At least this week, finally, there are a couple of Eastern Conference teams among the top 10 in the NHL Power Rankings. The Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins have enough talent and results this season to be considered in the same category as the West’s elite group of teams, but beyond that there are a lot of watered-down Eastern Conference teams playing for playoff spots.
The shame of it, as detailed by the New York Post’s Larry Brooks this weekend, is that the playoff system is going to reward mediocre No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in the Metro Division while potentially forcing two good Atlantic Division to knock each other out in the early playoff rounds.
If the season ended today the Bruins would face either the Detroit Red Wings or Montreal Canadiens. Either would be a tough first-round match for the East’s top seed.
It’s a long season and some of the early inequalities might even themselves out, but that’s the way it’s shaping up right now.
Clearly it’s still early in the power rankings season and time will tell with a lot of these teams, but here are the rankings:
30. Buffalo Sabres (5-19-2, last week: 28) – The Sabres moved out of the basement for one week, and then promptly lost four games in a row. Seasons don’t come much more lost for NHL teams than this one is for the Sabres.
29. Florida Panthers (6-13-5, last week: 27) – It’s not necessarily a good thing when Brian Campbell – or any defenseman for that matter – is the leading point scorer on the team.
28. Edmonton Oilers (7-15-2, last week: 30) – Luke Gazdic and Wil Acton are the only two Oilers players to top 20 games played while holding a positive plus/minus this season. That is why they’re still near the bottom, but at least they’ve started winning while riding a three-game winning streak.
27. New York Islanders (8-13-3, last week: 23) – The Islanders have yet to win more than two games in a row this season, and are now in the middle of a three-game losing streak for a team that had high expectations.
26. Columbus Blue Jackets (8-12-3, last week: 26) – Another team with a defenseman, James Wisniewski, as the team’s leading point producer, so there’s no surprise the BJ’s are at the bottom of the list. Three wins in their last 10 games.
25. Calgary Flames (8-11-4, last week: 28) – The Flames pulled out of their losing streak, but a trade for Lane MacDermid isn’t going to do much to pull them out of their funk.
24. Winnipeg Jets (10-11-4, last week: 24) – The Jets have lost four in a row, and are 3-5-1 on the road again this season. Wasn’t realignment supposed to help them?
23. Ottawa Senators (9-11-4, last week: 19) – Clarke MacArthur being featured on last weekend’s Coach’s Corner was the highlight of their season thus far. That’s not a great thing.
22. Carolina Hurricanes (9-10-5, last week: 20) – What the heck has happened to Eric Staal? He’s still getting some points, but it looks like he has slowed way down.
21. Philadelphia Flyers (10-10-2, last week: 25) – The Flyboys have lost just once in regulation in their last 10 games, and sit just two points out of a possible playoff spot in the dreadful Metro Division.
20. New Jersey Devils (9-9-5, last week: 22) – This year’s standout performances by Martin Brodeur and Jaromir Jagr make the Devils seem like the NHL’s version of “Cocoon.” All that’s missing is Wilford Brimley.
19. Nashville Predators (11-10-2, last week: 21) – I can hear Barry Trotz singing “All I Want for Christmas is Pekka Rinne.”
18. Dallas Stars (11-9-2, last week: 15) –In the three games since his four-goal outburst vs. Calgary, Tyler Seguin has one assist and is a minus-1 as things are starting to slow down a little bit.
17. New York Rangers (12-11-0, last week: 18) – The Rangers have clawed their way into playoff position without any major contributions from Rick Nash. That bodes well for the rest of the season.
16. Washington Capitals (12-10-2, last week: 10) – Three losses in a row for the Caps including a humbling loss to the Penguins for Metro Division bragging rights. Streaky is just how Washington does things.
15. Vancouver Canucks (12-9-4, last week: 16) – There is amazingly little there on this team beyond Ryan Kesler, Bobby Lou and the Sedin Twins.
14. Tampa Bay Lightning (14-8-1, last week: 14) – The Bolts have lost four in a row while trying to hold it together without Stamkos. It’s not going to be easy.
13. Montreal Canadiens (13-9-2, last week: 17) – Max Pacioretty quieted down the Quebecois chorus up in Montreal with two goals against the Penguins, and the Habs are in a good wild card spot right now.
12. Detroit Red Wings (11-7-7, last week: 14) – Hard to believe the mighty Winged Wheels are just 4-4-6 at Joe Louis Arena. It’s a strange season for them as they start their foray into the Eastern Conference.
11. Toronto Maple Leafs (14-8-1, last week 13) – The Leafs are .500 in their last 10 games, and now simply tread water after a pretty good start to the season.
10. Phoenix Coyotes (14-5-2, last week: 4) – It really would be nice if fans actually came out to the building to see the Coyotes put together a 9-1-2 record on home ice.
9. Los Angeles Kings (15-6-3, last week: 8) – When did Ben Scrivens turn into an amalgamation of Rogie Vachon and Kelly Hrudy? He’s got three shutouts in 11 games for the Kings while stepping in for the injured Jonathan Quick.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins (15-9-0, last week: 12) – Evgeni Malkin has started scoring goals again, and the Penguins look like they’re getting back on track.
7. Boston Bruins (15-6-2, last week: 9) – Carl Soderberg is Swedish for “The Third Line Answer.”
6. Minnesota Wild (15-5-4, last week: 7) – Josh Harding goes out, and Niklas Backstrom comes back in. It’s a revolving goaltender door in Minny, but they’re 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.
5. San Jose Sharks (15-3-5, last week: 5) – Sharks holding strong with Tommy Wingels, one of the best names in the NHL these days.
4. Colorado Avalanche (17-5-0, last week: 7) – The Avs road right back in with a three-game winning streak when it looked like they might be falling out of it a bit.
3. Chicago Blackhawks (16-4-4, last week: 1) – Corey Crawford has played in 14 straight games, and looked pretty good in stopping 36 shots against the Canucks over the weekend.
2. Anaheim Ducks (17-6-3, last week: 3) – The Ducks just keep on rolling even if Teemu Selanne is finally beginning to show his age just a little.
1. St. Louis Blues (16-3-3, last week: 2) – The win over the Bruins was an impressive one for a Blues team that plays a very basic, simple, hard game -- much like the team in Boston.