Bruins

NHL Power Rankings: Flyers tough at the top

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NHL Power Rankings: Flyers tough at the top

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

With the NHL trade deadline little more than a month away, the time has come for plenty of moves to take place. Which teams will stand pat with their teams confident in their roster building at the beginning of the season, and which teams will make an epic splash with an Ilya Kovalchuk-level move this season.

As weve seen, those kind of major deals can either pull a team apart or push them together. Thats always the ultimate chance when altering the chemistry of any hockey team.

There are plenty of rumors out there about Ottawa defenseman Sergei Gonchar with some even suggesting that Boston might be interested and that kind of player could be the one missing link for many teams to become Stanley Cup contenders.

Tomas Kaberle is also going to be available in the coming weeks with Toronto once again on the ropes, and it really likes itll be a healthy market for puck-moving defensemen for the first time in recent memory.

Teams have already evaluated what they have, and now its time to get bold with a move or two and get busy winning or get busy losing. Without further ado, here are this weeks power rankings:

1. Philadelphia Flyers (32-12-5, last week: 1) The Flyers are the biggest, baddest hockey team in the land and now they have Chris Pronger back. They also beat down the defending champs on national television Sunday.
2. Vancouver Canucks (29-10-9, last week: 2) It wasnt a banner week for the Canucks with three overtimeshootout losses, but you cant fault them too much for that in the socialist NHL, right?

3. Dallas Stars (29-14-5, last week: 4) The Red Wings finally whooped up on the Stars last weekend and handed them their first loss in January, but hats off to a Dallas team that has been good all season.

4. Detroit Red Wings (29-13-6, last week: 4) The Red Wings have hung in there admirably, and will be getting Daniel Cleary and Pavel Datsyuk back after the All-Star break. Watch out for the Winged Wheels.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning (30-15-5, last week: 8) Hats off to the classy Marty St. Louis, who has topped 20 goals in a season eight consecutive years. The Bolts have won four in a row, and look like theyre legit.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins (30-15-4, last week: 6) The Penguins are fighting valiantly, but life without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin isnt going to be easy.

7. Boston Bruins (27-14-7, last week: 5) Who would have ever thought that Brad Marchand would be the rookie that everybody is talking about? He leads all NHL rookies with a plus-21.
8. Nashville Predators (27-15-6, last week: 11) The Preds are streaking, and much it is all about Pekka Rinne. The rangy Nashville goalie is 9-1 in his last 10 starts and has allowed one goal or fewer in six of those games.

9. Washington Capitals (27-14-8, last week: 7) Alex Ovechkin snapped out of a goal-scoring funk with a hat trick last weekend, and the competition with Tampa Bay will end up being a very good thing for the Caps.

10. Montreal Canadiens (27-17-5, last week: 10) Apparently, the Habs are taking umbrage with all this talk that only one Northeast Division team will make the playoffs.

11. Phoenix Coyotes (24-16-9, last week: 9) The Desert Dogs are 10-8-5 at home this season. That just isnt going to get it done.

12. Chicago Blackhawks (26-19-4, last week: 12) The one-sided loss to the Flyers was a pretty indicator of how much lesser the Blackhawks are as a team this season.
13. Anaheim Ducks (27-20-4, last week: 15) Saku Koivu wins in his return to Montreal and the Ducks are making due without Ryan Getzlaf in an impressively gutty showing.

14. New York Rangers (28-19-3, last week: 16) The Rangers havent been the best in their last seven games, but its going to do nothing but help with Marian Gaborik on track offensively.

15. San Jose Sharks (25-19-5, last week: 21) You would think that the Sharks would get angry or embarrassed given the way theyre underachieving this season. Youd be wrong.
16. Colorado Avalanche (24-18-6, last week: 14) The good: the Avs have Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny. The bad: the Avs are brutal defensively and got blown out in two straight games.
17. Minnesota Wild (24-19-5, 20) The Wild are in the periphery of the playoffs, but its going to be tough to stay there for Minnesotas Wild Bunch.

18. Atlanta Thrashers (23-19-9, last week: 17) The Thrashers lose Toby Enstrom to injury and get spanked by the Lightning by a 7-1. Guess hes kind of important, eh?

19. St. Louis Blues (22-18-7, last week: 19) The Blues seem to really be stuck in neutral right now, and have won two of their last 10 games. They cant even get Kyle Wellwood on waivers for cripes sakes.

20. Carolina Hurricanes (23-19-6, last week: 16) The Hurricanes arent exactly burying their chances to catch up to a Thrashers team thats struggling. For a team with a strong young leader like Eric Staal, the Canes seem to take too many shifts off.
21. Los Angeles Kings (25-22-1, last week: 18) I love Dean Lombardi, but it might be time to lay low in a safe house for a while.

22. Calgary Flames (22-21-6, last week: 22) The Flames have pulled themselves to within a handful of points of a playoff spot out west, but methinks theres a better chance of Jarome Iginla getting dealt than Calgary making the playoffs.

23. Buffalo Sabres (22-21-5, last week: 25) Ryan Miller will be playing until either A) his limbs fall off or B) the Sabres are eliminated from the playoffs.

24. Columbus Blue Jackets (23-20-5, last week: 27) The Blue Jackets have taken points in five straight games, but really need to turn it on.
25. Florida Panthers (21-21-5, last week: 24) The latest four game losing streak for the Panthers should be taken as their official white flag of surrender for this season.

26. Toronto Maple Leafs (19-23-5, last week: 26) Brian Burke needs to trade Tomas Kaberle or get off the pot. The Leafs are going nowhere but inviting the Bruins to the lottery once again.
27. New Jersey Devils (16-29-3, last week: 30) The Devils are 6-0-1 in their last seven games and Ilya Kovalchuk is finally starting to look as advertised. Wonder if Lou Lamoriello is muttering Its about time in the Devils management box.
28. Edmonton Oilers (14-25-8, last week: 29) The young Oilers are struggling big time, but at least GM Steve Tambellini didnt have any goaltenders hang up the phone on him.
29. New York Islanders (15-25-7, last week: 28) Would love to have been a fly on the well for that ever so brief chat between Evgeni Nabokov and Garth Snow.

30. Ottawa Senators (17-25-7, last week: 27) Looks like theres a full Ottawa housecleaning set to take place with the Senators beginning soon. Its about time that dirty room was cleaned up.

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

Julien thankful for B's video tribute, 'happy he can move on'

Julien thankful for B's video tribute, 'happy he can move on'

BOSTON – It was the final piece of closure for former Bruins coach Claude Julien when he made his return to TD Garden for the first time as the bench boss for the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night. Julien stood on the visiting bench, watched a first period video tribute of appreciation for his 10 years guiding the Bruins and then received the warm, thankful ovation from the B’s fans that still very much appreciate his efforts that resulted in a 2011 Stanley Cup title. 

Unfortunately for him and the Canadiens he also presided over a lifeless, limp effort from his Montreal club in a 4-1 loss to the Bruins where his team simply couldn’t derive any emotion or juice from his return to Boston. Julien said in both French and English that that his Habs simply “laid an egg” on the road, and that was disappointing for him given that Montreal already has its back against the wall for a possible playoff spot. 

Instead Julien’s biggest bright spot in the game turned out to be the video tribute from the Bruins midway through the first period, for which he was greatly appreciative. 

“It’s always something that you kind of dread a little bit because it’s a little emotional, and at the same time [you’re] trying to keep your emotions intact there so you can coach a game and stuff like that. But, you know, I appreciate what they did for me,” said Julien following his second loss to the Bruins in five days. “As I said, I’ve got nothing but good things to say about this organization that gave me the opportunity to spend 10 years here. At the same time I’m kind of happy it’s over so we can move on now, but that doesn’t mean you forget what’s happened here. It’s always going to be with you. But now I’m in another chapter of my coaching career, and I’ve got to think about that.”

Julien’s counterpart, Bruce Cassidy, called the video tribute a “classy move” by the Bruins organization after the game had been settled, and there’s no doubting it was the right move for a coach that won over 400 games during his 10 years leading the Bruins. It was also the final chapter in his Bruins book as Julien now has completely moved on to his new gig guiding the Canadiens where it seems like his work is most definitely cut out for him. 

Spooner's strong play continues as B's dominate Habs

Spooner's strong play continues as B's dominate Habs

GOLD STAR: It had to feel good for Ryan Spooner. The speedy forward played a great game, finished with the game-winning goal in Claude Julien’s return to Boston and had both four shots on net and four registered hits in 16:07 of ice time. His goal was a level of grit and buy-in that he didn’t always have when Julien was the coach, but it’s one that he’s found more and more since Bruce Cassidy took over behind the B’s bench. Spooner drove the puck straight toward the net, and attempted to throw a pass backdoor to Matt Grzelcyk. But instead the puck bounced off Jonathan Drouin’s skate and ended up in the back of the net to make it a 2-1 game in the second period. For a player that long struggled under the watchful eye of Julien, Spooner’s night continued a stretch of very strong play since coming back from injury. 

BLACK EYE: Jonathan Drouin was supposed to be a game-changing center for the Canadiens after being moved from Tampa Bay, but he hasn’t even been close to that, or actually being a center, for the Habs this year. Drouin really didn’t bring much of anything on Wednesday night with a couple of shots on net, a giveaway and a 1-for-9 on the draw in his 17:04 of ice time. He was like so many of the other players on the Montreal roster that didn’t show up with their best in a rivalry game between the Bruins and the Habs. Even worse than that they didn’t show up in a game they desperately needed to win if they wanted to stay relevant in the playoff race. With the minus game again on Wednesday, Drouin is also now a minus-20 on the season in what’s been a truly disappointing year. 

TURNING POINT: The Bruins bounced back strongly after giving up a goal on the first shift of the game, and really took things over after the fortunate bounce for Jakub Jerabek got the Habs on the board early. The Bruins outshot the Canadiens by a 25-13 margin in the first two periods, dominated play and posted a goal in each of the first two periods to get the B’s on the board. From that point on it was smooth sailing and Boston only needed to collect a couple of insurance goals in the third period to truly seal Montreal’s fate. What was surprising was that the Habs showed little fight or pride while slowly sinking into the mud during the game, and never ever provided any real challenge to the Bruins in a game that was still separated by just a single goal until later in the third period. 

HONORABLE MENTION: David Krejci had one of his better games for the Bruins with a goal, two points and a plus-2 rating in 15:58 of ice time. It was an empty net goal that rounded out the scoring in the third period, and he finished with four shot attempts, a takeaway and 16-of-20 face-off wins in 15:58 of ice time. In general the Bruins frontline centers absolutely and thoroughly dominated Montreal’s poor excuse for players down the middle of their lineup, and Krejci was a big part of that in helping set up Spooner’s game-winner as well. Krejci was also a player that had his differences of opinion with Julien when he was coaching the Bruins, so the big game for him on Wednesday night also must have felt pretty cathartic when it was all said and done.   

BY THE NUMBERS: 15 – the number of games for Tuukka Rask’s current point streak where he’s put together a 13-0-2 record that dates back to his four game benching in the middle of November. He finished with a solid night’s work of 21 saves in the win over the Habs.  

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We laid an egg.” –Claude Julien said that phrase in both French and English to discuss a truly pathetic performance for his Canadiens team in what should have been an intense Bruins/Habs rivalry game on national television. 

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