By Brian Cazeneuve
December 08, 2010

NOTE: All stats and results are through games of Monday, December 6

NHL Power Rankings
1 Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 4
Their 10-game win streak matches their 1999 run and ranks second in club history to their NHL-record 17 in 1993. Sidney Crosby has been absolutely smoking, with 18 goals and 15 assists during a 16-game point streak that has impressed even his coach. "I shouldn't be surprised, but I have to shake my head at a couple of those goals," marveled Dan Bylsma. "Who else could do that?" Last week: 3-0-0
2 Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 2
A week that began with wins in San Jose and Anaheim (where Jimmy Howard had a 41-save shutout)ended with a lackluster 5-2 home loss to the Sharks that left scowling coach Mike Babcock to lament, "The team that worked the hardest and played the hardest, won." Don't expect him to let the effort lag for long. Last week: 2-1-1
3 Washington Capitals
Last Week: 1
They bagged their first road win against in St. Louis in 14 years and took revenge on Jaroslav Halak, who bounced them from the playoffs while with Montreal last season. But just as Alex Ovechkin emerged from his career-high nine-game goal drought, the Caps coughed up a 4-1 third-period lead at home against the lowly Leafs before losing in a humbling shootout. On the plus side, such ugly defeats can be a tonic... just see the next team below. Last week: 1-2-1
4 Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 5
Say this for the Habs: they don't take losing with a yawn. Their 5-1 win at New Jersey left them 9-1-0 in games that followed defeats. Said Lars Eller, "We've been good at coming up again after a loss and we really showed that again, the strong team that we have." Resiliency being one of their strengths... Last week: 2-0-1
5 Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 3
They showed nada, bupkes and the proverbial zilch in a 3-0 loss to the Bruins, who predictably played with more desperation after their playoff meltdown against Philly last May. A tell-tale sign of a Flyers defeat: they're 2-for-45 on the power play in games they've lost. Granted, they rebounded for a pair of wins, but is beating the lowly Devils and subterranean Islanders much tougher than tying your skate laces properly? Last week: 2-1-0
6 Dallas Stars
Last Week: 6
Dallas Stars (16-8-2)
Stephane Robidas' third goal of the season gave them a 5-4 OT triumph over the Wild that extended their win streak to six after journeyman backup Andrew Raycroft made 37 saves in an impressive 2-1 stifling of the Caps. Alas, the scrappy Stars fell one win shy of their franchise record by falling to the Jackets in a shootout two nights later, but as one of only four teams with at least four 20-point scorers, these boys are turning out to be tough customers. Last week: 2-0-1
7 Boston Bruins
Last Week: 16
Boston Bruins (14-8-3)
Marc Savard is back and who says the B's can't hold a 3-0 lead against the Flyers? Tim Thomas made 41 saves, including a penalty shot by Scott Hartnell, in a whitewash of their nemesis. "We had it in our minds that's the team that came back on us," said Zdeno Chara, referring to last spring's horrifying playoff collapse. "We used that a little as a motivator." BTW -- Thomas is now the first goalie since Glenn Hall in 1965-66 to open the season 9-0 on the road. Last week: 2-0-1
8 Atlanta Thrashers
Last Week: 11
The NHL's most surprising player just keeps getting better. Rallying from a 2-0 hole to beat the Predators, 3-2 in overtime, Atlanta was left with eight wins in its last nine games and Ondrej Pavelec was in net for all eight. In his last nine outings, he's allowed a meager 11 goals. In a 3-1 win over the Caps, he made 45 saves and was a perfect 15-for-15 in thwarting the Caps' potent power play. Last week: 3-1-0
9 Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 8
Mason Raymond scored on the power play, shorthanded and at even strength in a 7-2 win at Calgary. "Maybe it's the home-cooked meal," coach Alain Vigneault said of the Cochrane, Alberta, native. His club stayed hungry for an important, confidence-building 3-0 road win against the Hawks, the team that knocked them around and knocked them out of last year's playoffs. Last week: 2-1-0
10 Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 10
With Steven Stamkos frosting over (two goals in his last eight games) following a furious start, Simon Gagne made an impact in his first outing after missing 18 matches with a neck injury, netting the OT winner against Toronto. "He's a battler," Martin St. Louis said of Gagne. "It's not only been tough for him, it's been tough for us to not have him. You know what he can bring." And not a moment too soon for a club that's 7-8-1 since Nov. 3. Last week: 2-1-0
11 Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 7
Phoenix Coyotes (13-7-6)
After a seven-game win streak, they dropped a pair in regulation for the first time this season. The second loss was a sloppy 3-0 affair in Nashville, where they were they paid for it with untimely visits to the sin bin. "We had some guys really play hard, but in the end, you can't take penalties like that and expect to be successful," coach Dave Tippett sagely noted. "That's something that will need to be addressed." Indeed. Last week: 2-1-1
12 Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 18
Anze Kopitar to the rescue: his game-winning goal with 2:43 to play against lowly Florida halted a four-game skid, and his marker at 4:04 of OT beat the much more formidable Wings. "We've been giving up those goals at the end of the game, and those are backbreakers," defenseman Matt Greene observed. "With our top players, we go as they go, so for him to step up and get that goal was huge for us. I think everyone in here feels about 60 pounds lighter." Last week: 2-0-0
13 Nashville Predators
Last Week: 21
You can excuse Pekka Rinne for gloating about how much he loves shootouts. He'd just given the Preds a 24-4-2 mark against Columbus since 2006-07 and their league-high fourth such win of the season. But there was a price: Rinne tweaked his left knee in the skills competition and will be out at least two weeks after surgery. In his stead, 6'6" Anders Linback shook of some rust and stood tall to beat the Hurricanes in his first start since November 7. Last week: 3-0-1
14 Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 9
After a fine November run, the Jackets have been feeling rather blue lately. A dispiriting 5-0 loss in Buffalo caused forward R.J. Umberger to moan to reporters, "Too many guys on vacation. It was probably our worst effort in a while." A day later, the Penguins undressed the Jackets, 7-2, in Columbus. Groaned defenseman Mike Commodore after that eyesore, "There's nowhere to go but up." But how to get there, ah, that is the question. Last week: 1-2-1
15 Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 14
Not that defending Lord Stanley's old mug is easy, but you'd like to think that home provides some shelter from the storm. Yet, the Hawks came in off a six-game road swing and fell to Vancouver, dropping to 6-8-0 at the United Center. Two nights later, the faithful watched stud forward Patrick Kane do down with what appeared to be a left leg injury that's expected to sideline him three weeks. "You get tested," sighed coach Joel Quenneville, whose team is already missing Marion Hossa (leg injury). "You get tested physically and organizationally." And everywhere you play. Last week: 2-1-0
16 New York Rangers
Last Week: 17
They fattened up on their reeling cross-town rivals/patsies, the Isles, in a sloppy 6-5 slugfest and a 2-0 affair in which Henrik Lundqvist needed just 17 saves to post his fourth shutout of the season. Apparently, there was some kind of narcotic effect to that one because it was followed by an sleepy 3-1 loss on home ice to struggling Ottawa. "That," fumed coach John Tortorella, "was an absolutely winnable game. We should be bothered by it." Perhaps it, or their fiery bench boss, will rouse them. Last week: 2-1-0
17 San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 13
San Jose Sharks (13-9-4)
Win one, lose one, win one, lose one, these floundering fish are perhaps floating on the knowledge that a strong regular season means nothing when it can be so easily and consistently undone in the playoffs. "The motivation has to be internal in our locker room," coach Todd McLellan insisted. "I don't know when the light is going to go on. They prove to each other on alternating game nights that they can do it." Last week: 2-2-0
18 St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 12
St. Louis Blues (13-9-4)
A 4-1 loss to the Capitals made them look like a mere shell of the team that was among the league leaders a few weeks ago. Jaroslav Halak has been a mere mortal of late (3-6-2) and the Blues have gone without a power-play goal for seven straight games. It took a big effort by Alex Steen (two goals, assist) in a 3-2 win in Vancouver to snap a five-game losing skid. Of course, injuries to David Perron and T.J. Oshie have been factor, and losing Andy McDonald indefinitely to a concussion surely won't make the going any easier. Last week: 1-2-0
19 Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 15
One-goal losses to Atlanta, Carolina and Tampa Bay left them with five defeats in their last six games. Against the Bolts, they scored twice in the final 2:15 of the third period, but still fell maddeningly short. Some signs of life, though: Matt Duchene has gotten hot and Kevin Shattenkirk challenged the NHL record point streak by a rookie defenseman (10 games). Last week: 0-1-2
20 Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 19
Anaheim Ducks (13-13-3)
It wasn't quite a Gordie Howe hat trick, but ruffian George Parros celebrated the first two-goal night of his 314-game NHL career with an exchange of knucks against Florida's Darcy Hordichuk on the first shift after his second goal. Alas, that was it for the merriment, though, as the streaky Ducks laid goose eggs in consecutive losses to Detroit and Phoenix, their first back-to-back shutouts on home ice since 2003. Last week: 1-2-0
21 Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 22
Given the skill level on their roster, they can't hope to escape mediocrity with long passes and solo dashes up the ice. Coach Paul Maurice said as much after his club dropped a 5-2 decision in Nashville: "We made some big mistakes that caused us problems. We are prone to trying to do too many big things instead of a bunch of little things." Last week: 1-1-0
22 Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 20
Minnesota Wild (11-11-4)
Their 3-2 shootout loss to the Flames highlighted some disturbing trends: six defeats in seven games while frequently blowing leads; goaltender Nik Backstrom winning only one of his last 11 games that went to a shootout. A bright footnote: Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored a goal in his second game back after missing 104 contests with post-concussion syndrome. Last week: 0-1-2
23 Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 29
Edmonton Oilers (10-12-4)
After rallying from two down to beat the Havs, 4-3 in OT, coach Tom Renney gushed, "That's the beauty of a team growing up before your eyes." Indeed, the callow Oilers had their first two-game win streak since their 2-0 start, and they extended it to four with the word "playoffs" showing up in a Hockey Night in Canada interview with goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. Taylor Hall is starting to live up to his paper, earning Third Star of the Week honors and scoring 23 seconds into OT to beat St. Louis. Even three different goalies recorded wins. Last week: 3-0-0
24 Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 28
Buffalo Sabres (11-13-3)
Not exactly a news flash, but as goes Ryan Miller, so go the Sabres. With his 32 saves in a 1-0 shootout win over Ottawa, the Vezina-winner extended his shutout string to 148 minutes and 14 seconds. That outing followed a 5-0 victory against Columbus that equalled Buffalo's goal output during their preceeding four games. "It's a good night when you can kind of get forgotten a little bit," Miller noted afterward. "I have no problem with that. We played a good game, and it's good to see. From where I'm standing, that's probably one of our better overall efforts." Last week: 2-0-0
25 Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 24
Ottawa Senators (12-14-2)
After more than 200 minutes without a goal, the longest such drought in franchise history, the popgun Sens finally broke through thanks to Chris Kelly's first career hat trick (he'd gone 434 games without one) that stunned the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. In an exercise in wishful thinking, Kelly noted that a 2-0 victory at MSG last January ignited a team-record, 11-game win streak. Last week: 1-1-1
26 Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 26
Merciless boos. Bags on noggins. Calls for the heads of coach Ron Wilson and GM Brian Burke. And that was just among their family members. Talk about ugly in Toronto! How about that nasty 5-0 loss to the upstart Oilers? But a pair of shootout victories over the Bruins and Caps might soothe the savage beasts in Hogtown at least for a bit. Whipping boy ex-Bruin Phil Kessel endured taunts all night before he set up Kris Versteeg's tying goal in the final minute and scored the decisive tally in a shootout against his former team. Last week: 2-1-1
27 Florida Panthers
Last Week: 25
Florida Panthers (11-14-0)
After a frustrating 3-2 loss to the Kings, David Booth forlornly summed up the plight of these Cats: "We've shown that we can compete with anyone in this league, but competing isn't good enough right now." Last week: 1-2-0
28 Calgary Flames
Last Week: 23
Calgary Flames (11-14-2)
Things got so bad during a 7-2 home-ice waxing by Vancouver that coach Brent Sutter used five defenseman -- Jay Bouwmeester, Brendan Mikkelson, Robyn Regehr, Anton Babchuk and Cory Sarich -- for the final 30 seconds of a third-period power play. "I didn't think our forwards were working very hard at it," Sutter groused. "The first unit never spent any time in the offensive zone whatsoever, so I thought I'd give the defensemen an opportunity." Maybe next time, he can try using two goalies. Last week: 1-2-0
29 New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 27
Just when they showed hints of turning the corner off Hideous Street, they walked into another wall in what was, to be fair, a week with three tough opponents. Johan Hedberg was pulled after allowing two goals in the first 1:38 against Montreal. Losses to the Flyers and Penguins followed. "We're finding ways not to win," said forward Patrik Elias with droll understatement. Last week: 0-3-0
30 New York Islanders
Last Week: 30
The death march grinds on. The sadsack Isles have won exactly once since October 21, and failed to score on 36 straight power-plays, and, after spitting up a third-period lead against the Flyers, lost 18 of their last 19 outings against their division bullies/owners. "Mentally it's draining on us," coach Jack Capuano admitted, before shifting the onus squarely on his moribund squad. "They're playing in the best league in the world. They have to figure it out." Last week: 0-3-0

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