Blackhawks

NHL Power Rankings: Are the Ducks back?

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NHL Power Rankings: Are the Ducks back?

The Ducks are 4-0-1 in their last five games, vaulting themselves into a playoff spot — third place in the Pacific Division — for the first time this season.

Meanwhile in the East, the Panthers set a franchise record by winning their ninth consecutive game while the Canadiens received a big boost in getting back Brendan Gallagher, who helped his team cruise past the Bruins in the 2016 Winter Classic.

Check in with CSNChicago.com for updated rankings every Monday throughout the 2015-16 campaign. Here's where we're at so far: Preseason rankings | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12
 

Rank Team
Last Week Record/Comment
1 1

28-7-3, 59 points: Braden Holtby is 16-0-2 in his last 18 decisions, the longest such streak by a goaltender since Roberto Luongo's 21-game run of 16-0-5 with Vancouver in 2010-11.

2   2

28-9-4, 60 points: Patrick Sharp has six goals and six assists during a career-high nine-game point streak, and has matched last year's goal total (16) in 27 fewer games.

3

25-11-2, 52 points: Jonathan Quick recorded his 40th career shutout on Monday, tying John Vanbiesbrouck and Frank Brimsek for most all-time by an American-born goaltender.

4
 

23-12-4, 50 points: The Panthers set a franchise record by winning their ninth consecutive game, and they'll look to continue that as they prepare for a six-game road trip.

5
 

23-13-4, 50 points: Corey Crawford has four shutouts in his last 10 starts. His career-high for most shutouts in a single season entering this year was four.

6  

22-13-5, 49 points: First Jaroslav Halak, now Johnny Boychuk is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with an upper-body injury. How will the Islanders respond?

7  

23-14-4, 50 points: The Blues kicked off the week by stealing a game from Nashville in overtime, but followed that up with a 3-1 loss to Minnesota and a 4-1 loss to Toronto.

8   10 

20-11-7, 47 points: The Wild are 9-1-1 when Thomas Vanek scores a goal this year. He has just two goals in his last 16 games.

9   15 

22-15-3, 47 points: The Canadiens received a big boost in getting back Brendan Gallagher, who scored a goal and an assist in his return to help his team cruise past the Bruins in the 2016 Winter Classic.

10  

19-13-7, 45 points: The Red Wings snapped a three-game losing streak with a 4-3 win over Buffalo, but were outshot by 12 in that contest.

11  

20-13-4, 44 points: After a showdown with the Capitals on Tuesday, the Bruins will play their next five games on the road, where they are 11-3-2 this season.

12   12 

 19-16-4, 42 points: As if Steven Stamkos' contract negotiations (or lack thereof) isn't causing enough distraction, the Lightning's top prospect Jonathan Drouin publicly requested a trade out of Tampa Bay.

13   14

19-13-7, 45 points: With Saturday's win over Carolina, Pekka Rinne secured a win on the road for the first time since Nov. 5. 

14
 
17 

20-14-5, 45 points: Despite being outshot by a combined 20, the Devils have won their last three games, which includes a shutout win over Ottawa and an overtime victory over Dallas.

15
 
13

21-14-4, 46 points: Kevin Hayes has been a healthy scratch in the Rangers' last two contests, which is disappointing considering the breakout year he had a season ago.

16   25 

16-15-7, 39 points: The Ducks are 4-0-1 in their last five games, and have vaulted into a playoff spot — third place in the Pacific Division — for the first time this season. Here they come?

17   21

19-15-4, 42 points: Sidney Crosby has five goals and five assists in his last seven games, including back-to-back game-winning goals against the Red Wings and Islanders.

18   11 

18-15-6, 42 points: The Senators have allowed a total of 10 goals in their last three games, which includes a 7-3 loss to Boston and back-to-back 3-0 losses to New Jersey and Chicago.

19
 
19 

16-17-6, 38 points: Jeff Skinner has one goal in his last eight games. He had nine goals in six games prior to that.

20
 
16 

18-17-2, 38 points: The Sharks keep flirting around .500, but they could stick there all season long and still be in playoff contention in the Pacific Division.

21
 
20

18-18-2, 38 points: Johnny Gaudreau was named the NHL's first star of December after scoring a league-leading 12 goals and 18 points in 13 games during the month. 

22   18  15-15-7, 37 points: The Flyers went 0-3-0 during their three-game road trip on the West coast, and were outshot by 27.
23   24 18-16-4, 40 points: The Coyotes have picked up at least a point in six of their last seven games. Shane Doan was named the NHL's third star of the week, recording his second career hat trick in a win over Chicago.
24   22

15-15-9, 39 points: The Canucks are 2-1-0 in their first three games of a seven-game homestand, which will be followed by a six-game road trip.

25   23 

18-19-2, 38 points: Bryan Little registered three assists in a 4-1 win over Detroit on Tuesday, and now has 11 multi-point game of the season. He's quietly having a career year.

26   26 

18-18-3, 39 points: The Avalanche are 1-2-2 in their last five games since winning their previous five in a row.

27   28 

15-15-7, 37 points: Nazem Kadri has 11 points (two goals and seven assists) in his last 11 games. He had nine points in his first 26 games of the season.

28   29 

16-21-3, 35 points: While the Oilers have only two wins in their last nine games, they're still just four points behind the third spot in the Pacific Division and Connor McDavid returned to practice.

29   27 

15-20-4, 34 points: The Sabres have lost their last four games, and have slipped to the basement of the Atlantic Division.

30   30

15-22-3, 33 points: Brandon Saad has six goals and five assists during his career-high seven-game point streak.

*Advanced stats courtesy of war-on-ice.com

5 things we have learned after the Blackhawks first 5 games

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USA TODAY

5 things we have learned after the Blackhawks first 5 games

The Blackhawks hahve played five games, all five went to over time, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane each have five goals.

So here are five things we've learned from the Blackhawks first five games.

1.    Blackhawks have a flair for the dramatic:

They are the first team in NHL history with 5 straight overtime games to begin a season. According to Elias, It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL. Not only have they not lost a game in regulation, but they have rallied in the third period in four of their five games. No final period rally was more dramatic than the home opener, when Patrick Kane & Auston Matthews had a three goal trade-off in a :56 second span, complete with a celly battle.

2.    Toews looks like a different player:

Or should I say, he looks like the guy who played a huge role in three Stanley Cups. The captain is faster, hard on the puck and making plays that we haven’t seen in the last few years. His nine points are tied with line-mate Alex DeBrincat for the team lead and amongst the top point getters in the league. Toews said before the season that he was humbled by missing the playoffs and it’s clear he heard the criticism about his lack of offensive production. Hard work this summer and solid chemistry with DeBrincat and Dominik Kahun have paid off in the first two weeks. Toews said he wanted to get back to having fun and so far, he’s had plenty to smile about.

3.    Power Play still needs to be fixed:

It was a major issue last season(ranked 28th) and it’s still a concern this year. They have only cashed in on 2 of 18 power plays, which ranks them 23rd in the NHL. I like the 1-3-1 set up and top unit that includes Kane, Toews, Schmaltz, DeBrincat and Jokiharju. They made a tweak last game, putting DeBrincat at the top of the slot and Schmaltz at the left circle. They are hoping to take advantage of Cat’s quick and accurate shot. The other concern on the power play is the entries. They continue to use the drop pass as their primary way to enter the zone. It’s not been very successful this season. They may need to install one more option on the entry. The bottom line, they won’t make the playoffs if their power play ranks in the bottom third of the league.

4.    Blackhawks blue line is still a work in progress:

Henri Jokiharju has been a tremendous addition to a group that was a major question mark entering the season. Jokiharju is the second best defenseman on the team right now and with Duncan Keith, they are a legit top 4 pairing. The problem with the other two pairs are major inconsistencies. You will see a stretch of solid play, but it’s inevitably followed by a crucial turnover or defensive breakdown. In this loaded central division, a handful of defensive miscues could be the difference in making the playoffs or being on the golf course in April.

5.    Cam isn’t Crow:

Cam Ward has been solid in his first 5 games as a Blackhawk. It’s actually incredible the Hawks are 3-0-2 when you consider Ward has a .879 Sv% and 4.07 GAA. Unlike last season’s fill-ins, Ward has been able to avoid the dreaded soft goal. It still looks like Corey Crawford could return Thursday against Arizona, or this weekend at the latest, when they play back-to-back tilts. Everyone is crossing their fingers that Crow will not experience any setbacks when he returns to the crease. Joel Quenneville said the team doesn’t like to carry 3 goalies, but they may be forced to do that, with uncertainty surrounding Crawford and Anton Forsberg having to pass through waivers before being sent to Rockford. Goaltending is everything in the NHL and in all likelihood the Blackhawks postseason chances still hinge on Crawford returning to the form we’ve seen the last several years.

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

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AP

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

Brandon Saad played a majority of last season on the first line, started this season on the second to change things up, got demoted to the fourth by the fifth game, and could find himself out of the lineup in the sixth.

Before the Blackhawks hit the ice for practice on Monday, the 25-year-old winger found a white jersey hanging in his stall. That's usually reserved for players who are injured — Andreas Martinsen (back) was the only other player wearing one — or players who are on the outside looking in, which appears to be Saad right now considering he was not part of the four-line rotation.

"I don't think anyone wants to be wearing white around here," he said. "But it is what it is and there's nothing you can do but keep trying to improve. It's their job to make the call to put the best team out there to win hockey games."

Known for being even-keeled through the ups and downs, Saad expressed disappointment about the possibility of being a healthy scratch on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. He didn't exactly show that emotion following his demotion to the fourth line, perhaps out of respect to the players he was playing with by noting how it brings balance.

But he did on Monday, and it was the first time we've really seen some sort of emotion out of him.

"Everyone makes mistakes and things aren't always going to go your way but to be out of the lineup, a little surprised today," Saad said. "But it is what it is. ... No one wants to be out of the lineup. That's never fun regardless of who you are."

When asked to pinpoint what's gone wrong, Saad said he wasn't the right person to ask.

"I think you got to ask him that," he said, referring to Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff. "It's his calls. For me, you can talk pros and cons as much as you want but just trying to go out there and compete and win hockey games. We've won a few here, I know every game has gone to overtime so they've been close. Nothing was said to me about lineup change or anything like that. You just come in and you see your jersey and you go out there and you play."

So Quenneville was asked.

"Just expect more," he said. "That's the situation."

Is his mindset in the right place?

"I think he's fine," Quenneville said. "His mindset is what it is. Whether it's urgency or passion, coming up with loose pucks in those areas is going to be the difference."

The Blackhawks sending a message shouldn't only be directed at Saad. It also serves as a reminder to his teammates and is important to note for the younger guys about earning your ice time.

"I don't really know where the coaches are coming from so I'm not going to comment on that," Jonathan Toews said respectfully. "But [Saad] has been doing some good things and I think it's good for all of us to know what's going on there because if [Saad] can get his ice time taken away, then so can a lot of guys, myself included. So we all want to play well and have team success."

The Blackhawks need Saad to return to form quickly because he's crucial to their overall success. There's no debate about that. It's why the thought of Saad, who played in all 82 games last season, serving as the 13th forward is frustrating for everyone involved.

It hasn't been a problem in the past, but now it's becoming one because of the Blackhawks' aspirations of getting back to the playoffs and their dependence on their top players.

"I don’t think it’s an issue," Quenneville said. "We just expect more out of him."