Scott Wraight
Tuesday November 11th, 2008

Biggest Climb: Vancouver (24 to 14)
Biggest Fall: Calgary (10 to 17)

A reminder: these rankings are based mainly on quality of play (with an emphasis on recent games), overall record and my gut instinct. Heck, if I went strictly off record, these would be no different than the standings. Also: statistics and records are through Sunday's games.

Note: Want to send me a comment about the rankings? Scroll to the bottom of this page for my Mailbag.

NHL Power Rankings
1PRs
Last Week: 1
Despite Sunday's setback at Phoenix, the Sharks are still head and shoulders above everyone else. Period. In addition to a nine-game unbeaten streak at the Shark Tank -- with impressive wins over Pittsburgh, Detroit, Minnesota and Dallas -- San Jose is blazing even without Joe Thornton lighting the lamp much (two goals, along with 11 assists). I picked the Stars to win the Stanley Cup in the preseason, but I'm making an early-season change and going with this balanced, gritty squad.
 
2PRs
Last Week: 3
As I said above, the Sharks are well above any team, but the Wings are easily second best. Can we fast forward the regular season in order to see the Wings and Sharks in the West final? There are many things that make Detroit No. 2 and the ability to upend the upper-echelon teams shouldn't go unnnoticed. Saturday's win over the Devils kept New Jersey winless at Joe Louis since Nov. 6, 1996.
 
3PRs
Last Week: 2
The Habs came up short against the Blue Jackets on Friday, their first loss in Ohio since a 2-1 setback against the Cleveland Barons on Nov. 23, 1977. Yeah, I know. Some stats sound more remarkable then they actually are, as the Habs had beaten the Jackets in their only two previous trips. Of course. I'm sure Canadiens fans are more concerned about Saturday's 6-3 loss to the rival Leafs.
 
4PRs
Last Week: 7
What the heck are the Bruins doing up this high? Well, that's what happens when you win three straight and six of seven. Boston has also taken four straight at home -- its longest such streak since the 2003-04 season. You also know things are going well when a simple number change elicits a spark. Hours after changing his sweater digits, Blake Wheeler notched his first career hat trick to help the Bruins drop the Leafs 5-2 on Thursday.
 
5PRs
Last Week: 4
Their power play had connected only 10 times in 74 chances and never more than twice in a game until something got into the Blueshirts on Thursday. Chris Drury scored two of three PP tallies in a 5-2 win over the Lightning. Of course, the maddening Rangers reverted to their worst ways in their next two games, going 1-for-7 while falling to Caps (3-1) and Oilers (3-2). Overall, the sputtering offense has netted more than three goals in a game in just six of New York's 17 contests.
 
6PRs
Last Week: 6
After the red-hot Ryan Miller earned back-to-back shutouts, coach Lindy Ruff decided not to give his No. 1 guy some rest -- and it backfired. Miller, in his fourth and fifth straight starts, gave up a not-so-grand total of eight goals against the Thrashers and Bruins. "I'm not real happy," Miller told the Buffalo News. "Hockey gods frown upon thee."
 
7PRs
Last Week: 5
Let me begin by saying I'm not about to jump ship on the Wild. After starting the season 6-0-1, Minnesota has dropped four of six. Maybe they'll turn things around this week with matchups against the relatively mild Coyotes and Jackets. It will depend greatly on whether Niklas Backstrom (8-3-1, 2.19 GAA) continues his strong play and the power play (1-for-21 in last five) can get out of neutral.
 
8PRs
Last Week: 13
They've have won four straight and are 6-0-2 at home. In addition, their 7-3-3 start is their best since 2001-02 -- the last time they made the playoffs. Chicago has a barn full of talented youngsters, serviceable goaltending and gritty backends. But I'm still not completely sold on them. The rest of November will certainly be a big measuring stick: six of nine remaining games are on the road, including tussles with the Stars, Sharks and Ducks.
 
9PRs
Last Week: 12
The Pens have won three straight while leaning heavily on newfound offense -- 14 goals after being held to 25 total in their first 11 games. On another note, Petr Sykora on Thursday had his 37th two-goal game, the most of any player who has never managed a hat trick. Evgeni Malkin, meanwhile, is on pace for a whopping 129 points after notching six in the previous three games.
 
10PRs
Last Week: 8
For the first time in 43 trips to the house of the Kings, the Ducks left with a shutout win. The Southern California rivals had skated to a 1-0 game on only one prior occasion: April 14, 2002. Rare 1-0 wins aside, the Ducks are an enigma, starting the season with four straight defeats before winning five in a row. Now, they've dropped two consecutive after winning three straight.
 
11PRs
Last Week: 11
With help from Joe Corvo and Michael Leighton, Peter Laviolette became the winningest American-born coach in NHL history, passing former Lightning coach John Tortorella with his 240th career victory. As for the 'Canes, they had a rather uneven week with wins over Toronto and Ottawa and losses to Washington and Atlanta. This team has been stuck in the mud much of the time so far. The same can be said for Eric Staal, who has just four points in the past 10 games.
 
12PRs
Last Week: 17
Say it aint so, Jose? After seeing Jose Theodore get lit up in a 5-0 loss to Buffalo on Nov. 1, the Caps have given Brent Johnson three straight starts with favorable results: 2-0-1. "I'm just seeing the puck real well," Johnson said. Talk about an understatement. Johnson turned aside 102 of 107 shots during his three-game run.
 
13PRs
Last Week: 9
It's very simple: they are in serious trouble without stud goalie Marty Brodeur. After the future Hall of Famer went down with an elbow injury that will keep him sidelined for three months, New Jersey went 1-3. That leaves little doubt that Kevin Weekes and Scott Clemmensen aren't the answer. I wouldn't be surprised if the team acquires a veteran netminder (Dwayne Roloson and Nikolai Khabibulin have come up in the local media rumor mill) in the next couple of weeks.
 
14PRs
Last Week: 24
After a sluggish start (4-4, 23 goals allowed in eight starts), Roberto Luongo has turned on the switch in a big way with three consecutive shutouts and four in his last six starts. The all-world goalie has had to be perfect since the offense has provided just seven goals during the three-shutout streak. Does any team rely more heaving on its goalie than Vancouver? Well, I expect to hear from Devils fans on this point.
 
15PRs
Last Week: 14
Mikhail Grabovski has six goals and two assists in the last four games. The 24-year-old winger had three goals in 27 career games with the Canadiens and has seven in 15 for the overachieving Leafs, who acquired him in a trade during the summer. "He's been out best player for two weeks," coach Ron Wilson said. "He's been a dominant player. That's why he's got seven goals now."
 
16PRs
Last Week: 15
Two players who have helped them win four of their last six: Ales Hemsky and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers. All Hemsky has done is score five goals and add four assists in the past four games. Drouin-Deslauriers, meanwhile, has been between the pipes for two straight wins, stopping 66 of 71 shots. It's been a tough stretch, though, as the Oilers have played seven straight road games and get their first back-to-back home tilts this week.
 
17PRs
Last Week: 10
Just when it looked like they were on the verge of joining the top-tier teams, thanks to six consecutive victories, they took two big steps back by losing four of their last five games. Ditto for off-and-on goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, who after a hot stretch has allowed 16 goals in his last three starts. As for the offense, is anyone gonna lend a hand to Jarome Iginla?
 
18PRs
Last Week: 26
Playing against his former Florida 'mates, Olli Jokinen had a goal and an assist to lead the young, promising Coyotes to a 4-1 victory. "I think it was more emotional for my family, but when you're playing, you don't think about it," he said. "It's nice to score, but at the end of the day, you want your team to win." That win was followed up the next night by an even more impressive one over the Sharks.
 
19PRs
Last Week: 19
Hey, Radim Vrbata, you can light the lamp anytime you'd like. Going back to last season, he has zero goals in 29 games. That's not the sort of production you expect from a player who is being paid $3 million. Vrbata has the Bolts in a tough position because he needs to be in the lineup in order for them to showcase him for a possible trade (yes, another trade), but he's showing nothing right now (one assist in seven games).
 
20PRs
Last Week: 27
The Jackets have won three straight on the shoulders of two rookies. Goalie Steve Mason was in net for all three while Derick Brassard, who earned Rookie of the Month honors for October, notched points in five of the Jackets' last six games. As long as coach Ken Hitchcock keeps these two on the ice as much as possible, and they remain solidly productive, Columbus could turn into a serious darkhorse down the stretch.
 
21PRs
Last Week: 21
After starting five of the Sens' first six games, Martin Gerber has gotten then nod just once in Ottawa's last eight. Alex Auld appears to be the No. 1 man and is proving to be the right choice (5-2-1 and stellar 1.85 GAA). But let's see how Auld fares the rest of the month. The Senators have two tough battles with the Canadiens and Rangers.
 
22PRs
Last Week: 16
Road warriors, they are not. With Saturday's 1-0 loss to Colorado, the Preds dropped their third straight away from home and are just 1-6-1 on the road. The going doesn't get any easier with six of their next eight in hostile arenas. It might be time to give Pekka Rinne some more starts considering the Preds' last two wins have come with him between the pipes.
 
23PRs
Last Week: 18
Not even Daniel Briere's return to the lineup sparked the foundering Flyers, who dropped three straight while scoring just one goal in each of the last two. This is a bit surprising since the slide came on the heels of a four-game win streak. What makes the skid worse if that it has come against somewhat weaker opponents: Edmonton, Ottawa and Tampa Bay.
 
24PRs
Last Week: 20
They averaged four goals a game through their first five, going 4-1. But over their past eight (1-6-1), the offense has hit the skids with just 2.4 tallies per game. It's no wonder the Blues have gone winless in five straight. And even before he got injured, Paul Kariya was on pace for just 13 goals, which would be his lowest output since he potted 11 in an injury-plagued 2003-04 season.
 
25PRs
Last Week: 29
Don't look now, but the Thrashers have won four straight. Just when it seemed like this team was ready to throw in the towel for the season after a six-game winless streak, they go out and play four relatively solid games. They've done it with Kari Lehtonen out with an undisclosed injury and Johan Hedberg and Ondrej Pavelec holding down the netminding duties. Small wonder Lehtonen is being mentioned as trade bait.
 
26PRs
Last Week: 22
The Avs only know about streaks. They started the season with three straight losses before winning five straight. They then lost five in a row before Saturday's win over Nashville. So if the pattern holds true, the Avs will knock off both the Canucks and Oilers this week.
 
27PRs
Last Week: 25
Dallas Stars (5-7-2)
Maybe the Stars don't deserve to be this low, but I'm punishing them for some ultra-ugly losses. And maybe Mark Parrish will continue to provide a spark after notching his sixth career hat trick in his Dallas debut on Friday night -- a 5-2 win over the Ducks. This week may go a long way toward determining what sort of team these Stars are, since they have three winable games: Kings twice and Coyotes.
 
28PRs
Last Week: 28
Have they finally found their goalie? With Erik Ersberg in net, the Kings managed to win consecutive games for just the second time this season. After Jason LaBarbera started the first 10, Ersberg has been the man in three straight. For the season, the 26-year-old is 2-1-1 with a 1.95 GAA while LaBarbera is 3-5-1 with a 3.01 GAA. What the heck -- ride Ersberg this week and see what happens.
 
29PRs
Last Week: 23
Behind David Booth's first career hat trick and a 44-save performance from Craig Anderson, the Panthers snapped a six-game winless streak with a 3-1 win over the Ducks. That slide may have ended, but the tough times continue for two of Florida's top players. Nathan Horton has just five goals and eight points while Tomas Vokoun is 3-7-1 with a 3.01 GAA. I'm not going out on a limb when I say both will eventually turn it around.
 
30PRs
Last Week: 30
Tuesday was an impressive showing by the Isles. Joey McDonald turned aside 35 shots and got help from the team's league-leading sixth short-handed goal in a 2-1 win over the Rangers at MSG despite being outshot 36-19. But the Isles couldn't keep the momentum going, going winless in their next two games. One big problem is that they've developing a nasty habit of turning into a sieve while holding a late lead. Fortunately, they managed to hang on into OT against the Pens before going belly-up.
 

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