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Joe Haggerty's NHL power rankings: Can teams find sellers at trade deadline?

Joe Haggerty's NHL power rankings: Can teams find sellers at trade deadline?

The trade deadline is less than two weeks away, and things are starting to get a little tense in the 30 situation rooms around the NHL. 

Most of the team’s scouting departments are either meeting this week, or have already met as each of the 30 teams try to figure out what to do with a severe lack of sellers on the trade market. It’s the Colorado Avalanche that are asking for a boatload of assets (young NHL player, prospect and first round pick) for players like Gabriel Landeskog or Matt Duchene, or the Arizona Coyotes that it seems haven’t even really reached that level of pre-trade activity yet with the players they will be selling.

So now the NHL buyers on the trade market are waiting for a few other teams like perhaps a Detroit or a Dallas to also decide they’re going to sell rather than buy, and start freeing up some valued assets to switch teams ahead of the March 1 trade deadline.  

It’s not happening yet, and one wonders how many trades there really will be at the end of the day with the NHL expansion draft coming this summer. But that’s a story for another week of power rankings. 

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

1.       Washington Capitals (39-11-6, previous ranking: 1) – The red-hot Capitals have won six games in a row and have outscored their opponents 30-12 over that span. They haven’t lost a game in February, so we should probably start the “peaking too soon” speculation in short order. 

2.    Minnesota Wild (37-13-6, previous ranking: 2) – The Wild are putting together a solid body of work, but they lost a playoff-style grinding 1-0 game to the Anaheim Ducks in their last contest. They’d better hope that’s not a preview of what awaits in the playoffs with a coach, Bruce Boudreau, that’s had some pretty early exits. 

3.    Pittsburgh Penguins (35-13-7, previous ranking: 4) – The Penguins more than survived their time without Evgeni Malkin, and now they’re off and running once again. The Metro Division bracket is going to be brutal in the postseason. 

4.    New York Rangers (37-18-1, previous ranking: 7) – King Henrik is riding a five-game winning-streak and the Blueshirts have won six in a row as they seem to be saying, "Hey, don’t forget about us” in the Metro either. 

5.   Chicago Blackhawks (35-17-5, previous ranking: 5) – I did not have Artem Anisimov and Marian Hossa tied for the team-lead in goals midway through February, but the Blackhawks have made things work this season. They’re making their move with a five-game winning-streak to move up the Central standings.            

6.   Columbus Blue Jackets (36-15-5, previous rank: 3) – The Blue Jackets have lost four of six games in the month of February, and their high-powered power play hasn’t been able to score in nine games. Boy, that epic winning-streak feels like a long time ago. 

7.     San Jose Sharks (34-18-5, previous ranking: 6) – The Sharks finally snapped a four-game losing-streak on a long East Coast road swing with a win in New Jersey, and now they’re happy to be back home once again. 

8. Montreal Canadiens (31-19-8, previous ranking: 8) – The Habs are clearly hoping that the re-run of “The Claude Seasons” is much better the second time around. It’s a nice, cushy spot for a coach to be taking over a first place team, and Carey Price and Shea Weber give him some great pieces to install his system. 

9.   Anaheim Ducks (30-18-10, previous ranking: 10) – The Ducks had a nice win over the Wild, but they will lose Antoine Vermette after that wild slashing play with the linesman. What was Vermette thinking there?

10. Edmonton Oilers (30-18-8, previous ranking: 9) – The Oilers took their customary post-bye week loss to the Blackhawks, but then got back on the winning track with a slump-buster special against the Coyotes. Now the Oil should be ready to roll as Peter Chiarelli looks for some players to complement them on the trade market. 

11. Toronto Maple Leafs (26-19-11, previous ranking: 12) – The Leafs looked a little shaky in back-to-back losses to the Blues and Sabres, but they completely stomped an Islanders team that had been playing much better under Doug Weight. That was impressive. The last loss to the Blue Jackets was not. 

12. Ottawa Senators (29-19-6, previous ranking: 11) – It’s great to see Craig Anderson back for the Senators, and even better watching him get a shutout win over the Islanders in his first game back for Ottawa. Good things absolutely happen to good people. 

13. St. Louis Blues (30-22-5, previous ranking: 15) – The Blues have won five games in a row, and really appear to be streaking after the coaching change. You know it’s noteworthy when even the goaltending has taken a complete 180 degree turn for the better. 

14. Nashville Predators (27-21-8, previous ranking: 13) – Here’s something you don’t see every day: A team like Nashville getting a hat trick from Victor Arvidsson and still losing a game to the Florida Panthers last weekend. 

15. Boston Bruins (29-23-6, previous ranking: 20) – The Bruce Cassidy Era has brought optimism back to Bruins country, and a three-game winning streak just ahead of their bye week has them pushing up the standings.

16. Los Angeles Kings (28-23-4, previous ranking: 19) – The Kings have won six of the last eight games, and the two losses were back-to-back 5-0 losses to the Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Boy, those East Coast swing road trips really bite for the West Coast teams. 

17. Philadelphia Flyers (27-23-7, previous ranking: 14) – Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds are a combined minus-48 for the Flyers this season. It is amazing that they’re even close to a playoff spot, never mind hovering around a wild card spot. 

18. New York Islanders (25-20-10, previous ranking: 18) – The Isles are 8-3-2 since moving from Jack Capuano to Doug Weight, and they’ve endured all of the questions about where John Tavares is going when he becomes a free agent. That’s not even counting the whispers swirling around their future mystery home when they finally leave the Barclays Center. But they keep hanging in there, and it’s a credit to them. 

19.  Florida Panthers (24-20-10, previous ranking: 17) – The Panthers have taken points in five of their last six games, and are finally making some semblance of a push with Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov. Is it too little, too late for them? 

20. New Jersey Devils (24-22-10, previous ranking: 21) – Cory Schneider has started six games in a row for New Jersey, and has taken points in five of their last six games while truly stepping up between the pipes. The Devils are making as big of a move as they’re capable of, which isn’t all that much right now. 

21. Tampa Bay Lightning (25-24-7, previous ranking: 26) – The Lightning went into their bye week on a high note with a 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets, but there is some serious issues with the Tampa Bay organization these days. 

22. Carolina Hurricanes (24-22-7, previous ranking: 22) – The Hurricanes have lost two in a row and are dead last in the Metro Division, but they’ve also got a ton of games to play as compared to most of the Eastern Conference. Thanks compacted schedule! 

23. Buffalo Sabres (24-23-10, previous ranking: 23) – A couple of nice divisional wins over the Leafs and the Senators, but the Sunday home loss to the Canucks stings a bit. Time is slipping away from the Sabres at this point. 

24. Calgary Flames (29-26-3, previous ranking: 28) – We could talk about all kinds of observations about the Calgary Flames, and the season they’ve put together to this point. But they lost 5-0 on Monday night to the Arizona Coyotes. The. Arizona. Coyotes. 

25. Vancouver Canucks (25-26-6, previous ranking: 27) – Alex Burrows said he’s watching ESPN for his sports highlights because he doesn’t want to watch anything where they might talk about hockey trade rumors. Solid logic by the biting bandit. 

26. Winnipeg Jets (26-29-4, previous ranking: 25) – One has to wonder what kind of changes are in store for a Winnipeg Jets team that should be much better than they are at this point. It probably starts with Paul Maurice and then will go from there. 

27. Detroit Red Wings (22-25-10, previous ranking: 24) – The Red Wings have lost five in a row, but the real unfortunate development for the Wings was the passing of beloved, longtime owner Mike Ilitch over the weekend. Sincere condolences to the entire Detroit Red Wings family for their big loss. 

28. Dallas Stars (22-26-10, previous ranking: 28) – The Stars have lost two in a row and Lindy Ruff says he won’t be using Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn as distinct and separate centers up front. This is not surprising given the real lack of quality, all-around center play from Seguin over the course of his career. 

29. Arizona Coyotes (19-29-7, previous ranking: 29) – Larry Fitzgerald tried his hand at hockey while fooling around at a Coyotes practice recently. That’s good news for the Coyotes franchise as they could use all the help they can get. 

30. Colorado Avalanche (15-37-2, previous ranking: 30) – The 7-19-1 record at home? The minus-75 goal differential? The current four game losing streak for an Avs team that waved the white flag a long, long time ago? This team just stinks out loud.

Haggerty: Bruins are who we thought they were

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AP Photo

Haggerty: Bruins are who we thought they were

BOSTON -- When push came to shove in Game 7, the Bruins were exactly the hockey club we thought they were.

Clearly they were the better team in the divisional playoff matchup with the Maple Leafs. That became apparent Wednesday night as they erased a 4-3 deficit with four third-period goals in a 7-4 win in Game 7. When it mattered most, all three members of Boston's Perfection Line scored goals; Jake DeBrusk netted a pair while outshining all the highly heralded young players on the Toronto roster, and the Bruins survived some truly concerning moments with their defense and goaltending over the first 40 minutes.

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For the fans at TD Garden it was remarkably entertaining playoff hockey. For the Leafs, it was a sobering, painful dose of reality (and their second third-period Game 7 collapse in Boston in the last five years). And for the Bruins, it was confirmation of all that we saw over the course of 82 regular-season games. After all, they were the NHL's best third-period team all year.

In a very vocal dressing room between the second and third periods, with the Bruins trailing 4-3 and sitting a mere 20 minutes from elimination, their three most experienced veterans -- Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, who combined had more Game 7 appearances on their resumes than the entire Toronto roster -- drove that point home to their younger teammates.

"It didn't matter how long it was going to take. We were going to do the job," said Torey Krug, who scored the game-tying goal just 70 seconds into the third period. "It's kind of how we were all season long. Coming back, you know, in games and losing guys to injury, it was just kind of like the definition of our season.

"So it didn't matter. We were going to break them, and we were going to out-will them, and we did."

They did so against a goalie, Freddie Andersen, who had confounded them earlier in the series. They did so under the intense pressure of a Game 7 situation. And they so despite things not breaking well for them earlier in the game, as Patrick Marleau and Kasperi Kapanen scored soft goals against Tuukka Rask.

But the Bruins made it through waves of injuries and a hellacious final six weeks of the NHL regular season. In that spirit, they just kept grinding Wednesday night. And it's clear to see why they're regarded as a hockey team that won't be easily taken out in any series.

"That was one of the most incredible games I've ever been a part of," said Brad Marchand, who closed out the scoring with an empty-net goal in the final minutes of the third period. "It was so back and forth. The intensity from the crowd and the emotion was a lot of fun to be part of. But, even after they got the lead a couple times, we just . . . we knew that we have the resiliency in the room to continue to come back. We've done it all year, so we just try to draw on that. It doesn't always go your way, but luckily tonight it did.

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"We've done it all year. [We were trailing by] only one goal. We didn't have to cheat to win. We just wanted to continue to play our game. We were getting opportunities and we just figured it was a matter of time and luckily, again, it went our way."

Well, strong third periods and hard-to-believe comebacks were definitely something the Bruins have done all year. Krug, Jake DeBrusk, David Pastrnak and Marchand helped author another one with four consecutive goals in the third period, stunning the Maple Leafs.

Toronto, with skilled young players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and others, was no easy opponent, as evidenced by its 3-1 record against Boston in the regular season. Getting past the Leafs was no easy task.

Up next are the high-wattage Tampa Bay Lightning, with the next series starting Saturday afternoon at Amalie Arena. The Bruins might not be the better team in this matchup, but they're playing with house money now after making a tremendous step forward in both an entertaining regular season and certifiably insane first round.

The one thing we know for sure: All is possible with a Bruins team that can come back from just about anything.

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Talking points: Jake DeBrusk graduates from rookie to clutch performer

Talking points: Jake DeBrusk graduates from rookie to clutch performer

GOLD STAR: The Bruins needed somebody to step up aside from their top trio of forwards, and Jake DeBrusk did exactly that in a huge Game 7 moment for the Black and Gold. DeBrusk scored two goals in the do-or-die playoff game including a power play goal to open up the scoring, and the game-winning goal in the third period where he powered to the net through Jake Gardiner before sliding a shot through Frederik Andersen. DeBrusk finished with five goals and seven points in the seven game series, had five shots on net in Wednesday night’s decisive Game 7 and was the best player on the ice for either team in the series’ most important game. DeBrusk may still be a rookie in name, but he’s graduated to formidable big game player in these playoffs. 

BLACK EYE: Jake Gardiner finished with a minus-5 for the game, and was brutally bad for the Maple Leafs. This was always the glaring weakness for the Leafs on their back end and it finally showed in Game 7 with so many other moving parts flying around. Gardiner didn’t block any shots and had a couple of giveaways in his 24:01 of ice time, and his play on the game-winning goal for DeBrusk was the perfect example of his rough night. DeBrusk got Gardiner all turned around as he attacked on the right wing with speed, and powered his way to the net while releasing a shot as the Leafs D-man couldn’t eliminate him from the play. At the moment of truth, it was a young Bruins forward overpowering a veteran Leafs D-man for the game-winner, and it’s exactly how the series played out in the moments where the Bruins had the upper hand. 

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TURNING POINT: Clearly it was coming out for the third period where the Bruins have been big winners all season. The Bruins scored just 1:10 into the third period to tie up the game on a Torey Krug bomb from the point, and they didn’t allow a single shot on net in the first 10 minutes of the third period while protecting a goalie with a fragile level of confidence in his own game. Clearly the Bruins decided to put the clamps down at the right time, and eventually Jake DeBrusk busted through for the game-winner while powering through the Leafs defense for his second score of the game. In all the Bruins outshot the Leafs 11-8 in the third period, but truly controlled the final 20 minutes of play while scoring four unanswered goals against a stunned Leafs team. For the second straight Game 7 between these two teams, the third period was a house of horrors for Toronto. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Patrice Bergeron is the kind of player that lives for the Game 7 moments, and he did exactly that once again for the Bruins. It was Bergeron that finished with a goal and three points, a plus-2 in 19:36 of ice time and won 14-of-22 face-offs while playing strong through injury. Bergeron scored his first goal of the series in the big Game 7 moment, and he finished with four shot attempts, one hit, two takeaways and a blocked shot in his night’s work while filling up the box score like he always does. Even better all three members of the Bruins top line scored in the game after being held down in each of the three losses in the series, showing they were ready to show up and play big at the biggest moment in a Game 7. 

BY THE NUMBERS: 9 – the number of points for Torey Krug at the end of the seven game series after scoring a big game-tying third period goal in Game 7. The nine points leads the field of all NHL defensemen after the first round of the playoffs.  

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Toronto did a good job with them. They got frustrated a few times, but they stuck with the program. Even the games they’ve been quiet in terms of stats on the sheet, they’ve been generating. So, that was asked this morning: Are they getting frustrated? I think there’s always a certain level of that when you’re used to getting production, and they got it back tonight.” –Bruce Cassidy, on his top line’s ability to stick with the program, and come through in Game 7, even as they were getting frustrated later in the series.

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