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After months of waiting, fans around the world were finally able to welcome the NHL back into their homes this past weekend and the action on the ice did not disappoint. Considering most teams only got to play one game this week due to the NHL decideding on a weekend start date, I would take these rankings with a grain of salt considering how small the sample size is thus far. Look for the rankings to really shake up next week after teams get in a full week of games.
Check back every Monday for new rankings!
30. New York Islanders (0-1-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 29
This Week’s Schedule: Tampa Bay, @Toronto, @Boston, @Winnipeg
Breakdown: The New Jersey Devils’ defense kept the Islanders in check as they were held to just 19 shots on Saturday night. Although John Tavares played well at times, the rest of the Islanders’ offense was unable to rise to the challenge. Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov’s 26 saves and overall strong play in net is a good sign for the Islanders, but they will need to get their offense going if they hope to have any success this season.
29. Calgary Flames (0-1-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 26
This Week’s Schedule: Anaheim, @Vancouver, Edmonton
Breakdown: The Calgary Flames looked very much like a rebuilding team in their home opener against the San Jose Sharks. Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff had a rough night in net allowing 4 goals on only 29 shots. The Flames’ offense never quite got going and was limited to a lone power play goal against a stalwart Anti Niemi in net for the Sharks. With visits to Edmonton and Anaheim this week, the pressure will once again be on Kiprusoff to keep the puck out of the net.
28. Winnipeg Jets (0-1-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 23
This Week’s Schedule: @Boston, @Washington, Pittsburgh, NY Islanders
Breakdown: Dustin Byfuglien’s first period power play goal was the lone bright spot for the Jets on Saturday as they were absolutely dominated by the Ottawa Senators. The Senators scored 4 goals on 37 shots against a wary Jets’ defense and killed off 5 of the 6 Jets’ power plays. With games against the Bruins, Capitals and Penguins this week, the Jets could be in for a very rough start to their 2013 season.
27. Phoenix Coyotes (0-2-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 21
This Week’s Schedule: Columbus, @San Jose, Los Angeles
Breakdown: Two games into the season and Mike Smith looks like he did when he played for the Tampa Bay Lightning. In just two starts this season, Smith has already allowed 9 goals and doesn’t show any signs that he will be improving in the near future. For a team like the Coyotes that doesn’t have a potent offense, Smith will need to figure things out very soon, or the Coyotes could continue to stumble down the Pacific Division standings.
26. Carolina Hurricanes (0-1-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 11
This Week’s Schedule: Tampa Bay, @Buffalo, Buffalo
Breakdown: Saturday night wasn’t quite the debut that Hurricanes’ fans were expecting when Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin joined the club this off season. The Canes came out rusty and the Panthers took full advantage early on. Goalie Cam Ward was pulled from the game after allowing 4 goals on only 12 shots. Along with their porous defense, the Canes went 0 for 6 on the power play as all their new offensive pieces didn’t quite gel just yet.
25. Montreal Canadiens (0-1-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 28
This Week’s Schedule: Florida, @Washington, New Jersey
Breakdown: If these rankings were based on pre-game ceremonies, the Canadiens would most certainly be at the top. However, the Canadiens play on the ice didn’t match the energy of the fans in Montreal on Saturday. The team looked lost during most power play opportunities as “We want P.K.!” chants rained from the stands. Goalie Carey Price played well as he stopped 24 of 26 shots, but the offense couldn’t do enough to get the Canadiens a win.
24. Philadelphia Flyers (0-2-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 9
This Week’s Schedule: @New Jersey, NY Rangers, @Florida
Breakdown: Even though they were the victim of two bad calls in Buffalo on Sunday, the Philadelphia Flyers have still looked like anything but contenders through two games. Sloppy play and mental mistakes have highlighted the Flyers play early on this season as they continue to make it hard on themselves every night. Known for their offense, the Flyers were an abysmal 1 for 9 on the power play this week. Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has looked much better than he did last season and has been a victim of the Flyers’ sloppy play early on. If the Flyers don’t figure things out quick, things could turn ugly In Philadelphia very fast.
23. Detroit Red Wings (0-1-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 6
This Week’s Schedule: @Columbus, Dallas, Minnesota @Chicago
Breakdown: Perhaps I downplayed the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom as the Detroit Red Wings defense looked lost without him against the St. Louis Blues. Along with allowing 36 total shots, the Red Wings also allowed 4 power play goals and were laughable for most of the evening. However, not all of the blame can be put on the defense. The Red Wings’ offense was only able to muster 14 total shots and went 0 for 4 on the power play. Red Wings’ fans can only hope that these are just some growing pains, but some feel like this may be a sign of something much worse this season.
22. Los Angeles Kings (0-1-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 4
This Week’s Schedule: Schedule: @Colorado, @Edmonton, @Phoenix
Breakdown: Stanley Cup hangover, or something more? The Los Angeles Kings came out stagnant on a night where they celebrated their accomplishments of last season. Conn Smyth winner Jonathan Quick was ousted early and often as he went on to give up 5 goals on 22 shots. The Kings are clearly missing star center Anze Kopitar as they went 0 for 5 on the power play and only managed 2 goals against a questionable Corey Crawford. Saturday was the end of the Kings’ celebration and hopefully a wake up call.
21. New York Rangers (0-2-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 2
This Week’s Schedule: Boston, @Philadelphia, Toronto
Breakdown: The New York Rangers had the bad luck of starting the season against two fantastic teams, the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Rangers struggled in both games and while the top line of Richards, Gaborik and Nash tallied a few points, the rest of the Rangers offense never quite got going. Henrik Lundqvist looked rusty and was eventually pulled in a 6-3 loss to the Penguins after giving up 4 goals on 18 shots. The Rangers are a lot better than their record and will most likely right the ship at some point this season, however it won’t be easy as they face the Bruins once again this week in New York.
20. Washington Capitals (0-1-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 16
This Week’s Schedule: Winnipeg, Montreal, @New Jersey, Buffalo
Breakdown: Perhaps it was too early to crown Braden Holtby the next big thing, or maybe the Lightning’s offense is just that good? The young net minder allowed 6 goals on 34 shots as the Lightning routed the Capitals 6-3 in St. Petersburg. Most alarming for the Caps was that Alexander Ovechkin took no shots after the first period and totaled only 4 the entire night. If the Capitals hope to make the playoffs this season Ovechkin will need to be much better and can’t disappear during games.
19. Vancouver Canucks (0-1-1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 3
This Week’s Schedule: Calgary, @Anaheim, @San Jose
Breakdown: It was the tale of two games for the Vancouver Canucks this weekend as the tales of Roberto Luongo’s demise were greatly exaggerated. After being shelled by the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday, the Canucks decided to go back to former starting goaltender Roberto Luongo and saw some improvements on Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers. Luongo stopped 30 of 32 shots, but eventually failed to come up big in the shootout. Now the drama is heating up in Vancouver and a shortened season is no place for a goalie controversy. The Canucks will need to find stability soon if they hope to regain the edge they once had.
18. Colorado Avalanche (0-1-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 13
This Week’s Schedule: Los Angeles, @Columbus, San Jose
Breakdown: The Colorado Avalanche sealed their own fate on Saturday night when they gave the Minnesota Wild 7 power play opportunities throughout the evening, 2 of which were capitalized on. Star players like Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog never quite got it going and were held off of the scoreboard. Goaltender Seymor Varlamov did the best he could under constant pressure and allowed 4 goals on 35 shots. The Avalanche are a young team and I expect them to get better as the season goes on, but they would greatly benefit if the Ryan O’Reilly situation were resolved sooner rather than later.
17. Nashville Predators (0-0-1)
Last Week’s Ranking: 14
This Week’s Schedule: St. Louis, @Minnesota, @St. Louis, @Anaheim
Breakdown: After a hard fought game against a revamped Columbus Blue Jackets team, the Predators eventually lost their home opener 3-2 in a shootout. The Predators offense came out firing but ran into a red hot Sergei Bobrovsky who stopped 32 of 34 shots on the evening. Pekka Rinne looked great while stopping 26 of 28 shots as the Predators defense held strong without Ryan Suter. Two games against the St. Louis Blues this week should give us a good idea about what kind of team the Predators really are.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets (1-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 30
This Week’s Schedule: Detroit, @Phoenix, @Colorado, Chicago
Breakdown: There is a new cop in Columbus and his name is Sergei Bobrovsky. An offseason addition, Bobrovsky was on the case all evening against the Predators as he stopped 32 of 34 shots and excelled in the shootout. Artem Anisimov, a piece from the Rick Nash trade, scored the game-tying goal to get the Blue Jackets into overtime. While it is only one game, the prosperity of these new pieces can bring some hope to Columbus fans who lost both their star player and an all-star game this season.
15. Toronto Maple Leafs (1-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 27
This Week’s Schedule: Buffalo, @Pittsburgh, NY Islanders, @NY Rangers
Breakdown: Have the Leafs finally found solid goaltending? Goalie Ben Scrivins gave it to them for one night at least as he stopped 21 of 22 shots en route to a Maple Leafs’ win. Youngsters Nazem Kadri and Michael Kostka played well as they each tallied one point. If Scrivins can keep up his play in net against the Penguins and Rangers this week, expectations will sky rocket in Toronto.
14. Edmonton Oilers (1-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 17
This Week’s Schedule: San Jose, Los Angeles, @Calgary
Breakdown: The fast paced Edmonton Oilers’ offense was held in check for most of the evening by Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks. However, the team was able to score goals when they needed them most and 3rd period goal by Alex Hemsky got them into overtime and an eventual shootout. The Oilers made quick work of the Canucks in the shootout by netting their first two attempts. Goalie Devan Dubnyk stopped 27 of 29 shots and was fantastic in the shootout. While rookies around the NHL made big opening night impression, Oilers’ rookie Nail Yakupov played a quiet game, but expect him to get on the score sheet this week.
13. Dallas Stars (1-1-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 24
This Week’s Schedule: @Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis
Breakdown: Jaromir Jagr looked 10 years younger as he netted 4 points in the Dallas Stars’ opening night win against the Phoenix Coyotes. Fellow veteran offseason acquisition Ray Whitney also added 2 points in the opener and goalie Kari Lehtonen performed well in net, stopping 37 of 40 shots. The team cooled off on Sunday against a good Minnesota Wild team, but still looked respectable in the process. Both Jagr and Whitney should benefit from only having to play 3 games this week as aging skaters look to stay fresh.
12. Buffalo Sabres (1-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 22
This Week’s Schedule: Toronto, @Carolina, Carolina, Washington
Breakdown: Even though they were the beneficiaries of two bad calls against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Buffalo Sabres still managed to win their home opener on Sunday. Thomas Vanek looked like a Hart Trophy candidate as he compiled 5 points and helped the Sabres pull away from the Flyers in the 3rd period. New addition Steve Ott added some toughness and netted the game’s first goal. Ryan Miller was given lots of help, as the Sabres were able to convert on 3 of 6 power play opportunities. Ryan Miller should be stable all season, but if the Sabres can keep up this kind of offense, it will add a whole new dimension to their game.
11. New Jersey Devils (1-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 19
This Week’s Schedule: Philadelphia, Washington, @Montreal
Breakdown: A game against the New York Islanders was just what the Devils needed to get their 2013 season started off in the right direction. The Devils’ defense was excellent in shutting down a talented Islanders’ scoring unit as they were held to only 19 shots on the night. The Devils’ defense will once again be put to the test this week as Claude Giroux and Alexander Ovechkin both make trips to Newark.
10. Florida Panthers (1-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 18
This Week’s Schedule: @Ottawa, @Montreal, Ottawa, Philadelphia
Breakdown: The Panthers couldn’t have asked for a better start to their 2013 season as rookie sensation Jonathan Huberdeau netted his first career goal on the way to a 5-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. The Panthers went 3 for 6 on the power play and veteran Alex Kovalev looked like he still had a lot left in the tank for this season. Jose Theodore stopped 41 of 42 shots while playing behind a Panthers defense that was missing 3 starters. The Panthers will continue to get better as more players return from injury this season.
9. Ottawa Senators (1-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 20
This Week’s Schedule: Florida, @Florida, @Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh
Breakdown: The Senators rode their offense to a 4-1 win over the woeful Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night as Erik Karlsson continued right where he left off last season, tallying one goal and two assists. Craig Anderson was solid in net stopping 27 of 28 shots and the defense as a whole was impressive while killing off 5 of the 6 Jets’ power play chances.
8. Anaheim Ducks (1-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 25
This Week’s Schedule: @Calgary, Vancouver, Nashville
Breakdown: Refresh my memory – is Teemu Selanne 22 or 42 years old? It was hard to tell on Saturday night as the ageless wonder scored 2 goals and added 2 assists to complete his 4 point extravaganza. Along with Selanne, the rest of the Ducks took advantage of a comatose Canucks team on their way to a 7-3 victory. Jonas Hiller stopped 26 of 29 shots and looked fairly average for the Ducks in net. However, if Selanne can continue to drink from the fountain of youth, the Ducks will have a chance to outscore opponents every night.
7. Tampa Bay Lightning (1-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 15
This Week’s Schedule: @NY Islanders, @Carolina, Ottawa, Philadelphia
Breakdown: It looked more like 2004 than 2013 in St. Petersburg on Saturday as Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier both netted goals in a 6-3 Bolts’ win over the Capitals. Teddy Purcell and rookie Cory Conacher combined for 5 points and goalie Anders Lindback stopped 27 of 30 shots in his team debut. If Lindback can continue to be serviceable in net, the Bolts’ spectacular offense will make them a team that nobody wants to play.
6. San Jose Sharks (1-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 12
This Week’s Schedule: @Edmonton, Phoenix, Colorado, Vancouver
Breakdown: The San Jose Sharks took advantage of a rebuilding Calgary team on Sunday en route to an impressive 4-1 victory. Patrick Marleu shined as he netted 2 of the Sharks’ goals and showed that the aging core in San Jose could have one more run left in them. Anti Niemi was spectacular in net as he stopped 31 of 32 shots. With four games slated for next week, San Jose’s age will be put to the test as old legs are working overtime during this compacted season.
5. Chicago Blackhawks (2-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 10
This Week’s Schedule: @Phoenix, St. Louis, @Dallas, @Columbus
Breakdown: Two games into the season and the Blackhawks’ offense is rolling. After getting knocked out of the playoffs last season by a dirty hit, Marian Hossa has returned with a vengeance. With already 4 goals in just two games, Hossa and the rest of the Blackhawks’ scorers are red hot. While goaltender Corey Crawford only got one start this weekend, he did a good job of holding the Los Angeles Kings to just 2 goals and will only need to be serviceable in net this season for the Blackhawks to win games.
4. St. Louis Blues (1-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 8
This Week’s Schedule: @Nashville, @Chicago, Nashville, @Dallas
Breakdown: Wow…that about sums up my reaction while watching the St. Louis Blues absolutely dismantle the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night. Rookie Vladimir Tarasenko started off his NHL career on the right foot by scoring 2 of the Blues’ 6 goals on the evening. The Blues were surgical on the power play as they converted on 4 of their 5 opportunities. Their defense held the wings to only 16 shots and goalie Jaroslav Halak stopped them all. If the Blues have finally found an offense to match their other worldly goaltending then the rest of the NHL might be in for a long season.
3. Minnesota Wild (2-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 7
This Week’s Schedule: Nashville, @Detroit, St. Louis
Breakdown: The Minnesota Wild played just as good as advertised this weekend en route to 2 wins over Colorado and Dallas respectively. Zach Parise looked as if he was worth every penny of his bulky contract as he totaled 3 points this weekend, including the game winning goal against Dallas. Dany Heatley looked revitalized playing alongside Parise and netted two goals by way of Parise assists. The defense and Ryan Suter were solid and goaltenders Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding played well in each of their starts.
2. Boston Bruins (1-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 5
This Week’s Schedule: Winnipeg, @NY Rangers, NY Islanders
Breakdown: The Bruins looked like Stanley Cup contenders when they beat the New York Rangers at home on Saturday. Goalie Tuukka Rask looked like a Vezina Trophy candidate as he stopped 20 of 21 Rangers shots in his first game out of Tim Thomas’ shadow. The Bruins defense led by Zdeno Chara was stellar as usual in stopping a revamped Rangers’ offense. However, the Bruins did go 0 for 7 on the power play, but that is nothing new. With games against the Jets and Islanders this week, the Bruins will look to get off to a great start on their way to the playoffs.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins (2-0-0)
Last Week’s Ranking: 1
This Week’s Schedule: Toronto, @Winnipeg, @Ottawa
Breakdown: The Pittsburgh Penguins started off their 2013 hot and looked like Stanley Cup contenders as they dismantled two division rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers. The trio of Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and James Neal combined for 8 points in the two contests and looked fantastic on the power play as the team went 4 for 8 on the weekend with an extra man. Marc-Andre Fleury played well in his one start of the weekend and the Penguins defense held up better than many thought it would. It is still early, but the Penguins already appear to be in mid-season form.