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Day One NHL Power Rankings

The first set of games is over, the Kings got crushed by Marian Hossa's two goals and one dime. Meanwhile Pitt jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead, Philly scored early in the second and then Pitt closed it out with an empty netter for a 3-1 victory. Tonight is all about Bruins-Rangers and these power rankings. Let's get to them.

1. Penguins
We should be able to all agree that they have the best team on paper. Even though they lost Jordan Staal to the Hurricanes, they are still loaded with talent. As always provided they can stay healthy they are the scariest team out there. Despite missing Crosby for most of last year, they still finished just three points shy of the top team in the NHL and just one point shy of winning their division and being the top seed in the East. First off they have the two best players in the NHL, when healthy (Malkin and Crosby), and they have James Neal, who scored 40 goals last year, as well as Dupuis, Kunitz, Kennedy, and Glass are all very good offensive threats. They are young and still hungry, with a good net-minder between the pipes they deserve to be the favorites this year.

The only thing they could use is some help on the defensive side. I lost a lot of money on them blowing that 3-1 series lead to the Lightning. They lost because they couldn't get the puck out of the zone, they couldn't stop Stamkos, and ultimately Fleury had a bad three game stretch. But they need to help him out a bit in order to be a truely complete team. Given that they have so much young offensive talent, they should be in the market for a top defenseman throughout this season.   

2. Kings
I said last year, before the season started, that the Kings had one of the best teams on paper. It took until the playoffs but that finally came true. They struggled mightily to score goals throughout the regular season last year. This year they start off with Anze Kopitar missing some time and the reason they won the cup, Jonathan Quick coming off surgery. I have them second here because they won the Cup and because they have a lot of talent on paper. But I'm afraid that being without their number 1 playmaker, Kopitar, they won't have anyone to set people up to score. He's their Steve Nash. He can score on his own but he's even better at helping other guys find the back of the net. Without him the offense is going to sputter again early this year. Problem is there's so many games crammed into such a short time frame that I don't think they will be able to overcome it.

3. Canucks
They have finished each of the last two seasons with the most points in the regular season. That was with Roberto Luongo whom has proven he can't be trusted. Now with younger Corey Schneider I think they are going to be much better. Luongo is still going to see the ice but we are going to see a heck of a lot more Schneider, who grew up in Salem Mass which is about 10 minutes from me.

The Sedin twins are still so deadly on the offensive attack, that this team will be right back in the thick of the points lead come the end of the season. The one thing that is really hurting them right now is the Ryan Kesler injury. Still unsure of a real time frame on a return sucks for the Canucks, because he just might be their best player when he's healthy.

4. Rangers
Rangers-Bruins is just about to start, the B's are going over the top announcing players for the second consecutive year (at least last year they were raising a banner, start the game already). But here is the team that edged the Penguins by one point last year in the standings, which may have swung the Stanley Cup outcome. They take after the Bruins method of play from when they won the Cup, we have a great goalie let's just play some defense and try to win 2-1 every night. It's hard to watch at times, and really nerve rattling. Lundqvist is going to be in the running for the Vezina again this year, and they have a strong team with plenty of experience to make a nice deep run this year.

5. Blackhawks
Their biggest weakness lies between the pipes. When they were able to get ample goaltending a few years ago they couldn't be beaten. They have an incredible amount of offensive talent but a goalie that hasn't been consistant.

6. Predators
I sort of feel like I've snubbed the Preds here. They are a really good team with probably the best goalie and defensive unit in the league. They have a surprisingly good home crowd, and an offense that isn't as bad as you think. They are a nice darkhorse to be the top overall seed in the playoffs.

7. Blues
Winner of the Central Division last year which included the Preds and Red Wings. They have some young talent but I'm not sure how much I trust them. I put them between the Preds and Wings because I think Blues could either shoot up these ranks and be one of the best teams or fall out of the playoff hunt relatively early in the season.

8. Red Wings
I'm not totally sold on the Wings this year. I've sort of been a fan of them my whole life and god are they fun to watch. There's nothing like their power play in the sport, it's just beautiful. But losing Lidstrom and Holmstrom this offseason to retirement is going to be difficult to manage. They really need Jimmy Howard to continue being as dominant as he has been the past few years, while getting more production from Captain Zetterberg, and they need Datsyuk, the most skilled player in the NHL, to stay healthy througout the year. Lots of if's is the only thing about them that scares me this year.

9. Bruins
They can really struggle on offense at times. For stretches it would feel like they might never score again. Now they have Tuukka Rask in net, instead of Tim Thomas, so they will probably need a little more from their offense this year. That is asking quite a bit I think. It's really scary to think that when the B's go through another one of their 2 week scoring droughts it could mean six or seven games lost.

10. Flyers
They still need a goalie. Bryzgalov isn't going to get them to where they want to go. That will become even more obvious coming down the stretch of this year. They have one of the more difficult closing schedules just wait and watch him melt down.

11. Devils
Maybe the most interesting team of this year. The Devils have the potential to be the top team in the East, they also have the potential to be the 4th best team in their division. But as we saw last year both of those things can become true in the same season. I'd really like to see what they have going all out this regular season. However we need to see what their goalies have first, in order to accurately judge them this year.

12. Lightning
Here's one of my favorites to win the East. I think they are the second best team in the conference when it's all said and done. They picked up a young goalie from Nashville, who has been a bit of a goalie factory as of late. Anders Lindback could be a name you hear a lot from this year. Realistically he only needs to be mediocre to make a big impact for them, but he has the potential to be outstanding. We all know they can score, Stamkos might be the best at it in the NHL, and one tough sob. He's one of the guys in the NHL I can almost never bring myself to root against, he's just fun to watch and tough as hell. Now he has a goalie and still plenty of talent around him to score.

13. Capitals
I'm not sure what to expect from the Caps this year. They knocked the B's out of the playoffs last year after developing a defense first mentality in which we saw Ovi finally adapt to it. It worked well for them. They found a possible franchise cornerstone goalie in Braden Holtby and they already had the offense to score. But now enter Adam Oates. He's a forward, they could go back to the old Caps. The team that just tried to out talent everyone without ever really giving it their all. Last year they gave it their all vs the Bruins, I think they might dearly miss Dale Hunter.

14. Sharks
There's a lot of people who are down on this Sharks team, but I'm not one of them. Joe Thornton is still a stud. He's probably the most underrated player in the league. Nobody is talking about Thornton, or Marleau, Couture, or that they were the #1 seed in the West the two years prior to the Canucks doing it (and they were 2nd in 07-08). Yes, they are a little old, but they are still a threat to win the West.

15. Stars
They play in one of the weaker divisions and have some solid goal scoring ability. They just struggle with consistency. They have been known to go on a scoring drought from time to time and their goalies have been known to struggle from time to time. They always seem to be either really hot or ice cold. That comes down to coaching.

16. Sabres
They still have excellent goal tending and an offense that is sneaky good.

17. Coyotes
A rather surprising season last year from them. They won their division and made a run to the Conference Finals. I just looked at their roster and it's mostly filled with guys nobody has ever heard of but something tells me they are going back to the playoffs. They won't win the division again but look for them to give some three seed a hell of a hard time in round one.

18. Senators
They won already today, it should be interesting to see if they have enough goals in them to stay ahead of the curve.

19. Flames
Mikka Kiprusoff might just be the most underrated goalie in the NHL. They still employ Jerome Iginla who feels like he's about 70 years old at this point. But he can still score with the best of them. They need to get more help on the offense to become a true threat this year.

20. Wild
They really take after that Bruins strategy of tough D and low scoring games. They have two goalies that are better than most teams best net-minder. They just need to find enough goals to win games. They are one of those teams that could sneak into the playoffs and go on a run. But they need another play maker. They sunk a lot of money into Dany Heatley, who killed a guy, not realizing he can't do it by himself. He's a scorer not a guy that makes the others around him better. He's like Patrick Kane, but he needs a guy like Toews around him to make him better.

21. Hurricanes
This team has really stunk the last few years. So please talk me out of them, because I really like them this year. They have all three Staal brothers, and Jeff Skinner who is incredibly underrated. He is one of the fastest players in the league and will be one of the best this year. Then there's Cam Ward, who manages to be one of the best fantasy goalies despite not getting any points for wins the past few years. That says something. When you are getting -2 for a loss night after night yet are able to be one of the top point getting goalies you are good. They are going to be a team worth having money on this year. They are 22-1 to win the Cup this year, that is well worth it. There is a lot of value there.

22. Maple Leafs
Young, from Canada, Kessel gives them the ability to score and score quick, while Reimer should be much better this year. Toss in Dion Phaneuf, and a few others and you have yourself a team that could turn some heads.

23. Panthers
I have the exact opposite feel for the Panthers that I do for the Coyotes despite their similarities in the regular season last year. Plus they are in the same division with two teams I like a lot and a third, Washington, that's regardless better than they are. This is actually where I draw the line on playoff teams. I truely think that 22 other teams have a chance at the playoffs. But starting here no more. 

24. Avalanche
25. Oilers
Young talent that should continue to blossom this year and through the next couple years with the top draft picks they will keep getting.

26. Jets
27. Canadiens
At least they have the Candian people cheering them on...

28. Ducks
Jonas Hiller is really the only true bright spot on the team.

29. Islanders
30. Columbus
And here we have the two worst teams in the league. The Islanders get the edge because they have some offensive talent with, Tavares, Grabner, and Moulson. Plus they get bonus points for the worst contract for DiPietro's contract totalling 15 years and $67.5 million, which won't end until 2021.

Just for the hell of it, here are my picks for this year...

Pekka Rinne

I expect big things from the Preds this year so he should get a lot of face time. Also worth mentioning is Cam Ward and Jimmy Howard.

Hart Memorial
Steven Stamkos

He is going to have an insane year period. Others to consider, Crosby, Malkin, but Stamkos is winning this. 

Stanley Cup Pick

Pittsburgh over Nashville 4-3


Saturday, January 19, 2013

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