NHL Power 10: Week One edition
One week into the NHL season and it already feels like we are in the middle of a playoff run and with good reason — in this compacted 48 game season, every game is going to matter.
While it is a shortened, compacted season, fans still need to remember that it’s only week one. No team has locked up a playoff birth and no team is eliminated yet.
On to the list …
1. Chicago Blackhawks (Last week: 9)
Just the second Power 10 of the year and we already have a new king of the hill. It is hard to justify not putting the Blackhawks in the first spot. They went 4-0 in their first week and looked down right unstoppable at times. Patrick Kane looks like he is ready to take the next step and a healthy Marion Hossa is a force of nature on the ice. Playing at home against the Red Wings and then on the road against the Wild and Canucks should give the Blackhawks serious tests to see if they are worthy of their #1 spot.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins (Last week: 1)
Had the Power 10 been written on Monday morning, the Penguins would have certainly secured the top spot. Two road wins against the rival Flyers and Rangers on back-to-back night was certainly impressive. Unfortunately for Pens fans, the Toronto Maple Leafs rolled into Pittsburgh on Wednesday night and crashed the Penguins home opener. Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby both finally got the puck into the net against the Leafs, but the Leafs were able to exploit the Pens thin blue line. A quick early season rematch with the Rangers in New York will be a good indicator of what direction both of these teams are heading in.
3. St. Louis Blues (Last week: 7)
The Blues are one of those teams that seem to be constantly flying under the radar screen. If flying under the radar screen means consistently winning three of four — like the Blues did this past week — they are going to be a lot of happy hockey fans in St. Louis. The league’s best goal tending tandem is getting some new offensive support this year from rookie Vladimir Tarasenko who has 4 goals and 2 assists. The Blues face a tough back-to-back this week, heading to Dallas to take on the ageless Stars on Sunday, before returning home on Sunday to take on the Zach Parise-led Minnesota Wild.
4. Boston Bruins (Last week: 5)
The worst news for the Bruins is probably the improved play of the other teams in their division. The Bruins will also need more offense, managing just 8 goals in their first three games. The Bruins face a brutal three games in four days this week — on the road against the Carolina Hurricanes and then at home against the Devils and division rival Buffalo. In addition to the challenging schedule on the ice, the Bruins will have to decide whether to keep prospect Dougie Hamilton up and burn a year of eligibility on his entry level contract or return the 6’5” blue liner to the juniors. Needless to say, pairing the 6’5” Hamilton and 6’9” Chara is a tantalizing prospect.
5. Ottawa Senators (Last week: NR)
How are the Senators 3-0? Try goalie Craig Anderson only giving up 2 goals in 3 games, with an unbelievably .976 save percentage. Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson continued to keep us his award winning 2011-2012 pace — leading the Senators with 4 points. Are these Senators for real? Sunday’s matchup with the Crosby and Malkin led Pittsburgh Penguins in Ottawa should provide some answers.
6. San Jose Sharks (Last week: NR)
The Senators rocketed into the Power 10 by not giving up goals, while the San Jose Sharks make their first appearance by putting pucks in the net — 15 in the first week, second only to the Blackhawks. Young superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin combined for 2 goals in the first, 33 year old Sharks center Patrick Marleau managed three times that number by himself. In one of the most bizarre scheduling features of this 48 game season, the Sharks just started a 6-game home stand.
7. New York Rangers (Last week: 2)
The most difficult team to place in the Power 10 is the New York Rangers. Their 1-3 record certainly isn’t the stuff that top 10 teams are made of, however, these are still the Rangers that finished last year’s regular season atop the Eastern Conference. These are still the same Rangers that dominated before the addition of Rick Nash. Look for the Rangers to improve dramatically this week — especially considering home contests against the schizophrenic Maple Leafs and the hobbled Flyers.
8. Edmonton Oilers (Last week: 6)
The young Oilers continue to look like a dangerous team. Nail Yakupov could be the most exciting rookie among a crop of exciting rookies (he is certainly the one with the best on-ice goal scoring celebration). The Oilers will need all the offensive firepower they can get to compensate for lack of quality net-minding. The Oilers will face an early season test this week when they play back-to-back on the road against the Coyotes and the Sharks.
9. Dallas Stars (Last week: 9)
Are the Dallas Stars really a top-10 team? A lot is riding on the sticks of veteran offseason acquisitions Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr. Both got off to good starts this week, but in this compacted season, it’s reasonable to wonder how both will hold up over the season. A home and home this week with the Coyotes gives the Stars an early season opportunity to put some distance between themselves and a likely playoff contending rival.
10. Vancouver Canucks (Last week: 4)
The Sedin brothers combined for just 1 goal in the first week and the Canucks were outscored by their opponents 12 to 8 over their first three games. If Vancouver is going to get back on track they will need more offense. The will they or won’t they deal Luongo drama may eventually become a distraction for the team. As long as Luongo remains on the Canucks roster the goaltending situation in Vancouver will remain unsettled.
LA Kings (Last week: 3)
How far the mighty have fallen. The Kings were winless in their first week, including a demolition at the hands of the Blackhawks on opening night (talk about raining on the Stanley Cup banner-raising ceremony). A paltry four goals in three games by the Kings offense is too much for even Jonathan Quick to be able to overcome.
Philadelphia Flyers (Last week: 8)
Starting 0-3 was bad enough, but losing Scott Hartnell for 4-8 weeks was devastating. Might be a while before the Flyers crack the Power 10 again.
Carolina Hurricanes (Last week: 10)
I still think the Canes are going to be a force to be reckoned with, and at the end of the week the Staal brothers finally came alive. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Carolina back in the Power 10 in the next few weeks.
On the waiting list:
Tampa Bay Lightning
Follow Chris R. Barron on Twitter @ChrisRBarron