Posts Tagged ‘Dallas Stars’

Weekend drinking pointers + links

October 11th, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving to all Canadian readers this weekend!

Mike Ribeiro: Classy weekend drinker.

Speaking of thanks, thank God hockey is back! It was great to see hockey on TV on Saturday night… unless you are a Senators fan. In which case, the weekend probably required copious amounts of alcohol after watching two bad losses (Yeah, I’m grouping Friday and Saturday together).

Oh, and speaking of copious amounts of alcohol, Mike Ribeiro got very loaded Saturday night… which forced me to write the Dallas Stars forward this gem of a toast called “Weekend drinking pointers.” By gem I mean “crap.”

In other hockey news, here’s some hockey articles I wanted to share with y’all. Yes, I just said y’all. Deal with it.

Self promotion first: A fun piece titled “Hockey is back, finally” written by yours truly to celebrate hockey’s return. Also, here’s my take on how to improve Kraft Hockeyville (sorry, this link is a few weeks late now).

The cap-strapped New Jersey Devils dressed nine forwards earlier this afternoon for their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Devils continue to show why they are a first class organization.

Chris Botta, a terrific Islanders writer, explains why John Tavares’ “mild” injury (read: concussion) needs to be treated far more seriously. A great read and sound logic.

Thankfully, Atlanta Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec is OK following a Friday night mid-game collapse. According to NHL.com, Pavelec fainted and suffered a concussion after hitting his head on the fall. Crazy.

The Toronto Star reports Tomas Kaberle actually wants to stay and resign with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Then again, this is the same fine organization that employs Damian Cox, so…. it could be one of those “HockeyBuzz” kind of stories.

If you haven’t seen TSN’s “Who Does Jordan Eberle Think He Is,” you need to now. Click here to laugh!

Stay classy, Thanksgiving.

Linkshare day (Sept 27)

September 27th, 2010

We’re getting closer and closer to the NHL regular season starting. I don’t know about you, but I’m pumped. I think we’re just a few weeks away from the opening puck-drop. With that in mind, let’s do some catch up with Linkshare day.

This Linkshare post will probably be a recurring weekly or bi-weekly thing. I haven’t really figured out what yet, but it won’t be focused on me. I’ll link to my work on The Score, but more importantly, I’ll link to other blogs I recently enjoyed that I think you’ll like too. If you read something hilarious or great, email me a link and I’ll put it up in Linkshare (yay). Let’s get to my Houses of The Hockey stuff first.

Over the weekend, I wrote an article about Toronto’s hockey media covering Nazem Kadri like various newscasts did in the great  “Panda watch” from Anchorman. Here’s an excerpt from the post:

“… Toronto’s sports media think hockey fans need to know when Kadri tapes a new stick or has a new linemate because Grabovski was busy beating up some dude at a bar…”

Click here to read the rant, “Kadri watch.”

Still on The Score, here are links to my Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leaf season previews, respectively. There’s a bit of discussion in the Tampa post about whether the Lightning can make the playoffs or not. Check it out.

*         *         *         *

Now that we’ve got the (shameless) self promotion out of the way, I’d like to share a few other blogs I recently enjoyed.

This is pretty clever… Intent To Blow have a pretty good article about the Montreal Canadiens trading Halak instead of Price by mistake. Here’s a small sample of the post:

“Apparently our fans knew it the whole time,” Gauthier said. “But recently they’ve only been communicating to us through smoke signals sent from cars they’ve lit on fire, so it’s easy to ignore.”

Click here to read the whole post. Tip: It’s not actually serious… or is it?

Down Goes Brown recently put out another gem, this time with tips on how to dominate your fantasy hockey draft. Here’s a small preview of the hilarious post:

“Don’t be ‘that guy’ who goes to a hockey game and yells at the players to let them know they’re on your fantasy team. To really get their attention, you’ll need to whisper it from under their bed just as they’re falling asleep.”

Click here to laugh your ass off.

The Score’s Scott Herkes recently put together a series of charts and graphs to depict some statistical findings around the NHL. I don’t want to mess the post up so I won’t quote it. You have to check it out! Also, it’s all pictures so it’s pretty “read friendly.”  Click here to laugh even more. Note: this is awesome.

Puck Daddy put together a summary of quotes following Jonathan Cheechoo’s release from the Dallas Stars (he was there on a pro tryout). While I don’t blame the Stars for releasing him, it came with a heavy dose of bullshit from Marc Crawford and others. Get a read on this quote:

“Jonathan is a good pro and is a real honest person. He gave us great effort and we could have very easily kept him, but we felt it would be better to let him try to find something else.”

Click here to read the rest of the article and more ridiculous quotes.

Finally (and still on Puck Daddy), Justin Bourne put out a pretty funny “10 things I learned playing hockey” post last week. It’s definitely worth a read with a few great quotes like this:

… I once had one full year to try to get five words into print, somehow. I don’t remember them exactly now, but they definitely included “octopus” and “cowabunga…”

Click here to learn what you missed out on if you didn’t play hockey as a kid or young adult.

Stay classy, other great blogs.

Why drinking beer at a hockey game is good for you

August 9th, 2010

The last few times I managed to get myself to an NHL hockey game, it was one of these mad dash drive-home-from-work-grab-tickets-rush-to-the-rink affairs. No big deal, I thought. I’ll just grab some food at the arena.

Not so fast.

A comprehensive study released by ESPN found some pretty bizarre (read: scary) food violations that would make anyone think twice when ordering anything that doesn’t come pre-packaged in several sports arenas. Some NHL highlights (or lowlights):

Jobing.com Arena – Phoenix Coyotes
“Inspectors reports mention a server scooping ice with his bare hands instead of using scoops.”
When asked asked why he didn’t use the scoops provided by Arena and team owners, the server replied “the new scoops Ice Edge gave us have way too many holes in them.”

Joe Louis Arena – Detroit Red Wings
“Inspectors noted cockroaches below a soda dispenser.”
Must be a neat promotion the Red Wings are doing to welcome Chris Chelios back to Detroit. Just like cockroaches, you can’t kill Chelios either!

RBC Center – Carolina Hurricanes
“Inspectors saw employees handle raw, breaded chicken and then handling cooked food without changing gloves or washing hands. The employees placed cooked chicken back in the same container used to hold raw chicken.”
The Hurricanes have finally found an area star Jiri Tlusty can help the organization.

Mellon Arena – Pittsburgh Penguins
“Inspectors found a live cockroach on top of a soda dispenser holster behind the bar.”
Don’t worry, the Penguins new Consol Energy Center houses state-of-the-art, bigger and better everything. Of course that will include nicer digs for all walks of life including cockroaches and Matt Cooke.

Wachovia Center – Philadelphia Flyers
“Inspectors found evidence of mouse and fruit fly infestations at one bar location.”
Upon further investigation, it was determined the fruit flies weren’t a result of poor sanitation or cleaning. The mouse and fruit flies came directly from Scott Hartnell’s hair.

BankAtlantic Center – Florida Panthers
“Inspectors issued several violations for soiled ice bins and coolers.”
Wait. Where?

Rexall Center – Edmonton Oilers
“At one location, workers used contaminated cleaning items.”
I bet Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini deliberated for months on what to do to before reaching a decision that any one of us “non-hockey people” would make in about two minutes.

American Airlines Arena – Dallas Stars
“Inspectors find expired milk, brown lettuce and employees caught drinking or eating while they were working in the stand accounted for some of the stadium’s critical violations.”
How long has this been happening for? Once the milk, lettuce or bad employees have been with the Stars for 20 years, they’ll be sure to let them go promptly.

Phillips Arena – Atlanta Thrashers
“At a couple of locations, inspectors found food not being protected from contamination.”
I wonder if this was happening in Chicago last season?

I’m still trying to picture the customer’s reaction when he saw the guy scooping the ice cream. Will that be one scoop or two?

Stay classy, hungry hockey fans.

NHL Classy Power Rankings – Week 20

February 15th, 2010

Welcome to the final Classy Power Rankings prior to the Olympics! This week, the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and Ottawa Senators move up, while the Tampa Bay Lightning and Minnesota Wild take a slide downwards.

Scroll down to see how your favourite teams measure up at the break. Please note this will be the last Power Rankings for a few weeks – the Classy Power Rankings will return on Monday March 8th, once the NHL season resumes.

NHL Classy Power Rankings – Week 20

30.  Edmonton Oilers (last week: 30)
29.  Toronto Maple Leafs (last week: 28)
28.  New York Islanders (last week: 27)
27.  Carolina Hurricanes (last week: 29)
26.  Florida Panthers (last week: 26)

The Carolina Hurricanes have been playing their best hockey of the season recently, going 8-2 in their last 10 games. All this while the Toronto Maple Leafs lost both of their games this week. In other news, the Florida Panthers management recently sent out a letter to all season ticket holders explaining large changes will be made to their roster soon. Hmmmm…

25.  Columbus Blue Jackets (last week: 25)
24.  Atlanta Thrashers (last week: 23)
23.  Tampa Bay Lightning (last week: 17)
22.  New York Rangers (last week: 22)
21.  Montreal Canadiens (last week: 18)

The Tampa Bay Lightning keep bouncing in and out of playoff contention with inconsistent play. The New York Rangers have won two straight games and are just outside of the 8th spot in the East. The Montreal Canadiens, who are holding down the 8th position in the Conference, traded a second round draft pick for Dominic Moore (of the Panthers)… why do teams keep trading second round draft picks for Moore?

20.  Minnesota Wild (last week: 16)
19.  St. Louis Blues (last week: 21)
18.  Boston Bruins (last week: 24)
17.  Anaheim Ducks (last week: 19)
16.  Detroit Red Wings (last week: 14)

The Boston Bruins seem to have found their stride, having won their last four games, while the Anaheim Ducks continue to move closer to the playoffs. Ryan Getzlaf appears to be OK after having a sprained ankle scare earlier this week. At this point in the Western Conference, I’m starting to believe the Ducks are the only team outside of the playoffs who can make the post-season.

15.  Philadelphia Flyers (last week: 20)
14.  Dallas Stars (last week: 15)
13.  Calgary Flames (last week: 12)
12.  Nashville Predators (last week: 13)
11.  Buffalo Sabres (last week: 11)

This is where it gets tight. The Philadelphia Flyers have done a nice job moving up, thanks to four straight wins.  The Dallas Stars, Buffalo Sabres, Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames all remain in the top 15 going into the Olympic break.

10.  Pittsburgh Penguins (last week: 9)
9.  Ottawa Senators (last week: 10)
8.  Colorado Avalanche (last week: 8)
7.  Vancouver Canucks (last week: 7)
6.  New Jersey Devils (last week: 6)

The Ottawa Senators move up one spot this week thanks to big wins over the Capitals and Islanders. The New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche and New Jersey Devils stay pat in their respective positions.

5.  Phoenix Coyotes (last week: 5)
4.  Los Angeles Kings (last week: 3)
3.  Chicago Blackhawks (last week: 4)
2.  San Jose Sharks (last week: 2)
1.  Washington Capitals (last week: 1)

The Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks swap positions this week, while the San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals hold down the top two positions in the Classy Power Rankings. The Blackhawks, Sharks and Capitals are starting to pull away from the pack in the NHL points race. They are the class of the league.

Stay classy, NHL Power Rankings.

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Rumour commentary

February 10th, 2010

With twice the number of deadlines as usual, trades and trade rumours have come early this year. In fact, we’ve already seen a few trades involving some pretty big names (Kovalchuk, Phaneuf, Giguere, Jokinen) with more expected over the next few days/weeks. Here’s a few thoughts from the trades we’ve seen so far, potential fallout and well documented rumours.

  • With the Dallas Stars acquiring Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen last night, one has to wonder what the future holds for Marty Turco. There are all sorts of rumours out there, but I’m assuming bringing in Lehtonen means they are done with Turco this season. Regardless of that, goaltending is a huge question mark for the Stars moving forward. Turco, Lehtonen and Alex Auld all are free agents at the end of the season (Turco and Auld are UFAs while Lehtonen is an RFA).
  • When the New Jersey Devils traded for superstar Ilya Kovalchuk, they traded a pretty handy defenseman in Johnny Oduya. Frankly, if the Devils are serious about going for the Cup this year, they’ll need a better defense than what they currently have. And something tells me they are serious about winning this year. It’ll be interesting to see if they move on any defensemen in the rumour mill (salary cap numbers aside, players like John Michael Liles and James Wisniewski come to mind).
  • New Montreal Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier says otherwise, but it will be interesting to see if Jaroslav Halak or Carey Price is traded before the deadline. The bigger question I have for Montreal is whether Gauthier has his own plans or intends to carry out Bob Gainey’s vision. Time will tell, I guess.
  • Per Andy Strickland (as of last week), the Carolina Hurricanes were asking for a 1st round draft pick (for this summer’s draft) as well as a good prospect in return for Ray Whitney. I wonder if A- they’ll end up getting what they’re asking for and B- which team is actually willing to give up that much for a 37 year old forward. It’s also been reported players like Matt Cullen and Tuomo Ruutu are of interest to a few teams. Could they be available?
  • What are the chances the Edmonton Oilers actually move Sheldon Souray and Ethan Moreau? To be blunt, they’ll be lucky to get anything back for these two players. Getting one or both contracts off their payroll would be a coup for the Oilers, regardless of what they get back (assuming they can dump salary and not trade one bad contract for another). To me, the only Oiler player who’s known to be available that could fetch any return is young forward Andrew Cogliano. There is a market for him (it’s believed the Senators, Rangers and others have shown interest in the past).
  • The New York Rangers were busy last week trading Alex Kotalik and Chris Higgins and replacing them with Brandon Prust and Olli Jokinen. One has to wonder if they are done making moves for the season. I look at Brandon Dubinsky as a player who will be traded between now and this time next season. Dubinsky has a two year contract (this season and next) with a cap hit of $1.85 Million, however, the deal was awarded to him in arbitration. It’s clear he expected a lot more from the Rangers and didn’t like the idea of going to arbitration. I’d imagine his relationship with Glen Sather isn’t great (just my speculation).
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs have a number of players who could be traded prior to March 3rd. Players like Lee Stempniak, Alex Ponikarovsky (who I still believe will end up in Pittsburgh), Garnett Exelby (not sure if there’s a viable market for a slow defenseman who’s cap hit is $1.3 Million) and potentially Tomas Kaberle. According to Brian Burke, Kaberle won’t be traded, but I’m still listing him as a possibility.
  • There are loads of rumours circulating the Washington Capitals and their desire to add a quality defenseman. No idea how accurate the rumours are, but with a number of good defenseman available, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Capitals add another defender. The Capitals have nearly $4 Million (in cap space) to work with, according to NHLNumbers.com.
  • Despite the tailspin the Boston Bruins are currently in (hopefully for their sake getting out of), will they make any shake ups to their roster? I’ve heard the Tim Thomas rumours and I don’t believe them at all. Regardless, scoring is an issue for this club. Maybe they miss Phil Kessel more than they thought they would? Maybe they could trade back their lottery pick to the Leafs for Kessel? Obviously that was a joke.
  • Will any other playoff bubble teams like Detroit, Dallas, Anaheim, St. Louis, Boston, New York Rangers and Atlanta make any moves before the deadline? I’m assuming they’ll be buyers in hopes of adding the final piece to secure a spot in the playoffs. That probably means there will be 3-5 sellers including the Leafs, Blue Jackets, Hurricanes, Oilers and maybe one other team that will soon bow out of the playoff mix.

So, what do you think will happen between now and March 3rd? I wonder what kind of implications will follow from the Olympics? I’m betting a few important players will return from the games with significant injuries. Anyways, what’s your take? Discuss!

Stay classy, NHL trades and trade rumours.

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NHL Classy Power Rankings – Week 19

February 8th, 2010

In a week that saw the Ottawa Senators and Phoenix Coyotes win streaks snapped, the Los Angeles Kings and Washington Capitals continued theirs with come from behind victories over the weekend! This past week also saw a few trades made between the Flyers/Red Wings, Rangers/Flames and Hurricanes/Sharks. Read below to find out who was dealt.

This week, the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers suffer drops while the Tampa Bay Lightning, Vancouver Canucks, Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings all move up in the Classy Rankings.

NHL Classy Power Rankings – Week 19

30.  Edmonton Oilers (last week: 30)
29.  Carolina Hurricanes (last week: 28)
28.  Toronto Maple Leafs (last week: 29)
27.  New York Islanders (last week: 26)
26.  Florida Panthers (last week: 17)

It was a busy week for this group of teams last week. The Toronto Maple Leafs ushered in a few new faces (with immediate impact) and the Carolina Hurricanes traded Nicolas Wallin to the San Jose Sharks. The Edmonton Oilers won two games and Sheldon Souray has reportedly given the team a list of trade destinations he’d lift his no trade clause for. There are some other reports that indicate the Oilers could be close to dealing captain Ethan Moreau.

25.  Columbus Blue Jackets (last week: 27)
24.  Boston Bruins (last week: 25)
23.  Atlanta Thrashers (last week: 21)
22.  New York Rangers (last week: 24)
21.  St. Louis Blues (last week: 20)

Obviously, the Boston Bruins are the standout club in this group of under achieving teams. It’s looking more and more possible that Boston will have two top 10 draft picks this summer at the NHL Entry Draft. The Columbus Blue Jackets finally fired coach Ken Hitchcock – a decision that seemed like it had been coming since week two of the season. Oh, and Glen Sather traded for Olli Jokinen… another sound move by the GM Mark Messier will eventually replace.

20.  Philadelphia Flyers (last week: 18)
19.  Anaheim Ducks (last week: 19)
18.  Montreal Canadiens (last week: 22)
17.  Tampa Bay Lightning (last week: 23)
16.  Minnesota Wild (last week: 16)

The Philadelphia Flyers added more forward depth trading for Red Wings forward Ville Leino (yeah – that’s exactly what they needed, more forwards!). One has to wonder if they have any trades up their sleeves prior to the March 3rd NHL trade deadline. The Tampa Bay Lightning jump up this week with three straight wins and a terrific home record. Don’t look now, but Rich Tocchet has the Lightning sitting 7th in the Eastern Conference. In other Lightning news, they appear to have a new owner who’s almost guaranteed to “not suck as much” as the previous ownership group, OK Hockey.

15.  Dallas Stars (last week: 15)
14.  Detroit Red Wings (last week: 13)
13.  Nashville Predators (last week: 12)
12.  Calgary Flames (last week: 14)
11.  Buffalo Sabres (last week: 5)

The Calgary Flames have started to turn things around a bit, following a big time roster shake up. As of writing this, they find themselves back in the playoffs. The Buffalo Sabres suffer a big drop this week after losing their last four games. Also, the Detroit Red Wings traded Ville Leino to Philadelphia on Saturday as a way to clear cap space for Johan Franzen.

10.  Ottawa Senators (last week: 10)
The Ottawa Senators won two of three games last week, keeping them in the Weekly top 10. The Sens managed to set a franchise best 11 game winning streak… and then blew it to the Leafs on Saturday night. When you consider all the strong rosters the Senators have had over the last decade, did you ever think this year’s club was the one who could win 11 straight games? Ottawa’s previous best was eight straight wins. And a day after the disastrous 5-0 loss to the Leafs, Jonathan Cheechoo won the shooting accuracy event at the Sens skills competition on Sunday hitting four targets in four shots. By the way, Cheechoo has five goals all year… with only 111 shots taken. OK, I’ll stop.

9.  Pittsburgh Penguins (last week: 9)
It was a rough weekend for the Pittsburgh Penguins after laying an egg in Montreal on Saturday afternoon, enduring a very rough journey to Washington for a second straight afternoon game and blowing a two goal lead to the Capitals. It’s not all bad news though. Defenseman Alex Goligoski is getting better and better for the Penguins while Sidney Crosby is only three goals shy of the NHL scoring lead.

8.  Colorado Avalanche (last week: 11)
The Colorado Avalanche seem to have a pretty steady supply of rookies who can step in on a whim and do some damage. The Avs continue to play great hockey and Matt Duchene is now the leading goals and points scorer among all NHL rookies. Fun fact: Duchene has scored more times than any Boston Bruin player. In other Avalanche news, apparently Marek Svatos is available with the Leafs and Senators having inquired about him recently.

7.  Vancouver Canucks (last week: 4)
So far, the Vancouver Canucks are 2-2 on their massive road trip. Given how long this road trip is (basically two full weeks prior to the Olympics and one week after the Olympics), if the Canucks can come out of it with a .500 record or better, it should be considered a success. So far, so good. Although it should be noted the Eastern Conference teams are significantly weaker than some of the Western Conference teams they’ll play the week following the Olympics (Hawks, Predators, Red Wings, Avalanche, and Coyotes to name a few).

6.  New Jersey Devils (last week: 8)
Although the New Jersey Devils only won one of three games this week, they acquired one of the top hockey players in the world, Ilya Kovalchuk (albeit for a maximum of five months, for now). As a result, that moves them up the rankings this week. Clearly Devils President Lou Lamoriello believes his club can win the Stanley Cup this year, although the jury is still undecided about Kovalchuk as a playoff performer (Kovalchuk has played just four playoff games in his career).

5.  Phoenix Coyotes (last week: 6)
The Phoenix Coyotes had their six game winning streak snapped on Saturday in a 4-0 loss to the Stars… the running joke being the Coyotes didn’t want to “make it Seven”. And in case you still aren’t sold on the idea of pro hockey in Phoenix, Fox Sports Arizona is reporting TV ratings are up 50 percent this year versus last. I’m sold… a 50 percent increase of a very low number is still, wait… nevermind.

4.  Chicago Blackhawks (last week: 3)
From all reports, it sounds like Antti Niemi has officially grabbed the number one goalie spot on the Chicago Blackhawks. In fact, he currently owns the top goals against average in the league. Although having said that, I’m not sure the Hawks allow the Niemi/Huet goalie tandem to go unchanged heading into the playoffs. Remember, it’s Cup or bust for this team this year.

3.  Los Angeles Kings (last week: 7)
The Los Angeles Kings have strung 10 nine straight wins together and are sitting comfortably in 4th place in the Western Conference. Why some Kings fans may be disappointed the team didn’t trade for Ilya Kovalchuk this week, I believe it was the right decision not to. This Kings team doesn’t need to panic or change anything they are doing at the moment. Fun fact: Drew Doughty is second on the team in scoring with 42 points in 58 games. Unreal.

2.  San Jose Sharks (last week: 2)
Only in the “parity filled” NHL can a team go 8-1-1 in their last 10 games and fly under the radar. Especially with the Capitals and Kings going on huge winning streaks. The San Jose Sharks lost only four times in January! The Niclas Wallin trade is now complete, following a few days worth of speculation. Wallin’s contract was not extended beyond this season (it was speculated this was the reason the deal had been held up for a few days).

1.  Washington Capitals (last week: 1)
As if their 14 game winning streak wasn’t enough, I’m still blown away by what had to the game of the year yesterday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Alex Ovechkin showed why he is the most exciting player in the world and the Capitals reminded the NHL to never count them out of a hockey game. Do you think the Capitals can make it to the Olympic break without losing? They have three more games remaining against the Canadiens, Senators, and Blues. Should they win each of these games, they’ll tie an NHL record for 17 straight wins with… the 92/93 Pittsburgh Penguins.

Stay classy, NHL Power Rankings.

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NHL Classy Power Rankings – Week 18

February 1st, 2010

Here we go, week 18 of the NHL Classy Power Rankings! This week, there’s a new number one team with huge jumps from the red hot Ottawa Senators, Vancouver Canucks, and the high flying Los Angeles Kings.

The result of the Senators, Canucks, and Kings pushing into the top 10 means a few slides for the Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators. The New York Islanders are among the week’s biggest drops with a current 5-game losing streak.

NHL Classy Power Rankings – Week 18

30.  Edmonton Oilers (last week: 30)
29.  Toronto Maple Leafs (last week: 29)
28.  Carolina Hurricanes (last week: 28)
27.  Columbus Blue Jackets (last week: 27)
26.  New York Islanders (last week: 20)

Virtually the same bottom 5 as last week, with the addition of the New York Islanders, who slide 6 spots after dropping 5 straight games. Of these bottom teams, there’s a few things to note since last week. First of all, Sheldon Souray fractured his hand on Saturday night. The Oilers obviously won’t be able to trade Souray at the deadline. And of course, the big news from Sunday morning – The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired J.S. Giguere and Dion Phaneuf by swapping out 6 players.

25.  Boston Bruins (last week: 22)
24.  New York Rangers (last week: 19)
23.  Tampa Bay Lightning (last week: 25)
22.  Montreal Canadiens (last week: 17)
21.  Atlanta Thrashers (last week: 26)

Cue the Vincent Lecavalier rumours… it appears the Lightning are in the process of being sold to a new owner and whispers suggest the new owner may (I stress may) want to cut payroll. Instantly, Lecavalier to Montreal/Los Angeles stories are popping up. I highly doubt this. Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins continue to slump with bad goaltending and little scoring. They are 1-7-2 in their last 10 games. For the Rangers, they may (again, I stress may for multiple reasons) get a boost in scoring as a trade with the Calgary Flames has been reported but not yet completed (or may not happen at all).

20.  St. Louis Blues (last week: 24)
19.  Anaheim Ducks (last week: 15)
18.  Philadelphia Flyers (last week: 16)
17.  Florida Panthers (last week: 23)
16.  Minnesota Wild (last week: 21)

The Anaheim Ducks signed Jonas Hiller to a 4-year extension on Saturday and the Florida Panthers got a big boost to their lineup as David Booth returned in Sunday’s win against the Islanders (Booth recorded an assist in his return). The Minnesota Wild have reportedly terminated their 1-year contract with Peter Sykora after he didn’t report to the AHL.

15.  Dallas Stars (last week: 18)
14.  Calgary Flames (last week: 14)
13.  Detroit Red Wings (last week: 13)
12.  Nashville Predators (last week: 10)
11.  Colorado Avalanche (last week: 5)

The Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators slip out of the top 10 because of sub-par weeks and big winning streaks by other teams. It will be interesting to see how the Calgary Flames look with 4 new players in their line up. For the record, the Leafs/Flames don’t hook up again until next year… unless they meet in the Stanley Cup Fina… wait. Nevermind. I’ll stop there. They’ll next meet in the 2010-2011 season.

10.  Ottawa Senators (last week: 12)
The red hot Ottawa Senators have won 9 games in a row against some impressive teams. They’ve really set themselves apart from the 6th-13th seeded teams in the Eastern Conference and are 3 points back of Pittsburgh for 4th in the Conference. It’s not all great news for the Senators – Nick Foligno is out for 6-8 weeks with a broken leg after blocking a shot on Saturday.

9.  Pittsburgh Penguins (last week: 8)
It’s hard to knock the Pittsburgh Penguins. For the most part, they play like an experienced playoff team with a pretty deep roster. I’m interested to see what they do between now and the March 3rd trade deadline (some rumours suggest they are looking at Toronto’s Alexei Ponikarovsky).

8.  New Jersey Devils (last week: 4)
The New Jersey Devils have hit a bit of a rough patch lately – they are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games and Martin Brodeur has been showing some signs of shakey goaltending we saw during the conclusion of the Hurricanes/Devils playoff series from last year.

7.  Los Angeles Kings (last week: 11)
The Los Angeles Kings just wrapped up a road trip that saw them go 5-0. They’ve won 6 games in a row and are really starting to gel as a team. Rumours continue to name the Kings as one of the frontrunners for Ilya Kovalchuk, but as of now (Yeah – I sort of buy some of it), there doesn’t seem to be much to the stories.

6.  Phoenix Coyotes (last week: 9)
The Phoenix Coyotes had a nice week topped off by a win in Dallas on Sunday night. It was Dave Tippett’s first time in Dallas  since being fired by the Stars last year. The Coyotes have won 5 of their last 6 games and are starting to get contributions from a few of their young kids.

5.  Buffalo Sabres (last week: 6)
After going winless on their 4 game Western road trip, the Buffalo Sabres turned in 2 straight home victories against Eastern Conference teams. Good timing for the Sabres who now hold significantly reduce 5 point lead on the Northeast Division.

4.  Vancouver Canucks (last week: 7)
The Vancouver Canucks are one of the hottest 3 teams in the league! They’ve just set out on a NHL record 14 game road trip (making way for the Olympics) and are firing on all cylinders. The only question I have for the Canucks right now (beyond what, if any moves they may or may not make at the deadline) is if they are peaking too early in the season.

3.  Chicago Blackhawks (last week: 3)
With Dave Bolland scheduled to return to the line up this week (per Harken), the Chicago Blackhawks will be as close to 100% health as ever. It’s arguably the deepest roster in the NHL, so it will be interesting to see how the players and coach Joe Quennville handles it. Of course there is trade speculation, but we’ll have to see. The Hawks are 6-4 in their last 10 and currently hold a 15 point lead on the Central Division. The team is only 3 points back of the NHL lead in points.

2.  San Jose Sharks (last week: 1)
It’s pretty amazing a team (Capitals) can win 10 games in a row and still not lead the NHL in points. The reason for that is the 8-0-2 record of the San Jose Sharks over their last 10 games. The Sharks have quietly been winning nearly every game they play. In fact, they’ve only lost 10 games all year (in regulation). I’m pretty sure the Edmonton Oilers have dropped more games than that in 2010 alone…

1.  Washington Capitals (last week: 2)
The Washington Capitals are the hottest team in the league with 10 straight wins! The bad news is Mike Green was suspended for 3 games after a bad elbowing incident. In the same game Green suffered a knee injury, however, Capitals insider Tarik El-Bashir believes the injury isn’t too serious.

Stay classy, NHL Power Rankings.

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NHL Classy Power Rankings – Week 17

January 25th, 2010

Finally, week 17 of the Power Rankings are here! We have a new number one team and jumps from the Washington Capitals, Colorado Avalanche, and Ottawa Senators (each team are currently riding six game winning streaks).

As with any Ranking system, there were some notable falls this week. The Edmonton Oilers fell to the very bottom of the league (as I predicted… but seriously, who didn’t see this coming?) while the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins suffer drops in the Classy Rankings with their poor play, too.

NHL Classy Power Rankings – Week 17

30.  Edmonton Oilers (last week: 29)
29.  Toronto Maple Leafs (last week: 28)
28.  Carolina Hurricanes (last week: 30)
27.  Columbus Blue Jackets (last week: 27)
26.  Atlanta Thrashers (last week: 25)

To no one’s surprise, the Edmonton Oilers have finally hit rock bottom. They are the worst team in the NHL. They haven’t won a single game in 2010. All this while the Carolina Hurricanes have started playing slightly better. Last week, the Hurricanes announced Eric Staal as the new team captain, with Rod Brind’Amour remaining an assistant captain. The Toronto Maple Leafs continue to lose ground on a decent finish to the season and the playoffs seem nearly impossible at this point. Right now, last year’s record looks pretty good to the Leafs. The Thrashers and Blue Jackets are still hovering around the bottom five positions in the league… or more importantly, the draft lottery sweepstakes.

25.  Tampa Bay Lightning (last week: 26)
24.  St. Louis Blues (last week: 21)
23.  Florida Panthers (last week: 24)
22.  Boston Bruins (last week: 14)
21.  Minnesota Wild (last week: 19)

The Boston Bruins suffer the week’s biggest drop from 14 to 22 following four straight losses. They are currently 9th in the Eastern Conference with the Islanders. For the St. Louis Blues, they are 5-2-1 in their last eight games and have some wondering if they can reproduce a similar late season run into the playoffs like they did last season. (If any team could do it this year, my money is on Anaheim). The Blues and Minnesota Wild are on the outside of the playoff race right now, but still in the mix. They’ll both need about two-three solid weeks of strong results to really have a shot at getting into the playoffs. I don’t like their chances though.

20.  New York Islanders (last week: 17)
19.  New York Rangers (last week: 16)
18.  Dallas Stars (last week: 18)
17.  Montreal Canadiens (last week: 20)
16.  Philadelphia Flyers (last week: 22)

Montreal, Philadelphia, and the New York Rangers are currently in playoff positions while the Stars and Islanders aren’t. In the case of the Islanders, they are one point back and the Stars are three points out of the last Western playoff spot. The Flyers inconsistency still bothers me and I’m impressed with the Islanders fight to stay in the playoff hunt. I find you can always tell when the Rangers are struggling as John Tortorella’s press conferences start becoming “can’t miss events“. Of course, with any anticipated Tortorella press conference comes a fantastic quote!

15.  Anaheim Ducks (last week: 23)
14.  Calgary Flames (last week: 12)
13.  Detroit Red Wings (last week: 13)
12.  Ottawa Senators (last week: 15)
11.  Los Angeles Kings (last week: 11)

The Calgary Flames could very well find themselves out of the playoffs by next week’s Power Rankings. They are on a five game losing streak and have only won two games of their last 10. A far cry from the “contender status” they started the season with. The Red Wings continue to get healthier in their drive for the playoffs. Looking at the Western Conference right now, the Wings are the one team not in the playoffs who I expect to make it come April. Finally, both the Ducks and Senators enjoy huge jumps this week with red hot play. The Ducks are 8-2 in their last 10 games and could be considered a dark horse team to make the Western Conference playoffs (to me, it’s between them and the Wings). The Ottawa Senators have won six straight games and are nearly 100% healthy again with big impact returns from Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Filip Kuba, and Milan Michalek. The Sens recent hot play means Melynk’s at it again. Urrrgh.

10.  Nashville Predators (29-19-3, 61 pts; last week: 6)
The Nashville Predators fall this week after losing three straight games, particularly because of a loss to the Leafs – a team they should beat. The Predators are in the middle of a four game home stand with games against the Red Wings and Blue Jackets this week.

9.  Phoenix Coyotes (29-18-5, 63 pts; last week: 7)
The Phoenix Coyotes also drop this week as a result of losing two of their last three games. The Coyotes were lit up 7-2 by the Sabres last Monday and lost a close one to Washington after taking too many penalties. This week, the ‘Yotes play the Red Wings, Flames, and Rangers.

8.  Pittsburgh Penguins (32-20-1, 65 pts; last week: 9)
The Pittsburgh Penguins move up in this week’s rankings largely because the Coyotes and Predators moved down. The Penguins still aren’t looking like the Stanley Cup Champions with a terrible powerplay and too many blown games. Sidney Crosby continues to score goals at a torrid pace and Marc-Andre Fleury is expected back from his finger injury this week.

7.  Vancouver Canucks (31-18-2, 64 pts; last week: 10)
The Vancouver Canucks are really starting to heat up. What’s impressed me most about the Canucks has been the firepower from their forwards. Sammuelson, Kesler, Burrows, Raymond, Sedins-squared make up a great top two lines and the Canucks are getting strong play out of Alex Edler and Christian Ehrhoff too. This week, the Canucks play the Sabres, Blues, and Maple Leafs.

6.  Buffalo Sabres (30-13-7, 67 pts; last week: 5)
The Buffalo Sabres have dropped three of their last four games against Western Conference teams. Allowing 15 goals in four games against the Coyotes, Ducks, Kings, and Sharks makes me wonder if the Sabres are benefiting from a weak Division/Conference or if this is merely a slump against good teams. The Senators are now seven points back of the Buffalo for the Division lead and the Sabres will look to add some distance this week in games against the Canucks, Devils, and Bruins.

5.  Colorado Avalanche (30-15-6, 66 pts; last week: 8)
The Colorado Avalanche are the second team this week to have six straight wins. Last week, the Avalanche knocked off the Oilers and Stars and have two shutouts in their last three games. After a few days off, the Avs will play the Wild and Stars in back to back games this week.

4.  New Jersey Devils (34-15-1, 69 pts; last week: 4)
The New Jersey Devils have been very mediocre in their last 10 games (5-5) in comparison with the rest of their season. While recent losses against the Canadiens and Islanders are concerning, this is a very strong team that will challenge for a Division title and the Eastern Conference championship this Spring.

3.  Chicago Blackhawks (35-13-4, 74 pts; last week: 1)
I wasn’t terribly impressed with the Chicago Blackhawks last week. They came out flat against the Senators and Canucks and are 3-2 on their season long road trip so far. The Road trip wraps up this week against the Oilers, Sharks, and Hurricanes.

2.  Washington Capitals (33-12-6, 72 pts; last week: 3)
Along with the Senators and Avalanche, the Washington Capitals are among the hottest teams in the NHL, having posted six straight wins. The team are 9-1 in their last 10 games and have lost once since making Alex Ovechkin team captain. Not bad…

1.  San Jose Sharks (35-10-8, 78 pts; last week: 2)
The San Jose Sharks are back to the number one position in the Classy Rankings! We’ve talked a lot about the Capitals, Senators, and Avalanche having six games winning streaks, but the Sharks are no slouches either. They’ve won five straight games against good teams (including the Sabres, Kings, and Ducks). The Sharks have three games at home this week against the Hawks, Wild, and Red Wings.

Stay classy, NHL Power Rankings.

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NHL Classy Power Rankings – Week 16

January 18th, 2010

Every day I shake my head at how different the Eastern and Western Conferences are. If the NHL playoffs started today, only four of the Eastern Conference teams would qualify for the playoffs in the Western Conference. And aside from the Calgary Flames, all the playoff seeded teams in the Western Conference are on winning steaks.

This week the NHL Classy Power Rankings features jumps from the Ottawa Senators, New York Islanders, and, St. Louis Blues while the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens dropped a few notches with poor play and bad losses.

NHL Classy Power Rankings – Week 16

30.  Carolina Hurricanes (14-26-7, 35 pts; last week: 30)
29.  Edmonton Oilers (16-26-5, 37 pts; last week: 29)
28.  Toronto Maple Leafs (16-24-9, 41 pts; last week: 28)
27.  Columbus Blue Jackets (18-23-9, 45 pts; last week: 23)
26.  Tampa Bay Lightning (18-19-10, 46 pts; last week: 27)

For the first time in what feels like forever, the Edmonton Oilers might just knock Carolina out of 30th in the league. The Hurricanes are playing a bit better while the Oilers seem to lose every game, regardless of what the score may be after two periods. Of course, the Maple Leafs 28th position doesn’t seem to change and Tampa/Columbus aren’t going to make the playoffs this year. The only redeeming quality for these teams at this point is the upcoming draft. Ooops, sorry Leafs, I forgot you don’t have a #1 pick this year.

25.  Atlanta Thrashers (21-19-7, 49 pts; last week: 23)
24.  Florida Panthers (20-20-8, 48 pts; last week: 24)
23.  Anaheim Ducks (22-20-7, 51 pts; last week: 21)
22.  Philadelphia Flyers (23-21-3, 49 pts; last week: 18)
21.  St. Louis Blues (21-19-7, 49 pts; last week: 25)

Just when I thought the Flyers had their problems figured out, they lose two in a row. Not the worst slide ever, but they need all the wins they can get right now. They still aren’t back in the playoffs yet. The two notable teams in this category are the Ducks and Blues who’ve both started playing much better recently. I’m not sure if the Blues can reproduce a similar run to last season, but for some reason, I believe the Ducks aren’t out of it (they are six points back of 8th)… yet.

20.  Montreal Canadiens (23-23-4, 50 pts; last week: 16)
19.  Minnesota Wild (24-22-3, 51 pts; last week: 20)
18.  Dallas Stars (20-17-11, 51 pts; last week: 17)
17.  New York Islanders (21-19-8, 50 pts; last week: 19)
16.  New York Rangers (23-19-7, 52 pts; last week: 14)

Both New York teams have played pretty well lately and are sitting in playoffs spots, while the Canadiens, Wild, and Stars are all challenging for playoff spots. Honestly, I don’t like the odds of the Wild or Stars (at this point, they are six points back of 8th), however, Montreal are on the fringe (with the same number of points as the Islanders). In order for the Habs to get serious about flirting with the playoffs, they need to start winning games against Northeast teams. They are 7-7 against their own division and are losing critical points at an important part of the season.

15.  Ottawa Senators (24-21-4, 52 pts; last week: 21)
14.  Boston Bruins (23-16-8, 54 pts; last week: 15)
13.  Detroit Red Wings (24-16-8, 56 pts; last week: 13)
12.  Calgary Flames (26-17-6, 58 pts; last week: 6) ** playing
11.  Los Angeles Kings (27-18-3, 57 pts; last week: 11)

All five of these teams are in playoff positions, and its worth noting that the Bruins, Senators, and Red Wings have all battled heavy injuries all season. The Flames don’t have the same excuse but they’ve lost three straight games. The Kings have been better of late with two straight wins in an extremely tight Western Conference.

10.  Vancouver Canucks (28-18-2, 58 pts; last week: 8)
The Vancouver Canucks ended a three game winless streak with a win on Saturday against the Penguins and are 3-1-1 at GM Place this month. That’s good since four of their next six games are at home. The only regulation loss this month was against the Predators… yes… that game that featured Burrows vs Auger. The Canucks play the Oilers, Stars, and Blackhawks this week, hopefully without any more controversies or drama.

9.  Pittsburgh Penguins (30-19-1, 61 pts; last week: 9)
Despite a good start to their Western road trip, the Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t end it well with an injury in Edmonton and a bad loss on Saturday in Vancouver. Marc-Andre Fleury fractured his finger during the Penguins-Oilers game and the team played Saturday’s game without an NHL goalie. The 6-2 loss shows that. Things don’t get any easier for the Penguins as they’ll play the Islanders and Capitals at home this week.

8.  Colorado Avalanche (27-15-6, 60 pts; last week: 10)
The Colorado Avalanche have put together a three game win streak against some pretty good teams recently. They’ve defeated the Sabres, Flames, and Devils over the last week. Not everything is perfect in Colorado though. Forward Milan Hejduk is out 2-4 weeks with a knee injury. Fortunately for the Avalanche, their schedule isn’t too bad, starting with games against the Oilers and Predators this week.

7.  Phoenix Coyotes (28-16-5, 61 pts; last week: 7)
The Phoenix Coyotes remain one of the surprise NHL teams this season with an impressive 61 points so far through 49 games. Ed Jovanovski missed a game this week due to suspension and Peter Mueller looked strong with a few nice goals. For a team who’s had great success this year without many of their young stars, it could get awfully scary for other Western Conference teams if players like Mueller can start to pick up their play.

6.  Nashville Predators (29-16-3, 61 pts; last week: 11)
The Nashville Predators tore through Western Canada last week with wins over the Canucks, Flames, and Oilers. Star players in Nashville typically fly under the radar, but one player who’s caught my eye recently is winger Patric Hornqvist. Hornqvist has 19 goals this season and six of them are game winners. This is his first full season in the NHL and he’s only 23 years old. This week, the Preds face the Leafs, Coyotes, and Avalanche.

5.  Buffalo Sabres (29-11-6, 64 pts; last week: 5)
The Buffalo Sabres haven’t lost a regulation game in their last 10 starts. In fact, their last regulation loss was December 23rd! I usually say this when talking about the Sabres, but they seem to get big wins with the least amount of goal scoring possible. Their leading goal scorer has 12 goals (although six players have 11 or 12 goals each) and Tim Connolly, their leading point scorer doesn’t even average a point per game (39 points in 46 games). The Sabres success this season can be centered around Ryan Miller’s terrific play and the tactics/coaching of Lindy Ruff. Kudos to the players for buying into a great system.

4.  New Jersey Devils (32-11-1, 65 pts; last week: 2)
This wasn’t the New Jersey Devils best week. The team dropped two road games that were probably measuring stick games (against the Coyotes and Avalanche) and lost Patrick Elias to injury for an unknown amount of time. The Devils will look to bounce back this week when playing the Islanders, Panthers, and Canadiens.

3.  Washington Capitals (30-12-6; last week: 4)
The Washington Capitals are hot, having lost only one of their last seven games. US World Junior Champion John Carlsson has recently been playing with the Capitals (and looked pretty good) and Alex Ovechkin is inching closer to the goals/point scoring lead with his hot play. It will be an interesting test this week for the Caps as they’ll play some pretty good teams in the Red Wings, Penguins, and Coyotes.

2.  San Jose Sharks (31-10-8, 70 pts; last week: 3)
I can’t help but marvel at the play of Patrick Marleau this year for the San Jose Sharks. Never in a million years did I think removing his captaincy would have such a positive impact on his play. Marleau leads the NHL in goals and hasn’t looked this confident in years (or perhaps ever). It hasn’t been talked about too much, but Marleau is a UFA after this season. It will be interesting to see how the Sharks handle him and other UFA/RFAs (Setoguchi, Pavelski, Blake, Nabokov) beyond the 09/10 season. This week, the Sharks play the Flames, Kings, Ducks, and Sabres.

1.  Chicago Blackhawks (34-11-4, 72 pts; last week: 1)
For two straight weeks, the Chicago Blackhawks are the top team in the NHL and in the Classy Power Rankings! This team doesn’t lose very often and it seems they always find ways to win. It’s impressive to watch, although for other Western Conference teams, it must be frustrating. By next week, I predict Chicago to have more wins than the Oilers have points. For that to happen, the Hawks must win their games against the Senators, Flames, and Canucks this week. The Hawks are in the middle of their eight game road trip and are 2-0 so far.

Stay classy, NHL rankings.

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NHL Classy Power Rankings – Week 15

January 11th, 2010

Welcome back to week 15 of the NHL Classy Power Rankings! And what a bizarre week it was. First, the NHL postpones a Lightning-Devils game during the second period after the Prudential Center failed to regain power (the make-up game was yesterday evening) and then Saturday night saw the NHL refer to rule 78.6: not having two goals in the same sequence in the Penguins-Leafs game.

This week in our Power Rankings, we note jumps from the Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks, and Washington Capitals. Of course with the rises come the falls. This week, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Atlanta Thrashers, Ottawa Senators, and Colorado Avalanche drop off.

NHL Classy Power Rankings – Week 15

30.  Carolina Hurricanes (12-24-7, 31 pts; last week: 30)
29.  Edmonton Oilers (16-23-5, 37 pts; last week: 29)
28.  Toronto Maple Leafs (15-22-9, 39 pts; last week: 28)
27.  Tampa Bay Lightning (16-17-10, 42 pts; last week: 21)
26.  Atlanta Thrashers (19-19-6, 44 pts; last week: 22)

Due to rough play lately, the Tampa Bay Lightning (losers of two straight games- not including the make-up game against the Devils on Sunday) and Atlanta Thrashers (who’ve won one of their last 10 games) fall to the bottom of the classy rankings this week. The Hurricanes may just surpass the Edmonton Oilers this week or next, should the Oilers continue their slumping ways. And of course, the Maple Leafs are forever stuck in 28th place in the NHL.

25.  St. Louis Blues (18-19-7, 43 pts; last week: 25)
24.  Florida Panthers (18-20-7, 43 pts; last week: 23)
23.  Columbus Blue Jackets (17-20-9, 43 pts; last week: 27)
22.  Anaheim Ducks (19-19-7, 45 pts; last week: 26)
21.  Ottawa Senators (22-19-4, 48 pts; last week: 14)

After losing four straight games, the Senators drop comes as no surprise, especially when looking at who’s out of their line up with injuries- Michalek, Alfredsson, Spezza, Winchester, and more. The Columbus Blue Jackets also find their stock dropping, having gone 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. Despite firing their coach, the St. Louis Blues haven’t noticed any change in their play thus far and are still finding themselves out of the playoff picture.

20.  Minnesota Wild (22-20-3, 47 pts; last week: 19)
19.  New York Islanders (19-19-8, 46 pts; last week: 20)
18.  Philadelphia Flyers (22-19-3, 47 pts; last week: 24)
17.  Dallas Stars (19-14-11, 49 pts; last week: 16)
16.  Montreal Canadiens (22-21-4, 48 pts; last week: 17)

Have the Philadelphia Flyers gotten their season back on track? I’m not sure about that (just yet), but they’ve been playing much better recently, going 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. The rest of the teams in this grouping continue to play well in hopes of staying in the playoff hunt. It’s worth noting the New York Islanders are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, too.

15.  Boston Bruins (22-15-7, 51 pts; last week: 13)
14.  New York Rangers (22-17-6, 50 pts; last week: 18)
13.  Detroit Red Wings (23-15-6, 52 pts; last week: 15)
12.  Los Angeles Kings (25-17-3, 53 pts; last week: 12)
11.  Nashville Predators (26-16-3, 55 pts; last week: 8)

The Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators will tell you the Western Conference is pretty tough right now. In fact, two wins for either team will booth them from 7th/8th to 4th.  Meanwhile, the New York Rangers have been playing better lately, as they’ve lost only once in their last 10 games… despite the NHL trying to censor coach John Tortorella’s press conferences.

10.  Colorado Avalanche (25-15-6, 56 pts; last week: 5)
The Colorado Avalanche are fine, despite dropping five notches on this week’s Rankings. It’s largely a result of how tight things are in the Western Conference. In fact, Avalanche fans don’t need to worry at all. The club are 6-4 in their last 10 games and finish off a small road trip in Calgary on Monday night before returning home to enjoy a five game home stand starting with the Devils on Saturday.

9.  Pittsburgh Penguins (28-17-1, 57 pts; last week: 10)
Just when you think the Pittsburgh Penguins are starting to get hot, they drop a game or two that they should probably win. Having said that, they have won two of their last three games; each of which by three goals. The Penguins have just started a five game road trip that will take them Minnesota and Western Canada (Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver) before the end of the week. Four games in six nights will be a good test for the Penguins, who’ve enjoyed their recent wins over struggling teams (their last three wins have come against Toronto, Atlanta, and Ottawa).

8.  Vancouver Canucks (27-16-2, 56 pts; last week: 11)
The Vancouver Canucks have put together a pretty impressive string of wins lately, thanks in part to the NHL’s leading goal scorer, Henrik Sedin. The Canucks are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games and haven’t lost a game  in regulation since December 20th (St. Louis). The red-hot Canucks will face the Predators, Wild, and Penguins this week.

7.  Phoenix Coyotes (26-15-5, 57 pts; last week: 7)
If it seems like the Phoenix Coyotes are always hanging around seventh in the Classy Rankings it’s because they are. The Coyotes are consistently playing well under Dave Tippett. Although they’ve been 5-2-3 in recent action, it’s still good enough to keep them fourth in the Western Conference and a thread to the Sharks, Devils, and Wild – all of which are games in Phoenix as part of their season long six game home stand.

6.  Calgary Flames (26-14-5, 57 pts; last week: 6)
Amid speculation of Dion Phaneuf requesting a trade, the Flames quietly hum along as another strong Western Conference team. Although regular season success is nothing new for this team, they are facing some great competition from the Vancouver Canucks. It’s going to take a lot for the Flames to retain the Northwest division lead, but Miikka Kiprusoff is playing some of the best hockey I’ve seen him play in his career. This week, the Flames host the Avalanche, Penguins, and Predators.

5.  Buffalo Sabres (28-11-5, 61 pts; last week: 4)
Is anyone else shocked the Buffalo Sabres hold the NHL’s fourth best record? Going down their line-up, there are no real stars beyond Ryan Miller and struggling forward Thomas Vanek (yet he has the team lead in goals with… 12). The Sabres haven’t lost in regulation in their last eight games and they continue to widen the gap in the Northeast division. The Sabres have a light week on the road this week, playing the Thrashers and Islanders before their road trip kicks into high gear next week with four games on the west coast against three very strong teams.

4. Washington Capitals (27-11-6, 60 pts; last week: 9)
The Washington Capitals three convincing wins over the Canadiens, Senators, and Thrashers have helped them climb back up the Classy Rankings. That and naming Alexander Ovechkin their new team captain. Also the Caps have resigned Tyler Sloan and David Steckel to contact extensions while rumours continue to swirl that the Capitals are interested in Ilya Kovalchuk. The Kovalchuk-less Caps play the Lightning, Panthers, and Maple Leafs this week.

3.  San Jose Sharks (28-10-7, 63 pts; last week: 1)
OK, the San Jose Sharks are hot. What else is new? Prior to a loss against Detroit on Saturday night, the Sharks had won eight their last nine games. That’s nearly as many games as they’ve lost in regulation this season (10). And those wins came against some pretty strong teams, too. The Sharks are three points back of first overall in the NHL and will look to climb to the top when they face off against the Kings, Coyotes, Bruins and Oilers this week.

2.  New Jersey Devils (31-10-1, 63 pts; last week: 3)
After awhile, it gets to be a bit boring when talking about the New Jersey Devils. They are 8-2 in their last 10 games, they have a solid team and… uhhh… a crappy power system? That aside, the Devils continue to roll. This week, Jamie Langenbrunner will be named as the US Olympic team’s captain while he and the Devils hit the road to New York, Phoenix, and Colorado. The bad news for those teams is the Devils are 15-4-1 away from the Prudential Center.

1.  Chicago Blackhawks (31-10-4, 66 pts; last week: 2)
Welcome to the best team in the NHL… according to total points… and the NHL Classy Power Rankings. The Blackhawks have scored the second most goals in the league this season and have allowed the second least against. Yes, even less goals than the Sabres/Ryan Miller. Not bad. Meanwhile, Patrick Kane has quietly climbed to 6th in the league in points. Although the Hawks lost both games on the weekend in less than stellar ways, they are still the deepest team in the league. Following a game at home on Thursday against the Blue Jackets, the team will start a eight game road trip in Columbus and end it in Carolina at the end of the month..

Stay classy, NHL rankings.

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