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Super 16: Wild, Sharks, Stars join the party

by Dave Lozo

As we reach the halfway point of the season, it's still the Chicago Blackhawks and everyone else. Their season-long unbeaten streak has reached 22 games and it's the same teams battling for position off in the distance.

There are some new teams at the bottom of the Super 16 power rankings this week -- the Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks -- but there's not much movement at the top.

Here's the complete list, one that no longer contains the New Jersey Devils, Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning:

1 1 Chicago Blackhawks: Now that the streak has reached 22 games to start this season -- and 28 games dating to the end of last season -- the Blackhawks are almost halfway through the season without a regulation loss. The Blackhawks' 19-0-3 start equates to a 33-0-5 start in an 82-game season.
2 2 Anaheim Ducks: How much bigger of a story would the Ducks be right now if not for the mighty Blackhawks? They are running away in the Pacific, have nine players with at least five goals and are averaging more goals per game than Chicago. Can we just ship Bruce Boudreau the Jack Adams Trophy now?
3 3
Boston Bruins: The Bruins have entered the third period with a lead seven times this season and twice have come away with a regulation loss. That's in stark contrast to what the Bruins did the past two seasons when going into the final period ahead, when they were a combined 60-2-2 and 32-0-0 last season.
4 4 Montreal Canadiens: How about the resiliency of the Canadiens? On Saturday, they trailed the Penguins 4-2 in the second period and 6-5 in the third period and rallied to gain a point in a 7-6 OT loss. On Sunday, they rallied from a 3-2 deficit in the third period to win on the road in Boston. The Habs aren't going anywhere.
5 5 Pittsburgh Penguins: Tomas Vokoun was signed to give the Penguins a reliable backup, but he has been anything but this season. He has two wins and three goals allowed in two starts against the Rangers, but he's allowed more than four goals per game in his other six starts. Marc-Andre Fleury may be very busy in the second half of the season.
6 9
Los Angeles Kings: The Kings had their five-game winning streak snapped in Vancouver on Saturday, but they are primed to continue climbing in the West. They start a five-game homestand Monday that concludes with back-to-back contests against the Calgary Flames, who currently sit 27th in the League standings.
7 6
Vancouver Canucks: It's been a rough run of late for the Canucks. They've dropped six of nine and three of four, and played Sunday after arriving in Calgary just a few hours before puck drop because of weather issues in Vancouver. The Canucks lead the Northwest, but only six points separate them from last-place Edmonton.
8 8
Toronto Maple Leafs: After the Blackhawks at 16, there are two teams tied for second in the category of regulation/OT wins at 13 -- the Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs. With 21 points in 22 games, Nazem Kadri deserves some Hart Trophy consideration, although he's still on the fringe of that discussion.
9 7 St. Louis Blues: The Blues have dropped four of six after winning three straight. Brian Elliott, an All-Star last season, has lost his last six starts. After losing 4-1 in Dallas on Sunday, the Blues' road trip continues with stops in Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Anaheim. Things aren't getting easier.
10 14 Carolina Hurricanes: Based on records, the Southeast Division is the worst in the NHL. The Hurricanes sit atop that division, but it's not from beating up on the division. They were 0-5 in the Southeast before sweeping a home-and-home with the Panthers. Their current status, however, will be greatly tested if Cam Ward's injury is serious.
11 12 Detroit Red Wings: It's hard to punish the Red Wings when they came as close as anyone to beating the Blackhawks in regulation Sunday. Still, it was an impressive showing that came without the services of several injured key contributors, including Valtteri Filppula, Todd Bertuzzi and Darren Helm.
12 10 Ottawa Senators: They've dropped three straight, but managed to earn points in two of those losses. They've yet to feel the effects of losing Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson in the standings, but the Senators have gone 13 consecutive games without scoring more than three goals.
13 NR Minnesota Wild: The Wild have won five of seven and three of four against Northwest opponents. Niklas Backstrom is quietly having his best season since coming to the NHL in 2006-07, posting a 9-5-2 record, 2.21 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.
14 NR San Jose Sharks: The Sharks had a very positive week after scuffling mightily, picking up five of six points against the Avalanche, Red Wings and Predators. The addition of Scott Gomez hasn't provided the offensive boost GM Doug Wilson was hoping for, as the center has just two assists in 14 games.
15 NR
Dallas Stars: When Kari Lehtonen is playing well, the Stars are about as tough a team to beat in the West. He has allowed two goals or fewer in five of his past six starts, but the one stinker was the five goals he allowed to the Oilers.
16 16 New York Rangers: It's really no secret in New York -- the Rangers are a top team with Rick Nash healthy and pedestrian without him. The Rangers lost four straight while he was out with an undisclosed injury but won their last two since he's returned. Tuesday's showdown with the Flyers will be a good test.

Just Missed: New Jersey, Phoenix, Nashville, Winnipeg, Edmonton


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