Blackhawks

NHL Power Rankings: Blackhawks' road to repeat officially begins

NHL Power Rankings: Blackhawks' road to repeat officially begins

And with the blink of an eye, another 82-game season is in the books, and only the Stanley Cup Playoffs to go.

The Capitals secured the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference after building such a large cushion to start the season while the Stars staved off the Blues for the top seed in the Western Conference.

But all of that is meaningless in the postseason, where anything can happen.

With that, here are the final power rankings of the 2015-16 regular-season. (The top-16 spots are occupied by teams that clinched a playoff berth, but it's not necessarily a prediction of where they'll finish in the playoffs).

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 | Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15 | Week 16 | Week 17 | Week 18 | Week 19 | Week 20 | Week 21 | Week 22 | Week 23 | Week 24 | Week 25 | Week 26

 

Rank Team Last Week Record/Comment
1 1

48-26-8, 104 points: The Penguins finished the 2015-16 campaign by winning 14 of their last 16 games, and are heading into the postseason as one of the most dangerous teams in not only the Eastern Conference, but of all 16 playoff clubs. 

2   2 49-24-9, 107 points: The Blues won 14 of their last 18 games to close out the season, and are getting healthy at the perfect time. Brian Elliott will get the first crack in net against the Blackhawks, which will certainly make for an entertaining first-round series.
3 3 56-18-8, 120 points: Braden Holtby tied Martin Brodeur for most wins (48) by a goaltender in a single season, putting a stamp on a sensational season for the netminder. On to the important games for the Capitals, who haven't played in a meaningful game in a while.
4 4

46-25-11, 103 points: After starting the season 1-7-2, the Ducks went 45-18-9 and captured their fourth consecutive Pacific Division title on the final day of the regular season. It seems like this is said every year, but this is the best team they've had in years. They allowed the fewest goals of any NHL team, and ranked No. 1 on both the power play and penalty kill, the first time that's happened since 1984-95 (Islanders).

5 5

50-23-9, 109 points: The Stars wrapped up the year on a 9-2-0 run, and did so without Tyler Seguin, who returned to practice on Monday. If he's ready for Game 1, there's an extra jump for an already-hot team.

6   6 48-28-6, 102 points: The Kings have struggled to the finish line, going 4-6-1 in their final 11 games. There shouldn't be much concern about them in the postseason, but a first-round matchup against the Sharks definitely isn't a sure thing.
7  7 47-26-9, 103 points: The Blackhawks, like their first-round opponent Blues, are also getting healthy just in time for Game 1 of the playoffs. Corey Crawford snuck in a game during the season finale, and Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov and Andrew Shaw are all expected to play Wednesday.
8   8 47-26-9, 103 points: The Panthers are heading into the postseason having won five of their last six games, but they're not at full strength. Vincent Trocheck (foot injury) is questionable for Game 1, and he may still be a little ways away from returning. Erik Gudbranson (concussion), however, is expected to start the series.
9 11

46-30-6, 98 points: The Sharks are a top-10 puck possession team, and are seeking revenge from the Kings, who overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat the Sharks in 2014 en route to a Stanley Cup victory. This may be the most entertaining first-round matchup.

10   10 41-27-14, 96 points: The Predators went through a stretch in late February and March where they looked like one of the most dangerous teams. They still are, but they only won two of their final seven games are drew a tough first-round matchup against a Ducks team that was one game away from reaching last year's Stanley Cup Final.
11 9 46-31-5, 97 points: The Lightning are already without Steven Stamkos (blood clots) and Anton Stralman (leg injury), and now they may be without Tyler Johnson, who suffered an injury on a boarding penalty. The injury bug is hitting them at the wrong time, if there is a right one.
12   12 46-27-9, 101 points: The Rangers have had their way with the Penguins in previous postseasons, but this year, they don't want any part of them. They're a bottom-five puck possession team while the Penguins are the complete opposite.
13 14

45-27-10, 100 points: The Islanders finished the season on a high note, going 6-2-1 in their final nine games, but they're entering the postseason with Thomas Greiss as their starting goaltender. That's a big disadvantage, especially considering their first-round opponent is countering with Roberto Luongo.

14 13 41-27-14, 96 points: The Flyers picked up wins over the Penguins and Islanders in their final two games, entering the postseason with high confidence. But they're drawing the first-place Capitals in the first round, which will be a tough task.
15 16

41-30-11, 93 points: The streak is still alive. The Red Wings backed into the playoffs, their league-leading 25th straight appearance, and it may be their last one without Pavel Datsyuk, who's expected to go back to Russia at the end of the season due to personal reasons.

16 17

38-33-11, 87 points: The Wild's 87 points are the fewest of 160 playoff teams in the shootout era, excluding the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season, according to Michael Russo of the Star Tribune

17 15 42-31-9, 93 points: Second straight year the Bruins have missed out on the postseason after they sputtered down the stretch. Change is certainly to be coming, but firing Claude Julien isn't the way to go.
18 18

35-31-16, 86 points: The Hurricanes' position in the standings doesn't quite reflect how well they played this season. They were tied for No. 10 in possession numbers, despite trading away three key players, including captain Eric Staal, at the trade deadline.

19 23 38-38-6, 82 points: Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin confirmed that Michel Therrien will return as head coach next season, and reiterated that he has no intentions of trading P.K. Subban. The latter is undoubtedly the correct move. The former is up in the air, but if Claude Julien becomes available, the Canadiens must reconsider. 
20 19

38-35-9, 85 points: Erik Karlsson had one of the best seasons by a defenseman in a while, but even that wasn't enough as the Senators missed out on the playoffs and finished third-to-last in the league in goals allowed (247). 

21 21

38-36-8, 84 points: The Devils' season was Cory Schneider or bust. They averaged only 24.4 shots per game, which was by far the lowest amount in the league. The next lowest was 27.6. That's more than a three-shot differential.

22 20 39-39-4, 82 points: Joe Sakic gave Patrick Roy a vote of confidence as Colorado's head coach, but it's hard to applaud it. It's the second consecutive season the Avalanche finished last or second-to-last in the league when it comes to possession numbers. That shouldn't happen with guys like Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon.
23 22 35-39-8, 78 points: The Coyotes officially announced that GM Don Maloney has been relieved of his duties. Whoever the new general manager will be is hoping his first big decision will be easy: Taking Auston Matthews with the No. 1 overall pick.
24 24

35-36-11, 81 points: The Sabres are in position to draft high once again, which certainly isn't a bad thing for a team still on the rebuild. With Jack Eichel having a year under his belt, and Evander Kane and Ryan O'Reilly getting accustomed to the system, they should be much better next year.

25 25

35-40-7, 77 points: No team allowed more goals this season than the Flames, who gave up 260. Disappointing number — and season — after they acquired Dougie Hamilton to help strengthen their blue line.

26   26

35-39-8, 78 points: Great news for the Jets as the season ended as Kyle Connor, a Hober Baker Award finalist, announced he will sign an entry-level contract with the team instead of going back to Michigan for his senior season. They're on the rise.

27 28 34-40-8, 76 points: Finally, the season has ended for the Blue Jackets. Every single member of that organization needs to get as far away from the rink as possible and rid themselves of the bad taste, given the expectations heading into the year, before game-planning for 2016-17.
28 27

31-38-13, 75 points: Henrik Sedin summed up the season for the Canucks, who finished with a league-worst minus-52 goal differential, perfectly. When asked if he was happy that they ended the season on a win, he responded: "I'm happy it's over."

29   29

31-43-8, 70 points: Year 1 of the Connor McDavid era is in the books, and the Oilers may never experience a season like this with him on the roster.

30   30

29-42-11, 69 points: This was actually a successful year for the Maple Leafs. They loaded up on draft picks at the trade deadline, they got many of their young guys some valuable NHL experience, and they finished last in the league, guaranteeing a top-three draft pick in June.

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

Oilers, Blackhawks' play-in round opponent, release training camp roster

Oilers, Blackhawks' play-in round opponent, release training camp roster

Sunday afternoon, the Edmonton Oilers released their Phase 3 training camp roster. Training camps begin on Monday for teams competing in the NHL's 24-team playoffs under the league's Return To Play program. 

The Blackhawks, who were at No. 12 in the Western Conference at the time of the NHL pause on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will face the No. 5 Oilers starting Aug. 1 at Edmonton in a best-of-five qualifying round. 

Related: Oiler's Mike Green opts out of NHL's Return To Play program

Edmonton invited 33 players to attend their Return To Play camp.

Forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl headline the team's roster. Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith are among the five goalies listed.

Western Conference teams will head to Edmonton's ICE District hub to prepare for the postseason tournament on July 26.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Blackhawks news and analysis.

How Blackhawks' Corey Crawford's career prepared him for Oilers series

How Blackhawks' Corey Crawford's career prepared him for Oilers series

When the Blackhawks signed Vezina trophy finalist Robin Lehner to a one-year deal last offseason, many thought that would be it for Corey Crawford. They thought Lehner would run away as the No. 1 goalie in Chicago and Crawford would disappear.

Those who still doubt Crawford, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Hawks, haven't watched his career very closely. 

Just as he battled to lead the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup championship in 2015 after suffering an off-ice lower-body injury and just as he battled back to be a reliable last line of defense after multiple concussions the last couple seasons, he battled for the Hawks' net this season. 

Related: How will long layoff affect goalies in NHL's 24-team postseason?

NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes thinks it's that experience of battling and repeatedly finding his game after long layoffs from injuries that could make him a dangerous opponent for the Edmonton Oilers in the best-of-five qualifying round in the NHL's 24-team postseason kicking off Aug. 1 at Edmonton, assuming Crawford is the Hawks' starting goalie. The Blackhawks begin their training camp for the postseason on Monday.

"For somebody that hasn't gone through (injuries) before, there's so many unknowns and then maybe there's question marks and the mental elevator starts creeping up at times in ways that aren't helpful," Weekes, a former NHL goalie, told NBC Sports Chicago over the phone. "But the fact that he's had that experience in battling back from injury and coming back a long way and having extended layoffs, this isn't foreign to him. 

"So in that respect, it should be beneficial in a weird way and also give him the chance to heal up and rest up even more by way of this extended pause. I think that those things play in his favor. Those things should be playing in his favor for sure."

Related: How Blackhawks can beat Oilers with 'wealth of success' in qualifying round

This year, Crawford competed hard for the No. 1 goalie role. Leading up to the NHL pause on March 12, he had made 39 starts (16-20-3) and had a goals-against average of 2.77 with a .917 save percentage before the Hawks traded Lehner to the Vegas Golden Knights ahead of the trade deadline. With the Blackhawks, Lehner made 31 starts (16-10-5) and had a goals-against average of 3.01 and a .918 save percentage. Both tenders' numbers were hurt by an often struggling Hawks defense this year.

"I've always been a huge advocate of Crow. Crow's had an excellent run in Chicago," Weekes said. "I think the biggest challenge for him, which we all know, which isn't a state secret, (there's) just been some health challenges and he always battles back. Crow's a guy that'll battle and he's been able to come a long way back and rediscover his game, which is hard to do after layoffs, let alone multiple ones. 

"And I think this year, once he got back, talking to their goalie coach in Jimmy Waite and you got to credit Jimmy because he's put in so much work to be able to regroup Crow, numerous times. So this season specifically, when he first started, it was a little bit of a slow start as expected because he had such an extended layoff. 

Related: What's Blackhawks' key to victory over Oilers in NHL play-in series?

"But, I really think with them having Robin Lehner, it really helped because they didn't have to throw Crow right into the fire. And then Crow hit his stride and he's playing really well. ... He's played really well, coming down the stretch he looked excellent as well and that's great news for the Hawks because they're going to need him, especially in a shorter series in this play-in round against Edmonton and the fact that Crow has the experience that he does, he's played in huge games. 

"He's played in, obviously, Stanley Cup (finals). He's a winner, he's not afraid of the big stage. He's not afraid to play in a place like Chicago, he thrives on that and not to mention, internationally for Team Canada. I think where they're concerned, as far as his ability and his talent, he just looks like himself right now, which is great news for the Hawks and I know that his teammates have a lot of confidence in him so as long as he's able to... I know he's been on the ice, as long as he's healthy and feeling good they've got a good shot because he's been there before and he's done it before. 

"It's a unique opportunity for him and for his team, but he can lean on that experience of having played in big spots like the Stanley Cup Final and playoffs for years. That could be an advantage for the Hawks actually in that respect."

It's not clear who will start in net yet for the Oilers. Mikko Koskinen was 18-13-3 this year with a 2.75 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage and Mike Smith was 19-12-6 with a 2.95 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage. 

Although some of their numbers may measure up to Crawford's, neither goalie's journey can compare to his.

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