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Super 16: Atlantic Division strengthens its case

by Dave Lozo

Chicago is the best team in the NHL. That's neither breaking news nor a controversial opinion, and once again, the Blackhawks are the top team in the Super 16 power rankings.

There wasn't much movement near the top, but the Carolina Hurricanes, Minnesota Wild and Phoenix Coyotes are making appearances in the top 16 while the San Jose Sharks, ranked as high as No. 2, are out of the mix completely after losing seven straight games.

Here's the complete list, which features three Atlantic Division teams in the top seven.

1 1 Chicago Blackhawks: There aren't many superlatives to describe the Blackhawks, who have yet to suffer a loss in anything but a shootout this season. Here's a nugget tweeted by NBC's Liam McHugh -- since acquiring defenseman Johnny Oduya last season, the Blackhawks are 24-2-7 with him in the lineup.
2 5 Anaheim Ducks: Not only are the Ducks surging, but they finally get a lengthy stretch at home after playing nine of their 14 games on the road. After a 3-2 shootout win in Nashville on Saturday, they returned home to Southern California, a place they won't have to leave again until March 1.
3 2
Boston Bruins: The Bruins haven't lost in regulation to anyone but the Buffalo Sabres this season. They've been one of the NHL's best teams in spite of a power play that ranks 28th at 13 percent. In six games at TD Garden, the Bruins are 0-for-23 with the man advantage. It's scary to think the Bruins aren't playing their best yet.
4 4 Vancouver Canucks: After ripping off six straight wins, the Canucks welcomed back Ryan Kesler, and of course they lost two straight because hockey doesn't make sense sometimes. The Canucks head to Chicago on Tuesday, and it will be interesting to see if Roberto Luongo gets the start in United Center.
5 3 New Jersey Devils: Patrik Elias is seventh in the NHL in scoring with 19 points in 15 games, and could be the next player to reach the 1,000-point milestone. Among active players, his 913 regular-season points (Chicago's Marian Hossa has 916) rank ninth, and his 125 postseason points are second to Jaromir Jagr of the Dallas Stars.
6 7
Pittsburgh Penguins: Take away a home-and-home sweep at the hands of the New Jersey Devils last weekend, and the Penguins have won eight straight games. In those eight wins, they're outscoring opponents 34-14 with a power play that has converted 10 of 31 chances and 12 of 40 in their last 10 games. They have a power-play goal in eight straight games.
7 8
New York Rangers: The Rangers are 8-3-1 since opening the season 0-2, and it appears Henrik Lundqvist is finding his Vezina-winning game. He's won his last four starts by allowing six goals and stopping 110 of 116 shots, which translates into a .948 save percentage.
8 13
Montreal Canadiens: GM Marc Bergevin signed enforcer Brandon Prust in the offseason, and if PIMs equal toughness, he has brought it to Montreal like few have in the past. Prust has 71 PIMs in 14 games, putting him on a pace for a League-leading 243 in 48 games. Last year, Derek Dorsett led the League with 235 PIMs in 77 games.
9 12 St. Louis Blues: Jake Allen didn't save the Blues' season, but he's saved a few shots, which is a big change of pace from what Brian Elliott provided during a five-game losing streak. It wasn't all Elliott's fault -- the Blues were a mess in their own end -- but Allen has helped solidify things with three wins in three starts, all on the road, last week.
10 10 Toronto Maple Leafs: The loss of goaltender James Reimer to a knee strain is a tough blow, but backup Ben Scrivens is doing his best to hold the fort while he recovers. Since replacing Reimer against the Flyers, he has stopped 96 of 100 shots in those three games. He stopped 32 of 33 shots against the Flyers, but wasn't eligible to pick up the win.
11 11 Nashville Predators: Yet another week in which the Predators have a hard time scoring (six goals in three games) yet they find a way to pick up points, going 2-0-1. Some good news could be coming on that front -- Patric Hornqvist, who has 78 goals the previous three seasons and has missed 10 games with a knee injury, could play Monday at Colorado.
12 NR Carolina Hurricanes: After losing their first two games of the season by a 9-2 total, the Hurricanes are 8-2-1 and sit atop the Southeast Division. Eric Staal is enjoying life with Alexander Semin on his wing and finds himself in the midst of an 11-game point streak. Of Staal's eight goals this season, four have been game-winners.
13 9 Detroit Red Wings: How did Red Wings coach Mike Babcock view Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Wild, one in which his team let a 2-0 lead slip for a third straight loss? "You have to win and get points in this League, otherwise you lose sight of things in a hurry. Right now, we're taking on water." They'll try to right the ship Tuesday in Nashville.
14 14 Dallas Stars: Sometimes, teams have other teams they can't figure out. For the Stars, it appears to be the Calgary Flames. After a 7-4 loss in Calgary on Wednesday, the Stars blew a two-goal lead in the third period at home Sunday. Those are the Stars' only two losses in the past seven games. They'll need to get Kari Lehtonen (groin) back ASAP.
15 NR
Minnesota Wild: The Wild are getting it together, rallying for a 3-2 win against the Red Wings to improve to 3-1-1 in their last five. Dany Heatley scored his first goal in nine games in the win. Coach Mike Yeo called it a step in the right direction, and in the cluttered Western Conference, they'll need to get steppin' in a hurry.
16 NR Phoenix Coyotes: As is their way, the Coyotes are quietly moving up the standings on the strength of their strong defense. Since goaltender Mike Smith returned from injury eight games ago, the Coyotes are 5-2-1 with two shutouts over that span. Martin Hanzal has seven goals in 11 games after posting eight goals in 64 games last season.

Just Missed: San Jose, Edmonton, Tampa Bay, Buffalo, N.Y. Islanders


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