Blackhawks

NHL Power Rankings: Predators peaking at right time

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NHL Power Rankings: Predators peaking at right time

The Predators are 13-2-5 since Feb. 12, and are seriously threatening to take over the No. 3 seed from the Blackhawks in the Central Division. The Stars and Blues are neck-and-neck for the top spot after St. Louis recorded a franchise-record fourth straight shutout victory.

Meanwhile in the East, the Panthers knocked off the Lightning over the weekend to remain atop the Atlantic Division by two points. The Penguins also continued their winning ways with a dominant victory over the Red Wings and an overtime win over the Rangers, who may be their first-round opponent in the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

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 | Week 22 | Week 23 | Week 24

 

Rank Team
Last Week Record/Comment
1 1

53-16-5, 111 points: The Capitals can clinch home-ice advantage throughout the entire Stanley Cup playoffs with a win over Columbus on Monday, and it's not even April yet. That's how big of a cushion they've built.

2   4 45-22-9, 99 points: There may not be a team playing better hockey right now than the Blues, who haven't allowed a goal in four consecutive games, which is a new franchise record. No team wants a piece of them in the first round of the playoffs.
3 2 45-25-5, 95 points: The Kings went on a mini three-game road trip last week, and failed to come away with a point in all of them. They finished strong, however, with a 6-4 victory over Edmonton, improving their home record to 5-0-1 in their last six games.
4 5

42-25-8, 92 points: A month ago, the Penguins wanted no part of the Rangers in another playoff series. Now, they're practically inviting it. Sidney Crosby is making a legitimate push for the Hart Trophy after another dominant second half of the season; he has 21 goals and 28 assists in 38 games since the calendar flipped to 2016.

5 3

41-23-10, 92 points: There was an opening to pull even with or surpass the Kings, who lost three straight last week, atop the Pacific Division, but could only pick up one point against the lowly Canadiens and Maple Leafs. Still, they remain just three points behind with a game in hand on Los Angeles.

6   6 45-22-9, 99 points: The Stars have won four of their last five games, their most recent victory against San Jose despite getting outshot 36-17. They found a way to win, and with the playoffs right around the corner, it certainly won't be the last time they'll have to dig deep and win ugly.
7  7 43-27-5, 91 points: Anton Stralman suffered a broken leg over the weekend, which will force him to miss the rest of the regular season. Coach Jon Cooper didn't rule out a potential return in the playoffs, but nonetheless, it's a tough blow for a team with a real shot at getting back to the Stanley Cup Final.
8 8 44-25-7, 95 points: After picking up just two wins in their last nine games, the Blackhawks recorded back-to-back victories over the weekend to clinch a playoff spot for the eighth consecutive year, the third-longest active streak — Detroit (24 seasons) and Pittsburgh (9) — in the NHL. 
9 9

42-24-9, 93 points: The Panthers earned a pair of impressive victories against divisional foes last week (Boston and Tampa Bay) to remain atop the Atlantic Division by two points.

10   11 39-23-13, 91 points: The Predators are one of two teams this season to have more than one 30-goal scorer: Filip Forsberg (31) and James Neal (30). Who would've thought? Dallas is the other (Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin).
11   13 43-24-9, 95 points: The Rangers are 3-0-1 in their last four games, but all the attention is on the fact they've lost three straight games to a Penguins team they had previously dominated and may end up drawing in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
12   12 40-28-8, 88 points: Brad Marchand hasn't scored in eight consecutive games, and the Bruins have felt the effects of it. They're 2-5-1 during that span, and now find themselves peaking over their shoulder again with Detroit only three points away plus a game in hand.
13   10

41-28-6, 88 points: After winning eight out of their last 11 games, the Sharks have lost three in a row for the first time since early December, likely locking themselves in at the No. 3 seed in the Pacific with the Ducks up four points with a game in hand.

14   14 40-25-9, 89 points: The Islanders, who had previously lost four straight games, stayed above water last week by going 2-2, but they're certainly not safe in that first wild-card spot. 
15   15

36-25-13, 85 points: Claude Giroux left Saturday's game with a head injury, but luckily for the Flyers, he won't miss any time, which is good news. So is this: Their next three games will be at home, where they are 19-10-7 this season compared to 17-15-6 on the road.

16   17

37-28-11, 85 points: The Wild picked up a 4-0 victory Colorado over the weekend in a must-win situation, which was essentially a four-point swing in a tight battle for the final wild-card spot between the two teams. Zach Parise has seven points (five goals, two assists) in his last three games, including his third hat trick of the season.

17 16 37-27-11, 85 points: Detroit's playoff streak of 24 straight seasons is in serious jeopardy after losing to Pittsburgh 7-2 over the weekend at home. That's a difficult one to swallow at this time of the year.
18 21

33-28-15, 81 points: If there's one team that has deserved better fate this season, it's arguably the Hurricanes. They're four points away from the final wild-card spot in the East, but are up two games on the Flyers. Those 15 overtime losses means 15 more points were left on the table.

19   18 38-33-4, 80 points: The Avalanche wisely made the decision to reassign top prospect Mikko Rantanen after his ninth NHL game, saving the first year of his entry-level contract. The decision was probably made easier after Colorado got shut out by Minnesota 4-0 on Saturday, and now trail by five points for the final wild-card spot in the West.
20   19

34-33-9, 77 points: The Senators blew a 3-0 lead over the weekend, and fell to the Ducks 4-3 in overtime, extending their losing streak to three games. They're slipping further and further down the standings, which actually isn't a bad thing.

21 20

36-32-8, 80 points: Devils rookie goaltender Scott Wedgewood is on a nice little run right now: He's 2-1-1 with a 1.25 goals against average and .957 save percentage, including a shutout, in four straight starts since joining the Devils.

22   23 34-34-7, 75 points: The Coyotes won just three games (out of 14) in the month of February. They've won their last three straight, and own a 7-4-1 record in March. While it's not helping them for draft lottery purposes, it's a nice confidence builder to close out the regular season on a positive note.
23   22 34-36-6, 74 points: P.K. Subban has not played since suffering a scary neck injury on March 10, and it'd be wise to shut him down for the rest of the season. No reason he shouldn't take the extra time off and extended offseason to get 100 percent healthy. 
24 25

31-34-10, 72 points: Sam Reinhart has quietly put together a strong March. In 12 games this month, he has three goals and eight assists, and logged a career-high 22:54 of ice time against Calgary on March 3.

25 24

31-38-6, 68 points: After picking up a point in seven of their previous eight games, the Flames have lost three in a row and have allowed a combined 15 goals during their latest losing streak.

26   26

30-41-7, 67 points: Nail Yakupov reportedly requested a trade near the deadline, but a deal couldn't get ironed out. This is another case where both sides need a fresh start, a theme too common in Edmonton. He'll likely be traded this offseason, and the Oilers won't have any problem finding takers.

27   29 31-38-6, 68 points: The Jets followed up a 2-0 win over Vancouver with a 4-1 victory over Los Angeles last week behind stellar goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec, who allowed only one goal on 62 total shots.
28 28

30-37-8, 68 points: The Blue Jackets played one of their worst games of the season in a 5-1 loss to Nashville over the weekend, where they were outshot 48-19, which led to a 20-second postgame press conference by coach John Tortorella. Wonder if the end of the season presser will be shorter.

29   27

27-35-13, 67 points: The Canucks have lost eight consecutive games, and have been shut out in four of those. The end of the season can't come soon enough for them.

30   30

27-36-11, 65 points: Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock realizes his team has a real shot at landing the No. 1 overall pick (Auston Matthews), but they sure won't try to increase their odds by losing on purpose: "If you cheat the system, it cheats you." Admire that attitude, and hard to argue against it.

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

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.

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

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USA TODAY

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

Jean-Francois Berube got his first start of the season on Friday night, and it couldn't have gone any better.

The 26-year-old goaltender stopped 42 of 43 shots, a career-high for him in saves, in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Since Corey Crawford went down with a head injury last December, the Blackhawks have been searching for consistency in the crease. 

The pair of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass — who was assigned to Rockford on Feb. 15 and replaced with Berube — have had their ups and downs since then. With the Blackhawks out of the playoff picture, Berube had an opportunity showcase his skills, and he didn't disappoint.

"We were very happy with him," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. Absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got … of the top of the paint. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence."

Berube's last — and only — appearance with the Blackhawks prior to Friday's game came on Dec. 6, relieving Forsberg in a game against the Washington Capitals. He recorded 12 saves of 14 shots. 

When Crawford got injured, Berube was the primary candidate to become the team's backup goaltender. The only problem? He was injured too, so the Blackhawks promoted Glass.

"I didn't want to sit and think about it," Berube said of his injury. "At the same time, it was great for Glasser. He was one of those guys that probably deserved it earlier in his career and he finally got his chance. Sometimes you need a guy to go down to have your chance. So I was mostly happy for him.

On Friday night, he got his chance.

"You always want to have a good impression for your first game," Berube said. "I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do."

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. Artem Anisimov scored an empty-netter.

"It's a lot more fun coming to the rink when you're winning, enjoying each other, playing well as a team," Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks' win, which have now won three of their last four games. "Hopefully we can keep that good energy and bring it to the rink every day, and build off of that.

"You never know where this team can go, a lot of great players, lots of guys that have had a lot of success. Hopefully we can continue to put together solid efforts."