The Sens are still roosted at the top of the Power Rankings, but Minnesota and a number of other clubs are closing in fast. Other teams like the Islanders, Capitals and Predators find themselves barely treading water after laying eggs in the 2nd week of the season.
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1. Ottawa Senators [6-1-0], Last Week: #1 (same)
They started the week by dropping their first of the season to the high-octane Hurricanes at home, but after 4-days off, the Sens regrouped on the road to score 3 goals in under a minute on Henrik Lundqvist to finish the week at even money. Helped by some solid play in net, the PK is humming along at an incredible 97.0%.
Early Surprise: Antoine Vermette (7GP,2G,3A,+5) has been averaging over 17:30 mins per game, and has been solid in all situations.
2. Minnesota Wild [5-0-1], Last Week: #7 (+5)
Going 2-0-1 on their first west-coast swing of the year was mighty impressive, with the highlight of the trip being a textbook 2-0 Wild win against the defending-champs with rookie Josh Harding in net. The Wild's defense and goaltending have been other-worldy, but their top offensive players need to get it going before the really tough part of the schedule arrives.
Early Surprise: Eric Belanger (7GP,2G,3A,+7) was a bust in Carolina and Atlanta, but has been solid in a top-six role centering Rolston and Bouchard.
3. Detroit Red Wings [4-2-1], Last Week: #2 (-1)
What's more painful, giving up a 2-0 lead to the 'Hawks only to have former-Red Wing Robert Lang cap off three unanswered goals for a heartbreaking loss at home, or seeing your struggling 40-something netminder getting lit up by hated playoff-nemesis Anaheim? Good thing the Kings were there to provide a buffer between tragedies...
Early Surprise: Kris Draper (7GP,5G,1SHG), has a five-game goal-scoring streak going and a potential contract-extension on the horizon.
4. Carolina Hurricanes [4-1-1], Last Week: #11 (+7)
A huge road win against the formerly undefeated Sens and pulling out a tight one against the Habs in their home-opener catapult the red-hot Hurricanes into the top-5 of the Power-Rankings. With virtually everybody on the roster contributing offensively and the team getting solid play in goal, the 'Canes already look like a top candidate for comeback kids of 2007-08.
Early Surprise: Matt Cullen (6GP,3G,2A,2PPG) was unceremoniously dumped by the Rangers in the aftermath of free-agency, but he's just one-point shy of outscoring both Gomez and Drury COMBINED.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning [3-1-0], Last Week: #5 (even)
The goaltending came back to earth in a 6-4 loss at Florida where Holmqvist and Denis both looked horrible, but the Lightning still hold on to their #5 spot. With winnable games in Boston, at home against the Atlanta, and at DC, the Bolts should aim to be 6-1-0 before Philly and Buffalo roll into town.
Early Surprise: Vaclav Prospal (4GP,5G,1A,2PPG) is often the over-looked weapon in the Lightning's arsenel, but Tortorella has rewarded his strong play with a surprising 20:00 min of icetime per game.
6. Montreal Canadiens [2-1-2], Last Week: #3 (-3)
Seems like the Habs are going to make every game exciting, even if they don't win. Keeping it close has become a trademark so far in Montreal, with the Habs losing a close one in their home-opener against the 'Canes, and then dropping a shootout decision to the Panthers. A tough game at Ottawa and then a visit by the high-flying Sabres provide big early-season tests.
Early Surprise: Cristobal Huet (1-1,2.17GAA,0.927SV%) could have been a casualty of the Carey Price phenomenon, but has dug in and shown that the net at the Bell Centre is still his.
7. Colorado Avalanche [4-2-0], Last Week: #8 (+1)
The Avs followed up a loss at St. Louis with a solid win against the Blue Jackets and put their team's character on display against the Flames where they rebounded from a 4-0 deficit to win in a shootout. Young Paul Stastny continues to spearhead the Avs potent attack, and the Avs have been solid on special teams, but the goaltending and defense have looked porous at best.
Early Surprise: Andrew Brunette (6GP,1G,5A,1PPG) was bumped off the top-line with the arrival of Ryan Smyth, but hasn't missed a beat playing on the second-unit.
8. Anaheim Ducks [4-4-1], Last Week: #9 (+1)
After getting shut-down by the Wild, the Ducks rebounded with big wins against the Red Wings and the Predators. At .500 at last, the Ducks continue their recovery from a brutal schedule to start the year. Losing Bertuzzi will hurt, especially this week with games at the Stars and Blues where goals will come at a premium.
Early Surprise: Francois Beauchemin (9GP,1G,5A,+3) has been getting almost 30mins a game and has really stepped up in the wake of all the injuries and pseudo-retirements.
9. San Jose Sharks [3-2-1], Last Week: #6 (-3)
An absolutely devastating last-second loss to the Bruins could have broken this team's spirit, but a solid 4-2 comethrough win at Vancouver righted the ship just in time for a big game at home against the Red Wings. The top-line is showing some signs of life, but guys like Marleau, Bernier and Pavelski need to provide some secondary relief if the Sharks hope to rise to the top.
Early Surprise: Craig Rivet (6GP,5G,4PPA) is fresh off a 4-year deal and is proving his worth in the most unlikely of places: on the powerplay.
10. Philadelphia Flyers [4-1-0], Last Week: #12 (+2)
All systems are go in Philly, as they have the league's top-scoring offense per game, and are also exhibiting surprisingly strong team-defense backed by an uncharacteristically stellar start to the year by goaltender Martin Biron. Tough games at home against the Devils and 'Canes should give GM Holgren and Coach Stevens a better sense of just how much this team has improved.
Early Surprise: Randy Jones (5GP,1G,4A,+7), a former offensive star at Clarkson College, has provided the answer to the off-season question of who would carry the puck up the ice for the Flyers outside of Kimmo Timonen.
11. Dallas Stars [3-2-2], Last Week: #10 (-1)
Nobody can argue that fans aren't getting their money's worth when they go to see the Stars play, as all three games they've been a part of this week have gone to OT. Overtime losses to the Flames and 'Hawks were disheartening, but a shootout win against the Blue Jackets could provide a lift with Cup Champion Anaheim coming to town on Saturday for a battle.
Early Surprise: Jussi Jokinen (6GP,3G,2A,1PPG) is still automatic in shootouts, which means valuable points in the standings for the Stars.
12. New York Islanders [3-3-0], Last Week: #4 (-8)
Big first-week wins followed by a crushing 8-1 loss to the struggling Leafs and a lackluster 3-1 loss to the upstart Flyers have the Isles bouncing up and down the Power-Rankings like a yo-yo. Special teams and goaltending have been the team's bread and butter so far, but even-strength play has proven to be a challenge. With his team goal-starved, perhaps Nolan should think twice before scratching Bergeron's howitzer again.
Early Surprise: Josef Vasicek (6GP,2G,1SHG) hasn't put up gaudy numbers, but has been strong on the puck and one of the Isles' most noticeable players night-in-night-out.
13. New Jersey Devils [3-3-0], Last Week: #16 (+3)
The Devils proved they could run-and-gun in wins against the Thrashers and Pens, so we can just chalk up that 3-0 loss to the Panthers as an anomaly. Perennial Vezina finalist Brodeur has looked - dare we say - human, but the Devils' supporting cast has kept the team in games, and in the Atlantic race.
Early Surprise: John Madden (6GP,4G,2A,2PPG) has seen his role transformed under new head-coach Brent Sutter, with more time on the PP and extended looks at wing.
14. Buffalo Sabres [3-2-0], Last Week: #19 (+5)
Seems like the Sabres have finally found their game, with three impressive wins at home against conference opponents. The defense still looks questionable, and Ryan Miller is still not in rhythm, but the guns have come alive and that means better days ahead for fans in Buffalo. Derek Roy looks like he's taken it upon himself to earn his pay-raise, but Vanek is still a sleeping giant in that regard.
Early Surprise: Brian Campbell (5GP,1G,8A,+5,5PPP) is channeling his inner Bobbie Orr, providing the catalyst for the Sabres' recent offensive revival.
15. Pittsburgh Penguins [2-3-0], Last Week: #15 (even)
After a gutsy 3rd-period won them a 6-4 decision at the Air Canada Centre against the struggling Leafs, the Pens were in for a rude awakening when they discovered that they could put 4-goals past Marty Brodeur and still somehow lose to the new-look Devils. Malkin and Crosby are leading the way, but Jordon Staal and Marc-Andre Fleury have fallen off the radar entirely.
Early Surprise: Gary Roberts (5GP,1G,5A,1PPG) has not looked out of place on a team full of players half his age.
16. Calgary Flames [2-2-2], Last Week: #20 (+4)
Looks like the first Keenan tirade of the season really registered with the players as they pulled out impressive back-to-back wins against the Stars and Preds, before losing in a shootout to the surging Avs. The PK has been god-awful (69.7%), but the Flames have been strong at even-strength. Kipper's contract situation and rumours of Tanguay wanting out of town are unneeded distractions.
Early Surprise: Matthew Lombardi (6GP,3G,2A,+3) wasn't pegged as an Iron Mike-type player, but he has quickly earned his coach's respect and is being rewarded with significant minutes.
17. New York Rangers [2-3-0], Last Week: #17 (even)
There is no stronger indication that the Rangers are just not ready for primetime than that 2nd-period meltdown versus Ottawa. Chemistry continues to be elusive, both on the scoring end, and on the defensive end. Perhaps Renney should try Drury on the left-wing on a line with Gomez and Shanahan? Promising youngsters Dubinsky and Staal were supposed to push veterans for icetime, but both have been underwhelming so far.
Early Surprise: Henrik Lundqvist (2-2-0,2.02GAA,.934SV%) is still putting up solid numbers despite all the flux around him. It's a veritable crime that his stellar efforts are being sabotaged by the problems up front. Many teams may consider making an offer sheet to him this coming offseason (Detroit?) and if the team continues to play like this, Lundqvist might very well be happy to move on.
18. St. Louis Blues [4-1-0], Last Week: #22 (+4)
A case could be made that this team should be much higher in the Rankings, especially after an impressive win against Colorado where the defense and Legace shut down the Avs' high-powered attack, but we'll hold off judgement until big games against the Wild and Ducks are out of the way. The Blues are surprisingly stingy on D and all that veteran leadership seems to be paying dividends already...
Early Surprise: Manny Legace (3-1,1.77GAA,0.935SV%) is out to prove that all those people (including us) who thought the Blues could use an upgrade in goal were just flat-out wrong.
19. Vancouver Canucks [3-3-0], Last Week: #18 (-1)
While a home-and-home sweep of the Oilers is a sign of progress, losing their grip on a 2-2 game in the third period to eventually fall by 2-goals to the Sharks followed the early-season pattern of deficient defense and struggling goaltending. In a bit of irony, the Canucks are finally seeing their top-six come alive on the scoring sheet...
Early Surprise: Marcus Naslund (6GP,2G,4A,1PPG) and linemate Brendan Morrison (6GP,3G,2A) were supposedly spent forces, but have infused some much-needed secondary offence to compliment the steady Sedins.
20. Nashville Predators [2-4-0], Last Week: #13 (-7)
A week of collapse by the Preds started with a 6-3 shellacking by the Coyotes, followed by a dismal 7-4 bomb at home to the Flames, and ended with an uninspired 3-1 loss at Anaheim. Goalie Chris Mason in particular saw his strong first week to the season go up in smoke as he was tagged for 13-goals in just two starts. The Jordin Tootoo distraction after the Phoenix game didn't help matters one bit, either.
Early Surprise: Dan Hamhuis (6GP,1G,5A,2PPA) is filling the shoes of injured Shea Weber and then some, leading the team with 23:00 mins of average icetime.
21. Washington Capitals [3-2-0], Last Week: #14 (-7)
If anybody was wondering how well this team would do without Kolzig standing on his head every night, look no further that the 7-3 debacle against Buffalo where backup Brent Johnson was lit up like a X-mas tree. A beautiful goal by Ovechkin against the Rangers, but it wasn't enough to inspire the rest of his teammates to pull their weight in a big game. Semin returning from injury should help.
Early Surprise: Mike Green (5GP,1G,3A) managed only 12 points in 70 games a season ago, but is now seeing tons of icetime, even on the PP.
22. Boston Bruins [3-2-0], Last Week: #27 (+5)
A hat-trick by Kessel and a 5-point night by Savard fueled a big night against the Kings, but it was the last-minute heroics in San Jose that really capped a stellar week of hockey in Beantown. After that San Jose game, is there any question now that Tim Thomas should be the Bruins #1 goaltender?
Early Surprise: Phil Kessel (5GP,3G,2A,1PPG) is using his super-human speed and finishing touch to become an emerging offensive leader for the Bruins.
23. Chicago Blackhawks [3-3-0], Last Week: #24 (+1)
A huge come-from-behind win against the Red Wings inspired a similar effort against the Stars that had the 'Hawks at 2-0 to start the week... then they ran headlong into the brick wall that is the Blues' defence. Still, rookie Jonathan Toews has provided a huge lift since coming back from a broken finger, and Khabibulin has been solid in net. A big week ahead as the 'Hawks prepare to play 4-games in 7-days.
Early Surprise: Jonathan Toews (4GP,1G,3A,3PPA) looks like anything but a rookie so far, sparking the 'Hawks on the PP.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets [2-2-1], Last Week: #23 (-1)
A 5-1 drubbing at Colorado and a shootout loss at home against the Stars made for a week to forget in Blue Jackets Land. However, there have still been many bright points for Hitchcock's squad thusfar, with special teams play and the resurgence of Zherdev and Leclaire being the most notable. 4-games in the next 7-days against tough opponents could be a sink-or-swim test for this team early on.
Early Surprise: Nikolai Zherdev (5GP,5A,3PPA) was left for dead before the season opened, pencilled in on the 4th-line or as the 13th forward by many, it was just a matter of time before he would be sent packing. Instead, the enigmatic Russian has provided a spark for his club on the PP, while seeing a ton of minutes at even-strength (18:28), too.
25. Toronto Maple Leafs [2-3-2], Last Week: #25 (even)
A week that started with a promising and dominant victory of the Isles, quickly devolved into more Leafs hysterics with the Pens tagging Tolskala for 5-goals in front of the home crowd and Brian "7-Million Dollar" McCabe's own-goal losing the game for his team in OT against the Sabres. Leafs fans have so many scapegoats to choose from now that it's scary.
Early Surprise: Nik Antropov (7GP,5G,4A,+9) looks like a new man playing alongside Sundin on the top-line.
26. Florida Panthers [3-3-0], Last Week: #30 (+4)
Talk about Jekyll & Hyde... after an 0-3 start, the Panthers entered the week facing stiff competition (Devils, Habs and Bolts) and came out unbeaten and renewed. Vokoun had a remarkable week, stopping 105 of the 110 shots en route to a 3-0 record with one shutout (Devils). More stiff competition is upcoming with games at Toronto and Ottawa, so the Cats have another chance to impress.
Early Surprise: Cory Murphy (6GP,1G,5A,5PPP) brings plenty of experience from the SM-Liiga and Team Canada to the Panthers' blueline and PP.
27. Phoenix Coyotes [2-3-0], Last Week: #28 (+1)
A remarkable 6-3 win at Nashville and a very close game against the Conference-leading Wild are signs that Coach Gretzky's club might be ready to turn the corner after a disappointing start. Goaltending hasn't been nearly as problematic as predicted before the season, and the Coyotes' scoring-by-committee approach is exactly the right idea with this talent-challenged team.
Early Surprise: Fredrik Sjostrom (2GP,3G,1PPG,1SHG) was a healthy scratch for the first three games of the season, but has been a spark-plug since being inserted into the lineup.
28. Edmonton Oilers [2-4-0], Last Week: #21 (-7)
Embarrassing home-and-home loss to rival Canucks was made worse when news surfaced that UFA acquisition Souray would miss 3-4 weeks with a seperated shoulder. Without their biggest offensive weapon, the team's D.O.A. PP (1-25, 4%) will have to find other ways to cure what's ailing.
Early Surprise: Andrew Cogliano (6GP,2G,3A,+2,1SHG) spent most of the preseason in fellow rookie Sam Gagner's shadow, but his speed and scoring touch have turned many a head thusfar.
29. Los Angeles Kings [2-5-0], Last Week: #26 (-3)
After suffering consecutive disheartening losses, rookie goalie-phenom Bernier was sent back to his Junior team. That means the tandem of Labarbera and Aubin will have to hold the fort until help arrives - either in the form of a Cloutier recall or a UFA signing (can anybody say Cujo or Eddie?). With a trip up to Western Canada and games at home against the Preds and Stars, the Kings are in for a tough week.
Early Surprise: The only surprise is that this team isn't better. Nagy, Handzus and Calder haven't looked comfortable, and rookie Jack Johnson appears in over his head.
30. Atlanta Thrashers [0-6-0], Last Week: #29 (-1)
Winless after two-weeks of play, the Thrashers witnessed the first coaching casualty of the young NHL season. Anybody who's been paying any attention knows that Coach Hartley was the least of the Thrasher's problems. Lack of organizational depth (mainly stemming from trade-deadline moves of desperation), the inability of the team to bring in top-six centermen, and the failure of the club to bring in adequte defensive help are the main culprits behind the slow start - and last we checked, that was in GM Waddell's area of responsibility...
Early Surprise: That another GM extends his own life by offering his head coach up for slaughter... no wait, that's just life in the NHL.
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