It's taken nearly two months, but the Boston Bruins
have been knocked out of the top spot of the Super 16.
Perhaps "knocked out" is too strong a term. It's more like they were narrowly passed or displaced by the slimmest of margins. But the play of the New York Rangers
of late has earned them top billing in this week's power rankings.
Comparing the Bruins and Rangers isn't easy because they've yet to play a game against each other this season. That'll change on Jan. 21 when the NHL's goliaths meet at TD Garden for a heavyweight showdown at 1 p.m. on NHL Network-US. The Bruins have the jaw-dropping goal-differential (plus-68) and the League's best offense and defense, giving them a strong case to be considered the NHL's best team.
The Rangers, however, have been the better team in recent weeks -- and for the duration of the season.
In points percentage -- by far the best way to judge teams when they have played a different number of games -- the Rangers are first; the Bruins are second.
In their past 10 games, the Rangers are 9-1-0; the Bruins are 8-2-0.
During that 10-game stretch, the Rangers have beaten six teams currently in a Stanley Cup Playoff spot, including the Flyers and Southeast-leading Panthers twice. In their past 10 games, the Bruins have just four wins against teams currently in playoff spots.
Sure, it's splitting hairs, but it's enough to give the Rangers the edge as we reach the season's halfway point. We'll find out a lot more about these teams when they meet in 12 days.
For this week's Super 16 that marks the midpoint of the 2011-12 season, we'll sing the praises of each team's biggest surprise players through the first half of the season.
If you have any problems, questions, anger or praise for this list, you can let me know on Twitter: @davelozo
||N.Y. Rangers (26-9-4)
||Michael Del Zotto: The defenseman played so poorly last year he was sent to the minors. This year, he has five goals and 18 assists and is plus-25 in 39 games.
||Chris Kelly: He has 13 goals in 38 games after never scoring more than 15 in a season. The Bruins are 11-0 when he scores a goal.
: The offensive side of his game has developed this year. He's on pace for 12 goals, 57 points and about 230 shots, about 70 more than his best mark in '09-10.
||St. Louis (24-12-5)
||Brian Elliott: His 1.62 goals-against average and .940 save percentage would be Vezina-worthy if not for an even time share with Jaroslav Halak.
||Scott Hartnell: Playing with Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr has resulted in 18 goals and 37 points in 40 games for Hartnell. His career high in points is 60.
||San Jose (23-11-4)
: He's having a breakout year across the board at the age of 27. He's only five points off his career best season for points.
: Many were skeptical when he was moved to center, but he's seamlessly made the move. He's No. 12 in the NHL with 27 assists.
||Jordin Tootoo: After his tumultuous '10-11 season, he's putting up some of his best numbers. His 13 assists and 19 points are already career bests.
||New Jersey (23-16-2)
||Petr Sykora: The 35-year-old was playing overseas in 2010-11. He signed for $650,000 to play for his former team and has 10 goals in 41 games.
||Richard Bachman: His numbers aren't overwhelming, but with Kari Lehtonen out for a stretch, the diminutive netminder allowed the Stars to tread water until Lehtonen's return.
||Matt Cooke: Following three straight years of 100 PIMs or more, he has only 14 through 38 games. It's admirable how he's removed that element from his game.
: He led the Caps in goals at times this season. He's on pace for about 27 goals, which would be 10 more than he had in his best season.
||Jason Garrison: What isn't surprising about this team? But the undrafted 27-year-old leads all blueliners with 11 goals. He had seven in 113 games entering this season.
: He's on his way toward a 90-point season when he's never had more than 53 points. Remember when he was a salary dump in the Francois Beauchemin
||Milan Michalek: A big piece in the Dany Heatley trade has his sights set on a 40-goal season after never eclipsing 30 goals in six-plus seasons.