Sam McCaig’s weekly Power Rankings column will appear on Saturdays.
POWER RANKINGS: The NHL’s top 10 teams
1. Chicago Blackhawks: Their stars are scoring and goalie Corey Crawford’s stepping up like he did when he was a red-hot rookie (and not a slumping sophomore like last season). The ‘Hawks played nine of 11 games on the road, yet they were the only NHL team without a loss in regulation.
2. Boston Bruins: The Bruins surrendered one goal in two games since suffering their only 60-minute defeat of the season, a 7-4 grudge match against the Buffalo Sabres.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are starting to pile up points and the Penguins are riding a five-game winning streak that has vaulted them into first place in the East.
4. Anaheim Ducks: More important than their NHL standing, the Ducks grabbed California bragging rights after wins over Los Angeles and San Jose this week.
5. San Jose Sharks: The Sharks have sunk in the rankings due to a mini-slump – five goals in three games, all losses.
6. New Jersey Devils: Patrik Elias leads the team in scoring and Martin Brodeur keeps winning and winning. In other news, grunge is back and did you hear about Monica Lewinsky?
7. Vancouver Canucks: Maybe it doesn’t really matter who tends goal for the Canucks.
8. Tampa Bay Lightning: The Bolts are scoring nearly a goal a game more than anybody else. The defense and goaltending are a work in progress, but they're a leg up on last season.
9. Nashville Predators: The Preds are doing what they’ve done for years – efficiently winning games and quietly moving up the standings. Just wait till Shea Weber gets going…
10. Montreal Canadiens: Team MVPs Carey Price and Andrei Markov are making their early cases for the Vezina and Norris, respectively.
Rising Up: Calgary Flames. A slow start is partially due to the fact the Flames have played two or three fewer games than most other teams. Road victories over Detroit and Columbus lifted Calgary out of the West basement, but can they keep winning with Miikka Kiprusoff on the sidelines?
Falling Down: Edmonton Oilers. The kids are alright, but they’ve got to figure out how to win all those one-goal games rather than losing them in overtime.
ALL-STAR TEAM OF THE WEEK
Center: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh. The Penguins superstar had two goals and 10 points in four games. After more than two years in concussion hell, Crosby’s looking better and better with each outing.
Right winger: Patrick Kane, Chicago. He scored six goals in four games last week, and Kane has recorded at least a point in 10 of 11 contests.
Left winger: Chris Kunitz, Pittsburgh. Playing with Crosby has its benefits. Kunitz amassed five goals and 10 points last week, highlighted by a four-goal outburst against Washington.
Defenseman: Sheldon Souray, Anaheim. Hard-shooting Ducks defenseman had goals in three straight games and his plus-7 rating ranked in the top 10 in the league.
Defenseman: P.K. Subban, Montreal. The flamboyant defender had points in all four games after re-signing with Montreal. Just wait till he gets his legs going.
Goaltender: Viktor Fasth, Anaheim. Raise your hand if you’d heard of the 30-year-old undrafted Swedish netminder before this season. Now raise your hand if you think Fasth will displace Hiller as Anaheim’s starter.
Rookie: Marcus Foligno, Buffalo. The 21-year-old Sabres winger had three assists in four games and averaged 20 minutes a night. His ice time is up to 17:01 per contest, nearly two minutes more than the next-busiest rookie forward..
GAMES TO WATCH
1. Boston Bruins at Buffalo Sabres, Sunday. In the first game between these two rivals, Boston enforcer Shawn Thornton took on Buffalo behemoth John Scott and was clobbered into a concussion for his troubles. The Bruins will be out for blood in the rematch, and not just because of the Thornton beatdown – the Sabres hammered the B’s on the scoreboard, too, winning the first round 7-4.
2. Los Angeles Kings at St. Louis Blues, Monday. The defending Stanley Cup champions against one of the (many) teams in the West with title aspirations. Both clubs need to pick up the pace.
3. Montreal Canadiens at Tampa Bay Lightning, Tuesday. Neither team made the playoffs last season, but they’re both in the mix in the East after great starts. It’s the Bolts’ firepower versus Carey Price’s stingy netminding.
LAST MINUTE OF PLAY
Oil streak: Sam Gagner has quietly collected a point in all 10 of Edmonton’s games so far. But Gagner’s not greedy; he’s had one point in every game except when he torched Colorado for two assists on Jan. 28.
The NHL’s favorite goaltending controversy is Roberto Luongo vs. Cory Schneider in Vancouver, and that won’t change until one of them is traded. But Fasth vs. Hiller in Anaheim is catching up as the crease to watch. (And was that Tomas Vokoun pushing Marc-Andre Fleury for playing time in Pittsburgh?)
Road warrior: Chicago’s Patrick Kane had 17 points in 10 games away from the United Center (compared to one point in two home games). Linemates Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews and the Islanders’ John Tavares were tied for second with 10 road points.
The Jets’ Tobias Enstrom took over the NHL defensemen scoring lead thanks to an eight-game point streak (two goals, 10 assists). Side note: Enstrom has taken only seven shots this season, tied for 141st among D-men.
It’s odd to see Ken Hitchcock’s Blues cruising along with league’s most potent power play (33.3 percent) but a penalty kill that’s 25th overall (74.4 percent). In other special-teams news, the Devils had three shorthanded goals; nobody else had more than one shortie.
Nashville’s Mike Fisher is the only forward in the NHL's top 75 in blocked shots. The Predators center was tied for 56th with 17 shin bruises. Minnesota’s Zach Parise – is there anything he can’t do? – and Edmonton penalty-killer Lennart Petrell were tied for 85th with 14.
Parting is such sweet sorrow. And it’s lethal on the stat sheet, too: Ryan Suter was minus-7 and Shea Weber had one measly assist in 10 games.
Not saying it's desperation time, but the Washington Capitals should bring back Mike Gartner, Peter Bondra, Kevin Hatcher and Olie Kolzig. Couldn't hurt.
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