Eastern Conference Power Rankings, Week 4

The NHL is three weeks into the season now, and we’ve recently seen our first blockbuster trade. The rankings have been shaken up quite a bit this week. The Carolina Hurricanes and the Detroit Red Wings took the worst hits of the week dropping three spots, while the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Islanders and Washington Capitals all jumped two spots a piece. The season is shaping up now, and the Eastern Conference has shown us some promise, but for the most part, the East is a lot of disappointment this season. Can they turn it around or are they doomed to live in the shadow of the power heavy West?

(2.) 1. The Boston Bruins made the jump from #2 to #1 after another solid week of hockey. The Bruins hid a speed bump in a rather ugly loss to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night. The Bruins had a 3-1 lead after the first period, but the Devils pushed back in the last two frames outshooting the Bruins 26 to 18, and outscored them 3-0 to win 4-3. The Bruins did however put up a good looking 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks last week. Tuukka Rask and Antti Niemi proved to be the story line in the game, as Rask stopped 38 of 39 shots, and Niemi pushed aside 17 of 19 shots. Perhaps it’s time for a shake up in the Vezina Watch as well? The Bruins beat the Sharks on the second half of a back to back after dismantling the Sabres 5-2. The Bruins have continued to play good hockey, minus their one miscue, but judging from the fact that the Bruins have played 10 games this season, and they continue to dominate other than that one game, they’ve earned their spot on top of the East.

(4.) 2. The Toronto Maple Leafs were led by the NHL’s second star of the week, Phil Kessel. Kessel picked apart defenses and put points on the board in way to the Leafs going 2-1-0 last week. The Leafs as I just talked about, beat the Penguins 4-1 on Saturday night. Before that however, the Anaheim Ducks visited the Air Canada Centre. The Leafs were able to keep the Ducks tied down, killing off all four penalties, and eventually winning the game by a score of 4-2. Toronto improved their home record to 5-2-0 with their wins this week. The road game has started a bit slower though, sitting at 3-2-0 after losing to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a rather ugly game for the Leafs. The Blue Jackets scored four goals in the third period to take the game by a score of 5-2. The Leafs struggled against the Jackets, but came up with two huge wins against two of the top teams in the NHL.

(1.) 3. The Pittsburgh Penguins are climbing out of what was a rather odd week of hockey for Sidney Crosby and company. The Pens lost all three of their games this week, and it started after getting shut out by the Colorado Avalanche 1-0 last Monday. The Avalanche flexed their muscles again, beating one of the league’s most skilled teams. The Penguins were then beat Friday night by the New York Islanders 4-3. The Penguins put 42 shots on Evgeni Nabokov, but it wasn’t enough, as the Islanders scored three goals in the third period to secure the win. The Pens traveled to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs, and Toronto’s physical game took the Penguins off their game. The Penguins took 46 hits from the Leafs, and were unable to get the puck past James Reimer. The story in Pittsburgh right now? How about going 0-7, 0-5, and 1-3 on the powerplay last week? 1 for 15 is good for .067%.

(6.) 4. The Tampa Bay Lightning are rolling on, and they’re winning a ton of games with the help of Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. Both star forwards have started the season hot. Stamkos was honored with the first star of the week this week, and the Lightning were the only team in the East to win all of their games this week. The Lightning were 3-0-0 this week. The Lightning were able to take down the Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks 6-5 in overtime thanks to St. Louis’ fifth goal of the season to give them the game winner in overtime. The Bolts then put 39 shots on goal against the flat Buffalo Sabres and skated their way to a 3-2 win at home. The Bolts were able to knock off the Panthers in a shootout on Sunday night, thanks to Steven Stamkos (once again). You did see that shootout winner right? I think Jacob Markstrom‘s jock strap is still hanging in the rafters of BB&T Center. Oh, yeah, the Bolts are in first place of the Atlantic Division too. Who would have guessed? If you raised your hand, put it back down, because no one believes you.

(7.) 5. The New York Islanders didn’t do anything too fantastic on the ice this week other than pulling out of Pittsburgh with a win. It was the off-ice move that pushed the Islanders to the number 5 spot. Trading for Thomas Vanek may have had a high price tag, but Vanek is an elite goal scorer in the NHL, and I have goosebumps just thinking about him playing alongside John Tavares on the first line. Just look what Tavares playing Matt Moulson. Moulson is no Vanek. The Islanders were 1-1-1 this week, losing to the Canucks last Tuesday in overtime 5-4. It was a tightly contested game that came down to Brad Richardson netting his fourth of the season for the game winner in overtime. The Islanders also lost to the Philadelphia Flyers. Vincent Lecavalier was the story of the night scoring a hat trick in his second game back from injury. The Islanders added some offensive power by getting Vanek, and I’m excited to see where they go from here.

(3.) 6. The Detroit Red Wings have begun to stumble after having a rather quick start. After the return of Jimmy Howard, the Wings are 0-2-2. Last week, the Wings were 0-1-2, losing to San Jose in a shootout 1-0 last Monday was the kicker. The offense was unable to get much going against the Sharks, but the defense, even without Jonathan Ericsson kept the high flying Sharks offense at bay. The Wings were unable to score even in the shootout, and thus, they dropped the game to the Sharks. The Wings were then ran out of the Joe by the Ottawa Senators 6-1. Daniel Alfredsson‘s first game against the Senators didn’t go quite as he had planned and Bobby Ryan and Jason Spezza both had a pair of goals as the left Detroit feeling much better than Alfie and the Wings. The struggling New York Rangers came to town Saturday night and were able to score a late goal to tie the game and force overtime where Derick Brassard was able to end the game on a breakaway. Don’t hit the panic button just yet, Mike Babcock will whip something together and get the Wings going sooner rather than later, although having the longest losing streak in the NHL at the moment is cause for concern.

(5.) 7. The Montreal Canadiens are struggling, but they’re hanging in there. They’ve lost three of their last four, and were 1-2-0 this week. The Edmonton Oilers beat the Canadiens on their home ice by a score of 4-3. Montreal jumped out to a two goal lead in the first, but the Oilers were able to rally the rest of the game and took home the win. The Canadiens looked better against the Ducks, and Carey Price was nearly perfect stopping 36 of 37 shots in the Habs 4-1 win. The story changed when the Sharks visted Montreal though. The Sharks shut out the Habs 2-0. Once again, Price made 35 saves, but the offense could pull through for Price, and they dropped another game. The Habs are only 3-4-0 on their home ice this season.

(10.) 8. The Columbus Blue Jackets have won three of their last four, and are starting to play better. The Blue Jackets are in the same boat most of the Metropolitan Division is. The Metropolitan Division is off to a slow start, and that’s good news for teams like Columbus who are a win away from second place in the division. Columbus started their week by scoring four unanswered goals to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-1. Columbus then beat Jonathan Bernier four times in the third period to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2. The Jackets were unable to keep the streak going and were beaten with 3:25 left in the third by Corey Perry and the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks won 4-3. Columbus is 5-6-0, and they’re just two points away from jumping three teams in the division standings to second place. Will they be able to keep it up and stay at the top of the division? Will they Sergei Bobrovsky?

(9.) 9. The Ottawa Senators started their week off well by dominating the Detroit Red Wings 6-1. The high wore off pretty quick for the Sens though. The Sens played the Ducks, who were able to score two goals in the first period and that’s all they needed to win 2-1. Ottawa was able to pepper San Jose goaltender Alex Stalock with 40 shots when the Sharks came to town. Stalock turned the Senators away 38 times and helped the Sharks to a 5-2 victory. The Senators are having problems early, so captain Jason Spezza held a players only meeting. The Senators need something to spark them, because they’re not living up to expectations. Craig Anderson has been phenomenal most season, Erik Karlsson has been good offensively, but has been sloppy with the puck in more than a few occasions. The Senators need to clean up their game, and get to winning some more hockey games.

(12.) 10. Are the Washington Capitals back on the rise? Like Columbus the Caps are lucky to be in a slow starting division. Alex Ovechkin has been going crazy this season, but the Capitals have been unable to win the amount of games the team is capable of. They were able to sneak by the Winnipeg Jets in a shootout last week, winning 5-4. Winnipeg dominated in the faceoff circle, and put 47 shots on Braden Holtby. Holtby and the Caps recovered to beat the Oilers 4-1. They were unable to keep the wins coming when they got to Calgary. The Flames jumped out early and scored three goals in the first and never let off. The Capitals have been sloppy this season, and they’re defense has been sub-par. They’re getting the wins at the end of the day anyway, but that won’t last so coach Adam Oates had better figure something out quickly.

(8.) 11. The Carolina Hurricanes lost Cam Ward earlier this week and won’t be seeing him on the ice for another 3-4 weeks. That’s bad news for the Canes going forward. They’re still sitting in second place in the Metropolitan Division, but they need to lock down defensively and help their goaltender out for the next few weeks. The Canes can’t afford to lose games left and right. Minnesota was able to score two powerplay goals on the Hurricanes on their way to a 3-1 win last Thursday. The Avalanche were able to jump on the Canes in the first period, scoring two goals and skating their way to a 4-2 victory. Carolina gave up four first period goals this week in two games. Playing from behind isn’t the kind of hockey you want to play.

(11.) 12. The New York Rangers are coming home! And what could be even better than that for a team that’s desperately terrible? Ah, yes, they’re getting Henrik Lundqvist back for the home opener. The Rangers are still having offensive issues, the injury bug has bit them good, and they’re having a hard to winning games because of it. The Rangers were beat by the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in their first game without Lundqvist. The Rangers put 31 shots on net, but were unable to get the puck by Steve Mason more than once. The Rangers bounced back to put 40 shots on Jimmy Howard and the Red Wings. The Rangers were able to tie the game in the third and force overtime. The Rangers eventually scored in overtime to take home the 3-2 win. The Rangers are only 3-6-0, and I’m sure this isn’t what management had in mind when they brought in Alaine Vigneault.

(15.) 13. The Philadelphia Flyers have gotten off to more than a slow start. They’re a hot mess, but they’ve won their last two after having a week off and getting Vincent Lecavalier back in the lineup. The Flyers beat the Rangers 2-1, thanks to Steve Mason who has played well this season for the Flyers. The best way to describe the Flyers offensive issues? They’re 3-7-0, and their starting goalie has a goals against average of 2.15, and a save percentage of .930%. The offense came alive against the Islanders Saturday when Lecavalier scored three goals and helped the Flyers to a 5-2 win. Is this a sign of things to come, or have the Flyers just won to off the wall games in a row? And what’s going on with Claude Giroux?…

(13.) 14. The New Jersey Devils are one of only two teams in the NHL with only two wins this season. The Devils lost their seventh straight road game to the Blue Jackets last week when the Bobrovsky turned away 24 shots in the Jackets 4-1 win. The Canucks came to town to play another imfamous Cory Schneider vs. Roberto Luongo match, and once again Luongo escaped with an overtime victory. This time it was a shootout. The Canucks were able to sneak away and tag the Devils with their fourth overtime loss of the season. Schneider has taken the net over in New Jersey, and he’s keeping them in games, the Devils just have to close them out for him.

(14.) 15. The Florida Panthers are stuck shaking their heads over Tim Thomas once again as he went down injured leaving the net to Jacob Markstrom. The goaltending and the defense are a mess in Florida. The offense… Well it hasn’t been terrible? The Panthers 3-7-2. Both overtime losses came this week, but if there’s any good news in the bad news, they were both to good teams. The Panthers were beaten by the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in a shootout. Florida only mustered 22 shots throughout the game. The Buffalo Sabres made a visit to the Panthers and the Sabres scored two unanswered goals before netting the empty net goal to win 3-1. The Panthers were able to hang around with the hot Tampa Bay Lightning. The Panthers scored two goals in the third period to force overtime. It wouldn’t quite enought, the Bolts escaped with the win in the shoot out.

(16.) 16. The Buffalo Sabres are a mess, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better any time soon. If there is any good news to their season, they were able to stock pile a couple draft picks they got from the Islanders in the trade for Thomas Vanek. The Sabres are 2-10-1, and have a goal differential of -17, the second worst in the league. The Sabres were able to put an entire 16 shots on Chad Johnson in the Bruins 5-2 win this week. The Sabres were able to get away with a win when they visited the Panthers thanks to Jhonas Enroth. The Sabres were once again only able to get 23 pucks on net. The Sabres made another stop in Florida to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning won the contest by a score of 3-2. The Sabres were outshot 120-59 this week. That’s just embarrassing.

Topics: Adam Oates, Alex Ovechkin, Alex Stalock, Antti Niemi, Bobby Ryan, Boston Bruins, Braden Holtby, Buffalo Sabres, Cam Ward, Carey Price, Carolina Hurricanes, Chad Johnson, Claude Giroux, Columbus Blue Jacket, Corey Perry, Cory Schneider, Craig Anderson, Daniel Alfredsson, Derick Brassard, Detroit Red Wings, Erik Karlsson, Evgeni Nabokov, Florida Panthers, Henrik Lundqvist, James Reimer, Jason Spezza, Jhonas Enroth, Jimmy Howard, John Tavares, Jonathan Bernier, Jonathan Ericsson, Martin St. Louis, Matt Moulson, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Phil Kessel, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Roberto Luongo, Sergei Bobrovksy, Sidney Crosby, Steve Mason, Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning, Thomas Vanek, Tim Thomas, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tuukka Rask, Vincent Lecavalier, Washington Capitals

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