Power Rankings… we love to do this to ourselves – we love to look at what might be, what could be – should the rest of the season go the way we expect. Actually at best, the way we hope. On any given day, someone releases power rankings and talks about how good a team has improved or how badly they’ve regressed.
The truth of the matter however, lies in the most important aspect in a quest for the cup – you’ll have to beat a team, any team and every team – four times before you can advance. Four times at least, you’ll have to match-up against the same players and face the same goaltender. It is still the most beautiful thing in sports – the seven game series.
In sports such as baseball and basketball the seven game series helps ensure that the best teams win – but in hockey, there’s bounces and caroms and glass. Though the best team still essentially wins, hockey’s seven game series’ are unpredictable, intense and like a battle of which you’ve never seen before – and it’ll be like that every night.
These rankings are not based on the standings and records alone – these rankings are based on the latest week of the season (give or take a day), how each team is trending, and who the best team in the league is – were they to begin a seven game series today.
Because remember, sooner or later this marathon of a regular season ultimately turns into a race to sixteen wins and hoisting the cup. So, let’s get to it…
10.SAINT LOUIS BLUES
The Saint Louis Blues are an anomaly to me – one moment their clicking on all cylinders and seem to be striking fear into the hearts of every Central Division city. But then in other moments, the other cities wonder what they were so scared of in the first place. It’s their record and place in the standings that keeps them in the top ten for me because to be honest, right now, I don’t see the Blues being able to contend with anyone over seven games. They’ve now added Marty Broduer to their roster which will only cloud the goal-tending positions true starter and focus attention away from where it should be. They’ve gone 3-2 in their last five games and in those two losses have failed to record any points against their top divisional opponents – Chicago and Nashville. It’s hard to get past them leaning on the production of Vladimir Tarasenko, which they’ve had most of the year – with him cooling off, so do the Blues, which is why they now find themselves third in the division.
The flames entered their game Saturday with the San Jose Sharks on a four game winning streak including a victory over San Jose in their own building. But that streak came to an end when San Jose defeated Calgary 3-2 last night. Four out of five, however, isn’t too bad. Calgary is emerging as this year’s team that “just won’t go away” and for good measure. Giordano and Jonas Hiller have helped backstop a young, unacquainted group and have done it quite well. This substantial evidence is what gets them into the top ten, but it’s also what keeps them from jumping into serious contention talks – the unknowns. It still could just be a matter of time before they begin to regress.
Anaheim was my pick for the Western Conference Final this year with the Ducks having picked up Ryan Kessler (8G/13A) in the off season from the Vancouver Canucks. The Ducks have been playing consistent hockey under the leadership of Captain Ryan Getzlaf who has 24pts (8G/18A) and they have battled through injury and the mumps to keep themselves near the top of the league. Currently, they sit first in the Western Conferences’ Pacific division with 39 points. Unfortunately, the road’s about to grow bumpier in the next few miles as the Ducks deal with the loss of Corey Perry for an unknown amount of time as he suffered a knee injury in Friday’s game against the Minnesota Wild. Would it not have been for a let down in game five against the Kings last season, the Ducks probably would have made a strong showing against Chicago in the Western Conference Final – adding Kessler only makes them more dangerous. But the loss to Perry is more than concerning and could prove to be costly over the next couple months – making it hard for Anaheim to stay hot and compete well, night in and night out.
The Pittsburgh Penguins stormed out of the gates this season sitting atop the standings for most weeks in October. Points leaders for Pittsburgh include Captain Sydney Crosby (34P, 9G,25A) and Evgeni Malkin (32P, 14G,18A). If the Pens want to compete through the year they’ll have to find ways to make their depth work. Injuries to Pascal Dupuis, Patric Hornqvist, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang sure are disturbing and have kept the Pens from distancing themselves in the Metropolitan division. They currently have one of the deepest teams in the Eastern Conference, but that depth has certainly been tested this year. There’s a lot starting to ride more and more on the shoulders of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury… which you’ll either love or hate – only time will tell in Pittsburgh. They have the Rangers, Flames, Columbus and then Tampa Bay on December 15. How they handle the likes of New York and Tampa Bay will be a very good measuring stick for where this club truly is.
6.DETROIT RED WINGS
I openly admit that I was one to believe that this might be the year the Detroit Red Wings stumbled slightly and finally missed the post-season. I will also be the first to tell you that I was foolish for thinking as such. The Red Wings are currently sitting second in the Atlantic Division with a record of 16-6-5. Though they are still battling daily injuries and their issues regarding youthfulness, most of the roster had played together and shared some success in Grand Rapids making it easier for this group to gel and battle through their adversity. After going 4-1 in their last five games against two Metropolitan playoff contenders and the offensively dominant Vancouver Canucks and Dallas Stars – there seems to be little to worry about in Detroit. Their only loss came to Florida, a divisional opponent, which keeps them from passing teams like New York or Tampa Bay in this week’s rankings. Their camaraderie, youth and goaltending in Jimmy Howard (13-5-4) make them a tough task to beat moving forward, including tonight in Carolina when they begin a relatively light road trip that could have them at the top of the division by the time they meet the Islanders on December 19. Don’t count them out yet, the playoff streak just may continue this year.