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Super 16: Ducks claim top spot, Jackets in equation

by Dave Lozo

Now that the Chicago Blackhawks have finally lost two regulation games, they've dropped from the top spot in the Super 16 power rankings. They had a decent run, sure, but it's time to take them down a peg.

The Anaheim Ducks have been quietly lurking in the Blackhawks' shadow all season, and with one regulation loss in 14 games and two since Feb. 1, it's finally time to push them to the top of the list.

There's also a new face near the bottom not many expected to be on this list at any point this season. The Columbus Blue Jackets have a seven-game points streak and five-game winning streak, and are pushing their way up the Western Conference standings.

Let's take a look at the rest of the list, one that doesn't have Chicago at the top for the first time since the second week of the season, and each team's MVP for the first half of the season.

1 2 Anaheim Ducks: Viktor Fasth: Sure, Ryan Getzlaf is at another level right now, but that level would mean a lot less if not for the job Fasth has done with Jonas Hiller either injured or playing ineffectively. Fasth is 10-1-1 and he'd be a Vezina favorite right now if he wasn't in an even time share.
2 1 Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Kane: He isn't putting up numbers like he did in his first 12 games (nine goals, 10 assists) but on a team that's been dominant like few have, he's been the best. He's listed at 5-foot-11, 181 pounds, but he appears to be stronger on the puck than he's ever been in his six NHL seasons.
3 3
Boston Bruins: Zdeno Chara: Sort of a no-brainer, as Chara has pretty much been the Bruins' MVP every year he's been in Boston. He's been his usual elite self defensively, playing 24:38 per game to help ease Tuukka Rask into the role as the team's unquestioned No. 1 goaltender this season.
4 5 Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby: Through 26 games, Crosby is on pace to win the Art Ross Trophy, easily, with 83 points. That number would place him tied for fifth among last year's leaders in an 82-game season. There's probably no one who considers Crosby as valuable as Chris Kunitz.
5 4 Montreal Canadiens: Andrei Markov: He's been battling injuries for so long that it's easy to forget what he means to the Habs when healthy. He's done a lot of his damage offensively on the power play (14 of his 16 points) and is the biggest reason for Montreal's turnaround
6 6
Los Angeles Kings: Jeff Carter: The Kings aren't the inept bunch that couldn't score goals last season and relied on Jonathan Quick, but they're in the middle of the pack this season. Carter has 17 of their 67 goals, which is the largest percentage (25.4) one player has of his team's goals this season.
7 10
Carolina Hurricanes: Eric Staal: It has a lot to do with Alexander Semin on his right, but Staal has been a beast in the first half. With 12 goals in 24 games, Staal is on a goal-scoring pace he hasn't seen 2005-06 when he scored 45. His four game-winning goals are tied for third-most in the League.
8 13
Minnesota Wild: Ryan Suter: He was clearly struggling in the early going, but he's been the rock on defense the Wild needed ever since. He leads the NHL in time on ice and despite having just one goal, he's tied for second among all defensemen in assists with 17. He will likely only get better as he gets more comfortable.
9 9 St. Louis Blues: Alex Pietrangelo: His minus-6 rating isn't a strong indicator of his play this season. The Blues haven't had much in the way of goaltending, and when you're on the ice for nearly 26 minutes per game against the opposition's best, that number can take a hurting. He's 23 and continues to improve.
10 8 Toronto Maple Leafs: Nazem Kadri: When Joffrey Lupul went down with a broken arm, Kadri stepped up to fill that offensive void. He leads the Leafs with 25 points, but what makes his numbers so impressive is he's doing it with just 15:22 of ice time per game. He's tied for 18th in points, but is 39th in TOI. That's value.
11 16 New York Rangers: Rick Nash: He's been a consistent force when in the lineup, and with 23 points in 20 games, he leads the Rangers in goals and assists. He's missed four games this season, and the Rangers went 0-3-1 without him. He's been everything the Rangers wanted when they acquired him this summer.
12 12 Ottawa Senators: Craig Anderson: The man hasn't been between the pipes in three weeks, but he's still the biggest reason why the injury-ravaged Senators are in the playoff picture. Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop have played very well in his absence, but Anderson's 15 phenomenal games are the difference.
13 11 Detroit Red Wings: Pavel Datsyuk: It's a complete toss-up between him and Henrik Zetterberg, and you can't go wrong choosing either of them. Both players are putting up stellar numbers on offense and killing penalties, but Datsyuk has won 58 percent of draws and is second in takeaways with 29.
14 NR Phoenix Coyotes: Oliver Ekman-Larsson: The 21-year-old defenseman leads the team in assists (14), points (17), TOI (25:13), plus/minus (plus-7) and has a game-deciding goal in the shootout. He's playing well enough to warrant being mentioned in Norris Trophy discussion.
15 NR
Columbus Blue Jackets: Jack Johnson: This isn't a team busting with candidates, but Johnson gets the nod here based on his workload and offensive production. This was a team pegged for last in the West by many, but they're four points out of eighth thanks largely to Johnson's play.
16 15 Dallas Stars: Kari Lehtonen: The Stars had a hard time finding victories with Lehtonen out with a groin injury, but he's 9-4-1 with a 2.23 goals-against average and .929 save percentage. If the Stars can reach the postseason, Lehtonen would make them one of the tougher outs in the West.

Just Missed: San Jose, Vancouver, Nashville, New Jersey, Winnipeg


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