Haggerty’s NHL Power Rankings: Monthlong sprint to finish
Monthlong sprint to finish
By Joe Haggerty, CSNNE.com Bruins Insider
It’s the sprint portion of the season now.
With roughly a month to go, playoff spots are getting solidified and teams are becoming their best version of themselves after upgrading at the trade deadline while elevating their level of play with the late-season intensity. The Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins and Anaheim Ducks are rising to the challenge, while pushing higher up into the standings. Others, such as the Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars, are having some issues after building up early-season success.
One thing seems certain, however: the Capitals and the Blackhawks are the two best teams in the league until proven otherwise, and it will be the mission of the other 14 teams in the playoffs to knock those two big dogs off early in the proceedings. Still, the playoff strategy talk will be for another day as there’s still a month of work to be done during the regular season.
Without further ado, here are this week’s power rankings:
1. Washington Capitals (49-13-4, rank last week: 1)
The first team to hit 100 points this season, and the prohibitive favorite as the likely President’s Cup winner.
2. Chicago Blackhawks (41-21-6, LW: 2)
An entertaining shootout loss to the Blues whets the appetite for what the Western Conference tournament bracket will be like this spring.
3. St. Louis Blues (39-20-9, LW: 3)
A four-game winning streak culminated by the shootout victory over the Blackhawks as the Blues readying for their playoff run despite all of the bumps and bruises suffered along the way.
4. Dallas Stars (40-20-8, LW: 5)
Tyler Seguin has gone five games without a point, and is once again disappearing as the ice becomes something that players have to fight for.
5. Los Angeles Kings (39-22-4, LW: 7)
The Kings fell out of first place after an important, violent loss to the Ducks last weekend, but are still poised to do some damage this spring.
6. Anaheim Ducks (37-20-9, rank last week: 8)
The Ducks have lost two in a row since a big, emotional win over the Kings, but now sit in first place in the Pacific Division after surging over the last few months.
7. New York Rangers (39-22-6, LW: 4)
The Rangers are in good position, but it all depends on the health of King Henrik.
8. Boston Bruins (38-23-7, LW:13)
Nine out of 10 points since the NHL trade deadline, and they’ve beaten the Penguins, Blackhawks, Panthers and Lightning over that time period. There are more tough games to come, but so far an improved B’s team seems up to the challenge.
9. Tampa Bay Lightning (39-23-5, LW: 9)
The Bolts are in first place by virtue of games in hand, but couldn’t come out victorious against the Bruins earlier this week.
10. New York Islanders (37-20-8, LW: 10)
One regulation loss in their past 10 games, and the Isles have dominated the Rangers in head-to-head matchups this season after another win over them last weekend.
11. San Jose Sharks (37-23-6, LW: 11)
Brent Burns is having one of the all-time great seasons for a defensemen in the modern era of hockey and that doesn’t even count his Chewbacca-like personality off the ice.
12. Florida Panthers (36-21-9, LW: 6)
The Panthers have lost three in a row while dropping out of first place, and played a sloppy, undisciplined game in losing to the Bruins in overtime.
13. Nashville Predators (34-21-13, LW: 14)
The Predators are 7-0-3 in their past 10 and still squarely in the mix of Western Conference playoff teams. But they’re not showing much reason for optimism at a long life once the postseason arrives.
14. Pittsburgh Penguins (34-24-8, LW: 15)
Evgeni Malkin has seven points in seven games since returning to the Penguins lineup.
15. Detroit Red Wings (32-23-11, LW: 15)
The Red Wings have lost three games in a row, and continue an up-and-down pattern this season that’s consistent with a young hockey team backed by a first year coach.
16. Philadelphia Flyers (31-23-11, LW: 18)
The Flyers are just two points out of a playoff spot, and posing a real three to the wild card teams as they hang around the bubble.
17. Colorado Avalanche (35-30-4, LW: 17)
The Avalanche are still holding off the Minnesota Wild for that final Western Conference playoff spot, and it remains to be seen if the can do it for a month.
18. Minnesota Wild (31-26-10, LW: 16)
It looks like the Wild and Avalanche will be in a dog fight until the end of the season for the final playoff spot.
19. Carolina Hurricanes (30-26-11, LW: 20)
The Hurricanes sold at the deadline while moving Eric Staal and John-Michael Liles, but are still battling tough as one of the teams just beyond the playoff picture.
20. Ottawa Senators (31-29-8, LW: 19)
Two losses in a row for the Senators as their playoff hopes have already circled down the drain.
21. New Jersey Devils (31-29-7, LW: 21)
A couple of losses in a row and more to come with Cory Schneider now injured for the Devils.
22. Montreal Canadiens (31-30-6, LW: 22)
At least Carey Price is showing signs he might return at some point, so the Habs have that going for them as they play out the string.
23. Vancouver Canucks (26-28-12, LW: 23)
Things just don’t sound good in Vancouver for a team that’s battling all kinds of questions as they attempt to turn over their roster, and build things up the right way.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets (28-31-8, LW: 24)
The Blue Jackets are 6-3-2 in their last 11 games, and Joonas Korpisalo has been a real find at the goaltender position.
25. Arizona Coyotes (28-32-7, LW: 25)
A 1-8-1 record in their past 10 shows a young team bottoming out at the end of a grinding season.
26. Calgary Flames (28-34-5, LW: 26)
A 3-9-2 stretch in their past 14 is really going out with a whimper from a playoff team last year. Very disappointing.
27. Winnipeg Jets (27-34-5, LW: 27)
At least Dustin Byfuglien is playing well, right? It’s too bad he signed his extension before the deadline because he could have really made the playoffs interesting for somebody as a rental player.
28. Toronto Maple Leafs (22-33-11, LW: 28)
The Leafs got real closure on the Dion Phaneuf era when he visited for the first time with the Senators, and now they can simply move on with the massive upgrade happening on their roster.
29. Edmonton Oilers (26-36-7, LW: 29)
Changes will be coming for this Oilers group once this season has come to an end.
30. Buffalo Sabres (27-32-9, LW: 30)
Should they be ranked higher? Maybe. But who is really going to get worked up against the Sabres until they should that they can actually compete again on a regular basis.