Blackhawks

NHL Power Rankings: Capitals, Ducks fighting for top spot

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NHL Power Rankings: Capitals, Ducks fighting for top spot

The Ducks have won 18 of their last 20 games, including 11 straight, propelling to the top of the Pacific Division. Staying in the West, the Blackhawks, Blues and Stars are each separated by two points for No. 1 in the Central Division.

Meanwhile in the East, the Capitals are the first team to reach the 100-point mark this season, and did so in just 65 games.

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

 

Rank Team
Last Week Record/Comment
1 1

48-13-4, 100 points: The Capitals are the first team to reach the 100-point mark this season, and did so in just 65 games. And guess what? The Capitals and Ducks play each other on Monday. That will be a fun one.

2   2 37-19-8, 82 points: The Ducks are 18-1-1 in their last 20 games, and have won a franchise-record 11 consecutive games. What an incredible turnaround after starting the season 1-7-2.
3
 
3

41-21-5, 87 points: Patrick Kane established a new career-high by picking up his 89th point of the year, set in 2009-10. There are still 15 games left in the season.

4 5

39-22-4, 82 points: That's now nine straight victories for the Lightning, who have allowed just 11 goals during their winning streak. Also, Jonathan Drouin's suspension was lifted and he will report to the AHL. A smart decision.

5   4

38-22-4, 80 points: The Kings have outshot their opponents in 19 of the last 20 games, further proving that they're the league's best puck possession team. Wednesday's contest against the Capitals is another game circled on the calendars of hockey fans.

6   7 38-20-9, 85 points: The Blues are 9-2-1 in their last 12 road games, including three straight wins. They are now just two points behind Chicago and Dallas for the Central Division lead.
7    10 36-20-7, 79 points: The Islanders have gone into Madison Square Garden three times this season, and have come away with wins in each of them. They still have one more meeting there on April 7, but if we're lucky, there could be more.
8 6 38-22-6, 82 points: The Rangers have gone nearly three months without losing back-to-back games, which is in jeopardy on Tuesday when they battle Buffalo. Henrik Lundqvist has missed the last two games with neck spasms. 
9   8

34-23-8, 76 points: Evgeni Malkin has four goals and three assists since returning to the lineup on Feb. 27, helping the Penguins win four of their last six games.

10   36-21-8, 80 points: After missing the last six games due to an upper-body injury, Jonathan Huberdeau will return to the Panthers lineup and provide a much-need boost for a slumping team, which went 2-3-1 in his absence.
11   12 33-21-12, 78 points: Is there a scarier potential wild card opponent than the Predators? They're starting to click on all cylinders, having earned at least a point in 12 consecutive games.
12   13 40-20-7, 87 points: After jumping out to a 28-8-3 record, the Stars are 12-12-4 since the calendar flipped to 2016. They picked up a pair of nice wins last week against New Jersey and Ottawa, and killed off all six penalties, an area Dallas ranks No. 20 at 79.7 percent.
13   15

36-23-7, 79 points: Only two other players have more goals than Brad Marchand (33): Patrick Kane (38) and Alex Ovechkin (41).

14   11 32-22-11, 75 points: Petr Mrazek has struggled as of late, and got the quick hook Sunday against the Blackhawks. Jimmy Howard relieved him nicely, and he's expected to start on Tuesday vs. Columbus.
15   14

35-23-6, 76 points: After two road games against Calgary and Edmonton, the Sharks will then play nine of their next 10 games at home, where they are 12-14-3 compared to 23-9-3 on the road.

16   16

31-26-10, 72 points: The Wild bounced back from their three-game losing streak by stringing together four consecutive wins before falling to St. Louis on Sunday.

17 17  33-30-4, 70 points: Avalanche coach Patrick Roy called out Semyon Varlamov, who's allowed at least three goals in his last three outings, by saying "it's time for Varlamov to step up." Seems a bit unfair considering his dominant December and January is what propelled Colorado to a wild card spot in the first place.
18   19

30-23-11, 71 points: The Flyers are quietly 6-2-1 in their last nine games, and continue to rack up points by pushing games to overtime or a shootout. The bad news is, they're not winning many of them as they're tied for the league lead in shootout losses (6).

19   18

30-30-6, 66 points: The Canadiens went 0-3-1 during their four-game road trip, and allowed a combined 16 goals in those games. Carey Price can't get back soon enough, but even he may not be able to save what's left of this Montreal season.

20   20

29-26-11, 69 points: The Hurricanes have collected three of four points since the trade deadline that saw captain Erik Staal, Kris Versteeg and John Michael-Liles change sweaters. The future is bright in Carolina.

21 21 

31-29-7, 69 points: The Senators have allowed at least one power play goal in five of their last six games, which has been a season-long issue. Their penalty kill percentage is now at 73.8, the second-worst in the league.

22   22 31-29-7, 69 points: Cory Schneider will miss at least the next two weeks with an MCL sprain, which couldn't have come at a worse time with the Devils seven points out of the final wild card spot in the East. They allowed six goals on 30 shots in a 6-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday.
23   23 28-31-6, 62 points: The Coyotes got back in the win column after beating the Panthers 5-1 on Saturday, their first win since Feb. 18.
24   24

27-31-8, 62 points: The Blue Jackets haven't lost back-to-back games in regulation since Jan. 19 and 21, meaning they're putting losses behind them quickly. But this is shades of last year's team when the pressure is off with a playoff berth out of reach.

25 25

26-31-9, 61 points: Marcus Foligno snapped a seven-game point drought with a three-point night in Thursday's 6-3 win over Calgary. It was his second multi-point game of the season.

26   26

25-27-12, 62 points: The Canucks went 3-for-7 on the power play to beat San Jose 4-2 on Saturday. It's the second time this season they've scored three power-play goals in a game.

27   29

26-35-7, 59 points: Connor McDavid scored the only two goals for Edmonton, including the overtime winner, in his first of many meetings against Jack Eichel. The future is here.

28 27

27-34-4, 58 points: The Flames ended a seven-game losing streak by knocking off Pittsburgh on Saturday, their first win since Feb. 19. It was also just their second win in the last 12 games.

29   29

27-33-5, 59 points: Mark Scheifele was named the NHL's second star of the week after scoring six goals and an assist in four games, including his first career hat trick in Saturday's win over Montreal.

30   30

21-33-10, 52 points: The best stat of last week: Brooks Laich assisted on William Nylander's first career NHL goal and also assisted on Michael Nylander's final NHL goal.

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

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”