NHL Power Rankings: Penguins, Flyers, Rangers Make Atlantic NHL's Best Division

Tom Schreier@tschreier3Correspondent IDecember 13, 2010

NHL Power Rankings: Penguins, Flyers, Rangers Make Atlantic NHL's Best Division

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    Early in the season it was the Central. But currently the NHL's toughest division is the Atlantic.

    The Capitals have lost six straight. Alex Ovechkin decided to take his anger out on Brandon Dubinsky.

    Washington must get it together. Tampa Bay and Atlanta are ready to take the division if this team continues to lose.

    The Thrashers and Predators continue to fly under the radar. Both are playing great hockey despite limited recognition.

    Dallas has cooled off. After winning six straight, the Stars have dropped three of four.

    Logan Couture leads all rookies in points (21) and goals (14), but San Jose continues to underachieve.

    The Devils and Islanders are far and away the worst teams in the NHL.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Last week: 1

    Record: 21-8-2 (44 pts)

    The Penguins continue to win. Their win over Buffalo on Saturday (5-2) made it 12 straight.

    Pittsburgh needs to step up the power play (16.2 percent, 17th in NHL), but otherwise it is in the top five in offense, defense and penalty kill.

    The Pens' last loss came against the Rangers on November 15. They host New York again on December 15 after playing across town at the Flyers on Versus on Tuesday.

2. Phildelphia Flyers

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    Last week: 4

    Record: 19-7-5 (43 pts)

    The Flyers have a chance to curb Pittsburgh's win streak on national television on Tuesday.

    In order to win, Philly needs to play better on special teams. The Flyers power play (17th in NHL) and penalty kill (11th in NHL) have hampered an otherwise outstanding team.

3. Detroit Red Wings

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    Last week: 2

    Record: 19-6-3 (41 pts)

    Outside of Pennsylvania, this is the best team in hockey.

    The Wings have the league's best offense and are in the top 10 in defense and special teams.

    Detroit is on Versus Monday with a game against the Kings. The Wings will try to avenge their OT loss in SoCal last month on national television.

4. New York Rangers

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    Last week: 10

    Record: 18-13-1 (37 pts)

    The Rangers have played well lately. They crushed the Capitals 7-0 at MSG and have taken advantage of having two weak teams in their division.

    Next week they will be tested by Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

    They will either show the NHL community they are for real or be exposed as a farce.

5. Montreal Canadiens

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    Last week: 5

    Record: 18-10-2 (38 pts)

    An embarrassing loss to Toronto aside, the Canadiens have continued to win using solid defense.

    Next week is going to be trying for the Habs. Philly, Boston and Colorado all can crack the NHL's best defensive corps.

6. Vancouver Canucks

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    Last week: 7

    Record: 16-8-4 (36 pts)

    Behind the NHL's best power play, the Canucks remain at the apex of the Northwest Division.

    They have won four of six in December and face Columbus and Toronto next week before a three-game road trip.

7. Boston Bruins

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    Last week: 8

    Record: 16-8-4 (36 pts)

    An OT loss against Philadelphia is tough to swallow, but the Bruins are finally playing to their potential.

    Next week they face division rivals in Buffalo and Montreal before taking on the reeling Capitals in the Garden.

8. Dallas Stars

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    Last week: 6

    Record: 17-10-2 (36 pts)

    After winning six straight, the Stars have cooled off.

    They've dropped three of four, including a blowout in Glendale.

    Their spot atop the Pacific is in jeopardy if they cannot find some consistency.

9. Washington Capitals

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    Last week: 3

    Record: 18-11-3 (39 pts)

    The Capitals got trounced in New York, 7-0. Alex Ovechkin took his anger out on Brandon Dubinsky.

    This team needs to get back on track in a hurry. They've lost six straight and Atlanta and Tampa Bay are playing well.

10. Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Last week: 9

    Record: 16-10-4 (36 pts)

    Tampa Bay and Atlanta continue to vie for second place in the Southeast Division. Both teams could take first if Washington continues to lose.

    The Lightning have the sixth-best offense and second-best power play in the league, but will not go anywhere until their NHL-worst defense improves.

    The Bolts are the only top 10 team with a negative point differential.

11. Atlanta Thrashers

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    Last week: 12

    Record: 16-11-3 (35 pts)

    The Thrashers may not get much attention in Georgia or elsewhere in the league, but they are beginning to demand attention.

    Regardless if you want to see offense (sixth in NHL), power-play prowess (fourth in NHL) or crazy celebrations (see video), this team has given fans around the NHL community a reason to Believe in Blueland.

12. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Last week: 11

    Record: 16-12-3 (35 pts)

    The Hawks have it clicking on the power play (third in NHL), but need to play better defense in order to challenge Detroit for the Central Division title.

    Chicago has to play a home-and-home against Colorado next week before it gets to go head-to-head with the Wings.

13. Nashville Predators

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    Last week: 15

    Record: 14-8-6 (34 pts)

    The Predators are a poor man's Canadiens.

    They have been playing solid defense (sixth in NHL) and are killing penalties (fourth in NHL), but have not won consistently.

    Nashville has yet to lose in regulation in December and won in Detroit last week. If they keep it up, they will return to the form they were in early in the year.

14. Colorado Avalanche

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    Last week: 16

    Record: 15-10-4 (34 pts)

    The young Avs have the second-best offense in the league and a solid power play (fifth in NHL), but, like the Lightning, need to play better defense in order to win consistently.

    Colorado has won two straight after dropping four in a row. A home-and-home against Chicago next week will give this team an idea of where it is at.

15. Phoenix Coyotes

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    Last week: 13

    Record: 14-8-6 (34 pts)

    Ray Whitney has been an astute pickup for the 'Yotes. He leads the team in points and assists.

    Behind his efforts, Phoenix has won three of five in December, including a big 5-2 blowout over Dallas.

16. Anaheim Ducks

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    Last week: 20

    Record: 15-13-4 (34 pts)

    After blowing out Minnesota 6-2, the Ducks currently share the Pacific Division lead with the Stars.

    Time will tell if this team will be able to continue to win despite being at the bottom of the league in offense, defense and penalty kill.

17. San Jose Sharks

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    Last week: 17

    Record: 15-10-4 (34 pts)

    The Sharks are going through a tough stretch.

    After playing five away from the Tank, they beat Chicago in NorCal and play Dallas Monday before leaving for another three games.

    However, with the exception of a 6-3 hiccup against Buffalo, San Jose has weathered the storm.

    Logan Couture has been solid. He's leading all rookies in points (21) and goals (14).

18. Los Angeles Kings

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    Last week: 14

    Record: 16-10-1 (33 pts)

    Like the Sharks, the Kings are underachieving. Nobody expected this team to struggle on offense (19th in NHL).

    After winning three straight, they lost to stagnant Minnesota. A win in Detroit on national television on Monday could jump-start this team.

19. St. Louis Blues

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    Last week: 18

    Record: 14-9-5 (33 pts)

    The Blues have struggled offensively (23rd in NHL) and with inconsistent special teams, and continues to spin their wheels in the Central.

    St. Louis has a tough schedule ahead. Next week it plays in Detroit before contests against San Jose and Los Angeles.

20. Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Last week: 19

    Record: 16-11-1 (33 pts)

    The Jackets are a large question mark.

    In the last five games, Columbus has wins over Dallas and New York, but has also been blown out three times.

21. Carolina Hurricanes

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    Last week: 22

    Record: 12-12-4 (28 pts)

    The 'Canes are currently 1-2 on their road trip, with two contests being decided in a shootout.

    They will travel to Florida and Atlanta, two division rivals, before facing Anaheim at home.

    Cam Ward has played well. He's marked a 97-percent save percentage in three of his last four games.

22. Buffalo Sabres

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    Last week: 24

    Record: 12-14-4 (28 pts)

    Buffalo is steadily improving, but after a big win in San Jose (6-3), they were routed by Pittsburgh (5-2).

    The Sabres face Boston next week before traveling to the Sunshine State to face the Lightning and Panthers.

23. Minnesota Wild

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    Last week: 21

    Record: 13-12-4 (30 pts)

    The Wild finished a Pacific Division road trip 2-2. That sounds impressive...but they finished the trip by losing to Anaheim 6-2.

    With a game against Ottawa and then a home-and-home with Calgary next week, Minnesota has a chance to get back on track.

24. Ottawa Senators

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    Last week: 25

    Record: 13-16-2 (28 pts)

    The Senators are developing rancor among their fans with their poor play.

    A win over New Jersey on Friday was far from impressive, but it might settle the blood pressure of the Ottawa faithful.

25. Edmonton Oilers

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    Last week: 23

    Record: 11-13-5 (27 pts)

    When Ryan Whitney, a defenseman without a goal, leads a team in points, fans know that team cannot score.

    Thankfully for the Edmonton faithful, rookie phenom Taylor Hall leads the team in goals with 10.

26. Calgary Flames

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    Last week: 26

    Record: 12-15-3 (27 pts)

    The Flames have lost two straight after an impressive win over Tampa.

    Calgary will face Columbus and Toronto before a home-and-home with Minnesota next week.

27. Florida Panthers

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    Last week: 27

    Record: 13-15-0 (26 pts)

    After winning three straight, including a 3-0 stomping over the Caps, Florida was blanked by Nashville.

    The Cats face Carolina and Buffalo, two mediocre teams, in South Florida next week.

28. Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Last week: 28

    Record: 11-14-4 (26 pts)

    There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and that the Leafs will underachieve.

    At least this team makes the Islanders and Devils look good.

29. New Jersey Devils

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    Last week: 29

    Record: 8-19-2 (18 pts)

    While the rest of the Atlantic Division tears up the NHL, the Devils and Islanders look like they belong in the AHL.

    For the record: Since signing his blockbuster deal, Ilya Kovalchuk has five goals and is minus-18.

30. New York Islanders

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    Last week: 30

    Record: 5-17-5 (15 pts)

    This team has yet to win/earn a point in December...