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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.

Familiar faces get the best of the Bruins in Vegas

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Familiar faces get the best of the Bruins in Vegas

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – Perhaps part of the confused look from the Boston Bruins on the ice Sunday night in Las Vegas was a nagging feeling of déjà vu they never could shake. The Vegas Golden Knights took a 3-1 win over the Bruins for their fourth win in five tries this season, and handed the Bruins their third truly dreadful-looking defeat in five games played on the young hockey season.

It was tough to avoid the feeling that the Golden Knights were basically “Boston Bruins West”, and that was never too far away from notice as things played out on Sunday. Old friend and former Bruins play-by-play man Dave Goucher and ex-B's defenseman "Sheriff" Shane Hnidy are the friendly faces on the Vegas TV telecast, and were on the Jumbotron pregame in a skit with Carrot Top, of all people, to run down the arena's safety rules in a funny and well-produced video.

Former Bruins PR guru and Beverly native Eric Tosi is in charge of the media relations with the Golden Knights, and has been a busy, busy man along with the rest of the Vegas franchise getting the expansion club off the ground. He was even busier this past weekend, albeit with a relaxed smile on his face, as 20 members of the Tosi clan made the road trip out to Vegas to see the first NHL game between the two franchises.

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And there were the actual familiar faces on the ice with ex-Bruins Malcolm Subban and Colin Miller excelling against their old team. Subban only needed to stop 21 shots in the victory, but was able to finish his first NHL start and earn his first career NHL win against the Bruins franchise that left him unprotected on waivers just a couple of weeks ago.

The Bruins didn’t make the 23-year-old Subban sweat much during the game with pedestrian shots that hit the first-round pick squarely in the jersey crest, and pretty much zero attempts to beat his questionable glove hand.

"We know Malcolm well," said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. "He's a good first-shot goaltender for the most part. We wanted to put some stress on him and make him uncomfortable on those second ones, and I don't think we did a good job on that."

But give Subban credit for calming down his mental approach and refining his technique enough to play solid positional goaltending against the Bruins, and gaining some sweet revenge in the process.

Subban wasn’t gloating about it or basking in any kind of vengeance against his former team, but instead just expressed happiness at doing the job after stepping in for the injured Marc-Andre Fleury. It remains to be seen if Subban is going to be able to hold down the fort against the teams that will inevitably test him more than the hapless Bruins did, but he gave his team a good chance to win on Sunday.

"It's a great feeling. I made a lot of friends [in Boston], played with a lot of great teammates and (had) a great coaching staff. I'm just happy to get the win. The biggest thing was just not thinking, staying focused, and staying in the moment. It feels really good to get the first win in your first game," said Subban, "My first shot I got good control on it and that got me in the game a lot. You never know how the game is going to go in the NHL. It’s really technical. Sometimes you don’t get a lot of shots, so you gotta stay focused, and I felt I did that tonight.

“I thought I played pretty good. The biggest thing was my depth and not getting too deep in the net. Give myself the better opportunity to make the save. I feel like I did that (Sunday). There weren’t too many high chances. [There were] a lot of textbook saves and just having good rebound control. I’m happy to get the win.”

Miller didn’t factor into the scoring for the Golden Knights against the Bruins, but he was extremely active with three shots on net and eight shot attempts in 18:25 of ice time. He got plenty of power play time, was a plus player and looks like he might get the chance to develop his game in Vegas that hadn’t quite played out over the previous couple of years in Boston.

The Bruins won’t return to Vegas until next season, but the hope has to be those same Golden Knights’ familiar faces won’t get the best of the B’s when they come for their one-and-only visit to TD Garden at the beginning of November.

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Only five games into season, Bruins already sending off bad vibes

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Only five games into season, Bruins already sending off bad vibes

LAS VEGAS -- Even though it's only five games into a new regular season, it feels like the Bruins are in danger of going off the tracks.

They finished their three-game Western road swing Sunday with an aimless 3-1 loss to the expansion Golden Knights, which came on the heels of a wretched defeat in Colorado and a victory over the winless Coyotes. Sunday was particularly disheartening, as they never tested their ex-goalie, Malcolm Subban, putting only 21 mostly harmless shots on net against a player they gave away on waivers just a few weeks ago,

They may only have three losses in five games, but it sure feels like there's trouble starting to brew in Bruins land.

“It could be a lot of different things,” said Brad Marchand about the loss to Las Vegas. "We may not have been as mentally prepared for that game as we thought we were. They wanted it more than we did. They out-battled us in a lot of areas and they were the better team. We were making it hard on ourselves. We were trying to do too much with the puck, and not directing enough of the pucks toward the net. You can’t get rebound and you can’t get bodies there if the puck isn’t going there.”

That is a lot of different things. A lot of different problems:

-- They couldn’t fight to get to the front of the net against a rugged Vegas defensive group that was going to make them battle to get there.

-- Once again they had too many passengers along for the ride, with both Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano failing to even be a blip on the game’s radar screen. Spooner suffered a lower body injury midway through the game, but while he was out there he was a non-factor once again. 

-- It felt like there was no flow at all to Boston’s game, with breakouts dogged by sloppy passing and players who weren’t hard enough on the puck.

-- When they did get a chance to create something they either missed the net with their shot, or opted not to even take the shot in the first place. 

-- They lost 67 percent of the 57 draws taken during the game, and saw Spooner, Riley Nash and David Krejci and Ryan Spooner go a combined 8-for-29 in the face-off circle.

-- They chased the puck for long stretches and certainly didn’t ever put together anything approaching a consistent, driving pressure in the offensive zone.

Missing stalwart veterans like Patrice Bergeron and David Backes certainly isn’t helping. It makes the Bruins a much smaller group up front that can be pushed around by bigger, stronger defensive units.

But even so, there’s a sense the Bruins can’t consistently bring their 'A' game to the rink with them and don’t seem to have much fight when they fall down by a couple of goals. Trailing by just two goals going into the third period, the Bruins had four shots on net for most of the final period until a late flurry produced a score by David Pastrnak.

Perhaps of more concern, though, is the growing feeling that the Bruins aren’t all on the same page.

Marchand vaguely referenced that the Bruins weren’t prepared to play Sunday, and Tuukka Rask said he’ll no longer comment on anything except his own goaltending. Rask has always been candid and willing to be frank about any shortcomings after Bruins losses, but it appears that’s not something that is any longer welcome inside the B’s dressing room.

“I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on,” said Rask. “I’m not going to comment anymore on team play that much. We can just talk about goaltending. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.”

Meanwhile, Krejci was similarly short in his postgame thoughts and started talking about avoiding pointing fingers after a frustrating loss.

“There’s no reason to point fingers," he said. "Yeah, we lost a game and it was a frustrating loss. But it’s just the fifth game of the season, so we don’t need to make a big deal out of it. We’re going to back to Boston, we’re going to work hard in practices and we’re going to get ready for the next game.”

Clearly, the fact this stuff is coming to the surface just five games into the season is a cause for concern. But it makes sense, given the way the Bruins are letting an easy portion of the season slip through their fingers.

In their first 10 games of the year, they're facing only one team that made the playoffs last season and they've got plenty of spaced-out stretches in the schedule to get off to a strong, healthy start. Instead they’re losing to subpar teams and highly unproven goalies, and doing so with a real lack of energy or purpose on the ice.

Certainly management would be smart to think about shipping underperforming players like Vatrano back to the AHL in place of Peter Cehlarik or Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. And a few more games like Sunday’s snooze-fest could advance trade talks for a player like Matt Duchene.

But there aren’t going to be any easy answers. It comes down to hard work and hunkering down together as a team, and Sunday’s pitifully inept loss in a very winnable situation was yet another sign the Bruins aren't even close to being there yet.

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