Bruins

NHL Power Rankings: Deals on the horizon

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NHL Power Rankings: Deals on the horizon

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

The trades are coming. The trades are coming.

Brian Burke was able to jump out in front of the curve and ship Kris Versteeg to Philadelphia for a pair of valuable draft picks in the first and third rounds, respectively. Versteeg gives the Flyers that one final skilled winger with a contract signed for the next couple of seasons, but a guy that also wasnt quite a good fit for the Leafs during the current Ron Wilson reign of terror.

While Flyers GM Paul Holmgren was able to pluck the former Bruins draft pick off the trade market, there is still plenty of wheeling and dealing to be made and plenty of draft picks and player assets ready to pushed up to the bargaining table.

The Bruins are on record that theyll make a move before the Feb. 28 trade deadline, but theyd better step up the urgency with all kinds of teams looking for the same players to fit their needs. Peter Chiarellis performance at the deadline could be the real make-or-break moment for a franchise that seems headed for bigger and better things.

Without further ado, here are this weeks power rankings:

1. Philadelphia Flyers (36-14-5, last week: 2) The rich get richer with their trade for Kris Versteeg, and look even deeper, more skilled and more ready to battle through the Eastern Conference in the playoffs.

2. Vancouver Canucks (36-12-9, last week: 1) The Canucks have now lost defensemen Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard and Alex Edler to injuries over the last couple of weeks. Theres only so long they can withstand those kinds of blueline issues.

3. Detroit Red Wings (34-16-6, last week: 5) The Wings had been in a mini-funk, but snapped out of it while outscoring the Bruins by a 10-3 margin over the weekend. They look like a team simply waiting for the playoffs.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning (34-17-5, last week: 4) Guess they brushed off that Buffalo disaster just fine. Dont think Ill ever be describing Dwayne Roloson as unflappable after watching that display.

5. Anaheim Ducks (32-21-4, last week: 11) The Ducks have won 14 of their last 18 games, and recovered nicely from a disastrous start to their season. Now they have Ryan Getzlaf back, which only makes things . . . well . . . duckier for Anaheim.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins (35-19-4, last week: 3) Life stinks without Crosby and Malkin, and now even lowly teams like the Isles are thinking that its open season on Pittsburgh.
7. Boston Bruins (31-18-7, last week: 6) The Bs looked like theyd really gotten comfortable with their Big, Bad identity, and then the Red Wings slapped them back into reality.

8. Phoenix Coyotes (30-19-9, last week: 12) The Coyotes have won five in a row and register as the hottest team in the NHL while notching their 500th organization win since moving to Arizona.

9. Dallas Stars (31-19-6, last week: 14) The Stars have dropped seven of their last nine games, and have looked like a beaten team since Boston beat them up in the schoolyard.

10. Montreal Canadiens (31-20-6, last week: 9) Kim Wilde would love Montreal because they just keep on hangin on. The Habs have shown a lot of resiliency, but are way too easy to push around.

11. Washington Capitals (29-18-10, last week: 7) The Caps lost a lifeless game to the Kings last weekend, held a players' only meeting and head out for a five-game road trip. Time for Alex Ovechkin to start carrying this bunch.

12. Nashville Predators (30-19-7, last week: 11) Only in Nashville would the headlines all ready Carrie Underwoods husband traded to the Predators. Good luck with the whole Mr. Underwood thing, Mike.

13. Minnesota Wild (30-20-5, last week: 13) The Wild are tied for the league lead with 13 wins since Jan. 2, and have been one of the NHLs hottest teams as of late. Still not buying the playoffs for them, though.

14. San Jose Sharks (30-21-6, last week: 8) The Sharks have managed to stay with the pack during a seven-game road trip, and thats no small feat. Looks like they're priming the pump for their big stretch run.

15. Los Angeles Kings (31-22-3, last week: 14) The Kings took down the Capitals and Flyers, and havent lost in regulation since Jan. 20. They could climb quickly in the ranks with Jonathan Quick really shouldering the load.

16. New York Rangers (30-24-4, last week: 17) The Rangers beat up on the Penguins last weekend, and have an amazing knack to simply hang around a playoff spot.

17. Calgary Flames (28-22-8, last week: 15) The Flames have cooled off, but have the years signature event in Canada with the Heritage Classic against Montreal on Sunday.

18. Chicago Blackhawks (28-22-6, last week: 18) The Blackhawks went 2-2-2 on a pivotal six-game road trip that just concluded. Not exactly a show of fiery playoff passion, but Chicago can still do some damage in the West if given the chance.

19. Carolina Hurricanes (27-22-8, last week: 19) The 'Canes need to once and for all decide if they want to be a handful in the playoffs, or simply another fringe NHL team stuck in neutral.
20. Columbus Blue Jackets (28-23-5, last week: 24) Rick Nash and Steve Mason have masterminded a furious comeback for the B.J.s in the wake of a sluggish first half.

21. Atlanta Thrashers (25-23-10, last week: 22) The Thrashers look like they might not make it, and thats too bad given the coaching job Craig Ramsay has done with Atlanta this year. Depth and youth are big issues.

22. St. Louis Blues (25-21-9, last week: 23) Jaroslav Halak didnt help the team in a pair of games against the Wild, and has slumped in his first season with St. Louis.
23. Colorado Avalanche (25-25-6, last week: 20) The Avs have lost 9 out of 10 games, and Peter Forsberg pulled the plug on a comeback two games into it. This clearly isnt the peak moment this season for Foppa or the Avalanche.

24. Buffalo Sabres (26-22-6, last week: 24) Ryan Miller has started 31 straight games for the Sabres in their desperate attempt to sneak into the playoffs, and it appears that the fatigue is getting to him.

25. New Jersey Devils (22-30-4, last week: 23) Ilya Kovalchuk is finally doing it all for New Jersey, and has nine goals while the Devils have gone 12-1-2 over the last 15 games.
26. Florida Panthers (24-24-7, last week: 27) Florida is sniffing around the playoffs, but they arent in the litter box plans for the Panthers.

27. Toronto Maple Leafs (23-27-6, last week: 26) GM Brian Burke will maintain that the Leafs are trying for the playoffs, but the mass Toronto exodus via trades would suggest otherwise. Kris Versteeg just wasnt going to ever cut it in Toronto.
28. Ottawa Senators (18-30-8, last week: 28) Jason Spezza is untouchable for the Senators. Everyone else? Very touchable.
29. New York Islanders (20-29-7, last week: 29) Leave it to the Islanders and guys like Mark Martin and Trevor Gillies to sully the leagues image.
30. Edmonton Oilers (15-29-8, last week: 30) The Oilers are young, but really arent doing much to impress anybody as they play out the string and get ready for another high lottery pick.

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

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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