Posted: Tue January 29, 2013 2:04PM; Updated: Wed January 30, 2013 1:11PM
Adrian Dater
Adrian Dater>INSIDE THE NHL

Hot Chicago Blackhawks top NHL Power Rankings

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How 'bout those boring (or as I called them "zzzzzzz....") San Jose Sharks? How 'bout them New York Rangers? I had them No. 2 in my initial Power Rankings -- or as some people have since called them, the "What the H-E-double-hockey-sticks was that guy thinking?" Rankings.

OK, so maybe my inner Nostradamus took that week off. Hey, we hockey writers have to shake off the rust, too, after that long lockout. All those bowling and skeet shooting tournaments I had to cover maybe got me off my game a little.

But seriously, how 'bout them Sharks and them Chicago Blackhawks? Can we just award the Art Ross Trophy to Patrick Marleau or Joe Thornton right now? What a start in particular for Marleau, the occasionally maligned veteran Shark who tied an NHL record that had stood since 1916-17 by scoring two goals in each of the first four games of a season. He only got one in Game 5. What's the matter with that guy? Somebody call Jeremy Roenick to get his opinion.

The Blackhawks, meanwhile, got off to a 6-0 start. Only 42 more to go for a perfect season. At least I had them in the top 10 in my first rankings, unlike the Sharks at, cough cough, No. 23.

To the latest list:

1Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 9
The Monsters of Madison set a franchise record for best start, breaking the previous mark of five straight wins by the 1971-72 team. "I didn't know that stat, but that's huge," Hawks forward Marian Hossa told Chicagoland reporters. "We just have to build on it." Hossa, obviously, has recovered from the concussion that ended his season prematurely in the playoffs against Phoenix after a hit by Raffi Torres. Patrick Kane hasn't been bad, either. He came into training camp in terrific shape after playing in Switzerland, and by all accounts is a more mature person after some well-documented off-ice incidents. "I kind of owe it to myself and the organization to try and reach my full potential here and maximize that," Kane told The Chicago Sun-Times. Mission accomplished, so far.
 
2San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 23
Yes, we all know this team often looks great in the regular season, not so much in the playoffs. Whether that longtime trend continues this year remains to be seen. But there already appears to be little doubt that the Sharks will be one of the eight Western Conference teams to make the postseason again. Marleau and Thornton have been unreal, each potting 13 points in their first five games. So much for that stale look I forecasted earlier. It's not just those two guys, either. Joe Pavelski, Martin Havlat, Ryane Clowe, Dan Boyle, Logan Couture -- the list of heroes is long right now. Marleau didn't get a point in San Jose's playoff series loss to St. Louis last season, so he's since played with some seemingly pent-up aggression. Even Scott Gomez looked pretty good in his first two games as a Shark. For 700 grand, he could be a steal in Teal.
 
3St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 7
These guys were very, very good last year and don't look much different so far. They are big, young and fast, and play with a defensive mindset that makes for a lot of steals and quick opportunities the other way. Chris Stewart, whose 2011-12 regular season was a bust, but who started to come on at the end of the playoffs, is off to a strong start. Other than Patrice Bergeron, David Backes is probably the best defensive forward in the league. GM Doug Armstrong signed a long-term contract extension recently and the ownership situation is finally stable. This team figures to be in my top 10 for a long time.
 
4Boston Bruins
Last Week: 5
Great start for the Bs, who got their Cup hangover out of the way and look hungry again. Tyler Seguin simply has sick hands. His shootout goal that helped beat Winnipeg was a deking marvel. The Bruins' power play is off to a slow start, however, at 1-for-17 in their first four games, with Seguin, among others, having a tough time converting. But that should get much better. Rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton has looked like an early Calder Trophy candidate with his smooth play at both ends. Boston has a stud D-man for many years to come with this kid. Fans at the TD Garden are already chanting "Dougie, Dougie" during games. "It's amazing that he's 19 years old," Patrice Bergeron said. Indeed.
 
5Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 1
We won't get too alarmed at the previously top-ranked Pens' fairly mediocre start. The good people of Pittsburgh are still certainly jacked that their team is back. TV ratings for the Pens' first few games set local records and $500,000 worth of merchandise was sold last Wednesday at team stores -- despite much of the merch being 50-percent off. Evgeni Malkin is off to a slow start, and the big Russian even blew his stack at the referees at the end of a lshootut win over Ottawa. "I lose control. It was bad emotion. It was my fault," Malkin told local reporters afterward. Rumors in Pittsburgh already have GM Ray Shero snooping around for another winger to play with either Malkin or Sidney Crosby, with 2009 first-round defenseman Simon Despres -- currently playing as a third-pair guy -- the possible trade bait.
 
6New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 16
Here's another team I've got to eat a little crow over. The Devils sure have looked decimated so far without Zach Parise -- not. Under new captain Bryce Salvador, they've played like the same old Devils -- which means sound fundamentals and good enough goaltending from the ageless Martin Brodeur. Ilya Kovalchuk looks just fine. He played with a herniated disc in the playoffs and almost had surgery in the summer. "Nobody knew. You just have to prepare yourself for the new season like you always do, and all the pain was gone. It's a new year. Everything is good," Kovalchuk told the Newark Star-Ledger. This team may not hold up in the long run, though, especially without Adam Henrique (thumb surgery) for a few more weeks. But the Devils have proved skeptics wrong before.
 
7New York Rangers
Last Week: 2
If not for a third-period comeback win over the Maple Leafs on Saturday night, the Blueshirts would have found themselves in a 1-4 hole to start the short season. When order was restored with a terrific third in a 5-2 win, it calmed the nerves of Rangers fans somewhat. But the fact is New York is off to a slow start. Newcomer Rick Nash has played well, though his stats don't quite reflect it. Henrik Lundqvist has looked a little off so far. Once he gets it going, the Rangers should be just fine.
 
8Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 26
Maybe last year was the fluke, when the Lightning missed the playoffs after going to Game 7 of the 2011 conference finals. Coach Guy Boucher's Bolts have looked plenty good so far, especially ageless Martin St. Louis (11 points, NHL Third Star of the Week honors) and Vincent Lecavalier, who recently played in his 1,000th game. "I don't feel old," Lecavalier told reporters. "I still feel that I can play at a high level. I can play physical. I want to keep that; I don't want to change just because I'm getting older." Rookie left wing Cory Conacher has been a find so far, with five points (two goals) in his first three games. If only the Lightning could beat the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum, their loss made it four straight defeats in the old barn by a combined 16-6 margin.
 
9Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 6
The defending Cup champs got off to an 0-2-1 start, including blowing two points by allowing Edmonton's Nail Yakupov to score with 4.7 seconds left in an eventual 2-1 overtime loss. But they went into Phoenix and laid a sound whipping on the Coyotes to get into the win column. More important, center Anze Kopitar led the way with a couple of goals, and appears fully recovered from the knee injury that kept him out of training camp and opening day. The defense suffered a big blow, though, when Matt Greene was lost to back surgery, probably for the rest of the season. GM Dean Lombardi no doubt is on the horn these days, looking for a D-man.
 
10Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 10
So far, there hasn't been too much to complain about with the $98 million twins, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Parise is doing what he normally does -- sweep pucks to the net from the corner, spin away from checkers and play well in the other two zones. Suter hasn't been quite as sterling as usual as he's still adjusting to his new team, but he'll come around. People forget the Wild already had a pretty good goal-scorer in veteran winger Dany Heatley, who has looked good on the top line with Parise and captain Mikko Koivu. There are still questions on the back end, the further down the depth chart from Suter you go. But I think this team will get better as the year goes along.
 
11Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 4
They just haven't looked too good so far, especially new starting goalie Cory Schneider. Is the pressure getting to the Massachusetts native? Maybe, though for now, coach Alain Vigneault doesn't appear ready to push the Roberto Luongo panic button. But maybe there was a reason why GM Mike Gillis was in no hurry to move Luongo just yet. Ryan Kesler's continued absence due to shoulder problems has impacted the rest of the offense in a way that can't be overstated. It's also clear by now that Gillis made a horrible trade in dealing a first-round pick to Florida for Keith Ballard, who is starting to draw scattered boos when he touches the puck in Vancouver. The deal that sent Cody Hodgson to Buffalo for Zack Kassian is looking better, though. Kassian has four goals so far.
 
12Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 3
Hey, I still believe in the Oil. Well, OK, maybe not as much as I did before the season when I ranked them third. But, dollars to Tim Horton's donuts, this team is going to be something when it gets a little defense and goaltending. A blowout loss at home to the Sharks exposed some of the defensive issues that remain from the 29th-place team of last year and the one that was dead last the year before. But Edmonton is still off to a better start than some of you skeptics who filled my inbox with chortling laughter over my first ranking predicted. However, there is something of a debate in Edmonton: Should the team trade one of its young star forwards for a stud D-man?
 
13Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 25
Daniel Winnik is tearing it up for his new team, with five goals in his first four games, only three fewer than he scored in 84 games last season -- he played two extra games because of a trade from Colorado to San Jose. Six Ducks averaged at least a point per game through their first four, with forever-young Teemu Selanne checking in with two goals and five points. This remains a top-heavy team, but so far its top guys have been the top guys.
 
14Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 19
This remains a surprisingly good team. Not great, but good. Goalie Craig Anderson continues to play superbly in net, posting a .975 saves percentage through his first four starts. The Avalanche didn't want to pay him after he took them to the playoffs in 2009 and dealt him away for Brian Elliott, who later moved on to St. Louis as a free agent. Now Anderson and Elliott are two of the top goalies in the league. Erik Karlsson is showing that last year's Norris Trophy wasn't a fluke, with five points and a plus-5 in his first five games. And how about Kyle Turris, with four goals in his first five?
 
15Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 12
There is no question whatsoever that the loss of Nick Lidstrom has badly affected these guys, but they are still dangerous. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are both averaging a point per game, which they may need to do the rest of the year if the Winged Wheel is to stay a playoff team. Jimmy Howard hasn't been all that good in goal, but without Lidstrom in front anymore, that's not so surprising. The Wings also have had a ton of injuries so far, though most are of the day-to-day variety. They'll make a run at some point.
 
16Winnipeg Jets
Last Week: 20
Dustin Byfuglien has gotten his groove back, which is bad news for the Eastern Conference. The massive defenseman posted six points in his first five games, and has teams backing off from his booming slap shot on the power play. Evander Kane hasn't been bad either -- with three goals and three assists so far. The Jets play a pretty entertaining brand of hockey under coach Claude Noel --- fast and physical. The defense and goaltending probably aren't good enough to get Winnipeg to elite status, but the team is slowly getting there.
 
17Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 8
I thought these guys would be a lot better than this. The Staal brothers -- Eric and Jordan -- have done their parts, with 11 combined points so far. Alexander Semin had four points in his first five games for the 'Canes. Carolina is often out-chancing teams, but having trouble finishing at key times and there have been too many defensive errors early in games. Also, goalie Cam Ward hasn't done his part. His saves percentage after the first four games: .861.
 
18New York Islanders
Last Week: 28
Let's give them a little love. John Tavares had only one goal in their first five games, but his six assists gave him the team lead in scoring. New York has gotten balanced offense well down the lineup. The goaltending has been mostly dreadful, though, with Rick DiPietro and Evgeni Nabokov both under 90 percent on saves. If Tavares and the rest of the offense can keep things going, maybe the Isles do have a shot at the playoffs in a short season.
 
19Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 29
The loss of forward Max Pacioretty to an emergency appendectomy over the weekend --- he'll be out three to four weeks --- is a killer. But, hey, PK Subban is back in the fold, and Andrei Markov has been tremendous so far (four goals in his first four games). Raphael Diaz has been strong on the blueline, with five points. Then there's Carey Price, with his .936 saves percentage. The good times probably won't last, but anything is possible with a hot goalie and a 48-game schedule.
 
20Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 11
They calmed some of the panic with two straight wins after an 0-3 start, but then got blown out by Tampa Bay and sent their fans back to clutching the pearls. Surprisingly, the Flyers scored only 13 goals in their first six games, but injuries to Scott Hartnell and Daniel Briere offer a partial reason. There is just a lot of uncertainty with these guys now from night to night. Actually, goalie Ilya Bryzgalov hasn't been all that bad, but Philly fans still get the jitters with him in net.
 
21Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 21
After opening the season with two wins, they dropped their next three -- two to Carolina and one to winless Washington. The losses weren't Thomas Vanek's fault. He's got nine points after five games, and Jason Pominville has eight. But there are some issues still on defense. Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold are looking a little long in the tooth, and Tyler Myers still hasn't gotten his game back after his Calder season. Patience is in short supply with Sabres fans, who were told last year that they would have a Cup-contending team after all that spending by new owner Terry Pegula.
 
22Dallas Stars
Last Week: 22
Dallas Stars (2-3-1)
Getting Jamie Benn under contract was the best news the Stars got last week. If it weren't for senior citizens Jaromir Jagr (four points) and Ray Whitney (five), things would be worse in Big D. It's still a treat to see Jagr play the game, as he remains one of the game's best passers from the half-boards on the power play, and Whitney may be the smartest player in the league when it comes to positioning. If Benn can quickly get up to speed, the Stars will still have a shot at the playoffs.
 
23Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 27
A third-period meltdown in Madison Square Garden on Saturday night spoiled what would have been a nice 3-2 start. The Leafs just don't have enough talent to be a consistent team. It would help if Phil Kessel would start scoring -- he was held to two assists in the first five games -- but James Van Riemsdyk (three goals) has looked good. It's going to be tough sledding for these guys, but under coach Randy "Kitty" Carlyle, they can give opponents an honest battle.
 
24Washington Capitals
Last Week: 18
New coach Adam Oates has Alex Ovechkin playing with no-name forwards Joey Crabb and Jay Beagle, but believes it's the right line combo for the star Russian. "I actually thought that they provided a lot of speed for him and could maybe back the 'D' off," Oates told the Washington Post. "And to get back to balance. Obviously, during the course of a game you can change it back and go through combinations. But I liked our balance." Actually, the Caps haven't looked too balanced at all. Goaltender Braden Holtby, celebrated as the next big thing in net after helping the Caps upset Boston in the playoffs, was porous in his first two starts and the team is looking to Michal Neuvirth for stability.
 
25Nashville Predators
Last Week: 14
The Preds got smoked by Phoenix on the road Monday night, leaving Nashville with only one win in its first six games. The loss of Ryan Suter has, predictably, hurt. Suter's absence certainly hasn't helped Shea Weber's game. Weber is pointless so far, and minus-1. And goalie Pekka Rinne's saves percentage after five starts is only .899, which does not bode well.
 
26Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 15
You'd think the Avs would be burning up the phone lines to get Ryan O'Reilly's signature on a new contract, but as of Monday, you'd be wrong. (My SI.com colleague Allan Muir has a take here. ) The team's penalty killing so far without top PK and faceoff man O'Reilly has been a laughingstock, but stubborn Colorado management refuses to up its offer for the holdout 21-year-old. The Avs also lost captain Gabriel Landeskog to a head and leg injury after a huge hit by San Jose's Brad Stuart. Without Landeskog and O'Reilly (and Steve Downie, out for the season with a torn ACL) this could be a lottery team.
 
27Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 30
A comeback win over Dallas Monday night was a nice start to the week. So far, the Jackets have been better than expected, though they are still capable of flatline efforts (a 4-0 loss at Colorado last week was one). Sergei Bobrovsky has been solid in goal, and Derek Dorsett has arguably been the team's best forward. If Brandon Dubinsky (one point in six games) can get going, respectability will be closer at hand. But this team still has a long way to go.
 
28Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 13
Mike Smith was terrible in goal during his first three starts, and now he's on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. He could return soon, and that will be welcome news despite his stats. Jason LaBarbera and Chad Johnson just won't cut it for long in relief. The Coyotes just aren't a very exciting team. They never have been, really, but good goaltending has gotten them into the playoffs the last few years. If Smith doesn't get healthy and get it going, the playoff run could be over.
 
29Calgary Flames
Last Week: 29
They are just an old, tired team. Miikka Kiprusoff has to stand on his head every night for them to win, and he's just got too many miles on him to do it. GM Jay Feaster didn't think this team needed a rebuild last year, and the Flames nearly snuck into the playoffs. That won't happen this year.
 
30Florida Panthers
Last Week: 17
Forward Tomas Fleischmann put it bluntly to the Miami Herald after the team's horrible start: "We should be panicking," he said. In a short season, a 1-4 start is a potential death sentence. The Panthers, a surprise team last season, have looked flat out awful so far, with eight goals scored and 19 allowed. All the disparate parts (plus a whole bunch of three-point games) that came together to make them a playoff team last season haven't done so just yet.
MORE:
MUIR: Caps gambling with Ovechkin

HACKEL: Junior elgible decisions tricky, costly
 
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