Power Rankings: Red-hot Sidney Crosby powers Penguins to top

Ken Campbell
Sidney Crosby  (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)
Sidney Crosby (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

Yes, it’s early, but has anyone noticed that Sidney Crosby is on pace to post the highest single-season scoring total in almost two decades? With five assists against Buffalo Saturday, Crosby has seven goals and 24 points in just 13 games, which puts him on a pace for 151 points, which would be the highest total since Crosby’s boss scored 161 points in 1995-96.

Not surprisingly, the Penguins have been dominant of late along with their captain. So for the second straight week, they top thn.com’s Power Rankings. (Last week’s ranking in parentheses.)

1. PITTSBURGH (1): Let’s take stock of what the Penguins have done since they lost 5-3 to Philadelphia back on Oct. 22, shall we? All right, all they’ve done is pick up points in eight straight games, including seven straight victories. They’ve scored at least four goals in six of those games, outscored their opponent by five goals three times and had three shutouts.

2. TAMPA BAY (2): Like the Penguins, the Lightning is filling the net at a mind-boggling rater. In their past six games, all victories, the Lightning has scored at least four goals in each, put up a seven-spot twice and scored five goals once. The six-game win streak is the second longest in team history.

3. NASHVILLE (4): The Predators are one of the pleasant surprises in the NHL this season and one reason is their 5-on-5 play. So far the Predators have scored 26 goals and allowed 14 while playing 5-on-5, for a plus-12 differential. They finished last season minus-21 in that department.

4. VANCOUVER (7): Sunday night’s game between the Canucks and Anaheim, the first for Ryan Kesler and Nick Bonino against their former teams, was a great game. The Canucks prevailed in a shootout and it was a statement win for a team that turned in its worst performance of the season the night before in a 5-1 loss to Los Angeles.

5. ANAHEIM (3): The Ducks have gone to extra time in four of their past five games and they’ve lost three of them in succession.  Apparently, leading scorer Corey Perry has some kind of epic case of the flu, since the Ducks saw fit to place him on injured reserve with flu-like symptoms after the winger missed three games.

6. ST. LOUIS (6): The Blues had a seven-game winning streak halted Saturday night in a 2-1 loss to Nashville. The line of Jori Lehtera between Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz has accounted for 11 of the team’s most recent 15 goals. That’s good for them, but the Blues will need secondary scoring at some point.

7. MONTREAL (11): The Canadiens are a very confounding bunch. For long stretches in games they look like an expansion team, but then you look at the score sheet and see they won another game. They have never led a team after the first period this season and, despite being in fifth overall in the NHL standings, have a minus-5 goal differential.

8. BOSTON (13): The Bruins have four straight wins, but all of them were against non-playoff teams and one each came against Buffalo and Edmonton. Torey Krug is the latest defenseman to go down, but youngsters Zach Trotman, Matt Fraser, Joe Morrow and David Warsofsky have filled in admirably.

9. CALGARY (8): The Flames are 3-1-0 on a five-game road trip that wraps up tonight in Carolina. Among T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano and Dennis Wideman, the Flames have 14 goals and 41 points. Giordano led all NHL scorers last week with 2-5-7 totals in three games to earn first-star-of-the-week honors.

10. TORONTO (9): The script has not really changed that much for the Leafs and if last year’s performance is any portent of how they’ll finish, that’s not good news. The Leafs are still doing it with opportunistic scoring and stretches of great goaltending. They’re giving up more than 33 shots a game and have the fourth-worst Corsi rating in the league.

11. N.Y. ISLANDERS (22): Just when it looked as though the Islanders were headed for their annual crash and burn, they win three of four against the Pacific Division on the road. All three of their wins were by one goal and two of them were in extra time. Defenseman Johnny Boychuk injured his knee last week and could be out for a while.

12. WINNIPEG (14): The Jets have picked up points in the past eight games and are 7-2-1 in their past 10. Each one of their past eight games, six wins and two shootout losses, have been one-goal games. Can you believe that defenseman Tobias Enstrom is scheduled to play in his 500th career game Tuesday night in Montreal? Where has the time gone?

13. LOS ANGELES (16): Because of cap issues related to the suspension of Slava Voynov, the Kings dressed only five defensemen and 13 forwards Saturday night. But one of them scored and another had three assists in the Kings 5-1 win over Vancouver. Two thirds of ‘That 70’s Line,’ of Jeff Carter between Tyler Toffoli, continues to dominate on home ice.

14. PHILADELPHIA (24): The Flyers outscored their opponents 9-4 in 5-on-5 play in a three-game home stand that saw them post victories in each game. After losing defensemen Luke Schenn, Andrew MacDonald and Braydon Coburn to injuries, the Flyers signed Carlo Colaiacovo as a free agent and pressed him into service for the first time this season.

15. DETROIT (10): The Red Wings have lost four of their past five and suffered a blow Sunday when Pavel Datsyuk missed a 4-3 shootout loss to Tampa Bay with a groin problem. Speaking of shootouts, the Red Wings are 0-3 in the skills contest and have just one goal in eight shots after posting a 5-9 record last season. Hey, somebody has to take over for the Devils now that they’ve won one.

16. WASHINGTON (27): There might not have been a team in the league that needed a four-point weekend more desperately than the slumping Capitals, who were without the services of Brooks Laich and lost Tom Wilson during their 4-3 overtime win over Carolina Saturday. Laich was sat out for precautionary reasons with a nagging shoulder problem and Wilson suffered what looked to be an ankle injury in the second period.

17. OTTAWA (18): The Senators embark on a three-game swing through western Canada coming off one of their worst performances of the season in a 5-3 loss to Toronto. Suffice to say the Senators are going to be plagued by inconsistency unless captain Erik Karlsson begins to focus on his play in his own end as much as he does his offensive game.

18. CHICAGO (19): The Blackhawks looked more like their usual selves in an impressive 5-2 win over San Jose on home ice Sunday, but something just seems off with this team. At least the team appears to have found its scoring touch after struggling to create offense through its first 12 games. It has scored five times twice in its past two, including a 5-0 win over Montreal in which Patrick Sharp was injured.

19. SAN JOSE (9): The Sharks have a penchant for getting behind in games and while they were able to overcome a multiple-goal deficit in a 5-3 win over Dallas on Saturday, they couldn’t complete the comeback against Chicago the next day. The Sharks are in the midst of a brutal seven-game road trip. All told, the Sharks will have played 16 of their first 21 games on the road.

20. EDMONTON (28): With Taylor Hall out of the lineup, the Oilers moved Benoit Pouliot to the top unit with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle, but it wasn’t a reward for good play. With one goal in 14 games, Pouliot finally busted out with the winning goal and an assist in the Oilers 3-1 road win over the Rangers Sunday.

21. ARIZONA (25): The Coyotes have to be breathing a sigh of relief over the recent play of goaltender Mike Smith, who was plagued by inconsistency last season and struggled through the first part of this one. But in his last three starts, Smith has won two games and stopped 97 of 102 shots for a .951 save percentage.

22. MINNESOTA (5): Zach Parise suffered a concussion in the Wild’s 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh last week and without him in the lineup, the team combined for just one goal in consecutive road losses to Ottawa and Montreal. The Wild has been outscored 11-2 in its past three games and face a stretch without Parise, Matt Cooke and Jared Spurgeon in the lineup.

23. N.Y. RANGERS (21): The Rangers defense corps has been so besieged by injuries that the team is considering 36-year-old Tomas Kaberle to provide a stop-gap. Derek Stepan, who returned to the lineup after missing 12 games with a broken leg, couldn’t prevent the Rangers from losing on back-to-back nights and looking pretty unimpressive in the process.

24. NEW JERSEY (12): The Devils were expecting Mike Cammalleri and Martin Havlat back for the last game of a three-game road trip against Boston Monday night, but are without Jon Merrill, Adam Henrique and Ryane Clowe. Not surprisingly, the Devils have lost three in a row. “We have to stop the bleeding,” said coach Peter DeBoer.

25. CAROLINA (26): After failing to post a single victory through the month of October, the Hurricanes have points in five straight games. One of the major keys to the turnaround has been the play of sophomore Elias Lindholm, who started the season with one assist in his first eight games, but has since scored five goals in his past five games.

26. COLORADO (23): There were more than a few hockey pundits who worried about Jarome Iginla signing in Colorado and whether or not it would be a bad fit and so far, he has done little to quell those fears. Not only does Iginla have just two goals in 16 games, he looks behind the play a lot and isn’t creating much of anything.

27. FLORIDA (15): The Panthers scored four goals for just the second time this season on Saturday against Calgary. The only problem was that they wasted a good offensive performance by allowing six. In a surprise move, coach Gerard Gallant scratched Tomas Fleischmann, who had just one assist in his first 11 contests, for the game.

28. DALLAS (20): Coach Lindy Ruff said he has, “never seen anything like this,” after the Stars dropped their seventh straight game in spectacular fashion in a 5-3 loss to San Jose Saturday. The Stars actually have pretty good possession numbers, but have been sabotaged by sub-par goaltending and terrible penalty killing.

29. COLUMBUS (30): The losses continue to mount for the Blue Jackets, who dropped their eighth straight game in a 7-4 loss to Tampa Bay Saturday. One more loss ties a team record. The Blue Jackets are a mess down the middle, due in large part to injuries to Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Mark Letestu.

30. BUFFALO (29): You’d better have your ‘A’ defensive game when Crosby comes to town, otherwise he’s going to put up a five-spot the way he did when he had five helpers in a 6-1 Penguins win Saturday. The Sabres, simply put, don’t have near enough talent to justify the lack of effort of late.