Ottawa holds on this week, but barely.
Will we have a new No. 1 in the power rankings next week? Probably. Detroit plays three of its next five at home, with all five games against teams with losing records. For Ottawa, the Northeast grind continues with road games at Toronto and Buffalo and home challenges against Philly and Tampa Bay.
Don't be surprised to see Mr. October Manny Legace and the Red Wings atop the rankings next week, but for now Ottawa survives, thanks in no small part to Jason Spezza's jaw-dropping overtime game-winner on Thursday.
1. Ottawa Senators (7-1-0; Last Week: 1) – If you're a TiVo subscriber, Spezza's overtime game-winner Thursday was probably worth six months of fees. Overlooked is that after he undressed defenseman Sheldon Souray, Spezza still had to put a few moves on all-world goalie Jose Theodore to score the winner. If you ask Chris Neil, the Senators would still be perfect if not for Carolina goalie Martin Gerber's flop job Monday.
2. Detroit Red Wings (10-1-0; Last Week: 3) – The Red Wings lead the NHL in scoring and they have the league's hottest goalie in Manny Legace, who just set an NHL record for most wins in October (10). Circle your calendar for a behemoth matchup against Ottawa later in the season. Oh that's right, they don't play each other.
3. Philadelphia Flyers (5-2-1; Last Week: 4) – The Flyers spent nearly 10 minutes of the third period shorthanded in Tuesday's overtime loss at Montreal. Coach Ken Hitchcock's message to the team: quit complaining about the rules and start adjusting to them. Peter Forsberg is also being urged to shoot more, and he responded Thursday with a season-high six shots and a late goal that sent the game to OT.
4. Nashville Predators (8-0-1; Last Week: 5) – Are the Predators due for a reality check now that their eight-game winning streak is over? None of Nashville's first nine opponents owned a winning record through Wednesday, and the Preds had to come from behind in six of those eight wins. With apologies to Kings fans, they won't face an elite Western Conference foe until Nov. 21 at Detroit.
5. Vancouver Canucks (8-2-1; Last Week: 2) – Not sure what we expected when Todd Bertuzzi and Vancouver visited Denver Thursday, but running and hiding wasn't tops on the list. The Canucks allowed five unanswered goals in an embarrassing 6-3 loss. Even when they outshot Colorado by an eye-popping 23-0 margin in the third period, they only snuck one goal past David Aebischer.
6. Montreal Canadiens (7-3-0; Last Week: 8) – The Canadiens have played eight one-goal games in the season's first four weeks, and they'll win a lot of those with a guy like Jose Theodore in net. Only blemishes so far are two losses to Ottawa and one at the hands of Toronto.
7. Buffalo Sabres (6-3-0; Last Week: 6) – The Sabres were guilty of overlooking the Washington Capitals Wednesday. The result: They managed just 17 shots in a 3-2 loss to a team that entered play ranked last in the NHL in shots allowed. Rookie goalie Ryan Miller is for real. He and Manny Legace enter play Friday as the only two goalies to play every minute for their teams this season. Coach Lindy Ruff plans to give him a night off this weekend, however.
8. Toronto Maple Leafs (5-3-2; Last Week: 7) – Can't say enough about how brutal this Northeast Division schedule is. If there's one team you fear may wear down, it's the Leafs. Jason Allison and Eric Lindros are injury risks and Toronto's top defense pairing of Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle leads the league in ice time. Coach Pat Quinn hopes to cut down on those minutes. "You don't want their tanks on the downside," Quinn told the Toronto Sun.
9. Boston Bruins (3-5-0; Last Week: 12) – Goalie Andrew Raycroft is expected to miss a week with a strained hamstring, but rookie Hannu Toivonen looked just fine Thursday, making 36 saves in a 2-1 win over Toronto. It was Boston's first division win in seven games.
10. Los Angeles Kings (7-3-0; Last Week: 13) – Mathieu Garon is still paying the price for starting opening night. Coach Andy Murray continues to alternate goalies every game. The result: Garon is 2-3 against the likes of Detroit, Minnesota and Colorado. Rookie Jason Labarbera has been solid, but his perfect start has come at the expense of four losing teams.
11. Tampa Bay Lightning (5-3-2); Last Week 11) – Encouraging signs from Martin St. Louis, who has three points in Tampa's last three games after registering only two through seven games. Still looking for some consistency here. The defending champions haven't won back-to-back games this season.
12. Carolina Hurricanes (6-2-1; Last Week: 23) – They have yet to lose at home, their goal differential trails only Ottawa and Detroit and they are just gaining steam with Ray Whitney back in the lineup.
13. Minnesota Wild (5-4-1; Last Week: 10) – Rookie Mikko Koivu, named the team's No. 1 center shortly before injuring his knee in training camp, is expected to make his debut next week during Minnesota's four-game group trip. That doesn't quite make the top line intact. Winger Marian Gaborik needs 7-to-10 days to let his strained hip flexor heal.
14. Florida Panthers (6-4-1; Last Week: 14) – This team will go as far as Roberto Luongo can carry it, and the goalie's shoulders have been sagging of late. You can't blame him. Luongo has faced an average of 37.8 shots in his last five starts. In three of those he has let four or more goals get past him.
15. Colorado Avalanche (5-4-1; Last Week: 17) – The Avs are 3-1 and are averaging 5.5 goals per game since winger Milan Hejduk returned to the lineup. He scored his 200th career goal Thursday and Pierre Turgeon scored twice to move within one goal of 500 on his career.
16. New York Rangers (5-3-3; Last Week: 16) – Kevin Weekes had a good week of practice and an endorsement from his coach under his belt before Thursday's game, but that didn't stop coach Tom Renney from pulling an about-face and starting rookie Henrik Lundqvist in goal against the Islanders. Lundqvist made 31 saves to improve to 4-1 on the season.
17. San Jose Sharks (4-5-1; Last Week: 15) – Nils Ekman was a healthy scratch Wednesday, a first for the winger since joining San Jose. Coach Ron Wilson held him partially responsible for the deciding goal in Saturday's loss at Nashville. The Sharks looked better Saturday, then made a full-fledged leap Wednesday by winning in Dallas for the first time since 2001.
18. New Jersey Devils (4-5-0; Last Week: 9) – Since last week's rankings hit the wire, the Devils waived eight-year veteran Krzysztof Oliwa, blew a 3-1 lead in a loss to Atlanta and allowed 39 shots and four unanswered goals while falling to Tampa Bay. The only good news came when an MRI on goalie Martin Brodeur's knee showed no significant damage, but there's still plenty of repair work to be done in front of him.
19. Dallas Stars (5-3-1; Last Week: 20) – Struggling winger Bill Guerin was benched for most of the third period Saturday after taking an unsportsmanlike penalty. He logged nearly 20 minutes Wednesday, but was held without a point to extend his pointless streak to four games. For now, coach Dave Tippett has broken up the top line.
20. New York Islanders (5-5-0; Last Week: 21) – Miroslav Satan has a goal in four straight and six of nine games overall. Money well spent there, but the team clearly misses defensemen Adrian Aucoin and Kenny Jonsson.
21. Phoenix Coyotes (5-6-1; Last Week: 24) – Those one-goal decisions are starting to go the other way for the Coyotes, who have won three of their last five, all by a single tally. Several Phoenix players have been called out for their lack of scoring production. Among them, Mike Comrie, Petr Nedved and Mike Johnson. Point taken. Comrie has three goals in two games and Johnson has turned it up, too.
22. Anaheim Mighty Ducks (4-5-1; Last Week: 25) – Teemu Selanne hasn't scored 30 goals since his 2000-01 campaign that began in Anaheim. He entered play Friday with goals in four of his last five games. Sergei Fedorov will miss his eigth straight game with a groin injury Friday.
23. Calgary Flames (4-7-1; Last Week: 19) – The Flames have managed only seven goals while losing three of their last four. Miikka Kiprusoff is holding up his end latetly, but where is the offense? Calgary directed just 15 shots on net against Curtis Joseph and Phoenix in Thursday's loss.
24. Edmonton Oilers (3-6-1; Last Week: 25) – What a nightmare it's been for would-be No. 1 goalie Ty Conklin. It's not often that you hear athletes say they are having trouble putting failure behind them, but Conklin admitted as much last week. Shortly after, he was shipped to the AHL for a confidence search. Edmonton is rumored to be exploring trade options to fill the void at goal.
25. Chicago Blackhawks (3-7-0; Last Week: 26) – Looks like a Chicago team will come up on the wrong side of a sweep in October. While the White Sox celebrate their first world title in 88 years, the Blackhawks bemoan their luck. Could there be a worse time to face Detroit for three straight?
26. Columbus Blue Jackets (3-7-0; Last Week: 30) – The Blue Jackets are aware that play has opened up this season, right? Through 10 games they are averaging a paltry two goals per game. And it looks like the wait for sniper Rick Nash could drag into the second week of November.
27. Washington Capitals (4-6-0; Last Week: 29) – With wins over Tampa Bay and Buffalo in their recent 2-2 stretch, the Caps are suddenly competitive. They still can't stay out of the penalty box. Through Thursday they were averaging 8.4 power-plays against, worst in the league.
28. St. Louis Blues (2-5-2; Last Week: 27) – They are competitive. St. Louis has lost five one-goal games and it led in four of those. We'll see how the team responds to a closed-door meeting that preceded a trip to Anaheim for Friday's game.
29. Pittsburgh Penguins (1-4-5; Last Week: 28) – Ah, if only every game could be against Atlanta. Thursday's edge-of-your-seat tilt featured 10 power-play goals and 65 shots. Sergei Gonchar's three-point night was encouraging, but the win did little to hide this team's obvious defensive deficiencies.
30. Atlanta Thrashers (3-7-0; Last Week: 22) – Injuries are partially to blame – Atlanta has started five different goalies in 10 games – but things absolutely bottomed out Thursday when a four-goal lead was squandered in a 7-5 loss at Pittsburgh. Expect a gradual climb once goalie Kari Lehtonen returns.