When the lockout-shortened NHL season opened, many people were talking about the New York Rangers and defending champion LA Kings competing for the Stanley Cup. However, it’s been all about the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks in the early season. On the other hand, the Rangers and Kings have struggled and are currently fighting just to be among the playoff teams. These teams may not have lived up to expectations, but there are plenty of other clubs that are doing quite well so far and here’s a look at them.
1. Chicago Blackhawks (12-0-3) – The Blackhawks are not only playing better than any other NHL team this season – they’re on the brink of starting better than any team in history! Chicago will be going for an NHL record-tying 16th straight game with at least one point vs. the Vancouver Canucks. Their streak was in jeopardy last game against the Kings; however, a Patrick Sharp goal proved to be the game winner.
2. Anaheim Ducks (11-2-1) – Anaheim is a team full of road warriors since they’ve gone 7-1-1 on the road this season. Furthermore, they just capped off a lengthy 5-1-1 road trip, which ended with a victory over Nashville. Now…if only the Ducks weren’t in the same conference as the Blackhawks. Ironman winger Teemu Selanne (15 points) is once again having a fantastic season in his 20th year.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (11-5) – Pittsburgh’s year started pretty mediocre with a 2-2 record; however, they’ve been on a roll ever since and have won 8 out of their past 11 games. Sidney Crosby (24 points) is so good that he’s become unpopular among fans while LW Chris Kunitz (18 points) and C Evgeni Malkin (17 points) are providing plenty of offensive punch as well.
4. New Jersey Devils (9-3-4) – We’re not sure if it’s the Penguins or Devils who rule the East right now. However, we have to rank the Devils a spot lower than Pittsburgh after they lost 5-1 to the NY Islanders. But this by no means defines a team which made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals last year. Goalie Johan Hedberg is doing a great job minding the net with a 1.72 GAA.
5. Boston Bruins (9-2-2) – With Pittsburgh and New Jersey’s recent success, it’s easy to overlook the Bruins. But it’s also impossible to overlook the fact that they’ve gone 7-2-1 lately. If this team can get some more offensive firepower going, we could easily see the Bruins competing for the Eastern Conference title.
6. Montreal Canadiens (10-4-1) – Following four straight wins, the Canadiens have bolted up the league standings. They’ve also landed in our top 10 power rankings thanks to strong play from C Tomas Plekanec (12 points), D Andrei Markov (10 points) and LW Rene Bourque (10 points).
7. Vancouver Canucks (8-3-3) – Vancouver has struggled to hold onto leads this season and is definitely lagging behind Anaheim and Chicago in the West. Just like Boston, the Canucks have gotten off to a subpar start offensively – Daniel Sedin leads the team with 13 points. However, Roberto Luongo has been one of the NHL’s top goalies thus far with a 1.63 GAA.
8. Carolina Hurricanes (8-4-1) – Carolina is definitely a formidable team this year after going 7-2-1 over their past 10 games. Eric Staal has been Mr. Clutch this season after scoring 17 points and netting four game-winning goals. It also helps that Dan Ellis is keeping just about everything out of the net with a 1.75 GAA and .943 SV%.
9. St. Louis Blues (9-5-1) – The Blues have been pretty up and down this year, but mostly up. They’ve won three road games in a row and are back on track to move up the Western Conference standings. LW Alexander Steen (15 points) is off to the best start of his career and has dished out 11 assists.
10. Nashville Predators (7-4-5) – Nashville may have dropped their last game, but they are 6-2-2 over the past 10 contests. This team doesn’t score a ton of points, but Colin Wilson (10 points) provides a nice boost, while Chris Mason has been unbelievable in the net with a 1.45 GAA and .952 SV%.