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Super 16: Plenty of contenders for top-ranked team

by Dave Lozo
Two weeks ago, it was pretty clear that the Boston Bruins were the best team in the NHL.

Last week, the difference between the Bruins, Rangers and Canucks was negligible.

As the hockey world rolls out of bed Monday morning, there is no shortage of teams that can make a strong case for being the League's best.

The Rangers, last week's top team, dropped two games over the past four days. The Bruins let a third-period lead slip away in Carolina on Saturday. The Canucks have dropped two of four since their stirring win in Boston last week, including a rough loss at home to Anaheim on Sunday night.

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks have righted the ship after a three-game slide, but have lost twice to the Red Wings in the past week. And what about those Red Wings? They've played well lately, but they seemingly took the night off in a 5-1 loss on Long Island on Tuesday.

The Blues, Sharks, Flyers, Predators and even the sizzling Senators are making a case to be the No. 1 team in the Super 16. But there can be only one, just like in Highlander.

This week, instead of throwing numbers at you about how many goals a player has had since his last haircut on the weekend of a full moon, or how many times a team has won when getting double-digit shots in a third period on an odd-numbered date, let's sing the praises of some players who didn't earn All-Star nods last week. These aren't exactly "snubs" as they say, but perhaps the best players on each team that won't get to go to Ottawa (unless they are injury replacements). There are enough talented players in the NHL to make a pretty good second-level All-Star team.

Who's this week's top team? Let's take a look.

1 Boston (28-12-1) 2 Patrice Bergeron is one the game's best, most-complete players, but he didn't make the cut. He has 37 points in 41 games this season.
2 N.Y. Rangers (28-11-4) 1 John Tortorella made mention of the lack of inclusion of Michael Del Zotto, who has 23 points and is plus-22 through 43 games.
3 St. Louis (26-12-6) 4
On the defensively stingy Blues, Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk had strong credentials to make the All-Star team, but ex-Senators goalie Brian Elliott stole the show.
4 Detroit (28-15-1) 7 It's all well and good that Nicklas Lidstrom didn't want to attend, but what about Ian White? He hasn't made fans forget about Brian Rafalski, but they may be foggy on his name right now.
5 Chicago (24-13-6) 8 Duncan Keith may not be locking things down as tight as he was a couple years ago, but he has 24 points and is plus-12 in more than 26 minutes of ice time per game.
6 Nashville (25-15-4)
Pekka Rinne's numbers don't exactly scream All-Star, but no team in the NHL relies on their goaltender the way the Predators, one of the best teams in the League, do.
7 Vancouver (28-15-3) 3
Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis are the two of the better defensemen in the NHL, but it seems like teammate Alexander Edler claimed their spot in Ottawa.
8 San Jose (25-12-5) 6
There isn't a player averaging a point per game on the Sharks, but Joe Pavelski's 17 goals would have fit in nicely in Ottawa.
9 Philadelphia (26-13-4) 5 Scott Hartnell was down to play in the All-Star Game with 19 goals and 38 points, but the decision-makers couldn't get up to include him in the festivities.
10 Ottawa (25-15-6) 16 What does Jared Cowen have to do to get a little recognition? He's been solid enough along the blue line this year to earn a spot on the rookie team, no?
11 Washington (24-17-2) 13 Will he be physically able to play in the All-Star Game? Probably not, but Nicklas Backstrom should've at least had his terrific first half recognized.
12 New Jersey (25-17-2) 10 Where's the love for Patrik Elias? He has 41 points in 43 games on a team that doesn't score much and has been instrumental in Petr Sykora's resurgence.
13 Los Angeles (22-15-9) NR
Anze Kopitar's 42 points in 46 games are nice, but they're sensational when you consider he plays on a team that struggles to score three goals most nights.
14 Pittsburgh (23-17-4) 12 It seems that Marc-Andre Fleury gets taken for granted. The goaltender has 21 wins and a 2.17 goals-against average, providing the banged-up Penguins a rock between the pipes.
15 Dallas (24-18-1) 11
It likely came down to the splitting of hairs that had been split three times, but Loui Eriksson has just as much right to be in the All-Star Game as teammate Jamie Benn.
16 Florida (21-14-8) 14 Kris Versteeg has cooled since a hot start, but 39 points in 42 games isn't too shabby. He's one of the big reasons why Florida has been surprising a lot of people.
If you have any problems, questions, anger or praise for this list, you can let me know on Twitter: @davelozo
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