Blackhawks

NHL Power Rankings: Panthers on a roll

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NHL Power Rankings: Panthers on a roll

The Panthers have won their last six games, leapfrogging Montreal, Boston and Detroit in a span of a week to the top of the Atlantic Division.

Meanwhile in the West, the Flames set a franchise record by winning their 11th straight game at home and look to continue climbing in the lowly Pacific Division.

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
 

Rank Team
Last Week Record/Comment
1 1

26-6-2, 54 points: The Capitals are 14-1-1 in their last 16 games, and are taking a seven-game winning streak into Buffalo, which begins a stretch of playing six of their next seven away from home.

2   2

27-7-3, 57 points: The Stars came away with seven of eight points during a four-game stretch against Central Division opponents, including shutout wins over Chicago and St. Louis.

3 4

21-11-2, 44 points: Anze Kopitar scored his third overtime goal of the season in Saturday's 4-3 win over Arizona, tying him for the league lead with Mikkel Boedker, Johnny Gaudreau, Shayne Gostisberhere and Jonathan Toews.

4
 
6

22-12-4, 48 points: The Blues entered the holiday break with a shutout win over Boston and returned from break with a nice comeback win over Dallas in a nine-round shootout.

5
 
11

20-12-4, 44 points: The Panthers have vaulted into the top spot of the Atlantic Division after winning their sixth straight win on Sunday. Aleksander Barkov has seven points in his last six games, including two game-winning goals.

6 5

20-13-4, 44 points: Patrick Kane was held pointless in back-to-back games for the first time since Oct. 14-15, right before he went on a 26-game point streak.

7   7

19-12-5, 43 points: Jaroslav Halak was placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury, a big blow to an Islanders team that was trending in the right direction defensively.

8   9

18-10-7, 43 points: The Red Wings have played 22 home games this season to just 13 road games. To even that out, 13 of their next 17 games will be on the road, including eight of their next nine.

9   3

19-12-4, 42 points: The Bruins, who have lost their last three games, will really be tested after losing leading-scorer David Krejci — listed as week-to-week — due to an upper-body injury. 

10   10

18-10-6, 42 points: Darcy Kuemper has helped the Wild pick up at least a point in his eight starts this season, improving his record to 4-0-4 with a 2.12 goals against average and .926 save percentage.

11   12

18-12-6, 42 points: The Senators have been outshot by 51 in their last three games combined, but have found a way to pick up three of six points. That's a microcosm of how their season's gone till this point.

12   13

18-15-3, 39 points: Nikita Kucherov has six goals and seven assists in 13 games this month, and currently owns a five-game point streak. Steven Stamkos has five goals in his last four games. Has the offense officially woken up?

13   14

20-12-4, 44 points: The Rangers have a tough stretch coming up against Nashville, Tampa Bay, Florida, Dallas, Washington and Boston. Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein are coming back at a perfect time.

14
 
15

17-12-6, 40 points: After missing 11 games with a lower-body injury, Mike Fisher will return to the lineup on Monday night, which should give the Predators a nice boost up the middle. Also, Shea Weber is tied for the second-most points (15) so far in December.

15
 
8

20-14-3, 43 points: Sure, the Canadiens miss Carey Price, but they've scored two goals or fewer in 12 of the 15 games since Brendan Gallagher went down with an injury. They scored at least three goals in each of their first nine games to start the season.

16   18

17-15-2, 36 points: Joe Pavelski has 10 points (five goals and five assists) in his last five games, including two game-winning goals during that stretch.

17   17

17-14-5, 39 points: The Devils have been outshot in 10 of their last 12 games, but Cory Schneider has helped them pick up at least a point in eight of those contests.

18   16

15-13-7, 37 points: Sean Couturier has nine points in 11 games this December. Had had five points total in the 18 games during the first two months of the season.

19
 
22

15-16-5, 35 points: The results are beginning to add up with the metrics that the Hurricanes aren't as bad as the standings indicate, owning a 7-3-1 record since Dec. 5 and remain a top-five puck possession team (controlling 53.1 percent of even-strength shot attempts).

20
 
27

17-16-2, 36 points: Johnny Gaudreau has five goals in his past two games, leading the Flames to a franchise record of 11 straight wins at home.

21
 
21

17-15-3, 37 points: The Penguins are controlling 55.8 percent of shot attempts at even strength when Trevor Daley is on the ice, an acquisition that has made an immediate impact for Mike Sullivan's group.

22   23 14-14-9, 37 points: The Canucks finally picked up their first win in 3-on-3 overtime with a 2-1 win over Edmonton on Saturday after going 0-7 to start out the season.
23   20 16-17-2, 34 points: The Jets haven't converted on the power play in 20 straight attempts, slipping to 29th in the league with a 13.6 percent success rate.
24   26

17-15-3, 37 points: The Coyotes have earned at least a point in six of their last seven games. Second-year goaltender Louis Domingue has helped ease the blow of losing Mike Smith with a 2-1-1 record, 2.30 goals against average, .925 save percentage and a shutout.

25   25

13-15-6, 32 points: The Ducks have only 13 goals in the second period this season, which ranks last in the NHL. Three teams are tied with 25 goals, which ranks second-to-last. That's a 12-goal difference from 30th to 29th.

26   19

17-17-2, 36 points: The Avalanche followed up an impressive five-game winning streak with a 7-4 loss to Toronto and a 2-1 overtime loss to Arizona. The ups and downs continue.

27   26

15-16-4, 34 points: Jack Eichel registered a career-high four points in his homecoming return to Boston, helping the Sabres overcome a 3-1 deficit to beat the Bruins 6-3 along the way.

28   29

13-14-7, 33 points: Jonathan Bernier has three wins in his last four starts after failing to pick up a win in his first 11 games. The Leafs are 5-1-2 in their last eight.

29   24

15-19-3, 33 points: The Oilers have one win in their last six games, yet are only four points out of third place in the lowly Pacific Division. Good news: Connor McDavid is skating, but his return date is still up in the air.

30   30

13-22-3, 29 points: John Tortorella called the Blue Jackets "embarrassing" and "weak mentally," which signifies a new low to a season full of them.

*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."