Power Rankings: Young Wild still a mystery

Rory Boylen
suter-185585123

Talk about consistency – and getting it right last week (fist pump) – the top six teams in our Power Rankings all hold the same spot this week. For that matter, the bottom two held on to their places of dishonor.

Slowly, the best teams in the league are asserting themselves and, guess what? Most of them are from the West. Surprise, surprise, the conference that is dominating crossover play holds six of our top seven spots, while East teams hold all four of the bottom positions.

But it’s early and there are still a bunch of teams who haven’t yet shown their true colors, such as the Minnesota Wild. What are they capable of? Backup Josh Harding has been great in place of Niklas Backstrom, but he hasn’t had to face a ton of shots behind the league’s best defense. Goals have been very hard to come by, with Jason Pominville and Zach Parise accounting for eight of the team’s 21 tallies. Injuries have slowed them (Backstrom, Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin) and time should correct that. But they’re still a young team trying to find its character – and one that started strong, then shrivelled away last season. Tons of potential in Minnesota, but what exactly the coaches can get out of that unproven lineup is still unknown.

(Last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. San Jose (1)
How about Marc-Edouard Vlasic for Team Canada? He’s lost behind bigger-name candidates, but he averages 20:27 of ice and has seven points in nine games. He’s sneaky good.

2. Colorado (2)
How long can this goaltending keep up? Semyon Varlamov and J-S Giguere have been otherworldly. But they’ve also got a top-10 offence, with Matt Duchene rising as an elite contributor.

3. Pittsburgh (3)
Olli Maata’s strong play has earned him a stay beyond nine games. Imagine what this team will do when Kris Letang and, eventually, James Neal return.

4. St. Louis (4)
Two huge wins over division rival Chicago showed off why THN was confident in picking the Blues to win the Cup. Alex Steen is playing his way on to Team Sweden in the early going.

5. Anaheim (5)
How about Mathieu Perreault? Forced as a checker in Washington, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau has played him with Teemu Selanne and the shifty Perreault has started this season as a point per game player.

6. Chicago (6)
Goals haven’t been coming very easily so far, but Corey Crawford has held up his end of the bargain so far and is keeping his name in the running for a Canadian Olympic spot.

7. Phoenix (14)
The Coyotes have at least a point in their past seven games, Mike Ribeiro, who nobody thought could keep up the point scoring pace he set in Washington – is keeping up the point scoring pace he set in Washington.

8. Boston (11)
Wasn’t there somebody else on this roster, besides Loui Eriksson, the Bruins acquired in the Tyler Seguin deal? Oh ya, it’s Reilly Smith, who has a game-winning goal and six points in eight games.

9. Toronto (7)
Why was Phil Kessel worth $8 million per? Because he consistently produces and breaks open games Toronto shouldn’t win. No one else they could get would do that as well for less money.

10. Tampa Bay (13)
Alex Killorn hasn’t scored a point in three games, during which his ice time dipped by three-plus minutes. He has five points in the four games in which he’s logged more than 17 minutes.

11. Calgary (10)
They’re starting to fall back to Earth, thanks partly to a goaltending tandem that stops less than 90 percent of shots faced. Outside of the San Jose game, when the Flames have lost, they haven’t lost by much, so even a minuscule improvement in save percentage would go a long way.

12. Los Angeles (16)
The Kings are a big-game team that hasn’t really faced a big game yet. That’ll change with Phoenix and San Jose coming up over the next seven days. Jeff Carter has 37 goals in 74 games as a King.

13. Ottawa (23)
The Sens get a big bump because they seemed to turn a corner this week. Goaltending has been great, Jason Spezza has led with authority and Bobby Ryan is doing his thing. And when it came to Wednesday’s statement game, the Sens trounced the Wings 6-1.

14. Detroit (9)
The Wings lost three of four games since our last Power Rankings because the offence dried up. The return of Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves will go a long way to helping gut overall depth of this squad, which is its main strength.

15. Montreal (8)
The Habs picked up only one win in three home games the past seven days and while they still have two games at the Bell Centre left on this homestand, they’re tough tests against Anaheim and San Jose. David Desharnais, with one point in nine games, has gone AWOL.

16. Carolina (20)
What does it say about the Metropolitan Division when the second team to appear on this list is at No. 16? Carolina has got three of its four wins on the road. Ryan Murphy has been great in his rookie season with five points in eight games.

17. Vancouver (15)
Jason Garrison finally finding a groove in life after Brian Campbell – but how sustainable is his current production?

18. Minnesota (12)
The Wild have had an awful time trying to score goals, but backup goalie Josh Harding has been stupendous in Niklas Backstrom’s absence. Dany Heatley still without a goal – but how many posts has he hit already?

19. Nashville (17)
The Preds can, and have, won without a great offence in the past. But can this team do it without Pekka Rinne? Our own Adam Proteau says the Preds should trade Shea Weber. I say he’s crazy.

20. Columbus (19)
Only two defensemen have scored on Columbus – and they’ve combined for only three total. On forward, Marian Gaborik is doing his part and Cam Atkinson is contributing, but a more rounded effort needs to shine through.

21. NY Islanders (18)
Is Kyle Okposo finally going to have his breakthrough year in his sixth NHL season? It’s around this time power players such as him begin to mature, so if it doesn’t happen now, it may never.

22. Washington (25)
Nicklas Backstrom isn’t as influential a game-breaker as Alex Ovechkin, but he may be the best, most-rounded player on the Caps squad.

23. Winnipeg (22)
Blake Wheeler hasn’t had the best start, but here’s betting he turns it around starting in November or December. Wheeler is known of his bad starts, but has emerged as a 60-point player the past two years.

24. Florida (24)
You know, the Panthers record is pretty, well, Panthers-like so far, but they made two valiant third period comebacks against Chicago and Boston the past seven days. Unfortunately, they lost both. This year’s big rookie, Aleksander Barkov, has been better than last year’s big rookie, Jonathan Huberdeau, so far. Progress?

25. Dallas (21)
The Stars cannot wait to get Kari Lehtonen back between the pipes. When Carolina had to turn to Dan Ellis last season, it sunk them. Jack Campbell’s debut wasn’t great. Lehtonen has won two of his three starts and was activated from the IR on Monday.

26. Edmonton (28)
They can feel good about making Lars Eller eat his words all they want, but the bottom line is that was only one win – getting too puffy-chested about it would only prove Eller’s point about them being a junior team. On the plus side, Mark Arcobello has 10 assist through 10 games and is putting himself in the thick of the Calder hunt early.

27. New Jersey (27)
Cory Schneider: 1-3-1, 2.21 GAA, .917 SP. Martin Brodeur: 0-2-2, 3.02 GAA, .865 SP. A transition is actually, finally, happening.

28. NY Rangers (25)
Almost home. The Rangers will play their first game at MSG on Monday, but still have two road games in Philadelphia and Detroit to get through first. Derick Brassard – you always leave us wanting more.

29. Philadelphia (29)
Mike Richards and Jeff Carter would look awful good in Orange and Black right about now.

30. Buffalo (30)
Two words: Bush league. If owner Terry Pegula really is a fan, he won’t put up with this clown college any longer.