Mmm, I’m just eating a delicious bowl of my words right now. Why? Because I said this time last week that I would be very surprised if a team other than the Chicago Blackhawks made it to the top of the NHL.com power rankings this time, uh, today. But actually, that’s exactly what has happened.
The Blackhawks’ legendary point-gathering and eventual winning streak came to an end this week and then they had to fight back hard just to lose to the Edmonton Oilers by one goal, but if the Hawks hadn’t started off so strongly this season, it’s likely the Anaheim Ducks would have been the sole Western Conference superpower. As it is, though, they’re on top of this week’s rankings.
The Ducks are coming off a busy week that included three consecutive games against the Phoenix Coyotes. Both of the ones played in Glendale ended in 5-4 shootout Phoenix wins, but once Anaheim got back home, they turned the tide and won by a 2-0 shutout score. They followed that up by shutting out the Calgary Flames 4-0 and beating the St. Louis Blues 4-2. They hold an 18-3-3 record and 39 points.
Don’t feel too bad, though, Blackhawks fans–Chicago only dropped to second place. A 21-2-3 record is still nothing to sneeze at and the team has built up a huge store of points in the standings. This week’s installment of the Super 16 focuses on one most valuable player for each team and Patrick Kane, who is getting very close to scoring his 400th point, is the choice for the Chi. (Viktor Fasth is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the one for Anaheim.)
The Boston Bruins remain the top Eastern team, despite not being the top Eastern team in the standings right now, perhaps by virtue of the fact that they’ve extracted at least one point from all but three games and still have played the fewest in the entire conference. They name Zdeno Chara as the midpoint MVP and credit his efforts with helping Tuukka Rask get settled as the team’s top goalie. However, I think there’s a case to be made for having Rask as the MVP instead.
For the fourth-place Pittsburgh Penguins, their MVP is probably a no-brainer, Sidney Crosby. Jeff Carter has been running the table with goal-scoring for the sixth-place Los Angeles Kings, so he’s their most valuable choice. The Minnesota Wild, who made a huge climb from 13th last week to eighth this week, has league time-on-ice leader and newcomer Ryan Suter. Considering how much cash the Wild ponied up to get him, he should be paying dividends for them.
Some other teams that made big climbs this week: the Phoenix Coyotes (14th, not ranked last week) and MVP Oliver Ekman-Larsson, plus what might be the biggest surprise going, the Columbus Blue Jackets (15th, not ranked last week) and MVP Jack Johnson. No, pigs aren’t flying right now, but the Blue Jackets have cracked the top 16 and actually own the league’s longest win streak right now, having strung together five consecutive victories.
Who knows, maybe they’ll end up at the top of the rankings next week? Ah, I’m just kidding.