The divisional ands conference battles have heated up and a number of turns have reversed their fortunes, both to the good and bad. Our third poll of the 2013-14 NHL season has some major changes.
Power Rankings-Eastern Conference-Dec. 31
Adam Says: The fun part of this conference is the middle of the pack. I think the top three teams and bottom two teams are separating themselves from the rest. Otherwise throw the teams up in the air and see where they fall.
1) Boston (0)-Yes I am still on their bandwagon so to speak. They are a few points behind conference leader Pittsburgh, but the healthiness and stronger blue line to me is the difference.
2) Pittsburgh (+1)-They are seeing more injuries at key positions. Fleury has bounced back after a horrible post season, but is his motivation for a spot on the Olympic team or a Stanley Cup. We should soon find out.
3) Tampa Bay (-1)-The more I see this team the more I am impressed. They just keep winning in the better division in the Eastern Conference. Oddly their record is the best vs. the Atlantic but they are only 500 vs. the weaker Metropolitan Division.
4) Montreal (+1)-The Canadiens have collected a boatload of points beating up the weak teams in the Eastern Conference. With the schedules starting to see more divisional play we will see what they are made of.
5) Detroit (-1)-So I admit I may be holding out on hope more than brains here. They were my preseason pick to reach the Cup Final, but they aren’t keeping the puck out of the net and they are leaving points on the ice anytime they head to a shootout.
6) Washington (+1)-Their goal differential gives you hope this team can outscore anyone. Of course as we enter the second half of the season we will ask; can they win a playoff series when it tightens up?
7) Philadelphia (+1)-Remember when they started the season losing a lot, firing a head coach and were heading to be the number one draft pick? Now they are a legitimate shot to own a playoff spot.
8) Toronto (-2)-They have hit a skid recently. Their last ten games are starting to show where their weaknesses are. They have started to let the puck in the net more often. Oh yeah they signed their Phaneuf to an interesting long term deal. Fans are very mixed on that for sure.
9) New Jersey (+1)-Typical Devils right? The don’t score a lot and they do a solid job locking down on defense. They have the same issue as the Red Wings of leaving too many second points in the shootout. I also want to see them start taking control on home ice.
10) Columbus (+3)-They are starting to gain momentum. Marian Gaborik, Nick Foligno and Brandon Dubinsky are all now plus players. They are turning defense into offense and just maybe the Blue Jackets can take the next step the franchise is hoping for.
11) New York Rangers (-2)-This team continues to frustrate the hockey world. They have all the talent on the roster, an all-world goalie, a refurbished arena and yet they sit in mediocrity. They need to start owning their MSG ice to make a jump in the standings.
12) Ottawa (0)-Simple issue: their goaltending is an issue. This was supposed to be the strength of the team and its failing them nightly.
13) Carolina (-2)-I thought this team would play better with their players getting healthy. I was wrong.
14) Florida (+2)-Have to wonder if the seat Dale Tallon sits on is starting to get warm.
15) NY Islanders (-1)-All they need to do is move to Brooklyn and all their problems are fixed. At least that’s what they are hoping for.
16) Buffalo (-1)-At least Ryan Miller is starting to play better. Other than that there is nothing positive to say about the Sabres.
Lou says: The West is a treat and a nightmare to rate. As the schedule turns to intra-divisional matches, the West will shake out. Until then it is a head scratcher and most will not agree with the following rankings. Especially given the Anaheim Ducks’ rise to the number one spot in our poll; this will be an interesting way to gain readers’ perspectives.
1) Anaheim (+7) – Crazy, yes I know. But the Ducks won 10 straight before being grounded by the Sharks this week. They lead the division and are threatening to run away and hide from the competition. All this with the injuries, imagine them healthy.
2) Chicago (-1) – The Blackhawks are just plain scary good. But it is hard to argue against a 10-game streak like the Ducks in knocking the Hawks to the number two spot in this poll. My only concern with the Blackhawks is their willingness to take the foot off the pedal. You don’t want to embarrass an opponent but there is no need to let up on the gas. After posting seven goals against Colorado this week through two periods they played catch with the puck in the third. Keep the offense going. The Blues are not that far back.
3) San Jose (-1) – The Sharks are just five points back of the Ducks with two games in hand. Their 3-1 win over Anaheim this week shows they are within a shot of the divisional lead with a few wins.
4) St Louis (-1) – Ken Hitchcock has his Blues humming despite the loss of Alexander Steen (+15) to an injury. The Blues are six points back of Chicago with four games in hand.
5) Los Angeles (-1) – The Kings remain two points back of the Sharks in third position in the West. The Canucks are on their heels. What has saved the Kings thus far is the goaltending. Ben Scrivens, when not in Daryl Sutter’s doghouse, has been solid in the absence of Jonathan Quick. But rookie phenom Martin Jones has been nearly unstoppable. The Kings still need production from the top line.
6) Vancouver (+3) – Coach John Tortorella has been said to have had a change of attitude since reaching the west coast. Now, instead of erupting constantly, he reserves that for special occasions. A recent explosion of emotion galvanized his team rather than disintegrating it. He has his Canucks playing well and is getting good goaltending from backup Eddie Lack.
7) Dallas (+4) – The Stars are two points back of a playoff spot in the west behind the Coyotes. Lindy Ruff has the team moving in the right direction and Kari Lentonen is as solid a goaltender as the NHL has.
8) Phoenix (-2) – The Coyotes cannot get out of their own way when it comes to overtime. They are 3-2-5 in their last ten and losing precious points in extra time.
9) Colorado (-2) – Colorado has found the going more difficult as they make their second and third rounds through the western opposition. Injuries have mounted and coach Patrick Roy can be as brash as he wants but in the end he needs to get troops into those open positions. Semyon Varlamov had his charges dropped in Denver court but his on-ice performance has been slipping a bit. The Stars are nipping at their heels for the third spot in the division.
10) Minnesota (-5) – A recent road trip was dreadful for the Wild. And a return home was not much better. Zach Parise was sent to the IR this week and the club is looking for a forward to step up and score some goals.
11) Winnipeg (-1) – The Jets sputter regularly. With some consistency throughout the line-up they might actually make a move in the division. But coach Claude Noel needs a consistent scorer and goaltending. Evander Kane was on the shelf for a number of games presumably for a lower body injury though reports suggested he needed an attitude adjustment. Since his return he has scored and led the team to two solid wins.
12) Nashville (0) – The Predators are a 500 club and treading water right now. They need their number one goalie back, Pecca Rinne, but that may be some time off as Rinne is still recovering from a post-operative infection in his hip.
13) Edmonton (+1) – The Oilers, on occasion, show signs of progress followed by signs of exuberant youth tinged with mistake-riddled play.
14) Calgary (-1) – The Flames are waiting for the other shoe to drop in Calgary. Director of Hockey Operations Brian Burke fired his GM and assistant GM weeks ago and reportedly was waiting for the NHL-mandated trade freeze to end to make some moves. A change of scenery for Flames players and those potentially coming to Calgary might be beneficial for everyone.