A little over the first week of NHL action is in the books. Here are this week’s top 10 power Rankings reflecting games ending on Sunday January, 27th.
OUT this week: LA Kings, NY Rangers, Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings, and Philadelphia Flyers
IN this week: SJ Sharks, TB Lightning, OTT Senators, Winnipeg Jets, ANA Ducks
1. Chicago Blackhawks (6-0-0)- The Hawks have raced off to a 6-0-0 start and have looked amazing while doing it. They’ve taken out the defending champs, the other western conference finalist, 3 central division opponents and a revamped Dallas team. Patrick Kane is on fire… and he beautifully set up Marian Hossa for a game winning OT goal last week, nothing else left to say.
2. San Jose Sharks(5-0-0)- In my season preview I mentioned that windows of opportunities don’t close for teams as long as there is talent. I did so while talking about the Canucks. Then I said the one exception could be San Jose since they’ve been “the best team not to win a cup that should” for the better part of the last decade. I look pretty stupid now. They’re 5-0-0 to start the year , lead the league is goals against, are 2nd in goals scored, and (while I know it’s a small sample size) their power play is converting at an astonishing rate of 37.5% for tops in the league. By the way, all Patrick Marleau has done is score 9 goals in five games, two each in the first four. It’s also his 15th season in the league. My apologies to the San Jose Sharks, but they’re down at number 2 simply because the Hawks have played some tougher teams, and one extra game.
3. St. Louis Blues(5-1-0)- Calder alert here for rookie Vladimir Tarasenko. He has 4 goals to lead his entire team in scoring, and 4 assists to tie for the lead in points on his team. The 21 year old first round pick from 2010 has made an immediate impact, and St. Louis could certainly use a jolt in the offensive department. Talent like his combined with the leadership, goaltending, defense and coaching on that team is a recipe for success. It’s still early to get crazy excited about anyone right now, but he gives the Blues something they were missing.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning(4-1-0)- Our first team from the East comes in at number 4. Tampa leads the league in goal per game, but it’s not just one guy. 12 different players have scored through 5 games for this team. The lowest goal total they have this season so far is only 3 when they dropped their second game to the Islanders. When you have players like Stamkos, St. Louis, Malone, and Lecavalier you know that your team will be able to put up goals. The difference between this year and last is that this team has been getting good defensive and goaltending play. This is a dangerous team in the East. Don’t forget, Tampa took Boston to game 7 of the ECF back in 2011.
5. New Jersey Devils (3-0-1) – The Devils have overcome slow starts to post points in every game so far this season. They also showed some of that fight and toughness we saw in last year’s playoffs by coming back from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to force overtime against Montreal Sunday night before losing in OT. Marty Brodeur has kept them in games early, once again proving that while he’s old, he’s still very good. The Devs have to be smart with his rest in this short season to keep Marty playing well and the first example of that will be Tuesday night as Johan Hedberg gets the start in Boston. Zach Parise hasn’t been missed much yet, but other guys besides Zajac, Kovy, Elias, Zubrus, and Clarkson need to pick up the slack on the score sheet. Adam Henrique returning in the next week should help.
6. Boston Bruins (3-0-1) – The Bruins have been winning games despite not exactly lighting up the score board. They’ve had good goaltending from Tukka Rask who’s trying his best to make people forget Tim Thomas. It’s not easy filling in for a two time Vezina winner, but Rask has done a good job. If not for a defensive breakdown in OT against the Rangers (and beautiful breakaway by Marian Gaborik to complete a hat trick) the Bruins could be undefeated right now. They’ve only scored one power play goal so far and while that obviously needs much improvement it’s still early. The Bruins should once again be a force this year in the East as long as Rask keeps playing this way and the offense gets going.