NHL Power Rankings: Deals on the horizon

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NHL Power Rankings: Deals on the horizon

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

The trades are coming. The trades are coming.

Brian Burke was able to jump out in front of the curve and ship Kris Versteeg to Philadelphia for a pair of valuable draft picks in the first and third rounds, respectively. Versteeg gives the Flyers that one final skilled winger with a contract signed for the next couple of seasons, but a guy that also wasnt quite a good fit for the Leafs during the current Ron Wilson reign of terror.

While Flyers GM Paul Holmgren was able to pluck the former Bruins draft pick off the trade market, there is still plenty of wheeling and dealing to be made and plenty of draft picks and player assets ready to pushed up to the bargaining table.

The Bruins are on record that theyll make a move before the Feb. 28 trade deadline, but theyd better step up the urgency with all kinds of teams looking for the same players to fit their needs. Peter Chiarellis performance at the deadline could be the real make-or-break moment for a franchise that seems headed for bigger and better things.

Without further ado, here are this weeks power rankings:

1. Philadelphia Flyers (36-14-5, last week: 2) The rich get richer with their trade for Kris Versteeg, and look even deeper, more skilled and more ready to battle through the Eastern Conference in the playoffs.

2. Vancouver Canucks (36-12-9, last week: 1) The Canucks have now lost defensemen Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard and Alex Edler to injuries over the last couple of weeks. Theres only so long they can withstand those kinds of blueline issues.

3. Detroit Red Wings (34-16-6, last week: 5) The Wings had been in a mini-funk, but snapped out of it while outscoring the Bruins by a 10-3 margin over the weekend. They look like a team simply waiting for the playoffs.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning (34-17-5, last week: 4) Guess they brushed off that Buffalo disaster just fine. Dont think Ill ever be describing Dwayne Roloson as unflappable after watching that display.

5. Anaheim Ducks (32-21-4, last week: 11) The Ducks have won 14 of their last 18 games, and recovered nicely from a disastrous start to their season. Now they have Ryan Getzlaf back, which only makes things . . . well . . . duckier for Anaheim.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins (35-19-4, last week: 3) Life stinks without Crosby and Malkin, and now even lowly teams like the Isles are thinking that its open season on Pittsburgh.
7. Boston Bruins (31-18-7, last week: 6) The Bs looked like theyd really gotten comfortable with their Big, Bad identity, and then the Red Wings slapped them back into reality.

8. Phoenix Coyotes (30-19-9, last week: 12) The Coyotes have won five in a row and register as the hottest team in the NHL while notching their 500th organization win since moving to Arizona.

9. Dallas Stars (31-19-6, last week: 14) The Stars have dropped seven of their last nine games, and have looked like a beaten team since Boston beat them up in the schoolyard.

10. Montreal Canadiens (31-20-6, last week: 9) Kim Wilde would love Montreal because they just keep on hangin on. The Habs have shown a lot of resiliency, but are way too easy to push around.

11. Washington Capitals (29-18-10, last week: 7) The Caps lost a lifeless game to the Kings last weekend, held a players' only meeting and head out for a five-game road trip. Time for Alex Ovechkin to start carrying this bunch.

12. Nashville Predators (30-19-7, last week: 11) Only in Nashville would the headlines all ready Carrie Underwoods husband traded to the Predators. Good luck with the whole Mr. Underwood thing, Mike.

13. Minnesota Wild (30-20-5, last week: 13) The Wild are tied for the league lead with 13 wins since Jan. 2, and have been one of the NHLs hottest teams as of late. Still not buying the playoffs for them, though.

14. San Jose Sharks (30-21-6, last week: 8) The Sharks have managed to stay with the pack during a seven-game road trip, and thats no small feat. Looks like they're priming the pump for their big stretch run.

15. Los Angeles Kings (31-22-3, last week: 14) The Kings took down the Capitals and Flyers, and havent lost in regulation since Jan. 20. They could climb quickly in the ranks with Jonathan Quick really shouldering the load.

16. New York Rangers (30-24-4, last week: 17) The Rangers beat up on the Penguins last weekend, and have an amazing knack to simply hang around a playoff spot.

17. Calgary Flames (28-22-8, last week: 15) The Flames have cooled off, but have the years signature event in Canada with the Heritage Classic against Montreal on Sunday.

18. Chicago Blackhawks (28-22-6, last week: 18) The Blackhawks went 2-2-2 on a pivotal six-game road trip that just concluded. Not exactly a show of fiery playoff passion, but Chicago can still do some damage in the West if given the chance.

19. Carolina Hurricanes (27-22-8, last week: 19) The 'Canes need to once and for all decide if they want to be a handful in the playoffs, or simply another fringe NHL team stuck in neutral.
20. Columbus Blue Jackets (28-23-5, last week: 24) Rick Nash and Steve Mason have masterminded a furious comeback for the B.J.s in the wake of a sluggish first half.

21. Atlanta Thrashers (25-23-10, last week: 22) The Thrashers look like they might not make it, and thats too bad given the coaching job Craig Ramsay has done with Atlanta this year. Depth and youth are big issues.

22. St. Louis Blues (25-21-9, last week: 23) Jaroslav Halak didnt help the team in a pair of games against the Wild, and has slumped in his first season with St. Louis.
23. Colorado Avalanche (25-25-6, last week: 20) The Avs have lost 9 out of 10 games, and Peter Forsberg pulled the plug on a comeback two games into it. This clearly isnt the peak moment this season for Foppa or the Avalanche.

24. Buffalo Sabres (26-22-6, last week: 24) Ryan Miller has started 31 straight games for the Sabres in their desperate attempt to sneak into the playoffs, and it appears that the fatigue is getting to him.

25. New Jersey Devils (22-30-4, last week: 23) Ilya Kovalchuk is finally doing it all for New Jersey, and has nine goals while the Devils have gone 12-1-2 over the last 15 games.
26. Florida Panthers (24-24-7, last week: 27) Florida is sniffing around the playoffs, but they arent in the litter box plans for the Panthers.

27. Toronto Maple Leafs (23-27-6, last week: 26) GM Brian Burke will maintain that the Leafs are trying for the playoffs, but the mass Toronto exodus via trades would suggest otherwise. Kris Versteeg just wasnt going to ever cut it in Toronto.
28. Ottawa Senators (18-30-8, last week: 28) Jason Spezza is untouchable for the Senators. Everyone else? Very touchable.
29. New York Islanders (20-29-7, last week: 29) Leave it to the Islanders and guys like Mark Martin and Trevor Gillies to sully the leagues image.
30. Edmonton Oilers (15-29-8, last week: 30) The Oilers are young, but really arent doing much to impress anybody as they play out the string and get ready for another high lottery pick.

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

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

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STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel beat Nashville's Pekka Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in finals history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37:09 at one point without a shot.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions.

All the guys from the place dubbed "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

It temporarily deflated Nashville and gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge.

Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Nick Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa, when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead they rallied.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second. Though Nashville didn't get another one by Murray, they also kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

Morning Skate: No surprise cheap-shot artists are running wild

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Morning Skate: No surprise cheap-shot artists are running wild

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while hoping everybody on this Memorial Day takes some time to appreciate all of those that made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. We should also take a moment to say thanks to people like the three heroes in Oregon that stood up to a hateful bigot earlier this week, and in doing so reaffirmed what the majority of people living in the US believe we are all about while trying to live up to that ideal every day.
 
-- A number of NHL legends are shaking their heads at the dirty play that we’re seeing in these playoffs, particularly those plays targeting the superstars that people pay big money to see in the postseason. Why should anybody be shocked by this? The rooting out of enforcers, and fighting, has taken accountability out of the game for the cheap-shot artists and dirty players, and leaves little real deterrant for players looking to take out opponents with dangerous plays. I wrote about this a couple of years ago when the NHL threw the book at Shawn Thornton for going after Brooks Orpik, and in doing so chose to protect somebody trying to hurt opponents (Orpik) and punish somebody trying to protect his teammates (Thornton). It was a sea change for the league, and something players didn’t forget as more and more enforcers were quickly weeded out of the NHL. This is what the rule-makers and legislators wanted, and now it’s what they’re getting just a couple of years later with dangerous stick-work, cheap shots and a general lack of respect for fellow players.
 
-- Here's why the Tampa Bay Lightning would consider trading a player like Jonathan Drouin, and the major impact that could have on the offseason trade market.
 
-- Down Goes Brown has a Stanley Cup Final rooting guide for the other 28 other fan bases now that Nashville and Pittsburgh are in the final series.

-- So which goaltender has the edge in the Stanley Cup Final: Nashville's Pekka Rinne, or Pittsburgh's two-headed monster of Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury?
 
-- Scotty Bowman says winning back-to-back Stanley Cup titles has become monumentally difficult since the advent of the salary cap.
 
-- Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are pushing each other to be betters, and showing exactly how a team should be led by its superstars in the salary-cap era for the league.
 
-- For something completely different: We can confirm through this report that a lot of hot dogs are eaten in the summertime. So glad we have people to research these kinds of things.