Tuesday March 10th, 2009

Biggest climb: Pittsburgh Penguins (15 to 9), New York Rangers (21 to 15)

Biggest fall: Montreal Canadiens (12 to 19)

A reminder: these rankings are based mainly on quality of play (with 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
When a team is on an 18-5 tear since Jan. 1, it's probably best not to get too worked up about a 7-3 loss, even if it was to the Isles. Instead, take a moment to bask in the career glories of Martin Brodeur, who has been on the winning end of 27 career 1-0 shutouts. Kinda makes that half-dozen he gave up on Saturday a little more forgivable, doesn't it? Last week: 1-1
 
2Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 6
With a 12-2 mark since the beginning of February, and a convincing win over the Sharks on Saturday, it's time to accept that the Canucks are more then just a team on a hot streak. Watching how much time they spent camped in San Jose's end illustrates how far they've moved beyond relying on Roberto Luongo to be their savior. Last week: 2-0
 
3Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 5
Despite watching their team blistered for eight goals twice in eight days -- by Nashville and Columbus, neither of which should be confused with the '83-84 Oilers -- there remains a large segment of Detroit fans who think the postseason will cure their defensive blues. Probably the same folks who expect the auto industry to turn around any day now. Last week: 2-1
 
4Boston Bruins
Last Week: 4
Boston Bruins (43-15-9)
Early in the season, Claude Julien was a favorite for the Jack Adams. Now let's see him earn it. Their transition game in shambles, they've won just four of their last 14 games. Another problem: Manny Fernandez, who looked soft in giving up four to the Rangers. If Boston did try to deal him at the deadline, its no wonder there weren't any takers. Last week: 1-3
 
5San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 2
San Jose Sharks (42-12-10)
Todd McLellan says he isn't concerned about losing four straight. He might want to take a look at the bigger picture. Since Jan. 1, the Sharks are 14-8-5 -- essentially one game over .500. The forwards aren't going hard to the net like they were in the early going, and that's taken a big bite out of their offense. Last week: 0-2-1
 
6Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 8
Questions linger about the back end after a quiet deadline day, but you can't argue with the well-balanced offense. Joffrey Lupul scored his 20th of the season, against the Preds on Saturday, making him the league-leading sixth Flyer to hit that mark. Last week: 2-1
 
7Washington Capitals
Last Week: 3
They're playing like a team determined to back into the three seed: losing four straight at home thanks to a sputtering offense that's provided just eight goals in that stretch. One bright note: Alex Semin is finally matching his offensive brilliance with superb defensive effort (six takes against the Pens on Sunday). Last week: 0-2-1
 
8Calgary Flames
Last Week: 7
Calgary Flames (39-21-6)
Maybe it was all the excitement generated by new arrivals Olli Jokinen and Jordan Leopold, but the Flames looked last week like a team that forgot about the basics of defensive zone coverage. Coughing up 11 goals to Carolina and Atlanta suggests a refresher course is in order. You're up, Professor Keenan. Last week: 2-2
 
9Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 15
They're now 8-1-1 under Dan Byslma, a streak that includes the first 5-0 road trip in franchise history. They'll play nine of their next 10 at the Igloo, which should give the new top line of Sidney Crosby, Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz some time to gel. Last week: 3-0
 
10Florida Panthers
Last Week: 10
Winning three of four propelled the Cats into the thick of the playoff race. Injuries might drag them back out. Nathan Horton is sidelined two-to-four weeks after surgery on a broken finger. Bryan McCabe is out indefinitely with facial fractures. That puts more pressure on the disappointing Stephen Weiss and the overworked Jay Bouwmeester. Last week: 2-1
 
11Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 9
Plenty of blame to go around after they dropped a pair of weekend matinees (making it five losses in their last seven), but Brian Campbell deserves a second helping. His -6 rating against Boston and Colorado was flattering. He's not just making mistakes. He looks scared of contact. Last week: 1-2
 
12Nashville Predators
Last Week: 11
The well finally ran dry for the surging Preds, but Saturday's loss to the Flyers couldn't take the shine off their season-high six-game win streak that vaulted them into the playoff race. The hot stretch also focused some attention on Pekka Rinne, who's putting up Calder-worthy numbers between the pipes. Last week: 2-1
 
13Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 13
There was a time -- well, honestly, any of the franchise's first seven years -- when going all Mr. Blonde on Detroit would have been the highlight of the Jackets' season. These days, an 8-2 carving of the Wings is worth a few grins, but the two points that keep them in the middle of the playoff race are even nicer. Last week: 2-1
 
14Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 18
If only the stock market paid this kind of dividend. Two games into the Erik Cole Era, Part Deux, the Canes have ripped the opposition for 15 goals and two key wins. In what may be the best reunion since Peaches and Herb, Cole and linemate Eric Staal have combined for 13 points. Last week: 3-0
 
15New York Rangers
Last Week: 21
Five games is an awfully small slice of season, but it might be long enough to showcase a team that's turned the corner. It's 3-1-1 under John Tortorella, thanks to a more aggressive attacking style and a power play that's connected five times in its last 20 chances. Last week: 2-0
 
16Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 20
Buffalo Sabres (33-26-7)
Come on, you didn't really expect Patrick Lalime to keep playing that well, did you? After giving up a single goal in back-to-back wins over the Habs and Coyotes, he reminded everyone why he's employed as Ryan Miller's backup: six goals-allowed to the lightweight Sens. Last week: 2-1
 
17Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 19
Minnesota Wild (32-28-5)
After personally costing them two points with an Osgoodian effort in L.A., Niklas Backstrom wrote a check his butt could cash with a memorable 36-save performance against the Ducks. The newly re-signed goalie now is 4-0-1 with a .942 save percentage in games played after being pulled. Last week: 2-2
 
18Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 17
Edmonton Oilers (32-27-6)
If they expect to mount a legit playoff challenge, they're gonna have to string together two wins in row -- something they haven't done in three weeks. With four of their next five against bottom feeders, the time to do it is now. Last week: 1-2-1
 
19Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 12
Bob Gainey's a nice guy, so maybe he waited to can Guy Carbonneau until after the coach had visited his grandkids in Dallas. Or maybe he decided to pull the trigger after watching the Habs lay down during an embarrassingly one-sided first period. Either way, their win over the Stars couldn't save Carbonneau's job or mask a team that needs a good swift kick in le pants. Last week: 1-2
 
20St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 14
St. Louis Blues (29-28-8)
After giving up a single goal in five straight to finish February, the injury-riddled defense finally cracked in March, giving up 13 in their last three games. Lack of discipline didn't help. They took six straight minors in a 5-0 loss to Detroit. Last week: 1-2
 
21Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 16
Anaheim Ducks (31-30-6)
It's hard to stay afloat when you keep filling your own feet with lead. When the Wild's Stephane Veillieux banged home a rebound 1:08 into Sunday's contest, it marked the third straight game the Ducks had spotted the opposition a goal within the first two minutes. No surprise that they lost all three, pretty much assuring their playoff irrelevancy. Last week: 0-2-1
 
22Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 22
Ottawa Senators (25-29-10)
Bryan Murray had a busy week re-signing Filip Kuba and dealing Antoine Vermette for Pascal Leclaire. It's almost enough to make you overlook the signing of undrafted defender Craig Schira. Never heard of him? Don't worry. No one had heard of Chris Kunitz or Dustin Penner when Murray plucked them out of free agent obscurity, either. Last week: 2-1
 
23Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 23
Forget American Idol. The best way to catch a break in Hollywood is to be the second-best goalie on the Kings. Then again, former backup J-S Aubin was dumped to the minors shortly after appearing in a memorable AMP Energy ad. Will current No, 2 Erik Ersberg's new spot for DirecTV curse him to a life riding the buses? Last week: 2-1
 
24Dallas Stars
Last Week: 26
Dallas Stars (31-27-8)
They'd probably rather focus on a West Coast swing that saw them snatch five of six points, but Sunday's loss to the Habs made it six straight defeats at home, tying a franchise record. If they fall short in the West, that stretch -- characterized by an impotent power play and some sketchy goaltending -- will tell the tale. Last week: 2-1-1
 
25Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 24
You have to feel for hard luck rearguard Mike Van Ryn, whose season was cut short at 27 games after he got tangled with Marc Pouliot in Saturday's loss to Edmonton. This season's chart shows two concussions, a broken hand, a nasty cut to the face and what now looks like his second round of knee surgery. Last week: 1-1-1
 
26Atlanta Thrashers
Last Week: 25
The spoiler role seems to fit just fine?which has to leave their long-sufering fans wondering where this level of effort and execution was when the season still hung in the balance back in, say, January. Last week: 2-1
 
27New York Islanders
Last Week: 30
They're playing with house money now, so of course they're finally doing well enough to give away the first overall pick. Their four-out-of-five hot streak may cost them the best shot at John Tavares, who set the OHL record for career goals (215) with a hat trick Sunday night. Last week: 3-1
 
28Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 28
Phoenix Coyotes (28-33-5)
A productive deadline day for Don Maloney will look even better if he manages to get Scottie Upshall's name on a contract. The former Flyer has two goals in his first three games with the Yotes, a significant contribution considering they've scored just five in that span. Last week: 1-2
 
29Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 27
Their 5-1 waxing of the stumbling Hawks broke a six-game losing streak, but from the tone of the postgame interviews, you'd have thought this one put the Avs back in the race. After losing 17 of 23, they're not fooling anyone. At this point, it's better to admit you're playing for pride . . . or your job next season. Last week: 1-2
 
30Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 29
They'd prefer to point out the strong play of Steven Stamkos (seven goals, 10 points in his last 10 games), but it's impossible to ignore their graceless mishandling of respected veteran Gary Roberts. With that stain on their record, Tampa becomes an even less desirable destination for free agents this summer. Last week: 0-2-1

Allan Muir's Mailbag
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