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

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks offense finally opens things up as Patrick Kane starts streaking

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks offense finally opens things up as Patrick Kane starts streaking

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis break down the changes made to the Hawks defensive zone coverage (1:50) and Patrick Kane’s current points streak (7:30). They also discuss how most of the players that have been scratched recently have had bounce-back efforts (11:20), as well as the improved play of Erik Gustafsson (18:12) and both special teams units (20:16). Plus, the debut of “Checkpoint Charlie," where Charlie gives us a taste of life on the road and his encounter with Chris Rock’s brother (29:00).

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 

 

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Jeremy Colliton explains schematic change and why Blackhawks made it

Jeremy Colliton explains schematic change and why Blackhawks made it

The Blackhawks made a schematic change after their four-game road trip and they've seen the benefits of it immediately. They're 2-0-1 in their past three games and have scored 12 goals over that stretch.

We broke down on Monday what changes were made systematically and how it has freed up the offense, but head coach Jeremy Colliton elaborated on it Tuesday and explained the reasoning behind the decision.

"All it is is, our weak side forward, we pushed him up higher in defensive zone coverage," Colliton said. "Before, we had four low a lot of times, to try and overload in certain situations. That's good, it gets you out of D-zone, but the problem is when you win the puck back, a lot of times you're very close together and it's harder to make clean plays, it's harder to exit with space to make plays. So we were having trouble entering the zone.

"There's been a lot of talk about how we have been dumping too many pucks in. Well, we're not trying to dump the puck in, but when you're attacking and you don't have numbers, you don't have space in behind, you have to, you're forced too. I think we're doing a much better job of getting from D-zone clean, because we have a forward a little bit higher, there's a little more space, it happens quicker. And then I think we've done a good job with the low three [of] someone jumping by and then we can create a little bit more space off the rush and we don't have to chip it in. We can enter clean, make some plays and I think the guys are doing very well."

Patrick Kane, who has erupted for seven points (four goals, three assists) in the past three games since the change, sees the change opening up more opportunities for the Blackhawks on offense.

"I think a lot of us probably stressed that there wasn't as much flow to it, for whatever reason that was," Kane said. "They made a change and all of a sudden it seems like we have more options coming out of our end, we have more motion, more speed coming out of our end, which is always a good thing."

The Blackhawks' dump-in rate, as Colliton noted, has been much higher this season and it’s noteworthy because they generated a lot of their offense off the rush last season from mid-December and on. But what we didn’t know was the exact reason why the Blackhawks altered the way they entered the offensive zone.

Aside from the obvious answer of cutting down on neutral zone turnovers and limiting the amount of odd-man rushes against, Colliton notes the Blackhawks were forced to dump it in more because they weren’t entering the zone with numbers. The defensive scheme didn’t really allow them to.

But with the recent fundamental change, the Blackhawks have more options to exit their own zone cleanly, pick up speed through the neutral zone and do what they do best: by carrying the puck in and having more freedom to create offense. It’s something the coaching staff and players discussed with each other, and the consensus is it will maximize the talent of this group.

"We kind of felt it was time," Colliton said. "I mean, we're always talking with them for sure and guys, they want to score more. They want to produce, guys want to make plays. And so we're just trying to find the balance. We want to continue to work on being good defensively, but we've got to score more than them. I think we can still hold onto those defensive gains we've made and score more goals."

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