Blackhawks

NHL Power Rankings: Capitals, Ducks fighting for top spot

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NHL Power Rankings: Capitals, Ducks fighting for top spot

The Ducks have won 18 of their last 20 games, including 11 straight, propelling to the top of the Pacific Division. Staying in the West, the Blackhawks, Blues and Stars are each separated by two points for No. 1 in the Central Division.

Meanwhile in the East, the Capitals are the first team to reach the 100-point mark this season, and did so in just 65 games.

Check in with CSNChicago.com for updated rankings every Monday throughout the 2015-16 campaign. Here's where we're at so far: Preseason rankings | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15 | Week 16 | Week 17 | Week 18 | Week 19 | Week 20 | Week 21

 

Rank Team
Last Week Record/Comment
1 1

48-13-4, 100 points: The Capitals are the first team to reach the 100-point mark this season, and did so in just 65 games. And guess what? The Capitals and Ducks play each other on Monday. That will be a fun one.

2   2 37-19-8, 82 points: The Ducks are 18-1-1 in their last 20 games, and have won a franchise-record 11 consecutive games. What an incredible turnaround after starting the season 1-7-2.
3
 
3

41-21-5, 87 points: Patrick Kane established a new career-high by picking up his 89th point of the year, set in 2009-10. There are still 15 games left in the season.

4 5

39-22-4, 82 points: That's now nine straight victories for the Lightning, who have allowed just 11 goals during their winning streak. Also, Jonathan Drouin's suspension was lifted and he will report to the AHL. A smart decision.

5   4

38-22-4, 80 points: The Kings have outshot their opponents in 19 of the last 20 games, further proving that they're the league's best puck possession team. Wednesday's contest against the Capitals is another game circled on the calendars of hockey fans.

6   7 38-20-9, 85 points: The Blues are 9-2-1 in their last 12 road games, including three straight wins. They are now just two points behind Chicago and Dallas for the Central Division lead.
7    10 36-20-7, 79 points: The Islanders have gone into Madison Square Garden three times this season, and have come away with wins in each of them. They still have one more meeting there on April 7, but if we're lucky, there could be more.
8 6 38-22-6, 82 points: The Rangers have gone nearly three months without losing back-to-back games, which is in jeopardy on Tuesday when they battle Buffalo. Henrik Lundqvist has missed the last two games with neck spasms. 
9   8

34-23-8, 76 points: Evgeni Malkin has four goals and three assists since returning to the lineup on Feb. 27, helping the Penguins win four of their last six games.

10   36-21-8, 80 points: After missing the last six games due to an upper-body injury, Jonathan Huberdeau will return to the Panthers lineup and provide a much-need boost for a slumping team, which went 2-3-1 in his absence.
11   12 33-21-12, 78 points: Is there a scarier potential wild card opponent than the Predators? They're starting to click on all cylinders, having earned at least a point in 12 consecutive games.
12   13 40-20-7, 87 points: After jumping out to a 28-8-3 record, the Stars are 12-12-4 since the calendar flipped to 2016. They picked up a pair of nice wins last week against New Jersey and Ottawa, and killed off all six penalties, an area Dallas ranks No. 20 at 79.7 percent.
13   15

36-23-7, 79 points: Only two other players have more goals than Brad Marchand (33): Patrick Kane (38) and Alex Ovechkin (41).

14   11 32-22-11, 75 points: Petr Mrazek has struggled as of late, and got the quick hook Sunday against the Blackhawks. Jimmy Howard relieved him nicely, and he's expected to start on Tuesday vs. Columbus.
15   14

35-23-6, 76 points: After two road games against Calgary and Edmonton, the Sharks will then play nine of their next 10 games at home, where they are 12-14-3 compared to 23-9-3 on the road.

16   16

31-26-10, 72 points: The Wild bounced back from their three-game losing streak by stringing together four consecutive wins before falling to St. Louis on Sunday.

17 17  33-30-4, 70 points: Avalanche coach Patrick Roy called out Semyon Varlamov, who's allowed at least three goals in his last three outings, by saying "it's time for Varlamov to step up." Seems a bit unfair considering his dominant December and January is what propelled Colorado to a wild card spot in the first place.
18   19

30-23-11, 71 points: The Flyers are quietly 6-2-1 in their last nine games, and continue to rack up points by pushing games to overtime or a shootout. The bad news is, they're not winning many of them as they're tied for the league lead in shootout losses (6).

19   18

30-30-6, 66 points: The Canadiens went 0-3-1 during their four-game road trip, and allowed a combined 16 goals in those games. Carey Price can't get back soon enough, but even he may not be able to save what's left of this Montreal season.

20   20

29-26-11, 69 points: The Hurricanes have collected three of four points since the trade deadline that saw captain Erik Staal, Kris Versteeg and John Michael-Liles change sweaters. The future is bright in Carolina.

21 21 

31-29-7, 69 points: The Senators have allowed at least one power play goal in five of their last six games, which has been a season-long issue. Their penalty kill percentage is now at 73.8, the second-worst in the league.

22   22 31-29-7, 69 points: Cory Schneider will miss at least the next two weeks with an MCL sprain, which couldn't have come at a worse time with the Devils seven points out of the final wild card spot in the East. They allowed six goals on 30 shots in a 6-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday.
23   23 28-31-6, 62 points: The Coyotes got back in the win column after beating the Panthers 5-1 on Saturday, their first win since Feb. 18.
24   24

27-31-8, 62 points: The Blue Jackets haven't lost back-to-back games in regulation since Jan. 19 and 21, meaning they're putting losses behind them quickly. But this is shades of last year's team when the pressure is off with a playoff berth out of reach.

25 25

26-31-9, 61 points: Marcus Foligno snapped a seven-game point drought with a three-point night in Thursday's 6-3 win over Calgary. It was his second multi-point game of the season.

26   26

25-27-12, 62 points: The Canucks went 3-for-7 on the power play to beat San Jose 4-2 on Saturday. It's the second time this season they've scored three power-play goals in a game.

27   29

26-35-7, 59 points: Connor McDavid scored the only two goals for Edmonton, including the overtime winner, in his first of many meetings against Jack Eichel. The future is here.

28 27

27-34-4, 58 points: The Flames ended a seven-game losing streak by knocking off Pittsburgh on Saturday, their first win since Feb. 19. It was also just their second win in the last 12 games.

29   29

27-33-5, 59 points: Mark Scheifele was named the NHL's second star of the week after scoring six goals and an assist in four games, including his first career hat trick in Saturday's win over Montreal.

30   30

21-33-10, 52 points: The best stat of last week: Brooks Laich assisted on William Nylander's first career NHL goal and also assisted on Michael Nylander's final NHL goal.

*Advanced stats courtesy of war-on-ice.com

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday night:

1. Blackhawks squander two leads.

For the 13th time in their past 16 games, the Blackhawks scored the first goal of the game. They had won their previous three instances when doing so, but couldn't seal the deal this time and fell to 5-6-2 in those 13 games.

What strung even more is that the Blackhawks held two one-goal leads and couldn't hang on to either of them. They have the seventh-worst win percentage (.571) when scoring the first goal this season with a 20-10-5 record.

2. Vinnie Hinostroza continues to produce offensively.

If you're trying to look for a rare bright spot on the Blackhawks roster this season, here's one. Hinostroza registered a secondary assist on David Kampf's goal for his fifth point in six games, and was on the ice for 16 shot attempts for and seven against during 5-on-5 play for a team-leading shot attempt differential of plus-9 (also known as Corsi).

For the season, Hinostroza has 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 32 games and he's doing so while averaging only 13:27 of ice time. His point-per-game average is up to 0.63, which is tied with Jonathan Toews for third on the team; only Patrick Kane (0.92) and Nick Schmaltz (0.71) are producing at a higher rate.

Hinostroza deserves more minutes, but at the same time his ability to produce on any of the four lines has allowed Joel Quenneville to put him in a bottom six role for balance.

"I like his speed," Quenneville said recently on why Hinostroza has been so effective. "I think with the puck, he's been good with it as well. More strength, on it, managing it, better decisions with it, and good plays off it. He definitely brings you energy and some speed, he can catch people with that quickness."

3. Ryan Hartman's benching.

Hartman was part of the fourth line that contributed to the Blackhawks' first goal of the game, and he was on his way to having a strong one. But that changed quickly after he took an ill-advised penalty in the first period.

Already leading 1-0, the Blackhawks had a 2-on-1 opportunity developing involving Hinostroza and David Kampf but Hartman was whistled for high-sticking at 17:06 behind the play. The Blue Jackets converted on the power play, and that was the end of Hartman's night.

He took only five shifts and finished with a season-low 4:16 of ice time, with Quenneville using it as an opportunity for a teaching moment.

4. Tomas Jurco building confidence back up.

It's been a tough season mentally for Jurco. He started the season with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs after failing to make the team out of camp, and compiled 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 36 games. 

It earned him a call-up on Jan. 8, with Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman praising the way he progressed: "He looks like he's totally different, in terms of his composure and ability to make plays. That's why we brought him up here."

The problem? He was a healthy scratch for five straight games and went two weeks without seeing game action with the Blackhawks. Not exactly the best way to keep someone's confidence building. And since then, he's been fighting for a spot in the lineup.

For the last three games, Jurco has been given a shot on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane and he cashed in for his first goal of the season tonight and first since March 27, 2017. It's also the second straight game he's recorded a point.

While he may not be worth much if the Blackhawks were to deal him ahead of Monday's deadline, perhaps a change of scenery to a team that believes in him as a fit will bring out the best of his abilities. The Blackhawks tried and it just hasn't worked out.

5. Blue line observation.

This is more of a big-picture takeaway, but the Blackhawks have gotten only 20 goals from their defensemen this season. The Blue Jackets have gotten a combined 19 from just Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. Last season the Blackhawks had 30 total.

The Blackhawks just haven't gotten the offensive production needed from their back end and it's so important as it helps alleviate some of the pressure off the forwards.

I asked Quenneville about this after Friday's game and here's what he had to say: "Whether you score or not, you need the D to be part of your attack, be it off the rush, in zone. But I think the whole game, the whole league is four-man rush game, five-man attacks, coming at you, night-in, night-out, wave after wave.

"But you need to get your D involved in your support on the attack and you need them on the offensive zone off the point. You need some shooters on the back end that can get them through as well. I think offensive production from the back end in today’s game really enhances your offense and your possession game."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.