Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Bruins on top
Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings
The final month of the regular season is here, and that means teams are putting in that one last sprint before the postseason. In the East there’s a glut of teams fighting for a couple of playoff spots, and a couple of teams out of the Detroit, Toronto, Columbus, Washington, New York and Philadelphia mix are going to be left out in the cold at the end of April. It’s a little more of a clear cut scenario out in the Western Conference where things are top heavy, but the St. Louis Blues are starting to separate themselves from everybody else in the West.
One thing we don’t need to hear more of: the “peaking too soon” thing. Every Stanley Cup winner since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 has gone on at least a six game winning streak in the final one-third of the regular season just prior to the playoffs, and so far Boston, San Jose and the Los Angeles Kings have accomplished that feat among playoff hopefuls. So mark them down as potential Stanley Cup Final contenders if you hadn’t already.
With the teams finally over the Olympic break and the rosters fully formed, here are the rankings:
30. Buffalo Sabres (19-42-8, last week: 30) – The abysmal Sabres have lost seven in a row. The real question: have they clinched the worst record in the NHL yet?
29. New York Islanders (26-35-9, last week: 27) – I’m wondering if there’s any good reason to watch this team for the rest of the season. Kyle Okposo, I suppose. Did that rhyme?
28. Florida Panthers (26-35-8, last week: 29) – Roberto Luongo should automatically bump this team up a notch or two given the way he’s proven he can play for a bad team in a consequence-free environment.
27. Edmonton Oilers (25-36-9, last week: 28) – The Jordan Eberle injury is just the latest thing to happen to the Oil in another lost season.
26. Nashville Predators (29-30-10, last week: 24) – It looks like its two straight seasons out of the playoffs for the Predators. The magic of Barry Trotz seems to be wearing off.
25. Calgary Flames (28-34-7, last week: 26) – Thoughts and prayers to the family of Matt Stajan after such an unfortunate tragedy befell them over the last few weeks. Losing a newborn child is a harsh reminder how trivial things like hockey games can be in the grand scheme.
MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
24. Ottawa Senators (28-27-13, last week: 21) – Jason Spezza called their latest setback “embarrassing”, and that’s actually a good way to describe their entire season of underachievement and disinterested hockey.
23. Carolina Hurricanes (30-30-9, last week: 25) – The 'Canes have won three of their last five games, but it’s much too late. They also lost to the Edmonton Oilers last weekend. That’s just plain embarrassing.
22. Vancouver Canucks (31-30-10, last week: 23) – Sweet, sweet revenge for Mike Gillis and John Tortorella when they whipped Roberto Luongo and his lowly Panthers last weekend in South Florida.
21. Winnipeg Jets (31-30-9, last week: 22) – Three wins in their last 10 games as the Jets unceremoniously fade from the Western Conference playoff picture. They may come to regret that move out of the East.
20. New Jersey Devils (29-27-13, last week: 20) – The Devils have lost three games in a row, and looked disinterested defensively against the Bruins this week. There’s only so long Jaromir Jagr can carry you at 42 years old.
19. Dallas Stars (32-25-11, last week: 15) – The Stars are still in the playoff picture and they have a proven postseason goalie in Tim Thomas. But they’ve lost three games in a row, and aren’t exactly charging into the final month.
MIDDLE OF THE SCRUM
18. Detroit Red Wings (31-24-13, last week: 18) – The Red Wings still scare the daylights out of playoff teams as a potential first-round opponent, but they just don’t look very impressive right now. So, so many injuries.
17. Columbus Blue Jackets (35-27-6 last week: 23) – Would be interesting to see what kind of damage Nathan Horton can do in the postseason if Columbus can sneak into the playoffs.
16. Phoenix Coyotes (33-25-11, last week: 17) – Impressive wins for the Coyotes over the Kings and Blue Jackets as they march toward another postseason in the desert. They’re not there yet, but certainly look worthy.
15. Washington Capitals (33-27-10, last week: 19) – It is very difficult to figure out this team, and what’s making it tick. One week they look like choking dogs, and the next week they’re winning three games in a row (like this week).
14. New York Rangers (37-29-4, last week: 13) – Martin St. Louis can’t score in the Big Apple. He might be the only person who’s ever been able to say that.
13. Toronto Maple Leafs (36-26-8, last week: 9) – The Jonathan Bernier injury is a significant one for the Leafs, as nobody is really sold on James Reimer as a No. 1 goalie in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
A FIGHTING CHANCE
12. Minnesota Wild (36-23-10, last week 11) – Just a couple of regulation losses in the last 10 games for a team with Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, Matt Moulson and a legit claim to a playoff spot. Mikael Granlund has also been on fire for the Wild, as well, hot off his Olympic experience.
11. Philadelphia Flyers (36-25-7, last week: 12) – The sweep of the Penguins last weekend was a sure sign the Flyers will be a team still playing at the end of April. Very impressive.
10. Los Angeles Kings (38-25-6, last week: 8) – The Kings are hanging around on the cusp of a playoff berth, but they’re going to upset somebody in the first round. Mark it down for a team built for the playoffs.
9. Montreal Canadiens (38-25-7, last week: 10) – Guess who’s back? Carey’s back. Guess who’s back? Guess who’s back? Guess who’s back? Guess who’s back?
8. Chicago Blackhawks (39-15-15, last week: 3) – Chicago, with very little to play for, has gone through a prolonged stretch of mediocre hockey, and now is having a difficult time pulling out of it.
7. Tampa Bay Lightning (37-24-7, last week: 14) – The Bolts are still in the top half of the Eastern Conference teams, and should just keep getting better and better as Steve Stamkos regains his stride, power and conditioning.
BEST OF THE BEST
6. Pittsburgh Penguins (45-19-4, last week: 5) – The Penguins are still considered Eastern Conference elite, but those injuries have really taken their toll on a team that once looked championship-worthy. Sid’s shoulders must be hurting from carrying this team.
5. Colorado Avalanche (44-20-5, last week: 7) – The Avs lead the NHL with five 20-goal scorers and look primed for their first playoff appearance in a few years.
4. San Jose Sharks (45-18-7, last week: 6 – The Sharks have won six of their last seven games, and continue to push their way to the top in a crowded, talented Western Conference picture.
3. Anaheim Ducks (45-17-7, last week: 5) – The Ducks showed their Western supremacy with a couple of wins over the Avalanche and are in cruise control until the postseason begins.
2. St. Louis Blues (47-14-7, last week: 1) – The Blues have 101 points, have filled needs with Ryan Miller and Steve Ott and have won eight of their last 10 games. What’s not to like about this heavy, deep and talented crew?
1. Boston Bruins (47-17-5, last week: 4) – The Bruins are the hottest team in hockey with 10 wins in a row, and they look every bit as good as any team from the West. Another Stanley Cup Final appearance looks very, very possible for the Black and Gold.