NHL Power Rankings & Power Groupings (Dec. 22 Edition)

Mark Jones@@CanesReportSenior Analyst IDecember 22, 2009

For New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, Christmas came a few days early.

At 9:30 on Monday, Dec. 21, 2009, Brodeur finally reached the number everyone's been talking about for months: 104 career shutouts.

Now the question is, who's the next man along to break it?

Although we may find an answer to that eventually, it's going to be a long time before another goaltender better than Martin Brodeur comes along.

"Marty" chose a good time to win it, too, as his Devils triumphed 4-0 over the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins in Pittsburgh.

The Devils grabbed two more points to launch themselves into first place in the Eastern Conference and the entire NHL with 53 points through 35 games (26-8-1).

But the Devils haven't wrapped up anything yet. The top five spots are very cramped in this latest edition of NHL Power Rankings and Power Groupings, with four other teams all very well within striking distance of the high-flying Devils.

But as you go down lower in the standings, the cluster of bottom-feeders is also pretty jumbled. The Blue Jackets have quickly shot all the way down to the very lowest level, while the Flyers, Oilers, and Lightning haven't been able to climb out of the cellar either.

And that's before we even get to the Hurricanes...

All points and records updated as of Tuesday, Dec. 22.

Power Grouping One: The Elite

1. New Jersey Devils (53 pts)

They have the best record, the top spot in these power rankings, five straight wins and nine wins in 10 games, and, of course, Martin Brodeur. Not a bad position to be in.

2. Chicago Blackhawks (49 pts)

The Hawks might be two games back, but they have an extra game in their pocket and have also won four straight. Christobal Huet hasn't given up a goal in his last 141 minutes on the ice, and with Niemi also getting lots of playing time, the Hawks have posted a shutout three of their last four games.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins (51 pts)

They have 15 points in their last ten games, and had won every big game they needed to win before last night.

4. Washington Capitals (50 pts)

The Caps are truly being robbed at fourth place, but the competition is so tight at the top of the standings that their slightly underperforming goaltending duo is enough to knock them all the way down to here.

5. Buffalo Sabres (47 pts)

The Sabres have been overlooked all year long, but the NHL's weekly "top 10 saves" video is getting covered with Ryan Miller stops every edition. They might not have a lot of offense, but it's hard for any team to beat Miller this year.

Power Grouping Two: Right Where They Want To Be

6. San Jose Sharks (49 pts)

San Jose is also being snubbed, not being in the top group, but they haven't found quite enough consistency to get into the top five yet. Still, the Sharks are looking poised to go on another huge point-producing run.

7. Los Angeles Kings (47 pts)

Now that the Kings are finally beginning to get taken seriously, they're no longer quite "under the radar." Either way, the young, speedy power of Los Angeles is winning consistently day in and day out.

8. Nashville Predators (47 pts)

The Preds have four straight victories and just one regulation loss in their last 10 games. They have begun to replace the Kings as the most dangerous Western Conference team that no one is really giving more than a glance.

9. Calgary Flames (44 pts)

The Flames are not nearly as hot as they were in the first two months of the year and are below .500 in their last 10 games. However, Kiprusoff just wins games, no matter how the rest of the team around him is doing.

10. Colorado Avalanche (48 pts)

Based on their performance after 38 games, the Avs definitely deserve to be here in the top 10. But, I just don't feel very comfortable about Colorado as they officially enter winter.

11. Phoenix Coyotes (46 pts)

The Coyotes are 7-2-1 of late and have 13 wins in 18 games at home. But, they continue to lack support or an overpowering top line.

12. Boston Bruins (41 pts)

The Bruins are have been playing very good hockey for the past four weeks. But this could be a dangerous stretch in Boston. They might start looking ahead to the media-hyped Winter Classic on Jan. 1 too early.

Power Grouping Three: On the Bubble

13. Vancouver Canucks (40 pts)

The Canucks are sneaking back into contention after a remarkably boring first two months. Still, they are definitely not the Vancouver team from last year.

14. Ottawa Senators (40 pts)

Mike Fisher is engaged to Carrie Underwood?! What?!

Well, if that incredible phenomenon is true, maybe country music can finally blast the Senators into the top 10. Ottawa has been on the verge all year, but they've yet to break through this season.

15. Detroit Red Wings (41 pts)

For all the injuries the Red Wings have suffered, they really aren't doing that bad. Detroit does need some consistency and routine to finally settle in.

16. Dallas Stars (41 pts)

The Stars are picking up at least a point in almost every game at 15-10-11. They need to start converting their key chances into goals and finally winning some close, competitive games.

17. Atlanta Thrashers (40 pts)

The 17 spot is a massive improvement from 2008-2009. But, Atlanta has really missed out on quite a few chances to really bring themselves into conference contention.

Power Grouping Four: Work to Do

18. St. Louis Blues (37 pts)

The Blues are over .500 in their last 10 games, but they have the worst home record in the NHL at a miserable 6-11-2. That stat is not going to get a team very far into spring, whenever that comes around.

19. Minnesota Wild (37 pts)

The Wild are miles better than they were heading into our last major American holiday, Thanksgiving, and are also cruising at home at 10-4-1. They are still 21st in the NHL in points heading into Christmas Eve.

20. Anaheim Ducks (35 pts)

The Ducks, like Minnesota, have improved greatly over the last four or five weeks, but are still not where they would like to be in the tight Western Conference standings.

21. Florida Panthers (39 pts)

Like the two teams ahead of them, the Panthers are steadily improving and have 13 points in 10 games. They are still very vulnerable in the conference playoff picture.

22. Montreal Canadiens (37 pts)

The Canadiens got a solid 4-3 overtime victory in Atlanta yesterday, but are underachieving possibly even more than last season.

23. New York Rangers (37 pts)

After plummeting to the bottom five, the Rangers have put together three straight victories to restore a bit of hope in the fan base as well as the team.

Power Grouping Five: Bottom-Feeders

24. Toronto Maple Leafs (35 pts)

After a dreadful first one-and-a-half months, the Maple Leafs have put together a fairly successful run to at least pull themselves somewhat out of the dust.

25. Tampa Bay Lightning (35 pts)

Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedburg have both turned out to be very good decisions as top-level draft picks. Their emergence has simply replaced the former glory of Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier.

26. Edmonton Oilers (34 pts)

After restoring some hope in the fanbase with a 5-1 run, the Oilers have now lost four straight and ruined their recent point-producing run.

27. Philadelphia Flyers (32 pts)

It's hard to tell how the upcoming Winter Classic will affect the mindset of the Flyers in the next week. Something needs to change quickly as Philly is 2-7-1 in their last 10 and new coach Peter Laviolette is definitely not working so far.

28. Columbus Blue Jackets (35 pts)

After earning their first playoff berth in franchise history last season, the Jackets started out the season somewhat flat. They have plummeted miles farther since, going 1-7-2 in the past three weeks and falling hard into the bottom of the NHL.

29. New York Islanders (33 pts)

The Isles are back to their old losing ways of years past. With just three wins in 10 games, they are going back in contention for the first overall draft pick in 2010.

30. Carolina Hurricanes (24 pts)

The 'Canes are actually just 4-5-1 in their last 10 games and 8-8-2 in Raleigh at the RBC Center, but the road record of 1-13-4 is killing all hope in Carolina.

Changes are desperately needed as well. Paul Maurice has simply not done enough to spark the team this season. A large trade or complete line mix-up is the next step for the Hurricanes no matter what their management is thinking about.


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