Posted: Tue February 12, 2013 3:48PM; Updated: Wed February 13, 2013 11:05AM
Adrian Dater

Blackhawks soar on atop my Power Rankings

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Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks
Without his trademark mouthpiece, Patrick Kane is off to a monster start. Coincidence, you say?
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Through the first quarter of this lockout-shortened season, the Chicago Blackhawks remain unbeaten in regulation while the Boston Bruins are close to their Original Six brethren in overall excellence. In fact, it's a good time to be among the Original Six. Five of the top 12 teams in this week's Power Rankings are Originals, and the one that isn't (Montreal Canadiens) still has a winning record. So let's hear it for tradition.

1Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 1
Patrick Kane for the Hart? I'll second that nomination by my esteemed colleague Allan "The Ghost and Mr." Muir in his first quarter NHL awards . Kane bagged nine goals and 19 points in his first 12 games, with a 27.3 shooting percentage. He's done it all without his customary mouth guard, too. While in Switzerland during the lockout, his team didn't have one for him, so he played without it and has since pondered the question of whether his habit of chewing on it distracted him from his game. "It's kind of all in your mind," Kane told the Chicago Tribune. "For the time being we'll keep it out. It could come back, who knows?" It's all good for the Monsters of Madison right now. They're not just winning games, they're destroying opponents. (Stu Hackel talked to GM Stan Bowman about their success.). The amazing thing is, of Chicago's first 12 games, only two were at home. They've already played 10 of their 24 road games! Last week: 3-0-0
2Boston Bruins
Last Week: 3
Neither rain nor sleet nor snow -- about 26 inches of the white stuff in the Boston area last weekend -- can slow the Bs these days. While all flights in and out of Beantown were canceled in the aftermath of the huge storm, the team was able to fire up its charter plane and keep a scheduled date in Buffalo with the Sabres on Sunday night. (The Bs are in such a good mood that they even allowed local beat reporters to hop the charter with them.) A dominant 3-1 victory later (shots were 39-for, 26-against), Boston sat atop the Northeast Division and no longer has Tim Thomas as a distraction. The page has officially been turned now that he's been dealt to the Islanders. But let's all take a moment to honor his accomplishments: four All-Star appearances, two Vezina trophies, one Stanley Cup and one Conn Smythe Trophy. "He was a great goaltender and I definitely appreciated what he did for this hockey club," Milan Lucic told reporters. "You look at the solid five years that he put together, it was probably better than any other goalie in the league." Last week: 2-0-0
3New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 9
David Clarkson (15 points in his first 12 games) has been doing a great job of helping people in Jersey to not think about the Devils' former captain-- at least, so far. "When we had Zach Parise last year and a little more depth offensively, we penciled (Clarkson) in as a third-line guy that we felt could create some mismatches for us against fifth and sixth defensemen," coach Peter DeBoer told the Newark Star-Ledger. "A guy that could score, play physical and give us some depth on offense. Obviously with Parise leaving, that opened up a hole in our top six for a winger that could score and he's moved to the first power play unit. His offensive role has increased, but he's earned it." Last week: 4-0-0
4Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 6
Hard to believe that entering Monday night's games Henrik Sedin still hadn't scored a goal. Of course, he had eight assists and was plus-7, so there are no real worries with his game. Nor are there concerns about brother Daniel, who had three goals and 10 points. But the only thing anybody really wants to talk about in Vancouver is still who's gonna be the starting goalie in the playoffs: Cory Schneider or Roberto Luongo? Or will Luongo still be traded? Last week: 2-0-0
5Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 5
Sidney Crosby is heating up. He entered Tuesday with points in six of his previous eight games (12 in all). The explosiveness in his stride is back, as is his shot. Once he really gets it going, he'll make a run at the scoring title. Back-to-back 3-1 losses to the Devils over the weekend, though, took some of the happy out of Penguins fans. Expect GM Ray Shero to try to make a deal for another forward, someone who can complement Evgeni Malkin a little better than Zach Boychuk, who was pointless after his first six games despite playing left wing on Malkin's line. Last week: 2-2-0
6Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 11
They're off to a great start despite Corey Perry's struggles (one goal, five assists). That should bode well, but the "Viktor Fasth for Vezina" talk cooled a bit after he allowed five goals in St. Louis over the weekend. The Swedish rookie still sports spiffy numbers (1.72 goals-against average, .932 saves percentage), yet No. 1 goalie Jonas Hiller does not feel threatened by that Fasth start. "Last year, I played a lot of games (73)," Hiller told the Orange County Register. "At some point, you kind of feel exhausted. If you have two guys who are playing well, yeah, it's good. If you don't play well for a while or something, you know there's somebody else who can carry a team or help them win points. At the same time, it's also a challenge that [I] feel like now I have to play better." Last week: 2-1-0
7New York Rangers
Last Week: 7
Panic time is over for Blueshirts fans. The Rangers looked great in their 5-1 win over Tampa Bay on Sunday. Rick Nash is playing strong hockey at plus-8 and with nine points in his first 11 contests. Tuesday's road contest in Boston will show whether this team really is back among the elite, but I see the Rangers getting better and better as the short season moves along. Their power play (10 percent; 29th overall entering Tuesday) obviously has a lot of room for improvement. Last week: 2-1-0
8San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 2
Sharksmania has dimmed considerably. San Jose entered Monday's game in Columbus as the loser of four straight (0-2-2) and was soundly thumped, 6-2, by the hardly ferocious Blue Jackets. The Sharks were also beaten by Chicago, 5-3, at home in something of a measuring-stick game. After his white-hot start (nine goals in his first five games), Patrick Marleau entered Monday's action on a five-game pointless streak, as did Jumbo Joe Thornton. As those two go, so go the Sharks. Last week: 0-2-1
9Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 18
Hold your hearses. The Wings ain't dead yet. Pavel Datsyuk scored an amazing goal (video) in a 3-2 win over the Kings on Sunday. Other than Evgeni Malkin, I say Datsyuk has still got the best stickhandling skills in the league. Swiss rookie Damien Brunner (undrafted) has points in eight of his last nine games, too. How do the Wings always find European gems? Simple: astute scouting. If GM Ken Holland can address a need by prying a solid defenseman from another team, anything is possible with these Wings. Last week: 3-1-0
10St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 4
Jaroslav Halak tried to come back from a groin injury on Monday night against the Kings and promptly reinjured himself during warm-up, so it looks like it'll be Brian Elliott or bust, and the early returns aren't encouraging. Elliott played extremely well last season, but you always had the nagging feeling that it might have been a fluke, something that had more to do with coach Ken Hitchcock's defensive system than the goaltender himself. Hitchcock is still running the same system, and Elliott has been shaky at best. The Blues aren't scoring enough goals, either. It'll be interesting to see how Hitch reacts to some regular-season adversity for the first time in his tenure. Last week: 0-3-1
11Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 25
Randy "Kitty" Carlyle for the Jack Adams Award? I'll disagree with the aforementioned Mr. Muir and go with Bruce "Gabby" Boudreau. But, word up, Carlyle can coach. No, he's not the most cheerful man in hockey, but his players respect his authority enough to play hard for him. There is worry, though, about James Reimer's left leg injury, which he suffered on Monday against the Flyers. Ben Scrivens has played well so far, but relying on him in net the rest of the way would be worrisome. Last week: 4-0-0
12Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 10
I'm still keeping the faith. I don't care what anyone says, this team is downright dangerous and will get a lot better. Of course, it would be better in E-Town if high-priced defenseman Ryan Whitney woke up and started playing well. He was a healthy scratch last week by coach Ralph Krueger, who had a frank exchange of views with Whitney. But that group of forwards -- holy cow. Once they really start to click, it's going to be something in Edmonton again. And this is already a winning team so far, by the way. Last week: 1-1-1
13Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 17
I feel a lot better now after putting them in my top 10 before the season only to see them get off to a terrible start. I really like this team. There's a lot of offense here, the Staal brothers are a big part of that, and Cam Ward seems back on track in goal. The Canes got a nice character win in Long Island on Monday night, trailing 3-2 before wining, 6-4. These guys will make the playoffs. Last week: 2-0-1
14Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 12
I'm in agreement with my colleague Mr. Muir on his early favorite for the Vezina: Craig Anderson, who is big, quick and reads the play extremely well. He may anticipate where the puck is going better than any goalie in the league. Blueliner Erik Karlsson has been tremendous, too. It will still be tough without Jason Spezza (back surgery), but if Anderson keeps playing this well, pencil Ottawa in for another playoff berth. Last week: 1-1-1
15Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 13
A loss on Monday night in St. Louis and it really would have been time for Kings fans to scream, grab their hair and yank it out in tufts. But the defending Cup champs went into a tough building against a desperate foe and handily beat the Blues, 4-1. I fully expect to be ranking the Kings higher come next Tuesday. But for now, they are what their record says they are, to paraphrase Bill Parcells, and their goal differential is a rank 26-32. Jeff Carter's two scores in the win at St. Louis were a welcome sight for coach Darryl Sutter, who will find a way to get the Kings back into the playoffs, it says here, no matter what. He's one of the smartest men in the league. He turned down Princeton, after all. Last week: 2-2-0
16Nashville Predators
Last Week: 20
After some fine road wins, they came home and were dominated by the sizzling Blackhawks in a 3-0 loss. Guess the Preds have some company in that Chicago is beating everyone, but the setback showed that Nashville still isn't quite what it once was. Add in OT/shootout losses and this team's real record is 5-7. The Preds can't score goals, much to netminder Pekka Rinne's dismay, but they still don't give up many, either. There's some hope in that. Last week: 2-1-1
17Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 15
They've looked extremely unimpressive for all that moneyed talent on hand. Luckily, God made shootouts. But Minny's 2-1 SO win at Calgary on Monday night was boring. The Wild were supposed to be much more dynamic, and they can still get a lot better, of course, but I'm not at all wowed by what I've seen so far. If they have to squeak by 2-1 -- like their last two victories -- every night in OT or the postgame skills competition, there won't be any Stanley Cup talk in St. Paul for quite a while. Last week: 2-1-0
18Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 14
It wasn't a great week for the Habs, who still have trouble scoring goals. This team needs another productive center. Could Ryan O'Reilly be pried out of Colorado? Anything's possible, but they'd have to give up a very good player and/or high draft pick in return, and a rebuilding team like this one probably shouldn't do that. In other news, Max Pacioretty said he got a tetanus shot after being bitten by Toronto's Mikhail Grabovsky on Saturday. Max has been snakebit offensively, too, with zero goals. Ba-dum-bum. I'll be here all week. Last week: 0-2-1
19Dallas Stars
Last Week: 21
Dallas Stars (6-5-1)
It's hard to get a read on how this team is going to perform from night to night, but the Stars are pretty fun to watch. Jaromir Jagr, proving to be a great pickup by GM Joe Nieuwendyk, is right there with Teemu Selanne for the Ponce de Leon Trophy. Young Jamie Benn isn't bad, either. His six points in three games earned him the NHL's Second Star of the Week honor. If the Stars keep getting good goaltending from Kari Lehtonen (.928 saves percentage) a playoff spot is certainly possible. Last week: 2-0-0
20Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 8
A terrible week for coach Guy Boucher, who was caught making mocking faces at officials during a 4-2 loss to the Devils last Thursday. This is another team that you never quite know what you're going to get on any given night. Tampa's top players (Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier, Cory Conacher) are doing their jobs, but quality depth just doesn't seem to be there. Last week probably would have been summed up by math geeks as a regression to the mean. Last week: 0-3-0
21Winnipeg Jets
Last Week: 23
The return of defenseman Dustin Byfuglien from a lower body injury certainly was welcome news to Jets fans as their favorite team muddles along after riding a four-game slide into February. Byfuglien had seven points in six games before he got hurt, so it can be argued that the Jets have done a pretty good job of treading water without him. But treading water is all they ever seem to do. Last week: 2-1-0
22Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 19
I don't care if they came into the week off back-to-back SO/OT wins against San Jose and Colorado, or that they've won four of their last five outings. They're not going to win the Stanley Cup with mediocre offense and spotty defense. Coach Dave Tippett does a great job and all, but they're a horrible team to watch. Hopefully, the league figures out a way to penalize trapping teams like Phoenix again, but don't count on it. Last week: 2-1-0
23Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 27
Ilya Bryzgalov was yanked in the second period on Monday night after allowing his fourth goal to the Maple Leafs. Let the debate rage whether he should stay No. 1 in net or if journeyman Brian Boucher should take over. The fact that this debate could possibly happen at all is why the Flyers are going nowhere right now. Coach Peter Laviolette has had some tough luck with injuries, but he's been known to burn out teams with his hollering and yelling. Last week: 2-1-1
24Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 22
They could have gotten back to .500 on Sunday night with a win at home against the Bruins, but that didn't come close to happening. The fans in Buffalo are understandably upset at the state of this team, which was supposed to be on the fast track to the Stanley Cup, starting with the 2011-12 season after a spending spree by owner Terry Pegula. It appears that plenty of folks want the heads of longtime coach Lindy Ruff and GM Darcy Regier on a pike. Last week: 2-2-0
25Florida Panthers
Last Week: 26
There were some signs of life emanating from the Sunrise, but not enough to lead anyone to believe that another playoff appearance is in the cards. Goalie Jose Theodore is either hot or cold, and too often he's been the latter this season. But the Panthers do have some hope. They open a four-game homestand this week against Washington on Tuesday night after getting smoked in the nation's capital over the weekend. It's now or never for these Cats. Last week: 1-1-1
26New York Islanders
Last Week: 16
Blowing their game against Carolina on Monday night was a killer for the Isles, who are now 1-5-0 at home (3-2-0 on the road). If you can't win in your own barn, you're not going anywhere in late April but the golf course. Even if newly acquired Tim Thomas decides to climb out of his bunker in Colorado Springs and jump in goal, the Islanders seem headed for the draft lottery again. Last week: 0-4-0
27Calgary Flames
Last Week: 29
The loss of goalie Miikka Kiprusoff to a lower-body (knee) injury is really bad news for a team that can't score. Coach Bob Hartley has done a pretty good job of making the Flames' record look respectable, but without Kipper in net, the bottom figures to fall out quickly. Last week: 2-1-1
28Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 28
They looked pretty sharp on Monday night in a 6-2 win over the Sharks. No way that kind of success will last, but for one night it was good to see the fans in Columbus acting like front-runners. Defenseman Fedor Tyutin (team-leading 10 points) has been a nice story, but this team has a long way to go before it joins the ranks of playoff contenders. Last week: 1-2-1
29Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 24
The Avs are $18 million under the salary cap and owned by one of the richest men on the planet: Stan Kroenke, who was featured in SI last November as the most powerful man in sports. Yet, the Avs continue to refuse to pay their leading scorer from last season (Ryan O'Reilly) what he is seeking. Fans are booing loudly at games now. It's a mess, and with all the injuries hitting the team, the bad times figure to get even worse. Last week: 0-1-1
30Washington Capitals
Last Week: 30
Alex Ovechkin seems to be adjusting to playing right wing, and a win over Florida at home stopped the hemorrhaging, but the Caps remain a fiasco. Now they go on the road for games in Florida, Tampa Bay and New York (Rangers). If they don't sweep the trip, their playoff hopes are probably baked. Last week: 1-2-0
MUIR: First quarter picks for major awards

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