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

Friday, Dec. 9: John Scott calls it quits

Friday, Dec. 9: John Scott calls it quits

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while digging the Spider-Man trailer that dropped last night. 

*John Scott has finally called it a day and announced his retirement, and apparently there’s a book of his memoirs also coming out too. I’m predicting it’s not headed for the New York Times best seller list. 

*Winter Olympics participation and the CBA negotiations for the NHL are starting to merge into giant issue.  

*Connor McDavid calls the Flyers' Brandon Manning classless for telling him on the ice that he purposefully tried to hurt him last season. Some players might also take issue with McDavid making public what another player said to him on the ice. That’s kind of a no-no for most hockey players and breaks an unwritten rule that McDavid might think he’s above given his star status. This whole thing isn’t a good look for anybody. 

*Kevin Stevens pleads guilty to federal drug charges in what’s become a pretty sad situation for the former NHL star. 

*New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is beginning to raise questions with his play, and his massive price tag. 

*Youngsters Zach Weresnki and Dylan Larkin took similar paths to the NHL, and are both considered part of the talented young generation full of hockey stars. 

*PHT writer Joey Alfieri has Carey Price taking a nutty on Kyle Palmieri after the player crashed into his crease last night. Price is being celebrated for sticking up for himself, but if another goalie did that to a Habs player at the Bell Centre, there would already be a warrant out for his arrest. Play it both ways, Montreal!  

*For something completely different: here’s the aforementioned new Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer that looks pretty darn good. 

 

Two more Pastrnak goals pull him into tie for NHL lead with Crosby

Two more Pastrnak goals pull him into tie for NHL lead with Crosby

BOSTON – While the loss to the Avalanche on Thursday night was a monumental dud, it put another dazzling display on the hockey resume of David Pastrnak. 

The 20-year-old star right winger scored two more goals in the 4-2 loss at TD Garden and nearly brought the Bruins back into the game by himself before another defensive breakdown at the end of the second period doomed them. 

Instead, Pastrnak had to settle with being the proud owner of 18 goals scored in 23 games that places him in a tie with NHL superstar Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead in goals. 

The goals also showed his wide range of lethal offensive skills. On the first score, he just broke away from the Avalanche defense and managed to bury a second-effort breakaway chance after a nice Tim Schaller stretch pass off the boards. The second goal was a straight one-timer bomb from the high slot off a slick setup pass from Brad Marchand in the corner, and it had the Bruins right back into the mix after a dreadful first period. 

It wasn’t enough when the B’s defense faltered again toward the end of the second period, but it was enough for everybody to be singing Pastrnak’s praises once again following the loss. 

“He’s a game changer. The momentum is going the other way, and he has the ability to break away on any given shift and score a big goal for us. He did that tonight,” said Torey Krug. “We can’t just keep relying on the same guys to score goals. We’ve got to come up with secondary offense, and I know every other guy wants to do that. 

“Now it’s about showing that on the ice and making sure we’re doing the work and getting better and proving to ourselves. But Pasta [David Pastrnak] has been great for us so far, and we’re obviously lucky to have him.”

The 18 goals barely two months into the season are not too shabby for a kid, in his third NHL season, who just now coming into his own. He’s nearly halfway to 40 before Christmas. For Pastrnak, however, it’s about the team result and he wasn’t overly satisfied with his two goals in a losing effort. 

“I’ve said before the season that our goal is to make the playoffs and to have that experience and have the chance to win the Stanley Cup. I’m still focusing on that,” said Pastrnak, who has yet to experience the Stanley Cup playoffs in his two-plus seasons with the Black and Gold. “We have zero points from tonight’s game and we have to move on. I think our game gets better in the second and third periods, you know, and we have to regroup and get ready for Saturday’s game.”

The Bruins will undoubtedly regroup and once again count on another Pastrnak offensive explosion to help lead the way in what’s become a truly spectacular season for the youngster.