Torrid Blackhawks seize top spot in Week 9 NHL Power Rankings

Tuesday December 3rd, 2013

Even rookie goalie Antti Raanta got in on the fun as the Blackhawks tore up the road in seven games.
Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images

It took them nine weeks and a wearying seven-game road trip, but the Chicago Blackhawks finally ascended to the pinnacle of our Power Rankings. The Hawks looked the part of defending Stanley Cup champions while winning six of their seven tilts and improving to a league-best 11-3-1 away from the friendly confines of the United Center.

Some credit here for Chicago's often overlooked goaltending: After losing the trip's opener in Denver, Corey Crawford offered up his best hockey of the season, stopping 110 of the 116 shots he faced (a .948 save percentage) during the course of four wins. Rookie Antti Raanta, filling in for injured backup Nikolai Khabibulin, earned his first NHL victory while stopping 51 of 55 shots (.927 save percentage). You can't overstate the value of that consistency.

At the other end of the list, the Oilers are putting something together after a rough start. Their defense (other than blueliner Jeff Petry, who's really struggling) is playing a smarter, more effective game and their forwards are attacking with a more refined purpose, but the big ups belong to the team's beleaguered netminders. Ilya Bryzgalov is day-to-day after suffering an upper-body injury in Dallas on Sunday, but he has a 2.12 GAA and .938 save percentage in parts of four games with his new team. Devan Dubnyk has six quality appearances to show for his last seven starts. The Oilers haven't got the ship turned around quite yet, but at least they all seem to be rowing in the same direction.

Here's how the rest of the league stacks up after Week 9.

Notable rise: Detroit Red Wings (21 to 12)

Notable drop: Dallas Stars (13 to 17)

NHL Power Rankings
1Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 2
The greatest show on Earth was everywhere but the United Center during the past two weeks. After dropping the first game of their annual trip due to the arrival of the circus in Chicago, the Hawks dazzled the NHL by reeling off six straight wins on the road. Their smothering defense limited their opposition to just 10 goals while keying the successful run. (Last week: 3-0-0)
2San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 3
They swept their five-game homestand and are on an eight-of-nine run after knocking off the Kings, Blues and Ducks. That might have earned the the Sharks the top spot in this week's rankings if they hadn't blown third-period leads and given away points to L.A. and Anaheim. You never want to turn divisional match-ups into three-point games. (Last week: 3-0-0)
3St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 1
Coach Ken Hitchcock took the blame for the slow start that cost his team its game in San Jose in Friday night, but Monday night's no-show against the Kings was entirely on the players. The ability to rev it up mid-game has seen them through matches against lesser opponents, but they can't afford to sleep through the first period against elite competition. (Last week: 1-2-0)
4Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 4
Colorado has persevered through the Semyon Varlamov situation and injuries to Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny to win five of its last six, including three in extra time. No surprise there. The Avs are playing some of their best hockey in tight games, going 7-1. That's the mark of a well-coached club. (Last week: 2-1-0)
5Boston Bruins
Last Week: 8
Boston Bruins (18-7-2)
The B's grabbed the top spot in the Eastern Conference by taking advantage of a favorable schedule that saw them play 17 of their first 27 games at home. It's time now to see what they can do in their whites. Boston plays five of its next six on the road, including divisional tilts against Toronto and Montreal that should provide a decent test. (Last week: 2-1-0)
6Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 5
Anaheim Ducks (18-7-4)
Time to write off that mid-month wobble that dropped them from the top of the standings? Maybe. Even with last week's ugly 6-3 loss in Dallas, the Ducks are 3-1-1 in their last five and play four of their next six at home, where they are a franchise-best 10-0-1 to start the season. (Last week: 1-1-1)
7Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 10
The story in Pittsburgh isn't consecutive First Star of the Week honors for Evgeni Malkin (4-13-17 in his last eight games), but the resilience of the Pens in the face of a brutal string of injures. Blueliner Paul Martin was the latest to be sidelined after fracturing his tibia, but the defense tightened up in his absence, allowing just one goal during the weekend while visiting the Panthers and Lightning. (Last week: 3-0-0)
8Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 5
They've played in six consecutive one-goal contests, but have just a 2-1-3 mark to show for it. They're coughing up points instead of hoarding them the way the Avs are, in large part because the offense has just produced only nine goals during that stretch. The return of Jeff Carter couldn't come at a better time. (Last week: 1-1-1)
9Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 15
The Habs are on a 7-1-2 tear, the best record in the East during that span. They haven't allowed more than two goals in any of those contests, although it took a couple of goalmouth clears from P.K. Subban on Monday night against the Devils to keep that streak intact. (Last week: 3-0-1)
10Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 7
On Monday night against Philadelphia, they scored the opening tally of a game for the first time in nine contests on their way to a 2-0 victory. The win snapped a four-game losing streak, but their offense remains in deep freeze, tallying just six times during the past five games. (Last week: 1-2-1)
11Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 9
Allowing nearly four goals per game isn't working out for the 'Yotes, who are on a 1-3-1 skid. They've lost three straight at home after starting the season 9-0-1 at Arena, so this week's three-game swing through Western Canada might be just what they need to rediscover their form. (Last week: 1-1-0)
12Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 21
Three wins while outscoring their opposition 15-3? These are the Red Wings we've been expecting all season. Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist have stepped up in the absence of Pavel Datsyuk (concussion symptoms), bringing some zip to an offense that had grown monotonously sluggish during Detroit's bruising seven-game home losing skid. (Last week: 3-0-0)
13Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 11
Nine wins is nine wins, and the Flyers can be very proud of their November turnaround. Still, only one of those victories (2-1 over Pittsburgh on Nov. 13) came against a club that is currently in playoff position. This team still has something to prove. (Last week: 2-2-0)
14New York Rangers
Last Week: 12
Not that two consecutive starts for Cam Talbot would have signaled a goalie controversy in New York under the best of circumstances, but Henrik Lundqvist's backup removed all doubt about who is No. 1 on Broadway by allowing four goals in a loss to Winnipeg on Monday night. Still, Talbot is off to a 6-2-0 start, and seems to have earned the confidence of coach Alain Vigneault. (Last week: 2-2-0)
15Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 14
They got their defense back in order after a mid-month swoon, allowing just six goals during their past four games, but the Bolts continue to slip in the Atlantic Division. A three-point lead on Nov. 15 has turned into a five-point deficit in the span of seven games. Time to string a few good ones together, eh boys? (Last week: 1-1-0)
16Washington Capitals
Last Week: 16
Is it too late for Braden Holtby to plead his case for a spot on Team Canada's roster? Two impressive starts over the weekend—35 stops against the Habs and 37 more versus the Isles—capped off a November that saw him go 8-3-1 with a .935 save percentage and 2.33 GAA. Not bad for a guy who is playing behind a defense that averages 35.1 shots allowed per game, second-most in the league. (Last week: 2-1-0)
17Dallas Stars
Last Week: 13
Dallas Stars (12-9-4)
The young Stars played magnificently against the Hawks at home on Friday night, but enough already with the moral victories. If they play well enough to win, they need to seal the deal, especially at the American Airlines Center where they've already given away too many points this season. (Last week: 1-0-2)
18Nashville Predators
Last Week: 17
Another shootout...another shootout loss. The Preds may be on a 5-2-1 tear, but their record could look better if not for the skills competition. Nashville is 0-3 in games that get past OT, and their shooters have yet to score in 11 chances after failing on all three tries in Saturday's 3-2 loss to Philly. (Last week: 1-1-1)
19Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 18
They have taken two out of three so far on their four-game road swing, but they came out flat in the one their coach wanted the most. That 5-2 pasting by the Rangers on Saturday highlighted everything that's wrong with this team: an offense that can't capitalize on its chances and goaltending that fails to come up with the big save when it is needed most. (Last week: 2-1-0)
20New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 20
Maybe Cory Schneider finally learned to think about others instead of himself. Or maybe it's because Martin Brodeur has lost four in a row. Either way, Schneider is about to escape his own personal "Groundhog Day" and finally step into a more prominent role with the Devils after winning both ends of a back-to-back against the Hurricanes and Sabres over the weekend. (Last week: 2-2-0)
21Winnipeg Jets
Last Week: 23
Winnipeg Jets (13-12-4)
Their 5-2 thumping of the Rangers at MSG has the Jets on the upswing as winners of three of four to start a six-game road trip after they'd dropped four straight. If they can figure out how to get something from a power play that's 0-fer-the-past-five games, they might be able to keep rolling. (Last week: 2-1-0)
22Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 19
So that's what they mean by "the chickens coming home to roost." Living dangerously, the Leafs won just twice in regulation during the month of November. They were ultimately victimized by allowing themselves to be outshot and outchanced in virtually every game they played. Their "zero shots in the third period/OT" combo against Pittsburgh was a first in franchise history, and a perfect encapsulation of their listless play. (Last week: 0-1-2)
23Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 22
They can't score at five-on-five. They can't score on the power play. But the Hurricanes are tied for the league lead with five shorties. Hold the phone...I think we've just uncovered the secret to goosing the NHL's 29th ranked offense. (Last week: 1-2-0)
24Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 24
Home ice is supposed to be an advantage, but for the struggling Sens, the Canadian Tire Centre is just the place where all their mistakes are magnified. This week's road trip to Florida might be the best thing for a team that's coughed up four straight at home. (Last week: 1-2-0)
25Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 29
It's no fluke that the Oilers have rung up five victories in their last seven games. Through their first 10 contests, their defense allowed 39 goals. Over their last 10, just 25 tallies. Maybe coach Dallas Eakins is finally getting his point across to the kids. (Last week: 2-1-0)
26Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 25
I really like Columbus Dispatch scribe Aaron Portzline's description of these Jackets: "They are winning and losing, winning and losing, oscillating like a fan that never lets the room get too warm or too cold." That's a great formula for a team that's aiming for a lottery pick. Not so great if its goal is the playoffs. (Last week: 1-2-0)
27Calgary Flames
Last Week: 27
They didn't have a regulation win to show for November until Mike Cammalleri's goal with 23 seconds remaining clinched a 2-1 victory over the Kings on Saturday night. It'll be interesting to see if netminder Karri Ramo, making only his second appearance in the Flames' last 13 games, will have to sit a while before he's given another look after his 21-save effort. (Last week: 1-2-0)
28Florida Panthers
Last Week: 26
They are ranked 26th in goals allowed (3.22), 27th in goals scored (2.11), 29th on the power play (10.6 percent) and 29th on the penalty kill (74.4 percent). And they're ticking off season-ticket holders by reportedly offering cut-rate seats to single-game buyers. They sure know how to keep 'em comin' back for more. (Last week: 0-2-0)
29New York Islanders
Last Week: 28
With seven losses in their last eight games, the Isles are on the express elevator to the Eastern basement. Rumors about the job security of their coach are starting to percolate, but GM Garth Snow owes Jack Capuano a chance to fill out a lineup with a halfway decent defense and proven NHL goaltender before he holds him accountable. (Last week: 0-3-0)
30Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 30
The eye-test reveals the Sabres to be an improved team since coach Ted Nolan took over, especially in the defensive end where they allowed only five regulation goals last week. But there's just not enough spark to expect anything better than a decent effort from these guys. (Last week: 1-1-1)

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