Posted: Tue February 19, 2013 4:36PM; Updated: Wed February 20, 2013 11:24AM
Adrian Dater

Blackhawks at home atop NHL Power Rankings

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Chicago Blackhawks' Corey Crawford
Corey Crawford's injury was a concern as the Blackhawks closed in on the Ducks' NHL fast start mark.
Warren Wimmer/Icon SMI/Icon SMI

We have a change at the bottom of the NHL Power Rankings, but not at the top, where the Chicago Blackhawks reign supreme for the fourth consecutive week. Pity the poor Columbus Blue Jackets, who are back to being the Columbus Blue Jackets again and now occupy the No. 30 spot, where they languished pretty much all of last season. Maybe the Jackets will actually get the No. 1 pick this year, instead of losing the ping-pong ball match to the Edmonton Oilers. Blackhawks fans don't need to scout the top draft prospects, though. Not this year and probably not for a good long while.

On with the list...

1Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 1
The Monsters of Madison really showed the rest of the country what the fuss is about these days with their unbelievable first period against the Kings Sunday on NBC. Just about everyone on the Blackhawks is playing well right now -- at a very high pace, but in control offensively. A concern, though, is Corey Crawford's upper body injury, which he suffered when Bobby Ryan of the Ducks was knocked into him last Tuesday. Crawford had been playing extremely well, but backup Ray Emery was entrusted with holding the fort and getting the victory or one-point game that would tie Anaheim's NHL record for best start without a loss in regulation. The Ducks opened the 2006-07 season 12-0-4 and went on to win the Cup, by the way. Last week: 2-0-1
2Boston Bruins
Last Week: 2
That was a good, gutsy win in Winnipeg on Sunday after bagging only one of four possible points against the Rangers and struggling Sabres. Boston's offense has cooled a bit, having gone six straight games with three goals or fewer. But Tyler Seguin (two goals, two assists in his last five games) is heating up some, and so is the power play after a long drought. "A few games back we had a big meeting and wanted to make sure we really improved on the power play," Brad Marchand told the Boston Herald. "In (three of the last four) games we've had a power-play goal and we're very proud of that." Last week: 1-1-1
3Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 6
Anaheim Ducks (12-2-1)
Bruce Boudreau remains my pick for the Jack Adams Award, yes sir. Not many poeple saw this fine a record for the Ducks prior to the season, not with what was supposed to be an aging team that had question marks on its depth lines and defense. The Ducks aren't just getting lucky. They're dominating games, and their plus-13 goal differential entering Monday ranked third-best in the league behind Chicago and Pittsburgh. Can their success last? With what is becoming a two-headed monster in net -- Viktor Fasth (NHL's Second Star of the Week) and Jonas Hiller -- it could. The Ducks play four of their next five games at home after being on the road for two weeks. I guess the only real question remaining for this team is its playoff seeding will be. Last week: 3-0-0
4Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 5
If they can just start playing at home the way they have on the road (8-2-0), they can give themselves a nice cushion in the Eastern playoff race. They'll get a chance Tuesday night when the Flyers visit -- always a fun one to watch. The Pens have managed to stay healthy so far, entering their game with Philly with no players on the injured list, one of the more eye-opening facts so far in this short season. GM Ray Shero was at the Colorado-Minnesota game last week (the Pens played the next night in nearby Winnipeg). Most observers believe he wants another top-six forward for the playoffs. Stay tuned. Last week: 3-0-0
5New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 3
A 5-1 spanking by the Islanders and a 2-1 shootout loss to the Senators on Presidents Day has cooled some of the buzz in Newark. Alexei Ponikarovsky was brought back last week for a second stint with the team and scored a goal in his first game. The Devils could use a bit more offensive punch, particularly from their defense, which has contributed just three goals this season. "You're not going to win many hockey games scoring just one goal," Devils veteran Patrik Elias told reporters after the loss to the Sens. Last week: 1-2-1
6Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 4
Their defense has been very good so far, so let's give a hat tip to veteran blueliner Keith Ballard. Earlier this season, I said he was being subjected to boos from the locals and must admit I may have been erroneously influenced by some Vancouver radio chatter that I occasionally tune into, given I have no life. Ballard has posted only one point, but as of Monday he was a solid plus-4. Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis have played well, too. It was tough to see veteran center Manny Malhotra essentially retire due to his ongoing vision problems, but the Canucks did get Ryan Kesler back from his shoulder injury. Can we pencil in the Western Conference Finals as a showdown with their old friends the Blackhawks? Last week: 1-1-1
7New York Rangers
Last Week: 7
Coach John Tortorella's response on Sunday to a reporter who asked why Rick Nash might not play that night at home against Washington: "None of your business." It absolutely is a credentialed reporter's business to ask such things, but if Torts wants to act like a clown, here are the Bozo slippers and big bright red nose. That's his shtick, but his team's league-leading six too-many-men-on-the-ice penalties are no laughing matter. The Blueshirts are gutting out their wins, but Brad Richards' struggles earned him plenty of pine time during the third period against the Islanders last Thursday and Brian Boyle was steamed by his benching earlier in the week. Last week: 2-0-1
8Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 18
Let's hear it for the job new GM Marc Bergevin has done with this group. Everyone around the team credits his loose, personable style for some of the Habs' unexpected success. Montreal has always had a rigid, top-down management style, but while you need strong leadership, what you don't need is indifferent arrogance in the front office. A lot of Habs fans really want Bergevin to make a deal for unsigned Avalanche center Ryan O'Reilly. We'll see if he has the assets to pull off that trade. Last week: 4-0-0
9St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 10
Will Jake Allen be the Blues' new No. 1 goalie? Or will Brian Elliott claim the job again? Veteran Jaroslav Halak is back after missing more than two weeks due to a troublesome groin injury, so he's in the mix, too. But Allen has that "I'm a rookie, I don't know any better, I'm just ridin'-this-thing-out-as-long-as-it-lasts" attitude right now. He deserves credit for helping to steady what was a listing ship, but he's likely still got a lot to prove before coach Ken Hitchcock trusts him every night. Last week: 3-0-0
10Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 13
Lots of stuff for 'Caniacs to feel good about right now. Their team entered Monday's tilt in Montreal 6-1-1 in its previous eight outings. Eric Staal also checked in with an 11-game points streak (8-9-17). Linemate Alexander Semin (10 points) has been a big part of Staal's success. (Big mistake by Washington letting Semin go for nothing in return.) There's still work to do on special teams, the 29th-ranked penalty kill in particular. And Cam Ward allowed a 90-footer to Max Pacioretty in the loss to the Habs, but this team has credits "to the good" as my grandma used to say. Last week: 2-1-0
11Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 11
OK, they've been winning with some smoke and a few mirrors. This is far from the best team in the Eastern Conference. But the Leafs are learning under coach Randy Carlyle how to grind out simple victories. This is a competitive and, at this point, playoff-worthy squad. If a little more high-end talent can be added to the front lines, Toronto won't have to work as hard for wins. Phil Kessel is starting to look confident again, and Nazem Kadri (seventh overall drat pick in 2009) has blossomed into the team's scoring leader. Let's also give a stick tap to the job that goalie Ben Scrivens has done in relief of James Reimer, who continues to convalesce from a knee injury. Scrivens, an undrafted 26-year-old from Spruce Grove, Alberta, may give Carlyle some food for thought when it's time to choose the No. 1 guy after Reimer returns. Last week: 2-1-0
12San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 8
I, like many other souls, got all excited by their quick start, but the Sharks now look as old and tired as I suspected they would before the season. They are, as of this writing, 0-for-February and their offense has fizzled (eight total goals in seven games). They started their six-game road trip last week with a 6-2 stinker in Columbus that left coach Todd McLellan fuming, squeezed a point out of a 1-0 loss to the Preds in OT, and then were beaten by the Blackhawks, 4-1, in Chicago. Despite their woes, these guys will probably still squeeze into the playoffs. But if history is any guide, they'll be on the golf course before the Cup final begins. Last week: 0-1-1
13Nashville Predators
Last Week: 16
Their hiccup in Colorado on Monday aside, the Preds look better and tougher than they did early on. Coach Barry Trotz has them in battle mode now, which means every game goes down to the wire. The return of forward Patric Hornqvist was a big boost as the Preds scored five goals against the Avalanche. Unfortunately, with backup goalie Chris Mason in net and the "help" of an egregiously blown offsides call on Colorado's Matt Duchene, they allowed six. Last week: 2-1-1
14Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 17
They could have panicked in recent games, such as on Sunday when they fell behind Detroit 2-0 in the first period at home. But to the credit of coach Mike Yeo, they stayed cool and came away with an important 3-2 win. Defenseman Ryan Suter is looking a lot better of late. He's probably the closest thing to Scott Niedermayer the league has had since the future Hall of Famer retired in 2010. Suter may not be the offensive player that Niedermayer was, but his effortless play in his own end settles his teammates. Last week: 1-1-1
15Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 12
Could veteran Nikolai Khabibulin take over the top spot in the Oilers' net? After falling behind Colorado, 4-1, on Saturday night due to a brutal showing by Devan Dubnyk (three goals-allowed on 12 shots), Khabibulin came on in relief and steadied the Oil, who unleashed a team record 56 shots in their 6-4 comeback win. Maybe it's time for coach Ralph Krueger to take another look at what the old man can do on a regular basis. Khabibulin did win the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004, after all. Last week: 1-1-0
16Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 9
After a nice little run the previous week, the Wings again looked like what most observers think they are: just another team. Jimmy Howard hasn't been good enough in goal, on average, and the defense, beyond Niklas Kronwall, is mostly a grab bag of average guys. Detroit has also been beset by injuries -- to be expected of one of the league's older teams, I guess -- and looks like it's going going to be in a fight to make the playoffs. Last week: 0-2-1
17Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 20
Just like last year, the Bolts are starting to let a lot of pucks into their net again. While beating Florida, 6-5, in overtime on Saturday, they allowed four goals or more for the fourth straight game. I just don't have enough confidence in their defense and goaltending to think these guys can really go anywhere. Last week: 1-1-1
18Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 15
Is it Cup Hangover? That probably has something to do with their malaise. So does Drew Doughty's slow start (no goals, six assists, -11). Defenseman Matt Greene's season-ending back surgery didn't help. The Kings haven't looked good defensively since he went down. Coach Darryl Sutter can get these guys into the playoffs, but unless GM Dean Lombardi helps him out with a trade for a solid D-man, it's going to be tough for L.A. to repeat. Oh, and the offense could use some help too. The Kings' 30 goals rank last in the league. Last week: 1-1-0
19Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 23
This team is just crazy enough to be dangerous. During the weekend, captain Claude Giroux lit some crackling flames under his lethargic crew, which responded by blowing out the Islanders, 7-0. As much grief as goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has taken in this space (and from Flyers fans in the past), he has been among Philly's top players so far. Things should get even better with the return of forward Scott Hartnell later this week from an ankle injury. Last week: 2-2-0
20Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 22
They've been on a pretty nice little 6-2-1 run this month, winning when they work hard and play a solid defensive game according to coach Dave Tippett's layered system, which can be boiled down to: each guy has the other guy's back, one through five, on the ice. They swarm the puck, especially when they get a lead and are just no fun to play against. Goalie Mike Smith looked like his old self while making 30 saves for his third shutout of the season Monday night against the Flames in front of a packed home crowd. (How about that?) The Yotes now get five days off to freshen up for a three-game road trip to Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. Last week: 2-1-0
21Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 14
Other than losing the reigning Norris Trophy-winner, it was a swell week. Why doesn't every player wear Kevlar socks, which not even the sharpest knives can cut? If Erik Karlsson had worn them, he probably would still be playing. But he didn't, and he suffered a sliced Achilles tendon caused by an errant skate blade attached to Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke. Now Karlsson's and the team's season is over, although the Sens don't look like they got the memo. "Everyone continued to work hard, especially after we let up the early goal," coach Paul MacLean said after a 2-1 shootout win over the Devils on Monday. "I thought our whole group made a good accountability of themselves. Frustration is a useless emotion. We had to keep working at it." Last week: 2-2-0
22Dallas Stars
Last Week: 19
Dallas Stars (8-7-1)
Entering Sunday, they were 71-0-8 when leading after two periods, but that changed when they lost 4-3 in regulation to the woeful Flames at home. Kari Lehtonen's absence had something to do with that. Though on injured reserve with a groin problem, he could be back soon -- which is not soon enough for this team, which needs premium goaltending if it is to have any chance of making the playoffs. Last week: 2-2-0
23Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 29
Who needs Ryan O'Reilly as long as Matt Duchene is playing like this? Duchene is proving to be a bargain and his two-year, $7 million contract has been used as the dividing line for what Avs management will offer unsigned restricted free agent center O'Reilly. Now on a gluten-free diet, Duchene looks markedly more explosive with his first step. Asked about his contract and the O'Reilly situation, Duchene told The Denver Post: ""Paychecks are great. You want to get as much money as you can in this game, but for me, I love this game so much, I love this team and this franchise and this city, there's no way I could have held out. I'm not saying what (O'Reilly) is doing is wrong or right. It's his own business." Kumbaya. Still, with defensive and injury problems, it will be a struggle for Colorado to hang around the .500 mark. Last week: 2-1-0
24Winnipeg Jets
Last Week: 21
Evander Kane caused a stir last week when he cited racism as the fuel for some of his critics. You have to wonder if it might not be best for the struggling Jets to move this talented winger and start over with the good, useful bounty they would surely get for him. Maybe things will settle down and be fine, but it looks like a bad fit in Winnipeg. There's an uncomfortable vibe surrounding the Jets' most talented player. Last week: 0-3-1
25New York Islanders
Last Week: 26
Classic Isles: they beat a good Devils team, 5-1, on Saturday to get to 6-7-1. Two days later at Nassau Coliseum, they're starched by the Flyers, 7-0. John Tavares' hat trick against the Devils was one of the better Islander performances of recent years. He's definitely come into his own as a player now. But when will this team ever gain any consistency? Maybe if the rumors of Charles Wang selling the franchise prove to be true... Last week: 2-1-0
26Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 24
Goalie Ryan Miller, never one to mince words, came out and ripped into his team's effort after its galling home loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday, which dropped the Sabres to 3-4-1 at First Niagara Center. In all four regulation losses, Buffalo was tied in the third period. "We're neither competent enough nor experienced enough with the lead in the third period," Miller groused. "That burned us. It's not acceptable. It's 3-3, get to overtime. It's 3-2, [expletive] make them come all the way down. We worked too hard." Last week: 1-2-0
27Florida Panthers
Last Week: 25
Their ghastly 3-0 loss to Toronto on Monday night (the Leafs' first win against them in seven outings) was their fifth straight defeat and sixth in their last seven outings at home. Naturally, this latest debacle kept them down among the dregs of the East. Coach Kevin Dineen called a timeout at one point and really lit into his team. Florida has been shut out four times this season, and also lost two games when scoring five goals in each. "We better figure it out soon," Dineen said after the loss to the Leafs. "Personally, I think our power play sucked the life out of us. That's an area we have to keep working on and have our special teams give us a boost instead of going 0-for on the one side and giving up the big goal on the other." Last week: 0-1-3
28Calgary Flames
Last Week: 27
Bob Hartley's crew continues to try to survive without Miikka Kiprusoff, who remains out with a knee injury. Their shutout loss in Phoenix Monday night, on the heels of a 4-3 win in Dallas the previous night, was yet another sign that there's little hope for a playoff berth if they can't play consistently. Hartley did muster some consoling words for goalie Danny Taylor. "He was very calm and very poised for his first start in the NHL," the coach said. "If you don't score goals, you can't even look at what the goalie did for you because you can't win if you don't score." Scientifically proven to be true. Last week: 2-2-0
29Washington Capitals
Last Week: 30
A couple of wins in Florida sparked a little hope, but a Sunday loss to the Rangers deflated everyone again. The Caps entered Tuesday six points out of the eighth playoff spot in the east, which wouldn't be so intimidating a prospect if this were a normal season. Alas, it isn't, and it won't be easy for the Caps to gain ground when conference opponents are guaranteed of picking up points each night because they play only each other. Last week: 2-1-0
30Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 28
Back to the basement for the Jackets, who got off to a decent start but couldn't sustain it. They're awful on the road (1-6-0) and their minus-15 goal differential is the worst in the west. Time for their fans to start drooling over those top draft prospects again. Last week: 0-3-0
HACKEL: Is Alex Ovechkin washed up?

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