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By Joe Haggerty
Is it time to place Steven Stamkos in there with the rest of the NHL's great players after pushing his Tampa Bay Lighting all the way to No. 2 in this week's CSNNE.com power rankings? Considering the meager production they're getting from Vinny Lecavalier, Stamkos is their franchise face now.
So the hockey magic-8 ball says "Yes."
He's second in goals (9), second in plus/minus rating (tied with a surprising Steve Montador at plus-9), and leads the NHL with 19 points after Tampa Bay's first 10 games this season. The one-time shot, the dazzling skating speed and the fact he's only 20 years old should have him on par with Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin in any and all NHL discussions from now on.
That's our take, and we're sticking to it.
Bruins fans can only hope that the parallels between Tyler Seguin and Stamkos continue over the next three/four seasons provided Seguin adheres to the kind of grueling, productive workout plan that Gary Roberts tailored for the Tampa star.
Without further ado, here are this week's power rankings:
1. Los Angeles Kings (8-3, last week: 6)
The Kings are off to a great start, and now whispers are starting to kick up they might go after disenchanted Flames winger Jarome Iginla. Even better news: Wonder boy defenseman Drew Doughty (concussion symptoms) has been penciled in for L.A.'s next game on Thursday night.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning (7-2-1, last week: 5)
Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis have 14 goals already for the Bolts and have accounted for 40 percent of the team's goal-scoring output thus far. That's called bringing it, son.
3. Detroit Red Wings (6-2-1, last week: 3)
Coming off a disappointing 70-point season, Pavel Datsyuk is on pace for 50 goals and 100 points thus far this season. The fact Motown is again near the top of the power rankings doesn't seem to be a kawinky-dink either.
4. Montreal Canadiens (7-3-1, last week: 12)
Andrei Markov is finally back from his knee injury, and has been paired with flashy rookie blueliner P.K. Subban. A Habs team that was already playing well just got a lot better.
5. Boston Bruins (6-2, last week: 9)
Tim Thomas is off to the best goaltending start in the long history of the Bruins franchise, and the offense is averaging three goals per game over eight games. It looks like injuries and salary cap issues are the only things that could derail them. Classic moment when Thomas wondered aloud whether Bruins goalie legend Tiny Thompson got his nickname because "he was a tiny baby . . . or something."
6. St. Louis Blues (6-1-2, last week: 8)
Jaroslav Halak put together a scoreless streak of 160:08 within the last week of action for the Blues. St. Louis Halak's it. They Halak it a lot.
7. Washington Capitals (7-4, last week: 10)
Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin and Nicklas Backstrom busted out for 10 points in a blowout win over the Flames last weekend, and it looks like the Caps offense is finally off and running.
8. Chicago Blackhawks (7-5-1, last week: 12)
All who thought Patrick Sharp would be Chicago's leading scorer after the first month please raise your hands. Bueller . . . Bueller . . . Bueller. Anyone?
9. Nashville Predators (5-2-3, last week: 1)
The Barry Trotz feel-good story hit a snag when the Preds lost to both the Blues and Red Wings in Central Division battles. Houston, the Predators are crashing back to earth.
10. Colorado Avalanche (6-4-1, last week: 21)
Peter Budaj will have to hold the fort down in goal until Craig Anderson can come back from his knee injury, but losing the workhorse Anderson really hurts the Avs. Calling up John Grahame to back up Budaj hurts almost as much. Watch out for those moving curbs, John.
11. Philadelphia Flyers (6-4-1, last week: 20)
Why couldn't the Rick DiPietro/Daniel Carcillo near brawl have actually taken place last weekend? Damn you, Chris Pronger, for stepping in and stopping DiPietro from carrying on the Hextall/Roy tradition.
12. Pittsburgh Penguins (6-5-1, last week: 3)
The Penguins are 8-for-62 on the power play this season, and that's inexcusable given their talent levels. That leaves the Pens 21st in the NHL in power-play efficiency, and that just shouldn't be happening. Something isn't quite right yet in Pittsburgh.
13. Columbus Blue Jackets (6-4, last week: 18)
Rick Nash has three goals and two assists in 10 games, and is a minus-8. Just think where the BJ's could be if Rick Nash could get his talented butt in gear.
14. Dallas Stars (6-4, last week: 5)
The Stars only kill 68 percent of the penalties they're saddled with. That's just a brutal number as their forwards come back to earth offensively after a hot start early. The Stars aren't big and bright in Texas right now.
15. Atlanta Thrashers (5-4-2, last week: 24)
The Thrashers still have a way to go defensively, but Dustin Byfuglien, Evander Kane and Andrew Ladd are off to great offensive starts. The Thrash are a surprising fifth in the NHL in scoring thus far. Not bad.
16. Calgary Flames (6-5, last week: 13)
The Flames have dropped three in a row and given up 17 goals in the process. How in the wide world of sports have the Sutter Brothers not been politely asked to leave Calgary yet?
17. Vancouver Canucks (4-3-2, last week: 19)
Rick Rypien apologized to his teammates, the Canucks fans, the NHL and nearly everybody else. Everyone, that is, except for the Wild fan he physically assaulted. Forget the legal mumbo jumbo and do the right thing, Rypien.
18. San Jose Sharks (5-3-1, last week: 18)
Jumbo Joe Thornton figured in eight straight goals for the Sharks over the last week, and tied a Kelly Kisio San Jose record in the process. Any time you can match a Kisio record you're doing something right.
19. New York Rangers (5-4-1, last week: 10)
Henrik Lundqvist got his first shutout of the season over the weekend in Toronto, and the Rangers blocked 35 shots. That's a lot of ice bags, but that's also New York's formula for success this season.
20. Toronto Maple Leafs (5-4-1, last week: 15)
The Leafs are riding a 122-minute, 24-second offensive drought since last scoring a goal against the Ottawa Senators. Life can get difficult when Phil Kessel is the only real scoring threat.
21. Carolina Hurricanes (5-5, last week: 16)
The Canes are 24th in the NHL in scoring, and their leading scorers after 10 games are Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner with three goals apiece. That's not going to get it done.
22. Minnesota Wild (4-4-2, last week: 26)
The Wild need to keep tapping into whatever has Matt Cullen cranking away with nine power-play points in 10 games this season. Cullen's efforts have Minnesota scoring on 30.2 percent of their power plays – good for second in the NHL.
23. New York Islanders (4-5-2, last week: 14)
While the stats aren't where he'd like them to be yet, the fact that Rick DiPietro has started 6 of New York's 11 games has to be considered a big positive. The former BU star just needs to get his swagger back, and perhaps the little dust-up with the Flyers helped that along.
24. Edmonton Oilers (3-4-2, last week: 30)
It'll be a roller coaster ride this year for Edmonton, but Taylor Hall is rolling now and seven goals scored against the Blackhawks is pretty damned impressive.
25. Phoenix Coyotes (3-4-3, last week: 22)
No goals from Shane Doan and Ray Whitney means no success for the Desert Dogs this year.
26. Ottawa Senators (4-6-1, last week: 29)
The Senators are 0-4 on Saturday nights this year, and have been outscored by a 16-4 margin in those weekend games. I call it the Hockey Night in Canada curse.
27. Florida Panthers (4-5, last week: 23)
The Panthers spent last Friday's practice in Montreal kicking a ball around at the indoor soccer facility within the Habs' state-of-the-art practice complex. Then they went out and beat the Habs handily on Saturday. Clearly indoor soccer equals hockey success.
28. Anaheim Ducks (4-7-1, last week: 28)
Life ain't easy in the post-Neidermayer Era for Anaheim. They've allowed a league-high 42 goals this season.
29. Buffalo Sabres (3-7-2, last week: 26)
It seems no coincidence that Craig Rivet and the Sabres are both going through big-time problems at the same time to start the season in Buffalo. My question: how the heck is Steve Montador a plus-9 for the struggling team?
30. New Jersey Devils (3-8-1, last week: 30)
Last one to leave Prudential Center please turn out the lights. The only positive: The Devils didn't lose this year's No. 1 pick in the Kovalchuk fiasco, because it's going to be a good player.
Joe Haggerty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Joe on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HackswithHaggs.