Haggerty’s NHL Power Rankings: Stars still aligning
Even without Seguin, Stars still aligning
By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider
The Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs are the first two teams officially eliminated from playoff contention and the Capitals, Stars and Kings have all clinched playoff berths with slightly less than three weeks remaining in the season. While the Capitals and Kings are big, heavy teams with depth and quality goaltending that should be built for the playoffs, the Dallas Stars are surprising with their hot play after losing Tyler Seguin to a torn Achilles tendon.
Jamie Benn is stepping up, Kari Lehtonen has caught fire at exactly the right time, and somehow, some way the Stars have dominated the Chicago Blackhawks in their regular season series against the defending champs. It makes one wonder how they’re doing it without the explosive Seguin, and what they’ll look like when he hopes to return to the lineup at the start of the playoffs.
They’ll need to play at their currently super-high level if they hope to have a long run in the Western bracket, however, with Chicago, Los Angeles and Anaheim looming as fellow favorites, and the Blues, Predators and Sharks ready to be bruising, deep and talented opponents that preach the heavy, strong Western style of hockey.
Without further ado, here are this week’s power rankings:
1. Washington Capitals (52-15-5, rank last week: 1)
The Capitals are in cruise control until the playoffs. Barry Trotz taking his team ice curling on an off day is perhaps the greatest proof of that as they approach a postseason that will be paramount for guys like Trotz and Alex Ovechkin.
2. Dallas Stars (44-21-9, LW: 4)
Tyler Seguin tore his Achilles tendon and will be out for a month, and the Stars proceeded to win three games in a row including a sound thrashing of the Blackhawks. Interesting.
3. St. Louis Blues (43-22-9, LW: 3)
The Blues have won eight of their last 10 games, and are another Western Conference team finishing up strong.
4. Los Angeles Kings (44-24-5, LW: 2)
The Kings have lost two in a row, including giving up five goals to Nashville, but are still in the power seat in the Pacific Division.
5. New York Rangers (41-24-8, LW: 6)
The Rangers got back from California, and immediately got well with a win over the Florida Panthers.
6. Anaheim Ducks (40-23-9, rank LW: 8)
Jakob Silfverberg with six goals in his past five games is carrying the offense for the Ducks, and readying for another solid playoff run.
7. Chicago Blackhawks (42-25-7, LW: 5)
The Blackhawks lost six of the last seven games, and got spanked by the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night.
8. Tampa Bay Lightning (42-26-5, LW:12)
The Lightning have reclaimed the top spot in the Atlantic Division, and are the crème rising to the top.
9. Florida Panthers (40-24-9, LW: 7)
The power of Kevin Spacey is now compelling the Panthers.
10. San Jose Sharks (41-26-6, LW: 11)
The Sharks are 7-4 in the month of March, Jumbo Joe Thornton is reaching his peak level and James Reimer has stepped in as a nice duo with Martin Jones. San Jose looks strong headed into the postseason, but that’s a tough, tough bracket they’ll need to fight their way out of.
11. Pittsburgh Penguins (40-24-8, LW: 14)
The Penguins are 5-0-0 since the Evgeni Malkin injury, and are making their push with Sidney Crosby leading the way. They look like a playoff team to me.
12. Nashville Predators (37-23-13, LW: 13)
The Predators are 12-1-5 in their last 18 games, and look like the team that nobody is going to want to play in the Western Conference playoff bracket.
13. Boston Bruins (39-26-8, LW: 9)
The Bruins got their tails kicked in California, and that was to be expected. Now they face a couple of huge games against New York and Florida over the next couple of days.
14. New York Islanders (38-24-9, LW: 10)
The Islanders have scored four goals while dropping four games in a row, and are sliding down toward playoff oblivion. John Tavares needs to start carrying this team.
15. Philadelphia Flyers (35-24-13, LW: 15)
The Flyers are 9-2-2 in their last 13 games, but dropped a crushing extra session loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night. They can’t afford to fritter away points if they want to push their way into the picture.
16. Detroit Red Wings (36-26-11, LW: 17)
The Wings have four wins in their last 10 games, and have now slid out of the playoff picture temporarily. Detroit is in a very precarious position, and need to rely on their proven winners.
17. Minnesota Wild (35-28-11, LW: 18)
Back-to-back wins against Chicago and Los Angeles are impressive for a Wild team that looked like they were road kill earlier this month.
18. Colorado Avalanche (38-31-4, LW: 16)
Both the Avs and the Wild have both won three in a row, and are fighting tooth and nail for that last wild card playoff spot.
19. New Jersey Devils (35-31-7, LW: 22)
While the Devils won’t make the playoffs, they have some encouraging things going on with the continued development of Adam Henrique, Kyle Palmieri and John Moore for a team that’s clearly rebuilding at this point.
20. Ottawa Senators (34-32-8, LW: 19)
Nobody is safe with the Senators. That tells me that things didn’t go very well for them this season. I’m also tired of the advanced stat geek arguments that Erik Karlsson needs to win another Norris Trophy. If he was that good then Ottawa’s defense wouldn’t be so incredibly bad.
21. Carolina Hurricanes (31-28-14, LW: 20)
The Hurricanes have lost five in a row, and are finally bottoming out after a few more heartbeats following the deadline deals of Eric Staal and John-Michael Liles.
22. Arizona Coyotes (32-34-7, LW: 21)
Mike Smith has won three of four games since coming back healthy to the Coyotes, and is needed given the way the Coyotes has hit a bit of a wall.
23. Montreal Canadiens (34-34-6, LW: 23)
The Canadiens are hovering at the .500 mark right now. Who would have that was possible given their scalding hot start to the season? What a mess in Montreal.
24. Buffalo Sabres (30-34-10, LW: 26)
Chad Johnson is very quietly 5-1 in his last six starts, and has been doing a good job holding up his end of the bargain lately as the backup goaltender.
25. Calgary Flames (31-36-6, LW: 25)
Three assists for Dougie Hamilton in a big Calgary win over the Canadiens last weekend. Perhaps he’s truly starting to find his way with the Flames after a bit of a rocky first season in Calgary.
26. Vancouver Canucks (27-33-12, LW: 24)
Five losses in a row, and three shutout losses in a row for the Canucks. Man, look out below.
27. Columbus Blue Jackets (30-35-8, LW: 27)
It’s a real learning process for Seth Jones as “The Man” with the Blue Jackets and it could be a slow process. It’s also another late spring with the Blue Jackets playing out the string.
28. Winnipeg Jets (30-37-6, LW: 28)
The Jets have lost 15 of their past 20 games on home ice and can’t deny the bummer of a season coming to an end.
29. Edmonton Oilers (29-40-7, LW: 29)
It’s quite a distinction with the Oilers and Maple Leafs as the only two teams that have been officially eliminated from playoff contention.