For the third consecutive week, the Detroit Red Wings sit atop Radio Sports Center’s NHL Power Rankings thanks to a six-game winning streak and some hockey history. The Wings also became the first unanimous #1 in our rankings since the Bruins in week thirteen. The Kings fell the farthest (five spots) and three teams (the Senators, Jets and Ducks) rose four to complete the biggest moves on the week.
By Bob Mand and Rob Elbaz
1. Detroit Red Wings (Last Week: 1) – Five first-place votes. The Wings added to their NHL-record winning streak at the Joe with three more home-ice victories this week to push their remarkable mark to 23. Even without Jimmy Howard, they’ve cruised through some of the best teams in the League holding the opposition to just four goals in their past three games.
2. New York Rangers (LW: 2) – The best team in the East gave themselves some breathing room this past week. The Rangers blanked the Bruins 3-0 on Tuesday and now hold a nine point lead in the Conference. The shutout was a league high seventh for Henrik Lundqvist and the performance helped improve his save percentage to an unfathomable .940 on the season. For now, the conversations as to whether Hank will win the Vezina trophy have been put on hold and discussions as to whether or not he’ll win the Hart have taken their place.
3. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 4) – The ‘Nucks were ranked as the League’s ‘most overrated team’ in a recent CBC/NHLPA poll but it’s hard to argue with their resume to date. Last year’s Western Conference champs have taken points in each of their last twelve games (9-0-3) and without any real threats within their division, should cruise to a top seed come April.
4. St. Louis Blues (LW: 3) – Splitting four games this week, the Blues took a step backward with losses to the Jackets (yuk!) and Hawks. Still, they actually have more points at home than any team – even the vaunted Red Wings. Unfortunately, they play 13 of their next 17 away from the Scottrade Center. The key for the Blues seems to be their offense: The squad is undefeated this season (27-0-0) when scoring at least three times in any game.
5. Boston Bruins (LW: 5) – The Black and Gold struggled again this week, dropping three of four with their lone victory coming by way of the shootout. The Bruins are getting the puck on net with regularity despite getting shut out in four of their nine games in February: The B’s averaged over 43 shots per game in their shutout losses this month.
6. Nashville Predators (LW: 8 ) – Pekka Rinne gave up two goals in each of the Preds’ three games on the week and twice (against Chicago and Dallas) got just enough offensive support to earn the victory. Despite a record that would have them leading in three of the League’s six divisions, their spot in the Central has earned them the West’s fifth seed (for now).
7. New Jersey Devils (LW: 9) – Once the dust cleared and Hockey Day in America came to an end, the Devils stood alone as the second place team in the Atlantic Division after a 3-1 victory over the Habs. The win capped off a 3-0-0 week for New Jersey as they continue to be one of the hottest teams since the All-Star break with a 7-1-2 record in that time.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 6) – The Pens have had trouble stringing together wins since the All-Star break, but they were able to win their most important game last week, Saturday’s match in Philadelphia. The Penguins took advantage of a pair of shorthanded goals, including one scored 3-on-5 to beat Philly 6-4. The Pens also resigned James Neal to a long term contract last week, probably a smart move considering the 24 year old already has 30 goals and 27 assists this season.
9. San Jose Sharks (LW: 7) – The Sharks are one of the League’s several struggling titans, losers of six of eight including three of four this week. On the brighter side, Joe Thornton has thirteen points in his last ten (4-9-13) and is working towards overcoming what was a very mediocre start to the season for the former Hart Trophy winner.
10. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 10) – With just two wins in their last eight games coming into the week, Philly needed a boost to help them get going for the final stretch. Thursday’s massive 7-2 win over the Sabres should have fit the bill nicely, but the Flyers were unable to keep the momentum going Saturday against the Pens. Claude Giroux’s managed five assists against Buffalo and is up to 68 points (22g, 46a) on the season.
11. Phoenix Coyotes (LW: 14) – How good have the ‘Yotes been in February? For starters, they’re 7-0-1. But even more to the point: They have only allowed eight goals on the month. Radim Vrbata quietly set a career-mark for goals on Saturday with his 28th of the season and could eclipse 40 with a strong final few weeks – who saw that coming from a 30 year-old with one career 50-point season and no career 30-goal seasons?
12. Chicago Blackhawks (LW: 13) – After dropping their ninth straight against the Predators on Tuesday, the Blackhawks bounced back for three huge victories including one over the East-leading Rangers and one over the Blues. The Hawks haven’t scored a powerplay goal in almost a month – amazing considering the talent in their lineup.
13. Ottawa Senators (LW: 17) – When the Senators get on a roll they know how to keep it going, for better or worse. After losing seven straight and picking up just a single point in the span, the Sens have now picked up points in their last four and have once again found some solid footing in the Eastern playoff picture. Jason Spezza has been leading the charge for Ottawa; he has 12 points (5g, 7a) in the last four games.
14. Florida Panthers (LW: 11) – The Panthers may hold the number three seed in the East, but another week like their last one could easily land them in ninth or tenth place. The Panthers were 0-3-0 and losing an important game Friday to the Capitals along the way. Finding offense has been a problem for the Cats, at 141 goals for only the Islanders are less productive than Florida in the East, and the Panthers are -18 in the spread.
15. Calgary Flames (LW: 18) – The Flames have taken a point in every game this month, moving them into eighth position in the playoff race. Part of the impetus behind their resurgence has been the excellent play of leading scorers Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen, who have a combined eleven goals in the team’s nine games in February.
16. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 15) – The Leafs were out West this week to visit the Flames, Oilers and Canucks, and return home with just two points. In their last seven games the Leafs have just two wins, both coming against the 29th placed Oilers, which doesn’t bode well for Toronto down the stretch as they try to make the playoffs for a first time since the lockout.
17. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 12) – Sometimes it feels like the Kings couldn’t score to save their lives, a sentiment echoed undoubtedly by LA’s fans this week after a pair of agonizing 1-0 shutout losses at the hands of Phoenix and Calgary. The Kings are averaging 2.03 goals per game, which would be the lowest mark in ten years and have a real shot of being the first NHL team to average less than two per match since the 1997-98 Tampa Bay Lightning.
18. Washington Capitals (LW: 16) – It’s not hard to tell which games the Caps get geared up for. In the last two weeks the team has only beaten their division leading Panthers, losing the other five games. Mike Green returned to action last week for the Caps but Nicklas Backstrom is still sidelined with a concussion. If Backstrom can’t return, Washington will have a hard time reaching the postseason.
19. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 23) – Winnpeg has won three in a row and have another six games remaining in their current homestand. The Jets are now tied with Toronto for eighth in the East but if they expect to make the playoffs this next stretch will be crucial. Winnipeg is an impressive 18-9-2 at home, but just 11-17-4 away from their adoring fans.
20. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 20) – The Lightning may not be out of the playoff race yet, but with the trade deadline fast approaching this team looks to be solidly in the sellers group. Thursday, the Lightning sent Dominic Moore to San Jose, Saturday, Pavel Kubina was sent to Philly. In return the Lightning got back prospect Jon Kalinski and some second round draft picks. Meanwhile, Steven Stamkos continues to run away with the Rocket Richard Trophy race, he notched his 40th goal of the season in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Washington.
21. Dallas Stars (LW: 19) – Dallas has managed to ‘hang around’ in the Western Conference playoff race, but with only one win in their last six (Thursday against the Flames) those hopes are fading. The Stars just aren’t good enough in any facet of the game to warrant optimism at this point.
22. Colorado Avalanche (LW: 21) – It’s hard to tell whether the Avs are coming or going at this point. They dropped two of three this week and hurt their already slim chances of late-April action. Rookie Gabriel Landeskog has had a solid season (15-18-33) and is Colorado’s plus-minus leader (+14) by a whopping eleven over his nearest teammates.
23. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 27) – No longer cellar-dwellers in the RSC power-rankings, the Waterfowl have had a fair month-plus to say the least: They’ve only failed to grab points in three games since New Year’s. But fans of the Quackers should be wary of excessive optimism – they still sit five points out of postseason position and haven’t been running away with many emphatic victories.
24. New York Islanders (LW: 26) – John Tavares picked up two goals and an assist Saturday as the Islanders beat the Hurricanes 4-3. The top line of Tavares, Matt Moulson and PA Parenteau continues to do the majority of the scoring for the Isles, they account for 61 of the team’s 135 goals. 21 year old Kevin Poulin got the call in net for Saturday’s game, earning his second victory this year, both against Carolina.
25. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 22) – With the season not going the way the Canadiens had hoped, the team may be big time sellers this year at the deadline. Friday they unloaded Hal Gill, formerly an important part of the team’s top-ranked penalty kill. In return for the veteran defenseman the Habs got a second round pick and Blake Geoffrion. Geoffrion has deep ties to the Canadiens; he is the grandson of Habs legend Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion and great-grandson to the equally legendary Howie Morenz.
26. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 24) – After losing four straight, the Sabres pulled off a solid 6-2 Sunday afternoon against the Penguins. Derek Roy picked up two goals and an assist in the victory, but with 32 points (13g, 19a) in 57 games, it’s still been a disappointing for Roy and many other Sabres. Offseason acquisition Ville Leino has three points in his last two games, bringing his grand total for the season up to a whopping 18 points (4g, 14a).27. Minnesota Wild (LW: 25) – With only one active player with more than 30 points, Minny is another attack-starved lineup in need of an offensive injection – especially considering how close they are to the precipice of non-contention. Still, their victory over the Bruins was impressive in spite of the B’s recent floundering and Nik Backstrom’s 48-save shutout was an absolute gem.
28. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 29) – The Hurricanes are still dead last in the East, but there are some signs that things may be turning around in Carolina. Eric Staal is on pace for his worst season since his rookie year but has four goals and four assists in his last five games. The Canes lost a close game against the Islanders Saturday, but were 4-0-2 in their previous six games.
29. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 28) – The Oil grabbed three losses and only one point in their three matches this week and it’s no wonder that talk of trades and futures permeates the discourse in Alberta’s capital. The fact that Edmonton has a shot at a third straight first overall pick is borderline disgusting but somehow the Copper and Blue’s fans soldier on hoping for a Cup in the near future. Unfortunately, the Cake is a Lie.
30. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 30) – The Jackets have owned the bottom of our power-rankings for ten weeks now and we’re running out of amusing/depressing anecdotes to discuss in their section. Hopefully the Rick Nash/Jeff Carter situations will be solved shortly to the benefit of all and Scott Howson and Ohio hockey fans can move on.