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Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Settling in at the top

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Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Settling in at the top

It's a few weeks into the regular season and the cream is beginning to rise to the top with the Predators, Lightning and Winnipeg Jets pushing toward the top of the rankings. The Preds and Lightning have lost only once in regulation and the Maple Leafs continue to look like the best offense in the entire NHL.

The other end of the spectrum is equally interesting as the Sharks, Kings and Golden Knights – playoff teams with high hopes this season – are all rounding out in the bottom third of the league. It’s still early yet for both ends to meet somewhere in the middle, but it’s not going to be too early much more with Thanksgiving about a month away.

At that point, things in the standings will begin to cement a little bit, so there are just a few more weeks for underachieving teams to get things in gear.  

Anyway, without further ado here are this week’s power rankings:

1. Nashville Predators (7-1-0, rank last week: 3) – The Predators are allowing under two goals per game, Filip Forsberg has picked up the pace offensively and Peter Laviolette is wearing bull masks. All is right in Music City. 

2. Tampa Bay Lightning (5-1-1, LW: 15) – The Lightning are on a roll now with four players scoring at a point-per-game clip and the offense averaging four goals per game.

3. Colorado Avalanche (5-1-2, LW: 7) – Nathan MacKinnon off to a torrid start for the Avs, who look like they’re finally ready to take that step to a legitimate contender this season. The eight goals and 14 points in eight games are pretty darn good.

4. New Jersey Devils (4-2-0, LW: 6) – Taylor Hall is putting up points, but he’s also got just one goal and is a minus player in six games thus far this season. The Devils are winning so it doesn’t matter right now, but it’s not a gold standard start for the reigning Hart Trophy winner.

5. Toronto Maple Leafs (6-3-0, LW: 1) – The Leafs lead the entire NHL with 34 goals scored thus far this season, but they’re also allowing over three goals per game at the same time. That’s a formula that may not play well late into the season, and postseason, if it doesn’t change.

6. Anaheim Ducks (5-3-1, LW: 5) – The Ducks are off to a strong start despite some injuries, and they’ve also managed to sign wayward RFA Nick Ritchie to a new contract as well. Everything is coming up Milhouse for the Ducks.

7. Winnipeg Jets (5-2-1, LW: 13) – The Jets are off to a decent start and somehow Josh Morrissey is leading the Jets in points right now. I did not see that one coming.  

8. Pittsburgh Penguins (3-1-2, LW: 8) – The Penguins have allowed as many goals as they’ve scored this season. That’s going to need to change if Pittsburgh is truly going to get their house in order.

9. Chicago Blackhawks (4-2-2, LW: 2) – Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat have combined for 14 goals in eight games for the Blackhawks this season. That is some serious offensive firepower.  

10. Carolina Hurricanes (4-3-1, LW: 10) – Considering that Scott Darling hasn’t even played a game for the Canes this season, the start is pretty good thanks to some brilliant young players in front of the goaltenders.

11. Montreal Canadiens (4-1-2, LW: 21) – Tomas Tatar and Paul Byron are setting the pace for the Canadiens offensively. You have to wonder how long that’s going to last, but credit where it’s due that they’re better than expected.  

12. Calgary Flames (5-3-0, LW: 14) – The Flames are off to a pretty good start led by Johnny Gaudreau, who looks like he might even be taking his game to another level.

13. Boston Bruins (4-2-2, LW: 4) – The Bruins have been bailed out by Jaroslav Halak’s play between the pipes, but they’re not going to go very far as long as Tuukka Rask is sitting at an .875 save percentage.

14. Ottawa Senators (4-2-1, LW: 22) – Chris Tierney has nine points in seven games for the Senators. It’s a great story so far, but we’ll have to see how long it lasts for a Sens team that can never seem to get it together for too long.  

15. Washington Capitals (3-2-2, LW: 11) – The Capitals are scoring goals like crazy, but Braden Holtby is slow out of the gate this season. That’s going to need to turn around for the reigning Cup champions.   

16.  Minnesota Wild (4-2-2, LW: 17) – Young guys like Joel Eriksson Ek and Joel Greenway are off to slow starts for Minny, who again look like they’re going to be just good enough to get their fan base excited.

17.  Columbus Blue Jackets (4-3-0, LW: 12) – Cam Atkinson and Nick Foligno have finally started joining the offensive party for the Blue Jackets along with the Artist already known as the Bread Man.

18. San Jose Sharks (4-3-1, LW: 20) – Zero points, four assists and a minus-4 rating in eight games for Erik Karlsson thus far. Well, that certainly is pretty underwhelming.  

19. Edmonton Oilers (3-3-0, LW: 27) – After a tough start, the Oilers have kind of righted the ship after finally getting home to Edmonton. Now we see what this talented hockey team is truly made of.   

20. Vancouver Canucks (4-3-0, LW: 18) – Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and Elias Pettersson continue to power the Canucks through an early-season surprise with Boeser and Horvat teaming to take down the B’s last weekend.

21. Buffalo Sabres (5-4-0, LW: 16) – A decent start for Rasmus Dahlin and a decent start for the Sabres as well, so they have that going for them… which is nice.   

22. Philadelphia Flyers (4-4-0, LW: 25) – High-end offensive players and mediocre-to-bad goaltending? Same old Flyers.    

23. Vegas Golden Knights (4-4-0, LW: 24) – One goal and a minus-4 in eight games for Max Pacioretty is just part of the difficult climb for the Golden Knights in year two of their NHL existence.   

24. Dallas Stars (3-4-0, LW: 19) – Alex Radulov, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are off to hot starts, but once again it’s the same old question marks for the Stars struggling to keep the puck out of the net.

25. St. Louis Blues (2-3-2, LW: 26) – The Blues only have two players on their roster with a positive plus/minus rating right now. That’s a tough way to win the NHL.  

26. New York Islanders (3-4-0, LW: 23) – If Robin Lehner can keep playing close to his current level this season, the Isles could be better than anybody thought. They could use something, anything from Jordan Eberle, though.

27. Los Angeles Kings (2-5-1, LW: 19) – The Kings rank no higher than 23rd in the NHL in any major team category, and that tells you exactly the brand of mediocre hockey that they’re playing right now.

28. Arizona Coyotes (2-5-0, LW: 28) – Clayton Keller is picking up the offensive pace for the Coyotes a bit, but the rest of that roster is looking pretty light on the offensive side of things right now.

29. New York Rangers (2-5-1, LW: 29) – The Rangers continue to try to get by with guys like Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad as the best players on their team and that continues to qualify as a full-out rebuild. 

30. Florida Panthers (1-2-3, LW: 31) – A team thrown into a turmoil due to one injury to Roberto Luongo may not be as good of a hockey team as we thought they were. A tough start for the Panthers.

31. Detroit Red Wings (1-5-2, LW: 30) – Anthony Mantha is already a minus-11 just a couple of weeks into the NHL season. How the heck does that even happen? 

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NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Sweeney: Bruins 'going to need to be at our best' to defeat Columbus

Sweeney: Bruins 'going to need to be at our best' to defeat Columbus

BRIGHTON, Mass. – The Bruins will undoubtedly be wary of the wild card Columbus Blue Jackets when their playoff series gets underway on Thursday night at TD Garden.

The Blue Jackets gave the Bruins all they could handle during the season and dropped seven goals on them during an embarrassing mid-March loss in Columbus before dropping the final two meetings of the regular season between the two teams. Now they are vastly improved due to confidence, greater focus and finished chemistry between some of the new parts brought in at the trade deadline, and the Blue Jackets are getting the proper respect from the Bruins headed in.

During the regular season the Blue Jackets were just outside the top-10 in both offense and defense, but they improved markedly once Matt Duchene (three goals, seven points in four games) arrived, as evidenced by his scoring binge in the first round against the Lightning.

The Columbus power play was dreadful during the regular season, so it will be interesting to see if their hot PP stays hot in the second round. But their PK was the second-best in the NHL during the regular season, and it will be a prime-time matchup butting heads against a Boston PP that was red-hot (7-for-17) against the Leafs in the first round.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was paying his respect to Columbus ahead of the series while addressing the media on Wednesday, and it sure sounds like Boston won’t underestimate the eighth-seeded Blue Jackets this round.

“They’re tough. They’re well-rested. They won by our count 7-of-8 and 11-of-12 down the stretch and four in a row against arguably a favorite [in Tampa Bay] going into the Stanley Cup playoffs. They made a lot of changes and have come together,” Sweeney said, addressing the media on Wednesday in between playoff game days. “They present a lot of challenges and we’re going to have to be at our best to beat them. It’s two teams that certainly have good goaltending, good depth and balance in their scoring. After a four-game series I think they’re first in PP and fifth in penalty kill, and we’re second and seventh. Special teams were a factor in the last series. It’s definitely a tough opponent and we’re going to need to be at our best.

“They’re a talented group. They’ll score off the rush. They’ll fore-check in an aggressive manner. They were in the top-10 anyway, but their blocked shots have dramatically increased. So they’re invested and they present challenges. They have good goaltending and they have three defensemen that generally play in the 26-28 minute range [of ice time]. So they’re on the ice an awful lot of the game. They have a power play that was running hot during the [Tampa] series and was pretty good during the year as well.

"They present challenges. They’re a good team and they deserve to be here.”

Certainly Duchene and Artemi Panarin will get plenty of attention up front, but this is also a big, physical group that doesn’t mind matching brawn with skill, and could pose problems on multiple fronts. Sergei Bobrovsky is every bit as good as Tuukka Rask, if not better between the pipes. And the Blue Jackets' defense features young stud D-men in Zach Werenski and Seth Jones who will play close to half of each and every one of the playoff games.

That’s a much different wrinkle than the self-destructing Maple Leafs, who eventually reverted to form in Game 7 after playing some good defense through most of the first-round series. That won’t be the case for the B’s against the Blue Jackets, and instead they’ll have to earn it just as fervently as they did in the seven-game series vs. Toronto in the first round.

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2019 Stanley Cup odds: Bruins, Sharks co-favorites in updated betting lines

2019 Stanley Cup odds: Bruins, Sharks co-favorites in updated betting lines

The Boston Bruins are the best team, at least in terms of regular-season record, still alive in the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs. But is that good enough for them to be the favorite to win the Stanley Cup?

Well, FanDuel Sportsbook has pegged the Bruins and San Jose Sharks as co-favorites to win the Stanley Cup at +460, as of Wednesday afternoon.

Both of these teams won Game 7s of their respective first-round series Tuesday night. The Bruins defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-1 at TD Garden, while the Sharks eliminated the Vegas Golden Knights in a thrilling 5-4 overtime victory. Boston will play the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round. San Jose will play the Colorado Avalanche in Round 2.

The Bruins last won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and went to the Cup Final again in 2013. The Sharks' only Stanley Cup Final appearance came in 2016, when they lost to Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.

Here are FanDuel's updated Stanley Cup futures odds: 

Bruins, Sharks: +460
Blue Jackets, Islanders: +600
Capitals, Blues: +700
Avalanche, Stars: +800
Hurricanes: +1700

The first round will conclude Wednesday night when the defending champion Washington Capitals host the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7.

Click here for an early look at Bruins vs. Blue Jackets>>>

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