NHL Power Rankings: Heat check

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NHL Power Rankings: Heat check

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

As Florence and the Machine might say, the dog days are over for the NHL teams as March arrives.

A handful of teams, like the Oilers, Islanders and Avalanche, have all taken on injuries, sold off their tradable wares and packed it in for this year. But more teams than ever before are still in the playoff hunt with roughly a month left to go in the season, and teams once thought to be done -- like the Devils, Sabres and Flames -- are feeling a distinctive postseason heartbeat.

The most interesting teams, however, are the ones just hitting their stride as players begin to gird themselves for the playoffs. Among those teams are the Bruins, who fortified themselves with trades and filled a gaping weakness or two.

The results are hard to argue against. The Bs have four players in the NHLs top 10 in the plusminus category, and theyre riding an eight-game point streak thats their first since they went 6-0-3 through January and February back in the magical 2008-09 regular season. Just as hot as the Bs are the San Jose Sharks, bursting with a roster full of talent, and a Chicago Blackhawks team thats finally put it together with an eight-game winning streak. Anything can happen in the Stanley Cup playoffs, of course, but the most dangerous teams in the postseason are those like the Bruins that are riding an effective combination of mojo and talent right into the second season.

Without further ado, here are this weeks power rankings:

1. Vancouver Canucks (42-16-9, last week: 3) The Canucks hopped out of their mini-slump with back-to-back wins over the Kings and Ducks, and Manny Malhotra has been a difference-maker among the Vancouver stars.

2. Boston Bruins (38-19-8, last week: 4) A seven-game winning streak and some pretty complete performances within that stretch have made believers out of many and there was even some optimism in the way the Bs managed a point out of a blah game against the Penguins. Tomas Kaberle, Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly are making a difference.
3. Philadelphia Flyers (40-19-6, last week: 1) Four losses in a row for the Flyers, and the shoddy goaltending has been a big part of it. The 7-0 loss to the Rangers should be a wakeup call.4. Detroit Red Wings (39-19-8, last week: 2) The Wings continue to cruise through the regular season, but had a little bump when they blew a 4-1 lead in the third period against the Coyotes last weekend. We finally get to see what Mike Modano can add to the mix after coming back from his freak wrist injury.

5. San Jose Sharks (38-22-6, last week: 6) The Sharks have won 8 of their last 10 games, and are now in the drivers seat in the Pacific Division. Amazing how one hot streak can change things, but what will they do in the playoffs?

6. Chicago Blackhawks (37-23-6, last week: 10) The Blackhawks have won eight in a row and it looks like Chelsea Dagger will be blaring again this postseason. Uh oh.

7. Washington Capitals (37-20-10, last week: 8) The Capitals are 4-0 with Marco Sturm, Dennis Wideman and Jason Arnott acquired at the trade deadline. Clearly its the power of Wideman.

8. Pittsburgh Penguins (38-21-8, last week: 7) The Penguins are still showing plenty of grit as the injuries mount, but theyre 1-for-21 on the power play for good reason. They dont have enough horses right now.

9. Tampa Bay Lightning (37-21-8, last week: 5) Tampa GM Steve Yzerman deserves credit for putting some good pieces in place, but the Lightning look awfully soft with the playoffs coming.

10. Calgary Flames (35-24-9, last week: 13) The Flames have rocketed up the charts behind old hockey warhorses in Miikka Kiprusoff and Jarome Iginla, but have 8 of their next 12 games on the road. It will be a challenge for them.
11. Montreal Canadiens (36-23-7, last week: 11) The Canadiens are like the creatures in the zombie picture du jour. Just when you think Montreal is dead, they keep clawing back despite injuries and tough losses. There is some heart in that Habs room.

12. Dallas Stars (35-23-7, last week: 14) The Stars had a big win over the Sharks, and have come back from a third-period deficit eight times this season. A Mark Cuban ownership scenario could really breathe life back into this organization.

13. Phoenix Coyotes (34-23-10, last week: 12) Kyle Turris is finally turning into a player for the Coyotes, but it looks like Winnipeg might be reaping the long-term benefits.

14. Los Angeles Kings (36-25-4, last week: 9) Dustin Penner scored a goal on his first shot as a member of the Kings. Dean Lombardi can only hope it continues to go so swimmingly.

15. Nashville Predators (33-24-9, last week: 15) The Preds are living on the playoff bubble alternating between wins and losses, but need to start putting a run together.
16. Minnesota Wild (34-25-7, last week: 17) The Wild are 6-7-1 without Cal Clutterbuck in their lineup throughout his career, and could be in trouble with their heart and soul out with an upper body injury courtesy of Trevor Gillies. The injury comes at the worst possible time.

17. Anaheim Ducks (35-26-5, last week: 16) The Ducks figure they need to win 10 of their final 16 games to make the playoffs. Getting shut out by the Canucks wasnt a good way to start.

18. Buffalo Sabres (32-25-8, last week: 20) The Sabres have battled back into the playoff picture after a sluggish start. Buff has gone 14-7-4 since right after Christmas while riding Ryan Miller nearly the entire way.
19. New York Rangers (35-29-4, last week: 18) The Rangers showed they wanted the playoffs with their Philly pasting on Sunday afternoon.

20. Carolina Hurricanes (30-25-7, last week: 21) The 'Canes are going to have to kick it up if they want to hang with a Buffalo team that seems to be smelling the Cup at this point.

21. New Jersey Devils (30-31-4, last week: 24) The Devils have gone 20-2-2 in their last 24 games, and deserve credit for forcing themselves into a semi-believable playoff scenario. I said semi-believable.

22. Toronto Maple Leafs (29-28-9, last week: 22) Who would have ever thought Phil the Thrill was step to the forefront of a last-gasp playoff run for the Leafs? Itll be interesting to see if they can make it.

23. Columbus Blue Jackets (31-26-7, last week: 19) The Blue Jackets are 0-3-1 on their current road trip thats winding up with a game against the St. Louis Blues Tuesday night. Thats called not getting it done.

24. Atlanta Thrashers (27-28-11, last week: 25) The Thrashers are 3-9-2 since the All-Star break and have completely faded into NHL oblivion. A shame its happening to a good coach like Craig Ramsay.

25. St. Louis Blues (28-28-9, last week: 23) The Blues have lost seven out of eight games, and couldnt find a spark by shipping away Erik Johnson.

26. New York Islanders (25-32-10, last week: 28) Al Montoya is 5-2-3 with a 1.93 goals against average in a goalie audition with the Islanders, and is one small positive in a lost year.

27. Colorado Avalanche (26-31-8, last week: 27) The Avalanche are 1-13-2 in their last 16 games, and Peter Stastny hit the nail on the head when he called their big shakeup trade a disaster.

28. Florida Panthers (26-31-9, last week: 26) Wonder if there are some teams out there regretting not going after Tomas Vokoun at the trade deadline? Hes won 7 of his last 10 starts for the Panthers.

29. Ottawa Senators (23-35-8, last week: 29) Almost golfing season for the Binghamton err Ottawa Senators.

30. Edmonton Oilers (21-33-9, last week: 30) The Oil have won three in a row, but lost Taylor Hall for the season with an ankle injury. Time to start tanking for another top flight defenseman in the draft.

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

Sunday, July 24: Dominic Moore mulls NHL offers

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Sunday, July 24: Dominic Moore mulls NHL offers

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling at how good the Justice League and Wonder Woman trailers were this weekend.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has veteran center Dominic Moore mulling a couple of offers as he looks for an NHL contract for next season.

*Jordan Eberle joined Canadian sports radio, and agreed that something needed to change with the Oilers after continually missing the playoffs.

*I will miss Jim Prior’s trademark “The Teams are ready, so let’s play hockey!” open to every game as a PA announcer, and I’ll miss his warm personality around the rink. It’s a sad day for the BU hockey program.

*The Arizona Coyotes continue to put together a very interesting D-men picture by signing Luke Schenn to a two-year contract. For my money, Schenn has long been one of the most overrated players in the NHL.

*The Hockey News’ Mike Brophy has some thoughts and observations about the NHL offseason as it continues to wind on.

*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Dave Stubbs on Andrei Markov and his candid thoughts on everything from the Montreal traffic to the PK Subban/Shea Weber trade.

*Here’s a spot to track the travels and stories of the Pittsburgh Penguins amid their summer with the Stanley Cup.

*For something completely different: as mentioned above, here is the trailer for the Justice League that shows a much lighter, better touch with what should be a fun movie to watch. Hopefully this means it won’t be another pretty-looking, Zack Snyder funeral dirge.

 

Heinen looking to be dark-horse candidate for Bruins' roster

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Heinen looking to be dark-horse candidate for Bruins' roster

While much of the focus is going to be on the young D-men headed into Bruins training camp, it would be foolhardy to overlook a forward prospect Danton Heinen, who is in position for a real dark horse run at an NHL roster spot. 

The strong odds are that the former University of Denver star is going to be begin the season in the AHL for the Providence Bruins after putting up a couple of points in four games there at the end of last season.

Still, that certainly hasn’t stopped Heinen from setting his sights on an NHL spot out of this fall’s camp, most likely in a third- or fourth-line capacity to start things off, or perhaps at the top-six right wing spots that have given the Bruins some problems filling permanently over the past couple of seasons.

Either way, the 2014 fourth-round pick knows that his clock to fulfilling his dreams as an NHL player has started and that it’s up to him when he can start making that a reality.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to work toward my whole life, so I’m just going to try to keep getting better, have a good rest of the summer and then put my best foot forward to see what happens,” said Heinen, who had an assist and a sweet goal in the Friday scrimmage at development camp when he twisted D-man Cam Clarke around like a pretzel on a nifty rush to the net. “I just need to continue to get stronger this summer, and working on my skating to get a bit quicker.

“[The AHL] was a lot of fun to get in there and see what it was all about. It was a lot different than college hockey, and it was definitely good to get a taste of it. [Bruins officials] told me to have a really big summer getting faster and getting stronger, so that’s what I’ve been doing.”

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Heinen, 21, continued to show in development camp last week, however, that he has the playmaking skills and hockey IQ to flourish while surrounded by more accomplished players and in tighter situations. It’s exactly what he showed while posting 36 goals and 93 points in his freshman and sophomore seasons for the Pioneers and it was what he showed while finishing last week as one of the best forwards in camp.

“He’s looked really good at [development] camp. He’s a smart player, he’s committed and I think you’ll notice him in training camp. It will be up to him, but I think he’ll definitely be pushing some guys [for an NHL job],” said Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo, who was running the Bruins development camp. “He looked good [in Providence]. He fit in well. He’s the type of player that can play with good players because he’s got high hockey IQ, and he’s got really good skill.

“Anywhere you put him he’s smart enough to figure it out. You could tell in his first game there was a little bit of an adjustment for him, but the second time game it really looked like he’d been playing [at that level] for a long time. He’s a quick study, and he looked really good last year.”

The Black and Gold management hope he continues to look good at main NHL training camp in a couple of months, where he’ll undoubtedly be featured, and could be a lot closer than many people think as a polished skill forward coming out of a big-time college hockey program. 

Saturday, July 23: Hammer Time for VP pick Kaine with Caps

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Saturday, July 23: Hammer Time for VP pick Kaine with Caps

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while everybody is working for the weekend...or during the weekend.

*The vice-presidential candidate for Hillary Clinton, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, made quite an impression while hanging out a Capitals game with MC Hammer. They call this guy boring, but that doesn’t sound very boring to me.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Bob Stauffer has the news that the Edmonton Oilers are parting ways with fancy stats lad Tyler Dellow. Boy, it seems like some teams are reversing course pretty quickly on some of these smarter-than-thou advanced statistics types, aren’t they? I certainly wish Dellow well and hope he finds another gig. But Instead of baselessly wondering whether the Oilers are going to continue down the fancy stats road (which they most certainly will), perhaps this is more a referendum on nonsensical stats-driven decisions like handing out that long term contract to a perpetually underachieving Benoit Pouliot.

*The New York Rangers have locked up Chris Kreider to a four-year contract at a reasonable number, and now he has the time with the Blueshirts to see how good he can be.

*Brian Leetch opens up to the Players Tribune about his NHL experiences playing with the New York Rangers, and all of his favorite experiences from a Hall of Fame career.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker says that Carey Price’s injury from last season is no longer a concern, according to Habs coach Michel Therrien.

*The Chicago Blackhawks will appear a whopping 21 times on national television across the NBC Networks next season.

*Incoming BU goaltender Jake Oettinger is among the names to look out for at the 2017 draft, according to the NHL Central Scouting bureau.

*Travis Yost says that the Carolina Hurricanes are on the rise thanks to winning the shot differential battle. I think it’s because they have an outstanding cast of young defensemen, who are helping them control the puck and win that shot differential battle. But they still need to score more if they’re going to really be a team on the rise, so we’ll see what happens there.

*For something completely different: for those that think I’m a Democrat because I am anti-Trump, here’s a story on the DNC machinery attempting to torpedo Bernie Sanders during the presidential campaigning over the last year.