The Chicago Blackhawks have captivated fans over the first few months of the 2012-2013 NHL season. Chicago set the NHL record for most consecutive opening games with a point (24 games) and have written themselves into the history books in the process. Unfortunately, the Blackhawks’ streak is over, which we’ll discuss below. But they’ve certainly done enough to hold the top spot in our power rankings. As for who’s on their tails, you can read about all of this below.
1. Chicago Blackhawks (21-2-3) – You don’t go undefeated for 24 straight games without having some close calls along the way. At several points during Chicago’s improbable streak, they were in tight games where it didn’t look like they’d win – including a March 6th victory over the Colorado Avalanche. Luckily, Chicago did win this contest, but they lost 6-2 on March 8th in a rematch against the Avalanche. And they followed this up with a 6-5 loss to Edmonton. Despite these back-to-back losses, the Blackhawks are still easily the league’s best team so far and deserving of the top spot.
2. Anaheim Ducks (18-3-3) – With Chicago’s two losses, Anaheim has crept a little closer in the Western Conference race. Furthermore, they still own the second best overall record in the NHL and are dominating the Pacific Division standings. It’s easy to see why the Ducks are so successful with Ryan Getzlaf having scored 29 points and goalie Viktor Fasth maintaining a 1.92 GAA. Corey Perry (22 PTS), Saku Koivu (21 PTS) and Bobby Ryan (20 PTS) are all having big seasons too.
3. Montreal Canadiens (17-5-4) – The Canadiens check in as the current Eastern Conference leaders and are riding a three-game winning streak. What’s extremely impressive about Montreal is the balance they feature on offense. 11 players have scored 10 points or more thus far, meaning the puck really gets distributed evenly. LW Max Pacioretty leads the charge with 21 points, while 10 other players have scored between 10-16 points.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (18-8) – It’s been either win or lose for the Penguins since they’re the NHL’s only team without a tie. And it’s been mostly winning lately with Pittsburgh capturing five straight victories. The most impressive of these wins has to be a victory at Montreal on March 2nd. Sidney Crosby is once again on a torrid pace with 40 points in just 26 games. Of course he has to be for the Penguins to succeed since there have been struggles in the goal; Marc-Andre Fleury (2.71 GAA, .902 SV%) and Tomas Vokoun (3.32GAA, .890 SV%) are having some major difficulties.
5. Boston Bruins (16-3-3) – The Bruins have split their last four contests and lost a little ground to Montreal in the Northeast Division. Tuukka Rask has definitely been a bright spot in the goal for Boston this season with a 1.97 GAA and 12-2-3 record. C Patrice Bergeron is not only leading this club in scoring with 21 points, but he’s also been an overall force with a plus-17 rating.
6. Toronto Maple Leafs (15-10-1) – Toronto is in the wrong division this year since they have Boston and Montreal to deal with. That said, the Leafs are currently third in the Northeast Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference playoff race – despite having the East’s third best record. Back-to-Back losses to Pittsburgh and Boston haven’t helped Toronto’s bid to move up either. However, the Leafs can’t sit around complaining since they’ll have to face the Eastern Conference superpowers quite a bit as the year rolls on.
7. Carolina Hurricanes (14-9-1) – This season didn’t exactly have a dream opening for the Canes since they lost three of their first five games. However, Carolina has since righted the ship by winning five out of the past six contests. The only loss was to Montreal, which certainly isn’t cause for shame. Thanks to their solid play and a very weak Southeast Division, the Canes are sitting in third in the East.
8. Ottawa Senators (13-8-4) – Like Toronto, Ottawa is dealing with a loaded Northeast Division and only sitting in fourth place – yet sixth place overall in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately for the Senators, they’ve been fading fast after losing four out of the past five contests. The one solace to come out of this bad streak is that it came in the midst of a five-game road trip. It’s clear that the Senators need goalie Craig Anderson (1.49 GAA, .952 SV%) back from his ankle injury as quickly as possible.
9. Minnesota Wild (13-9-2) – Signing LW Zach Parise and D Ryan Suter to matching $93 million deals seems to be paying dividends already since the Wild are much improved. They’re in third place in the Western Conference thanks to 16 points by both Parise and Suter. But it’s C Mikko Koivu who’s leading the team in scoring right now with 19 points on 4 goals and 15 assists.
10. Detroit Red Wings (12-9-5) – Every year people keep waiting for the demise of the Detroit Red Wings. But once again, they have reloaded with new talent and stayed in the thick of things. This time around, first-year player Damien Brunner (18 PTS) has provided the spark. Of course, long-term Wings star Henrik Zetterberg is having a great season too with 26 points thus far.