Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Bruins on the rise
NHL Power Rankings: Holiday break
By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider
The Christmas holiday break is here on the NHL schedule, and that means three days to rest, reenergize and reflect on what’s transpired in the first 79 days of the NHL regular season. Some things have been surprising, like the incredibly slow starts for the Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks, despite all their talent, and some haven’t been as much of a shock like the ascension of the Washington Capitals into the Eastern Conference’s most fearsome, deep and dangerous team.
A couple of quick observations on the three months of the regular season:
*Count me as one of those people that think the Canadiens miss Brendan Gallagher more than Carey Price right now. Sure, they are allowing more goals than they did previously. But Gallagher brings so much to the table for that team in terms of energy, production and attitude that has been missing in Montreal over the last few weeks.
*The Edmonton Oilers will make the playoffs. I’ve expected them to be a young team that would struggle and grind through the first few months, but is going to catch fire in the second half of the year. I’m sticking with that especially now that they seem to be getting some reasonably good goaltending from Anders Nilsson and Cam Talbot.
*My predictions of great things for Drew Doughty, Milan Lucic, Jonathan Quick and the rest of the LA Kings didn’t look so hot in October, but they’re right back on track now that we’re approaching the New Year.
*The Pittsburgh Penguins need to make a big, big move. Sidney Crosby isn’t playing with any kind of emotion, and he’s not going to the dangerous areas in the offensive end of the ice. He doesn’t look like he’s got a lot of belief in the players around him there in Pittsburgh, and you have to wonder if that extends to the GM in charge of the Penguins right now too.
*The 3-on-3 OT is the best thing to happen to the NHL since they trotted out the Winter Classic. It’s such an entertaining five minutes for the fans, and that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.
Without further ado here are this week’s power rankings:
1. Washington Capitals (25-6-2, rank last week: 1) – The Capitals have won six games in a row, and spanked the Rangers and Lightning in back-to-back games. Washington can beat you in many different ways.
2. Dallas Stars (26-7-2, rank last week: 2) – The Stars were the first team to reach 50 points this season, and got through Patrick Sharp’s first game against his old Blackhawks team this week.
3. St. Louis Blues (21-11-4, rank last week: 8) – The Blues stopped the red-hot Bruins cold with an impressive shutout win headed into the Christmas break. Once again Jake Allen was outstanding.
4. Boston Bruins (19-10-4, rank last week: 10) – The loss to the Blues ended on a bitter note, but the 11-2-3 run in their last 16 games has seen the Bruins go from playoff margin to a near playoff certainty.
5. Los Angeles Kings (20-11-2, rank last week: 5) – The King have lost a couple in a row, but are still the best that the Pacific Division has to offer by a long shot.
6. New York Islanders (19-11-5, rank last week: 6) – The Isles got their Christmas present in the form of the weakling Ducks right before the holiday break.
7. Montreal Canadiens (20-13-3, rank last week: 3) – Five losses in a row, and one win in their last 10 games is “yikes” territory for the Habs. They are just hanging on to first place in the Atlantic Division at this point.
8. New York Rangers (20-12-4, rank last week: 4) – Three wins in their last 10 games, and Henrik Lundqvist has been really struggling as of late behind a group of Blueshirts players that haven’t been much better.
9. Minnesota Wild (18-9-6, rank last week: 7) – Zach Parise heating up now that he’s back to good health, and the Wild have taken points in 10 of their last 12 games.
10. Chicago Blackhawks (20-12-4, rank last week: 12) – The Blackhawks had a three game winning streak snapped right before the holiday break, but are starting to make their push.
11. Florida Panthers (19-12-4, rank last week: 19) – The Panthers have won five in a row, and Jaromir Jagr is playing right on through his front teeth getting knocked out. Legend.
12. Detroit Red Wings (17-10-7, rank last week: 9) – Big credit to Jeff Blashill for doing a very good job of stepping in for Mike Babcock without any kind of a drop-off.
13. Nashville Predators (17-11-6, rank last week: 14) – Big wins over the Wild and Canadiens have the Predators again pointed in the right direction.
14. San Jose Sharks (17-15-2, rank last week: 16) – The Sharks are 13-6-2 on the road, and 4-9-0 at home this season. What a weird split that is.
15. Arizona Coyotes (16-15-2, rank last week: 17) – A couple of tight, one goal wins to end the holiday break could set the desert dogs up for a nice run after the holiday.
16. New Jersey Devils (17-13-5, rank last week: 13) – The Devils need to pick it up at the Prudential Center where they’re 7-8-3 on the season thus far.
17. Calgary Flames (16-16-2, rank last week: 15) – The Flames had their winning streak snapped, but are now back in the playoff hunt. It’s a credit to a great month of December for them.
18. Vancouver Canucks (13-14-9, rank last week: 18) – The sub-.500 record for a possible playoff team just isn’t a good look.
19. Ottawa Senators (17-12-6, rank last week: 9) – A couple of big divisional losses to Tampa and Florida started their holiday break on a sour note.
20. Edmonton Oilers (15-18-2, rank last week: 20) – The Oilers snapped a three game losing streak with the Winnipeg Jets, and only need to hold things together until Connor McDavid can return to the lineup.
21. Philadelphia Flyers (15-12-7, rank last week: 23) – The Flyers are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games, and may be starting to gel under Dave Hakstol. At least that might be the case.
22. Tampa Bay Lightning (17-15-3, rank last week: 22) – A 6-4-0 month of December has the Lightning starting to right the ship, but they’re still not firing on all the cylinders like they need to be at this point.
23. Pittsburgh Penguins (16-14-3, rank last week: 21) – The Penguins look like a team headed for a change. It’s as simple as that. The combo of uninspired play and a bad mix of players has this team stuck in the mud.
24. Colorado Avalanche (17-17-1, rank last week: 24) – The Avs won five in a row in December to get into a respectable spot at the holiday break, but let’s state the obvious: they’re playing in the wrong division if they want a chance this season.
25. Carolina Hurricanes (13-16-5, rank last week: 29) – The Canes were in a 5-3-1 stretch headed into the break, and playing some decent hockey. Cam Ward seems to be finding the range finally.
26. Winnipeg Jets (15-17-2, rank last week: 25) – The Jets were a nice story last season, but they are the Central Division doormat this year with little chance of the playoffs already.
27. Toronto Maple Leafs (12-14-7, rank last week: 27) – Where did the offense come from for Leo Komarov, who has 15 goals this season?
28. Buffalo Sabres (14-16-4, rank last week: 28) – Surprising that the Sabres are 27th in the NHL in offense given players like Evander Kane, Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly, but there’s still plenty of room to grow.
29. Anaheim Ducks (12-15-6, rank last week: 26) – It’s tough to see Bruce Boudreau making it out of this situation unscathed given the way the Ducks continue to struggle. One goal for Ryan Getzlaf?
30. Columbus Blue Jackets (13-20-3, rank last week: 30) – Three wins in their last 10 games as the Blue Jackets continue to lack sting this season.