury Tampa, 6-0, but Alex Ovechkin remains in the doghouse after chatting it up with Ilya Kovalchuk after a 5-0 whipping by New Jersey.

    Edmonton and New Jersey continue to wallow in futility. Good news for Islanders fans, however. The team did manage to win a game before the end of the month!

1. Detroit Red Wings

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    Last week: 1

    Record: 15-4-2 (32 pts.)

    Despite having played fewer games (21) than any other team in the league, Detroit has accumulated 32 points.

    That is in the same ballpark as the Caps, Flyers and Pens, all teams that have played 25 games.

    The Red Wings offense is second in the league and a top-10 power play has helped the Wings punish undisciplined teams.

    Sounds funny, but a home-and-home sweep of the Blue Jackets was big for the Detroit, which snuffed one of the hottest teams in the NHL.

    The team goes on a three-game road trip through California next week.

2. Washington Capitals

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    Last week: 3

    Record: 17-6-2 (36 pts.)

    The Capitals have been all over the place.

    After giving up 15 goals in three games, they cracked down against their division.

    They topped Carolina 3-2 twice and crushed Tampa 6-0 behind Alexander Semin's hat trick.

    Alex Ovechkin, however, needs to get out of Bruce Boudreau's doghouse and make a bigger impact on his team.

3. Philadelphia Flyers

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    Last week: 2

    Record: 15-6-4 (34 pts.)

    Led by their third-ranked offense and fourth-ranked defense, Philly has established itself as a force in the East.

    However, losses to lowly Calgary and New Jersey look bad.

    To make matters worse, crosstown rival Pittsburgh is on a six-game win streak.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Last week: 12

    Record: 15-8-2 (32 pts.)

    Thanks to a six-game win streak, the Penguins have emerged as one of the league's finest once again.

    Pittsburgh has a top-10 offense (10th in NHL) and defense (fifth in NHL) and the league's best penalty kill, but are struggling on the powerplay.

    Additionally, Crosby netted his 200th goal against Calgary Saturday while recording a hat trick.

5. Montreal Canadiens

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    Last week: 4

    Record: 15-8-1 (31 pts.)

    Montreal isn't the most exciting team to watch, but their solid defense and home-ice advantage should carry them throughout the season.

    The team has the second-best defense and penalty kill. As a result, Carey Price has been playing like the goaltender everyone expected him to be.

    A win over Los Angeles was impressive, but then being dropped by Atlanta, a fervent team in a sweltering city, was not so hot.

6. Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Last week: 7

    Record: 13-8-3 (29 pts.)

    Steven Stamkos continues on his torrid streak. He's got a league-high 21 goals in 24 games and 39 points, second in the NHL behind Sidney Crosby.

    The Lightning, without Lecavalier and Gagne, remain a mystery.

    After winning five-straight, the Bolts were embarrassed in Washington 6-0 and lost to lowly Florida in a shootout.

7. Vancouver Canucks

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    Last week: 14

    Record: 12-7-3 (27 pts.)

    With the league's best powerplay and top-10 offense, defense and penalty kill, the Canucks look like they are going to be a force in the weak Northwest Division.

    After dropping four-straight, the 'Nucks dropped Colorado before humiliating San Jose 6-1 on Friday.

8. New York Rangers

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    Last week: 15

    Record: 14-10-1 (29 pts.)

    Wearing brand-new alternate sweaters (is it just me, or did their old ones look better?), the Rangers have joined the Eastern Conference's elite.

    The Blueshirts have won four of five, despite playing only one in MSG.

    Big matchup for the Rangers tomorrow against the red-hot Pens in New York.

9. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Last week: 13

    Record: 13-11-2 (28 pts.)

    Chicago continues to struggle defensively, but was able to get four wins on their six-game road trip.

    Tuesday's Versus matchup against St. Louis, who has fallen from grace lately, presents a great opportunity for the Hawks to show their home crowd that they are returning to championship form.

10. Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Last week: 11

    Record: 14-8-0 (28 pts.)

    Led by a strong defensive effort, the Blue Jackets have become relevant in the Central Division.

    Unfortunately for the Jackets, their five-game win streak ended with a home-and-home sweep by the Red Wings.

    On the bright side, goaltender Steve Mason is looking like himself again.

11. Atlanta Thrashers

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    Last week: 16

    Record: 12-9-3 (27 pts.)

    Behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Atlanta Thrashers are the second-hottest team in the NHL.

    Led by their fervid offense (fifth in NHL) and scorching powerplay (third in NHL), the young Thrashers have lit up—and may eventually draw crowds to—Phillips Arena.

    It is not as though the team, who has played in Georgia for six-straight games, is playing weak competition. The Caps, Wings, Habs and Bruins have all paid the Thrash a visit in their recent homestand.

12. Colorado Avalanche

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    Last week: 5

    Record: 13-9-1 (27 pts.)

    The Avs have the best offense in the league, but without defense have been extremely unpredictable.

    After big wins over St. Louis and New York during a four-game win streak, Colorado dropped two to Canucks and the ignoble Oilers.

    Surprisingly, it has been Peter Budaj, not Craig Anderson, has been the answer in net for the young Avalanche.

13. Dallas Stars

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    Last week: 22

    Record: 13-8-1 (27 pts.)

    After a hot start the Stars appeared to have cooled off. However, their recent play has proved otherwise.

    The team is riding a three-game win streak, having swept the Blues in a home-and-home.

    Unfortunately for the Stars, rumors are surfacing that leading scorer Brad Richards may be headed to Toronto later in the season.

14. St. Louis Blues

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    Last week: 10

    Record: 12-7-3 (27 pts.)

    The Blues are playing solid defense (sixth in NHL), but need to play better offensively if they are going to make a splash in the demanding Central Division.

    Dropping two to Dallas, who has been streaky all season, probably did some damage to the team's morale.

    A win in the Madhouse on national television on Tuesday would certainly cure that.

15. Phoenix Coyotes

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    Last week: 9

    Record: 11-6-5 (27 pts.)

    The Coyotes sit atop the Pacific Division due to the play of veteran Ray Whitney, who was acquired from Carolina in the offseason.

    The Stanley Cup-winner leads the team with 13 goals and 16 points.

16. Los Angeles Kings

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    Last week: 6

    Record: 13-9-0 (26 pts.)

    Los Angeles has fallen from their perch atop the Pacific due to offensive deficiencies. Their 2.7 goals per game is 16th in the NHL and they only convert 15.7 percent of the time on the powerplay.

    Despite playing solid defense, this team has lost three-straight.

    A win against the crosstown rival Ducks on Monday in the Pond may be just what the doctor ordered for the reeling royalty.

17. Boston Bruins

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    Last week: 8

    Record: 12-8-2 (26 pts.)

    Despite having the league's best defense and playing in a weak division, the B's are unable to make major waves in the East.

    The team has had trouble against the Southeast Division recently. Boston played every team in the division except Washington in its last four games and lost three, with its lone win coming against Florida.

18. San Jose Sharks

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    Last week: 17

    Record: 11-7-4 (26 pts.)

    The Sharks' powerplay (eighth in NHL) has been solid, but the team has ground to make up in the Pacific Division.

    San Jose had dropped four of their last six and could use a win over Detroit in the Tank on Tuesday.

19. Anaheim Ducks

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    Last week: 20

    Record: 11-11-3 (25 pts.)

    The Ducks have a minus-13 goal differential, but continue to hang around with their California rivals.

    Their 6-4 win in Glendale plugged a seven-game losing streak for Anaheim.

20. Minnesota Wild

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    Last week: 19

    Record: 11-9-2 (24 pts.)

    If only the Wild could play a man up in every game. The team has the second-best powerplay in the NHL.

    Patrick O'Sullivan proved to be a great wavier wire pickup. He scored in his first game in a Wild sweater.

    However, the team has been a doormat for the best teams in the NHL. They have given up 20 goals in their last four games.

21. Nashville Predators

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    Last week: 18

    Record: 9-8-5 (23 pts.)

    Nashville is slowly falling out of the picture in the Central.

    They've dropped four straight, including a humiliating 5-2 loss in Minnesota.

    Matchups against Phoenix, Columbus and Carolina are must-wins for this team if they want to get back into the race in the Central.

22. Carolina Hurricanes

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    Last week: 21

    Record: 10-10-3 (23 pts.)

    The 'Canes have had no trouble scoring. Their 3.0 goals per game are eighth in the league.

    Despite a dismal effort in their own end, Carolina has shutout Boston and taken Washington into OT in their last two contests.

    The team has a chance to strut their stuff on national television tonight on Versus.

23. Ottawa Senators

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    Last week: 25

    Record: 11-12-1 (23 pts.)

    Ottawa has gotten back on their feet, sort of, after a bruising road trip where they were outscored 17-4 by their opponents.

    The Sens got of on the right foot in their recent homestand. The team beat Toronto 3-0 in Canada's capital on Saturday.

24. Buffalo Sabres

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    Last week: 23

    Record: 9-13-3 (21 pts.)

    As they continue to climb back into a respectable place in their weak division, the Sabres get a week off to recuperate.

    Their next game is on Friday.

    Unfortunately, it comes against the surging Blue Jackets.

25. Florida Panthers

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    Last week: 24

    Record: 10-12-0 (20 pts.)

    The Cats have the league's eighth-best defense and an even point differential, but cannot win due to an inanimate offense.

    Florida lost three-straight in Sunrise, but were able to beat the crosstown rival Bolts in Tampa on Saturday.

26. New Jersey Devils

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    Last week: 28

    Record: 8-14-2 (18 pts.)

    After crushing Washington 5-0 in Newark and beating Calgary and Philly in a shootout, the Devils are starting to get back on the right track.

    Too bad they looked like the same old Devils against the Islanders, a 2-0 shutout, on Friday.

    Johan Hedberg has been replacing Martin Brodeur in net. He's made the last four starts.

27. Calgary Flames

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    Last week: 26

    Record: 9-12-2 (20 pts.)

    The Flames were able to salvage four points on their recent five-game road trip.

    Jarome Iginla has looked sharp. Time will tell if he'll remain in Calgary.

28. Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Last week: 27

    Record: 8-11-3 (19 pts.)

    The Leafs were able to crush Dallas in Texas 4-1 last week, but have been shutout twice in their last four games.

    Toronto plays their next three games at home, but have to face Tampa and Boston in that stretch.

29. Edmonton Oilers

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    Last week: 29

    Record: 6-12-4 (16 pts.)

    Edmonton has won two of their last four games, but were pummeled by Phoenix in Glendale on Tuesday.

    The team has a tough stretch, three in a row away from Alberta, but then gets a nice six-game homestand starting Dec. 7.

30. New York Islanders

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    Last week: 30

    Record: 5-12-5 (15 pts.)

    It came down to their final game, but the Islanders were able to get a W in November.

    The Islanders start December off with a home-and-home against the Rangers, then play Philly and Boston.

    It may be a while before they get a W in December...