This was a big week in the NHL. I really think that you’re beginning to see teams carve out their niche and play their hand as to what sort of season they’re going to have. Not that we won’t see a lot of playoff reshuffling, because we will, but the East looks like it’s a lot clearer than the West at this point in time.
1. Chicago Blackhawks 12-0-3 (27 points) [#1 last week]
I don’t think I need to say much about the Blackhawks. If you don’t consider them the best overall team in the league right now, you’re just wrong. When will they suffer their first regulation loss? Perhaps its this week against the Canucks?
2. Anaheim Ducks 11-2-1 (23 points) [#4 last week]
I’ve been amazed at how well this team has played thus far. They show no signs of slowing down and their offensive depth is showing. They are 8-1-0 in February so far and if Viktor Fasth keeps it up, this team should be right there all the way.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins 11-5-0 (22 points) [#9 last week]
They got back on track with a very strong week. I think the Penguins will stay at the top of the Eastern Conference in the coming weeks with a lighter schedule coming up. When this team plays their game, they’re scary good.
4. Boston Bruins 9-2-2 (20 points) [#3 last week]
Following two consecutive strong years, Brad Marchand is having another good year. He has eight goals already for a team that is looking for someone to shoulder the load offensively.
5. Vancouver Canucks 8-3-3 (19 points) [#5 last week]
Pick your poison. Whether you go with Corey Schneider or Roberto Luongo, it seems like both have been good. Couple that with the scoring we know the Canucks can do and this is a dangerous team.
6. New Jersey Devils 9-3-3 (21 points) [#2 last week]
They got blown away on Long Island on Saturday. Good teams will take bad losses, but it is how they respond. Can they put that loss behind them and get off to a fast start to their week against Ottawa?
7. St. Louis Blues 9-5-1 (19 points) [#15 last week]
After a five game losing streak, the Blues seemed to have settled down. They’ve won their last three games (though two came in overtime/shootout) and are starting to look like the team that finished last year’s regular season so well.
8. Carolina Hurricanes 8-4-1 (17 points) [#18 last week]
The Hurricanes got really hot last week. They won three games in four days to vault themselves to the top of the Southeast division. This team has talent and Cam Ward can be trouble for other teams when he’s on.
9. Nashville Predators 7-3-5 (19 points) [#8 last week]
Their defensive effort was questioned earlier in the year, but at this point, all that talk should be gone. Pekka Rinne posted two shutouts last week, as the Preds are getting back to playing the suffocating defensive style that they like best.
10. Montreal Canadiens 9-4-1 (19 points) [#16 last week]
The Habs have a ton of talented offensive defensemen. Two of their top five players in points thus far are d-men Andrei Markov and Raphael Diaz. As a result of that, their power play has been pretty good all season.
11. Toronto Maple Leafs 9-6-0 (18 points) [#7 last week]
The Leafs have won five of their last six and they’re looking more and more like a team that is going to make the playoffs. The keys will be for them to continue to spread out the scoring and for James Reimer to take another step towards being a big-time NHL goalie.
12. New York Rangers 8-5-1 (17 points) [#11 last week]
I think this team has finally turned the corner. Henrik Lundqvist seems to be back on track, which is key. The blueshirts are even finding some secondary scoring now, especially from Carl Hagelin, who with six goals is only one goal behind team leader Marian Gaborik.
13. Dallas Stars 8-7-1 (17 points) [#12 last week]
Though they had an up and down week last week, I see some good things from the Stars. They have scored much more consistently since Jamie Benn returned and they’re averaging 3.4 goals per game in their last seven contests.
14. Ottawa Senators 7-6-2 (16 points) [#14 last week]
What a huge loss it was for the Sens when Erik Karlsson went down. I don’t want to get into the debate as to whether or not Matt Cooke did it intentionally or not, because really, all that matters is that the game lost one of it’s brightest young stars for the season.
15. San Jose Sharks 7-4-3 (17 points) [#10 last week]
Was their fast start a mirage? It’s starting to seem that way lately, as the Sharks have struggled mightily. They have a seven-game losing streak and they don’t even have a win in February. They need to get it turned around quickly.
16. Detroit Red Wings 7-6-2 (16 points) [#6 last week]
The Red Wings have been very up and down so far, but one source of hope has been rookie Damien Brunner. The Swiss rookie center has seven goals and four assists on the year. He’ll be a big part of the future in Mo-town.
17. Phoenix Coyotes 7-6-2 (16 points) [#17 last week]
The Coyotes have gotten things straightened out pretty quickly after their rough start. They’re 5-2-1 in February and with Mike Smith playing well again, they should be fine.
18. Minnesota Wild 7-6-2 (16 points) [#20 last week]
I almost feel like this team is destined to ride the wave of wins and losses all season without going in one direction or the other. One would think this is a playoff team, but they haven’t given you much of a reason to believe that quite yet.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning 7-6-1 (15 points) [#19 last week]
They finally got a big win against Florida, but they’ve really struggled after their hot start. Can Stamkos, St. Louis and Lecavalier get hot enough to carry this team despite the lack of goaltending?
20. Edmonton Oilers 6-5-3 (15 points) [#13 last week]
The foundation is there, but the Oilers have been inconsistent of late. They’re still above .500 and this is a big week coming up for them with Los Angeles, Minnesota and Phoenix all visiting Rexall Place this week.
21. New York Islanders 6-7-1 (13 points) [#27 last week]
I don’t know if the term “saved their season” fits, but thats what the Islanders may have done. They got huge wins over the Rangers and Devils to keep themselves in the mix. This team has talent and should be able to at least stay alive in the playoff picture for a while. John Tavares is becoming a great player.
22. Calgary Flames 5-5-3 (13 points) [#24 last week]
The Flames haven’t been as bad as some may think. Mike Cammalleri is scoring now and they’ve gotten production from one of my favorite underrated players in the league in Lee Stempniak.
23. Los Angeles Kings 5-6-2 (12 points) [#23 last week]
They had a better week, but there’s still a long way to go for this team to be playing the consistent hockey they expect to play. Jonathan Quick’s numbers need to be better if this team expects to contend once again. His .895 save percentage won’t get it done.
24. Buffalo Sabres 6-9-1 (13 points) [#25 last week]
I had this team pegged a a playoff team coming into the season and so far they’ve shown nothing that would make you think that they are. I’m not sure that they’ll be able to turn it around unless they really start to play better in their own end. Offense is not the issue, just ask Tomas Vanek.
25. Philadelphia Flyers 6-9-1 (13 points) [#21 last week]
I had thought that the Flyers were poised for a turnaround, but they just don’t seem right. They blew a 3-1 lead in New Jersey and then dropped a 4-1 game to the Canadiens to put them at three games under .500. Will the upcoming return of Scott Hartnell make the difference?
26. Colorado Avalanche 5-7-1 (11 points) [#28 last week]
The Avs are losers of four of their last five and it won’t get any easier this week. They host the Predators and Blues early in the week before traveling to L.A. Can they compete with some of the bigger teams in the west?
27. Florida Panthers 4-6-4 (12 points) [#26 last week]
The Panthers have shown s some igns of life, but they’re definitely a ways away. They’ve lost three straight games in overtime. The Cats have a back-to-back this week against the Flyers and Penguins, which should be a good test. Blowing that 2-goal 3rd period lead against the Lightning stings.
28. Winnipeg Jets 5-8-1 (11 points) [#22 last week]
In all of their last four losses, the Jets have surrendered three goals. What does that say about their offense? You have to be able to steal a few of those. Where is the offense?
29. Washington Capitals 5-9-1 (11 points) [#30 last week]
While the Caps have been better, you look at this team and wonder where it is they’re going to get consistent production from. Mike Ribeiro’s 18 points have been a pleasant surprise.
30. Columbus Blue Jackets 4-9-2 (10 points) [#29 last week]
Outside of their 6-2 destruction of the Sharks, the Blue Jackets have lost the other five games they played over that span. They already have nine losses and it’ll be a tough climb all year for Columbus.