Boston Bruins

NHL Power Rankings: All-Star break roll call

191545.jpg

NHL Power Rankings: All-Star break roll call

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

The All-Star break is normally a time to take stock of the landscape around the NHL, and its pretty clear how things are breaking down. With slightly more than 30 games remaining for every team, the Eastern Conference is close to locked in while there are still plenty of questions out in the West.

The Carolina Hurricanes look like the only team that can potentially break into the top eight and catch an invite to the Stanley Cup dance with a strong second half and thats been Carolinas calling card for the last few seasons. So dont doubt their ability to do so.

In the West, both the San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks are loitering around the playoff bubble and havent shown any inclination to grab a spot. Its time for those two talented units to provide a finishing kick down the stretch run, or possibly find themselves watching from the outside when things matter most.

Without further ado, here are this weeks power rankings:
1. Philadelphia Flyers (33-12-5, last week: 1) The Flyers have not held the top spot in the NHL standings this late into the season since the 1984-85 campaign. Pretty sure everybody on the team aside from Chris Pronger doesnt remember any of that.

2. Vancouver Canucks (31-10-9, last week: 2) The Canucks went into the All-Star break smoking hot, but theyve also lost top defenseman Alex Edler for the next two months to injury. Hard times could be ahead, and the Canucks will be looking for blueline help.

3. Detroit Red Wings (30-13-6, last week: 4) Here come Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom from injury. Here come the Red Wings right back to the top, even if the Islanders were able to keep Evgeni Nabokov away from them.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins (31-15-4, last week: 6) The Penguins have turned into the NHLs best defensegoaltending team outside of the Bruins, and Sidney Crosby is skating again. Things are looking up for the Pens.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning (31-15-5, last week: 5) Tampa Bay unveiled its new sweaters on Monday, and they make me want to say the word Shazam for some reason. Maybe its because of the Guardian Project.

6. Dallas Stars (30-15-5, last week: 6) Its not you, Dallas. Its me. No matter what I do, I cant take you seriously as an NHL contender. Maybe I should start seeing other teams

7. Boston Bruins (28-15-7, last week: 7) Its time for Tyler Seguin to start stepping up and filling in while Marc Savard is on the sidelines. The training wheels are off at this point.
8. Washington Capitals (27-15-9, last week: 9) There is no good reason for the Capitals to sit 19th in the NHL in power-play effectiveness. Alex Ovechkin and Co. need to wake up for the most important stretch of the season.
9. Nashville Predators (27-14-8, last week: 8) The Predators have 21 of their remaining 32 games in the Music City, and that should put Barry Trotz into the playoffs with his team once again. The Preds truly are a small-market marvel.
10. Montreal Canadiens (27-18-5, last week: 10) The loss of Josh Gorges and Andrei Markov leave the Habs as a marginal playoff team despite plenty of talent at other positions. Where would they be without the deal for James Wisniewski?

11. Anaheim Ducks (28-20-4, last week: 13) Cam Fowler leads all rookie defensemen with 26 points at the All-Star break. Hed look pretty good in a Bruins uniform, wouldnt he?

12. New York Rangers (29-20-3, last week: 14) Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi and Vinny Prospal look like theyll all be making a return to the Rangers fold in short order. Time for the Blueshirts to go on a run.
13. Phoenix Coyotes (25-17-9, last week: 11) The Coyotes have been inconsistent all season, but it bodes well for them that Kyle Turris is finally looking like hes going to be somebody NHL-wise.
14. San Jose Sharks (25-19-6, last week: 15) The Sharks were on a 4-0-1 run headed into the All-Star break and find themselves clinging to the eighth spot in the Western Conference. Put up or shut up time for a bunch of skaters that have been vastly overrated the last few years.

15. Chicago Blackhawks (26-20-4, last week: 12) Fifty games in and the Blackhawks still have no real idea of who they are this season. Its beginning to look like they miss Dustin Byfuglien more than they thought. The lack of Buff appeal will really show up come playoff time.

16. Colorado Avalanche (25-19-6, last week: 16) The Avs are the fourth-best offense in the NHL, but theyre allowing more goals than theyre scoring. Thats a problem.

17. Minnesota Wild (25-19-5, 17) Martin Havlat finally woke up, and the Wild have hopped into the playoff picture. This is not a coincidence.
18. Los Angeles Kings (27-22-1, last week: 21) The Kings play 10 straight games on the road to start their All-Star break, and wont play another home game until Feb. 24. This could be where the dream dies if they cant keep it together.

19. Atlanta Thrashers (24-19-9, last week: 18) Life without Toby Enstrom is going to be really challenging coming out of the All-Star break for the Thrashers.
20. Carolina Hurricanes (25-19-6, last week: 20) The Hurricanes are the most dangerous second half team in the Eastern Conference, and doubly so with a young talent like Jeff Skinner there. My prediction: theyll be one of the eight playoff teams.

21. Calgary Flames (24-21-6, last week: 22) The Flames are 10-3-3 since just before Christmas and appear to have played themselves back into things. Still need a strong stretch run for Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen to become a bona fide success story.
22. Buffalo Sabres (23-21-5, last week: 23) The pending approval of Terry Pegulas ownership bid for the Sabres appears to be a done deal. That should mean very good things for Buffalo, and a legit opponent for the Bruins in the Northeast Division for the future.

23. Columbus Blue Jackets (23-21-5, last week: 24) Looks like things arent working out for Columbus GM Scott Howson. Perhaps he should have made a move or two last summer to improve things?

24. St. Louis Blues (22-20-7, last week: 19) The Blues looked great early on, but it looks like injuries are going to be the ultimate downfall of a talented young team. Too bad.

25. Florida Panthers (22-22-5, last week: 24) All those interested in goaltending, please step to the right to start the bidding for Tomas Vokoun.

26. Toronto Maple Leafs (19-25-5, last week: 26) Loved how Brian Burke came to the defense of Phil Kessel like a parent chastising the bullies in the schoolyard. Pretty sure that just made it worse.

27. New Jersey Devils (16-30-3, last week: 27) Where on earth were these Devils to start the season? Their alarm clocks went off about three months too late

28. Ottawa Senators (17-25-8, last week: 30) The Senators are 9-14-4 at Scotiabank Place and in danger of putting together their worst home record since moving into the building in 1996. A housecleaning is coming.

29. New York Islanders (15-27-7, last week: 29) The Isles resigned Matt Moulson, so theyve got that going for them. Which is nice.

30. Edmonton Oilers (15-26-8, last week: 28) A lot of young, raw talent on the Oil, but they need some other pieces to get things headed in the right direction. Way too raw right now.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Beleskey happy to return from foot injury

bruins_matt_beleskey_122915.jpg

Beleskey happy to return from foot injury

BRIGHTON, Mass – It was absolutely an “uh-oh” moment for Matt Beleskey when he was hit on the foot with a shot Monday night in the Bruins' preseason opener against the Canadiens. Beleskey, 29, was just hoping that his foot wasn’t broken in what would have been another shot of bad luck coming off a tough season for the hard-nosed winger, so his hopes have been answered given his presence in the lineup for the preseason game Saturday night vs. the Detroit Red Wings.

Beleskey missed the past two preseason games and most of the practice time as well but returned to the ice on Friday before getting ready for tonight's game. With plenty to prove while coming off a down second season in Boston, Beleskey knows he needs a strong camp that can’t get derailed by injuries or assorted bumps and bruises.

“I definitely did not want a broken foot to start the year, so I’m glad that I was fine,” said Beleskey, who finished with three goals and eight points along with a minus-10 in 49 games last season. “I took a puck in the face during warm-ups and the shot to the foot in the third, so that’s quite a good start to the year. But hopefully, I’ve got those out of the way now.

“I felt really good in the last game. It was great to see some of the work I did in the summertime paying off, so now we build on that [against Detroit] and keep things moving. There are a lot of great players here [in camp] and there’s great competition. I’m just here to play my game and prove myself, and I’ve got all the confidence in the world I can do that.”

Now that he’s been given a full bill of health again, Beleskey will get just that chance skating with Sean Kuraly and Ryan Fitzgerald on Saturday night in Hockeytown amid a deeply competitive situation for Boston’s third line. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings for the Bruins against the Red Wings in Boston’s fourth game of the preseason:

DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak
Vatrano-Czarnik-Purcell
Beleskey-Kuraly-Fitzgerald
Schaller-Szwarz-Senyshyn

Miller-McAvoy
Grzelcyk-McQuaid
O’Gara-Zboril

McIntyre
Subban


 

Morning Skate: Sean Avery vs. Tortorella

sean-avery-john-tortorella-92317.jpg

Morning Skate: Sean Avery vs. Tortorella

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while amazed at what has united Lebron James and Steph Curry in this wacky country of ours.

*Sean Avery has some brutal things to say about John Tortorella in his new “screaming for attention” book, but then again Avery is one of the biggest low-talent dirtbags that the NHL has ever seen. So you probably need to consider the source.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) John Shannon has a few thoughts on where the NHL needs to go in their relationship with China now that they’ve played preseason games there.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the details as Steven Stamkos stood out in his preseason debut and the first game back from last season’s injury.

*The NHL has yet to determine whether or not Marian Hossa is eligible for LTIR with a skin issue that is expected to be career-ending.

*PK Subban talks about his rule of thumb while staying away from controversy with an active social media account.

*Mark your calendars for the annual Comics Come Home event on Nov. 18 to raise money for the Cam Neely Foundation. Here Neely talks with SI about his friendships with a number of local comics, and how the comedy event became a tradition in Boston.   

*For something completely different: Today marks the 40th anniversary of David Bowie’s classic “Heroes”, so it feels like a good time to get the story behind it.