Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Rangers back on top


Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Rangers back on top

It’s that time of year again. The Stanley Cup playoffs are around the corner, and there are plenty of dog fights for playoff spots. Could the Penguins completely fall out of contention as they’ve looked helpless in their last few games? Do the Los Angeles Kings have enough to get back into a playoff spot after playing more hockey than anybody over the last few years?

These questions and more will be answered over the next week, and then the best postseason in any of the four major pro sports will follow afterward. As Bart Scott once said, “Can’t wait!”

Without further ado here are this week’s power rankings:

1. New York Rangers (51-21-7, rank last week: 2) – The Rangers have the most points of anybody in the NHL (109), they have won four games in a row and Henrik Lundqvist is jumping right back into the mix. This is a formidable hockey club.

2. St. Louis Blues (49-23-7, rank last week: 8) - A big statement win over the Blackhawks last weekend shows the Blues mean business.

3. Anaheim Ducks (50-23-7, rank last week: 1) – The Ducks have won seven of their last 10 games, and have proven everything they need to prove during the regular season. It’s about the playoffs now for this talented group.

4. Montreal Canadiens (48-22-10, rank last week: 4) – The Max Pacioretty injury could loom large for the Habs if it’s a serious one.          

5. Tampa Bay Lightning (48-24-8, rank last week: 5) – The Lightning have the best home record in the league, so they have plenty of reason to push Montreal for that top spot in the Atlantic Division.

6. Nashville Predators (47-22-10, rank last week: 3) – The Predators have lost three in a row, and have allowed 13 goals in the last three games. That is not how they want to go into the postseason.

7. Chicago Blackhawks (48-25-6, rank last week: 6) – Corey Crawford is playing well for the Blackhawks, and Patrick Kane is getting closer for Chicago. This will be a very dangerous team once No. 88 gets back into the fold.

8. Washington Capitals (44-25-11, rank last week: 14) – The Capitals are surging at the right time, and have passed by both the Penguins and Islanders in the Metro Division.

9. New York Islanders (46-27-6, rank last week: 10) – The Islanders have three out of four points in their last two games, and might just be finding their way out of the darkness.

10. Vancouver Canucks (46-29-5, rank last week: 9) – A huge shootout win over the Kings on Monday and two final games vs. Edmonton and Arizona bode well for Vancouver’s playoff hopes.

11. Minnesota Wild (44-27-8, rank last week: 7) – The Wild were the team nobody wanted to play in the first round until they just lost three games in a row.

12. Boston Bruins (41-25-13, rank last week: 15) – The Bruins have won five in a row, but still need to push to secure their playoff spot. The flaws are there for everybody to see, but this team is still dangerous.

13. Detroit Red Wings (41-25-13, rank last week: 13) – One can’t help but think that the back-and-forth between Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek is going to be their ultimate undoing.

14. Pittsburgh Penguins (42-26-11, rank last week: 11) – The Penguins have lost three in a row, and legitimately look like they’re in trouble qualifying for the playoffs.

15. Winnipeg Jets (41-26-12, rank last week: 16) – The Jets have won two games in a row, and currently sit in a playoff spot. It is theirs to lose, and they’ve played well enough to deserve it this year.

16. Calgary Flames (43-29-7, rank last week: 12) – The Flames are still holding on to their playoff spot by virtue of the ROW, but the Los Angeles Kings are nipping at their heels.   

17. Los Angeles Kings (39-25-15, rank last week: 17) – The Kings have been in “will they or won’t they” mode all season, and they’ve got three games to show if they want it this year after loads of success over the last three seasons. This team has played a LOT of hockey.  

18. Ottawa Senators (40-26-13, rank last week: 18) – Can the Sens and the Hamburglar take advantage of the Bruins, Red Wings or Penguins falling out of it? Should be fascinating to watch.

19. Florida Panthers (36-29-15, rank last week: 19) – Roberto Luongo was beaten five hole in the last minute of the third period in the game that effectively ended their playoff hopes. Bobby Lou needed to step up there if this team was going to make it.

20. San Jose Sharks (39-32-9, rank last week: 21) – The Sharks won’t make the playoffs, and there should be major changes coming for that team this summer.

21. Dallas Stars (39-31-10, rank last week: 20) – The Stars are winning plenty of games now, but it’s way too late for a team that needs a little more toughness, defense and goaltending.

22. Columbus Blue Jackets (39-35-5, rank last week: 22) – The Blue Jackets won nine games in a row and showed plenty of heart along the way. This is a dangerous team, and they deserve to win the draft lottery based on the way they approached this season.       

23. Philadelphia Flyers (32-29-18, rank last week: 23) – The Flyers have plenty of problems, but owning the Penguins isn’t one of them.

24. Colorado Avalanche (36-31-12, rank last week: 24) – Looks like the whole Jordan Caron thing isn’t working out for the Avalanche.

25. New Jersey Devils (32-34-13, rank last week: 25) – If there’s any team that really needs to look at the way they’re doing business right now, it might be the Devils. They’re old, they don’t do anything particularly well and they had to run their goaltender into the ground. That’s trouble.

26. Toronto Maple Leafs (30-43-7, rank last week: 26) – They took the Bruins to the shootout and took a point from the Senators last weekend. At least they did something right this season.

27. Carolina Hurricanes (29-39-11, rank last week: 27) – The Hurricanes were a tough out for most of the second half, but it seems that most of the fight has been taken out of them now.

28. Edmonton Oilers (23-43-13, rank last week: 28) – The 8-2 loss to the Kings was so, so, so very Oilers.

29. Arizona Coyotes (24-47-8, rank last week: 29) – It will be an exciting final week between the Coyotes and Sabres to see who’s going to pull out the Connor McDavid sweepstakes.  

30. Buffalo Sabres (23-49-8, rank last week: 30) – Buffalo has worked hard all season for this, so now it’s their time to shine…er, stink.

Deja vu all over: Gionta again weighing options of hockey future

Deja vu all over: Gionta again weighing options of hockey future

If you asked Brian Gionta how his summer is going, his response might channel baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra--it’s like deja vu all over again.

It was just one year ago that Gionta was without an NHL contract and weighing his future in hockey, but at least then the now-39-year-old could look forward to February’s Winter Olympics, where he was planning on captaining the United States’ men’s hockey team.

Now, however, Gionta, who has played parts of 16 seasons in the NHL, is considering making his mark on the sport in a new way--coaching.

The Buffalo Sabres, Gionta’s team for three seasons from 2014-17, asked the winger to help out with their development camp last month, opening Gionta’s mind to the reality of coaching.

“As I’m sitting here trying to contemplate where to go with my career and whether it’s at the end or not, it was good for me to get my foot in there and see what that was all about,” Gionta told NHL Tonight about the camp.

Gionta did manage to get back to the NHL following the Olympics, signing a pro-rated contract with the Bruins for the season’s final 20 games. Gionta chipped in two goals and seven points, but played just 11 minutes in the playoffs.

“I had a unique year last year with the Olympics and signing with Boston late. Had a ton of fun, was able to be around my family a lot last year,” Gionta added.

Now, as another summer of option-weighing and reality-facing pushes forward, Gionta knows at this point in his career there’s more to think about than just hockey.

“The main focus right now is my family, my kids and trying to figure out what’s best for everyone involved. I’ve had a great run, playing a long time in the NHL, and if this is the end, it’s the end.”