Tuesday November 3rd, 2009

Biggest climb: Detroit Red Wings (13 from 22)

Biggest drop: Calgary Flames (14 from 7)

A reminder: these rankings are based on many factors, but none are science. They're heavily influenced by recent play, taking into account expectations versus achievement, quality of opponents, injuries, streaks, lucky bounces, bad breaks, and my uncannily intuitive gut calls on how each team stacks up against the rest of the Original 30. Please note that I, unlike most referees, do not have it in for your team. Also, stats and records noted are through Sunday, so Monday night's action isn't part of the equation.

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
1Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 1
If Sidney Crosby's critics had any ammo left this season, he's emptying their clips fast. You say he doesn't score enough? He's on pace for 50 goals (thanks, in part, to a new composite stick). He's weak in the circle? He's won more draws than anyone. He's soft? His retort to Marek Zidlicky's slash to the ankle: a furious flurry of rights. Sure, he still whines on occasion, but no player works harder to address his flaws than 87. Last week: 2-1
 
2San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 4
No, it's not the playoffs, but their been-there, done-that fans should revel in the hot streak all the same. The Sharks found their groove, winning seven of eight and limiting each of their last four foes to just a goal per game. Makes you wonder just how good this team could be when Joe Pavelski, Torrey Mitchell and Devin Setoguchi return. Last week: 3-0
 
3Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 3
The flu-ridden Sabres relied on their balance to eke out a 3-2 OT win over the amped up Leafs on Friday, but were sapped when they met the Islanders on Saturday. No team has scored more than two goals against Buffalo this season save the Isles who've done it twice. With three full days of rest between games, expect a healthier edition to show up for the rematch on Wednesday. Last week: 2-1
 
4Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 2
No one expected the best start in franchise history, so they probably deserve a little slack after dropping a pair over the weekend. Still, there are signs that their game is slipping, including massive shot disparities in two of their last three. Craig Anderson was the MVP of October, but probably wouldn't mind a little less attention in November. Last week: 2-2
 
5Washington Capitals
Last Week: 5
Blowing leads in the dying minutes to the Isles and Blue Jackets may have been the best thing that could happen. Looks bad on them now, but it could provide Bruce Boudreau with the teachable moments that finally get this frustrating team to focus its own zone. The need for defensive responsibility will only grow now that Alex Ovechkin is out on a week-to-week basis with an upper body injury. Last week: 2-0-2
 
6Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 6
After coughing up five goals in consecutive losses to the Kings and Rangers, they focused on getting their defensive house back in order. The result? Five goals-allowed over the next three games. Jason LaBarbera and Ilya Bryzgalov were keys to the cause, earning first star in each of the wins. Last week: 3-1
 
7New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 9
A disappointing 4-1 home loss to Buffalo was remedied by a return to the road, where they are playing better late than ever. A last-minute goal in Boston and a shootout winner in Tampa ran their away record to 7-0, the second-longest streak to start a season in NHL history. Last week: 2-1
 
8Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 10
Cristobal Huet's doing his part (five goals-allowed in his last four starts). Now the offense is in a funk. Jonathan Toews made the most of his press box stint with his best Lloyd Christmas impression on Friday, but they could really use his lethal touch on a power play that's connected just twice in its last 22 chances. Last week: 2-1
 
9Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 14
Jon Quick was one of the few concerns through October, but he acquitted himself well in his final two starts, limiting the Sharks and Canucks to a goal each in regulation before losing both in the shootout. Could be he's feeling some pressure from behind: top prospect Jonathan Bernier was the AHL's goaltender for October. Last week: 0-0-2
 
10New York Rangers
Last Week: 8
The drought continues for Chris Higgins (14 games), Brandon Dubinsky (seven) and Ryan Callahan (nine), among others, but they still can count on Marian Gaborik. After missing two games, one-legged Gabby returned to provide all the offense needed to beat Boston 1-0. No surprise Henrik Lundqvist took care of the other end: he's now 11-3-2 with four shutouts and a 1.31 GAA in 16 starts against them. Last week: 2-2
 
11Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 11
If the signing of Matt Pettinger didn't clue you in to the extent of their injury woes, Andrew Raycroft starting back-to-back-to-back games had to be a dead giveaway. Razor won't be on the hot seat for long -- Roberto Luongo's expected back on the upcoming five-game road trip -- but he played well in two of his three starts, including a satisfying 3-0 whitewashing of his previous employers, the Avs. Last week: 2-2
 
12Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 13
Sure, those were just the 'Canes they kicked around, but wasn't Saturday's 6-1 win exactly what this team needed? They climbed back over .500 thanks to a pair of confidence-building goals from Braydon Coburn, a deft performance in net from Ray Emery and another solid outing from James van Riemsdyk (10 points in nine games). It was almost enough to help forget that Simon Gagne (hernias, hip) and Danny Briere (groin) are out indefinitely. Last week: 1-1
 
13Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 22
They finished a season-long five-game trip on a high: what may have been their best performance so far in a 3-1 dismissal of Calgary. The swing had its low moments (Valtteri Filppula's broken wrist will test their depth for six-eight weeks), but they seem to be rounding into shape. They outshot foes by a wide margin, a sign they're spending more time in control of the puck and less time chasing it. Last week: 2-0-1
 
14Calgary Flames
Last Week: 7
It's not just that they were soundly outplayed in dropping the last two of a five-game homestand. The losses kneecapped any chance they had at taking momentum into what should be a very challenging November. With 10 of 14 contests on the road, they can't wait much longer for something out of Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen. The slow-starting duo has exasperated the coaching staff with a string of uninspired performances. Last week: 0-2
 
15Dallas Stars
Last Week: 12
Dallas Stars (6-3-5)
They entered the week with as many wins (five) as their three opponents combined. But rather than feasting on Toronto, Florida and Nashville, they needed a few breaks just to come away with three points. The absence of Marty Turco (flu) didn't help, but the defense's inability to outwork the opposition, especially directly in front of Alex Auld, cost what should have been a sweep. Last week: 1-1-1
 
16Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 20
A gentle reminder to the dedicated, if over-exuberant, patrons of the Molson Centre: you might want to hold off on singing Na Na Hey Hey until the Habs have actually, you know, salted away a game. Not that this team has provided many chances to serenade the opposition off the ice. The Canadiens have needed OT or the shootout to capture six of their seven wins. Last week: 2-2
 
17Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 15
They've dropped four of five, and three in a row at home, but the injury-riddled Sens can't be feeling too bad. Rebounding from a soft performance against Tampa Bay, they outplayed Atlanta by a wide margin on Saturday, allowing just eight shots over the final two periods while launching 43 of their own. Last week: 1-2
 
18Atlanta Thrashers
Last Week: 18
They finally broke a disturbing string of flat starts that led to four straight losses, but it took a memorable performance by Ondrej Pavelec to steal a win in Ottawa. The interim No. 1 stopped 50 of 51 shots -- including 24 of 25 in the third -- to lead them to a 3-1 win. Kari Lehtonen will play when he returns (if only to build up his trade value), but Pavelec is making a case as the long-term answer in net. Last week: 1-1
 
19New York Islanders
Last Week: 27
I know I should talk about how they returned to the pack with wins over three elite teams, but I have to tip the cap to Brendan Witt, an increasingly rare player who understands that getting laid out by a clean, heavy hit is part of the game. He was crushed by Adam Mair in the third period of the 5-0 pasting of Buffalo, but instead of demanding a pound of flesh, simply got up and rejoined the play. That's how it should be done. Last week: 3-0-1
 
20Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 16
They've been blanked in three of their last four, but Pat Quinn isn't pointing fingers at the offense. "Our defense sucks right now," the coach said after dropping a 2-0 decision to Boston. He's right -- his team is spending too much time scrambling for control in its own zone, and that's limiting opportunities to create offense. Last week: 1-2
 
21Nashville Predators
Last Week: 26
They finally figured out the age-old secret to scoring: get shots on net from the point and jam the crease with traffic. With that, they're getting results from the power play: at least one goal in each of their last three games. No coincidence that they've won all three. With Jason Arnott returning this week, they might finally have their claws back. Last week: 3-0
 
22Boston Bruins
Last Week: 17
The loss of first-liners Marc Savard and Milan Lucic has finally Annie Wilks-ed the offense. If anything, the three goals in three games last week might be flattering to the prowess of the remaining forwards. With a month to go before either star returns, look for the struggling B's to lock down their own zone and pray for an off-night from the opposing goalie. Last week: 1-2
 
23Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 19
He won't earn a single Hart Trophy vote, but the evidence suggests there may be no player more valuable to his team than Jan Hejda. The Big Plus has been sidelined for eight games and, not coincidentally, the Jackets have surrendered at least four goals in each of their last seven. The good news: Hejda and Mike Commodore may be back for the next contest, Wednesday against the Sharks. Last week: 1-1-1
 
24Florida Panthers
Last Week: 28
It's easy to excuse a loss in the second game of a back-to-back, but make a habit of not showing up -- something they were guilty of in going 0-3 this season -- and it quickly gets in the way of making the playoffs. They finally broke the streak Saturday in St. Louis, whipping the Blues 4-0 on the heels of an impressive 6-5 win in Dallas. Last week: 2-1
 
25St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 21
The Scottrade Center has become a house of horrors for the offensively-challenged Blues. After being thoroughly outplayed by the Panthers 4-0 on Halloween, they have been limited to just seven goals -- and only one win -- in six games at home. Last week: 1-2
 
26Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 23
After capping a four-game losing skid by rolling over for the previously winless Leafs, they finally showed some urgency in taking three points from the Canucks and Coyotes. Both featured comebacks from early deficits, solid play from Jonas Hiller, and the consistent effort that may buy coach Randy Carlyle some time to work on still-spotty execution. Last week: 1-1-1
 
27Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 24
That they've earned 12 points in 11 games is remarkable considering that Vinnie Lecavalier and Alex Tanguay have yet to contribute. While Steven Stamkos, Ryan Malone and Martin St. Louis have carried the offense, the captain has frustrated with his disinterested, perimeter play. It'll be interesting to see how Rick Tocchet handles this. Last week: 1-0-1
 
28Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 25
Hard to say what was more satisfying last week: earning their first road win -- in Pittsburgh on Saturday -- or hearing Marian Gaborik's name announced as a scratch before beating the Rangers at home on Friday. That 3-2 win gave fans a glimpse of how well Todd Richards' hockey can work, with plenty of shots (32) and even more hits (37). Last week: 2-2
 
29Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 20
Losing four of five on the road is anything but pretty, but they might have a bit of color in their season after all. They finally won their first game, in Anaheim, and earned points in four straight. They showed the ability to mount a comeback, the power play is clicking, and Tomas Kaberle scored 13 points on the trip. The news gets better: Phil Kessel is expected to return this week. Last week: 1-0-3
 
30Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 29
After losing three more (by a combined 16-4) to run the franchise record to nine straight, don't be surprised to see a passenger or two rescued off the Carolina failboat. It's past the point of tinkering with lines and unlikely Paul Maurice will be cashiered so quickly after leading them to the Eastern final. Look for GM Jim Rutherford to make a deal this week (Ray Whitney? Chad LaRose?) in an effort to shake things up. Last week: 0-3

Allan Muir's Mailbag
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