Wednesday January 5th, 2011

NOTE; All records and stats are through games of Monday, Jan. 3

NHL Power Rankings
1Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 4
With runs of 8-0-1 and 15-1-2, they are the first Canadian team to lead the NHL standings at this point in the season since the Senators in 2006. Included in their stellar week was Vancouver's first win at home against Philadelphia since 1989. "That was a big test for us," said Roberto Luongo, who made 35 saves. "We're measuring ourselves against the best right now." Last week: 4-0-0
2Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 1
Before their loss to the Caps in the Winter Classic, Sidney Crosby's streak of points in consecutive games ended at 25 against the resurgent Islanders. The Kid had amassed 26 goals and 24 assists since Nov. 5. "Now he can start a new one," said coach Dan Bylsma. "Or at least now we can just watch him without thinking about a streak." Last week: 1-1-1
3Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 2
Still adjusting to life without Chris Pronger, they've lost three of their last five, including a rare defeat in Vancouver (albeit to a tough foe), but they also finally won in Detroit, where they had been 0-14-2 at Joe Louis Arena since 1988. Coach Peter Laviolette says he never mentioned that slump to his team."Different players here, everything. Doesn't make sense bringing it up because you can't do anything about it." Except play better defensively, which these Flyers did. Last week: 2-2-0
4Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 3
They're finding ways to win without injured forwards Dan Cleary and Pavel Datsyuk. With a hat trick against Dallas, support player Patrick Eaves upped his total to 11, his most since he scored 20 as a rookie with Ottawa in 2005-06. "The puck feels good on my stick," Eaves said. "It's fun right now." So much for fun. Eaves went down with an elbow injury and missed the rest of the week. Last week: 1-1-1
5Washington Capitals
Last Week: 5
Since their 7-0 thrashing in New York, the more defense-minded Caps have allowed just 13 goals in eight games. They also got some help from the rain and bad ice in the Winter Classic that enabled role players such as Eric Fehr, who scored twice, to take center stage in a grinding 3-1 win over the rival Penguins. "It was one of the best experiences of my life," said Alex Ovechkin, who had a another quiet night on the scoresheet. "It's the kind of thing you want to do all the time, go out and play like this." Last week: 2-0-0
6Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 6
Who are these guys? On a night when recent call-up Cedrick Desjardins improved to 2-0 in goal, coach Guy Boucher started overtime against the Rangers by putting Nate Thompson and Dana Tyrell on the ice instead of his known snipers. It took Thompson 19 seconds to reward Boucher with a winner. "These are emotional buildup moments that are important in a season," Boucher said shortly before his team acquired veteran Dwayne Roloson and sent Desjardins back down. Last week: 2-1-0
7Boston Bruins
Last Week: 9
Boston Bruins (21-11-6)
Give Claude Julien points for patience. Despite five scoreless games from his new line of Milan Lucic, Marc Savard and Nathan Horton, he kept the trio together and got Savard's decisive go-ahead goal in a 2-1 win at Toronto. "We've been feeling stronger the last couple games," Savard said. "That's just the character we have, the three of us. We stuck together." Last week: 2-0-2
8Dallas Stars
Last Week: 7
Dallas Stars (23-13-4)
Figure this: after rallying from 2-1 down in St. Louis, they'd tallied five straight road wins, but are 0-3-1 in last four home games. "A win is a win," said captain Brendan Morrow, "but the way we're doing it gives us a lot of confidence. It means we're not panicking when we get down or when we're away from home." Does this mean they only suffer panic attacks at home? Last week: 2-2-0
9St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 10
St. Louis Blues (20-13-5)
They're getting healthy and returning to their early season form. And say this for coach Davis Payne: he has faith in his players. Backup goalie Ty Conklin got lit up for seven goals against the Hawks last month, but Payne started him against them last week and Conklin made 25 saves in a 3-1 win. Last week: 2-1-0
10Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 18
Anaheim Ducks (21-17-4)
Before their game in Phoenix, coach Randy Carlyle held separate one-on-one meetings with his players. "We talked about some of the things we thought were grieving them and some of the things they thought were grieving us," Carlyle said after the Ducks' 3-1 triumph. "We felt better today. Obviously the coaching staff makes the final decisions, but it doesn't hurt to get some feedback." Or some tenacious D. Goalie Jonas Hiller stopped 105 of the next 109 shots he faced, and a three-game win streak was born. Last week: 3-0-0
11New York Rangers
Last Week: 13
Rallying to grab a point from a 2-1 OT loss to Tampa Bay, Marian Gaborik tied the game with 45.6 seconds to play after scoring only twice in his previous 10 matches. "Hopefully, that will help with his confidence," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "He's an important guy and we're going to need him as this gets tougher in the second half of the year." Unfortunately, the jolt didn't last long as the Blueshirts were blanked 3-0 by Florida the next night, their first loss in the second of back-to-back games this season. They'd been 9-0 in such matches. Last week: 1-1-1
12Atlanta Thrashers
Last Week: 15
Their 0-3-1 skid vanished in the rearview mirror during a notable week for Ondrej Pavelec, who beat Boston, 3-2, for his first career shootout win after seven losses. His .546 save percentage had ranked last among the 50 goalies who'd played in at least one skills competition. Two nights later against Montreal, he came up with 47 saves in OT win over Montreal decided by Dustin Byfuglien's goal. "He's great every night," Byfuglien said. "Our team's all about having fun, working hard and playing together. We've been doing all right this year." Last week: 2-2-0
13Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 11
A bit of a slide highlighted by blowing a three-goal lead to the Oilers before scratching out a 4-3 shootout win. Two losses followed, including one in which they were limited by the Canucks to five shots on six power plays, extending their man-advantage slump to 0-for-14 over four games and reducing their record vs. division foes to 3-7-1. Last week: 1-2-0
14San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 12
San Jose Sharks (21-14-5)
After allowing a total of seven goals, many from close range, in two miserable third periods, captain Jumbo Joe Thornton weighed in: "It's ridiculous now. That's not how you're going to win games and win the postseason. We need to be much more authoritative. We have some big bodies. We have some people that have played there for many years." That may be the problem. Another ominous sign: the Canucks bagged their first win in San Jose since April 2007. Last week: 2-2-0
15Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 8
Streakier than a cut-rate window washer, they caused their coach to wonder about their compete level after a 1-0 loss to San Jose during a winless week. Not long ago, these guys were on a four-game roll after pulling out of a four-game skid in late November. "We can pull together a string of shifts where we can dominate any team in the league," lamented Anze Kopitar. "But for some reason, we let up. Sometimes we try to do too much and don't do the right things, and that burns us every time." Last week: 0-4-0
16Nashville Predators
Last Week: 17
They continued their mastery of the Blue Jackets, beating them for the 15th straight time at home, 4-1, thanks to three points from defenseman Shea Weber, and may have generated some momentum with their second win after a recent five-game losing skid. But against Columbus, they lost center Cal O'Reilly, who suffered a broken right fibula after he freakily fell without contact. Last week: 2-1-0
17Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 14
When the going gets tough... After Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa came back from injury, captain Jonathan Toews went down with a shoulder injury that was supposed to keep him out of the lineup from two to four weeks. He returned after missing just two games, recording a goal and an assist in a win against L.A. that snapped a three-game skid. Such heroics will be necessary for keeping the Hawks in the West's tight playoff picture. Last week: 1-3-0
18Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 25
In one of their better weeks, they earned seven points out of eight while outscoring foes, 18-9. Cam Ward hung a 37-saves shutout on Ottawa and the 'Canes chased poor Devil Marty Brodeur with three goals in eight minutes. But Coach Paul Maurice may actually have liked best the OT loss to Florida, in which his team rallied from 3-1 down in the third to take a point. "I liked that we're starting to show some fight," he said. Last week: 3-0-1
19Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 16
The strong early start that put them near the top of the league has gone poof and one telling sign is that the Habs recently named goalie Carey Price as their player of the month for December. His numbers: 2-7-1 with an .870 save percentage over his last 10 games. Oy, how wretched were the rest of these guys? Last week: 1-2-1
20Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 21
After winning three straight, they began a four-game trip with a sloppy 4-1 loss in Nashville that typified their season of promise and self-destruction. "In the first period, we got pucks in, got after them, and forced them to turn pucks over," Columbus coach Scott Arniel groused. "Then in the second, we let them do the same thing. Once the first couple went in for them, it was scramble mode for us." Last week: 2-1-0
21Minnesota Wild
Last Week:
Let's just say they have a flair for the dramatic. After both teams generously blew a pair of leads, Pierre-Marc Bouchard tied the game with 26 seconds left and Cam Barker beat the Coyotes 46 ticks into the extra session. "The game was like a movie," coach Todd Richards noted. "It had drama, at times it was a comedy, at times it was a horror, but it had a great ending." It remains to be seen, of course, if the same will be said for this team's season. Last week: 2-1-0
22Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 19
Phoenix Coyotes (17-13-8)
They celebrated their arena's lease approval by offering $1 drinks and hot dogs to fans with a promise that the franchise will build with an optimistic eye to the future. They backed up their largesse in rousing fashion by scoring a season-high six goals to beat the reeling Kings. "We don't have the most skilled group and it's got to be 60 minutes of work to win a game," said Scottie Upshall, who had a three-point night after being blanked for 10 straight games. "Everyone has to pull their weight." Last week: 1-2-1
23Calgary Flames
Last Week: 23
Calgary Flames (18-19-3)
Before their loss to the once-lowly Isles, they'd managed a season-high four straight wins, thanks largely to the improved work of support players. Enterprising fourth-liners Tim Jackman and Tom Kostopoulos scored in a 3-2 win against Colorado. "It's an energy line that works and competes hard," coach Brent Sutter observed. "They play the way we want them to play and they were rewarded for it." Last week: 2-1-0
24Florida Panthers
Last Week: 24
Coming off a tidy 3-0 whitewash of the Blueshirts, they went into RBC Center, where they were 5-25-2 lifetime, and beat Carolina, 4-3 in OT. More important, the victory gave these Cats a winning record for the first time this season. "We were wondering before the game, when was the last time the Panthers were above .500?" said Bryan Allen, who scored the winner 1:16 into the extra frame. "It's good. We're starting to chip away." Last week: 2-0-1
25Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 27
Buffalo Sabres (16-18-4)
Ryan Miller finally picked up his 200th career win in his third try, stopping Edmonton, 4-2. Three nights later, he and counterpart Tim Thomas weathered a blizzard of rubber as the Sabres overcame a 4-2 deficit to beat division-leading Boston, 7-6, in a game that saw seven goals in the first period. "You don't want to fold up when you're down, said Drew Stafford, who produced his second hat trick in eight games. "It's not in your game plan." A good idea, since Buffalo has some leapfrogging to do to get back into an Eastern playoff spot. Last week: 2-0-0
26New York Islanders
Last Week: 29
Quick, break up the Islanders! Who woulda thunk that a team on pace for record futility would beat the Penguins and Red Wings in the same week? "Things are starting to pay off," said John Tavares, who enjoyed a three-point game in a win against Calgary. "We're starting to find that chemistry. We're just outworking other teams." For some odd reason, shedding veterans (James Wisniewski, Dwayne Roloson) seems to be helping. Last week: 3-0-0
27Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 20
Ottawa Senators (16-19-5)
Outscored 13-4 for the week, they received a boo bird serenade as they departed the ice after a 5-1 loss to the lowly Leafs. "I can't blame the fans," said captain Daniel Alfredsson. "Nobody likes to see a team respond like that. We're not giving them anything to cheer about, so what would you expect them to do?" Fire the coach, perhaps? Cory Clouston is the subject of robust hotseat rumors. Last week: 0-2-1
28Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 26
Only a visit to the gracious Senators salvaged a week that featured three more losses. The Leaf fell to Carolina, Boston and Columbus. After the particularly ugly 3-2 loss to the Jackets, coach Ron Wilson groaned, "All three of their goals were our giveaways. Our D misread rushes, mishandled pucks. It was rough." No kidding. Last week: 1-3-0
29Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 28
Edmonton Oilers (12-18-7)
The talent is there, but so are the growing pains and bruises. After droppinng their 10th of 11 contests against those powerhouse Flames, center Sam Gagner summed up his young team's woes: "We feel like we're prepared. We're working hard at practice, making sure we have good habits. For whatever reason, when the game starts, we're a little tentative and not really ready for the physicality." Last week: 0-2-1
30New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 30
They seemed to wake up, at least momentarily, against Atlanta when Johan Hedberg, making his first start since Dec. 6, made 28 saves in a 3-1 win. "It's like my first win ever," said jubilant coach Jacques Lemaire, who had been 0-6 since taking over from the pink-slipped John MacLean. Alas, the Devils closed the week with a familiar result, losing 6-3 in Carolina as fading Martin Brodeur was yanked after allowing three goals in eight minutes. It was their tenth straight road loss. Last week: 1-2-0

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