Week 9's power rankings featured more of the same, with a few outstanding teams in the East and one in the West. However, a few young teams are starting to make some noise, particularly a team down in Atlanta that features roughly a quarter of last year's Stanley Cup championship squad.
Nine weeks into the NHL season and very few teams have yet to separate themselves from the pack. There are a few outstanding teams in the Eastern Conference, but the Western Conference is still waiting for those teams that came into the season as "elite" on paper to pan out in the young season.
There's no doubt about the fact that the Pittsburgh Penguins are the league's hottest team right now. Winners of 10 consecutive games, the Penguins are led by their captain, Sidney Crosby, who has an astounding 48 points, including three multi-goal games in his last five.
Not too far behind the Pens are the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers. The Capitals came into the season with serious Stanley Cup buzz, and have yet to disappoint, trailing Pittsburgh by just a single point. Led by All-World forward Alex Ovechkin, the Caps have three players already over the 30 point mark.
The Flyers may have the most depth of any team in the East, but their biggest surprise has been between the pipes. Rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has posted a 2.21 GAA and .925 save percentage in 21 starts this season. His emergence has solidified a position that may have let the Flyers down at the end of last season, making them that much more of a threat in the East.
Though these three teams may not come as much of a surprise, there is one team that is as hot as anyone in the league, save Pittsburgh.
The Atlanta Thrashers have won eight of 10 games, including back-to-back wins over the division favorite Capitals. Led by former Chicago Blackhawks Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien, along with goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, the Thrashers are becoming a serious young threat in a tight Eastern Conference.
The Western Conference features the Detroit Red Wings seemingly running away with the division title, while many other teams are still mired in obscurity.
The high-powered Red Wings are showing that last year's struggles were injury related, and not due to their age. They've lost just five regulation contests this season and look poised to cruise to a Central Division title.
While Atlanta and the Tampa Bay Lightning look like legitimate teams in the East, the West features a pair of possible fluke teams, who are just riding an early season hot streak. The Dallas Stars have 34 points, but their division opponents, including Phoenix and San Jose, are starting to gain momentum. The Columbus Blue Jackets have young talent, but don't appear ready to challenge the league's best yet.
Quickly rising in the West are the Phoenix Coyotes, who wrapped up November on a seven-game win streak and have won seven of their last 10. Though they lack star power, the Coyotes have been backed by excellent goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov, and are among the fastest teams in the league, which could make life very difficult for those aging teams like Detroit.
Perhaps the most inconsistent team in the West are the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks have been marred by injury, along with the struggles of their defense to adapt to new goaltender Marty Turco. Though they have 32 points, they have also played more games than any other team in the conference.
One team that is going to make some noise out West once they are healthy is the St. Louis Blues. They've been hit hardest by the injury bug, falling from top of the conference to out of the top eight in a matter of weeks. Once forwards T.J. Oshie and Andy McDonald return from their injuries, the Blues will be a scary team down the stretch.
Now time for some real rankings: