Time flies fast when you are having fun. Chicago is playing on a different level than the rest of the league. We already have one-fourth of the season complete, and there’s a lot of jockeying and fighting for playoff positions in the coming weeks. Two things working in their favor is they have the best penalty kill in the league and they have scored the most even-strength goals in the league. Combine those two and you have a team that is awfully tough to beat. Another team that’s been making moves in the East is Toronto. The Leafs are another road warrior team like their Original Six mates where they have sported a 6-1-0 record. If they can play as well at home as they again when they beat Montreal 6-0 Saturday night, they can ride the home crowd deep in the playoffs.
1. Chicago (LW: 1)- One thing that plays in the favor of the Blackhawks is because of other events going on at the United Center, they have already completed 42 percent of their road games. The six-game road trip resulted in a 4-0-2 mark, which is better than anyone on the planet expected. Should they play half or three-fourths as well at home, they could run away with the division title and a possible No.1 overall seed. They now return home for four games, including one against a team they didn’t beat (Vancouver).
2. New Jersey (LW: NR)- The Devils have won five in a row, including a weekend sweep of the Penguins. Not many people expected them to contend at this level considering they lost Zach Parise to the Wild. David Clarkson has been picking up the scoring slack, as his nine goals are two behind leader Thomas Vanek. Clarkson has been proving that last season wasn’t a fluke when he scored 30 goals. This week they have three games with minimal travel; with two home games and a road match up on Long Island Saturday.
3. Boston (LW: NR)- With a record of 8-1-1, the Bruins are off to their best start in franchise history. They have been doing it with defense as they have allowed a league-low 21 goals. What should concern Boston fans is their dreadful power play, ranked 28th in the league. You may can get away with it at the beginning of the season but once the playoffs roll around that unit has to be clicking to take advantage of opponent penalties. The team officially parted ways with Tim Thomas last week, a decision that could have been fueled by the solid play of their current goalies Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin.
4. Vancouver (LW: NR)- Just like the Devils, the Canucks have won five straight games. The team is looking more like the Stanley Cup finalist from two years ago as both Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider are winning games. Doesn’t appear to be a goalie controversy this time around, so don’t expect Luongo to be on the trade block like last summer. This week they have three games at home before heading out on a four-game road trip next week. On a side note, Henrik Sedin can become the franchises all-time leading scorer tonight as they take on Minnesota. He has 755 points, one behind fellow Swede Markus Naslund.
5. Detroit (LW: NR)- The season didn’t start out too well for the Red Wings. Fans were ready to give up on the team and call it a rebuilding year as it was a serious possibility they would not make the playoffs. However the boys in red have revved their motors as they have won four of their last six played. The most exciting win of recent memory was Sunday afternoon when Jonathan Ericsson squeezed a slap shot past Jonathan Quick with under five seconds remaining soon after the Kings tied the score. Goalie Petr Mrazek was very impressive last week, winning his first career start when he beat St. Louis 5-1 on the road. The Red Wings are home for two this week before heading to Minnesota Sunday night.