By Scott Wraight
October 28, 2008
Biggest Climb: Anaheim (28 to 18)
Biggest Fall: Edmonton (5 to 14)

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
1 PRs
Last Week: 3
The more I watch them, the more impressed I am. They are the stingiest team, allowing a league-low 1.6 goals per game (Rangers are next at 1.9), Thomas Vanek appears back to his 2006-07 form when he had 84 points, and the special teams have been solid (PP 6th, PK 2nd). For good measure, Buffalo may have the best coach in the league. Does anyone get more out of his players than Lindy Ruff? Fire over those e-mails.
2 PRs
Last Week: 1
Like the Sabres, the Wild have made a good impression on me. Their trapping style may not be exciting, but it gets the job done more times than not. Of course, it always helps to have a top-notch goalie like Niklas Backstrom. And to think they're doing this without their star, Marian Gaborik, who on Saturday was placed on IR with a lower-body injury. No sweat. The same day, ageless Owen Nolan was activated -- and notched an assist and the game-winner.
3 PRs
Last Week: 6
The Red Wings, after a somewhat sluggish start, have turned on the jets to win four straight and earn points in seven consecutive games. The biggest reason for the surge is Marian Hossa. One night after burning his old Atlanta 'mates with two goals and a helper, he produced a goal, an assist and the shootout-winner. In his last eight games, the sniper has four goals and seven assists. Think he'll be in line for another hefty raise after this season?
4 PRs
Last Week: 2
Tomas Plekanec is on the board. Thanks to a 55-footer into an empty net, Plekanec notched his first goal of the season -- giving him three points so far. But Habs fans need not worry. The 25-year-old is exactly where he was offensively after six contests last year, when he pocketed 29 goals and 40 assists, both career highs. As long as Alex Tanguay continues lighting the lamp, the offense will be just fine.
5 PRs
Last Week: 4
Last week was all about Nikolai Zherdev. On Friday, the enigmatic winger made a successful return to Columbus with a goal and two assists while leading the Rangers to a 3-1 victory over his former club. The next night, Zherdev scored the tying goal with just 8.1 seconds left as the Blueshirts edged the Penguins in a shootout. It's early, but I'd like to see more consistent play from this gifted player who has three multipoint games and six blankings so far.
6 PRs
Last Week: 7
Looking to end a string of four consecutive games of allowing four or more goals, the Sharks turned to Brian Boucher. All the veteran did was turn in a 22-save shutout -- his second of the season. "Right now, it's been two wins and two shutouts, but I wouldn't look too much into it," he said. "It's more of a byproduct of the guys playing well." You gotta appreciate a backup goalie who knows his role and isn't about to ruffle any feathers or start any semblance of a goalie controversy.
7 PRs
Last Week: 13
The Pens have gotten off to a more than respectable start -- despite scoring just 2.5 goals per game, ninth-lowest in the league. But that's enough when your goaltending is allowing just 2.1 per game (fourth best). Marc-Andre Fleury has been super, but the bandaged-defensive unit deserves the credit. Despite being without Sergei Gonchar, Ryan Whitney and Hal Gill, Pittsburgh has allowed more than three goals in a game just once.
8 PRs
Last Week: 10
Wednesday night was a doubly nice for a certain future Hall of Famer. Marty Brodeur not only secured his 98th career shutout in a 5-0 win over the Stars, he mostly avoided his No. 1 nemesis: Sean Avery. "It's two points," Brodeur said. "We just played our game and we didn't worry about him too much." Now Marty, we saw those whacks you gave Mr. Bigmouth throughout the game -- not that he didn't deserve them.
9 PRs
Last Week: 8
Before Friday's game, Manny Legace tripped on a carpet laid out for Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin, who dropped the ceremonial puck. Legace tried to play through the injury, but had to be removed during the first period. So is everyone on the roster now a Democrat? "She's been good for our game," Legace said. "I'm starting to like her more and more. No grudge." Maybe it was a blessing in disguise, as Ben Bishop and Marek Schwarz combined for a shutout.
10 PRs
Last Week: 15
The Avs have won five straight including impressive victories over the Stars and Sabres. One reason for the hot streak has been the play of the No. 2 line (Ryan Smyth-Paul Stastny-Milan Hejduk). The trio has combined for 12 goals and 27 points. Peter Budaj, meanwhile, was named one of the league's Three Stars of the Week for his three straight strong outings after beginning the season with two shabby showings in his first three starts.
11 PRs
Last Week: 11
Brandon Sutter made NHL history on Thursday. The 19-year-old, a 2007 first-round pick and son of Devils coach Brent Sutter, not only scored a goal, he became the ninth member of the Sutter family to play in the NHL or the minors. Bonus points if you can name all nine. Here ya go: Brandon, Brent, Brian, Darryl, Duane, Rich, Ron, Brett and Brody. As for Canes, they remain stuck in neutral, winning one, then losing one.
12 PRs
Last Week: 21
Here come the Flames, with captain Jarome Iginla behind the wheel. After stumbling early with just one win in its first five games, Calgary has won three straight -- outscoring foes 11-5 over that span. Iggy popped in five goals and had two assists in those three wins. Before the streak, he had just one goal in five games. With home games against Colorado and Boston this week, Calgary should be able to extend its surge.
13 PRs
Last Week: 9
Sergei Fedorov scored twice to help the Caps bust the Stars on Saturday and snap a three-game losing streak. With 475 scores, the veteran set the NHL record for Russian-born players, breaking a tie with Alexander Mogilny. Alex Ovechkin, meanwhile, has gone six straight games without a goal. Maybe his thoughts have been elsewhere recently, as he'll miss some time to be with his ailing grandfather.
14 PRs
Last Week: 5
Oilers fans fired over e-mails suggesting some sort of Wraight Curse after I put their team at No. 5 the previous week ... just before Edmonton embarked on a sudden three-game slide. Curse or not, the Oilers look like a Jekyl and Hyde team: a 4-0 start before the skid. "We were pretty high at 4-0," coach Craig MacTavish told the Edmonton Journal. "Maybe too much. Then we got beat pretty badly in Chicago. That was a quick, collective jerk." Coach MacTavish clearly doesn't believe in curses.
15 PRs
Last Week: 18
I'll start with the good: Tomas Vokoun on Friday improved to 10-1-1 in his last 12 starts against the Sharks with a 47-save performance. As for the ugly: the power play has gone just 3-for-35 this season and 0-for-14 over the past four games. It's probably a good time for Radek Dvorak, Jay Bouwmeester and Richard Zednik to start producing. The trio has combined for just two goals and three assists.
16 PRs
Last Week: 12
Boston Bruins (3-2-3)
This ranking might be a bit generous for a team with so many issues. The goaltending has been inconsistent, the penalty-kill unit is ranked 29th, and two important forwards have been nearly invisible; Marco Sturm and Michael Ryder. Both are being counted on for 30-goal seasons, but have just one apiece. On the other hand, Bruins fans may have a new favorite in 20-year-old Milan Lucic, who on Saturday scored his first hat trick.
17 PRs
Last Week: 14
If they miss the playoffs, they may look back at their October failures in shootouts: 0-for-3. Those three points can come up huge down the road, especially considering that Chicago missed the postseason by three points last seasom. The goaltending, meanwhile, seems to be a rotation of Nik Khabibulin (five starts) and Cristobal Huet (four starts). I wonder if the 'Hawks are playing the Bulin Wall more to pique trade interest.
18 PRs
Last Week: 28
Anaheim Ducks (4-5-0)
They are headed in the right direction, winning four of five after an ugly 0-4 start. The hot streak coincides with Ryan Getzlaf's surge. The 23-year-old pivot had a point in three of his last four games after going pointless in four consecutive. Wednesday's showdown with Detroit should be a nice test, as I'm still not convinced this team has gotten everything in order or found its identity.
19 PRs
Last Week: 26
With Mike Richards and Martin Biron leading the way, the Flyers swept a home-and-home with the rival Devils. Friday's win ended Philly's longest drought to start a season since their 0-4-2 mark in 1999-2000. Saturday's win snapped a 13-game winless streak in New Jersey. But the road will be a bit tougher over the next month, because that's about how long Daniel Briere will be sidelined with a torn abdominal muscle.
20 PRs
Last Week: 29
I can hear Canucks, Sens and Habs fans all yelling in synch: How the heck ya got the Leafs that high? Well, Toronto was solid last week, dumping Boston and Ottawa while falling to Anaheim in a shootout. Considering the Leafs' schedule to start the season, maybe they should be even higher. "We have a chance to be over .500 in the first month," coach Ron Wilson said. "I don't think anyone thought that was possible with the schedule we have."
21 PRs
Last Week: 19
This season has the same feel as last: I'm having a tough time figuring out the Preds. They've scored three or more goals in seven straight games, but have given up at least three in five consecutive. One would figure goaltending to be the problem. Dan Ellis has struggled (4-4, 3.35 GAA, .867 save percentage), but the special teams have also left a lot to be desired: 19th-ranked PP, 26th-ranked PK.
22 PRs
Last Week: 20
Dallas Stars (3-4-2)
I realize the Stars last week earned points in three of four games. But I have yet to be wowed by this team. One night, they go out and earn an impressive 2-1 win over the Rangers only to follow it up with a 5-0 loss to the Devils. These aren't the same shutdown Stars we've come to know over the years. "The goals-against is a joke right now," coach Dave Tippett said. "There are a lot of guilty parties out there. It's not the way we do things around here, to have to score seven goals to win."
23 PRs
Last Week: 22
If not for Saturday's 6-3 win over the Oilers in which the PP finally woke up with four scores in six chances, the Canucks would've found themselves in the bottom five. Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Blue Jackets still leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Same goes for the play of Roberto Luongo, who has allowed at least three goals in six straight games. That would explain his ugly 3.29 GAA and .896 save percentage.
24 PRs
Last Week: 16
Though slipping, they should be impressed with the play of their second line: Patrick O'Sullivan, Jarret Stoll and Oscar Moller. The trio has combined for eight goals and seven assists. But Moller may be sent back to the minors by Nov. 1 if the team doesn't want to pay his full salary for the season. If the 19-year-old continues to play well, the Kings will have a tough decision on their hands.
25 PRs
Last Week: 25
Hard to believe, but Thursday's win moved them to 2-0 at home for the first time since 2000. Another brow-raiser has been the play of 18-year-old Mikkel Boedker. Coach Wayne Gretzky has a lot of faith in the kid, putting him on a line with veterans Olli Jokinen and Shane Doan. "And so we got lucky, and it's the kind of mold we're looking for: speed, energy, good hockey sense," Gretzky told the Arizona Republic.
26 PRs
Last Week: 17
To be thought of highly in the league and in these rankings, you have to take care of business at home. The Sens went 1-4 on their recent five-game homestand and are now 1-4-1 at Scotiabank. It's probably a good thing that this week they'll be on a three-game road trip. Another issue is the fact Ottawa falls behind early in just about every game.
27 PRs
Last Week: 24
The Jackets have lost four of their last five, and the news gets even worse. Starting goalie Pascal Leclaire could miss a few games with a tweaked ankle. It's nothing new for Leclaire, who has never played more than 54 games in a season at any level. Knowing this, why hasn't Columbus at some point snagged a dependable netminder? I haven't checked out the salary cap situation, but Nik Khabibulin would be a good fit.
28 PRs
Last Week: 27
After missing the start of the season, netminder Rick DiPietro returned to start three straight only to go down again with an undisclosed injury. That's the extent of the info. "I've been told that our policy is that we can't talk about injuries," coach Scott Gordon said. In the roar of that silence has to be some concern that DiPietro is awfully brittle and still has 13 years to go on his $67.5 million contract. Meanwhile, the struggling Isles peppered the Canes with 60 shots on Saturday...and lost, 4-3.
29 PRs
Last Week: 23
After a stretch of five games without a PP goal, Atlanta connected on four of its next 11 opportunities over two games, only to allow five goals in each -- this after not giving up more than three in the previous three contests. "It seems like we fix one thing and something else breaks down," coach John Anderson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "It's like trying to put fingers in holes in dikes, and I haven't got enough fingers."
30 PRs
Last Week: 30
In seven games, they've given up more than three goals just twice. That means the offense is the culprit in the slow start. "It was very embarrassing," coach Barry Melrose said. "Our goaltending has been great every game. But we've scored 11 goals in seven games. It doesn't take Albert Einstein to figure out that's not enough." In case you were wondering, highly-touted rookie Steven Stamkos has yet to register a point.

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