Since tedious analysis is the stuff of "power rankings," each Monday NHL Closer writer Greg Wyshynski uses a form of universal expression: Success in terms of beer. Before we get to hookers clearing Sean Avery's good name, welcome to The Brewmeister Ratings...

Winner No. 1: Washington Capitals. An undefeated week of cardiac-kids hockey has them two points out of the division top spot heading into Tuesday night's last stand against the Hurricanes in DC. Lost amid all of the and the Leonsis vs. the mainstream media thing and (of course) rocket shots of Semin is this uncomfortable question for Capitals fans: Has this team crossed the entertainment threshold where missing the playoffs would still equate to an unqualified successful season, even if this was supposed to be when "the rebuild is over?" The Beer They'd Be": They're fresh, young and sexy ... it has to be a chilly Weizenbock, served by Hayden Panettiere dressed as a European beer wench. Yatta!


Winner No. 2: Colorado Avalanche. The Avs went 3-0-1, picking up a charity point yesterday against Minnesota. The good news is that this team is practically unbeatable when Peter Forsberg plays. The bad news is that he answers the bell about as often as a WWE jobber. Clearly he needs to spend more time rehabbing and less time exhibiting zero-gravity ball-hockey skills while scoring on "some random dude in front of a wooden net in the middle of Sweden." The Beer They'd Be: Flying Dog's Gonzo Imperial Porter stout. If it shows up at your local brew hall, it'll knock you on your ass...if it shows up.

Loser No. 1: Calgary Flames. Meanwhile, in the mind of Mike Keenan... "Just calm down, Mikey...calm down EVEN THOUGH WE'RE FOUR AND SIX IN OUR LAST TEN AND LOST TO THOSE FUCKTARDS FROM EDMONTON ON SATURDAY AND...calm down, this isn't the "old you," this is the "new you," so...I'LL JUST BENCH HUSELIUS. HE SUCKS AND HE'S STUPID AND IT'S ALL HIS FAULT AND ... deep breaths, Iron Mike, deep breaths ... DID KIPRU-SUCK JUST GIVE UP FOUR GOALS ON THIRTEEN SHOTS TO THE CANUCKS? OUT OF THE CREASE, FATTY! The Beer They'd Be: A tipped bottle of Tröegs Mad Elf, slowly spilling its potential on the floor.

Loser No. 2: Florida Panthers. According to goalie Tomas Vokoun, who watched his team go 0-3 last week while digging its own regular season grave, the Panthers have the talent to win. "The problem (has been) sustaining high effort. Different parts of our game fell apart at different times." Well, except for that 3-0 bed-shitting against the Caps, where it all fell apart at the same time. Unmotivated employees? What, did Jacques Martin not stick around for that seminar during his McDonald's managerial training? The Beer They'd Be: A bottle of Corona left on top of the toilet tank in a Hooters men's room.


Last Night's Life Altering Action. Nashville earned a charity point in its 1-0 loss to Detroit, and has an easy-ass schedule in the last week. ... Another big charity point in Buffalo, where Boston lost but increased its lead over the Caps. ... The Wild had already clinched a playoff spot before they beat Colorado, which earned (wait for it) another charity point in defeat. ... The Ducks move closer to home ice in the first round with a win over Dallas, who clinched a playoff berth with yet another charity point in the skills competition loss. Nice fucking standings, Bettman. ... Finally, there was really nothing more disgusting than the media hysteria over Roberto Luongo leaving Vancouver for the birth of his child. So good on him for getting back on the winning track with a 6-2 victory over Calgary yesterday. I just didn't expect him to celebrate like this:

Pens Up, Ho's Down (with Avery). Pittsburgh moved back into first place overall in the Wales Conference with a ho-hum 3-1 win over the Rangers on NBC yesterday, highlighted by Malkin surviving an errant Brandon Dubinsky skate to the face with just 10 stitches. Gotta love the frustration of the New York media over the Rangers' performance, turning its ire on the Penguins' ability to draw penalties with embellishments that have been "part and parcel of Pens hockey ever since Mario Lemieux decided to shame the league into enforcing its obstruction penalties by embarrassing all officials who didn't do so." Boo-hoo, Pittsburgh gets all the calls! Insert Arte Lange "waaaah!" noise here.


Of course, the big news for the Rangers was off the ice, as Jagr flirted with playing in Russia next season and Sean Avery got mixed up with whores. (Milbury called it "titillating" on NBC yesterday.) Despite his name finding its way into a little black book of a Manhattan madam, Avery said it's all a big "Three's Company"-style misunderstanding, and reassures impressionable young fans that if he was going to bang a hooker, he'd never do it under his real name. So, for the record, Avery hasn't actually gone from "The Girl Next Door" to the ladies of the evening.

Puck Headlines

* One of my favorite topics: Hockey fan superstitions. I used to be OCD boy when it came to the Devils, to the point where I believed drinking pink lemonade before a game would somehow influence their goal scoring. But I'm feeling much better please excuse me, there's a doorknob I have to turn counterclockwise 100 times so Zach Parise doesn't break his leg this week. [The Sign Girls]


* "Hockey fights are for losers." Go ahead and say that to Brashear's face, tough guy. [Brantford Expositor]

* Stan Fischler challenges Ron Duguay and Ken Daneyko to a table hockey game. Which is a little unfair, considering he was born before the invention of both hockey and tables. [MSG]

* Have the suits sucked the fun out of Flyers games? The last thing hockey needs is a Philly home game where half the people aren't willing beat the shit out of visiting Rangers fans because they might get a few drops of blood on their Brooks Brothers. [Flyers Center]


* MYFO sadly begins the Scott Niedermayer un-retirement watch for the 2008-09 season. [MYFO]

* Winning games in Buffalo has become "hollow and unfulfilling." I once had an order of mozzarella sticks at Sizzler like that. [Buffalo News]

* Finally, we honor the 80th birthday of Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe. While we could have easily chosen the hypnotic rockabilly of "Gordie Howe is the Greatest of Them All," this is a grander tribute. Giggle through the antiquated gadgets in an Exxon commercial to the 30-second mark, where Gordie Howe stars in a Natural Light beer ad. "Hey, Gordie Who!"