Blackhawks

NHL Power Rankings: Midseason MVP for all 30 teams

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NHL Power Rankings: Midseason MVP for all 30 teams

The NHL has officially surpassed the halfway point of the regular season, with 631 games down and 599 left to go.

The Capitals remain in firm control of the Eastern Conference, and have yet to lose back-to-back games in regulation. Meanwhile in the West, the Stars are clinging on to the top seed of the Western Conference, with the Blackhawks just four points behind and the Kings not far either (seven points) with three games in hand.

In a special edition of this week's Power Rankings, let's take a look at each team's first half MVP.

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
 

Rank Team
Last Week Record/Comment
1 1

32-7-3, 67 points: Alex Ovechkin. Braden Holtby is on a torrid run, but Ovechkin is playing the best all-around hockey of his career and it's rubbing off on everyone. He's missed one game this season and in that game, the Capitals lost 5-0. They go as he goes.

2   3

26-12-3, 55 points: Drew Doughty. He logs the third-most minutes (28:00 per game) in the league and anchors the best defense in the West all while putting up ridiculous possession numbers (Kings control 58.3 percent of even-strength shot attempts when he's on the ice).

3 4

26-12-4, 56 points: Jaromir Jagr. Aleksander Barkov is emerging as a legitimate No. 1 center, but the 43-year-old Jagr is the heart and soul of a Panthers team that has won a franchise-record 12 games in a row.

4
 

27-13-4, 58 points: Patrick Kane. The Blackhawks are 1-5-0 and have been outscored 17-5 this season in games when Kane is held without a point. He's the front-runner to win the Hart Trophy. Corey Crawford deserves honorable mention.

5
 

29-11-4, 62 points: Jamie Benn. The reigning Art Ross Trophy winner, who will surely be in the thick of that race all season long again, is the driving force on a Stars team that owns the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

6  

24-14-7, 55 points: Vladimir Tarasenko. Jake Allen makes a strong case, but it's hard to imagine where the Blues, who have been plagued all year by injuries, would be without Tarasenko. He's arrived as an elite player in this league.

7  

22-12-8, 52 points: Ryan Suter. At 30 years of age, Suter is quietly having a Norris Trophy-type season. He ranks second on the team in points (27) and averages 28:24 of ice time per game, which ranks second-best in the league.

8   10 

22-13-7, 51 points: Pavel Datsyuk. Dylan Larkin may be having a better season, but Datsyuk filled a gaping hole at the second line center position when he returned to the lineup. They control 57.1 percent of even-strength shot attempts when he's on the ice.

9  

23-17-3, 49 points: Max Pacioretty. The Canadiens really missed Brendan Gallagher (18-6-2 when he's in the lineup vs. 5-11-1 without), but their captain continues to put up solid possession numbers and is keeping this team afloat without Carey Price.

10  

22-15-5, 49 points: Frans Nielsen. In a surprisingly down year for John Tavares, Nielsen is on pace to score a career-high in goals despite taking just 28.4 percent of faceoffs in the offensive zone. His role has been vital to the Islanders' success on a penalty kill unit that ranks No. 2.

11   12 

21-17-4, 46 points: Viktor Hedman. His numbers are down, but his production is not. The Lightning are controlling 56.6 percent of even-strength shot attempts when he's on the ice, a fairly significant leap from last year's career-best 54.6 percent.

12   17 

20-16-5, 45 points: Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins are starting to play the right way under Mike Sullivan, and had it not been for Fleury, they would've had a much bigger hole to climb out of.

13   15

22-14-5, 49 points: Ryan McDonagh. The Rangers, who rank near the bottom in possession numbers, sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division due in large part to a strong blue line led by McDonagh.

14
 
11 

21-14-5, 47 points: Patrice Bergeron. He has 38 points in 40 games this season, on pace to break his career high (73) set in 2005-06, and is always a favorite to win the Selke Trophy. 

15
 
14 

21-17-5, 47 points: Cory Schneider. The starting netminder has posted stellar numbers this season: 2.09 goals against average, .926 save percentage and three shutouts. His record (18-13-5) doesn't match the numbers, but he's the sole reason the Devils are hanging in.

16   13 

19-16-7, 45 points: Shea Weber and Roman Rosi. These two go hand-in-hand. The All-Star defensemen have kept the Predators in the playoff race despite a dried up offense and a struggling Pekka Rinne.

17   26 

21-19-3, 45 points: Matt Duchene. After recording just two points in his first 10 games, Duchene has been a point-per-game player since, with 35 points in 33 games and has helped the Avalanche climb back into the playoff hunt.

18   16  

17-17-7, 41 points: John Gibson. The Ducks netminder is living up to the hype, posting a 9-6-2 record with a 1.84 goals against average, .926 save percentage and four shutouts this season. He's saving them from falling into the basement.

19
 
19 

18-18-7, 43 points: Justin Faulk. Doesn't have the best possession numbers on a club that ranks in the top five in that category, but he's reliable at both ends of the ice and logs heavy minutes. 

20
 
23 

21-16-4, 46 points: Oliver Okman-Larsson. The most underrated star in the league leads the Coyotes in ice time average (25:07) by more than three minutes. He plays in every situation, and leads the team with five game-winning goals.

21
 
22

18-15-7, 43 points: Michal Neuvirth. He's 9-5-2 this season with a 2.12 goals against average, .934 save percentage and three shutouts. Not bad for a "backup" goaltender on an average defensive team.

22   18  20-17-6, 46 points: Erik Karlsson. The Senators very well could be battling for the No. 1 overall pick if it weren't for Erik Karlsson, who leads the NHL in ice time (28:36 per game) and points among defensemen (45). He's the Norris Trophy favorite.
23   20  19-18-2, 40 points: Joe Pavelski. While Brent Burns is equally deserving, Pavelski has a league-leading seven game-winning goals and is the main engine to the Sharks' success.
24   21 

19-19-2, 40 points: Johnny Gaudreau. The Flames came alive in the month of December solely because of the breakout by Gaudreau, who scored 12 goals and six assists in 13 games, which included three game-winners.

25   24 

16-16-10, 42 points: Daniel and Henrik Sedin. The twins rank Nos. 1 and 2 on the Canucks in points this season (38 for Daniel, 34 for Henrik), which is 12 points better than the third-best on the club.

26   25 

19-20-3, 41 points: Blake Wheeler. Perhaps an All-Star in any other division (due to the new format), Wheeler has 41 points in 42 games with the Jets controlling 54.7 percent of even-strength shot attempts when he's on the ice.

27   27 

16-17-7, 39 points: Jake Gardiner. Dion Phaneuf and Gardiner anchor the top pairing, but it's the latter who's doing the heavy lifting. Toronto controls 54.1 percent of even-strength shot attempts when they're together. That number drops to 44.1 percent for Phaneuf when they're apart; Gardiner's is 53.4 percent.

28   28 

17-23-3, 37 points: Taylor Hall. He has five game-winning goals and leads the Oilers with 41 points, stepping up big time without Connor McDavid, who's expected to return after the All-Star Game.

29   29 

16-22-4, 36 points: Ryan O'Reilly. He leads the Sabres in goals (17) and points (36), and has helped take lots of pressure off Jack Eichel during his rookie season. 

30   30 

15-24-3, 34 points: Brandon Saad. The former Blackhawks winger leads the Blue Jackets in goals (16) and is tied for the team-lead in points (30). His versatility allows him to play on any of the four lines.

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

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

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AP

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.”

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

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USA TODAY

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

The wait is almost over.

After missing nearly 10 months with a concussion, Corey Crawford said he expects to start on Thursday when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center. An official decision will come following the team's morning skate.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. ... It was a pretty long process. But I think the most important thing was not to rush anything. When I finally was out, it got to a point where I wasn’t in shape to play and it was time to rest and it’s unfortunate it took a lot longer than I would’ve liked. 

"It’s been long, but finally, just to get back and be practicing with the team has meant a lot. It’s good to get to this point now when you’re really close to playing. Practices have been great, been getting timing a little bit more and getting up to speed and reading shots and all that, so it'll be nice to finally get in one."

Crawford's last appearance in an NHL game was Dec. 23, 2017 against the New Jersey Devils when he allowed three goals on seven shots in 13:22 of action before getting pulled. So of course, emotions will naturally be running high, especially in front of the hometown crowd.

"I'm sure I'll be a little anxious getting into it," Crawford said. "Some nerves. But we'll see. We'll wait until the morning, but I'm definitely excited I can tell you that."

It's obviously terrific news for the Blackhawks, who have picked up eight out of a possible 10 points to start the season and are getting their two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie back between the pipes. It's been a long time coming, and Crawford is coming back into a healthy situation where the Blackhawks are in a good spot in the standings.

"It's great news, I'm sure it'll be exciting for him exciting for our team, exciting for our fans and the organization as well," Patrick Kane said. "It’s probably a good situation all around. Cam [Ward] has done a great job of playing in the net so far. Crow is really good in practice right now, so I’m sure he’s itching to get back, too. We’ve had a good start here. It’s something we want to keep going, and I’m sure him coming back on home ice, in front of our crowd, will be a fun one for him and for our team."

There's no doubting how important Crawford is the team and organization. While there may be a little bit of rust early on, the Blackhawks are expecting him to look like his old self.

"He means a lot to the team," Quenneville said. "We felt last year was a good example of how important he was and how well he was playing for us, as well. We’ve gotten off to a decent start and he was a big factor in it. We know that goaltending is such a big part of the team and your success a lot of nights depends on him and his consistency’s always been in place.

"But he looks good in the net. He’s been off for a long, long time. Is there rust? Do we expect rust? I think the way he’s competing and practicing and finding pucks, he looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. So we’re looking forward to him getting in there and getting comfortable and how he’s feeling going forward will dictate a lot of the decisions about him going back in."