Tuesday, April 17, 2007
NHL Power Rankings: The playoffs edition
The regular season may be over, but the Power Rankings still live. Here is our list after the first week of the postseason:
1. Anaheim Ducks
Yes, they have the best defensive duo in the game in Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, but the Ducks are also seeing outstanding production from its second line in these playoffs. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Dustin Penner, who combined for 71 regular-season goals, have two goals and three assists in three games vs. the Minnesota Wild. They also have combined for 19 shots on goal and only six penalty minutes.
2. Detroit Red Wings
Some will argue that the Flames aren't as formidable an opponent as other first-rounders, but we don't think many expected Detroit to flat-out dismantle Calgary as they have so far in this West series. The Flames have mustered only two goals in two games and Jarome Iginla hasn't had a part in either.
3. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have managed just one power-play goal (1-for-18 in three games vs. the Predators), and they've still been able to take a 2-1 series lead. San Jose has outshot Nashville 103-85 in the series.
4. Buffalo Sabres
The Cup favorite for many, the Sabres have yet to put away the Islanders. Even in Monday's Game 3, a 3-2 win for Buffalo, the first period was awfully close. We're not saying we think the Islanders are going to pull off the improbable, but we were expecting the Sabres to be more dominant. But hey, it's the playoffs.
5. Ottawa Senators
The Senators have consistently outplayed the Penguins in all but one period so far in this series. Daniel Alfredsson is scoring (three goals, two assists), Ray Emery is holding his own (he hasn't allowed more than three goals in a game) and we haven't yet had a tirade from Ottawa coach Bryan Murray (actually, we're a little disappointed about that one).
6. New York Rangers
New York has taken a 2-0 lead in its series against Atlanta heading into Tuesday's game. The games have been physical and they could have gone either way. But the Rangers seem to be playing with a confidence we didn't see midway through the regular season. Led by feisty forward Sean Avery, the Blueshirts are not panicking and are playing smart down the stretch. Oh, and it doesn't hurt goalie Henrik Lundqvist is standing on his head.
7. Vancouver Canucks
Three games into the series, the Canucks are the OT gang. Both of their wins have come in sudden death, including the four-OT thriller in the series opener vs. Dallas. Goalie Roberto Luongo is faring fine in his first playoff series, but will he start feeling the effects the deeper this series goes?
8. Nashville Predators
In arguably the most physical series of the first round, the Predators are taking too many penalties against a team that can wear them down with their size. Case in point: Nashville's 3-1 loss in Monday's Game 3. The Preds committed six penalties, four in the second period alone. Luckily for them, the Sharks' power play has struck just once in the series (1-for-18).
9. Tampa Bay Lightning Vincent Lecavalier and the Lightning are attacking, and so far, they are finding a way to get past Martin Brodeur. "Like we've been saying the past few days, everyone in this room respects them, and [Martin Brodeur] may be the best ever, but there is no fear," Tampa Bay defenseman Dan Boyle said after Monday's Game 3. "There is a big difference from respecting someone and fearing them." The Bolts lead the series 2-1.
10. Dallas Stars
You can't blame this one on Marty Turco. He has a 1-8 overtime record in the playoffs. But the last two OT losses vs. Vancouver are not his fault, are they? In the third periods of their last two games against the Canucks, the Stars were outshot 17-7 and 15-4, respectively. After a while, you have to start being just as aggressive as your opponent.
11. New Jersey Devils
The Devils have Brodeur, so they always have a chance. But when your top line of Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta are being held scoreless, as they were in Monday's Game 3, that doesn't give the rest of your club confidence. New Jersey also allowed a conference-low 201 goals during the regular season, while they've allowed nine so far vs. the Bolts.
12. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins looked tight in their disappointing opener vs. the Senators. They came alive in the third period of Game 2 to even the series. In Game 3, the Pens were just outmatched for three periods. Are they distracted? Is their inexperience getting the best of them? Will Evgeni Malkin stay out of the box? If Pittsburgh can't find some answers, this one will be over sooner rather than later.
13. New York Islanders
First Dubie, then Rick DiPietro. Goaltending hasn't been an issue for the Islanders. In Monday's Game 3, the Islanders couldn't keep up with the Sabres, who outshot their opponents 17-2 in the third period. We give the Isles credit; we thought it would have been more lopsided than this. Guess no one should underestimate coach Ted Nolan.
14. Atlanta Thrashers
First, Kari Lehtonen; then, Johan Hedberg; then, it's Lehtonen again. All these goaltending changes are making our heads spin! That air-hockey-like goal by Sean Avery in Game 2 wasn't fair, but the Thrashers need to deliver the hammer in the third period, something they have yet to do in two games vs. the Rangers. Slava Kozlov has no points and Ilya Kovalchuk has just one goal.
15. Minnesota Wild
The Wild are one loss away from an early playoff exit. The problems? Going 1-for-15 on the power play in three games vs. the Ducks, and overall, a severe shortage in the scoring department. Brian Rolston, Todd White and Mark Parrish are collectively pointless, while Pavol Demitra and Marian Gaborik have two goals between them.
16. Calgary Flames
Jarome Iginla, where are you?! The Flames have been shut down by the Red Wings in two games so far. With the series shifting to Calgary, we're hoping there will be more fight out of the Flames. If it wasn't for the tremendous goaltending of Miikka Kiprusoff, the decisions would likely be more lopsided than 4-1 and 3-1, respectively.