Sam McCaig’s weekly NHL Power Rankings column will appear on Saturdays.
POWER RANKINGS: The NHL’s top 10 teams
1. Chicago Blackhawks: The first club to win four games, including three on the road, the ‘Hawks have received great starts from star forwards Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane – and perhaps most importantly, netminder Corey Crawford.
2. San Jose Sharks: Remember what “Jaws” did to drunken tourists taking ill-advised late-night swims? That’s what the Sharks have done to opposing goalies so far.
3. Ottawa Senators: The Sens surrendered just two goals in three games and Erik Karlsson appears ready to pick up where he left off after winning the Norris Trophy last season.
4. St. Louis Blues: Season-opening 6-0 shellacking of longtime league heavyweight Detroit says plenty about the bona fide Blues (and perhaps something about the Lidstrom-less Red Wings).
5. New Jersey Devils: This perpetual winning machine captured the Stanley Cup the last time the NHL force-fed us a 48-game season &ndash: and with the very same goalie, if you can believe it.
6. Anaheim Ducks: Answered a few off-season questions with a bushel of goals in a pair of road victories.
7. Boston Bruins: If you’re picking a team to come out of the East, the B’s are a good bet.
8. Colorado Avalanche: The young Avs looked impressive in beating the Kings and blanking the Blue Jackets.
9. Minnesota Wild: Zach Parise’s start has been better than Ryan Suter’s – but you’d be tentative, too, if you didn’t have Shea Weber helping you out for the first time in seven years.
10. Pittsburgh Penguins: More superstars per square inch than any other team in the NHL.
Rising Up: Montreal Canadiens
The Habs hit the skids last season, finishing last in the East and 28th overall. But they responded to a season-opening stinker against Toronto with convincing wins over Florida and Washington. And they’ll be even better when P.K. Subban re-signs. Or should that be if Subban signs?
Falling Down: Washington Capitals
The league’s last winless, pointless team has looked awful in the early going. Another week like this one and it’ll be a battle for the rest of the season just to sneak into the playoffs.
ALL-STAR TEAM OF THE WEEK
Center: Joe Thornton, San Jose. The veteran Sharks playmaker had eight assists in three games on a killer line with Patrick Marleau (six goals) and Joe Pavelski (seven assists).
Right winger: Marian Hossa, Chicago. The last time we saw the Blackhawks star, he was being carted off the ice after the Raffi Torres hit. Hossa served notice that he’s all better, thank you, by starting out with back-to-back two-goal games.
Left winger: Thomas Vanek, Buffalo. Sabres sniper opened the 2013 NHL campaign with a five-point display against Philadelphia.
Defenseman: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa. He makes it happen for the Senators, and has already taken his rightful place among ‘D’ leaders in points, plus-minus and ice time.
Defenseman: Raphael Diaz, Montreal. With five assists – including three on the power play – in three games, he’ll do until Subban returns.
Goaltender: Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis. Two shutouts in three starts, just good enough to meet the minimum expectations of Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. (Correction: We originally had "Two shutouts in two starts" for Halak.)
Rookie: Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis. Nail Yakupov’s sliding celebration stole the spotlight, but Tarasenko popped four goals in four games. And. Looks. Like. A. Keeper.
GAMES TO WATCH
1. Los Angeles at Phoenix, Saturday. The Kings and Coyotes last faced off in a no-holds-barred showdown in the West final. Remember Dustin Brown’s borderline hit on Michal Roszival in the series-deciding Game 5? You can be sure Phoenix does.
2. Minnesota at St. Louis, Sunday. The Wild want to leap up the standings like the Blues did last season, and a date in St. Louis is good litmus test.
3. Philadelphia at New York Rangers, Tuesday. Two of the big favorites in the East stumbled badly out of the gate, but you can bet the farm that one of them will win this game. Heck, bet two farms.
LAST MINUTE OF PLAY
Will there be a worse period of play than the Oilers’ opening 20 minutes against San Jose – in Edmonton’s home opener, no less – in which Taylor Hall and Co. found themselves in a 6-1 hole?
Will there be a more thrilling finish than the Oilers’ final 65 seconds against Los Angeles – in Edmonton’s next home game – in which Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a goal disallowed on a controversial call before Yakupov scored with five seconds left (and then went for the slide heard ‘round the hockey world)? Sam Gagner closed the deal for Edmonton in overtime.
Looks like the Coyotes have effectively replaced 40-year-old offensive dynamo Ray Whitney with 38-year-old offensive dynamo Steve Sullivan. The 5-foot-9 Sullivan potted a hat trick against Columbus and followed up with a goal and an assist against San Jose.
Congratulations to Daniel Winnik, this season’s recipient of the “Fast Start But Unlikely To Keep It Up” award. The Ducks center had four goals in his first two games after scoring 37 times in his previous 366 games. In other words, he’s scoring at 20 times his career pace. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Tampa Bay has a Steve Stamkos Mini-Me in undrafted rookie Cory Conacher. The 5-foot-8 23-year-old started fast with two goals and five points in three games after lighting it up for Norfolk in the AHL last year.
The fact that the Kings’ Drew Doughty is leading all NHL defensemen in ice time at nearly 30 minutes per game (29:42) is not a big surprise. The fact that the Isles’ Andrew MacDonald is second (27:57) is, shall we say, somewhat unexpected.
The St. Louis Blues were outshooting opponents by nearly 14 shots per game (33.2-19.5) through four contests, while the Dallas Stars were at the other end at minus-12 (26.2-38.2). St. Louis limited Nashville to 13 shots in a 3-0 win on Jan. 24 and held Detroit to 14 shots in that 6-0 drubbing on Jan. 19.
Boston Bruins’ Dougie Hamilton might not get much attention in the NHL rookie race this season – defensemen rarely do – but the 6-foot-5 teenager is playing with Zdeno Chara and earning the trust of B’s coach Claude Julien. And, as any Leafs fan will tell you, he’s the other player in the Tyler-Seguin-for-Phil-Kessel deal.
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