What have we learned so far? Let's face it, in order to thrive in the "new" NHL, you have to do a number of things well. This week, the top team's show us how important it is to draft (or acquire) young talent that can start and make an impact right away. This has been a key for teams that have won the cup in each of the last 4 seasons and by the looks of it, this trend will continue.
In brackets, last week's ranking. As always, post your thoughts and changes!
1. Pittsburgh Penguins (1): They've won 6 in a row with great contributions from Tyler Kennedy and others. Sergei Gonchar's injury will take its toll on this team, but not like last year. Once Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby return to their dominant selves (not that they've been bad or anything), this team will be able to weather the Gonchar loss.
2. Buffalo Sabres (6): Quickly rising up the charts; a stifling defense is the biggest reason. What can you say about Tyler Myers? He's exactly what this team has been missing over the last decade, a d-man who can control a game. And he's not there yet, but he will be, and he'll get there fast.
3. Colorado Avalanche (7): The match against the Calgary Flames coming up is going to give us an early look at who may be the top dog in the NW. Who would have thought that the rookie making the biggest impact would be Ryan O'Reilly? Good drafting can turn around a franchise and the Avs are proof of that. Craig Anderson continues to thrive in goal and I have to mention the solid play of Darcy Tucker.
4. New York Rangers (2): The blue-shirts take a little dip due to the spank-job the Sharks laid on them at home recently. I would have liked to have seen the difference had Lundqvist been in goal though. I continue to be impressed by Michael Del Zotto.
5. Pheonix Coyotes (10): I'm going to be perfectly honest here... I continue to expect them to fall back to earth. But, one has to look at the facts. This team was making a very strong push in the west leading up to the All-Star break last season. They have a coach who excels at getting the most out of talent and Ilya Bryzgalov was lights out in his first season with the team and seems to have returned to form. Maybe this isn't such a surprise.
6. Chicago Blackhawks (3): Slight dip due to losing 2 in a row including a late breakdown against the Canucks. Antti Niemi will likely be a starting goaltender for years to come in this league, I just don't think they wanted it to be this season. The injury to Jonathan Toews is something to monitor... see link below.
-Willie Mitchell absolutely hammers Toews after leaving the penalty box. I'm sure there will be huge debate on head shots this week, and rightfully so, but it shouldn't be because of this hit. This is as clean as they come and is shoulder to shoulder, JT just really never saw him coming.
7. Washington Capitals (7): Bounced back with 2 wins after dropping 4 in a row. They are who we think they are, might be the easiest way to describe them. If they get better than average goaltending and defensive play, their offense will do enough to carry them. A legitimate cup-contender for certain, but without improvement on both ends, a cup is likely out of the question still.
8. San Jose Sharks (HM): Will the real Sharks please stand up? As fans, it's hard when your team can play so good one night and not so good the next. And as a team, it's a hard fad to crack. Devin Setoguchi is proving last year was not a fluke.
9. Calgary Flames (NR): Speaking of a two-faced team... The Flames have absolutely dominated periods of time in enough games to see the potential oozing through. Getting rid of all the bad habits established during the Keenan era will take time though. Jarome Iginla looked himself in each of the last two games, which is a very good sign for this team.
10. Columbus Blue Jackets (5): Injuries on the defense is probably what cost them in Calgary on Tuesday night, along with an off game from Steve Mason. They're going to battle in the west, and a 3-6 playoff seed is certainly not out of the question.
Honorable Mention (in no order):
Atlanta Thrashers (NR): Ilya Kovalchuk has been a scoring machine early and they just locked up Rich Peverly, yes, Rich Peverly... and it's a good signing. Is goaltending going to be an issue in ATL?
Edmonton Oilers (NR): Nikolai Khabibulin nearly had another late catastrophe against Vancouver, but the improved play of Dustin Penner and Gilbert Brule has been huge. Don't forget Patrick O'Sullivan, the former 1st-rounder of the Minnesota Wild, who's been producing at a nice pace.
Ottawa Senators (NR): The goaltending has been great and Daniel Alfredsson has been producing, but the lack of offense from Jason Spezza and Alexei Kovalev has to be a little bit of a concern thus far.
Philadelphia Flyers (4): This fall is probably too harsh, but they've lost 3 straight and I just couldn't see leaving any of the other teams out. They'll be back.
Los Angeles Kings (9): Ryan Smyth continues to shine but the results just aren't quite there yet.
Tampa Bay Lightning (HM): Lost 2 in a row and are getting no production from Alex Tanguay (0G, 1A, 1PTS, -4 in 7 games).
New Jersey Devils (HM): Great on the road so far, but the schedule hasn't allowed us to see a whole bunch of these guys yet.