Morning Skate: Isles aren't dealing Tavares; Kessel's deep freeze

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Morning Skate: Isles aren't dealing Tavares; Kessel's deep freeze

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while counting down to Sunday.

*Video from Evgeni Malkin’s Twitter account of Phil Kessel in a cryogenic chamber? Isn’t this how "Captain America: The First Avenger" got started?

*In the interest of flagrant self-promotion, here I am previewing the Bruins/Maple Leafs weekend matchup with Leafs Lunch up in Canada and talking about how wide open the entire Eastern Conference is at this point.  

*According to the TSN Insider trading, the New York Islanders are not going to be trading John Tavares in his walk year.

*There are a lot of problems brewing with a struggling Buffalo Sabres team that’s breeding apathy in their home city.

*Good piece on retired center Mike Fisher, who has been called off the inactive list by a Nashville Predators team gearing up for another run.

*For something completely different: Alex Trebek goes into savage mode on three Jeopardy contestants that clearly know nothing about football.


Could Rask's standing as Bruins' No. 1 goalie be in jeopardy?

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Could Rask's standing as Bruins' No. 1 goalie be in jeopardy?

Tuukka Rask hasn’t outright lost his No. 1 job with the Bruins at this point, but he’s certainly playing like he wants to.

The longtime Bruins netminder has an .875 save percentage through the first four games of this season, and outright hasn’t given the Bruins any chance to win in two of those four games with bad performances against Washington and Calgary. He also watched on Saturday night as backup Jaroslav Halak made his second straight start while Rask sat on the bench. Halak played well enough to get the Bruins a point in the 2-1 overtime loss to the Canucks, and stopped 20-of-22 shots after similarly getting a point in another OT loss in Edmonton last week.

Overall Halak has a 2-0-2 record with a .933 save percentage for the Bruins, and has picked up points in four of his appearances while outplaying Rask to this early point in the season.


The expectation is that Rask is going to get the start on Tuesday night against the Ottawa Senators, and Bruce Cassidy admitted that’s the way he was leaning with his choice while stopping short of announcing it officially. So the Bruins No. 1 goalie hasn’t been “benched” at this point in favor of his backup, but it sure looks like Rask and Halak are splitting up playing time at much closer to a 50/50 clip than anybody could have guessed.

Clearly the Bruins coaching staff isn’t ready to simply give Halak an extended run and saddle Rask with a baseball cap on the bench, but that time gets closer to reality with each outing where the Finnish goaltender isn’t up to par. If Rask again goes out and gives up three or four goals in the first period on Tuesday night, could the Bruins go with Halak for a run of three or four games similar to the one Anton Khudobin went on in November last season?

It may still be early for that to happen given that the Bruins want both of their goalies to get into a healthy midseason rhythm before they start sitting one of them for a couple of weeks at a time. But there’s a lot riding on Rask’s performance on Tuesday night against an Ottawa Senators team that’s been better than anybody could have expected going into this season.

The good news is that Rask has already beaten this Senators bunch once this season when he stopped 28-of-31 shots and played reasonably well for one of his two wins this year. But there will be a little more pressure on him this time around as Halak has been up to the task in the Bruins goalie competition to date, and once again Rask has been slow to get going for a suddenly injury-ravaged B’s hockey club that needs all the help it can get.  

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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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