With nearly a quarter of the season complete, the Avalanche and Ducks are starting to make a case for the best team in hockey. And while the NHL's power is focused in the West right now, there's a surge coming from the East's Atlantic Division: The Tampa Bay Lightning have ridden goal-scoring powerhouse Steven Stamkos and some strong goaltending to the best record in the conference.
How long they stay there is still up in the air, but one thing's for sure: No one could have predicted the top two teams in the league heading toward Thanksgiving would be the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning. And as teams like the Penguins, Capitals, Blackhawks, and Kings all start to hit their stride, an already entertaining season will become super exciting!
Check out this week's NHL Power Rankings and tell us in the comments section where you think your team should be ranked!
1. Colorado Avalanche (13-2-0, Last Week: 1)
Colorado lost for only the second time this season, and the Ducks are creeping up on them, but this is still the best team in the West — and the NHL. Center Matt Duchene is in the hunt for leading goal scorer with 11 goals, while backup goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere is playing out of his mind (.970 save percentage, 1.00 GAA). The question now is: Will this young team be able to keep up its torrid pace?
2. Anaheim Ducks (14-3-1, Last Week: 3)
The Ducks are in the midst of an Eastern swing and their shredding the confrence to ribbons (7-2-1 in their last 10 games). And as the Sharks skid, Anaheim has climed to the top of the Pacific Division. Key to the Ducks' success has been center Ryan Getzlaf's 22 points and plus/minus leaders Dustin Penner (+18) and Francois Beauchemin (+14). Plus, this team is consistent. The Ducks are now the team to beat in the Pacific.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning (12-4-0, Last Week: 5)
It was only a matter of team before the Lightning came together, and that time seems to be now. Tampa Bay is riding a four-game win streak — including an OT victory in Detroit on Saturday, it's first win there since 1994. Steven Stamkos is leading the league in goals (14) and points (23), and goalie Ben Bishop has 11 wins, the most in the NHL. The Lightning might be the most complete team in the East right now.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (11-6-0, Last Week: 2)
The Pens are still tops in the Metropolitan Division, but recent play shows that position might not be so secure. Pittsburgh dropped back-to-back games against the Rangers (5-1) and the Blues (2-1), while the Capitals creep up to within three points of the division lead. The Penguins are built for offense, and it needs to score more to hold on to the top spot in the division — and the conference.
5. Phoenix Coyotes (12-4-2, Last Week: 6)
Phoenix has won eight of its last 10 games, including quality victories over the Sharks, Canucks, and Kings. Four of those wins have been in shootouts, but in the NHL a win is a win. And right now the Coyotes have won enough to find themselves in second place in the Pacific. Considering what other teams are in that division, that's a huge accomplishment.
6. Chicago Blackhawks (11-2-4, Last Week: 7)
The Blackhawks have scratched their way back to the top of the Central. They're now tied with the Avalanche for the division lead, taking advantage of a soft spot in their schedule. But circle November 19 on your calendar: That's the first time Chicago plays Colorado this season, and it could tell us a lot about how good these two teams really are.
7. Vancouver Canucks (11-6-2, Last Week: 9)
Vancouver is in fourth place in the Pacific, but it's not time to panic yet. There's only five points seperating the Canucks from the Ducks, and if they can run off a few more four-game win streaks (especially against quality opponents), then the Canucks will compete for the division title. Consistency is this team's biggest issue right now — and it's one they're talented enough to straighten out.
8. San Jose Sharks (10-2-4, Last Week: 4)
Early on, San Jose pushed through to the top of the Pacific. But after going winless in their last four, the Sharks are now looking up at the Ducks and Coyotes. The low point might be a shootout loss to the Sabres, the worst team in the league. The Sharks will compete for the division title, but how long can they be considered elite when they drop games to less talented clubs?
9. St. Louis Blues (11-2-2, Last Week: 11)
After a great start, the Blues came back to earth. But they're back to they're winning ways, going 7-3 in their last 10 games. The Central Division race will be fun to watch. Right now, St. Louis is only two points behind Colorado, but the Blues have experience that could trump the Avalanche's (very) raw talent.
10. Toronto Maple Leafs (11-6-0, Last Week: 8)
Toronto doesn't have the flash of the Lightning or Penguins or the stingy goaltending of the Avalanche or Bruins, but the Maple Leafs are quietly and efficiently staking out their place in the Atlantic. They're only two points behind the Lightning for the division lead, and should hang out near the top of the standings all season.
11. Los Angeles Kings (11-6-0, Last Week: 12)
Goalie Jonathan Quick is near the top of the league in wins with 10.
12. Boston Bruins (10-5-1, Last Week: 13)
The B's are getting back into a groove, but now they have a white-hot Lightning team to contend with.
13. Minnesota Wild (10-4-4, Last Week: 14)
Minnesota is yo-yoing in the W/L column, but this looks like a strong team.
14. Detroit Red Wings (9-5-4, Last Week: 10)
The Wings started strong, but are starting to slip out of contention in the Atlantic..
15. Washington Capitals (9-7-1, Last Week: 18)
Watch out, NHL: Ovechkin — and the Caps — are looking good.
16. Nashville Predators (8-6-2, Last Week: 17)
The Preds are stalking the rest of the Central.
17. New York Rangers (8-8-0, Last Week: 20)
After a slow start, the Rangers are back to .500.
18. Dallas Stars (8-7-2, Last Week: 23)
Dallas is hanging with good teams, but are still finding an identity.
19. Montreal Canadiens (8-8-1, Last Week: 15)
The Habs have lost seven of their last 10 games.
20. New York Islanders(6-8-3, Last Week: 16)
The high hopes the Isles had at the start of the season are starting to fade.
21. Ottawa Senators (7-6-4, Last Week: 23)
After losing five straight, the Sens are on a three-game win streak.
22. Winnipeg Jets (7-9-2, Last Week: 22)
Winnipeg has been on the most inconsistent teams so far this season.
23. Carolina Hurricanes (6-7-4, Last Week: 24)
The back of the net has proved elusive for the Canes.
24. Calgary Flames(6-9-2, Last Week: 21)
Along with the Oilers, the Flames are way, way back in the Pacific.
25. New Jersey Devils (4-7-5, Last Week: 26)
The Devils are looking more and more like a .500 team.
26. Columbus Blue Jackets (6-10-2, Last Week: 25)
Columbus' win against the Islanders Saturday snapped a five-game losing streak.
27. Philadelphia Flyers (5-10-1, Last Week: 29)
The Flyers are making small steps toward respectability.
28. Edmonton Oilers(4-12-1, Last Week: 28)
Edmonton is sinking fast and are clearly the worst of the West.
29. Florida Panthers (3-10-4, Last Week: 27)
Florida is winless in its last eight games. Not good.
30. Buffalo Sabres (3-15-1, Last Week: 30)
The Sabres are the first team to lose 15 games this season.
Photo: Mike Carlson/Getty Images