Welcome to week three of the NHL Power 10. Believe it or not, we are going to hit the quarter pole of this shortened season this weekend! There is still plenty of hockey to be played, but with almost a quarter of the season under their belts, the good (the Blackhawks), the bad (the Flyers) and the ugly (the Capitals) are starting to come into focus.
The NHL Power 10 sees some big shake-ups this week with surging Penguins bolting back up the second slot, as well as some previously hot teams (Tampa Bay and St. Louis) going ice cold.
On to the list…
1. Chicago Blackhawks 9-0-2, 20 pts (Last week: 2)
There are hot starts and then there are scorching-hot starts. The Blackhawks are on fire. Eleven games into the season and they still don’t have a regulation loss. Patrick Kane has been unreal, checking in at second in the league in points with 8 goals and 10 assists. Goalie Corey Crawford is doing everything Chicago needs him to do, posting a sub 2.00 GAA and a .933 SV%. Last week, Chicago defeated the San Jose Sharks 5-3 and dismantled the Phoenix Coyotes – the team that ended their season in last year’s playoffs – 6-2. All the Blackhawks do is win. Most impressive of all: Chicago has played 9 of their first 11 games on the road! The Blackhawks start a 7 game home stand this week – NHL beware.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins 8-3-0, 16 pts (Last week: 8)
They’re back! The Penguins have won 5 straight and finally look like the team that many people – myself included – picked to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup finals. A healthy Sidney Crosby (5 G, 12 A) is tied for 3rd in the NHL in points with 17, and Evgeni Malkin (3 G, 12 A) has quietly moved up to 5th in the league with 15 points. But its not just the two-headed monster that is getting it done – Chris Kunitz (6 G, 8 A, 14 PTS) who plays on Crosby’s line, hung 4 goals on the lowly Washington Capitals last weekend (the first 4-goal game by a Penguin since Mario Lemieux). The streaking Pens will get a serious test this weekend with back-to-back games against the New Jersey Devils. who are nipping at their heels. Defenseman Kris Letang, who was held out of their last game with the Capitals with an injury, will need to get healthy and stay healthy if the Pens thin blue line is going to keep their winning streak going.
3. Boston Bruins 7-1-1, 15 pts (Last week: 4)
The Bruins have given up just 20 goals this season, which is a good thing, considering they have only put 26 in net themselves. The Bruins are winning a lot of close games, riding a tough defense and solid goal tending by Tuukka Rask (1.96 GAA, .922 SV%). If the Bruins are going to continue to win, they will need to generate more offense. After a light week this past week, the Bruins face back-to-back games this weekend against Tampa Bay and Buffalo, as well as a home date this week against the Rangers, before closing out with their second game of the week in Buffalo.
4. Anaheim Ducks 7-1-1, 15 pts (Last week: NR/Waiting list)
Last week, Anaheim was on the NHL Power 10 Waiting List – what a difference a week makes. The Ducks are riding a 4-game winning streak. In 3 of those 4 wins, 30-year-old Swede Viktor Fasth has been in net – and stopping basically everything that is coming his way. Fasth has a .962 SV% in his 4 starts this season, surrendering less than a goal a game (0.98 GAA). I expect we will continue to see more of Fasth (especially considering the struggles of goalie Jonas Hiller). The Ducks will get tested this week with road trips to St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit – part of 6 consecutive games away from Anaheim.
5. New Jersey Devils 6-1-3, 15 pts (Last week: 7)
Almost a quarter of the way through the season and the Devils continue to surprise. The Devils fell to the Penguins last Saturday but then rebounded with wins against the Islanders, Rangers and Lightning. The Devils will get a chance to avenge that lost to the Pens – and take first place in the Atlantic – with a back-to-back, home-and-home serious against the streaking Penguins this weekend. The Devils goal tending combo of Brodeur and Hedberg (40 and 39 years old respectively) are keeping the Devils in every game, along with the always hard to watch – but incredibly effective – Devils defense.
6. San Jose Sharks 7-2-1, 15 pts (Last week: 1)
The Sharks lost two games in regulation and another in a shoot-out last week, which precipitated their drop from last week’s top spot all the way down to number 6. The high-flying Sharks offense cooled considerably last week, scoring just 5 goals in 3 games. After an insanely hot start, Sharks winger Patrick Marleau has been held without a point in 4 straight games. Center Joe Thornton, who also got off to a red-hot start, has also been held without a point in the last 4 games. If the Sharks are going to right the ship, they are going to need both of these guys to get the puck back in the net. Look for their matchup this Friday on the road against the Blackhawks to be a good test of just what direction this team is heading.
7. Vancouver Canucks 6-2-2, 14 pts (Last week: NR)
Vancouver’s time out of the Power 10 was short-lived. The Canucks have won 4 straight, including 2 on the road against the Wild and the Oilers, and a home shoot-out win over the #1 Chicago Blackhawks. In those 3 wins, the Canucks surrendered just 4 goals – with oft-mentioned to be traded Roberto Luongo in net for 2 of those wins. The Canucks probably shouldn’t deal Luongo at this point – his value goes up every single day and the Canucks are poised to make a deep run with their goalie tandem. Vancouver has 3 games – all on the road – this week against the Flames, Wild and Stars.
8. Ottawa Senators 6-3-2, 14 pts (Last week: 5)
Ottawa slides from 5th last week to the 8th spot this week. Goalie Craig Anderson continues to dominate with a 1.49 GAA and a .950 SV% while starting 10 of the Senators’ 11 games. In this compacted season, Ottawa is going to need to find a way to rest Anderson some and to score goals to take some of the pressure off of him. The goal scoring hadn’t been a problem until last week – in their last 3 losses the Senators scored just 3 goals. his week, Ottawa hosts a dangerous Jets team, a Sabres team that can light the lamp, and then travel to Pittsburgh to face the red-hot Penguins.
9. Montreal Canadiens 6-3-1, 13 pts (Last week: NR/Waiting list)
A good week for the Habs: they get PK Subban back and they crack the Power 10. Subban joins a blue line that is being led by a resurgent Andrei Markov. The 34-year old Markov, who scored just 3 points in only 13 games last year, leads the Habs with 10 points. Keep an eye on rookie Center Alex Galchenyuk – the 3rd pick overall in this summer’s draft. Galchenyuk (1 G, 6 A, 7 PTS) is a big time talent who adds significant firepower to the Canadiens roster. If Montreal can score with regularity they have the ability to make a serious run this year thanks to goalie Carey Price who is among the first tier of goal tenders in the NHL.
10. St. Louis Blues 6-4-0, 12 pts (Last week 3)
Last week, the Blues were challenging for the top spot in the Power 10. This week, the Blues are struggling to hang on. Nashville Predators fans will probably complain that the Blues – who they beat this week and lead by a point – crack the top 10 but they don’t. The Blues, whose franchise is built around what is supposed to be the league’s best goal-tending tandem, gave up 16 goals in the last three games. The Blues have a busy week ahead of them hosting the surging Ducks, the Stanley Cup champion Kings, and then on the road to face the Red Wings and Flames.
Tampa Bay Lightning 6-4-0, 12 pts (Last week: 6)
Who turned the power off in Tampa Bay?
Edmonton Oilers 4-3-3, 11 pts (Last week: 9)
A young team is going to have its ups and downs, but injuries are starting to pile up for the Oilers.
Minnesota Wild 4-5-1, 9 pts (Last week: 10)
Ryan Suter is -7 in 10 games.
On the waiting list:
Tampa Bay Lightning 6-4-0, 12 pts
Nashville Predators 5-2-3, 13 pts
New York Rangers 5-5-0, 10 pts
Follow Chris R. Barron on Twitter @ChrisRBarron