Tuesday February 16th, 2010

Biggest climb: Boston Bruins (18 from 27)

Biggest drop: Florida Panthers (27 from 14)

A reminder: Rankings are based on many factors, and none are scientific. They're heavily influenced by recent play, taking into account expectations versus achievement, quality of opponents, injuries, hot or cold streaks, lucky bounces, bad breaks, official malfeasance, travel schedule, and my uncannily intuitive gut calls on how each team stacks up against the rest of the Original 30. Please note that I, unlike some referees, do not have it in for your team and no homer glasses were worn. And since I'm coming off a stint on the IR ? why there were no rankings last week -- we're going to keep the shifts short this week as the NHL shuts down until next month.

Want to send me a comment or maybe a cool video clip that cries out to be shared? Scroll to the bottom of the 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
1Washington Capitals
Last Week: 1
A team that just came off a 14-game win streak deserves a bit of slack, but even Bruce Boudreau couldn't sugarcoat a three-game slide that's seen it cough up 15 goals. "It was an ugly display," he said after Thursday's 6-5 loss in Ottawa. "You're not going to win when you give up six goals and maybe five of them are bad and our [defense] can't make a play." Can the Caps afford not to kick the tires on a goalie and a top-four defender before the deadline? Last week: 0-1-2
 
2Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 3
Joel Quenneville warned observers not to read too much into it, but how do you overlook four straight starts for supposed backup Antti Niemi? The Hawks won all four, the last three in high-pressure shootouts. "We're just going with the hot hand," Coach Q said. Okay... Last week: 3-0
 
3San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 4
San Jose Sharks (40-13-9)
It took a career-high 50 stops, plus three more in the shootout, but Evgeni Nabokov beat Detroit on Thursday to run his road win streak to an NHL record 11 games. The Sabres prevented it from reaching 12 on Saturday, but the Sharks still came away with four wins from the six-game trip to maintain their grip on the Western lead. Last week: 2-2
 
4Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 6
It's been one of the hallmarks of LA's resurgence this season: following up a stinker with a solid effort. They were late to the party in Thursday's 3-2 home loss to the Oilers, but turned in 60 solid minutes in Saturday's 3-0 win over the Avs. The victory was Jon Quick's 35th of the season, tying the franchise record set in 1983 by Mario Lessard. Last week: 1-1-1
 
5Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 7
Ottawa Senators (36-23-4)
They won 14 of 16 heading into the break, a run that not only secured a spot atop the Northeast, but encouraged a playoff roster upgrade. Matt Cullen, acquired from Carolina for Alex Picard and a pick, gives the Sens an experienced center who bolsters both special teams, but GM Bryan Murray still has work to do. Look for him to add a defenseman before the deadline. Last week: 3-1
 
6Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 5
Phoenix Coyotes (37-21-5)
With 79 points in the bank, the surprising Coyotes already have matched last season's 82-game total. That stat, and a streak that saw them win eight of 11, meant they weren't too worried about dropping their final pair before the break. Still, the power play is on an 0-20 skid and ranks 29th in the league. Might be something to work on when practice resumes, eh? Last week: 2-2
 
7Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 2
Things can get a little hectic on an extended road swing, but you'd think someone on this team would keep track of when the games start. When the Wild's Guillaume Latendresse opening the scoring in Saturday's 6-2 loss, it marked the seventh time in the first eight games of this extended journey that the opposition had potted the first goal. The entire first period has been a complete morass for the Canucks, who have been outscored 13-2. Last week: 2-2
 
8Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 8
It was a year ago Monday that Ray Shero cashiered Michel Therrien and tabbed the inexperienced Dan Bylsma as his replacement. Worked out well, but as their recent rough spell (just one win in their last five) proves, Bylsma and Shero have work to do. The coach needs to address a disturbing lack of defensive discipline; the GM has to come up with someone, anyone, capable of playing reliably alongside Crosby or Malkin. Last week: 1-0-2
 
9Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 11
Their fans were incensed when Craig Anderson was bypassed for the American Olympic squad, but that slight might save the Avs' season. Despite a 1.81 GAA and .939 save percentage over his last five games, the stopper is starting to show signs of mental fatigue from the onerous workload. A couple weeks off might be just what he needs. Last week: 3-1
 
10Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 12
They gave Ray Emery an extended break to heal his wonky hip, but will they give him his job back after the Olympics? Michael Leighton continues to perform at a level that suggests he can be the go-to guy down the stretch. He goes into the break having won four straight while giving up just four even-strength goals. Last week: 4-0
 
11Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 19
The Canes kept a rollin' all week long, running their win streak to five by knocking off the Panthers, Sabres and Devils. That raises the question: is it too late for a playoff push? Seems unlikely, but with kids like Justin Peters and Zach Boychuk providing some fizz and Manny Legace offering stout netminding while Cam Ward convalesces, it should be an exciting finish. Last week: 3-0
 
12Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 9
Buffalo Sabres (33-18-9)
They avoided going 0-for-February, snapping their six-game slide with an all-hands-on-deck 3-1 win over the Sharks on Saturday. The victory certainly made for a better mood heading into the break than a seventh loss, but don't expect it to prevent Darcy Regier from making a decisive move before March 3. He's consummated at least one deal prior to each of his 11 deadlines. Last week: 1-0-2
 
13New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 10
Watching the bounces and screens and defensive meltdowns in front of him, it's clear that Martin Brodeur doesn't deserve the blame for a slide in which the Devils have won just three of their last 11 games. Coach Jacques Lemaire has suggested too many of the team's stars were unfocused because of the Olympics. Last week: 1-2-1
 
14Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 13
It might seem counterintuitive, but maybe they should shoot less often. Even after Saturday's 4-1 win over the Senators at Joe Louis, Detroit is just 2-6-4 when they take 40 or more shots. Last week: 1-0-2
 
15Nashville Predators
Last Week: 15
As they slowly slide back toward the eighth spot, you wonder if David Poile is inclined to make a dramatic move at the deadline. Given their depth on the blueline, it seems unlikely they will re-sign UFA Dan Hamhuis this summer. He'd make a nice addition to a contender, and could net the young offensive talent that Nashville desperately needs. Last week: 2-1-1
 
16Dallas Stars
Last Week: 20
Dallas Stars (28-21-12)
Too early to say how Kari Lehtonen will perform, but his looming presence sure lit a fire under Marty Turco. The impending UFA -- and potential trade deadline target -- is playing his best hockey of the season. He's blocked 110 of 114 shots since the deal, including a 40-save effort in Saturday's 3-0 win in Phoenix. Last week: 2-0-1
 
17Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 30-25-7
A 6-2 record in their past eight games? Only two points out of the playoffs? Okay, that's very nice...but how's Ryan Getzlaf's ankle? The superstar center was the subject of a week-long guessing game regarding his Olympic availability. He set the minds of Canadians at ease, at least temporarily, with a sparkling two-goal, two assist performance in Sunday's 7-3 thrashing of the hapless Oilers. Last week: 3-1
 
18Boston Bruins
Last Week: 27
Boston Bruins (27-22-11)
Is it time to remove the backup prefix from any mention of Tuukka Rask? After six straight starts, the 22-year-old seems to have supplanted Vezina-winner Tim Thomas. He's gone 4-0-2 in the stretch, with both losses coming in the shootout. Still, those Thomas trade rumors don't make much sense. Last week: 3-0
 
19Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 16
Minnesota Wild (30-27-4)
The knock on them under former GM Doug Risebrough was the paucity of high-end talent in the system, so Chuck Fletcher's surprising acquisition of Cam Barker was exactly the sort of bold deal this franchise needed. The 23-year-old defender adds youth, obviously, but also brings the element of speed -- and a big shot from the point -- that seems like an ideal fit for the aggressive system of coach Todd Richards. Last week: 1-2
 
20St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 18
St. Louis Blues (28-25-9)
If you want evidence of Davis Payne's influence, take a gander at the recent play of Erik Johnson and Patrik Berglund. Johnson seems to have his swagger back and Berglund had his best game of the season in Saturday's 4-3 SO victory over the Caps. The win was St. Louis' third in a row (at home, no less!) and it kept them in the hunt for the eighth spot. Last week: 3-1
 
21Calgary Flames
Last Week: 25
Calgary Flames (30-23-9)
A 3-1 win over the Ducks was a rare treat for the faithful. Their team has won just four of 12 at the Saddledome since the calendar turned, which explains why it's barely clinging to eighth at the break. Side note to bettors: take the foe when a Flames home game is on pay-per-view. Calgary's lost all eight of those contests after dropping a 3-1 decision to the Stars on Thursday. Last week: 1-2
 
22Atlanta Thrashers
Last Week: 21
They're enjoying the early returns from the Ilya Kovalchuk trade, getting three goals from Niclas Bergfors and solid play from Johnny Oduya. But GM Don Waddell may have done even better for himself by cutting ties with Kari Lehtonen. In exchange for his damaged goods, Waddell nabbed raw but promising offensive defender Ivan Vishnevskiy from the Stars. The AHL All-Star has top pairing potential. Last week: 1-0-2
 
23New York Rangers
Last Week: 28
A smart decision by Slovakia could pay dividends for the Rangers. The Olympic team's medical staff announced Marian Gaborik would need to sit out the first two games due to his knee injury. That means the vital winger is likely to play just once in Vancouver, twice at most, before heading back to New York relatively well rested. Last week: 2-1
 
24Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 23
Two days after replacing Bob Gainey as GM, Pierre Gauthier pulled the trigger on his first trade, acquiring Dominic Moore from Florida for a 2011 second-rounder. Now that his feet are wet, will he bid adieu to a goalie? Carey Price earned his first win in nearly a month on Monday, but gave up five goals to Washington in the process. Jaro Halak wasn't any better on Saturday when he was beaten six times by the Flyers. Might make more sense to wait until the summer. Last week: 1-2
 
25Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 22
Three losses heading into the break dropped them out of the top eight, but you can't blame the big line for the slide. No surprise to see Steven Stamkos put up Player of the Week numbers (3-6-9), but how about the breakthrough effort of Steve Downie? The feisty winger has 10 points over the course of a seven-game scoring streak. Last week: 1-3
 
26Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 26
How different would the season have been if they weren't so dreadful in the shootout? They dropped their seventh straight decision (and saw their record fall to 2-9 in the skills competition) in Sunday's 5-4 loss to the Hawks. Not that a couple points here and there would have mattered much, but you have to wonder about the cost to their confidence. Last week: 1-2
 
27Florida Panthers
Last Week: 14
Florida Panthers (24-27-10)
They've lost six straight, dropping to 12th in the East, and the owners aren't happy. Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel sent a letter to season ticket holders warning of an impending house cleaning. "No small changes or quick fixes will do," they wrote. Sounds like some key players may want to spend their break talking to a real estate agent. Last week: 0-2-1
 
28New York Islanders
Last Week: 24
Why are they sliding into irrelevancy? One reason (of many): Blake Comeau had as many goals (two) in Sunday's 4-3 loss to the Sens as John Tavares has scored over his last 31 contests. Maybe a little time away from the rink will help JT get his mind right with the puck. Last week: 2-2
 
29Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 29
It's all about next year in Toronto, so the recent resurgence of building-block defender Luke Schenn gives long-suffering fans a little hope to cling to. Schenn has simplified his approach noticeably since the arrival of Dion Phaneuf, and that's led to better decisions with the puck and fewer of the positioning mistakes that created so many opposition scoring chances earlier in the season. Last week: 0-2
 
30Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 30
Edmonton Oilers (19-36-6)
What is it about utterly lousy teams that makes for such chewy quotes? "This was not our best game," Tom Gilbert wryly noted in the aftermath of Sunday's 7-3 beatdown at home by Anaheim. You don't say? They surrendered 11 power play chances to the Ducks and showed little desire to compete after the first period. Look for significant roster changes after the Olympic break. Last week: 1-3

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