Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Preds on the prowl
Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Preds on the prowl
The Predators have a long way to go to prove that they are any kind of threat to win the Stanley Cup, but at the very least they’ve proven they are legit contenders this season.
Pekka Rinne is the lead candidate for the Vezina Trophy after returning from last year’s injury problems, Dave Poile did a masterful job of bringing in players like James Neal and Mike Ribeiro that have been nice fits after being misfits elsewhere, and Filip Forsberg looks like the rookie of the year in the NHL this season. Speaking of potential award-winning seasons which the Preds may clean up in this season, here is my updated NHL Awards predictions at the midway point of the season:
Hart Trophy – Ryan Getzlaf
Vezina Trophy – Pekka Rinne
Norris Trophy – Shea Weber
Calder Trophy – Filip Forsberg
Jack Adams Award – Peter Laviolette
Selke Trophy – Jonathan Toews
Without further ado here are this week’s power rankings:
1. Nashville Predators (28-9-4, rank last week: 5): Seven wins in the last 10 games, and the second-best five-on-five team in the NHL is pretty surprising in Nashville. Filip Forsberg and Pekka Rinne appear headed for awards after strong first half performances.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning (27-12-4, rank last week: 6) – The Bolts have won three in a row atop the Atlantic Division, but the injury to Radko Gudas could really take a chunk out of their grit and physicality.
3. Chicago Blackhawks (28-13-2, rank last week: 1) – The best five-on-five team in the NHL stays near the top while other teams come and go.
4. Anaheim Ducks (26-10-6, rank last week: 2) – Even though Teemu Selanne has retired from the NHL and the Anaheim Ducks, they still got to bask in the glory of Teemu Forever by retiring his number last weekend.
5. New York Islanders (28-13-1, rank last week: 4) – The high-powered Islanders continue to impress even if they’ve lost to the Sabres and Oilers in the last two weeks.
6. Montreal Canadiens (26-12-3, rank last week: 3) – The Habs have taken a step back with losses to the Penguins and Lightning, but they’re still in a tremendously good spot at this point despite some saying they’re doing it with smoke and mirrors.
7. Pittsburgh Penguins (25-10-6, rank last week: 7) – Once again the Penguins make the early move getting David Perron from the Oilers to skate with Sidney Crosby. He’s a nice fit there, but the Pens still have some defensive issues.
8. New York Rangers (24-11-4, rank last week: 10) – The Rangers have taken wins in nine of their last 10 games, and are probably the hottest team in the NHL as they rise up the Eastern Conference ranks. The Blueshirts have won five in a row, and outshot their opponents by a 22-8 margin in those games.
9. St. Louis Blues (26-13-3, rank last week: 9) – David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Alex Steen have been ripping it up for the Blues over the last month, and really carrying the day as St. Louis have won four games in a row.
10. Washington Capitals (22-11-8, rank last week: 13) – If it’s one thing the Washington Capitals are good at, it’s winning the Winter Classic.
11. Detroit Red Wings (22-11-9, rank last week: 8) – The Red Wings continue to look like a solid playoff team. The biggest piece of intrigue is any recruiting job by the Maple Leafs toward impending free agent coach Mike Babcock as their potential answer behind the Toronto bench.
12. Florida Panthers (20-11-9, rank last week: 18) – The Panthers have won three games in a row and continue to hang around the outskirts of the playoff picture in the East. Aaron Ekblad is making a difference.
13. Boston Bruins (22-15-6, rank last week: 19) – Three wins in a row after getting blasted by incoming CEO Charlie Jacobs is no coincidence. A little bit of accountability held isn’t such a bad thing in the B’s organization.
14. Vancouver Canucks (23-14-3, rank last week: 11) – A couple of losses in a row for the Canucks as they battle for playoff relevancy in what’s been a season of discovery under a new GM and coach.
15. Winnipeg Jets (21-14-7, rank last week: 17) – Credit to Dustin Byfuglien for helping keep this team in the playoff hunt despite losing a quartet of defensemen to injuries. He’s been a beast playing huge minutes.
16. Los Angeles Kings (19-13-10, rank last week: 12) – The Kings have lost five out of six games, and given up 15 goals in their last three straight losses all started by Jonathan Quick. All those games over the last few years might be catching up to them.
17. Calgary Flames (22-18-3, rank last week: 16) – The Flames are 11-9-2 at home, and 11-9-1 on the road. They are nothing if not consistent, and built on blue collar hard work.
18. San Jose Sharks (22-16-5, rank last week: 14) – A pair of 7-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues in the month of January don’t exactly scream that the Sharks have “The Right Stuff.” Getting Joe Thornton back healthy helps, but the Sharks seem to have plenty of problems.
CHECKING FROM BEHIND
19. Toronto Maple Leafs (22-17-3, rank last week: 15) – Losing Randy Carlyle is a good first step, but this team really isn’t going anywhere until the roster undergoes an extreme core makeover. Dion Phaneuf just isn’t the answer.
20. Colorado Avalanche (18-16-8, rank last week: 25) – The Avs have won three games in a row and taken seven of their last 10, and are making their playoff push. One just has to wonder if it’s a little too late.
21. Ottawa Senators (17-16-8, rank last week: 22) – It’s nice the Senators are giving Todd Bertuzzi a chance in the minors, but this is a team that otherwise is going nowhere fast.
22. Dallas Stars (18-16-7, rank last week: 20) – Four losses in a row, including close defeats to Columbus and Colorado, continues to display the lack of toughness and resolve on the roster. They don’t seem to want it despite all their talent.
23. Columbus Blue Jackets (18-19-3, rank last week: 23) – The Blue Jackets deserve some credit for working hard through the nonstop flow of injuries, but one suspects hosting the NHL All-Star game will be the highlight of their season.
24. Philadelphia Flyers (16-9-7, rank last week: 24) – With Steve Mason in and out of the lineup, the Flyers are once again having goaltending problems. Meanwhile Sergei Bobrovsky was once again named an All-Star.