October 29, 2013

Captain Gabriel Landeskog and his red hot Avalanche got off to a franchise record 10-1-0 start.
Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

We've hit another one of the season's milestone moments: the major shakeup trade. Islanders' GM Garth Snow pulled the trigger to acquire sniper Thomas Vanek from Buffalo at considerable cost to his team's future, sending a clear message that he expects to win now. The Sabres, meanwhile, solidified their place as the favorites to pick first overall next June by dealing away one of their few viable weapons. Finally, a smart move by GM Darcy Regier.

The Sharks and Avalanche kept winning -- a pity the two don't meet up until Dec. 23 -- and so, surprisingly, did the Lightning, who somehow sit atop the Eastern Conference with an 8-3 mark. They could pad their lead with wins over a couple of patsies before facing a real test on Saturday when they host the Blues.

The Flyers showed signs of life, or at least benefited from getting in a good word with the Big Man (see below), and won two in a row. They're getting good goaltending, and their offense is starting to pick up with both Claude Giroux and Mark Streit recording multi-point games in their last outing. Were we too quick to pronounce them DOA? Let's talk again after they Ducks on Tuesday night.

Here's how the rest of the league stacks up after Week 4.

Notable rise: Minnesota Wild (19 to 7)

Notable drop: Carolina Hurricanes (13 to 23)

NHL Power Rankings
1San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 1
Goaltender Antti Niemi finally got a night off in Ottawa after starting 11 straight games. Apparently the defense thought it had a hall pass, too. The Sharks allowed 40 shots with backup Alex Stalock making his debut, nine more than they'd allowed in a game all season, but the Sharks still managed to crush the Senators and remain the class of the league. (Last week: 2-1-0)
2Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 3
It's starting to feel like this ride is never going to end, doesn't it? Their come-from-behind win over the Jets that established the franchise record for best start to a season was a little more thrilling than it needed to be, but it showed the resilience that this team possesses. And can we start talking about the amazing job that assistant coach Andre Tourigny has done with the PK? (Last week: 2-0-0)
3Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 4
Anaheim's goaltending factory keeps churning 'em out. With Viktor Fasth (lower body) sidelined, Danish sensation Frederik Andersen stepped into the breach and is 3-0 with a 1.50 GAA and .944 save percentage after helping the Ducks even up their mark through the first four matches of their season-high eight-game road swing. (Last week: 2-2-0)
4Boston Bruins
Last Week: 9
After allowing just three shorthanded goals through their first nine games, the B's penalty kill was lit up four times in a loss to the Devils on Saturday. Ouch. At least Jarome Iginla's game is on track. After a slow start, the summer's prize acquisition has two goals and seven points in his last four games. (Last week: 2-1-0)
5St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 8
Wherever Alex Steen goes, it's a red-light district. With a pair of goals in Saturday's 6-1 thumping of the Predators, he became first St. Louis player since Scott Young in 2000-01 to score 10 goals in the team's first nine games. No coincidence that the Blues have taken points in eight of those contests. (Last week: 1-1-0)
6Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 6
It was a tough week for the Hawks, who needed extra time to smuggle points out of Florida, and then had to settle for a split against Minnesota. At least they issued the proper response to back-to-back losses, enjoying their largest margin of victory of the season in the 5-1 rout of the Wild on Monday. (Last week: 2-1-1)
7Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 19
They've dominated puck possession battles all season long, holding opponents to 20 shots or fewer on five occasions including last Tuesday night's win over the Preds. But their five-on-five play was brought back to earth during a home-and-home with the Blackhawks. Chicago scored six goals at even strength. The Wild had given up just five total in their previous 11 games. (Last week: 3-1-0)
8Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 14
Amazing that the Leafs have scratched and clawed their way into a share of the Eastern Conference lead despite having yet to play a single game with a full roster. David Clarkson is back after his 10-game suspension, but Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak are out. No matter. The Leafs keep finding ways to win games they shouldn't and pocket the points. (Last week: 2-1-0)
9Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 15
The Bolts rebounded from last week's humiliating loss to Boston by reeling off three straight wins. Sure, two of 'em came at the expense of Buffalo and Florida, but they all count. The PK is hot (on a 23-of-24 tear) and the boys responded respond to coach Jon Cooper's plea for more shots by launching a season-high 39 against the Panthers. (Last week: 3-0-0)
10Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 2
The injuries are mounting in Pittsburgh, where Rob Scuderi just joined James Neal and Beau Bennett on the sidelines. So are the losses. The Pens dropped three straight, and looked tired and out of sync in the process before finding their footing on Monday night against the Canes. (Last week: 0-2-0)
11Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 10
They blew a 4-0 lead against the Coyotes, then managed just one goal on a season-high 48 shots against a recalled minor leaguer between Edmonton's pipes, but still managed to come away with four points. This feels a lot like last season when this team struggled to find its way early on. (Last week: 2-0-0)
12Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 16
John Tortorella's fingerprints were all over their just-concluded 5-1-1 road trip that goes down as the most successful in franchise history, but these Canucks don't look much like his stodgy Rangers. Sure, they're blocking shots (197, fourth in the league) and they've stopped diving, but Torts' heavy, heavy reliance on the Sedins and Ryan Kesler hearkens back to his Cup-winning days with Tampa Bay. (Last week: 4-0-0)
13Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 7
The sweaters are the same, but these guys sure don't look like the Phoenix Coyotes. This normally stingy bunch coughed up13 goals in three games last week, including seven to the Kings, and they've now allowed four-or-more in five of their 12 games. At least the defense is active at the other end of the ice. It chipped in 10 goals (11, if you count goalie Mike Smith's tally), tops in the league. (Last week: 2-1-0)
14Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 5
Last week's stumble turned into a full-fledged face plant this week. They've now dropped four straight after being embarrassed by the Senators and the hapless Rangers at home. The problem is clear: the normally sure-handed Wings have been tagged with 116 turnovers in 12 games, third most in the league. (Last week: 0-1-1)
15Nashville Predators
Last Week: 11
Their 3:04:50 streak of playing tied or with the lead finally came to an end early in last Tuesday's loss to the Wild, but the bigger issue is the state of their goaltending. With Pekka Rinne (hip) out indefinitely, the torch falls to Carter Hutton (lit up for five goals by the Blues on Saturday) and Magnus Hellberg. The two have five games of NHL experience between them. (Last week: 1-1-1)
16Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 12
Sure, the Habs have enjoyed solid goaltending this season, but their skaters deserve almost as much credit for Montreal's strong defensive numbers. They blocked 28 shots on Monday night against the Rangers. That's one more than their netminder, Peter Budaj, was forced to make. (Last week: 2-2-0)
17Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 25
Their hard-fought loss to the Ducks that snapped their three-game winning streak on Sunday was tough to swallow, but it gave a good indication of the type of resilience that this team has in it. If the Jackets keep doing things the right way, the wins will come. (Last week: 2-1-0)
18Calgary Flames
Last Week: 17
The Flames put that nightmarish 1-4 Western road trip behind them with a solid home win over the Capitals on Saturday night. They have a tough week ahead, though, with games against the Leafs, Wings and Hawks. They could be brought back to reality in a hurry. (Last week: 1-2-0)
19Dallas Stars
Last Week: 20
Dallas Stars (5-5-1)
Goalie Kari Lehtonen returned to action on Thursday after missing five games, and the impact of his presence was obvious. This guy may cover for more defensive zone errors than any netminder in the league. Lapses in coverage almost cost the Stars a three-goal margin on Monday night in Buffalo, continuing a season-long trend. At some point, GM Jim Nill has to come up with a viable improvement for this blueline corps. (Last week: 2-0-1)
20New York Islanders
Last Week: 21
Another up-and-down week for the Isles that featured a win over Pittsburgh and a loss to Philly (the Flyers are now 30-7-1-2 at Nassau Coliseum since the 2007-08 season) was all that GM Garth Snow could take. He expects better of this group than .500 hockey, and the addition of Thomas Vanek says he believes in its ability to win now. It's up to the players now to prove that they can. (Last week: 1-1-1)
21Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 18
Captain Jason Spezza felt compelled to call his first players-only meeting after a pair of frustrating home losses to the Ducks and Sharks. Those are high-end foes that can give any team trouble, but the Sens gave both games away by allowing both to go up 2-0 in the first period. (Last week: 1-2-0)
22Washington Capitals
Last Week: 22
Memo to Adam Oates: You might want to consider starting just about anybody other than Braden Holtby in net the next time the Caps play the Flames. In two meetings this year, he's allowed six goals on just 24 shots. Of course, it's not all his fault. In both that game and Sunday's loss in Vancouver, Washington spent far too much time chasing the play in its own zone. (Last week: 2-2-0)
23Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 13
It might help if the 'Canes, losers of three straight, figured out that it's tough to win games when you're always having to come from behind. Carolina has just four first-period goals through 12 games -- only Buffalo has scored fewer -- while giving up 10. (Last week: 0-3-0)
24Winnipeg Jets
Last Week: 23
It was another one of those one-step-forward-two-steps-back weeks for the Jets, who keep finding new ways to beat themselves. But hey, as long as their power play stays in deep freeze -- it's now gone eight straight games without connecting -- they're not going to gain any traction. (Last week: 1-1-2)
25Florida Panthers
Last Week: 24
There was a moral victory to be found in their shootout loss to the Hawks, but they threw away points against the Sabres and Lightning. These Cats can't keep relying on third period heroics to pull them out of the holes they've dug in tentative first and second periods. (Last week: 1-0-2)
26Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 26
Tough to be too hard on a team that played its last four games without four of its top forwards. Edmonton could have both Taylor Hall (knee) and Sam Gagner (broken jaw) back in the lineup by this time next week. The team needs their production, and a little bit more of Richard Bachman's Cinderella magic in net to turn this season around before it;s too late. (Last week: 1-2-1)
27Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 28
They finally scored more than two goals in a game. Not coincidentally, they won both games. It helped that they outscored the Rangers and Islanders 3-0 in the third period after being outscored 12-2 in the final stanzas of their first eight games. It might also help that Ed Snider had a personal audience with the Pope. Seriously. (Last week: 2-2-0)
28New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 29
Losing captain Bryce Salvador to a broken foot might have been the best thing that's happened to the Devils. His injury opened up a spot for rookie D-man Eric Gelinas, who quickly made his presence felt with a goal in a shootout loss to Tampa Bay and a big play to kickstart a comeback win over Boston. (Last week: 1-1-1)
29New York Rangers
Last Week: 27
If a New York-based team was going to make a deal for Thomas Vanek, it should have been this one. The Rangers were shut out on Monday night for the third time in their last seven games, this time by Montreal backup Peter Budaj. The offense is now averaging 1.50 goals per game, dead last in the league. Someone might want to wake up GM Glen Sather. (Last week: 1-2-0)
30Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 30
There was the John Scott incident, calls from the national media for Ron Rolston's dismissal, the first game since 1996 in which a team dressed four teenagers, and the stunning trade that sent captain Thomas Vanek to the Isles for Matt Moulson and two picks, including a 2014 first rounder. The Sabres still stink, but at least they're not boring. (Last week: 1-2-0)

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