Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Caps still rule, are Blackhawks back?

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Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Caps still rule, are Blackhawks back?

It’s tough to get a read on the movers and shakers this early in the NHL season. Obviously, the Capitals are again for real after dropping 13 goals in their first two games, including an absolute curb-stomping of the Bruins on opening night.

And perhaps the Chicago Blackhawks are perched for a big rebound season after showing plenty of offensive punch in the first three games. But are Jack Eichel and his Sabres going to keep things up after a strong showing in their first week?

Will the Anaheim Ducks continue to win games with both Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf banged up? How on earth are the San Jose Sharks off to a 1-2-0 start given the firepower and talent they now have on their roster with Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson part of their back end?

It will take a lot more than a handful of games to answer these questions, but we’ll do our best with a new batch of NHL Power Rankings:

1. Washington Capitals (1-0-1, rank last week: 1) – Only one team has scored more goals than the Caps, and the Blackhawks have played three games to the two high-powered games played by Washington.

2. Chicago Blackhawks (2-0-1, LW: 19) – The Blackhawks lead the NHL with 15 goals, but they’re also allowing 4.7 goals per game in the three games they’ve played. Sounds like entertaining hockey.   

3. Nashville Predators (2-0-0, LW: 9) – Pekka Rinne and PK Subban are off to great starts, which unsurprisingly has led to an undefeated start for the Predators. 

4. Tampa Bay Lightning (1-0-0, LW: 4) – 41 saves for Andrei Vasilevskiy in Tampa Bay’s opener equals a pretty impressive way to start the season for the stacked Lighting.

5. Anaheim Ducks (3-0-0, LW: 13) – No Ryan Getzlaf, no Corey Perry. No problem for the Ducks, who are off to a great start.

6. Colorado Avalanche (2-0-0, LW: 14) – Nathan MacKinnon averaging over a point-per-game and more than 23 minutes of ice time for the undefeated Avs. Yeah, he’s pretty good.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs (2-1-0, LW: 7) – So far, so good with John Tavares whooping it up with the Maple Leafs. It’s been almost all Auston Matthews, though, with five goals and eight points in the first three games.

8. Dallas Stars (2-0-0, LW: 23) – Eight goals scored and one goal scored against for the Stars. That’s pret-ty, pret-ty, pret-ty good.

9. Boston Bruins (2-1-0, LW: 8) – The Bruins made a nice recovery from dropping the stink bomb on the ice opening night against Washington, and Patrice Bergeron is again dominant with four goals in the past two games after missing all of the preseason.

10. Carolina Hurricanes (2-0-1, LW: 21) – Michael Ferland off to a fast start in his new home in Carolina with two goals and four points in three games for the Canes. It’s nothing like a change of scenery to bring out the best in somebody.

11. New Jersey Devils (1-0-0, previous ranking: 17) – One win on the season with two goals from Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac has the Devils on the right foot.

12. Los Angeles Kings (1-0-1, LW: 18) – Jonathan Quick is hurt again for the Kings as they continue to try to compete with a proven, winning group that’s getting a little old and creaky in the bones.

13. San Jose Sharks (1-2-0. Rank last week: 3) – Well, so much for the Sharks winning 82 out of 82 with Erik Karlsson.

14. New York Islanders (2-1-0, LW: 31) – Give the Isles credit. So far, they’re surviving without Tavares in the middle of their lineup. Is it sustainable for the long haul? I highly doubt it.

15. Buffalo Sabres (2-1-0, LW: 20) – Eichel picking up the leadership baton on the ice for the Sabres with three goals in three games as it looks like Buffalo is going to be pretty competitive.

16. Florida Panthers (0-0-1, LW: 15) – One game in and Roberto Luongo is banged up with an injury. That is not the way the Panthers drew it up to start the season.

17.  Pittsburgh Penguins (1-1-0, LW: 5) – No goals for Sid the Kid or Phil the Thrill in the first two games means a couple of players are not living up to their nicknames.

18.  Columbus Blue Jackets (1-1-0, LW: 11) – Only four goals in the first two games means the Blue Jackets are still scrounging and scrapping for offense per usual.

19. Philadelphia Flyers (1-1-0, LW: 12) – Brian Elliott with a 3.03 goals-against average and .898 save percentage thus far for the Flyers. That is not going to be good enough.   

20. Winnipeg Jets (1-1-0, LW: 6) – Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine and Blake Wheeler all off to strong starts for a Winnipeg team that’s got some high hopes this season.

21. Vegas Golden Knights (1-2-0, LW: 2) – Were the Golden Knights a one season Cinderella story? It will take a few things to sort that all out, but not a good start for the defending Western Conference champs.   

22. Edmonton Oilers (0-1-0, LW: 16) – The Oil didn’t look good in their one-game jaunt to Sweden and now they have to turn things over quickly and start on a road trip on the East Coast. Tough way to start the year.

23. Calgary Flames (1-1-0, LW: 22) – An .810 save percentage for Mike Smith through the first two games for Calgary? Yikes!  

24. Minnesota Wild (0-1-1, LW: 10) – Two goals scored in two games for the Wild isn’t going to cut it. Somebody besides Zach Parise needs to step up and be counted offensively.   

25. Montreal Canadiens (1-0-1, LW: 28) – The Habs are off to a decent start with opportunistic offense and strong goaltending from Carey Price. That will be the formula if Montreal is going to do anything this season.

26. Ottawa Senators (1-1-1, LW: 30) – Young D-man Thomas Chabot has two goals and five points in the early going for the Sens and young players like him are going to be needed to lead the way for Ottawa out of the darkness.

27. Vancouver Canucks (1-1-0, LW: 27) – Rookie Elias Pettersson brings another young player with star power to Vancouver as it sure looks like the Canucks are beginning to build something out west from the studs on up.

28. St. Louis Blues (0-1-1, LW: 24) – Another slow start for Jake Allen in what’s beginning to turn into a recurring pattern for the Blues goaltender.

29. Arizona Coyotes (0-2-0, LW: 29) – Zero goals scored and four goals allowed in two games for the Desert Dogs. Catch the fever!

30. Detroit Red Wings (1-2-0, LW: 26) – A minus-4 goal differential after three games shows that the Red Wings definitely have some things to tighten up. The question is whether they’re capable of doing the tightening.  

31. New York Rangers (0-3-0, LW: 25) – Nobody has allowed more than the 14 goals that the Rangers defense and goalies have in their first three games. It sure looks like the rebuilding is going to continue this season, doesn’t it?   


With Torey Krug down, Urho Vaakanainen called up to fill void on Bruins back end

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With Torey Krug down, Urho Vaakanainen called up to fill void on Bruins back end

BRIGHTON, Mass. — The Bruins have called up Urho Vaakanainen from Providence on Monday and that, unfortunately, probably means the B’s will be without injured Torey Krug for the time being.

The 20-year-old Vaakanainen skated with Connor Clifton as part of the third defense pairing during Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena after his recall from Providence, and Bruce Cassidy said afterward that it’s a game-time decision between Vaakanainen and Steve Kampfer to fill Torey Krug’s vacant spot.

The best bet is that it will be Vaakanainen, given his ability to play big minutes, play equally at both ends and move the puck with his excellent skating ability.

Vaakanainen was off to a slow start with two assists in 15 games this season for the P-Bruins and wasn’t particularly sharp in training camp this time around for Boston after breaking camp with the team a year ago. Bruce Cassidy also mentioned that the 2017 first-round pick had some work to do with his practice habits, but that’s nothing new as young guys like Charlie McAvoy have also gone through that learning curve when it comes to Cassidy’s fast-paced practice sessions.

“The 12 forwards will be the guys that were out there and we’ve got a decision to make on the back end between [Steve] Kampfer and [Urho] Vaakanainen,” said Cassidy of Vaakanainen, who had both high and low moments while putting up four goals and 14 points in 30 games last season for the P-Bruins. “He’s played better, defended better. I think early on he was getting stuck out wide. I don’t know if that’s a European-sized rink issue or just an issue because of the way they play over there, but it showed in some goals against where he was getting beaten to the middle [of the ice].

“We need to make sure that is buttoned up if he’s in the lineup. He’s been moving the puck better and just more engaged in the game. He’s been practicing hard too and becoming a better pro, so all good things and his game is falling into place as well.”

Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings with both Krug and Jake DeBrusk out for Tuesday night’s game against the Panthers, but not ruled out for Friday night's big game against the Maple Leafs.


Brad Marchand Patrice Bergeron David Pastrnak
Danton Heinen David Krejci Charlie Coyle
Anders Bjork Par Lindholm Zach Senyshyn
Joakim Nordstrom Sean Kuraly Chris Wagner


Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk Brandon Carlo
Urho Vaakanainen Connor Clifton


Tuukka Rask

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Sloppy play catching up to the Bruins in their worst stretch of the season

Sloppy play catching up to the Bruins in their worst stretch of the season

BOSTON — There's no more denying that the Bruins' performance is slipping after a red-hot start to the season.

After three straight games where there was clearly too much looseness to their game, the Bruins went out and flatlined for the first 30 minutes against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday night and couldn’t do enough late to escape a 3-2 shootout loss at TD Garden.

The Bruins were able to pick up a point in the loss and played much better in the second half of the game, but they can’t escape that they looked completely uninspired and unready to play in putting just six shots on net through the first half of the hockey game.

“We just got back to playing the game that we wanted to. Way too many sloppy plays and turning back rather than moving [the puck] forward,” said Patrice Bergeron of the first two periods. “When you do that everybody is kind of guessing on the ice and nobody is really on the same page. Then they take it to you. I think that’s what we saw in the first half of the game.

“A little bit better [in the second period] and much better in the third. You talk about playing for 60 [minutes] and if we did that tonight I would have liked our chances. It’s a lot of what we’re doing to ourselves to let teams into the game. It’s letting them get momentum and not being able to shut it down with a big shift.”

Part of it is certainly missing the injured Jake DeBrusk, Brett Ritchie and David Backes in the lineup and then watching Torey Krug go down as well in the late moments of the third period.

The Bruins didn’t have any massive breakdowns aside from an ill-advised Charlie McAvoy pinch down low with the fourth line on the ice that led to the Flyers' first goal, and special teams and goaltending weren’t really big factors.

Instead, it was about a Bruins team that’s now played two bad games in a row against inferior competition in Detroit and Philadelphia, and certainly doesn’t look as sharp now as they did during a torrid month of October.

“Poor. That’s about it. To sum it up, it was poor,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked about the start to the game where the Bruins were outshot 14-5 and outscored 2-0 on the scoreboard. “They [the Flyers] played the right way. Give them credit for playing a good game and managing the puck. Kept it simple and protected the front of their net when we did get through. They forechecked well, I thought, with good structure, so we had a hard time getting going. Why was it poor? I don’t think we had enough urgency, would be the simple answer. We weren’t breaking pucks out, got stuck below our goal line. We never got an opportunity to sort of put them on their heels, in any way, shape or form.

“So as a result they’re on their toes, they get a lead and we’re chasing the game. As a road team that’s come in, played a little bit lately, they all of a sudden find energy because of that. That’s my explanation of the start. We need to correct it in a hurry, but the good news is we did find our game eventually, and we can build off that.”

It’s been different things in each of the three losses, which speaks perhaps more to a general bit of malaise with the team rather than a specific issue. Against the Habs, Tuukka Rask had his worst game of the season allowing three soft goals, and that’s going to be impossible for almost any team to overcome. Against the Red Wings, the Bruins took a slew of offensive zone penalties while allowing a pair of power play goals and never ramped up their effort level against a bad team in a lifeless arena.

Against the Flyers, it was a Bruins team that looked as if it was missing a few key players to injuries while not getting enough from the guys that were healthy until it was too late. The loss to the Red Wings was the worst of the season, but the defeat at the hands of the Flyers felt avoidable and unnecessary given the situation.

Add it all up and it looks like a Bruins team which got off to a great start to the season has now put it in cruise control over the last week as the schedule starts to get a little bit more challenging.

“We’ve gotten away from what we do best and it’s cost us a bit,” said Charlie Coyle. “There are times in games when we’re doing the right things, but I think we’re getting away from it whether it’s early on, or at some point in the game. When you do that in this league, you’re going to get beat up. So we need to make sure we play the right way. When we do that, we put ourselves in great position and it’s hard for other teams.

“The work ethic has got to be there. We know the talent we have, but in this league you can’t ride solely on that. We need to make sure we bring it the right way. When we bring the work ethic, then the talent takes over after that.”

With the first three-game losing streak of the season, there will certainly be questions about the Stanley Cup Final hangover finally showing its face, or if the Bruins are simply going through a market correction after romping through the first month of the season.

The good news is we’ll know soon if this is a temporary bump or more of a prolonged swoon, based on their upcoming opponents — the Panthers and Maple Leafs. Both teams are within a handful of points of the first place B’s in the Atlantic Division and are shaping up to be among Boston's toughest competition for playoff spots.

The heightened intensity level should be enough to snap the Bruins out of their temporary three-game funk. If not, then a week from now we’ll all know that the B’s are facing a much bigger problem than anybody could have imagined after an October where seemingly nothing went wrong for a Bruins group facing their first adversity of the year.

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