NHL Power Rankings: Deals on the horizon

197882.jpg

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

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

BOSTON – The Bruins simply weren’t ready to play on Thursday night when the puck was dropped against the Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden. 

They fell down quickly by a 2-0 score, had a couple of completely inept power plays in the first period that sucked all the game’s momentum away from them and received some subpar goaltending from Anton Khudobin on the way to a 4-2 loss to the lowly Avs. About the only B’s person above reproach in this one was David Pastrnak after scoring a pair of goals in the second period to get Boston back into the game, but it all fell short in a very frustrating, lackadaisical loss to a Western Conference team that isn’t very good. 

MORE: 

Needless to say B’s coach Claude Julien wasn’t too happy after a loss where the Bruins might have had more success with a smarter approach to holding the puck. 

“There were a lot of problematic things [in the loss]. No doubt that the power play could have helped us in the first period, and failed to do that. They’ve got to be better,” said Julien. “We needed some saves tonight, and we didn’t get them. [Anton Khudobin] has got to be better. 

“A lot of things here that we can be better at, and take responsibility [for]. But at the same time, you got to move on here.  It’s one of those nights that had we been smarter from the get go, we would have had a chance.”

Clearly it was about a lacking group effort when dissecting the loss, and the minus-3 for David Krejci on Thursday night marked back-to-back negative performances from the playmaking Czech center in big spots. The goaltending was shoddy with Anton Khudobin allowing four goals on 22 shots for Colorado, and unable to make plays on a couple of Colorado shots from outside the painted area that built up the Avs lead in the first place. 

But it was also very much about the inability of the Bruins to generate consistent offense outside of David Pastrnak’s offensive burst in the second period, and the complete breakdown of the Boston power play in the opening 20 minutes. The Bruins struggled to enter the zone in their first PP possession of the game, and then allowed a Nathan MacKinnon shorthanded goal after Torey Krug futilely dove at the blue line to try and keep the puck in the offensive zone. 

The Krug misplay at the offensive blue line gave MacKinnon a clear path the net, and he buried a wrist shot past Khudobin to get the one-sided loss rolling. Beyond the costly mistakes that ended up in the back of the net, the Bruins looked sloppy and slow-reacting in their breakouts and more than willing to settle for outside perimeter shots.

That doesn’t exactly make for a winning combo even when it comes against a flawed, underachieving team like Colorado, and especially when it comes less than 24 hours after a hard-fought road game in Washington DC. 

“I think we were still sleeping there early in the game and they were able to capitalize on their opportunities. We couldn’t claw our way back,” said Brad Marchand, who picked up an assist on David Pastrnak’s second goal of the night on a perfect dish for the one-timer. “I think it was definitely a mental [block]. You’re able to battle through that physical fatigue. It was more the mental mistakes and not being prepared right off the hop of the start of the game. Again, that’s kind of where we lost it.”

The sleepwalking Bruins lost Thursday night’s valuable two points as soon as the opening puck was dropped against the Avalanche, of course, and the Bruins never got out of lollygag mode at a time when intensity should have been automatic.