Haggerty’s NHL Power Rankings: Passing out the gifts
Haggerty’s NHL Power Rankings: Passing out the gifts
With the Christmas season upon us, here are a few gifts for the NHL world from Santa’s hockey workshop up on the North Pole as we delve into the final pre-holiday power rankings:
*The gift of a redo to the NHL on the coach’s reviews for offside plays. This has been nothing but a bit of humbug to coaches, fans and players as it has taken goals off the board, caused delays in games as referees try to determine things down to the smallest measurement and created a situation where fans are wondering whether a play was offside immediately after a goal is scored rather than just simply enjoying the beauty of the score.
*A gift of some respect for the Blue Jackets, who deserve it as one of the best teams in the NHL while riding a 10-game winning streak behind a coach in John Tortorella that’s one of the great redemption stories of the season. We’ve always known Torts was tough, and now we’re seeing it in Columbus.
*A gift of some rest and energy to so many players that took part in the World Cup of Hockey. Both Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron only have four goals apiece this season, and so many World Cup participants have succumbed to injuries this season. Here’s hoping the holiday break can bring their games back to them.
Without further ado, here are this week’s power rankings:
1. Montreal Canadiens (21-7-4, previous ranking: 2)
The Habs are back on top and their captain is carrying them: Max Pacioretty has eight goals and 11 points in nine games in December.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins (21-7-5, pr: 1)
The Penguins are 8-0-2 in their past 10 games, and look strong for a defending Cup champion. With all of the talk about the kids and the NHL’s young generation, it’s Sidney Crosby that’s setting the dominant tone across the league and scoring goals by the bunch.
3. Chicago Blackhawks (22-9-4, pr: 3)
The Blackhawks are winning and leading the Central Division despite the fact that Jonathan Toews doesn’t have a goal since Nov. 6. Toews was injured for a portion of that, but he hasn’t had a goal in 13 consecutive games.
4. Columbus Blue Jackets (21-5-4, pr: 4)
The Blue Jackets have won 10 games in a row and lead all NHL teams with a plus-38 goal differential. If they keep this up they’re taking the top spot next week, and they’re making believers out of the people that didn’t think they were for real. I’m talking about you, fancy stats crew.
5. New York Rangers (23-11-1, pr: 5)
It was no surprise to see King Henrik rip off a long winning streak after Alain Vigneault sat him in favor of Antti Raanta for the previous couple of weeks. There’s nothing wrong with creating a threat to the throne every once in a while.
6. Philadelphia Flyers (20-11-4, pr: 7)
The winning streak is over, but the Flyers have put themselves smack dab into the playoff conversation. The big shootout win over the Capitals proves that the Broad Street Bullies are still playing at a high-level post-winning streak.
7. Washington Capitals (19-8-4, pr: 6)
A couple of tight losses to the Canadiens and the Flyers knock down the Caps down a notch, and they’re going to be hard-pressed to finish on top in such a good Metro Division this season. At least it’s good to see Andre Burakovsky starting to figure it out for them.
8. Minnesota Wild (19-8-4, pr: 10)
The Wild have won eight in a row and made their move in the Central Division. The Wild are doing it by keeping the puck out of the net, but let’s also not forget that they’re also seventh in the NHL in goals scored as well. So, this isn’t an all-defense/no offense kind of situation.
9. San Jose Sharks (20-12-1, pr: 14)
One of the big risers of the week, you have to give it to the Sharks when they carry a Chewbacca-loving defenseman on their roster in Brent Burns. They’re one of the best in a weak Pacific Division.
10. St. Louis Blues (18-11-5, pr: 9)
It’s a bit of a one-man band in St. Louis with Vladimir Tarasenko (16 goals and 38 points in 34 games), but it’s a pretty damned good band.
11. Edmonton Oilers (18-12-5, pr: 12)
The Oilers have won three in a row and they’re getting contributions beyond just the Connor McDavid Show. Young center Leon Draisaitl leads the Oilers with seven goals and 14 points in 11 games in December.
12. Ottawa Senators (19-11-3, pr: 15)
The Senators are 3-0-0 and have outscored opponents 13-6 in the three games since Guy Boucher berated his team for their poor play. I’m guessing that Boucher’s intensity had the intended impact.
13. Anaheim Ducks (17-12-5, pr: 8)
With 14 goals in 23 games, Rickard Rakell has taken his game up a couple of notches. Rakell and Ryan Kesler have really been the unsung heroes on an Anaheim team that’s still kind of coasting along, but good enough in the Pacific Division.
14. Nashville Predators (15-12-5, pr: 21)
The Predators have won a couple of games in a row over the past week, but they’re still 5-9-2 away from Smashville this season. That’s going to need to continue on an upward trend if Nash wants to push into the playoffs.
15. Boston Bruins (17-14-3, pr: 13)
The Bruins have dropped six of their past eight and are struggling to score despite massively outshooting their opponents on nearly a nightly basis. The losses to the Avalanche, the Maple Leafs and the Islanders over the past couple of weeks were big point squanders for a team that will need them.
16. Calgary Flames (17-16-2, pr: 11)
It’s time for Chad Johnson to take a bow for everything he did for the Flames over the first three months of the season giving Calgary steady play between the pipes. The 13-7-1 record, 2.30 goals-against average and .922 save percentage absolutely speak for themselves.
17. Los Angeles Kings (16-13-3, pr: 16)
The Kings are staying alive despite the injuries. That is part resiliency on their part, part the performance of Peter Budaj and part the Pacific Division being kind of “meh” this season in comparison to the mighty Metro Division.
18. Florida Panthers (15-13-5, pr: 18)
The Panthers are bouncing back with a 3-1-1 record in their past five games. Perhaps the storm is over now that Dale Tallon has been empowered to some degree within the organization and things have settled down a little bit in the Florida dressing room. I’d watch out for this team because the talent is obviously there.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning (16-14-3, pr: 20)
With 13 goals and 30 points, Nikita Kucherov has really stepped up since Steve Stamkos went down with injury. Now he needs more of his Tampa Bay teammates to step up offensively and join in the effort if the Bolts want to start climbing from the depths of the Atlantic Division.
20. Dallas Stars (13-14-7, pr: 26)
Tyler Seguin is in a dry spell offensively and the Stars continue to lag below .500. It really looks like this group needs a massive change if they’re going to push forward and even then they don’t have the goaltending and defense for success in the playoffs.
21. Carolina Hurricanes (13-11-7, pr: 23)
The Hurricanes have taken points in seven of the nine games in December and continue to skulk in the background of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. They’re not in, but they could be if one of the Big Five in the Metro Division falters.
22. Winnipeg Jets (15-17-3, pr: 22)
Patrik Laine is damn good and he knows it. It’s too bad his Winnipeg Jets team can’t say the same or exhibit the same kind of swagger as the Finnish phenom…even when he’s scoring on his own net.
23. Buffalo Sabres (12-11-8, pr: 24)
The Sabres are 2-0-2 in their past four games and may be starting to put things together after getting A) Rasmus Ristolainen up to speed and B) Jack Eichel completely healthy and dominating again. They could be the biggest danger to some of the bubble playoff teams in the Atlantic Division.
24. Detroit Red Wings (14-15-4, pr: 19)
The Red Wings are 1-4-1 in their past six and the offense has gone into the tank. The Wings have scored 11 goals in their past six games and most of those came in a six-goal outburst against the Anaheim Ducks.
25. New Jersey Devils (12-13-7, pr: 17)
The Devils have dropped seven in a row and are plummeting out of a playoff spot in the Metro Division. The 5-1 loss to the Predators for the seventh straight defeat might be rock-bottom.
26. Toronto Maple Leafs (12-12-7, pr: 25)
Despite losses in four of the past five games, the Leafs are getting points and the defeats are tight one-goal games for the most part. It also looks like Frederik Andersen might have to carry things for a while.
27. Vancouver Canucks (14-16-3, pr: 27)
The Canucks have bounced back and taken five of six points since giving up eight goals to the Carolina Hurricanes in a brutal loss. Ryan Miller playing some pretty good hockey has a lot to do with that, but this is a team that’s going to be hard-pressed to make the playoffs.
28. New York Islanders (12-14-6, pr: 28)
While the Islanders are having a truly forgettable season, Anders Lee is breaking out and dropped a couple of goals on the Bruins earlier this week. They just need more of their younger, developed players to step up and fill in for free-agent losses and they need Andrew Ladd to start putting it together.
29. Arizona Coyotes (11-17-5, pr: 29)
While the team is struggling, it was nothing but good news this week with Craig Cunningham improving to the point where he’ll be released from the hospital soon and that he’s expected to be able to lead a normal life after a near-death experience. What a battler that kid is.
30. Colorado Avalanche (11-19-1, pr: 30)
In the least surprising development of the last week, Jarome Iginla is willing to entertain trades to contenders, with it abundantly clear that the Avalanche aren’t going anywhere. It’s too bad because it was pretty clear when he signed that the Avalanche weren’t going to Cup contenders in his time there.