Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Rangers back on top


Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Rangers back on top

It’s that time of year again. The Stanley Cup playoffs are around the corner, and there are plenty of dog fights for playoff spots. Could the Penguins completely fall out of contention as they’ve looked helpless in their last few games? Do the Los Angeles Kings have enough to get back into a playoff spot after playing more hockey than anybody over the last few years?

These questions and more will be answered over the next week, and then the best postseason in any of the four major pro sports will follow afterward. As Bart Scott once said, “Can’t wait!”

Without further ado here are this week’s power rankings:

1. New York Rangers (51-21-7, rank last week: 2) – The Rangers have the most points of anybody in the NHL (109), they have won four games in a row and Henrik Lundqvist is jumping right back into the mix. This is a formidable hockey club.

2. St. Louis Blues (49-23-7, rank last week: 8) - A big statement win over the Blackhawks last weekend shows the Blues mean business.

3. Anaheim Ducks (50-23-7, rank last week: 1) – The Ducks have won seven of their last 10 games, and have proven everything they need to prove during the regular season. It’s about the playoffs now for this talented group.

4. Montreal Canadiens (48-22-10, rank last week: 4) – The Max Pacioretty injury could loom large for the Habs if it’s a serious one.          

5. Tampa Bay Lightning (48-24-8, rank last week: 5) – The Lightning have the best home record in the league, so they have plenty of reason to push Montreal for that top spot in the Atlantic Division.

6. Nashville Predators (47-22-10, rank last week: 3) – The Predators have lost three in a row, and have allowed 13 goals in the last three games. That is not how they want to go into the postseason.

7. Chicago Blackhawks (48-25-6, rank last week: 6) – Corey Crawford is playing well for the Blackhawks, and Patrick Kane is getting closer for Chicago. This will be a very dangerous team once No. 88 gets back into the fold.

8. Washington Capitals (44-25-11, rank last week: 14) – The Capitals are surging at the right time, and have passed by both the Penguins and Islanders in the Metro Division.

9. New York Islanders (46-27-6, rank last week: 10) – The Islanders have three out of four points in their last two games, and might just be finding their way out of the darkness.

10. Vancouver Canucks (46-29-5, rank last week: 9) – A huge shootout win over the Kings on Monday and two final games vs. Edmonton and Arizona bode well for Vancouver’s playoff hopes.

11. Minnesota Wild (44-27-8, rank last week: 7) – The Wild were the team nobody wanted to play in the first round until they just lost three games in a row.

12. Boston Bruins (41-25-13, rank last week: 15) – The Bruins have won five in a row, but still need to push to secure their playoff spot. The flaws are there for everybody to see, but this team is still dangerous.

13. Detroit Red Wings (41-25-13, rank last week: 13) – One can’t help but think that the back-and-forth between Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek is going to be their ultimate undoing.

14. Pittsburgh Penguins (42-26-11, rank last week: 11) – The Penguins have lost three in a row, and legitimately look like they’re in trouble qualifying for the playoffs.

15. Winnipeg Jets (41-26-12, rank last week: 16) – The Jets have won two games in a row, and currently sit in a playoff spot. It is theirs to lose, and they’ve played well enough to deserve it this year.

16. Calgary Flames (43-29-7, rank last week: 12) – The Flames are still holding on to their playoff spot by virtue of the ROW, but the Los Angeles Kings are nipping at their heels.   

17. Los Angeles Kings (39-25-15, rank last week: 17) – The Kings have been in “will they or won’t they” mode all season, and they’ve got three games to show if they want it this year after loads of success over the last three seasons. This team has played a LOT of hockey.  

18. Ottawa Senators (40-26-13, rank last week: 18) – Can the Sens and the Hamburglar take advantage of the Bruins, Red Wings or Penguins falling out of it? Should be fascinating to watch.

19. Florida Panthers (36-29-15, rank last week: 19) – Roberto Luongo was beaten five hole in the last minute of the third period in the game that effectively ended their playoff hopes. Bobby Lou needed to step up there if this team was going to make it.

20. San Jose Sharks (39-32-9, rank last week: 21) – The Sharks won’t make the playoffs, and there should be major changes coming for that team this summer.

21. Dallas Stars (39-31-10, rank last week: 20) – The Stars are winning plenty of games now, but it’s way too late for a team that needs a little more toughness, defense and goaltending.

22. Columbus Blue Jackets (39-35-5, rank last week: 22) – The Blue Jackets won nine games in a row and showed plenty of heart along the way. This is a dangerous team, and they deserve to win the draft lottery based on the way they approached this season.       

23. Philadelphia Flyers (32-29-18, rank last week: 23) – The Flyers have plenty of problems, but owning the Penguins isn’t one of them.

24. Colorado Avalanche (36-31-12, rank last week: 24) – Looks like the whole Jordan Caron thing isn’t working out for the Avalanche.

25. New Jersey Devils (32-34-13, rank last week: 25) – If there’s any team that really needs to look at the way they’re doing business right now, it might be the Devils. They’re old, they don’t do anything particularly well and they had to run their goaltender into the ground. That’s trouble.

26. Toronto Maple Leafs (30-43-7, rank last week: 26) – They took the Bruins to the shootout and took a point from the Senators last weekend. At least they did something right this season.

27. Carolina Hurricanes (29-39-11, rank last week: 27) – The Hurricanes were a tough out for most of the second half, but it seems that most of the fight has been taken out of them now.

28. Edmonton Oilers (23-43-13, rank last week: 28) – The 8-2 loss to the Kings was so, so, so very Oilers.

29. Arizona Coyotes (24-47-8, rank last week: 29) – It will be an exciting final week between the Coyotes and Sabres to see who’s going to pull out the Connor McDavid sweepstakes.  

30. Buffalo Sabres (23-49-8, rank last week: 30) – Buffalo has worked hard all season for this, so now it’s their time to shine…er, stink.

Sounds like some Bruins players suffering from Claude fatigue


Sounds like some Bruins players suffering from Claude fatigue

BRIGHTON, Mass – The resume for Claude Julien speaks for itself in terms of greatness in Boston, so he certainly will get a warm ovation from the TD Garden crowd in his first visit back to Boston since getting fired last February. Julien coached the Boston Bruins for 10 years, won a franchise record 419 games over that time span, made it to the Cup Finals twice and of course hoisted the Cup in 2011.

It won’t matter that he’s now the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens when Julien gets his video tribute, and basks a long ovation similar to the one he received when he was recognized for passing Art Ross on the B’s all-time wins list a couple of season ago. The warmth will be a little weird in the middle of a Bruins/Canadiens rivalry game, but it’s clear that Bruins fans appreciate the job done by Julien for such a long period of time.

The mutual respect was also clear when players like Patrice Bergeron spoke warmly of their coach ahead of last weekend’s showdown in Montreal, which the Bruins eventually pulled out in a shootout at the Bell Centre.

But it would seem the Bruins are starting to get a little tired of tossing verbal bouquets at the guy that’s now behind the Habs bench. It all started with Tuukka Rask’s postgame reaction on Saturday when asked if there was any extra emotion going up against his old coach for the first time.

“He was not playing a shift on the ice, so it doesn’t really matter. He was coaching, so it was nothing special,” said Rask, matter-of-factly.

So there wasn’t any added emotion for Rask going up against Julien’s new team for the first time?

“Nope,” said Rask.   

That line of questioning continued again after Tuesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena with Julien coming back to the Garden for the first time.

“Well, I can tell you what’s going to happen,” said Rask. “We’re going to start the game, at some point there’s going to be a video montage, we’re going to tap our sticks and the crowd is going to clap their hands and give him a warm welcome. Then the game is going to continue.”

Does Rask expect either he or some of his longtime teammates will get emotional if they see Julien showing some emotion during his ovation?

“No,” said Rask.

Is it really that cut-and-dry, the Bruins goaltender was asked?  

“It’s just another game,” said Rask, who improved to 8-15-3 lifetime against the Montreal Canadiens after last weekend’s shootout win. “It’s probably special for him to come back and be on the other side, but for us it’s just another game.”

Similarly, Marchand was much more understated speaking about Julien on Tuesday after speaking enthusiastically last weekend about the many discussions player and coach had about “becoming a better a pro” early in his career. But the Bruins winger wasn’t about to get all warm and fuzzy when asked about any greeting that his former coach is expected to get while the legendary Bruins/Habs rivalry plays out on the ice.

“I’m not really looking forward to it, but I’m sure he is,” said Marchand, when asked about the fan reception from Bruins fans awaiting Julien on Wednesday night. “It doesn’t really have anything to do with me, but I’m sure he’s excited to come back. He’s deserved that video and I’m sure a lot of people will be excited to see him again. I’m sure it will be a memorable game.”

Marchand went on to say he "learned a lot" from Julien during their time together, and clearly still has a high level of respect for his former coach. 

 Maybe it’s the very nature of the Bruins/Habs rivalry, or maybe the Bruins players are suffering from a little Claude Julien question fatigue with the two teams playing three times in a span of eight days. Maybe we're even finally seeing some of the Bruins players that had tired of the longtime coach's methods by the end of his long-running tenure in Boston. 

But it sure sounds like some longtime Bruins players might be over it when it comes to the “Claude Bowl” aspect of the ongoing rivalry week between the two storied rivals.  


Morning Skate: Robust trade market for D-men


Morning Skate: Robust trade market for D-men

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while prepping for Claude Bowl II.

*It’s going to be a robust trade market for defensemen with names such as Jack Johnson, Dion Phaneuf and Oliver Ekman-Larsson highlighting the group that’s available. Paul Martin will be in that select company if he clears through waivers and perhaps Niklas Hjalmarsson will as well with many teams holding D-men they’re willing to part with.

*The Buffalo Sabres apparently want four assets in any deal for rental Evander Kane that includes a draft pick, a prospect and an NHL roster player, and it’s hard to believe anybody is going to do that for a perennial underachiever who's never even scored 60 points in a season before.

*A tough end to the Andrew Cogliano iron-man streak as he’s been suspended for a couple of games after an incident last weekend.

*Brent Burns is the envy of many blueliners around the league because of his hard, accurate shot, which isn’t scoring him as many goals this season

*Year-round Las Vegas resident Deryk Engelland has been rewarded for being a member of the Golden Knights with a one-year contract extension.

*It sounds like the Philadelphia Flyers have got Shayne Gostisbehere thinking more about defense after some up-and-down moments last season in his sophomore effort.

*For something completely different: A profile on a UFC champion and a firefighter all at the same time. Sounds like an interesting dude.