While the San Jose Sharks have shown that they are indeed beatable as of late, they haven’t faltered enough to give up the top spot in the Western Conference, or on our Power Rankings. The Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings have also continued their strong play, remaining in the 2nd and 3rd spots respectively. The largest jump on the rankings in this update was the Dallas Stars, who rose to the 21st spot after having previously occupied the basement. This rise can be attributed to better defense and goaltending, but probably more importantly to stronger team play following the loss of locker room menace, Sean Avery. The Pittsburgh Penguins dropped from 4th to 16th in our rankings, which was enough for the greatest fall. The Penguins have had serious struggles as of late, and their once dominant powerplay has slipped to 19th in the league. While rookie defender Alex Goligoski has done a mediocre job as powerplay quarterback, look for Ryan Whitney, who played his first game of the season last week, to step in and take over the role, and put up some hefty assist totals.
The Winter Classic hosting Chicago Blackhawks are up 3 spots, and have really begun to look like contenders. They are a fast team, and though very young, are playing like seasoned vets. With the best 1-2 goalie punch in the league in Cristobal Huet and Nikolai Khabibulin, the ‘Hawks could be a scary team to match up against in the playoffs. So too could be the surging Washington Capitals, who’ve reeled off 7 straight victories. Integral point producers Mike Green and Alexander Semin are both back in the lineup for the Caps after being sidelined on and off for the last month with nagging injuries. Goaltender Jose Theodore seems to have stolen the starting job back from Brent Johnson, who now becomes a non-factor in deeper pools.
After a little bit of a slide, look for a strong finish down the stretch from the Vancouver Canucks. Roberto Luongo’s eventual return and Mats Sundin’s offensive contributions should be enough to easily nab a playoff spot, and perhaps even the division.
|1.||(1)||San Jose Sharks||11.||(6)||New York Rangers||21.||(30)||Dallas Stars|
|2.||(2)||Boston Bruins||12.||(11)||Anaheim Ducks||22.||(25)||Colorado Avalanche|
|3.||(3)||Detroit Red Wings||13.||(15)||Buffalo Sabres||23.||(29)||Toronto Maple Leafs|
|4.||(9)||Washington Capitals||14.||(13)||Minnesota Wild||24.||(16)||Los Angeles Kings|
|5.||(8)||Philadelphia Flyers||15.||(17)||Carolina Hurricanes||25.||(19)||Nashville Predators|
|6.||(7)||Montreal Canadiens||16.||(4)||Pittsburgh Penguins||26.||(23)||Ottawa Senators|
|7.||(10)||Chicago Blackhawks||17.||(21)||Edmonton Oilers||27.||(27)||Tampa Bay Lightning|
|8.||(12)||Calgary Flames||18.||(22)||Phoenix Coyotes||28.||(20)||St. Louis Blues|
|9.||(14)||New Jersey Devils||19.||(26)||Florida Panthers||29.||(24)||Atlanta Thrashers|
|10.||(5)||Vancouver Canucks||20.||(18)||Columbus Blue Jackets||30.||(28)||New York Islanders|
|Note: Brackets indicate prior power rank.|