NHL Power Rankings
As we approach the start of the 2008 NHL Playoffs, it is time to take a serious look at the contenders for Lord Stanley. Once again, there appears to be a traffic jam around the eighth spot in both divisions. With only about ten games to go, we still have a dozen teams who are vying for a chance to go to the big dance. Here's our list of the top rated teams for both divisions.
1. Ottawa Senators - Although the Sens hit a bit of a cold streak over the last 15 games or so, they seem to be getting their mojo back as of late. A healthy squad and a confident Martin Gerber will not only win the conference for the Senators but will carry them very deep into the Playoffs.
2. New Jersey Devils - These guys are perennial contenders. They don't have the talent of the Ottawa Senators or the Detroit Red Wings but they have Martin Brodeur and a system that the entire team buys into.
3. Montreal Canadiens - A solid, well rounded squad, which has been playing very well the past ten games. Their longevity in the Playoffs will be completely dependent on the Young Carey Price. His lack of experience may mean an early exit from the Playoffs for Les Habitants.
4. Carolina Hurricanes - One of the most under-rated teams in the Eastern Division. Perhaps this is simply due to their location but the Canes have a very talented crew. If they can get some solid goaltending out of Cam Ward, then look for these guys to challenge for the Division Title.
5. New York Rangers - Currently one of the hottest teams in the league, winning 7 of their past 10 games. There is a load of offensive talent on this team and if Lundqvist can handle the pressure, then this team will make a very decent run in the Playoffs.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins - Yes, we have the Pens ranked sixth in the Eastern division. Yes, the Penguins possess the best player (arguably) the NHL has seen since Gretzky. Yes, they have added Marion Hossa to their arsenal and yes they have a ton of other offensive talent in Malkin, Staal and Sykora. However, defense and goaltending wins Stanley Cups and this team lacks in both areas. Could be another first round exit for the Pens.
7. Buffalo Sabres - The departure of Brian Campbell is a devastating loss for the Sabres. Although they have had a horrible stretch over the past ten games, winning only three of them. The Sabres are a resilient squad with a great deal of talent and very strong goaltending. Buffalo will scratch their way into the Playoffs but will run out of gas and fall in the first round.
8. Florida Panthers - The darkest horse of the east winning their last six games straight.. Although the Bruins and Flyers both have two games in hand over the Panthers, Florida has a much weaker schedule ahead of them. Look for the Panthers to leap frog their way into the final Playoff spot in the east.
9. Philadelphia Flyers - It's been a tough season on Broad street this year. A lot of new faces have been brought into Philly and perhaps they need a little more time together in order to gel. Next year may be their year but for now, can you say...Fore?
10. Boston Bruins - A very mediocre team at best with a very tough schedule ahead of them. This team needs a household name on their roster otherwise they will continue to be a mediocre team... At best!
11. Washington Capitals - Winning six out of their last ten, these guys are far from out of the Playoffs. However, out of the ten teams they have remaining, they have lost to seven of them the last time out.
12. Toronto Maple Leafs - One of the hottest teams in the league right now. Too little too late! Fletcher's got his work cut out for himself.
1. Detroit Red Wings - The most talented, well-rounded club in all of hockey. Superior in all aspects of the game, from top to bottom. Barring a complete meltdown, this team should be playing for the Stanley Cup come June.
2. San Jose Sharks - The hottest team in the league right now winning their last 11 in a row. The Sharks are kind of like the New Jersey Devils of the West. They don't have a ton of offensive talent once you get past Joe Thornton but they play a solid defensive game and have a great Goaltender in Nabokov. The addition of Brian Campbell doesn't hurt either.
3. Anaheim Ducks - Solid on offense, solid on defense and solid in goal. Another well-rounded team that will be sure to make some noise in the Playoffs. Especially now that Burkey has his boys’ back (Selanne and Niedermayer).
4. Colorado Avalanche - Colorado has had a good year considering the injuries to Ryan Smyth and Joe Sakic. Some may even say they have overachieved. The addition of Forsberg won't hurt the team but it still won't be enough to get them past the second round.
5. Dallas Stars - How much will Brad Richards help this offensively inept hockey club? Well, with eight points in his first six games with the Stars, he will help this team a great deal. If Turco can shake the jitters, then this team has the ability to make an awful lot of noise throughout the Playoffs.
6. Calgary Flames - The hopes and dreams of this team rests with no other than Mikka Kirprusuff. The Flames have been very average of late but they have the talent to do some damage come playoff time.
7. Vancouver Canucks - Another team that is somewhat average in nature. Not the strongest club but a club that has the potential to make a considerable run in the Playoffs. Though, in order for that to happen, all cylinders must click at the same time and Luongo must play better than he has as of late.
8. Phoenix Coyotes - Talk about your underdog. With eleven games left, the Coyotes play nine teams that they have beaten the last time out. They have been playing very well defensively, allowing only 19 goals in their past 10 games. Ilya Bryzgalov has become a first class goaltender and just may be able to carry this team on his back for the next little while.
9. Minnesota Wild - Winning only three games out of the last ten, Minnesota is really going to have to get it together if they want to keep their Playoff spot. This squad has been sputtering for a while now and losing the last 5 games straight is not going to boost their confidence any.
10. Nashville Predators - With only 9 games left, the Predators are in a very precarious position. The good news is they have a fairly weak schedule coming up. Six of their remaining nine games are against Chicago, Columbus and St. Louis.
11. Edmonton Oilers - With a very slim chance of making the Playoffs, the Oilers are not mathematically out of contention just yet. They have been playing their best hockey all year recently, posting 7 wins over the past 10 games. Another case of Too little to Late.
12. Chicago Blackhawks - Playing 3 games over .500 is considered a very good year for the Hawks. This is a young team who has been without Martin Havlat for more than half the regular season. Look for the Hawks to be a serious contender... Next year!
So who's going to take Lord Stanley home this year? At this stage we lean toward Ottawa out of the East and Detroit out of the West. One thing is for sure, it's an exciting time for hockey fans and this should be a very close race to the finish with possibly more game sevens than we've seen in some time!
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