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

Thursday, Aug. 25: Nearly two decades later, the Whalers live on

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Thursday, Aug. 25: Nearly two decades later, the Whalers live on

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while in disbelief mode that the summer is almost over.

*Good piece on the remainders of the Hartford Whalers organization in Connecticut trying to keep the dream alive for the Whale.

*Tyler Seguin sits down for a podcast this week that I freely admit I did not have the time to listen to. I wonder if Boston even rated a mention in the conversation?

*Rating the top NHL contracts, according to the fancy stats hockey analysts, sounds like an interesting exercise.

*Tracey Myers has Duncan Keith bowing out of the World Cup of Hockey while recovering from an injury, and getting replaced by Jay Boumeester.

*The “Da Beauty” Hockey League has kept players like Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan McDonagh and David Backes in hockey shape this summer while slowly getting ready for the season.

*The Arizona Coyotes make a historic hire by naming Dawn Braid as skating coach, making her the first female coach in the NHL.

*For something completely different: FOH (Friend of Haggs) Rich Shirtenlieb guested on the #DORK podcast this week, and it sounds like he didn’t love “Stranger Things.” At the very least he liked “Preacher” better. I thought Preacher was entertaining, but I didn’t even think it was in the same stratosphere as Stranger Things. Rich also has me wanting to watch “It Follows” now, however, after his endorsement.

 

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

It’s no secret Bruins fans are getting fed up with a hockey team in decline, one that’s missed the playoffs each of the last two years. Now there are numbers to prove it.

Channel Media and Market Research, Inc. came out with its annual New England Sports survey,  tabulating responses from over 14,600 polled, and, according to the numbers, the Bruins are dropping in popularity, fan support and faith in the current management group.

The B’s are holding somewhat steady with 16 percent of voters listing them as their “favorite sports team” behind the Patriots (46 percent) and Red Sox (29 percent) while ahead of the Celtics and Revolution. Claude Julien also ranked ahead of John Farrell among the big four teams in the “coaches/manages most admired” category.

But after sitting at a relative high of ranking at 27 percent for “ownership performance” in 2014 -- they year after their trip to the Cup Finals against the Blackhawks -- the Bruins now rank dead last in that category at 2 percent, behind the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and even the Revolution. Ouch, babe.

Also sitting at a lowly 2 percent is Bruins president Cam Neely in the “leadership performance” category. In "management performance," Neely has dropped from a solid 49 percent in 2014 to just 16 percent in this summer’s survey.

So B’s fans are clearly upset with a team that traded away Tyler Seguin, Johnny Boychuk, Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, and has featured a decimated defense corps for each of the last two seasons. But do the B’s fans think that things are getting any better with prospects coming down the pipeline?

Not really.

In the “which team has done the best job making its product better.” category, the Patriots (35 percent) and Red Sox (31 percent) were resting at the top, with the Celtics (27 percent) a respectable third. The Bruins limped in at just 4 percent with a fan base that very clearly sees that, on paper, this upcoming season’s club doesn’t appear to be much better than last year's.

On top of that, only 13 percent of those surveyed believe the Bruins have gotten better over the last year, and 52 percent believe they’ve just gotten worse. A lowly 3 percent of those surveyed think the Bruins have the best chance of the five teams to bring a world championship back to Boston; the Patriots (79 percent), Red Sox (11 percent) and Celtics (5 percent) all ranked higher.

Finally, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask and Jimmy Hayes were at the top of the list of the Boston athletes “who did not meet expectations” last season. None of that is a surprise, given the state of Boston’s defense along with Hayes’ subpar season.

The good news for the Bruins: They still have a passionate fan base. But they need to start reversing course immediately before they do lasting damage to the B’s brand.

Wednesday, August 24: B's dealing with post-Vesey aftermath

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Wednesday, August 24: B's dealing with post-Vesey aftermath

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading with the Olympics coming to a close . . .
 
-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kirk Luedeke sorts through the aftermath for the Bruins after losing out on Jimmy Vesey

-- Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland gave an interview where he said the Red Wings aren’t Stanley Cup contenders this season. 

-- Related to Holland’s comments, some of the media in Detroit aren’t taking the dose of reality all that well

-- It’s a big season for New Jersey Devils forward Kyle Palmieri, who will be starring for Team USA on the World Cup team. 

 -- PHT writer Cam Tucker says the Buffalo Sabres still have a strong group of forwards even without Jimmy Vesey.

-- Jamie Benn is giving everything to his Dallas Stars team, and that means that the World Cup of Hockey is taking a backseat
 
-- The Colorado Avalanche are nearing the end of their head coaching search as they look for their replacement for Patrick Roy.
 
-- For something completely different: NBC is making the argument that millenials watched the Olympics, but just not on the traditional formats