NHL Power Rankings: Bruins can’t crack Top 10
|10.14.09 at 10:56 am ET|
Interesting couple of weeks to start the NHL season, and now seems like a perfect time to drop WEEI.com’s NHL power rankings onto an unsuspecting public. In the Eastern side of things, meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Until somebody comes up and knows them off their pedestal, the Penguins are the rulers of everything they see in the hockey landscape.
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have picked up where they left off in the second half of last season, and it’s really not even a close race. Teams such as the Flames, Rangers and Blackhawks are off to fairly decent starts, but they can’t hang with the Penguins once they turn up the dial. Likewise, there’s not a team even remotely close to the Maple Leafs in the NHL dumpster. The Leafs are getting blown out nearly every night, and Vesa Toskala has been an abomination between the pipes. The pressure ought to be nice and reasonable for a hungry Toronto fan base once Phil Kessel is healthy enough to play in late November, shouldn’t it?
Here are the WEEI.com hockey power rankings:
1. 5-1-0 The Penguins already have big wins over solid teams after beating the Rangers and Flyers last week, and they have most of last year’s Stanley Cup-winning cast back. Let’s face it. The top spot should be theirs most of the year provided Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Co. remain healthy and motivated. Everybody else in the Eastern Conference has miles to go before they’re a match for Crosby’s Penguins.
2. 4-1-1 The Flames might have topped this list had they not blown a 5-0 lead against the Blackhawks on Monday night. That stunning collapse brought attention to the simple fact that the Flames haven’t played much of the NHL’s iron. But the Flames are still tied for the most goals (24) without a ton of offensive production from Jarome Iginla or Olli Jokinen.
3. 5-1-0 The Blueshirts’ only loss has come at the hands of the reigning Stanley Cup champs in Steeltown, and they’ve otherwise been impressive while averaging four goals per game and limiting the opposition to two goals per game. That’s called good, sound two-way hockey. Credit John Tortorella for making improvements to last year’s offensively challenged bunch. A healthy Marian Gaborik (9 points in 5 games) has been electric for the Rags.
4. 3-1-1 The Blackhawks haven’t exactly sprinted out of the gate after serving as one of the media darlings during preseason predictions. But the Hawks looked much more like last season’s fun-loving Chicago bunch while scoring six unanswered goals during an unreal 6-5 win over the Flames Monday night. Da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da
5. 3-2-1 It’s always wise to overrate the Sharks a little bit during the regular season. Just as it’s equally prudent to begin the underestimation process once the games really matter in the playoffs, right, Jumbo Joe Thornton? Losses to the Kings, Coyotes and Avalanche — the weak sisters of the West last season — haven’t discouraged us in the power rankings quite yet.
6. 3-1-1 Mike Richards and Jeff Carter are continuing the two-man show that they started last season for the Broad Street Bullies, and former Hobey Baker winner Matt Carle seems to have finally found a home in the City of Brotherly Love. Ray Emery has been solid and apparently has a working alarm clock — something he didn’t always have in Ottawa. Their only regulation loss is to the Penguins, and they could be the biggest threat to Pittsburgh provided Emery keeps on the straight and narrow.
7. 2-2-2 They’ve underachieved after blowing out the Bruins and Maple Leafs to start the season, and they’re one of the few Eastern Conference teams that’s allowed more goals (21) than the B’s have this year. The difference is the Caps have the best player in the world, Alex Ovechkin, and enough offense to off-set a little sloptastic defense. Time for the Caps to straighten up and fly right.
8. 3-1-0 These power rankings should be huge in the hockey hotbed of Columbus. The Blue Jackets don’t get a lot of hype, but they play the game the right way and have legit star power among their forwards (Rick Nash) and in between the pipes (Steve Mason). Don’t sleep on the BJ’s.
9. 2-2-0 The Winged Wheels are fully expected to vault up these rankings as the season goes on, and there’s every possibility that will happen next week. The two season-opening losses to the Blues in Stockholm have to be balanced off with big W’s over the Blackhawks and Capitals since getting back to the Motor City.
.10. 4-1-0 The Kings have been the doormats of the West for the last few years, but they’ve been the unquestioned surprise of the NHL in the early going. The top line of Justin Williams-Anze Kopitar-Ryan Smyth has been dynamite, and the puck royalty boasts quality wins over the Sharks, Wild and Blues. The real test comes this week with measuring stick games against the Rangers, Red Wings and Blue Jackets — oh my! Kopitar finally looks ready to assume the superstar throne that’s been expected of him for the last two years.
11. 3-1-1 Another “What have you done for me lately” pick along with the Kings, the Avs looked solid in holding on for a win over the Bruins earlier this week, and have been buoyed by a pair of 18-year-old center sensations in Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly. Don’t expect it to last, but it’s a nice little start for a once-great franchise that’s been in disrepair since the lockout.
12. 2-3-0 The Bruins aren’t nearly hungry enough to start this season, and have suffered way too many defensive breakdowns. They’re averaging one more goal per game than they did at the exact same point last season, and they need to consistently raise their compete level. Great fourth line, though. Really.
13. 3-1-1 The Oilers’ well-balanced attack is something of a n0-name variety and they haven’t beaten any teams of significance quite yet, but they get the benefit of the doubt thus far. Denis Grebeshkov is turning into the best NHL defenseman that nobody seems to know about, and both Mike Comrie and Dustin Penner have been very good.
14. 3-2-0 It’s really nice to see the Senators living well after Dany Heatley sobbed and caterwauled his way out of town. Too bad it’s not going to last for the Sens.
15. 2-0-1 The Sabres have scored only four goals in their first three games but haven’t lost a contest in regulation yet this season. How, you ask? Goalie Ryan Miller has a .950 save percentage and a 0.99 goals-against average, and looks determined to carry Buffalo on his shoulder this season.
16. 3-2-0 Same goalie in Martin Brodeur, same solid, far-from-flashy forwards and same competitive Devils team. Nothing too outstanding in the first week of play, but, really, when do the Devils ever jump out at you? Wake them up in April.
17. 3-2-0 Nobody seems to want to play in Phoenix, nobody seems to want to coach there and nobody admits to being a fan of the franchise. It figures that everything comes crashing down on the ‘Yotes, and they get themselves off to a promising start. Ilya Bryzgalov has given up four goals in four games and has a save percentage of .960. Not too shabby.
18. 2-1-2 Martin St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, Ryan Malone. Big names and big production over the first five games, but the Bolts need to prove it over more than a week or two to gain some respect. The talent is certainly there for Lightning to strike again.
19. 2-2-1 The Ducks are in a difficult division and still need to find their footing, but it’s amazing that they’ve played well early in the season while getting exactly one goal from the tandem of Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan over the first five games. Anaheim misses Chris Pronger, but defenseman James Wisniewski continues to prove himself a steal of a pickup from Chicago at last season’s trade deadline.
20. 2-2-0 Jason Arnott couldn’t convince his agent brother, Wade, to broker a Phil Kessel deal to the Predators, but Arnott is Nashville’s leading scorer with five points heading into Wednesday’s action. So, the Predators have that going for them.
21. 2-3-0 Michael Cammalleri, Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta have produced in their first few games wearing Habs sweaters, but Carey Price continues to struggle between the pipes. Guess it ain’t easy being Jesus Price in Montreal. The Canadiens seem to be shooting for a No. 8 seed this season. That would make for a hell of a marketing campaign.
22. 2-2-0 It’s the NHL Senior Tour in St. Louis, where 37-year-old Keith Tkachuk and 34-year-old Paul Kariya are carrying the Blues offense. Tkachuk will fossilize by the All-Star break as he does every year, but there’s plenty of young talent on the roster. The Blues may have suffered a bit of a post-European trip hangover with losses to the Thrashers and Kings last week, but they’ll be OK.
23. 2-3-0 The Hurricanes have beaten the Lightning and Panthers, but suffered a tough 1-2 season-opening combo with road losses to the Flyers and Bruins. Cam Ward is on a mission to enter the discussion as one of the NHL’s best goaltenders and should be primed for a solid season. Carolina needs to get back to its gritty playoff persona.
24. 1-0-3 The Stars haven’t lost a game in regulation but also didn’t have the most difficult slate of opponents to open their season. Brad Richards and Mike Ribeiro are both off to solid starts, but Marty Turco appears to be slowing down a bit at 34 behind a fairly young defense corps.
25. 2-3-0 Henrik Sedin is off to one of his best starts with eight points (3 goals, 5 assists) through his first five games, but he’ll have to “shine it on” for a while without his twin brother, Daniel (broken leg). All the pieces are in place for Vancouver to compete, but the Canucks are not going anywhere unless Roberto Luongo (3.33 GAA, .880 save percentage) gets straightened out. It’s not a good sign when Andrew Raycroft has been the better netminder out of a team’s goaltending tandem.
26. 2-1-0 Should the Thrashers be ranked higher after getting off to a 2-1 start? Possibly. Should they trade Ilya Kovalchuk after not coming to an agreement with the Russian sniper on a contract extension? Most definitely.
28. 0-1-3 Plenty of good, young talent with John Tavares and Kyler Okposo in the fold, and the Islanders are playing gritty hockey under head coach Scott Gordon. But — as evidenced by their collapse against the Bruins last weekend — there is still plenty for the Isles to improve on.
29. 1-4-0 Life without Jay Bouwmeester hasn’t been so easy for the Panthers, and young guns such as Nathan Horton and David Booth have underwhelmed in Florida’s first five games. It could be a long season out among the palm trees and golf resorts in West Palm.
30. 0-4-1 The Maple Leafs are doing their truculent best as evidenced by the 85 penalty minutes in their first five games. But a 4.77 GAA and .838 save percentage from their goaltending might just have Leafs GM Brian Burke running to the thesaurus for a proper descriptive adjective.