Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Power Rankings- Stretch Run Edition

1) Its been about 6 weeks since our last edition of our Power Rankings poll. Its "The Stretch Run" edition, probably being the final rankings prior to the post season. As always we rank all 30 teams based upon overall record and recent play.

1) Detroit (3) For the first time this season the Cup champs made it to the top slot in our rankings. Not that they have ever been below 3rd. They have tied SJ for the league lead in points. The only troubling stats are their goaltending, miserable PK, and curiously bad Saturday night record (out scored 21-4 the past 3 weeks!). Can't imagine a team winning with the 27th rated PK, but we wouldn't bet against them.

2) New Jersey (5)- The team we'd least want to face if the playoffs started tonight. They have it all. Balanced scoring, team defense, and now scarily a rested Marty Brodeur. With 18 wins in their last 23 games, the Devils could still catch Boston in the East. Brent Sutter is our Adams selection right now and Zac Parise deserves Hart consideration.

3) San Jose (1)- The Sharks lost 4 in a row to put San Jose's conference lead in jeopardy for the first time this season and drop them in our poll a bit. Thankfully for them recent injuries such as to goalie Evgeni Nabokov don't appear to be long term/serious They still posses a formidable lineup that was bolstered by the trade deadline which has to be considered a top Cup contender.

4) Philadelphia (6)- Despite their failure to improve their weaknesses via the trade route we still see the Flyers as one of the better teams in the East. Talk about balanced scoring; the Flyers are the only team in the NHL with six 20-goal scorers. Additionally, Simon Gagne is heating up at the right time. If they only had a reliable goalie, but isn't this always the problem in Philly?

5) Boston (2)- The B's have fallen on hard times for the first time this season dropping themselves in our poll and their lead over 2nd place NJ has shrunk. Part of the problem has been the previously reliable goaltending of Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez. Both have been veritable sieves lately. Particularly Manny who is 0-3-2 with a 3.55 GAA and an .867 save percentage in his last five starts and hasn't posted a win since Jan. 8!

6) Calgary (4)- Hard to call a first place team a 'dark horse, but we believe they could be a team to be reckoned with come April. Despite playing a long road trip without three of their top seven forwards, as Todd Bertuzzi, Rene Bourque and Daymond Langkow the Flames still did well. If their PP should start to click, look out!

7) Pittsburgh (20)- Are back from the dead after firing inept bench boss Michel Therrian. They are 9-1 since that over due move. Combined with trade deadline pick ups of Guerin and Kunitz who give a dangerous 1-2 forward line punch the Pens appear ready to defend their conference title. We wouldn't be shocked to see that.

8) Chicago (8)- The Hawks remain very much in the thick of things. However can they stay where they are with an increasingly larger injury list which now includes Nikolai Khabibulin (groin), Patrick Sharp (knee), and now the previously hot, Martin Havlat. If they can get them all back by mid April, the Hawks won't be easy prey in any playoff series

9) Washington (7)- The Caps recent down turn places their chances at a long playoff run in doubt. They made no deadline moves to improve and continue to be a top heavy team, relying extensively on Alex the Gr-8, and to a lesser extent Alex Semin, way too much. This combined with their very poor PK make us doubt that this Capital team can get much past a first round despite another top 3 finish.

10) Vancouver (21)- Similar to NJ in that their Vezina calibre goalie, Roberto Luongo, will go into the post season relatively rested. Mats Sundin of late has been a positive as opposed to the first month when he made little impact. Right now the Canucks are one of the hottest teams in the NHL! Undoubtedly they will be a favourite 'dark horse' pick in the playoffs. We're not yet sold.

11) Carolina (19)- The 'Canes are another team back from the almost dead and are playing their best hockey of the season at the right time to get back into the top 8 in the East. Erik Cole has returned and as intended it seems to have bolstered the teams offense. Additionally Cam Ward appears to be back in form making a playoff bid more likely after 2 seasons watching hockey in the spring.

12) Nashville (27)- Like Carolina, back from obscurity. Steve Sullivan is helping Barry Trtz's sextet get back into the playoff picture reeling off 6 start wins at one point. They continue their schizophrenic tendency of playing lights out at home and dreadfully below par on the road. They will need to change that to stay in the hint in the very competitive West where 7 teams compete for the last 2 spots

13) Montreal (11)- Sorry Habs fans the key isn't who is behind your bench, but who is between the goal posts. Your team will go as far as Carey Price can carry them. After his recent ankle injury he appears to be coming around, but he'll have to elevate his game further in April if the Canadiens want to have any shot. Also will the recent surge from Alex Kovalev be lasting or fleeting?

14) Florida (14)- The cats are still clawing away and remain in the playoff picture. We agree with FR that retaining Jay Bowmeester was the right move. This franchise NEEDS a playoff bid. How did they get back in it? Easy, the Panthers have gone 18-8-3 since Jan. 1 and not lost back-to-back games in regulation! Now the hard(er) part, can they survive injuries to Nathan Horton, 2-4 weeks (finger), and to Bryan McCabe (eye)?

15) Columbus (18)- The Blue jackets have defied the prognosticators by staying right in the playoff picture in the very tough West. It will be great for the franchise to make the post season for the first time. Can newcomer Antoine Vermette boost their anemic power play? Like Nashville key may be will they be able to win regularly away from the Nationwide Arena?

16) St. Louis (25)- First the good news; the surging Blues find themselves a mere 3 points from 8th. The bad news; 5 other teams are within the same striking distance and the Blues didn't rid themselves of Keith Tkachuk. ; ) They have their destiny in their on hands as they play against these teams quite a bit down the stretch. We predict they will fall a tad short, tough it bodes well for next season.

17) NY Rangers (9)- From top tier team to playoff bubble team. Glen Sather has pulled out all the stops to try to get into the playoffs. A month ago it seemed like a sure bet, now based upon their remaining schedule its a 50:50 proposition. They are only .500 since Tortorella took over. Will this, Avery's and the trade deadline additions of Antropov and Morris put them over the hump? At this point we'd disagree with FR and say no, but Lundqvist will have to play at his very best to get them there.

18) Toronto (29)- Give coach Wilson and Brian Burke credit for keeping this team focused and playing hard down the stretch. Going a solid 6-2-2 in their last 10. To the dismay of Leaf Nation it probably takes them out of the Tavres Sweepstakes. No doubt Burke has more major changes ahead once the season mercifully ends.

19) Minnesota (17)- Another of the MANY West bubble teams. Going from 7th to 10th in 24 hours and then back again. Have been treading water at 4-4-2 that probably won't be good enough to make it. It also isn't helpful that eight of its remaining 12 games in March are on the road. On a positive note, its possible they may have oft injured star forward Marion Gaborik back next week. This could be Lemaire's last season in Minny.

20) Buffalo (10)- Last time around we saw Buffalo as surging, now they appear to be again slouching. Only 4 points from 8th, but only winning 4 of 10 won't cut it. Losing Ryan Miller hasn't helped. Also we wouldn't have given Timmy Connolly a 2 year, 9 million extension. He's 1 hit from retirement!

21) Edmonton (12) Despite technically still in the top 8, the Oilers are sinking fast. They are a piss-poor 3-4-3 in the past 10 despite Sam Gagner who's been hot and now there are loud rumblings that coach Craig McTavish may be on his way out, perhaps even before the season is over. Also its beginning to appear that Dwayne Roloson is fatiguing as the 38 yr old goalie has started 22 consecutive games.

22) Atlanta (28)- The loftiest perch the Trashers have had in our rankings in over a years worth of polls. We give props to the team and coach who went 6-3-1 recently despite playing for nothing but pride. Is 25 yr old Kari Lehtonen finally starting to become the goalie that the Thrashers have been waiting for the past few seasons?

23) Dallas (15) After appearing that the Stars were going to get back into the thick of things despite Brendan Morrow;s injury and Sean Avery's antics the team has fallen off the cliff once again winning two of its last 10 to fall from 6th to 10th with the rest of the 'rabble fighting for their lives. The loss of Brad Richards appears to be hurting as the team is having a tough time scoring.

24) Anaheim (16)- Another late season disappointment. Although technically not yet out of it, despite still having the Norris Twins(Pronger/Niedermayer). The Ducks have been playing like they have little interest in playing hockey beyond mid April. Its not too late, but from all indications this collection of players is not the same as the one that drove to a Cup only 2 years ago

25) NY Islanders (30)- Like Toronto and Atlanta the Isles have had a mini renaissance of sorts. Especially at home. The Isles are 9-2-2 in their last 13 games at Nassau Coliseum. Oddly it seems the more the team loses vets to trade or injury the better they play as a team. The only problems from a franchise standpoint is that this surge could push them out of Tavares territory AND more ominously the team and local officials are bickering over the new arena and its now possible the team may leave NY after next season!

26) Los Angeles (23)- Appear to be running out of gas as they approach the finish. Most didn't think that they would compete for a spot this season so its all gravy at this point. The future is bright. The fans appear to be noticing as attendance is way up for the Kings. It would be a nice story f they snuck in the 8th spot, but we wouldn't expect it.

27) Ottawa (26)- Just when it appeared that they were finally turning things around the Sens back slide back toward the bottom of the conference. FR didn't mention this in their post deadline analysis but we liked the Sens acquisitions of Pascal Leclaire and Chris Campoli. With a few other holes patched this summer the Sens could be right back in the playoff hunt next season

28) Colorado (22)- The Avalanche are done and it appears that they are about to have their first sub. 500 record since moving to Denver in 1995. Going 3-7 in their last 10, losing at one point 6 strait. Will Av's management/their fans admit that Granato and Budaj weren't good choices to be head coach/#1 goalie this year? Also have we seen the last of Joe Sakic?

29) Phoenix (13)- The opposite of previous years the 'Yotes had a good first half followed by a collapse. Previously, they got off to terrible starts only to finish strongly. Like Colorado are now in veritable free-fall. They have the pieces/assets to make a quick turn around next season, but does the franchise have the financial assets to stay afloat?

30) Tamp Bay (24)- Went from joke/basement at the start of the season, to now right back there by the end of the year. No good reason as this team has more than enough talent to be doing better than this. Perhaps the team should unload Lecavalier before his NTC kicks in July. Another franchise that is on the brink financially, and that's a shame as they have a good/loyal following in the Fla bay area.


Tom said...

Tim Thomas hasn't been a sieve at all. Starting with the San Jose game (when the slump began), here are his goals against and the results for each game:

4(L), 1(L), 1(W), 2(L), 1(W), 0(W), 4 (OTL), 2(L), 3(W), 1(L)

San Jose and Washington scored 4, Chicago scored 3. Note that 4 different times he's let in 2 or fewer and still lost.

Andy Facini said...

Whoa now, gotta speak up. There's no chance (NONE) that the Islanders will leave Long Island after next season or the one after that or after that. At earliest, the contract with the county runs up in 2015. Talks are finally heating up (AND more importantly going well) and it looks more and more that things on the Lighthouse project can get going sooner rather than later.

So yeah, they need to start losing again for the #1. Please, stop winning Isles.

But it ISN'T a possibility that the team is moving anytime in the near future.


1) Tom: Thanks for the goalie update. Must have been thinking of that 100 foot Alex Semin shot that Tim gave up recently. ;) However, stats don't lie. Its Manny who hasn't been too solid lately
2) Andy: Having watched Mr. Wang's Howie Rose interview, he subtly said that there was a way to get out of the existing lease IF the Light house Project isn't approved within 100 days by the county. Additionally, seem to recall reading a few years back that it would only take a modest monetary payment to break it anyway.
3) No, its FAR from a slam dunk they will leave, but until all the I's are dotted and T's crossed it IS possible, and we will know sooner rather than later.

Antzmarching said...

Now, I certainly do not want to insult our friend Vlad, but HOW could you have the Wings in the first slot??? They have lost 8-0 and 8-2 in the past two weeks... The goaltending is atrocious, as is the PK... The Devils and San Jose are the cream of the NHL right now, with several 2nd tier teams (the Red Wings being one of them)... Of course, the Stanley Cup champs are still relevant, but number ONE??? C'mon Faux!

On another note, be aware of the Flames - a potential playoff sleeper...

Antzmarching said...

I have to agree with Andy, Faux... The Isles aren't going anywhere... Until recently, I had totally written them off regarding any future... But, I really like the development and progression of Okposo... This guy is a budding star... Hey Sauce, you've definitely got one here to brag about...

Faux, are you making comments simply to get a rise out of people? Its fun to debate, but the Isles leaving LI and the Wings on the top of your power list? Kinda silly!!!


1) Antz: FR2's placement of Detroit as tops is far from silly. No team in the NHL has a better record. The Sharks have struggles lately. We did mention the Wings curious issue with Saturday night games and their PK, but you can't quibble with their ability to win. This placement was NOT a playoff prediction!
2) As for the Isles: FR2's mention of the team leaving has NOTHING to do with the on ice product. Its from reading the various reports coming out of LI these days.
3) The combination of derelict politicians (Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray) and the credit/budget crunch could make it difficult to get this project off the ground. Meanwhile KC has a spanking new building empty and beckoning.

Antzmarching said...

Wang in Kansas City? LOL - He isn't even pulling off New York!


Antz: If the Isles move to KC, look for Wang to sell his interest in the team

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