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

With injury in his past, Malcolm Subban is looking toward future

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With injury in his past, Malcolm Subban is looking toward future

BOSTON – It’s not really ever a banner day for any red-blooded, red-light hating goalie when he surrenders four goals in a game.

But perhaps that bottom line is softened a little bit considering when it’s also the first game of the preseason. It may also be drastically mitigated by the fact, in this case, that it was the first time Malcolm Subban guarded the space between the pipes since taking a puck to the throat that fractured his larynx last February.

That traumatic injury left Subban unable to speak for days and gasping for air while being rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery.

It was a tiny victory simply for the Bruins goalie prospect to be back on the ice at all and a much bigger one once Subban had made 31 saves while largely under siege in a 5-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden on Wednesday night.

The 22-year-old admitted a little rush in net while the Red Wings were buzzing all around him for 35 shots on net through his two periods of work, but there was also happiness at simply being to back and building up for another season in the Bruins organization.

“It was great to finally get back out. Obviously, [I was] really rusty. To be honest, I felt – not so much the goals even, but just shots in general, especially in the first, obviously nerves had a little bit to do with it,” said Subban, who was 14-8-5 with a .911 save percentage and 2.46 goals-against average last season in Providence. “But it was the first time in a long time I could say that I felt not up to speed. I feel like usually I’m overplaying stuff, too fast. But, I felt today like practice is a lot different than a game.

“In the first, I thought I was a little behind the play. That starts to open up holes like my post coverage and stuff. A little rusty there, especially on the third goal, I’ve got to clean that stuff up. Other than that, I thought I played pretty well in terms of straight shots. We practice all that stuff. I’ve just got to keep working on that end. Hopefully, I can move forward and build on that. I think it’s a great game to build off, for sure, for myself and the team.”

The goals allowed showed some on defense, but also some of the rust in their goalie: Subban lost sight of the puck behind the net on the second goal and Steve Ott was able to fire a quick shot past him on the short side before he could recover his bearings. 

The third goal was also a post coverage issue with Luke Glendening scoring on a late-reacting Subban, which is usually one of his real strengths. So, there is work to be done, but Subban also shut down a number of breakaways in the second period behind a leaky defense and stopped over 30 pucks before he gave way to young goalie Dan Vladar.

That’s considered more than an honest night’s work in the first preseason appearance for any goaltender, and surely for one playing his first game in seven months.  

“I think it was [a good outing for Subban]. He faced some quality scoring chances out there, and the ones that went in probably he’d like to have back, you know,” said Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco. “But overall, I think when you look at his overall performance for the two periods he played pretty solid for us. He made some big saves, some timely saves and moved well in there. I think for Malcolm, you know, despite the score, I think he had a good night.”

Perhaps most encouraging: the middle Subban brother made a key save at the end of the first period with a puck off his helmet after Detroit had scored twice in a span of 19 seconds.

The stop with Subban’s head gear was probably the best sign of the night that he’s over last year’s traumatic injury and there isn’t going to be any shell-shocked goaltender situation with him.

So, did the injury cross his mind even once during his 40 minutes of work?

“To be honest, no. I owe a lot of credit to my players and these guys on the team in practice and stuff. I really haven’t had to worry about [taking another puck to the throat], getting hit,” said Subban, who now wears a neck guard after eschewing that particular piece of equipment prior to the injury. You’ve got some pretty good shooters in here; pretty accurate shooters. But, yeah, to be honest, I never really thought of [the fractured larynx], it never came across my mind.”

One thing that’s definitely been on Subban’s mind in camp is his contract situation and knowing full well he’s in the last season of his entry-level deal with the Bruins as a former first-round pick. He now has both Anton Khudobin and Tuukka Rask in front of him in the NHL and he’s looking at a fourth straight season in the AHL with the P-Bruins.

It might have been a different story for the talented goalie prospect if he’d finished last season in the same hot streak he was enjoying at the time of his injury. Perhaps he’d be the guy prepping to be Rask’s understudy this season. Instead, the ill-timed larynx injury pushed the Bruins to opt for an established backup in Khudobin and sign him to a two-year deal that could conceivably lock Subban in Providence for a couple more seasons.

So, now Subban is playing for his future, whether it’s with the Bruins, or with another team looking for a young No. 1 goaltending prospect just now entering his prime after refining his technique and going through some character-building adversity.

“I had a hard summer of workouts and skating, so I feel good. I’m not going to hold myself short. I understand that this is my contract year and the last year of my contract, so I’ve got to have a good year regardless of where I am. I’ve just got to play awesome,” said Subban. “Obviously you want to sign again, and you want to be a part of the organization. You want to be a huge part of it and a valued asset.

“So, what I’m looking forward to proving right now is that the last three years helped me, and that I’ve improved since my first year, and that I want to be here [in Boston].”

It will certainly be interesting to see what happens with Subban within the B’s organization over the next season.

The Bruins regime that initially drafted him 24th overall back in 2012 is now gone. Subban still has value to an NHL team, particularly a Canadian one, scouring the market for a blue-chip goalie prospect. The organization is also going to be forced to expose a quality goaltender or two in the Las Vegas franchise expansion draft after this season. That could mean a new work address, or a new spot opened up within the B’s goalie depth chart, for Subban.

All of these could be possibilities for Subban, but it all starts with him pouring everything he’s learned over the past three years and dominating the AHL before he pushes for his first extended look at the highest level of hockey. 

Bruins center Acciari’s status uncertain after leaving with apparent leg injury

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Bruins center Acciari’s status uncertain after leaving with apparent leg injury

BOSTON – There were no updates following the preseason loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night, but fourth-line center candidate Noel Acciari had to leave in the third period with what appeared to be a leg injury. 

The Rhode Island native appeared to be favoring his right leg after getting tangled up in front of the benches just a couple of minutes into the third period, crawled toward the bench and then headed back to the B’s dressing room for repairs.

Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco didn’t have any update in the moments directly after the 5-1 preseason loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

“Noel did leave the game. I’m not sure what his status is, or what the injury was. I haven’t been told,” Sacco said. Acciari finished with five hits and a blocked shot in 10:35 of ice time vs. Detroit. “I’ll have to check with medical and see where we’re at.”

The hope is that the injury isn’t a serious one after Acciari looked strong and heavy playing an energy role down the middle last season for the Bruins in the final weeks of the regular season. He teamed with Justin Hickman and Anton Blidh to play a gritty, energy line on Wednesday night, and they were largely effective for the Black and Gold while some of the other bigger name players struggled.

A potential injury to Acciari, however, does leave the door open for Dominic Moore to really put an iron-fisted grip on the fourth-line center spot after it appeared there would be a big surplus of centers at the start of camp.