Joe Haggerty's NHL power rankings: Can teams find sellers at trade deadline?

Joe Haggerty's NHL power rankings: Can teams find sellers at trade deadline?

The trade deadline is less than two weeks away, and things are starting to get a little tense in the 30 situation rooms around the NHL. 

Most of the team’s scouting departments are either meeting this week, or have already met as each of the 30 teams try to figure out what to do with a severe lack of sellers on the trade market. It’s the Colorado Avalanche that are asking for a boatload of assets (young NHL player, prospect and first round pick) for players like Gabriel Landeskog or Matt Duchene, or the Arizona Coyotes that it seems haven’t even really reached that level of pre-trade activity yet with the players they will be selling.

So now the NHL buyers on the trade market are waiting for a few other teams like perhaps a Detroit or a Dallas to also decide they’re going to sell rather than buy, and start freeing up some valued assets to switch teams ahead of the March 1 trade deadline.  

It’s not happening yet, and one wonders how many trades there really will be at the end of the day with the NHL expansion draft coming this summer. But that’s a story for another week of power rankings. 

Without further ado here are this week’s power rankings:

1.       Washington Capitals (39-11-6, previous ranking: 1) – The red-hot Capitals have won six games in a row and have outscored their opponents 30-12 over that span. They haven’t lost a game in February, so we should probably start the “peaking too soon” speculation in short order. 

2.    Minnesota Wild (37-13-6, previous ranking: 2) – The Wild are putting together a solid body of work, but they lost a playoff-style grinding 1-0 game to the Anaheim Ducks in their last contest. They’d better hope that’s not a preview of what awaits in the playoffs with a coach, Bruce Boudreau, that’s had some pretty early exits. 

3.    Pittsburgh Penguins (35-13-7, previous ranking: 4) – The Penguins more than survived their time without Evgeni Malkin, and now they’re off and running once again. The Metro Division bracket is going to be brutal in the postseason. 

4.    New York Rangers (37-18-1, previous ranking: 7) – King Henrik is riding a five-game winning-streak and the Blueshirts have won six in a row as they seem to be saying, "Hey, don’t forget about us” in the Metro either. 

5.   Chicago Blackhawks (35-17-5, previous ranking: 5) – I did not have Artem Anisimov and Marian Hossa tied for the team-lead in goals midway through February, but the Blackhawks have made things work this season. They’re making their move with a five-game winning-streak to move up the Central standings.            

6.   Columbus Blue Jackets (36-15-5, previous rank: 3) – The Blue Jackets have lost four of six games in the month of February, and their high-powered power play hasn’t been able to score in nine games. Boy, that epic winning-streak feels like a long time ago. 

7.     San Jose Sharks (34-18-5, previous ranking: 6) – The Sharks finally snapped a four-game losing-streak on a long East Coast road swing with a win in New Jersey, and now they’re happy to be back home once again. 

8. Montreal Canadiens (31-19-8, previous ranking: 8) – The Habs are clearly hoping that the re-run of “The Claude Seasons” is much better the second time around. It’s a nice, cushy spot for a coach to be taking over a first place team, and Carey Price and Shea Weber give him some great pieces to install his system. 

9.   Anaheim Ducks (30-18-10, previous ranking: 10) – The Ducks had a nice win over the Wild, but they will lose Antoine Vermette after that wild slashing play with the linesman. What was Vermette thinking there?

10. Edmonton Oilers (30-18-8, previous ranking: 9) – The Oilers took their customary post-bye week loss to the Blackhawks, but then got back on the winning track with a slump-buster special against the Coyotes. Now the Oil should be ready to roll as Peter Chiarelli looks for some players to complement them on the trade market. 

11. Toronto Maple Leafs (26-19-11, previous ranking: 12) – The Leafs looked a little shaky in back-to-back losses to the Blues and Sabres, but they completely stomped an Islanders team that had been playing much better under Doug Weight. That was impressive. The last loss to the Blue Jackets was not. 

12. Ottawa Senators (29-19-6, previous ranking: 11) – It’s great to see Craig Anderson back for the Senators, and even better watching him get a shutout win over the Islanders in his first game back for Ottawa. Good things absolutely happen to good people. 

13. St. Louis Blues (30-22-5, previous ranking: 15) – The Blues have won five games in a row, and really appear to be streaking after the coaching change. You know it’s noteworthy when even the goaltending has taken a complete 180 degree turn for the better. 

14. Nashville Predators (27-21-8, previous ranking: 13) – Here’s something you don’t see every day: A team like Nashville getting a hat trick from Victor Arvidsson and still losing a game to the Florida Panthers last weekend. 

15. Boston Bruins (29-23-6, previous ranking: 20) – The Bruce Cassidy Era has brought optimism back to Bruins country, and a three-game winning streak just ahead of their bye week has them pushing up the standings.

16. Los Angeles Kings (28-23-4, previous ranking: 19) – The Kings have won six of the last eight games, and the two losses were back-to-back 5-0 losses to the Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Boy, those East Coast swing road trips really bite for the West Coast teams. 

17. Philadelphia Flyers (27-23-7, previous ranking: 14) – Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds are a combined minus-48 for the Flyers this season. It is amazing that they’re even close to a playoff spot, never mind hovering around a wild card spot. 

18. New York Islanders (25-20-10, previous ranking: 18) – The Isles are 8-3-2 since moving from Jack Capuano to Doug Weight, and they’ve endured all of the questions about where John Tavares is going when he becomes a free agent. That’s not even counting the whispers swirling around their future mystery home when they finally leave the Barclays Center. But they keep hanging in there, and it’s a credit to them. 

19.  Florida Panthers (24-20-10, previous ranking: 17) – The Panthers have taken points in five of their last six games, and are finally making some semblance of a push with Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov. Is it too little, too late for them? 

20. New Jersey Devils (24-22-10, previous ranking: 21) – Cory Schneider has started six games in a row for New Jersey, and has taken points in five of their last six games while truly stepping up between the pipes. The Devils are making as big of a move as they’re capable of, which isn’t all that much right now. 

21. Tampa Bay Lightning (25-24-7, previous ranking: 26) – The Lightning went into their bye week on a high note with a 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets, but there is some serious issues with the Tampa Bay organization these days. 

22. Carolina Hurricanes (24-22-7, previous ranking: 22) – The Hurricanes have lost two in a row and are dead last in the Metro Division, but they’ve also got a ton of games to play as compared to most of the Eastern Conference. Thanks compacted schedule! 

23. Buffalo Sabres (24-23-10, previous ranking: 23) – A couple of nice divisional wins over the Leafs and the Senators, but the Sunday home loss to the Canucks stings a bit. Time is slipping away from the Sabres at this point. 

24. Calgary Flames (29-26-3, previous ranking: 28) – We could talk about all kinds of observations about the Calgary Flames, and the season they’ve put together to this point. But they lost 5-0 on Monday night to the Arizona Coyotes. The. Arizona. Coyotes. 

25. Vancouver Canucks (25-26-6, previous ranking: 27) – Alex Burrows said he’s watching ESPN for his sports highlights because he doesn’t want to watch anything where they might talk about hockey trade rumors. Solid logic by the biting bandit. 

26. Winnipeg Jets (26-29-4, previous ranking: 25) – One has to wonder what kind of changes are in store for a Winnipeg Jets team that should be much better than they are at this point. It probably starts with Paul Maurice and then will go from there. 

27. Detroit Red Wings (22-25-10, previous ranking: 24) – The Red Wings have lost five in a row, but the real unfortunate development for the Wings was the passing of beloved, longtime owner Mike Ilitch over the weekend. Sincere condolences to the entire Detroit Red Wings family for their big loss. 

28. Dallas Stars (22-26-10, previous ranking: 28) – The Stars have lost two in a row and Lindy Ruff says he won’t be using Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn as distinct and separate centers up front. This is not surprising given the real lack of quality, all-around center play from Seguin over the course of his career. 

29. Arizona Coyotes (19-29-7, previous ranking: 29) – Larry Fitzgerald tried his hand at hockey while fooling around at a Coyotes practice recently. That’s good news for the Coyotes franchise as they could use all the help they can get. 

30. Colorado Avalanche (15-37-2, previous ranking: 30) – The 7-19-1 record at home? The minus-75 goal differential? The current four game losing streak for an Avs team that waved the white flag a long, long time ago? This team just stinks out loud.

Khudobin happy to step in for Rask in an 'important game'

Khudobin happy to step in for Rask in an 'important game'

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – The Bruins' original plan was for Anton Khudobin to get one out of the four big games with playoff implications this week, so the fact he’s starting Saturday night vs. the Islanders in a do-or-die game is in keeping with that plan. 

But the 30-year-old Khudobin couldn’t have been planning on making the start vs. the Isles after the Bruins lost the first three games this week vs. Toronto, Ottawa and Tampa Bay, and have lost four in a row in regulation overall.

All of that changed on Friday when Tuukka Rask determined he couldn’t play due to a lower body issue. That leaves the Bruins backup goaltender preparing to start in the biggest game of the regular season. 

Coach Bruce Cassidy said there would still have been a discussion about going with Khudobin tonight based on the way things had gone for Rask over the past four games, but it would have been bold going with the backup over a theoretically healthy No. 1 goalie.

“It would have been a conversation to have with [Rask] based on his physical well-being. He’s not used to the workload, but at this time of year that’s just what happens sometimes,” said Cassidy of Rask, who had started three games in four days before tonight’s DNP. “It would have been a conversation. We were considering Anton for a game this week, and it just so happens that it worked out to be [against the Islanders].”

It’s a good thing that Khudobin has won his past four games  and is playing his best hockey of the season. He said he's determined to be at his best despite his last start coming 10 days ago in Calgary.

“We don’t know what’s going on there [with Tuukka], so I’m just taking it day-by-day,” said Khudobin, who has a solid .916 save percentage in his past five appearances for the Black and Gold. “I’m not thinking too far ahead. It’s always great to play. It’s a really important game, and it’s the time of year where every point is really important.

“I’ve played pretty good and the guys have played really well in front of me. We’ve gotten the wins, so that’s the most important thing. When you get the wins, of course, it always feels really good.”

The Bruins showed a lot of faith in Khudobin signing him to a two-year deal on July 1 to be Rask’s backup. For most of this season he struggled badly in that role while going back and forth to Providence. Still, all of that will be forgotten if Khudobin can battle and compete his way to winning against the Islanders and help stabilize a Bruins team that looks headed for another late-season fall amid a four-game losing streak. 

Saturday, March 25: Does NHL have star double-standard?

Saturday, March 25: Does NHL have star double-standard?

BROOKLYN, N.Y. - Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while getting no sleep till Brooklyn.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Harrington with a good piece on the star treatment double-standard when the NHL’s best players misbehave on the ice.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker asks what is wrong with the San Jose Sharks as the playoffs beckon.  

*Claude Julien hasn’t had the impact that the Montreal Canadiens were hoping for, says the Hockey News.

*Hockey Canada is contemplating sending a “B team” to replace the NHL star players at the 2018 Olympic Games.

*Jarome Iginla is undecided on whether or not he’s going to retire after 20 Hall of Fame level seasons in the NHL.

*Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock has his eyes on the playoffs as the Leafs have carved out a temporary placement for themselves.

*With the Minnesota Wild in a bit of a limbo, Bruce Boudreau is urging his players to learn from their mistakes and ready to finish up strong.

*For something completely different: I hope this Justice League movie is good, but I have zero faith in Zak Snyder.