The Pittsburgh Penguins
undeniably are the hottest team in the NHL right now. They have won nine straight games, outscoring their opponents 33-13 over that stretch.
Just imagine how much better they will be when at full strength, which could happen very soon.
Consider that all nine of those wins came without Sidney Crosby
, who has a chance to make his return Thursday against the New York Rangers
. Defenseman Kris Letang
wasn't around for the final five games after taking a hit to the head during a shootout win against Dallas.
Overall, the big three of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin
and Letang have played just four games together. Despite the obstacles that would cripple most teams, the Penguins have vaulted to the top of this week's Super 16.
This week's power rankings might have been the toughest to compile all season. Teams outside of the top 16 last week in the real standings are playing well, while teams at the top have been faltering. The Blues, winners of nine of 10, deserve a No. 1A ranking as opposed to a No. 2 spot.
Here they are. Let your voices be heard in the comments.
If you have any problems, questions, anger or praise for this list, you can let me know on Twitter: @davelozo
||Of all the numbers that can make a case for Malkin to win the Hart Trophy, his faceoff numbers get overlooked. He's won 47 percent of draws, a career high, and taken 1,049 faceoffs after never taking more than 890 in a season.
||St. Louis (45-18-7)
||The defense never rests. The Blues have allowed two or fewer goals in their last 10 games and have killed 47 consecutive penalties. They are 36-0-0 when scoring at least three goals.
The Predators are the only team to post at least 23 home wins in each of the past seven seasons. Pekka Rinne
is 22-4-3 with a 2.00 GAA since Dec. 28.
||Perhaps Ilya Bryzgalov was waiting for March to get it going. In five games this month, he's 5-0-0 with a 0.99 GAA and .968 save percentage.
||N.Y. Rangers (43-18-7)
||The Rangers' all-or-nothing power play helped the team avoid a four-game losing streak, scoring three times in six chances in a 4-3 win against the Islanders on Sunday. That same power play had three goals in its last 12 games.
Getting Michael Ryder
this offseason for two years and $7 million is looking like the steal of the century by GM Joe Nieuwendyk
. Ryder tied his career-high of 30 goals with 13 games left on the schedule.
Statistics can reveal oddities as much as trends, and perhaps this is both -- goaltender Ray Emery
is 10-0-2 at home and 5-9-1 on the road. Maybe he just really loves the anthem in Chicago?
Should someone submit a missing-persons report on the Sedins? Henrik has no points in his last eight games and Daniel has just 1 assist over that time.
||New Jersey (40-24-5)
||Ilya Kovalchuk quietly is putting together a season worthy of MVP consideration. He's tied for fifth in the NHL with 71 points and has 9 points in his last four games.
||It's hard to judge a team missing so many of its key contributors. With Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Jimmy Howard, they are elite. Without them, they are competitive, but it's been a struggle.
||It's been a consummate team effort this season. The Senators have eight players with double-digit goals and four goaltenders with at least two victories.
||Everyone is waiting for the Bruins to wake up and start dominating again, but it's been nearly three months since they last won three consecutive games.
The Sabres have some very winnable contests in the next seven games. They play the Canadiens twice and the Lightning and Wild once apiece. The Sabres are 8-2-1 in their last 11 games.
||Semyon Varlamov is 6-2-0 in his last eight starts, with a 1.24 GAA, .956 save percentage and two shutouts. As a team, the Avs are 19-2 in their last 21 shootouts.
The bleeding finally stopped Saturday with a 3-0 win against the Sharks. Under coach Dave Tippett
, the Coyotes are 94-12-4 when scoring first.
||Have the Caps turned a corner? Have we asked this question countless times this season? They are four points clear of ninth and have the tiebreaker over everyone chasing them.