It’s put up or shut up time for a few teams that everybody assumed would be in the playoffs this season.
The New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators were both in the playoffs last season and started this year with high hopes, but both teams are closer to the bottom than the top two months into the season. At least the Senators can hope to stay within shouting distance of a wild card playoff spot while attempting to figure out a goaltending situation that just hasn’t worked with Craig Anderson thus far. The Islanders are sinking like a stone in a division that’s probably only going to push its top three teams in the playoffs.
It’s too bad because the Isles made a bold move in acquiring Thomas Vanek to really generate some excitement -- and offense -- on Long Island, but the lack of healthy, quality goaltending and defensemen are catching up to them. It’s not too late for the Isles and the Sens, but it will be soon if they don’t start putting together some wins.
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 (6-20-2, last week: 30) – I’ll be honest. I never thought Ryan Miller would still be with the Sabres at this point. It’s only a matter of time before he’s in a much better hockey station.
29. Florida Panthers (6-13-5, last week: 27) – Tim Thomas has started 11 games in a row, and was pulled over the weekend in a loss to Pittsburgh. They do realize he’s 39 years old, right?
28. New York Islanders (8-15-4, last week: 27) – The Isles have lost six games in a row and could be the first team to allow 100 goals this season. Yes, the defense and goaltending has been that bad.
27. Edmonton Oilers (9-17-2, last week: 28) – The Oil finally find a goaltender in Ilya Bryzgalov, and then he gets injured when somebody takes a run at him. That is so Edmonton.
26. Ottawa Senators (10-13-4, last week: 23) – It’s about time to admit that Craig Anderson isn’t going to be the same guy he was last season.
25. Calgary Flames (9-13-4, last week: 25) – Impressive rookie Sean Monahan and Dennis Wideman both sustain serious injuries one right after the other. That’ll be a wrap in Calgary.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets (10-14-3, last week: 26) – This team has almost no offense without Marian Gaborik and Nathan Horton, and they’re not so hot defensively now that Sergei Bobrovsky has crashed back to earth.
23. Carolina Hurricanes (10-12-5, last week: 22) – The Canes are 2-5-1 in their last eight games, but sit only three points out of a playoff spot in the abysmal Metro Division.
22. Winnipeg Jets (12-12-4, last week: 20) – Dustin Byfuglien, Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane and Olli Jokinen are a combined minus-20 this season, and the Jets are 10 points out of the playoffs. Adios.
21. New Jersey Devils (11-11-5, last week: 20) – Home losses against the Jets and Hurricanes, and needing overtime to beat the Buffalo Sabres? You do not impress us, Jersey.
20. Philadelphia Flyers (12-12-2, last week: 22) – The Flyboys have won five straight at the Wells Fargo Center, and have actually pulled themselves into the playoff hunt. Claude Giroux finally looking like his old self.
19. Nashville Predators (13-11-3, last week: 19) – Pekka Rinne has caused the most talk about hips in Music City since Elvis was cranking back fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches.
18. Dallas Stars (12-9-4, last week: 18) –Tyler Seguin out with concussion-like symptoms, which is interesting because normally you’d have to actually put yourself in harm’s way to get a concussion.
17. Toronto Maple Leafs (14-10-3, last week: 11) – The Leafs lost four in a row and also suddenly realized their defense corps wasn’t very good. Tough to win when you’re giving up almost 40 shots on goal a game.
16. New York Rangers (14-13-0, last week: 17) – It’s difficult to see Rick Nash and Brad Richards ultimately providing enough offense for the Blueshirts, but at least they finally look like a playoff team.
15. Vancouver Canucks (14-10-5, last week: 15) – Hopefully the sight of Kevin Bieksa punting Brian Boyle’s helmet can inspire them to a nice, long winning streak as they currently sit outside the playoff picture.
14. Tampa Bay Lightning (16-9-1, last week: 14) – The Bolts are 4-5-1 since Steve Stamkos went down, but certainly must have been given a jolt when he was seen walking around without crutches last week.
13. Washington Capitals (14-11-2, last week: 16) – They’ve already had five winning or losing streaks of three or more games this season, and it’s not even 30 games into the season. Alex Ovechkin will carry them into the playoffs with the way he’s playing, though.
12. Minnesota Wild (15-8-5, last week: 6) – The Wild are facing the best teams in the West right now, and they’re not faring well while losing four in a row. Smells like an also ran to me.
11. Phoenix Coyotes (15-7-4, last week 10) – The Desert Dogs have lost five of their last seven games, and could drop out of playoff position if they’re not too careful. Michael Stone is a real find for them along the blueline.
10. Los Angeles Kings (16-7-4, last week: 8) – The Los Angeles Kings are grinding their way through without Jonathan Quick. Who would have thought Ben Scrivens would get nine starts in a row at any point this season for those puck princes out in LA.
9. Montreal Canadiens (15-9-3, last week: 13) – Apparently the key to unlock Max Pacioretty’s game is to start a trade rumor about him. He’s gone ballistic since he was mentioned as a candidate to be moved.
8. Detroit Red Wings (14-7-7, last week: 12) – The Winged Wheels are doing it without Pavel Datsyuk right now, and that’s pretty impressive. This team really knows when to turn it on and off. Four wins in a row through injuries and adversity, including what was the Bruins' most most humbling loss of the season.
7. Anaheim Ducks (18-7-4, last week: 2) – The Ducks have spent a LOT of time on the road this season and have played through all kinds of injuries. Yet they’re still hanging around at the top of the conference led by their big boys (Getzlaf, Perry and Penner).
6. Pittsburgh Penguins (18-9-1, last week: 8) – Evgeni Malkin has 28 assists in 28 games. That’s pretty remarkable in this day and age. Malkin's 21 assists in November are the most in one calendar month since Wayne Gretzky had 21 helpers for the Kings back in 1996. So yeah...that's pretty good.
5. Boston Bruins (18-7-2, last week: 7) – The Bruins haven’t lost on home ice since Oct. 26, a stretch of 11 games where they’ve gone 9-0-2
4. Colorado Avalanche (19-6-0, last week: 4) – Avs have continued to play well, but lost to the St. Louis Blues, 4-1, in a big statement game in the West.
3. St. Louis Blues (18-4-3, last week: 1) – They got slapped around by the Sharks to end a five-game winning streak, but nobody doubts the awesome force of Blues hockey these days. Alex Steen just keeps on scoring goals.
2. Chicago Blackhawks (20-4-4, last week: 3) – Antti Raanta just sounds like a goalie name somebody in Chicago completely concocted in case of an emergency, but he looked like the real deal vs. the Coyotes.
1. San Jose Sharks (18-3-5, last week: 5) – Five wins in a row for the Sharks, who don’t look like an October flash in the pan anymore. The shootout win against the Ducks over the weekend put them over the top.