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Rangers are still riding high

Don't know bout y'all, but my TV set is going to be ready when the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins -- our 1-2 teams in the Power Rankings for the second straight week -- do battle on Saturday afternoon, January 21. Then let's see who's best, at least for now. In the meantime, the Blueshirts retain the top spot thanks to more solid play at home and on the road.

A DISCLAIMER (of sorts): These rankings are based not just on each team's record at the moment, but an empirically tested formula that includes a) realistic near-term future expectations; b) consensus talent level and payroll considerations and; c) whatever the Magic 8-Ball I've had since I was seven years old tells me will happen. One more thing: Rest assured, I don't have it in for your team. OK, so I once hated the Philadelphia Flyers with a passion bordering on the psychotic, but that was 30-something years ago and Dave Schultz has long since retired. I welcome your emails to the link attached to my name above, and I always respond -- even to the ones that start with "Dear Idiot."

Without further ado, your 1-30 rankings for the week ending Jan. 9:

NHL Power Rankings
1New York Rangers
Last Week: 1
The Blueshirts don't exactly blow you away. They don't win 9-0 games like the Bruins. Half the guys on this team, you've never heard of unless you're a diehard. You feel a bit unsure putting them at No. 1. But look, they are 9-1-0 in their last 10 and have a plus-34 goal differential and the most points in the league. They don't seem like a fluke anymore. They deserve this spot. Oh, and John Tortorella is insane -- in a good way. He pulled his team off the practice ice on Monday when they weren't showing enough passion for his satisfaction. This guy wants it. Last week: 2-0-0
 
2Boston Bruins
Last Week: 2
Boston Bruins (26-11-1)
Not only did they lose that epic game to Vancouver on Saturday, Brad Marchand lost some respect around the league with a low-bridge hit on Sami Salo that got him a five-game suspension. Marchand plays on the edge, and this is hockey, so stuff happens. But that hit seemed to bring bad karma for his team that day, and his absence will hurt. Marchand went Zapruder Film and parsed the tape of his hit, saying he didn't clip Salo but was actually trying to protect himself. Nice try. Last week: 2-1-0
 
3Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 4
First, their 4-3 win over Boston wasn't "revenge" for losing the Stanley Cup, as many Canucks followers wanted to call it, but it had to feel good nonetheless. The much bigger aspect was Vancouver's stand-up-and-fight attitude toward the Big, Bad Bs. Everybody saw Boston bully the Canucks physically in last spring's final. If the Canucks had showed the kind of fight then as they did Saturday, they would probably be the ones wearing rings. Last week: 2-1-0
 
4Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 5
They're still the team to beat in the Central, but need to improve their road performance (11-12-0), but remain a superb team. They beat much-improved St. Louis twice recently, and got a great comeback OT win at Chicago Sunday night. Henrik Zetterberg is getting his game back together (seven points in his last four games) and Nick Lidstrom never grows old. He's the Ponce de Leon of hockey. Last week: 2-1-0
 
5St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 7
St. Louis Blues (24-12-5)
They might have played the perfect game on Saturday night against Colorado: a 4-0 triumph in which the Avs outshot them 39-15. "They're the best team we've faced all year, at least me personally," Avs winger TJ Galiardi said afterward. The big is who will be the Blues' playoff goalie -- and they will make the playoffs. It'll probably come down to who is hottor, Brian Elliott or Jaroslav Halak. If the Blues keep playing the way they have defensively (tied with San Jose for fewest goals allowed in the West), neither netminder will have to be great for this team to succeed in the springtime. Last week: 3-0-0
 
6San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 8
San Jose Sharks (23-11-4)
Entering the week, they still had games in hand over most teams, but still haven't quite gotten it together yet, but their hanging in is a testament to the talent they have on hand/ Patrick Marleau has points in 10 of his last 11 games and is getting close to 400 career goals. Pretty impressive, considering that he's only 32. Last week: 3-0-0
 
7Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 6
Yeah, losing the Winter Classic at home was a bummer, but they followed it up with a clutch win over the Blackhawks. The question, as always, is what is going on with their goaltending. Nobody has any real confidence that Sergei Bobrovsky is the long term answer, but Ilya "Mr. Universe" Bryzgalov (3.07 GAA, .891 saves percentage)just hasn't gained the confidence of coach Peter Laviolette. With that fat nine-year, $51 million contract hanging over Bryzgalov's noggin, the pressure is building to prove he was worth it. Last week: 2-1-0
 
8Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 3
Problems remain with their defense and goaltending. Corey Crawford can't seem to get his game together, and Ray Emery has looked shaky in his last couple of outings. Top defenders Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have played well, but the bottom four has been inconsistent in their own end. "A defense-first mentality is what we need," coach Joel Quenneville said Monday. And now forward Patrick Sharp, who's scored 20 goals, is out 3-4 weeks with a broken left wrist. Time for guys like Patrick Kane (only 10) to pick up the slack. Last week: 0-2-1
 
9Nashville Predators
Last Week: 10
Shea Weber is back from his concussion, which is essential if the Predators are to make a second-half push. These guys have managed to hang around in the top eight of the West despite the occasional off-night from goalie Pekka Rinne and the lack of a marquee goal scorer. Last week: 1-1-1
 
10Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 11
They improved to 6-1-3 under new coach Darryl Sutter with Monday's impressive win over Washington and finally won a game in which they didn't have to get headstand goaltending. Even Dustin "Pancake Man" Penner got a point. It will be interesting to see the reaction of the fans in Calgary when Sutter is introduced Saturday night at the Saddledome. Last week: 2-1-0
 
11New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 9
It's been quite the impressive turnaround for what looked like a passionless bunch during much of the early going. Captain Zach Parise has been the catalyst, with points in five of his last six games. A potential unrestricted free agent, he has quite a spring ahead of him. "The money is definitely important," he told the Newark Star-Ledger. "That's real life, let's face it. I'm not going to say it's not. That's realistic. But most important for me is being competitive and having a chance to win the Stanley Cup. Last week: 2-1-1
 
12Florida Panthers
Last Week: 15
They got a big, much-needed win on Monday night against the red-hot Canucks. Their offense has cooled somewhat after a torrid start, so it will be important to take more of those 2-1 types of matches. Center Tomas Kopecky, who hadn't been playing very well during the last month, got a nice assist on Marcel Goc's game-winner. Maybe it will get him going. Kopecky needs to have a better second half if Florida is to finally make the postseason. Last week: 1-1-1
 
13Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 16
Ottawa Senators (22-15-6)
What happened to another year of suffering? These guys were supposed to still be awful, get another top draft pick and keep rebuilding. Suddenly, they're fifth in the Eastern Conference. Goalie Craig Anderson has grabbed the Sens at least a point in each of his last six starts. I tell you, a hot goalie can spoil a rebuild year every time. Last week: 2-0-1
 
14Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 20
Though his nickmame "The Monster" remains unwarranted at the NHL level, Jonas Gustavsson has won his last three starts and is finally starting to play consistently, and that is terrific news indeed for coach Ron Wilson. James Reimer, last year's rookie phenom, just hasn't cut it this season, so quality play from Gustavsson is a must. Phil Kessel is heating up again too: a goal in each of his last four games. Last week: 3-0-0
 
15Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 12
One night after shutting out the Blackhawks 4-0 at Chicago's United Center, the Avs were totally dominated at St. Louis. Overall, though, these guys are 9-2 in their last 11. Goalie Semyon Varlamov has quietly gotten his stats back to respectable levels, although he remains in a platoon with veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere. With Matt Duchene (knee) out for another few weeks, Paul Stastny (no goals in his last eight games) needs to wake up. Last week: 1-1-0
 
16Dallas Stars
Last Week: 19
Dallas Stars (23-16-1)
Center Mike Ribeiro (knee) won't play Tuesday in Anaheim. Thankfully for the Stars, his injury doesn't appear to be serious and he could return for their next game, at Los Angeles. Ribeiro scored two goals in each of his previous two outings, so losing him for any length of time would be horrible news for Dallas. Last week: 2-1-0
 
17Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 14
The injuries just keep piling up and the Pens sit in eighth place in the East entering Monday. The loss of Jordan Staal (sprained MCL) certainly won't make getting back on track easier. There remains a news blackout on Sidney Crosby, and the absence of defender Kris Letang (concussion) is a killer. Right now, things look bleak for the second half. Will these guys even make the playoffs? Last week: 0-2-0
 
18Winnipeg Jets
Last Week: 13
Winnipeg Jets (20-16-5)
After a couple of lopsided losses to Toronto and Montreal, they got a good OT win over Buffalo and remain in the playoff hunt. That's a strong credit to coach Claude Noel, whose team had a road-heavy early schedule and didn't look prepared for it. You can't say that anymore. The Stanley Cup is still a bit much to expect, though. Last week: 1-2-0
 
19Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 18
Minnesota Wild (21-15-6)
The wheels are coming off. A team that played over its head while reaching the top of the standings has lost three straight and nine of its last 10 games. Center Matt Cullen (click on the bolded names), a Tim Curry lookalike, got off to a strong start like a lot of Wild players, but has scored only two goals in his last 23 games. Last week: 0-2-0
 
20Washington Capitals
Last Week: 17
Two utterly dismal West Coast losses stopped any momentum they had going. Of course, losing Nicklas Backstrom (concussion) and Mike Green (groin) didn't make things easier. Even with Green, their defense just isn't good enough, Without him, it's flat out bad. Last week: 1-2-0
 
21Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 21
Phoenix Coyotes (20-17-5)
It was nice to see captain and good citizen Shane Doan get the first hat trick of his 16-year NHL career on Saturday night in Glendale against the Islanders. Now comes a very tough five-game trip that includes Tuesday's visit to Madison Square Garden and the Rangers. The Coyotes are a tough out on the road, though (12-9-2), so nobody should kick back and relax at home when they come visiting. Last week: 1-1-1
 
22Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 24
Buffalo Sabres (18-18-5)
Let's just call it like it is here. These guys are the most underachieving team in the league so far (2-6-2 in their last 10, 11th in the East), and things better pick up real fast before there is a major shuffling of the deck. They've got some injuries, yeah, but it's the same of everyone else. This is what Terry Pegula gets for all the offseason millions he spent? Last week: 1-1-1
 
23Calgary Flames
Last Week: 22
Calgary Flames (19-19-5)
A dismal eastern road trip sank them back into the west's second division. It included that humiliating 9-0 loss in Boston that saw Rene Bourque suspended five games for a dirty elbow (that he threw, not one he failed to wash). Right now, these guys just seem too much like the Flames of the last two years: up and down, not quite good enough to make a consistent playoff run. Last week: 1-2-0
 
24Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 28
They're on a 3-7-0 skid, but have actually won their last two games, and Les Habitants still have Carey Price in goal, which means that a five-game win streak is potentially always around the corner of Rue St. Antoine and Rue de la Montagne. The return of Brian Gionta from a month-long injury offers more hope that the season can be salvaged. More likely, this ship will sink without all hands getting things together, and fast. Last week: 2-0-0
 
25Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 23
GM Steve Yzerman was seen at a Minnesota game last week, causing much speculation that he was scouting one of the Wild's goalies. He emerged saying, hey, "nobody's going to give us a goalie" and warning that there would be a big price tag attached to one. So the Bolts keep going with what they have, which hasn't been much this season. Last week: 0-3-0
 
26Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 25
Edmonton Oilers (16-22-3)
All their promise early on just seems like a quaint memory now. Calder front-runner Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is our 3-4 weeks with a shoulder injury and Jordan Eberle is down with a bad right knee. The playoffs almost certainly will have to wait another year for some Oil. Last week: 0-3-0
 
27Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 30
Anaheim Ducks (12-22-6)
Bruce Boudreau's club strung a couple of wins together last week, something it hadn't done in weeks, but there's still a steep spring mountain ahead of it, and hanging over this team is GM Bob Murray's threat to trade everyone on the roster except grand geezers Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. Last week: 2-1-0
 
28New York Islanders
Last Week: 26
John Tavares is again consistently putting up points -- five straight games, including a three-assist outing at Carolina last week -- and sparking a respectable power play (fifth in the league). But shaky goaltending continues to be a problem as the Isles blew one to the wobbly Ducks in Anaheim last Friday and got clawed by the Coyotes in Phoenix, 5-1, on Saturday. On the bright side, netminder Al Montoya (concussion) has returned to practice, but it's likely too little too late to stop another trip to Lotteryville. Last week: 1-2-0
 
29Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 27
Same old same old in Raleigh. The 'Canes just can't get on any kind of roll and aren't being helped by their top forward Eric Staal, who is having a dismal season. While he finally hit the 10-goal mark, he's minus-23. He would be right up there in a contest for the title of most disappointing player of the half season. Last week: 1-1-1
 
30Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 29
Well, nobody has Scott Arniel to kick around anymore. The coach was given his hiking papers this week, and former Wild coach Todd Richards will step in. Meanwhile, trade rumors swirl about Rick Nash and Jeff Carter. It all remains, in other words, one big hot mess in C-Bus. Last week: 1-2-0
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