1. Vancouver – It looks as though they are locks for the presidents trophy this year. If Roberto Lulongo can shake his demons from playoffs’ of past then the sky is the limit for this club.
2. Detroit – The Wings’ fourth line is providing energy and offense lately. Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and either Kris Draper or Drew Miller have been hard to play against. They’ve been physical, they’ve used their speed to forecheck hard and force turnovers, and they’ve chipped in some goals.
3. Philadelphia – Thanks to their depth on the blue line with the arrivals of veterans Andrej Meszaros, Sean O’Donnell and Nick Boynton, the Flyers have survived well without Chris Pronger this season, going 12-5-2 while he recovered from knee surgery (two games), a broken foot (13 games) and a bruised hand (three games) .
4. Boston – Its too bad the scrutiny over the hit by Zedeno Chara is clouding an otherwise impressive campaign. It remains to be seen if this drama will carry with them into the postseason.
5. Washington – Friday nights victory over the Hurricanes increased the Caps’ winning streak to seven games. That, combined with the Lightning’s loss to the Senators, increased the Caps’ lead to four points over Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division. The Caps also pulled to within two points of the Flyers for first place in the Eastern Conference.
6. San Jose – The Sharks would be in the top three of the list if they could get their 3rd and 4th lines contributing on a consistent basis. This team will be a force to be reckoned with in this years postseason as most of the teams top line forwards are not under contract for next season and will be playing with pay day on their minds.
7. Tampa Bay – The club is slipping and it is not an issue of goaltending, as has been the case in most seasons. The team is not getting the strong and supporting work ethic from their defensive corps.
8. Chicago – An after thought a month ago, the Hawks’ have escalated up the western conference ranks and continue to find their play from last season. The top line of C Jonathan Toews, RW Patrick Kane and LW Patrick Sharp continues to produce and lead the Hawks.
9. Dallas – If Brad Richards can continue his stellar play as of late and push this club deep into this years playoffs then he will have no problem getting the money and years he wants.
10. Pittsburgh – Kovalev and Neal were fine aquistions, but if this team cannot get Sidney Crosby back in time for the playoffs then this season was for not. They just do not have the talent and leadership up front to get them to where they want to go.
11. Montreal -An impressive win in Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon. It looks as though they are priming for another impractical run at Lord Stanley this year, will Cary Price be up for the challenge?
12. Los Angeles – The Kings needed and got their win in Detroit this week. Goaltender Jonathon Quik is finding his game again and has posted a strong week of play.
13. NY Rangers – Marian Gaborik is the most overrated and overpaid player in the league. He could change my opinion if he can single handily get his team into the 2nd or 3rd round of this years playoffs.
14. Phoenix – Now 69 games into the season, the Coyotes are in seventh place in the Western Conference without a single skater scoring 17 goals. Doan scored his 16th into an empty net Thursday and is now tied with the injured Martin Hanzal, Radim Vrbata and Taylor Pyatt for the team lead. Scottie Upshall also scored 16 before he was shipped to Columbus at the trade deadline.
15. Buffalo – Costly loss in Toronto last night, the team never looked settled. Ryan Miller needs to get back to being the stellar sensations that he usually is. With new ownership in place there is no reason for the Sabres’ to be playing without a cause.
16. Nashville – The Predators have started this home stand with a pair of wins and they have to keep it going as Los Angeles visits Tuesday followed by Boston on Thursday and Detroit on Saturday. The Predators are 3-1-1 since the line has been together. The line of left wing Martin Erat, center David Legwand and right wing Joel Ward has been an offensive force for the Predators when they need it the most late in the season.
17. Toronto – And the pursuit continues. Stay tuned…..
18. Carolina – They just do not posses the scoring power and offensive support needed to win in the playoffs. Look for this team to faze out of the playoff race this week.
19. Anaheim – Dan Ellis is the lifeboat the Ducks hope to ride into the playoffs and throughout. Since the Ducks grabbed him from the Lightning for a faltering Curtis McElhinney, Ellis has gone 5-1-1 with a 2.22 goals-against average in his first seven starts to help his new team keep some realistic postseason hopes alive.
20. New Jersey – If this was a power rankings of just the last 3 weeks then they would be near the top.
21. Atlanta – Impressive win in Philadelphia yesterday, but until they can become a consistent road team then they will always fall under the pretenders category.
22. Calgary – To jump out to two quick goals with all the momentum they had and all they had riding on a game and end up losing, they should be ashamed of themselves. I look for this team to faze out of the race for the playoffs after this coming week.
23. Minnesota -The Wild has now been shutout in back-to-back games for just the fourth time in team history. The others came in March of 2003 (at Detroit, vs. St. Louis), March of 2001 (St. Louis, at Philadelphia) and in November of 2000 (at Colorado, Calgary). Expect this trend to continue if they cannot address scoring in this off-season.
24. Columbus – It might just be time to get something for Rick Nash. The team is just not going anywhere with their current trajectory.
25. St. Louis – Brad Boyes will be missed, but if they can capitalize on some of the draft choices they received then look out for this club in the seasons to come. The supporting cast is already there.
26. NY Islanders – I expect this club to be in the top 10 power rankings for most of next season.
27. Florida – Although the Panthers purge at the trade deadline has soured some of the veterans on the team, defenseman Mike Weaver says he sees that proverbial light at the end of Florida’s tunnel. It seems as though everything is more cheery in Florida.
28. Ottawa – Disappointment is an understatement for this club.
29. Colorado – I don’t know if I should rank the Lake Erie Monsters or the Colorado Avalanche as these clubs have been interchanged all season long.
30. Edmonton – You know hockey is thriving in Canada when you can sell out games for the Edmonton Oilers for an entire season.
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