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Haggerty: NHL power rankings

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Haggerty: NHL power rankings

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

The clock is striking midnight for a lot of the Cinderella teams. While the Maple Leafs, Flames and Blackhawks are all clinging strongly to their playoff hopes, teams like the Thrashers and Devils have succumbed to the harsh reality of mediocrity in the NHL.

The Devils built themselves too big a hole to climb out of, and the Thrashers simply didnt have enough firepower, experience and defense depth to push the team over the top into the playoffs.

The Leafs are the most interesting study given how pathetic they were halfway through the year and how closely theyre nipping at the heels of teams like the Rangers and Sabres and Brian Burke has already expressed the requisite pride for his scrappy hockey club. Given the desperation theyve been playing with, the Sabres, Leafs or Hurricanes should all be looked at as most dangerous should they somehow sneak into the playoff tournament. Should be interesting to watch.

Without further ado, here are this weeks power rankings:

1. Vancouver Canucks (52-18-9, last week: 1): The Canucks are ready to buck the odds and attempt to become only the eighth team in the last 29 years to win both the Presidents Trophy and Stanley Cup in the same season.

2. Washington Capitals (46-22-11, last week: 3) Thirty goals and 81 points in an off season for Alex Ovechkin. Not too shabby for Ovie or for the Capitals.

3. Detroit Red Wings (46-23-10, last week: 4) The Wings have qualified for the playoffs in 20 consecutive seasons the longest running current streak in any of the four major sports. That is organizational excellence at its finest.

4. Philadelphia Flyers (46-22-11, last week: 2) The Flyers are 6-7-5 since Feb. 24 and have gone into an extended malaise as the top dogs in the East. Its difficult to turn the switch back on for anyone, and that may hurt the Flyers badly once the postseason hits.

5. San Jose Sharks (46-23-9, last week: 6) Joe Thornton is three points away from 1,000 in his NHL career, which will mean exactly nothing once the playoffs start for the Sharks.

6. Boston Bruins (44-23-11, last week: 7) The Bruins are as ready for the playoffs as theyre ever going to be. Nathan Horton has shown a good combination of offense and nastiness for the last month.

7. Pittsburgh Penguins (46-25-8, last week: 5) No Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin and 336 man games lost to injury, but the Penguins keep on trucking. Its impressive, but itd be shocking if theres much left in the tank come playoffs.

8. Tampa Bay Lightning (44-24-11, last week: 11) The Bolts are putting together a winning streak to end the season, and cap off their first playoff campaign since 2007.

9. Los Angeles Kings (45-27-6, last week: 8) Its going to be awfully difficult to replace Anze Kopitar, who put up 73 points in 75 games before he broke his ankle.

10. Phoenix Coyotes (42-25-12, last week: 10) The Desert Dogs are getting a brief late-season respite, and will end their regular season with a big home-and-home series against the Sharks. Phoenix continues to be a team flying under everyones radar.

11. Nashville Predators (42-26-11, last week: 9) Barry Trotz is all-mighty and all-powerful. That is all.

12. Chicago Blackhawks (42-28-8, last week: 14) The Blackhawks look like theyre in for the postseason, but theyve never truly pushed past the Stanley Cup hangover. Difficult to see a long run from the Hawks this spring.

13. Anaheim Ducks (44-30-5, last week: 13) Corey Perry is on fire with 15 goals in the month of March, and is looking to be the first Anaheim player to lead the league in goals since Teemu Selanne in 1998-99. The Ray Emery comeback has really save the team.

14. Buffalo Sabres (40-29-10, last week: 15) The Sabres lost Ryan Miller to injury at the worst possible time, but not even that has slowed their momentum as they finish in incredibly strong fashion.

15. Montreal Canadiens (42-30-7, last week: 18) Breaks my heart to see the Montreal fans all over Scott Gomez. Really, it does.

16. New York Rangers (42-32-5, last week: 12) The Rangers are hanging around and came away with a huge win over the Flyers. They missed the playoffs by a shootout loss last season, and are hoping to avoid that fate this time around.

17. Dallas Stars (39-28-11, last week: 16) The Stars are 0-3-3 in their last six games and all of their offensive players have slumped at the exact same time. Looks like the bubble is bursting.

18. Calgary Flames (40-29-11, last week: 17) Jarome Iginla became the 77th player in NHL history to crack 1,000 career points while willing his team to a vital victory. Calgary may miss the playoffs, but it wont be Iginlas fault.

19. Carolina Hurricanes (38-30-11, last week: 20) It might not be the 'Canes' year after they couldnt pull out a pivotal game at home against the Sabres team just ahead of them. Carolina is a little green for the playoffs.

20. Toronto Maple Leafs (37-32-10, last week: 19) Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski and Phil Kessel could all be 30-goal scorers for the Leafs this season. They have the building blocks in place for the future even if they fall short this year.

21. Atlanta Thrashers (33-33-12, last week: 21) Zach Bogosian showed exactly why the Thrashers are so down on him with a pair of unforgivable turnovers in the game against the Bruins that led to their playoff elimination.

22. New Jersey Devils (36-37-5, last week: 23) Too little and too late for the Devils to make the playoffs, but at least they rebounded after a brutal first half. One positive: it appears Zach Parise is again healthy.

23. St. Louis Blues (36-33-10, last week: 22) The only question worth asking in St. Louis: what the heck got into T.J. Oshie?

24. Minnesota Wild (37-34-8, last week: 24) Good to see the Wild are going to get plenty of time to make preparations for this summers NHL draft in the Twin Cities.

25. Columbus Blue Jackets (34-32-13, last week: 25) The Mathieu Garon Era might be over with the B.J.s after letting up a pair of softies to the Blues before getting yanked this weekend.

26. Ottawa Senators (30-39-10, last week: 28) The Senators have played demonstrably better since getting kids involved, and got a coup with the singing of Stephane Da Costa.

27. New York Islanders (30-37-12, last week: 26) The End cant came soon enough to the Garth Snow Era. What an abomination hes been on Long Island.

28. Colorado Avalanche (29-41-8, last week: 29) The Avalanche havent won in regulation since Feb. 22, and now it appears Adam Foote and Paul Stastny are out for the season. Can they just forfeit?

29. Edmonton Oilers (24-43-11, last week: 30) A ragtag group of Oilers managed to take down the mighty Canucks on Hockey Night in Canada last weekend. Kind of a big deal for a team without hope this season.

30. Florida Panthers (29-38-12, last week: 27) Someday well talk about hockey in southern Florida, and laugh knowingly at the absurdity of it. Were not there yet, though.

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

DeBrusk providing an offensive spark for Bruins since scratch

DeBrusk providing an offensive spark for Bruins since scratch

BOSTON – Give Bruins rookie Jake DeBrusk credit.

The 21-year-old rookie said that he didn’t want to go through the experience of being a healthy scratch again, and he has played like it ever since.

DeBrusk finished with a pair of assists in the Bruins 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, and is now riding a four-game point streak with two goals and five points in his last four games. He came up with the primary assist on Boston’s first goal when he fed David Krejci all alone cutting to the net, and then again fed Krejci in the slot on the play where the puck found Matt Grzelcyk for his first career NHL goal in the second period.

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In all DeBrusk finished with the two points in 18:46 of ice time, and had good skating legs while collecting four shots on net and a couple of hits in stringing together another solid game as a first-year player.

“It goes back to the mentality of playing fast. I think that was one of the focuses. And ever since I got scratched, I think that I’ve had some jump in all the games or at moments. I think that level of confidence and I’m also playing with great players,” said DeBrusk. “They open up a lot of space for me. And on that example, [David] Krejci’s goal, I’ve seen him do that 100 times. It’s nice to get a reward and it’s nice to get on the board, especially twice, in a game like this. I thought that we were coming along and we’re just looking to build on it.”

DeBrusk is currently on a pace for 20 goals and 48 points while battling through the natural highs and lows of being a rookie at the NHL level. The first-year winger hasn’t yet mastered the consistency component quite yet as a young player making his way through the league, but there’s little doubt DeBrusk will keep getting the chance to find that level while producing offense with his passing, skating and shooting in a key top-6 spot.

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Bruins 'feeling pretty good' riding a four-game win streak

Bruins 'feeling pretty good' riding a four-game win streak

BOSTON – It was hard to imagine this could have been possible a couple of weeks ago when injuries were ripping through the roster amid a very challenging stretch of hockey, but the Bruins have managed to survive and thrive within the adversity. With several regulars still missing from the fold including leading scorer Brad Marchand, the Bruins won their fourth game in a row taking a strong 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The win allowed the Bruins to push into the third spot in the Atlantic Division and lay claim to one of the playoff spots on the day after Thanksgiving, a milestone that usually portends good things for hockey clubs sitting in that position.

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Given the winning streak and Boston’s ability to get busy living rather than getting busy dying amid the trying stretch, confidence is at the high mark just a couple of months into the regular season.

“I still think that collectively as a group, there are still things that we need to build on. But obviously, we can’t complain with four straight wins,” said Jake DeBrusk, who has two goals, five points and a plus-4 in the four-game winning streak. “It’s our first win streak of the season and everyone’s feeling pretty good right now. We’re doing everything we can to keep things going.”

There have been different components to the four-game streak that have made it possible. Young players like Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen and Charlie McAvoy have stepped up and brandished their offensive skills while making things happen for a team missing some of their offensive playmakers, and the energy has been contagious. The Bruins have learned how to become closers in the third period where they’re squeezing the life out of opponents rather than giving them hope for stealing the game.

Anton Khudobin has ripped off win after win after win after win, and has made all the important stops to ensure that the Bruins take points out of each and every game. His .944 save percentage over the winning streak is exactly the level of goaltending needed for the Bruins to execute their game plan, and it’s why they have played with a lead for all but a couple of minutes in those wins over Los Angeles, San Jose, New Jersey and Pittsburgh.

The quick starts have allowed the Bruins to play with the kind of controlled aggression that brings out their best and quit chasing the game while closing things down in the final 20 minutes. It’s much closer to the way things were drawn up by the coaching staff prior to the start of the season before their personnel group was ripped apart by injuries. Friday’s performance was what Bruce Cassidy is looking for from his young, excitable Bruins team on a big stage against a high quality Eastern Conference opponent.

“I mentioned [the magnitude of Friday] before the game, because I think it’s exciting. You’re on NBC, you’re playing against the Stanley Cup Champions, and everyone is watching. . . let’s put our best foot forward. I know it’s one of 82, but it’s a bigger one of 82 the way I look at it,” said Cassidy. “I think they felt the same way coming out [of the starting gate]. Now, I also think with a young group you’re always a little more juiced up at home; they’re still in that stage of their career. So, I think that explained a lot of their start, and why we were better early on.”

So now the beat goes on for the Bruins amid their best stretch of hockey this season at a very opportune time. Perhaps now the B’s start wondering just how good they can be once they finally get their full lineup together for the first time during this entire hockey season. 

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