It was another interesting week in the NHL. Teams continue to rise and fall as the ebb and flow of the season begins to set in. We are just past the quarter-pole of the season, and the next few weeks should help shake out just who is a legitimate contender and who will be sellers come the trade deadline.
Biggest Jump: Atlanta, 24 to 13
Biggest Fall: Los Angeles, 3 to 15
Player of the Week: Dustin Byfuglien, D, Atlanta (3 goals, 5 assists, plus-5 in last four games)
Last week’s ranking in parentheses:
1. (1) Detroit (15-4-2): Jimmy Howard (13-2-2, 2.49 GAA, .914 save percentage) backbones two gritty wins over a very good Columbus team.
2. (5) Washington (17-6-2): Ovechkin is not scoring goals (seven games without a goal), but he is setting them up, (six assists in last three games) and the Caps are winning.
3. (4) Philadelphia (15-6-4): Impressive wins over Montreal (3-2) and Minnesota (6-1) followed by shootout losses to Calgary and New Jersey.
4. (12) Pittsburgh (15-8-2): The Penguins have won six straight, and Sidney Crosby is on fire with five goals and 11 points in his last five games. With a hat trick in Saturday’s win, Crosby surpassed the 200-goal plateau (in 396 games).
5. (10) Phoenix (11-6-5): Despite a loss to Anaheim, the Coyotes are still tied for the lead in the Pacific Division. Phoenix still needs a more consistent offense and goaltending.
6. (2) Montreal (15-8-1): A 2-2 week for the Habs, highlighted by wins over Los Angeles (4-1) and Buffalo (3-1). Captain Brian Gionta had two goals and an assist in the win over the Sabres.
7. (8) Columbus (14-8-0): Despite two tough losses to the Red Wings, the Blue Jackets are making believers out of many. Center Derick Brassard, 23, is the team’s leading scorer (6-12-18) and has a point in six of the last seven games.
8. (18) Dallas (13-8-1): The Stars have quietly won three in a row, including a pair over St. Louis over the weekend, and are tied for the Pacific Division lead with Phoenix. Brad Richards (11-17-18) continues to play well (at least one point in seven of his last eight games) despite trade rumors.
9. (11) Vancouver (12-7-3): The roller caster season continues as the Canucks have won their last two after losing four straight. Roberto Luongo seems to have regained his form after a shaky stretch, and the offense has produced 10 goals in the last two games.
10. (7) Colorado (13-9-1): The Avs are third in the NHL in goals with 83 but lost the services of top goal-scorer Chris Stewart (11-14-25) for at least four weeks with a broken hand suffered during a fight with Kyle Brodziak.
11. (24) Atlanta (12-9-3): The Thrashers have won five in a row and coach Craig Ramsey has his team believing in themselves. Ondrej Pavelec continues to star in goal with a 1.62 GAA and .949 save percentage.
12. (13) Tampa Bay (13-8-3): After winning five straight, the Lightning have lost two in a row heading into tough contests at Toronto, at Boston and at home against Colorado this week.
13. (9) St. Louis (12-7-3): The Blues look like they have returned to form, winning three straight before dropping both ends of a home-and-home with Dallas over the weekend. The tough part of the second loss was surrendering two goals in the first six minutes of the third in a 2-1 loss.
14. (14) Chicago (13-11-2): The Blackhawks have won three of four, thanks in part to the play of goalie Corey Crawford (5-4, 2.07 GAA, .925 save percentage), who has allowed two or fewer goals in his last five starts. Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith is also showing signs of returning to form.
15. (3) Los Angeles (13-9-0): The Kings have lost three straight and, even worse, top defenseman Jack Johnson is minus-11 in his last seven games. That can’t continue if the Kings want to be a legit contender.
16. (17) San Jose (11-7-4): Dan Boyle played 30:31 of San Jose’s win over Edmonton Saturday. The Sharks need more consistent all-around play in order to move up in the tough Pacific Division.
17. (6) Boston (12-8-2): The Bruins have not played well in the first period all season and are struggling to score goals of late (five GF in last four games).
18. (19) New York Rangers (14-10-1): Continued strong play from Ryan Callahan (7-12-19), Brandon Dubinsky (12-8-20) and Sean Avery and a sudden resurgence from Henrik Lundqvist (69 saves, one GA in last two games) have the Rangers’ hopes high.
19. (21) Minnesota (11-9-2): Usually reliable Niklas Backstrom has surrendered 18 goals in his last three games, watching his GAA rise to 2.66 from 1.90.
20. (16) Nashville (9-8-5): Four straight losses for the Predators, who scored just four goals during that span.
21. (20) Anaheim (11-11-3): Ryan Getzlaf (7-18-25) had four assists as the Ducks knocked off red-hot Phoenix to break a six-game losing skid.
22. (22) Florida (10-12-0): Shootout win over Tampa Saturday broke a three-game losing streak.
23. (21) Carolina (10-10-3): One win in the last five games, and it took a 37-save shutout from Cam Ward to beat Boston.
24. (23) Ottawa (11-12-1): Brian Elliott stated his case for the No. 1 keeper spot with a 29-save shutout against Toronto.
25. (25) Buffalo (9-13-3): Sabres have managed just five goals in the last four games (1-3).
26. (26) Calgary (9-12-2): Flames have one win and 10 GF in last five games, though Curtis Glencross notched the 10,000th goal in Calgary history on Friday.
27. ( 27) Toronto (8-11-3): Like the Sabres and Flames, the Leafs are having trouble scoring (48 GF) with only five goals in the last four games.
28. (28) New Jersey (8-14-2): Showing some signs of life the last week or so.
29. (28) Edmonton (6-12-4): A league-worst 88 goals against (second worst is 77 GA).
30. (30) New York Islanders (5-12-5): Great performance from Rick DiPietro on Friday night (29-save shutout). Good to see him finally coming back.