NHL Power Rankings (Thanksgiving Edition): Boston Bruins Surging, Crosby Returns to Pittsburgh Penguins

NHL Power Rankings (Thanksgiving Edition): Boston Bruins Surging, Pittsburgh Penguins Flat Despite Sidney Crosby’s Return, Wild and Panthers May Actually Be Good

The Boston Bruins have won ten in a row, but does that make them the top team in the NHL? The Penguins are still first in the East and just got their best player back, but they’ve fallen off of late. The Wild and Panthers legitimized themselves with impressive wins this week, and both continue to surge. The Rangers fell back to earth, the Sharks are hot, the Blackhawks are cold. It’s a great time to do some NHL power rankings.

The NHL knows that hockey won’t be able to compete in most markets with the splendor of Thanksgiving football. Instead, they do the right thing, and are the only sport to let their players have an off day to be with their families. The NBA when they’re not locked out play games on Christmas, football plays on Sunday regardless of the holiday, and baseball doesn’t really have any holidays. Hockey gets it right – but I’d still have the Canadian teams play a night game while most of us don’t get the NFL Network game.

Unfortunately. no games makes us desperate for something hockey related. I’ll post some power rankings to hold you over until tomorrow’s games. I’ll be starting a competition against a computer betting system for my NHL picks this week, and I don’t need a fancy algorithm to bet. These rankings are all I need.

1) Boston Bruins (13-7-0): They’re first in the Northeast after starting the year 3-7. They’ve won 10 games in a row and win in a different way every time. They can win behind a Tim Thomas shootout performance for the ages. They can grind out a victory despite being outplayed for a period or two. The Bruins can dominate you physically or score six times against your will like a really angry boyfriend that you just can’t leave. There’s no stopping the defending champs right now.

2) Minnesota Wild (13-5-3): They’re the second-hottest team in the NHL, have the best record in the Western Conference over their last ten games, and are first in the Western Conference in points. Quietly, the Wild are one of the most dangerous teams in the league.

3) San Jose Sharks (13-5-1): The Sharks don’t seam to miss Dany Heatley, despite his success in Minnesota. Without the murderer, they still have a killer top line. He’s abysmal in the postseason and the Sharks picked up a defenseman that can move the puck. The Sharks are balanced now, and that’s something they were missing in years before. They’ll be a force all year.

4) Pittsburgh Penguins (12-6-4): They’re a .500 team of late, including the two games they’ve had Sidney Crosby back for. They’re atop the East, but nothing about them lately is unbeatable.

5) Chicago Blackhawks (12-7-3): The Blackhawks have lost three in a row. They’re headed in the wrong direction after a solid streak ended this week. Let’s see if they bounce back.

6) Florida Panthers (12-6-3): I almost had the Panthers in the top five but then my computer crashed. When I tried a second time my fingers went into spasms. I’m just not ready, but their wins against the Rangers and Devils this week legitimized the Panthers’ early season wins.

7) Philadelphia Flyers (12-6-3): They’re deep, they’ve got a solid top few lines, Jaromir Jagr still has something left, and Ilya Bryzgalov is the first above average goaltender they’ve had in years.

8.) Toronto Maple Leafs (12-8-2): They’re struggling without James Reimer, but the Leafs are proving themselves. They’re more than a hot start from Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel.

9) LA Kings (11-7-5): They’re reliable. They have one of the best top-six lineups in hockey and solid goaltending. They need to beat the contenders in the West, but they’re consistent and a sure thing to make the playoffs this year.

10) Washington Capitals (12-7-1): This is more about what the Caps are capable of than what they’ve done. Their losses have been disappointing and unpredictable. After the longest unbeaten start in the NHL, the Caps are really struggling of late.

11) Detroit Red Wings (12-7-1): What was up with that cold streak? The Red Wings are good, but they’re not reliable just yet.

12) Phoenix Coyotes (11-6-3): Don’t look now, but the Coyotes are just fine without Ilya Bryzgalov. Don’t get me wrong – nobody is going to their games or anything, but they’re looking like a playoff team so far.

13) Buffalo Sabres (12-8-1): I realize the Sabres are only a point behind the Bruins for first in the division, but they’re a disappointment so far. Sabres fans have been picking on me for “under-value-ing them”, but it seems I’ve got them just right – squarely in the middle of the pack.

14) New York Rangers (10-5-3): The Rangers have been good this year, but not great. Do you really feel completely comfortable with Henrik Lundqvist? I don’t – not yet.

15) New Jersey Devils (11-8-1): The Devils have won seven of their last ten games, and have quietly crept into consideration in the Atlantic Division. They’re 5-1 in games that haven’t been settled in regulation – that hurts them for tiebreakers but helps right now.

16) Dallas Stars (13-8): I’m not impressed just yet. The Stars are good, but they’re overachieving.

17) Montreal Canadiens (10-9-3): Carey Price makes it hard to pick against this team. Even when he doesn’t play well, he’s clutch.

18) Edmonton Oilers (11-8-2): No, I don’t think they have any goaltending, but they’ve got a young and talented first two lines that will keep them in any game.

19) St. Louis Blues (11-8-2): Ken Hitchcock has this team believing again. I’m not sure that means anything, but they think it does.

20) Nashville Predators (10-7-4): I like the Preds. Pekka Rinne looks good enough to win on any other team, but the Preds won’t be successful with an offense this flaccid.

21) Vancouver Canucks (11-9-1): I think they’re turning a corner, but they really didn’t play well to start the year.

22) Tampa Bay Lightning (9-9-2): The goaltending is old, but the scoring is there to keep them in the hunt. Don’t expect last year’s magic to prevail.

23) Ottawa Senators (10-9-2): This team has been dominant in the third period. Too bad they suck for the first two.

24) Colorado Avalanche (9-12-1): The Avs aren’t as bad as they’ve been playing – but they’ve been playing pretty badly lately.

25) Winnipeg Jets (8-9-4): Something about this home-ice advantage scares me, but they still aren’t very good.

26) Carolina Hurricanes (8-11-4): The ‘Canes are better than they’ve played.

27) Anaheim Ducks (6-11-4): So are the Ducks.

28) New York Islanders (5-10-4): I believe in the Islanders, but they haven’t given anyone else a reason to think they don’t suck.

29) Calgary Flames (8-11-1): The Flames are not good, and it’s only a matter of time until Iginla leaves.

30) Columbus Blue Jackets (5-13-3): The Blue Jackets have been playing well lately, but I refuse to forgive them their start.

Mark Donatiello
Follow me on Twitter:  @FasterHockey ...read more

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