Tuesday March 17th, 2009

Biggest Climb: St. Louis Blues (20 to 12)

Biggest Fall: Minnesota Wild (17 to 25)

A reminder: these rankings are based mainly on quality of play (with a heavy emphasis on recent games), overall record and my remarkably intuitive gut calls. Heck, if I went strictly off record, these would be no different than the standings, and you already know where to find those. Also worth noting: statistics and records are through Sunday's games.

Want to send me a comment about the rankings? Scroll to the bottom of this page for my Mailbag. I read 'em all and if you're halfway civil -- or at least clever in your skewering of my decisions -- I'll try to get back to you.

NHL Power Rankings
1New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 1
After limiting the Habs to a lone tally Saturday in his record-tying 551st win, Martin Brodeur now has held his opposition to one goal or less in 33 percent of his starts (327 of 985 career games). Not quite as good as Lester Patrick's 100 percent mark, but there's something to be said for longevity. Last week: 3-0
 
2Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 3
The 4-0 win over Columbus was more than just revenge for last week's 8-2 thrashing. The two points pushed the Wings over the 100-point plateau for a record-setting ninth consecutive season, breaking their tie with the Canadiens (1974-75 through 1981-82). Last week: 3-0-1
 
3San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 5
San Jose Sharks (45-13-10)
They lost their mojo while Evgeni Nabokov battled the flu and a "lower-body" injury, going 2-5 and coughing up the Western lead. But with their starter back, the Sharks managed to reel in wins over the Kings and Ducks. Good thing Nabby stopped 56 of 57, though, as they managed just a pair of goals themselves. Last week: 2-1
 
4Washington Capitals
Last Week: 7
With three straight wins -- including a slump-buster at home over the Canes -- they appear to be shaking off their late-season malaise. That game was filled with the kind of errors that killed them during their skid, but they found a way to win despite the defensive meltdowns, something all good teams learn to do. Last week: 3-0
 
5Boston Bruins
Last Week: 4
Boston Bruins (45-17-9)
Reliable secondary scoring was critical to their early success. A lack of it has them stumbling to the finish line. David Krejci, Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder formed one of the league's best lines early on, but the trio has gone cold over the last month. As a unit, they're barely generating five shots per game so far in March. Last week: 2-2
 
6Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 2
After being slapped back to reality by the Kings and Ducks on the road, they ended the week on a high note. Sunday's win over the Avs made it nine straight at GM Place, finally balancing the scales on the January stretch that saw them lose nine in a row there. Last week: 2-1-1
 
7Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 9
You think Sidney Crosby's been watching Coach's Corner? Sure seems like he's assumed the role of a good Canadian lad after doffing his visor during Sunday's 6-4 win over Boston -- ostensibly to facilitate a scrap with Marc Savard of the Bruins. The fight didn't happen, but you've got to love Sid's emotion . . . and his three-assist effort. Last week: 2-0-2
 
8Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 6
The Flyers dispatched Scottie Upshall at the deadline to create cap space for the return of Danny Briere. The brittle center finally returned to the lineup, giving them enviable depth up front and a real shot to go deep this spring provided he stays healthy. Expect him to make his mark on a power play that's struggled of late. Last week: 2-2
 
9Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 13
Imagine looking at the schedule at the beginning of the season and seeing the Jackets had a March stretch that included games against the Bruins, Penguins, Hawks and Wings. Now imagine trying to argue that they would take eight points out of that death march. This team just keeps finding ways to exceed expectations. Last week: 3-1
 
10Calgary Flames
Last Week: 8
Calgary Flames (40-23-6)
Looks like their post-deadline elevation to elite contender status merits reconsideration. Outside of a nice comeback win against the Wings, they've lost four of five and were absolutely brutal defensively, coughing up 27 goals (including eight to the Leafs!). Tough to outscore the opposition when you dig yourself that kind of ditch. Last week: 1-2
 
11Nashville Predators
Last Week: 12
They aren't just battling for the playoffs over their final five home games -- they're gunning for 14,500 fans. That's the magic number they need to draw at each date in order to qualify for the league's revenue sharing program. A few playoff dates would help their bottom line, but that $10 million slice of the pie is more critical to their health. Last week: 1-1-1
 
12St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 20
St. Louis Blues (32-28-8)
Say this about them: they're not a hard team to like. Despite a pocket full of excuse notes, they come to the rink every night armed with John Updike's old work ethic and an express ticket to the enemy net. That aggressive, lunch pail style is paying off: 10-4-1 in their last 15. Last week: 3-1
 
13New York Rangers
Last Week: 15
It's as unfair to credit Sean Avery with the turnaround as it was to blame him for the Stars' struggles in Dallas. Still, it's hard to ignore a considerable uptick in the energy level on Broadway, or that Avery has four goals in his last three games. With him on board, the Rangers are 4-2 and look like a much better bet to make the playoffs. Last week: 2-1
 
14Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 11
Getting worried yet? They've lost four of five and are getting knocked around at home. Slow starts are killing them. They've coughed up the first goal in five straight contests and they've been outscored 21-11. This young team may have run out of gas. Last week: 1-2
 
15Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 14
Erik Cole wasn't the only familiar face acquired at the deadline. Looks as though the old Rod Brind'Amour is back in the lineup as well. Finally and maybe fully recovered from knee surgery last March, the captain has his jump back. He put together a four-game goal streak last week after suffering through a staggering 29-game drought. Last week: 1-1-2
 
16Florida Panthers
Last Week: 10
Florida Panthers (34-25-10)
Eight. That's how many points the free-falling Cats have left behind on the shootout table this season. After blowing two-goal leads to Pittsburgh and Tampa, their record fell to a league-worst 3-8 in the skills competition, where they've scored just six times in 31 attempts. Last week: 0-1-2
 
17Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 16
Buffalo Sabres (34-27-8)
Their fans had to see Saturday's shootout loss, in which they gurgled up a 3-1 lead to Atlanta, coming. Real contenders have spent the season kicking sand in the faces of weaklings, but the Sabres have been bullied: 8-8-4 vs. bottom feeders. Last week: 1-1-1
 
18Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 22
Ottawa Senators (28-30-10)
They're a shocking 11-6-3 with Cory Clouston behind the bench, suggesting he won't be wearing the interim tag next season. His tinkering has led to dramatic improvements in the transition game, physical play and, most important, confidence. The Sens came from behind in two of last week's three wins. Last week: 3-1
 
19Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 19
If Bob Gainey's looking for a quick fix before the playoffs, he may want to press his Habs for more personal discipline. Their 10th ranked penalty kill might be more effective if it wasn't so overtaxed. Just four teams have been shorthanded more often than this ref-baiting bunch. Last week: 1-1-1
 
20Dallas Stars
Last Week: 24
Dallas Stars (33-28-8)
They stopped their home losing skid at six with a pair of key victories, but were unable to sustain any momentum as a one-line team. There is some good news, though. Brad Richards, sidelined since Feb. 16 by a broken wrist, could be back before the end of the month to revive the second unit and a feckless power play. Last week: 2-1
 
21Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 21
Anaheim Ducks (32-31-6)
Admit it, Ducks fans. After watching that passionate, two-way performance against the Sharks, you were wondering where this drive and emotion was all season. Throughout this frustrating campaign, there's been a sense that this team had more to give, and that they haven't does not bode well for Randy Carlyle's continued employment. Last week: 1-1
 
22Atlanta Thrashers
Last Week: 26
While the season-high five-game win streak has their fans dreaming of better days ahead, there's a downside. If it goes much longer, it won't just impact Atlanta's draft position, it may also save Don Waddell's job. Is that really what you fans want? Last week: 3-0
 
23Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 18
Edmonton Oilers (32-27-9)
It's not just that they've lost five of their last six, they're being beaten by teams well below them in the standings. If they had less fight in them, they'd have to change their name to the Quakers. Last week: 0-0-3
 
24Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 23
Erik Ersberg hasn't won since Dec. 13. Considering that three months have passed, that's not exactly a resume-enhancing statistic. Still, he served notice with a magnificent 38-save performance vs. the Sharks that he'll battle Jon Quick and Jonathan Bernier for one of two goaltending jobs next season. Last week: 1-1-1
 
25Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 17
Minnesota Wild (32-29-8)
It's one thing to keep things tight with an eye on defensive responsibility, but at some point you have to shoot the puck at the other team's net with the intent of scoring. Their playoff lives on the line, the Wild mustered just 17 shots on the Avs and 22 on the Blues. Why even bother carrying your sticks on the ice, boys? Last week: 0-1-3
 
26Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 25
How's this for a shocker: Brian Burke's new team might finish ahead of his old one. The Leafs continue to scrap and battle for points, winning six of their last 10 to pull within one point of the lame Ducks. Last week: 2-2
 
27New York Islanders
Last Week: 27
They capped their best 10-game stretch of the season (6-2-2) with wins over the Habs and Hawks and a hard-fought 2-1 loss to the B's. Against Chicago, Mark Streit (3-2-5 on the week) broke the 50-point barrier, becoming the first Islander to hit that mark in two years. Somewhere, Mike Bossy quietly weeps. Last week: 2-1-1
 
28Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 29
It's not a big deal that they spent about $20 million on their blueline this season. It's that they spent $20 million on mid-level talents like Scott Hannan, Brett Clark and Ruslan Salei. The sheer mediocrity of that backend contributes mightily to their 26th ranked goals-against. Just think, five of 'em (and $18 million) will be back next season. Last week: 2-2
 
29Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 30
Steven Stamkos doesn't need to check the mail for an invite to the NHL's awards ceremony in Las Vegas, but he can take solace in the way his game is finally hitting its stride. Playing with Martin St. Louis and Ryan Malone, he's potted nine points in his past nine games and has a shot at 20 goals. Last week: 2-0-1
 
30Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 28
Phoenix Coyotes (28-35-6)
At some point, doesn't the Teflon coating start to flake off The Great One? His Yotes have won just four of their last 20, and it's starting to look like they're going to have a whole lot of balls in the John Tavares lottery. So why aren't more people asking if there might not be a better alternative behind the bench in 2009-10? Last week: 0-2-1

Allan Muir's Mailbag
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