Haggerty: NHL power rankings

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Haggerty: NHL power rankings

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

The clock is striking midnight for a lot of the Cinderella teams. While the Maple Leafs, Flames and Blackhawks are all clinging strongly to their playoff hopes, teams like the Thrashers and Devils have succumbed to the harsh reality of mediocrity in the NHL.

The Devils built themselves too big a hole to climb out of, and the Thrashers simply didnt have enough firepower, experience and defense depth to push the team over the top into the playoffs.

The Leafs are the most interesting study given how pathetic they were halfway through the year and how closely theyre nipping at the heels of teams like the Rangers and Sabres and Brian Burke has already expressed the requisite pride for his scrappy hockey club. Given the desperation theyve been playing with, the Sabres, Leafs or Hurricanes should all be looked at as most dangerous should they somehow sneak into the playoff tournament. Should be interesting to watch.

Without further ado, here are this weeks power rankings:

1. Vancouver Canucks (52-18-9, last week: 1): The Canucks are ready to buck the odds and attempt to become only the eighth team in the last 29 years to win both the Presidents Trophy and Stanley Cup in the same season.

2. Washington Capitals (46-22-11, last week: 3) Thirty goals and 81 points in an off season for Alex Ovechkin. Not too shabby for Ovie or for the Capitals.

3. Detroit Red Wings (46-23-10, last week: 4) The Wings have qualified for the playoffs in 20 consecutive seasons the longest running current streak in any of the four major sports. That is organizational excellence at its finest.

4. Philadelphia Flyers (46-22-11, last week: 2) The Flyers are 6-7-5 since Feb. 24 and have gone into an extended malaise as the top dogs in the East. Its difficult to turn the switch back on for anyone, and that may hurt the Flyers badly once the postseason hits.

5. San Jose Sharks (46-23-9, last week: 6) Joe Thornton is three points away from 1,000 in his NHL career, which will mean exactly nothing once the playoffs start for the Sharks.

6. Boston Bruins (44-23-11, last week: 7) The Bruins are as ready for the playoffs as theyre ever going to be. Nathan Horton has shown a good combination of offense and nastiness for the last month.

7. Pittsburgh Penguins (46-25-8, last week: 5) No Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin and 336 man games lost to injury, but the Penguins keep on trucking. Its impressive, but itd be shocking if theres much left in the tank come playoffs.

8. Tampa Bay Lightning (44-24-11, last week: 11) The Bolts are putting together a winning streak to end the season, and cap off their first playoff campaign since 2007.

9. Los Angeles Kings (45-27-6, last week: 8) Its going to be awfully difficult to replace Anze Kopitar, who put up 73 points in 75 games before he broke his ankle.

10. Phoenix Coyotes (42-25-12, last week: 10) The Desert Dogs are getting a brief late-season respite, and will end their regular season with a big home-and-home series against the Sharks. Phoenix continues to be a team flying under everyones radar.

11. Nashville Predators (42-26-11, last week: 9) Barry Trotz is all-mighty and all-powerful. That is all.

12. Chicago Blackhawks (42-28-8, last week: 14) The Blackhawks look like theyre in for the postseason, but theyve never truly pushed past the Stanley Cup hangover. Difficult to see a long run from the Hawks this spring.

13. Anaheim Ducks (44-30-5, last week: 13) Corey Perry is on fire with 15 goals in the month of March, and is looking to be the first Anaheim player to lead the league in goals since Teemu Selanne in 1998-99. The Ray Emery comeback has really save the team.

14. Buffalo Sabres (40-29-10, last week: 15) The Sabres lost Ryan Miller to injury at the worst possible time, but not even that has slowed their momentum as they finish in incredibly strong fashion.

15. Montreal Canadiens (42-30-7, last week: 18) Breaks my heart to see the Montreal fans all over Scott Gomez. Really, it does.

16. New York Rangers (42-32-5, last week: 12) The Rangers are hanging around and came away with a huge win over the Flyers. They missed the playoffs by a shootout loss last season, and are hoping to avoid that fate this time around.

17. Dallas Stars (39-28-11, last week: 16) The Stars are 0-3-3 in their last six games and all of their offensive players have slumped at the exact same time. Looks like the bubble is bursting.

18. Calgary Flames (40-29-11, last week: 17) Jarome Iginla became the 77th player in NHL history to crack 1,000 career points while willing his team to a vital victory. Calgary may miss the playoffs, but it wont be Iginlas fault.

19. Carolina Hurricanes (38-30-11, last week: 20) It might not be the 'Canes' year after they couldnt pull out a pivotal game at home against the Sabres team just ahead of them. Carolina is a little green for the playoffs.

20. Toronto Maple Leafs (37-32-10, last week: 19) Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski and Phil Kessel could all be 30-goal scorers for the Leafs this season. They have the building blocks in place for the future even if they fall short this year.

21. Atlanta Thrashers (33-33-12, last week: 21) Zach Bogosian showed exactly why the Thrashers are so down on him with a pair of unforgivable turnovers in the game against the Bruins that led to their playoff elimination.

22. New Jersey Devils (36-37-5, last week: 23) Too little and too late for the Devils to make the playoffs, but at least they rebounded after a brutal first half. One positive: it appears Zach Parise is again healthy.

23. St. Louis Blues (36-33-10, last week: 22) The only question worth asking in St. Louis: what the heck got into T.J. Oshie?

24. Minnesota Wild (37-34-8, last week: 24) Good to see the Wild are going to get plenty of time to make preparations for this summers NHL draft in the Twin Cities.

25. Columbus Blue Jackets (34-32-13, last week: 25) The Mathieu Garon Era might be over with the B.J.s after letting up a pair of softies to the Blues before getting yanked this weekend.

26. Ottawa Senators (30-39-10, last week: 28) The Senators have played demonstrably better since getting kids involved, and got a coup with the singing of Stephane Da Costa.

27. New York Islanders (30-37-12, last week: 26) The End cant came soon enough to the Garth Snow Era. What an abomination hes been on Long Island.

28. Colorado Avalanche (29-41-8, last week: 29) The Avalanche havent won in regulation since Feb. 22, and now it appears Adam Foote and Paul Stastny are out for the season. Can they just forfeit?

29. Edmonton Oilers (24-43-11, last week: 30) A ragtag group of Oilers managed to take down the mighty Canucks on Hockey Night in Canada last weekend. Kind of a big deal for a team without hope this season.

30. Florida Panthers (29-38-12, last week: 27) Someday well talk about hockey in southern Florida, and laugh knowingly at the absurdity of it. Were not there yet, though.

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

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

BOSTON – The all-important results continue to elude the Bruins at the time when they need them most.

The Black and Gold lost their third game in a row, 1-0, to the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden Friday night when they allowed the game-winning goal with less than 90 seconds remaining in regulation. It was a simple defensive breakdown and some great tic-tac-toe passing with Marian Hossa finishing things off, but it also felt like a game where the Blackhawks coasted against a wounded Bruins team for 58 minutes before turning it on when it was winning time.

The winning goal was a cross-ice pass from Tanner Kero to Hossa, with the puck sliding right between the legs of Adam McQuaid in the slot, and Hossa picking a corner while giving Tuukka Rask zero time to react side to side.

“We had a game plan in place and our guys executed well, they were ready to play,” said Claude Julien. “One little mistake and it’s in our net, and you lose yourself a pretty important hockey game.”

So, now the Bruins have taken only one point in their past three games, have dropped behind the Ottawa Senators in the Atlantic Division standings and continue to skate around like they’re wearing the weight of the entire organization on their shoulders.

“At the end of the night it is another loss and that’s the biggest thing. Did your team play fairly well? I think so. I think we competed hard, but then again you’re dealing with some growing pains. We had an icing late in the game so that’s not necessary, but the winning goal that goes through three of our guys and in our net with a minute-and- a-half left,” said Julien. “We have to stand there again, and take the responsibility for our own actions. It’s unfortunate because that minute-and-a-half that was left in the game kind of tarnished everything we had done for the first 58 minutes.

“I thought we played pretty well against a good team. We had contained the guys that we needed to contain. We didn’t score any goals – I don’t think we did a good enough job there - we had some chances but again you got to find ways to score goals. That’s where we are at.”

Clearly, the Bruins didn’t give up a ton defensively and Rask had been solid for the first two-plus periods, but there was also a sense Chicago didn’t bring its best game either when Boston outshot the Blackhawks 17-6 in the opening period. It was also clear that, aside from a couple of good, early chances from Tim Schaller and Brad Marchand, along with a Joe Morrow breakaway chance, the Bruins offense wasn’t doing enough work to get closer to the Chicago net for any sustained pressure.

So, instead of a solid result with dark clouds swirling over Causeway Street that a big change is needed to jolt a stagnant team, the Bruins hang up another loss where they outshot their opponent and end up with nothing to show for it.

These are the kinds of losses that test morale and togetherness and could either be taken as a sign of things tightening up for the Bruins or of things continuing to spiral away from a team that just needs wins at this point.

“I’m sure everybody’s feeling down right now because we lost, but you can’t start pouting too much. You’ve got to move on,” said Rask, who allowed one goal on 22 shots in the loss. “[There’s a] big game coming up Sunday, and next week, so it’s a loss and we have to move on. [We have to] get ready for the next one. I’m sure guys are pissed today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Tomorrow is a new day for everybody on the Black and Gold including Julien, who is scheduled to still run practice on Saturday as the B’s bench boss before speaking to the media prior to the team leaving for Pittsburgh. So, it’s business as usual after another loss on Friday night in a classic Original Six matchup that’s clearly most of the luster from where it was at four years ago, but one can only sit and wonder how much longer business as usual cuts it for a hockey club that continues to flounder. 
 

Julien sidesteps job security question with "shock journalism" comment

Julien sidesteps job security question with "shock journalism" comment

BOSTON -- With three crushing losses in a row at a time when results are really all that matters, the Boston Bruins are reeling at the wrong time during the regular season. The B’s tried their best to win a game 0-0 with strong defense against a sleepy Chicago Blackhawks bunch on Friday night, but ultimately coughed up a Marian Hossa goal in the final minutes for a 1-0 regulation loss at TD Garden.

The defeat continued a swirl downward for the Black and Gold over the last week, and was a second straight shutout loss on home ice for the first time in almost 15 years. The losing stretch has also kicked up the chatter that Claude Julien is in trouble as head coach of the Bruins, and the hockey club’s underperformance up and down the lineup is ultimately going to cost the NHL’s longest tenured bench boss his job.

The Ottawa Senators have passed the Bruins in the Atlantic Division, and it’s only a matter of time before the Toronto Maple Leafs move by them as well with both Toronto and Ottawa holding six games in hand on Boston. Combine all of this with the B’s having missed the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons leading into this one, and it shouldn’t be at all surprising that Julien is squarely on the coaching hot seat.

The B’s bench boss was asked about his job security after the Chicago loss, and clearly didn’t appreciate the tough, but appropriate question.

“Well, I’m not into shock-journalism,” said Julien in a prideful tone. “So I’ll stay away from that question if you don’t mind.”

The Bruins posted their Saturday schedule shortly after Julien and the B’s players had addressed the media following the loss, and sure enough the embattled coach is scheduled to address the media post-practice as part of the regular practice day routine. So it doesn’t seem that a move with Julien is imminent this weekend despite another loss, but both the coach and the players know something is going to happen to shake things up with this team if they continue to struggle.

“Right now it’s a results based situation, so if you’re going to keep losing games then probably something’s going to happen,” said Torey Krug. “But right now we’re just pretty down emotionally after this game, so I don’t want to look at the big picture. I just [want to] focus on what’s going on in this room, and hopefully we can come back with a good effort the next game.”

A good effort might help Julien’s standing with the Bruins in the short term, but it’s impossible to imagine the B’s bench boss making it through the rest of the Bruins regular season given all of things working against him right now.