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Super 16: Hawks, other top teams maintaining pace

by Dave Lozo

For the most part, the best teams in the National Hockey League through one week are still the best teams in the League as we head into the third week of the season.

The Chicago Blackhawks are excelling on the road as Disney on Ice occupies the United Center through next week; the San Jose Sharks are making the most of their home games to start the season, while the Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues and Pittsburgh Penguins combined to go 8-3-0 over the past seven days.

Who are the rest of this week's Super 16? Let's take a look:

1 1 Chicago Blackhawks: There's a lot to like about the Blackhawks' start. They are 3-0 in the second half of back-to-backs. They are 5-0-2 on the road. They have 20 even-strength goals, second-most in the NHL. Twelve players have at least a goal. Corey Crawford has been Vezina-worthy. Tuesday's showdown in San Jose should be a great one.
2 2 San Jose Sharks: Lost in all the Patrick Marleau/Joe Thornton hullabaloo to start the season is the Sharks' defense. They've allowed 13 goals in eight games and just eight goals at even strength. The penalty kill is ranked sixth (85.7) after finishing 29th (76.9) last year. They have killed 21 straight penalties.
3 3
Boston Bruins: The Bruins' two losses have been a result of heroic individual efforts. The Rangers' Marian Gaborik had a hat trick in a 4-3 OT loss, while Thomas Vanek had five points in a 7-4 regulation setback Thursday. If that's what it takes to beat Boston this season, good luck.
4 4 St. Louis Blues: Last season, Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott teamed for an incredible .933 save percentage. This season, the number has dipped to .895. Yet if this was an 82-game season, the Blues would be on pace for 123 points, 14 more than last season. In other words, the offense is picking up the slack right now.
5 5 Pittsburgh Penguins: GM Ray Shero's big offseason move was dealing Jordan Staal to Carolina for Brandon Sutter. So far, Sutter has one goal while Staal has yet to score as a Hurricane. Considering Sutter carries one-third the cap hit of Staal, the Penguins have to be happy with this deal two weeks into the season.
6 7
Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning have five players averaging more than a point per game. Their opponents have a combined record of 26-32-4, which is the equivalent of a 74-point team in an 82-game season. But no matter the strength of schedule, scoring 4.88 goals per game is an impressive feat.
7 11
Montreal Canadiens: After playing 65 games over three seasons with a right knee injury that required multiple surgeries, defenseman Andrei Markov is healthy and looking like his old self. He has four goals (all PP) and eight points in eight games. With P.K. Subban back in the fold, the Habs suddenly have a formidable blue line.
8 12
Vancouver Canucks: Backup goaltender Roberto Luongo is off to a great start. You can reserve judgment on his season -- 2-0-2, 1.46 goals-against average, .944 save percentage -- but his performance has been second-to-none so far. He's currently the No. 2 goaltender in the NHL in GAA and save percentage among goalies making at least four starts.
9 NR Anaheim Ducks: In 2011-12, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and Teemu Selanne accounted for 46.8 percent of the Ducks' goals, the ninth-biggest percentage for any trio over the past seven seasons. This year, it's just 6-of-26 (23.1) as Daniel Winnik (5) and Kyle Palmieri (4) are providing the secondary scoring that was lacking last season.
10 9 New York Rangers: Nine of their 19 goals have come off the sticks of Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. But in a 3-2 win vs. Tampa on Saturday, Derek Stepan scored for the first time since last year's conference quarterfinals and Carl Hagelin ended a 36-game goal drought.
11 NR Edmonton Oilers: Loser points aren't always a source of pride, but the one the Oilers earned in San Jose on Thursday should be. Facing the undefeated Sharks on the road, in the second half of a back-to-back, they rallied from down two goals and lost in a shootout. The Oilers proved they could hang with the best and didn't rely on their power play to do it.
12 8 New Jersey Devils: So, are the Devils a team with one regulation loss in nine games? A team that's lost four of five? Or a team that has earned points in four of five? They are all of that, actually. After a thorough beating at the hands of the Penguins on Saturday, they bounced back for a tough road win against the Islanders the next day.
13 6 Ottawa Senators: Life without Jason Spezza is already proving to be difficult with two losses in two games since he underwent back surgery. The Senators have one goal in those two losses but have pumped 60 shots on net in that time. Kyle Turris (4G, 3A) will be asked to do even more with Spezza out.
14 13 Minnesota Wild: The Wild have allowed 13 goals in three road games and nine goals in five home games. They are 4-0-1 in the State of Hockey, 0-2-1 when they cross state lines. They are struggling for consistency in what is looking like a far more competitive Northwest Division than the one that existed the past two seasons.
15 NR
New York Islanders: Even with a brutal schedule to start the season (one team in eight with a losing record), the Islanders are playing well. A lot of their success is based on the power play, which went 0-for-7 Sunday to dip from 37.5 to 29.0 percent on the season. They won't have to leave the tri-state area for a game until Feb. 19 to face the Senators.
16 NR Nashville Predators: This team is an ink blot test; you look at it and you can see many different things. Maybe you see a team with 12 goals in eight games. Or maybe you see a team that's two shootout wins from a 5-2-1 record. Or maybe you see a team that has nine points in eight games despite injuries and a two-week road trip. It's open for interpretation.

Just Missed: Detroit, Toronto, Colorado, Los Angeles, Carolina


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