It’s time to work off that Christmas paunch and get to breaking those New Year’s Resolutions.
It’s also the time when the elite of the NHL begin to separate themselves from the rest of the pack, and teams such as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks are beginning to do just that.
Of course, the Detroit Red Wings got an early start on that one.
That’s why they set a franchise record for points in the first half of the season and that’s why they remain the class of the NHL.
1. Detroit: The way Datsyuk, Zetterberg & Co. are playing, it doesn’t matter who plays goal.
2. Pittsburgh: The great outdoors has done wonders for the Penguins and so has Ty Conklin.
3. Calgary: Let the Jarome-Iginla-for-MVP begin in earnest.
4. San Jose: Not a lot of fun to watch, but not a lot of fun to play against, either.
5. Philadelphia: NHL’s goon squad still hanging in for a playoff spot.
6. Ottawa: Two ugly losses to Washington the only blemish on their post-Christmas record.
7. New Jersey: They’ll have to pick up the pace if they have designs on finishing ahead of the Penguins.
8. Vancouver: Wins over Calgary, Anaheim and the Rangers were impressive defensive efforts.
9. Montreal: One of just three NHL teams without a regulation loss since Christmas.
10. Nashville: Winners of four of their past five, all against Western Conference opponents.
11. Phoenix: Has anybody noticed that the Coyotes are a legitimate two games over .500 and that Peter Mueller is putting together a Calder Trophy season?
12. Anaheim: Defending champs slowly clawing their way back into the Western Conference race with Scott Niedermayer.
13. Boston: Three wins in a row and two of them were sellouts.
14. NY Rangers: Things were going great until the Rangers went west and lost three straight.
15. Washington: Ovechkin and the Boys probably won’t make the playoffs, but they’re a lot of fun to watch under Bruce Boudreau.
16. Dallas: They’re still a force, but they’ve been outscored 14-4 in their past four games.
17. Minnesota: Still struggling big-time for some kind of positive consistency.
18. Columbus: If the Blue Jackets want to make the playoffs, they’ll need more than 3-2-5 totals in 13 games from Rick Nash.
19. NY Islanders: It’s amazing what a team can accomplish almost solely on grit and determination.
20. Atlanta: Scoring goals is not the problem here. The Thrashers are third-worst in the league in goals against.
21. St. Louis: Team defense and goaltending have been terrific, but Brad Boyes and Paul Kariya have to get going again.
22. Carolina: What are the Hurricanes going to do about their goaltending?
23. Colorado: No Joe Sakic. No Ryan Smyth. Little hope for a playoff spot.
24. Los Angeles: The Kings have picked up their play lately, which will do nothing but jeopardize their draft lottery chances.
25. Florida: They’re still flirting with a playoff spot, but come on, this is the Panthers we’re talking about.
26. Edmonton: The Oilers haven’t had a win in regulation since Dec. 2.
27. Chicago: Just when the crowds were finally picking up in Chicago, the Blackhawks decide to start going down the sewer.
28. Buffalo: They haven’t won since Christmas. They way they’re playing, they might not win again until next Christmas.
29. Toronto: 2-6-2 in their past 10 and they head west for three straight this week. Mats Sundin trade talks should start heating up.
30. Tampa Bay: It’s official, the Lightning is the first casualty of the salary cap. It’s also a train wreck.
The Hockey News ranks the teams 1-30 on Mondays. Changes in rankings reflect each team’s play from the previous seven days.
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