NHL Power Rankings: Capital punishment

Alex Ovechkin, the NHL’s leading goal scorer, celebrates another lit lamp.
April 18, 2013, 12:49 PM

Remember when the Carolina Hurricanes were winning the Southeast Division and Mike Ribeiro was the Washington Capitals’ leading scorer?

Seems like ages ago.

That was before Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom started playing like, well, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Both of them are now in the top 10 in NHL scoring (we see you in 12th, Ribeiro), and if you were betting all along that Ovie would scream past a healthy Steven Stamkos for the Rocket Richard Trophy race, then you must be tennis star Maria Kirilenko.

The Caps’ incredible eight-game winning streak includes just one game in which they scored fewer than three times. In fact, it’s been a full month since Adam Oates’ on-fire offence has been kept to just a single goal.

Here are the latest Sportsnet.ca Power Rankings:

RANK

TEAM PREV

1

Start engraving that Presidents’ Trophy now. Forty-two games in and the Blackhawks – winners of six in a row — have only lost five times in regulation. Perhaps we need to start power-ranking this club against great teams from other eras. This is the fastest outfit to reach 70 points since the 1944-45 Montreal Canadiens.

1

2

The depth of this team is bonkers. James Neal (concussion), Sidney Crosby (jaw) and Evengi Malkin (upper body) have all been sidelined, and yet the Pens are happily enjoying a five-game winning streak that includes a perfect three-game road swing.

2

3

The Bruins’ best player, Patrice Bergeron, is back in the lineup, giving the team a power boost. Despite losing their last three games and being in a tight race with Montreal, we’d be shocked if the B’s don’t pull it together and claim the Northeast crown.

4

4

If you examine their results in the last 30 days, the Ducks have been rather average, playing sub-.500 hockey over that time. “No matter how much coaches preach, as a player, you know when that sense of urgency hits,” coach Boudreau said. “I think ours is hitting now.”

3

5

The Canucks have earned points in six of their last seven, but Kevin Bieksa (day-to-day, lower body) must be at 100 per cent if this team is to do serious damage in May.

5

6

The hottest team in the league has extended its winning streak to eight – the jersey number worn by Alex Ovechkin, the NHL’s leading goal scorer and former member (along with double teammate Nicklas Backstrom) of Moscow Dynamo, which won the KHL championship this week.

9

7

Wielding the league’s best home record (15-1-5), the Sharks are in a dogfight with the Kings for the fourth seed and home-ice advantage in Round 1. Could make all the difference.

10

8

Superstitious employees at Leafs headquarters refer to the playoffs “potential games in May.” They haven’t ended the Seven Years Drought officially (yet), but James Reimer is already in postseason form – even if he doesn’t know what that means yet.

8

9

Coach Ken Hitchcock earned career victory number 600 this week in typical Hitchcockian fashion – his charges scored just one real goal and claimed a 2-1 shootout victory over the Canucks.

7

10

The Kings have points in 10 of their last 12. Even though he has a ring, Anze Kopitar (easily the team leader with 37 points) could well be the most underrated forward in the NHL.

11

11

Don’t read too much into Carey Price’s back-to-back-to-back shellings, as the Habs lost to the Leafs, Pens and Flyers by a combined score of 18-9. The Habs were due for a hiccup after playing lights-out for so long.

6

12

If he didn’t miss so much time due to injury, would there be any debate that Craig Anderson is the East’s candidate for the Vezina? The Sens have won three straight and have slowed just three goals total in that span. Better: They’re getting healthy. Milan Michalek returned. So did Jared Cowen. And Erik Karlsson might be good to go for May.

15

13

Since joining the team at the trade deadline, Jason Pominville has scored four goals and eight assists in just seven games played. Those intimate with the interworking of an NHL franchise call this “a good pickup.”

14

14

The Blue Jackets are working with a five-game winning streak, their fourth run this short season of three or more consecutive W’s. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is not only in the Vezina conversation but also the Hart.

16

15

This is the first time the Islanders have been six games over .500 since the team finished the 2006-07 season with a record of 40-30-12. A wild short season could see the Isles, Habs and Leafs all back in the playoffs.

12

16

The up-and-down Jets have, much like Denzel Washington’s pilot in Flight, picked the right time to flip things around. Fighting for their playoff lives, the Jets have wheeled off four straight W’s.

19

17

Likely too little too late, but the Buffalo Sabres have enjoyed a decent April. Their record is 6-2-0 for the month so far, and Jhonas Enroth has enjoyed some decent starts filling in for Ryan Miller. True, his appearances have been minimal, but his stat line (4-2-1, 2.40 GAA, .924 save percentage) is better than Miller’s.

23

18

The Stars’ season-best five-game win streak was squashed, but such things are to be expected when you fly to Chicago. Unfortunately for the Stars, the remainder of their games all come against playoff contenders.

13

19

Debate: Do two consecutive wins equal a “streak”? If not, the Rangers haven’t had a winning streak in about 40 days – not good enough for a team that needs to get rolling if it’s to make the playoffs. At the risk of signaling out the overpaid, Brad Richards is playing some underwhelming hockey.

18

20

If the Red Wings are to stave off the Blue Jackets and Stars for that eight spot, it’s go time. Perhaps too relaxed after inking a six-year, $31.8 million extension, goaltender Jimmy Howard lost again the Calgary Flames.

17

21

Perhaps relishing the role of spoilers – or trying to save their coach’s job – the Flyers defeated both the Rangers and Habs this week in convincing fashion. Expect the roster to get shaken up come summer.

21

22

A good sign your team is not destined for the playoffs? Your leading scorer is Mikkel Bodker, whose previous highest-scoring season saw 24 points. No knock on Boedker — who’s having a breakout year (that began last postseason) with 25 points already – but Phoenix is begging for offence.

22

23

Incredible stat. The Lightning boasts two of the top three scorers in the NHL (Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis each had 53 points as of Thursday) and yet they’ll only see postseason action if they suit up for Team Canada at the world championships.

24

24

The Oilers fired their general manager; president of hockey ops Kevin Lowe may or may not have offended the team’s fan base; and the guys on the ice lost their sixth in a row. Defenceman Justin Schultz won the AHL’s Defenceman of the Year award, though. So, there’s that.

20

25

In losing 10 straight games, the Devils’ stretch of futility is the club’s worst in 30 years. Ilya Kovalchuk isn’t playing and goalie Martin Brodeur continues to be stuck on win No. 666. Spooky.

25

26

The Flames might be out of the picture, but they still have a chance to affect the playoff picture if they can upset the Wild or Blues on the road. Tall order.

28

27

Perhaps awakened by J.S. Giguere’s “Vegas” rant (or rumours that Hall of Fame Av Joe Sakic might take a John Elway-type role with the club), the Avalanche have had a great week, defeating the Ducks and Canucks and earning points versus the Jackets and Kings.

30

28

After a week of respectability, the Panthers have returned to early-season form. Florida has been outscored 15-5 in their current three-game skid.

26

29

Part of the Stanley Cup contender conversation 11 months ago, the Preds have been officially eliminated from the postseason and are mired in a frugly seven-game losing streak.

27

30

Yes, the Hurricanes ended their atrocious seven-game losing streak – against the Bruins, no less – but on Tuesday they not only lost to the Senators, they lost concussion-prone Jeff Skinner (again). Write this season off to injuries and start fresh in October.

29

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