- Detroit Red Wings – Winners of 7 straight (before last nights loss to Colorado), the Wings have been the hottest team in the NHL. With a little bit of cap space look for them to add a forward (cough, cough Bobby Ryan) and possibly another defenseman to shore up their poor Penelty Kill (22nd in the league). They have the talent to win it all, but do they have the fortitude to?
- Boston Bruins – 9-0-1 in their last 10 (lone loss coming in OT to the Red Wings) the Bruins have left their slow star in the dust. They lead the league in GAA and second in the league in Goals score per game, Monday nights showdown in Pittsburgh could be a potential Eastern Conference Finals preview
- New York Rangers – Head Coach John Tortorella has this team clicking with impressive wins against division rivals Pittsburgh and Philidelphia and a solid road win at Tampa in their past 5 games. Henrik Lundqvist has been a beast between the pipes and if they can pick up their goal scoring a bit I would put the Rangers as an early dark horse for the Cup Finals.
- Pittsburgh Penguins – Yes the wonderboy is back and yes I am finally buying into the Pittsburgh Penguins. I expect to see them falter a bit in the next two weeks with games against the Flyers, Bruins and Sabers just ahead, but we should also know just how legit they are. The Atlantic Division of the Eastern Confrence is going to be a dog fight to the end and we have seen the fragility of their stars (Malkin and Crosby) when they play against physical teams, which I think will ultimately doom them. Oh and I expect James Neal to come back down to earth sometime soon.
- Vancouver Canucks – The Canucks own a disappointing 6-4-1 home record this year and have been fairly inconsistent. They are playing some solid hockey of late and I feel they have the pieces to make another run at the Western Conference finals this year. I expect Roberto Luongo to work through his funk and get his GAA under 3.00, or else the Canucks are in for a short postseason.
- Minnesota Wild – The Wild are a tough sell as they play a very slow deliberate game with not a lot of goals score, but even less allowed. They have the talent up front with Heatly and Kouviu to score a ton, they just aren’t coached to score a ton as they sit back and wait for you to make mistakes. They remind me a lot of the Predator teams of the last 5 years, which is not a very successful playoff formula
- Dallas Stars – Which Dallas Stars team is going to show up this coming week? The one who started the season 11-4 or the one who has 4 wins in their last 11 games? They should be scoring more goals than they are, but 2 for 27 on power plays is not helping that stat at all. Raycroft and Lehtonen have been shaky in net and this team is struggling to find its form, but this ranking is based heavily on their potential.
- Florida Panthers – Am I sold on the Panters? Nope. They lead their Division (which has turned out to be a pretty bad one thus far) with a paltry +8 goal differential but I get no “wow” factor from this relatively young team. I certainly don’t think Versteeg and Fleischmann can carry the team for the whole year based on their track records so players like Stephen Weiss and Ed Jovanovski are going to have to step up when they falter.
- Chicago Blackhawks – Near the top in goals per game, near the bottom in goals allowed…….Something has to give. They are not allowing an inordinate amount of shots on goal so the blame lies with the goaltending. Both Crawford and Emery have a sub .900 save percentage and to compete with the big boys that is going to have to change.
- Philadelphia Flyers – My pre-season pick for the winner in the Eastern Conference, has been overshadowed by their division mate Rangers and Penguins. While they have avoided long losing streaks, they have also avoided long winning streaks. They lead the league in goals per game and I don’t see that changing. What will need to change is their defense which has allowed some high shot count games over the season.
Coach Ryan’s Sound off of the week:
Mr. Cal Meacham can say what he wants about me being a homer but really look who he picks at his hottest team. I will admit Toronto is as high as they are for discussion purposes but Detroit number one? Only a homer Detroit fan would put “Hockey Town” at the top of the list. Sure Detroit is having a good year but they aren’t even top in the Central. I guess that put’s the Hawks at Plantinum in the power rankings, no wait the Central leading Blackhawks are number 9 in this list, meaning they fell faster than the Detroit Lions did this regular season. You want the scoop with the Wings? Look for them to possibly drop 2 of their next three to St. Louis (not Martin) and the lowly Coyotes which probably will motivate Glendale to dish out a few more millions to keep the team in Arizona before they relocate to Quebec City. I will give the Wings this, they will rebound with the ever so important win against the Jets. Actually here I’ll be a homer too. Didn’t the Wings give the Blue Jackets their first win of the year? No, you’re right Cal they deserve to be number one.