NHL Power Rankings: All-Star break roll call

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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

Marchand: 'No place I'd rather play' than Boston

Marchand: 'No place I'd rather play' than Boston

The Bruins made it official on Monday -- mere minutes after the news had broken -- as they clearly couldn’t wait to announce an eight year, $49 million contract extension for Brad Marchand. who is finishing up his Team Canada gig at the World Cup of Hockey.

PROFILE: Joe Haggerty's preseason look at Brad Marchand

The deal averages $6.125 million per season, broken up between actual salary and signing bonus money. The Bruins were most definitely given a hometown discount by an elite player who snapped home a career-high 37 goals and 60 points last season, the most goals scored by a Bruins player since Glenn Murray in 2002-03. And everybody knows goal scorers get paid in the NHL, even if Marchand won’t be expected to score quite that many every year.

Marchand, 28, has also been the second-leading scorer in the entire World Cup of Hockey tournament, behind only Sidney Crosby, and continues to raise his profile in the NHL world beyond his customary agitator role. The “Nose Face Killah” could have waited for until free agency if he'd wanted to pick up every last nickel on the table, but it’s very clear he’s invested in the team that drafted and developed him, and with which he won a Cup five years ago.

"This is an extremely exciting day for me and my family," said Marchand, who now has a full no-move clause for the first five years of his next contract. "I would like to thank the Jacobs family, [president] Cam Neely, [general manager] Don Sweeney, [coach] Claude Julien, the coaching staff, my teammates and our fans for their continued support and belief in me. I have been a Bruin since the start of my pro career and there is no place I would rather play. I look forward to doing everything I can to help our team achieve success and bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston."

Marchand has been among the team’s leading scorers since joining the league in 2010-11, has been the NHL’s most dangerous penalty killer over the last five years, and pairs with Patrice Bergeron to anchor the top line. He’s also become much more of a leader in the last few seasons as other character veterans have been peeled away from the core group, and a hometown discount proves it one of the most meaningful ways possible.

It was clear Marchand was invested in the Bruins when he helped recruit free agent David Backes with phone calls this summer, and he was also present for the recruiting pitch to Jimmy Vesey at Warrior Ice Arena last month.

The Bruins players at training camp were happy to hear No. 63 was going to be in Boston for the long haul.

“Marchy is Marchy. I think everybody kind of knows what that means,” said Kevan Miller. “He’s been great for our organization and great for the fans and for this city. He’s been all in since Day One, and he’s been a guy that I looked up to.”

While the Bruins have confirmed the contract, Sweeney won't weigh in until later today. But one would expect there will be an appreciation for the skill of the player, and Marchand’s commitment to the organization after accepting less than he could have gotten on the open market.

Monday, Sept. 26: So what happens if Canada loses World Cup final?

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Monday, Sept. 26: So what happens if Canada loses World Cup final?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while finding it hard to believe that it’s game day for the Boston Bruins. Summer is officially O-V-A.
 
-- The Montreal media is starting to get on board with this tougher, grittier version of the Habs, along with a healthy Carey Price.
 
-- Pierre McGuire sits in with Ottawa’s TSN sports radio station and talks Team Europe in the World Cup, as well as a number of other things.

-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Zeisberger is already openly wondering what would happen in Canada if they lose to Team Europe in the best-of-three final to the World Cup.

-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Puck Daddy Greg Wyshynski asks Brad Marchand if a part of him has thought about playing with Sidney Crosby on the Penguins if he hits free agency. Bells, alarms and whistles should be going off on Causeway Street to give No. 63 whatever he wants at this point. In case you missed it, I talked about the danger of Crosby trying to woo his Nova Scotian buddy to Pittsburgh last week.
 
-- PHT writer James O’Brien says it sounds like the St. Louis Blues are going to play a more aggressive brand of hockey this season.
 
-- For something completely different: Forbes Magazine says Pete Carroll, not Bill Belichick, should be considered the NFL’s foremost cheater.