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NHL Power Rankings: Who's on top entering 2015-16 season?

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NHL Power Rankings: Who's on top entering 2015-16 season?

The biggest challenge about putting together preseason NHL Power Rankings is separating where you believe teams stand entering the season as opposed to where you believe they'll finish.

Let's give it a crack anyways.
 
Check in with CSNChicago.com for updated rankings every Monday throughout the 2015-16 campaign.

 

Rank Team
Last Week Comment
1   -

Three Stanley Cups in six years, it's only fair the defending champions claim the No. 1 spot entering the year despite an offseason roster makeover.

2   -

The Lightning should be the favorites to win this year's Stanley Cup, returning with virtually the same roster. The big question is, will Steven Stamkos' contract talks — or lack thereof — be a distraction and get in the way of another deep postseason run?

3   -

With the additions of Carl Hagelin (speed), Kevin Bieksa (toughness), Chris Stewart (depth) and Shawn Horcoff (leadership), this is by far Bruce Boudreau's best team, on paper, in Anaheim. Time to put it together.

4   -

The Capitals may feel the loss of Mike Green on the blue line more than they think, but Vezina Trophy candidate Braden Holtby should help ease the pain. The acquisition of T.J. Oshie relieves some offensive pressure off Alex Ovechkin, while Justin Williams, aka Mr. Game 7, gives Washington a big-time player in big-time moments.

5   -

Sidney Crosby finally gets the right-winger he's never had in Phil Kessel, who may surpass 40 goals for the first time in his career. The issue for the Penguins isn't on the ice; it's staying there. They're healthy ... right now.

6   -

It's been a whirlwind offseason for the Kings, but a recharged and hungry group after missing the postseason following three deep playoff runs — which included two Stanley Cups — and the additional spark of Milan Lucic makes Los Angeles as dangerous a team in the West as any.

7   -

The Blues have nothing left to prove in the regular season, and everything to prove in the postseason. Which is why the acquisition of Troy Brouwer was a sneaky good trade. 

8   -

Coach Jim Blashill gives the Red Wings a much-needed breath of fresh air behind the bench. Durability (and goaltending) might be their biggest issue, but unlike last year, depth isn't a problem. If — and it's a big if — they can stay healthy, Detroit can hang with anyone.

9   -

The Rangers won't be in the mix for the President's Trophy this season after losing some scoring depth up front, but their defense and goaltending is still great enough to make them a contender in the East.

10   -

The Canadiens sneak in at No. 10, simply because Carey Price is that good, but he can only take his team — that struggles to score — so far. At 31, can Alexander Semin resemble that 40-goal scorer he once was in Washington? They need him to be.

11   -

Four-time 30-goal scorer Patrick Sharp joins a Stars offense that scored the second-most goals last year, and gets a healthy Valeri Nichushkin back. With that fire power on offense, Dallas' defense just needs to be average and they'll be a playoff team.

12   -

The Blue Jackets began last season with a 6-15-2 record and lost a league-high 508 man-games due to injuries yet still were within reaching distance of a playoff berth during the final weeks. The question isn't if they'll make the playoffs, it's if they can win their first round in franchise history.

13   -

The Islanders are a team that's ready to take the next step, but they didn't do much in the offseason to help. Can Jack Capuano lead them there? Retaining him during an offseason that saw Mike Babcock, Dan Bylsma and Todd McClellan on the market was bold. 

14   -

The Sharks may have something left in the tank before they officially enter rebuild mode. A new voice under coach Peter DeBoer, a nice top-six addition in Joel Ward, a reliable top-four veteran defenseman in Paul Martin and potential sleeper Martin Jones in net could make San Jose a surprise team in the Pacific Division.

15   -

The Flames were bound to take a step back after defying analytics last year, until GM Brad Treliving prevented that from happening with the acquisition of rising star Dougie Hamilton and reliable penalty killer Michael Frolik.

16   -

The Predators rival the Rangers for best defensive unit, but Nashville relied too heavily on rookie Filip Forsberg to score goals and it did nothing to address that in the offseason. Defense wins championships, but you have to put the puck in the net as well, especially in the Central Division.

17   -

Nobody knows exactly what the Bruins' plan was this offseason. The loss of Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton will certainly hurt, leaving 38-year-old Zdeno Chara as the sole anchor of the blue line. Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Tuukka Rask should (barely) keep them above water.

18   -

The Panthers are filled with youngsters ready to explode, led by 19-year-old defenseman Aaron Ekblad. If it all comes together at the same time, watch out. But there may be more growing pains.

19   -

Don't expect to see the same Devan Dubnyk that dominated the second half of last year, but also don't expect the guy who suffered a meltdown in the second round to the Blackhawks. The Wild lived and died by Dubnyk last season, and it may be more of the same this year. They go as he goes.

20   -

After a rough start, rookies Mark Stone and goaltender Andrew Hammond spearheaded the Senators into a playoff spot on the final day of the regular season after finishing the season on a remarkable 23-4-4 run. Can they replicate that?

21   -

The Jets are fighting an uphill battle in the NHL's toughest division that got even better. Ondrej Pavelec must respond to his career year last season with an even better one if Winnipeg has a shot at returning to the playoffs.

22   - The Avalanche were a terrible puck-possession team last season. A bounce back year from Nathan MacKinnon and puck-moving defenseman Francois Beauchemin should improve those numbers, but will it be enough to catapult Colorado back to relevancy?
23   -

Henrik and Daniel Sedin will be enough to keep the Canucks from hitting the basement. That's about it.

24   -

Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek will again lead the team in scoring, but it won't matter as the Flyers have too many questions with few answers.

25   -

Finally, the Oilers bring in a No. 1 overall pick to a healthy environment under new leadership in GM Peter Chiarelli and coach Todd McClellan. Connor McDavid will change life in Edmonton.

26   -

There are still many holes on this roster that will take time to fill, but the foundation is set: Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly up the middle with Dan Bylsma at the helm is the right place to start.

27   -

The Hurricanes' roster is about as thin as it gets, and it may get even thinner after selling at the trade deadline, which could include captain Erik Staal, who's in a contract year. When it's all said and done, the Hurricanes may be the favorites to land the No. 1 overall pick.

28   -

Mike Babcock is the perfect man for this job, and his presence could accelerate the Maple Leafs' rebuild. But their roster is still at least two years away from playoff contention.

29   -

The only thing preventing the Devils from sinking is Cory Schneider.

30   -

Oliver Ekman-Larsson will have another Norris Trophy-type season, but nobody will notice.

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?