The New York Islanders are not in first place in the NHL today. They’re not even in the top five of the NHL standings. But is there a team in the league any team would like to meet less than the Islanders at the moment?
We doubt it. The Islanders have won eight of their past nine, including back-to-back wins over the team most consider to be the best in the Eastern Conference, the Pittsburgh Penguins. They’ve scored at least four goals in each of their past five victories and are playing with a swagger we haven’t seen from this team in years.
And that’s why they’re on top of thn.com’s weekly Power Rankings. (Last week’s ranking in parentheses.)
1. N.Y. ISLANDERS (9): “This is a new hockey club with a new attitude,” said coach Jack Capuano after a home-and-home sweep of Pittsburgh. Coming up: Four Metro division games.
2. ST. LOUIS (1): Jay Bouwmeester’s Ironman streak ends at 737, Ryan Reaves’ consecutive goals streak starts at one. Coming up: Three winnable games at home to Ottawa and Edmonton, on the road to Minnesota.
3. ANAHEIM (5): Rene Bourque played 9:54 and had three shots and three hits in his Ducks debut against Arizona Sunday night. Coming up: Two more at home and a trip to San Jose Saturday night.
4. MONTREAL (3): In the seven games Montreal has lost this season, they’ve been outscored by a margin of 33-5. Coming up: Home-and-home against suddenly hot Buffalo, then a four-game western road trip.
5. NASHVILLE (4): Proof these are not your father’s Predators? They unleashed 50 shots on Florida in a 3-2 shootout win Saturday. Coming up: Home games against Los Angeles, Edmonton and Columbus.
6. TAMPA BAY (6): Victor Hedman should be back soon from his broken hand, which will cure a lot of the Lightning’s defensive ills. Coming up: Marty St-Louis returns for the first time as a New York Ranger Wednesday night.
7. PITTSBURGH (2): A Penguin player still leads the NHL in one statistical category with Steve Downie tops in penalty minutes with 79. Coming up: In Boston tonight, home to Toronto Wednesday and back-to-back against Carolina.
8. VANCOUVER (8): With his first career hat trick in a 4-1 win over Chicago and five goals, Jannik Hansen was named first star of the week. Coming up: Three games against Eastern Conference opponents, two on the road.
9. CALGARY (6): The comeback kids scored twice with the goalie out in a 5-4 shootout win over New Jersey Saturday and sit second (second!) in the Pacific. Coming up: Three-game road trip to California and Arizona.
10. TORONTO (18): To commemorate their two-game winning streak, let’s all raise our sticks to the Maple Leafs. Coming up: On the road in Pittsburgh and home to Washington.
11. LOS ANGELES (11): The Kings have won only one of eight on the road this season and fell 4-0 to Dallas before making a game of it in a 5-4 loss Saturday. Coming up: Two more on the road before meeting Chicago at home next Saturday.
12. BOSTON (12): Who’s you’re daddy, Bruins? The Montreal Canadiens are your daddy. Yes they are. Coming up: Home games against Pittsburgh and Winnipeg before heading out west for four games.
13. CHICAGO (14): A three-game winning streak was snapped with a flat performance against Vancouver Sunday. Coming up: Six-game road trip continues with games in Colorado, Anaheim and Los Angeles.
14. DETROIT (13): Tomas Tatar has eight goals in his past 11 games and was named second star of the week. Coming up: A busy week with four games, but three of them are at home.
15. N.Y. RANGERS (17): For once, the Rangers looked like Eastern Conference champions Sunday night when they dominated Montreal in a 5-0 win. Coming up: Marty St-Louis returns to Tampa. Two games against Lightning, two against Flyers.
16. MINNESOTA (10): The Wild’s power play has been brutal all season and has just one goal in 38 opportunities on the road. Coming up: In Florida tonight, then three against Los Angeles, Dallas and St. Louis.
17. OTTAWA (19): Mika Zibanejad, who was counted on to provide the Senators with scoring punch this season, got just his first in nine games Sunday afternoon. Coming up: Five straight and 11 of their next 15 on the road.
18. DALLAS (29): Jamie Benn appears to be emerging from his slumber, scoring three goals to earn third-star-of-the-week honors. Coming up: Two at home, one on the road, all against non-playoff teams.
19. SAN JOSE (15): The Sharks have played seven at home and have lost four of them, the last two in overtime. Coming up: The road-weary Sharks don’t have to leave their beds for a week for the first time this season.
20. WINNIPEG (16): After putting together a bounce-back quarter season for the ages, Ondrej Pavelec has been pulled in three of his past four starts. Coming up: A three-game Eastern Conference road trip.
21. BUFFALO (27): What? Would you want to play the Sabres these days? They’ve won three in a row and they’re tied with the Islanders for being the hottest team in the league at the moment. Coming up: A home date against Winnipeg, then a home-and-home against Montreal.
22. FLORIDA (20): California brings out the best in Nick Bjugstad, who had four goals in seven points in a three-game swing. Coming up: Three home games in five nights against Minnesota, Carolina and Ottawa.
23. NEW JERSEY (21): Less than three minutes away from a statement road win in Calgary, the Devils gave up two goals and (predictably) lost in a shootout. Coming up: They finish a four game road trip in Vancouver Tuesday before taking on Detroit and the Islanders.
24. WASHINGTON (24): Watching this team play, it’s sometimes almost impossible to believe they’re being coached by Barry Trotz. Coming up: Home-and-home against the Islanders, then a trip to Toronto.
25. COLORADO (23): Jarome Iginla has not had an easy time of it in Colorado, but scored a goal and an assist in a character-building, come-from-behind win over Carolina Sunday. Coming up: At Arizona, then two big division games against Chicago and Dallas.
26. PHILADELPHIA (25): After losing four straight, coach Craig Berube threw his lines into a blender and the Flyers came out with a 4-2 win over Columbus. Coming up: In Detroit, then home-and-home against the Rangers.
28. COLUMBUS (26): After 20 games, coach Todd Richards said he doesn’t know, “If we’ve played a full 60-minute game yet.” Coming up: Winnipeg and Vancouver at home, then a trip to Nashville. No easy games.
29. CAROLINA (30): The Hurricanes are just losing games, but they’re just losing way too many of them. Coach Bill Peters says improvements are needed, “across the board.” Coming up: In Florida, then a home-and-home against Pittsburgh.
30. EDMONTON (28): The Oilers fired their goalie coach on Monday. Seriously? That’s the biggest problem with this team? Coming up: Three roadies against tough opponents – Dallas, St. Louis and Nashville.