Dinged Canucks look like a force

Thursday February 10th, 2011

After a week off due to the All-Star break and the limited number of games since our last rankings, we're back in business. NOTE: All stats and records are through games of Monday night, February 7.

NHL Power Rankings
1Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 2
Sure coach Alain Vigneault tried to downplay his team's come-from-behind 4-3 win against Chicago, saying, "Obviously, we knew we were playing the Stanley Cup champions, but to say there was more at stake than two points would be false." Don't believe it. In the context of the Canucks' playoff ouster by Chicago last spring and a 7-1 loss earlier this season, it's another hint that the team is a serious Cup threat. In the meantime, it will have to fight on with a growing injury list that includes blueliners Alex Edler (back surgery) and Keith Ballard (knee). Last week: 4-0-0
2Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 1
It's a true oddity of this season that the hot Flyers are the only NHL team that hasn't pitched a shutout. "We're not going to get one this year," goalie Brian Boucher joked after a 3-1 win against Dallas. "Not going to happen." No problem. Peter Laviolette will accept the sense of comfort he has in both Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky. "We have confidence in both," he said. "Both guys are playing well and we'll keep them both active." Last week: 2-1-0
3Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 4
Sickbay is crowded as Sidney Crosby's concussion lingers and Chris Kunitz finds himself day-to-day, thanks to the proverbial lower body injury. With Evgeni Malkin gone for six months due to torn knee ligaments, look for the Pens to consider a rent-a-center for the rest of the season, even when (if?) Crosby finally comes back. Malkin's $8.1 million salary won't count against Pittsburgh's cap this season and this team is going to need an offensive boost -- quickly. Last week: 3-1-0
4Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 3
To understand the emergence of Steven Stamkos over the last season and a half, consider that after Friday's 5-2 loss to the Capitals, he called himself out, saying it was "one of my worst games." Two days later against St. Louis, the All-Star center scored his 40th goal and assisted on three others in a 4-3 win. "I knew I had to prove to myself that I wanted to help this team win," he said. Done. Last week: 2-1-0
5Washington Capitals
Last Week: 6
As if their rivalry with the Pens isn't heated enough, coach Bruce Boudreau was steamed after Matt Cooke delivered a knee-on-knee collision with Alex Ovechkin late in the Caps' 3-0 win on Sunday, perhaps as retribution for the hit on Sidney Crosby by David Steckel in the Winter Classic. "It's Matt Cooke, OK. Need we say more?" Boudreau said. "It's not like it's his first rodeo; He's done it to everybody." Oh, a playoff rematch will be fun. Last week: 2-0-1
6Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 5
With the trade deadline approaching, and Jimmy Howard struggling, word is the Wings may still be looking for a goalie. Chris Osgood (groin) is out until at least March, and the attempt to sign Evgeni Nabokov was thwarted by the wily Islanders. Though Howard has 26 wins, his .906 save percentage ranks 27th in the NHL and his 2.83 goals-against average is 31st. The return of Pavel Datsyuk should help offset at least a few sins. Last week: 2-2-0
7Boston Bruins
Last Week: 8
Boston Bruins (30-16-7)
With Marc Savard shut down for the season after his second concussion in less than a year, the pressing concern becomes filling his skates down the middle. Have to figure the B's will be in the-best-available center sweepstakes as the deadline nears, and one name that's surfaced is Dallas's free-agent-to-be Brad Richards, who won't come cheap, but GM Peter Chiarelli has Toronto's first-round pick to offer. In the meantime, the AHL crop is being cherry-picked with center Zach Hamill and winger Jordan Caron getting a look-see. Last week: 2-1-0
8Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 11
A salient feature of their recent 10-3-3 run is their ability to come from behind. The Habs are 7-3-3 in their last 13 games after surrendering the first goal. "It's matter of knowing how to play desperate," forward Scott Gomez said. "It's so easy these days to move up or down in the standings on one night that you have to play that way." Last week: 3-1-0
9San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 17
San Jose Sharks (28-19-6)
Since GM Doug Wilson chewed his team out and even mild-mannered captain Joe Thornton got on the blueliner corpse, er, corps for practically waving opposing forwards into the Sharks' defensive slot, San Jose has gone 7-0-1. "Accountability," says Thornton. "We didn't have any for a while. Now guys are picking each other up. That's how we did it when we won in the past." Last week: 3-0-0
10Dallas Stars
Last Week: 7
Dallas Stars (30-18-5)
After five straight wins, they've now dropped five of six while being outscored 28-13 during the skid. With a recent loss to Philadelphia, goalie Kari Lehtonen fell to 0-10-1 in 11 games against the Flyers. "We're didn't pay attention to our own end," said captain Brenden Morrow. "We're making it too easy." Might want to fix that when there's only a five-point gap between third and ninth in the Western Conference. Last week: 0-3-0
11Nashville Predators
Last Week: 9
One win in their last six games is what happens when you have trouble putting two or more pucks in the net on any given night. Even Devan Dubnyk of the not-so-mighty Oilers stoned them, 4-0, on Monday as the power play laid a goose egg in five tries. "We just need to do a better job of clamping down," captain Shea Weber says. "We are not a high-scoring team, so we need to make sure we're playing well in our own end." Pekka Rinne's been doing just that (two goals or less against in 13 of his last 14 outings), but it would be nice to give him some margin for error once in a while. Last week: 1-2-1
12Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 12
Anaheim Ducks (29-21-4)
If good goaltending can truly lift a team, this one could be trouble down the stretch. On a night when All-Star Jonas Hiller was suffering from lightheadedness in the altitude of Denver (a natural high), backup Curtis McElhinney stopped 25 shots and blanked the Avs, 3-0. "Our goaltending has been maybe the strongest point of our hockey club," said coach Randy Carlyle. "Both guys can give us quality goaltending when we need it." Last week: 1-1-0
13Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 13
Phoenix Coyotes (27-19-9)
After his team was outscored, 11-0, in an 81-minute span, captain Shane Doan delivered a verbal thwacking in the locker room. Two shutout wins for Ilya Bryzgalov ensued, the first consecutive blankings by Phoenix since Jan. 2004. "How do you go from 11-0 to this? It takes everyone," Doan said. "We've proven we can do this. Now there are no excuses. When we play like we can, we can be hard to beat." Indeed. Last week: 2-2-0
14Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 19
A shootout win in Calgary broke a 10-game skid at the Saddledome, and with five points seized in three games, L.A. moved back into the final playoff spot in the West. "It's a critical time to put some points on the board and keep climbing in the standings," coach Terry Murray noted. It's even more vital because the Kings need to determine how they'll approach to the trade deadline. L.A. has ample cap space to make a move. Watch for it. Last week: 2-0-1
15Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 16
Minnesota Wild (27-20-5)
They played a pair of 1-0 games during the week -- one win, one loss -- that highlighted this team's inability to generate chances. Though it surrenders just over 32 shots a game, the Wild ranks last in the league with 25.8 shots produced. "We don't have the snipers other teams have," admits coach Todd Richards, whose squad does not yet have a 15-goal scorer. "We've missed that." You don't say... Last week: 2-1-0
16New York Rangers
Last Week: 10
A 3-2 loss to Detroit brought their losing streak to a season-high five games. Yet it's not as bad as it seems. They dropped two of those games in shootouts and lost the five games by a net total of six goals. "Right now, we're just not getting that extra bounce we were getting early in the season," said coach John Tortorella. "That finish is missing from our game right now." Anyone seen Marian Gaborik (one goal in his last eight games) lately? Last week: 0-3-1
17Calgary Flames
Last Week: 21
Calgary Flames (27-21-7)
They languished outside the top eight teams in the West for exactly 100 days, before a seven-point week finally put them back among the playoff teams. "It's a great accomplishment for us," said Curtis Glencross, who scored the winner against Chicago on Monday. "We put ourselves in a hole early in the year. We've had some adversity and we've shown a lot of courage to come back." Think Jarome Iginla will be sticking around? Last week: 3-0-1
18Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 15
Losses in Vancouver and Calgary left the defending champs outside the playoff field as coach Joel Quenneville questioned his team's poor discipline that has led to turnovers and penalties. "I think we're better off with anger than frustration," he said. "Channeling it properly has got to be a part of it." After their NHL-best power play fizzled (0-for-4) for the second game in a row, Duncan Keith chimed in with a gripe about the team?s inability to score at even strength. Good times in Chicago. Last week: 1-2-0
19Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 20
Kristian Huselius (16 points, -13) did not like being benched against Detroit. He said as much. He sulked. He fumed. Then the six-time 20-goal scorer acted, scoring three points in a win over Edmonton. "Sometimes it's nice to clear your mind," said the 32-year-old Swede who must pick up his game if the Jackets are to have any playoff aspirations. Last week: 2-1-0
20Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 18
The coming week presents their last road grind. After a four-game swing through New Jersey, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Atlanta, the Canes won't face another multiple-game road trip the rest of the season. "We need to hold water in this stretch," says coach Paul Maurice, whose squad holds the last playoff spot i the East, "so we can make the big push toward the end." Last week: 1-2-0
21Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 14
With immigration issues freezing his comeback, Peter Forsberg seemed uncertain as to what his return might mean to struggling Colorado's prospects. "I'm nervous," he admitted. "I'm not really sure if I'm going to be good or bad." At least from watching the 37-year-old practice, coach Joe Sacco's verdict was clear: "We want him out there as soon as possible." Stands to reason when you've sunk to 14th in your conference and have five teams to leapfrog. Last week: 0-3-0
22St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 24
St. Louis Blues (23-20-8)
The recent return of forward Andy McDonald should be critical to a playoff run. He was their leading scorer when he went down with a concussion. After a 24-game absence, he returned last week to help lead a 5-3 win over Edmonton. "It's not easy to jump back in at that level the way Andy did," said coach Davis Payne. "We need what he gives us." Last week: 1-0-1
23Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 23
Buffalo Sabres (24-22-5)
One simple reason they?re making a renewed playoff push: Ryan Miller. The ace goalie has made 28 straight starts and Buffalo?s on a 10-4-1 run. "Ryan is in a special class," says forward Thomas Vanek, who?s been particularly productive (19 points in 14 games) since the start of the new year. "When we need a save, he makes it. How many times does he keep us in games and give us a chance to get things right?" Last week: 1-1-0
24Atlanta Thrashers
Last Week: 22
Since threatening the league's upper tier, they've endured a 2-7-4 skid and fallen from the playoff picture, surrendering a stunning 54 goals in those 11 defeats. No wonder coach Craig Ramsay planted Dustin Byfuglien's big butt on the bench for stretch and told him to play some defense for a change. "We're trying to be too cute," Ramsay groaned, "and it's causing us to make errors that have cost us games." Last week: 0-3-1
25Florida Panthers
Last Week: 25
During a recent loss to Toronto, defenseman Mike Weaver grew so frustrated that he slapped the puck at the boards during a play stoppage. Unfortunately, with three goals in four seasons, Weaver has dicey aim and his swipe nailed teammate Marty Reasoner in the chops. Even for a team that has been shooting itself in the foot for much of the season, this was a novel approach to self-inflicted wounds. Last week: 1-1-1
26Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 26
After keeping things consistent for almost a month, coach Ron Wilson changed lines and defense pairings in a 5-4 win over Atlanta. It worked for defenseman Dion Pfaneuf, who scored his first goal on home ice since joining Toronto more than a year ago. Alas, it didn't help Phil Kessel, the "irrelevant" All-Star, whose goal drought grew to 11 games. "I had some chances and I was finally plus in a game," Kessel intoned, always looking on the bright side of life. Last week: 3-1-0
27New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 28
What a difference a coach makes. Under Jacques Lemaire, the revived Devs are on a 9-1-2 run that includes Martin Brodeur's 40th career win against his hometown Habs even though a sore knee forced him out of the game early. Significantly, the Devils stifled Montreal after Brodeur left. "That's old Devils hockey," he said. "We're a different team when we can shut people down." Last week: 3-0-1
28New York Islanders
Last Week: 29
They've played much better lately, but their season was wrapped up in one unfortunately memorable goalie fight that could not have gone any worse. Perhaps trying to spark his team, the oft-injured Rickety DiPietro unwisely called down the rink for Pittsburgh counterpart Brent Johnson to join him in a tussle. One punch and DiPietro was on New York's growing pile of hors de combat goalies. Facial fractures will keep him out of action for four to six weeks. Last week: 2-1-0
29Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 27
Ottawa Senators (17-29-8)
With a tough 4-2 loss in Vancouver, they've dropped 10 in a row and have won only once in their last 17 games. Cory Clouston was left to forlornly focus on the three posts his club hit that could have lifted it past the league's top team. "Eventually, those have to go in," said the ever-hopeful coach, who has lately bemoaned his team's bad luck as much as its poor play. "I don't understand how we can keep-- game in and game out -- missing our chances." Last week: 0-4-0
30Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 30
Edmonton Oilers (16-29-8)
Their woes with the man advantage continue to sink them. In a one-goal loss at Columbus, they had a five-on-three edge for a full two minutes and skated away empty after managing one shot on goal. No wonder the callow Oilers are dead last in the league with an 11.9 percent success rate. "Our power play killed us," said coach Tom Renney, artfully stating the obvious. "No question about that." Last week: 1-3-0

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