Blackhawks

NHL Power Rankings: Penguins dethrone Capitals at No. 1

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NHL Power Rankings: Penguins dethrone Capitals at No. 1

For 18 straight weeks, the Capitals held the No. 1 spot in this space. With less than a week remaining in the regular season, they're not anymore.

The Penguins have won six consecutive games and 12 of their past 13, led by rookie goaltender Matt Murray, who was named the NHL's third star of the week after posting a 3-0-0 record with a 1.95 goals against average, .929 save percentage and a shutout in Marc-Andre Fleury's absence.

Meanwhile in the West, the Stars (without Tyler Seguin) and the Blues (now without David Backes and Jake Allen) are still battling for the top seed in the Central Division.

In the Pacific, the Ducks have overtaken the No. 1 seed from the Kings, but there's still one more matchup between the two of them before the regular-season concludes. 

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

 

Rank Team
Last Week Record/Comment
1 4

46-25-8, 100 points: There isn't a team playing better hockey right now than the Penguins, who have won 12 of their last 13, including six straight; eight of those wins are against teams currently in the playoffs. Matt Murray was named the NHL's third star of the week after going 3-0-0 with a 1.95 goals against average, .929 save percentage and a shutout in Marc-Andre Fleury's absence.

2   2 47-23-9, 103 points: David Backes and Jake Allen will miss the rest of the regular season due to lower-body injuries, and will be re-evaluated before the playoffs. The hits keep coming, but with a potential Chicago-St. Louis first-round matchup on the horizon, this couldn't have come at a worse time.
3 1 55-17-6, 116 points: The Capitals are 2-2-1 in their last five games, and their next four will surely get them ready for the postseason: vs. N.Y. Islanders, vs. Pittsburgh, at St. Louis, vs. Anaheim.
4 5

44-24-10, 98 points: The Ducks scored two shorthanded goals in a 3-1 win over Dallas on Sunday, which propelled them to first in the Pacific Division. They've now won four of their last five games, but Thursday's matchup against Los Angeles may decide the division.

5 6

48-23-9, 105 points: The Stars have won seven of their last nine games, including an impressive road win over Los Angeles over the weekend. Goaltending is still an issue for this team, but it's certainly improved as of late.

6   3 46-27-5, 97 points: The Kings have two wins in their last seven games, and have lost the Pacific Division lead to the Ducks, who they play on Thursday in their second-to-last game of the season.
7  8 46-26-7, 99 points: Patrick Kane all but locked up the Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy with a four-point performance against Boston over the weekend, while Artemi Panarin likely did the same with the Calder Trophy following back-to-back four-point performances.
8   9 44-25-9, 97 points: Vincent Trocheck is expected to miss the rest of the regular season and maybe even a round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a huge blow to a team that isn't quite as deep as others in the postseason.
9 7

45-28-5, 95 points: The Eastern Conference playoff bracket took a big turn after it was announced late Saturday night that Steven Stamkos will miss 1-3 months with a blood clot in his arm. There's no replacing him, but the only way you do is by calling up Jonathan Drouin.

10   10 39-26-14, 92 points: After headlining last week's power rankings that they are "peaking at the right time," the Predators are 0-3-1 in four games since then, and have given up at least three goals in each of those. They better be careful not to trend the wrong way.
11   13 44-29-6, 94 points: The roller-coaster season continues for the Sharks, who have three wins in their last four after losing three straight. This is a club that, when they get hot, they get crazy hot. But when they get cold, they get real cold. Which will it be in the first round?
12   11 43-26-9, 95 points: The Sabres chased Henrik Lundqvist after he allowed three goals on nine shots in fewer than 21 minutes of action on Saturday. The Rangers nearly came back and won, but it wasn't ideal for a team looking to head into the postseason with confidence.
13   15

39-26-13, 91 points: The Flyers are 13-4-2 in their last 19 games, yet are fighting for their lives in the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. They're one of only two teams currently in the playoff picture with a negative goal different (minus-5). Detroit is the other at minus-12.

14   14 42-26-9, 93 points: With Jaroslav Halak out, the Islanders have tailspun into a wild-card spot and are simply just trying to hang on to a playoff spot. Now, Travis Hamonic will miss time with a right knee injury and it doesn't look like he'll return any time soon. Jack Capuano called out his young players on Monday in an effort to jumpstart his team. Let's see if it works.
15   12

41-30-8, 90 points: Lots of speculation that Claude Julien's job may be in jeopardy if the Bruins miss the playoffs, yet many are also arguing he could win the Jack Adams Award if they clinch a playoff spot for the job he's done during a supposed retooling year. It'd be an overreaction to fire him at the end of the season if they do miss out.

16   17

40-28-11, 91 points: With the Bruins losing seven of their last nine games, the Red Wings have crept into the No. 3 spot in the Atlantic Division. Their final three games are against teams fighting for a playoff position: vs. Philadelphia, at Boston, at N.Y. Rangers.

17 16 38-31-11, 87 points: After winning six consecutive games, the Wild have followed that up by losing three straight with two games remaining. Luckily for them, the Avalanche are five points away from catching them in the second wild-card spot.
18 18

34-29-16, 84 points: The Hurricanes spoiled Erik Staal's return to Carolina by beating the Rangers 4-3 on Thursday. If the hockey gods have watched this team all season, they'll reward the Hurricanes with a high position in the NHL Draft.

19   20 36-34-9, 81 points: Erik Karlsson is not making the Norris Trophy decision easy for voters. He's have a season for the ages with 79 points in 79 games, but the Senators are near the bottom of the league in points. Will that be his downfall?
20   19

39-36-4, 82 points: Patrick Roy called out Matt Duchene for celebrating his 30th goal of the season despite being down 4-0 on Sunday. Roy then admitted the Avalanche need to change their "losing mindset." Is he the one that can do it? 

21 21

37-34-8, 82 points: The Devils have been outshot in their last 10 games, and own a 4-5-1 record during that span. With or without Corey Schneider, who returned on Saturday, it's hard to win that way.

22   22 35-36-7, 77 points: Auston Matthews took in the Coyotes game over the weekend to watch the team he grew up watching. Wonder if he'll be on the ice during the next one. It'd be a perfect fit and story for both sides.
23   23 36-37-6, 78 points: The Canadiens recalled All-Star MVP John Scott for the remainder of the season, giving Montreal something to cheer about during a disaster second half of the season.
24 24

33-35-11, 77 points: The Sabres are quietly putting together a strong finish, which is crucial for a young team taking some momentum into next season.

25 25

33-40-6, 72 points: Joni Ortio registered his first career NHL shutout in a 5-0 win over the Oilers on Saturday, stopping all 28 shots he faced. 

26   26

32-39-8, 72 points: Jets prospect Kyle Connor was named a Hobey Baker Award finalist last week after a sensational freshman season at Michigan. There's a lot of be excited about in Winnipeg.

27   29 29-36-13, 71 points: The Canucks won't go down without a fight, picking up back-to-back road wins on consecutive nights against divisional foes San Jose and Anaheim last week. 
28 28

31-39-8, 70 points: Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno was demoted to the fourth line and Scott Hartnell will be a healthy scratch on Monday. The finish line is so close, yet so far away.

29   26

30-43-7, 67 points: Following a 5-0 loss to Calgary over the weekend, Todd McClellan ripped the Oilers' effort by saying, "That's the exact crap we're trying to eradicate from this group." Setting the tone for next season.

30   30

28-39-11, 67 points: Listen, the Maple Leafs may be the worst team in the league, but you can't accuse them of not bringing it on a nightly basis. This is the kind of attitude Mike Babcock has instilled in this team. 

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

Four takeaways: 'Vintage' Corey Crawford steals two points for Blackhawks

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AP

Four takeaways: 'Vintage' Corey Crawford steals two points for Blackhawks

COLUMBUS — Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday:

1. Corey Crawford steals the show

The Blackhawks had no business winning this game. They were being outshot 28-15 through two periods, committed four penalties and gave up 18 high-danger chances in the game. 

But Crawford bailed out his team like he often has done in the past, and was zoned in from the moment the puck dropped. He finished with 37 saves on 38 shots for a save percentage of .974, picking up his first win since Dec. 17, 2017.

"Yeah, I felt good," Crawford said. "I think everyone was playing hard, rebounds, taking away sticks. That was a great effort by everyone."

"He was standing on his head for us," Patrick Kane said. "As Q would say, that’s a goalie win for us."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was vintage Crow."

2. Tic-tac-toe leads to go-ahead goal

The Blue Jackets were clearly the better team through two periods. The Blackhawks were fortunate to go into second intermission with the game still tied at 1-1.

The next goal was crucial, and they got it thanks to a Marcus Kruger redirection goal. The next one was the dagger, a beautiful give-and-go play by Brent Seabrook and Kane, who buried home a wide open net to give the Blackhawks a 3-1 lead with 4:14 left in regulation.

Was Kane expecting Seabrook to pass it back?

"No. Not a chance," Kane said laughing. "That’s his wheelhouse, coming right down there. He scores a lot of goals from that area. Saw it was like a 2-on-2, he was coming late, he jumped in the play on the first goal, did a great job, jumped in the play on that goal. Made a great pass. When I saw it come back, I just tried to stay patient, settle it down and make sure I hit the net, because I knew I had the whole open net."

3. Busy night for PK

The Blackhawks penalty kill was very busy. It was also on it's A-game, partly because their best penalty killer was Crawford.

The Blackhawks spent 6:31 of the first 40 minutes killing penalties, allowing 11 shots total on it. But most importantly, they killed off all four penalties.

"We had some tough clears, but I thought we did some good things," Quenneville said. "We withstood some extended PK zone time there and found a way to keep us in the game. Obviously that next goal was huge and that second period was a big part of them having so much zone time, keeping us in our end. We'll say, hey good job, but Crow was the best penalty killer tonight."

4. Catching up with Kane on Artemi Panarin

Kane and Panarin spent only two seasons together, but they brought Blackhawks fans out of their seats on a nightly basis and it was amazing to watch the instant on-ice chemistry they shared. And most of it was non-verbal, which made it even more impressive. They were always on the same wavelength.

"Sometimes it takes time to build some chemistry but that was one of those things where it was like, I don't want to say instant chemistry, but after one or two preseason games we kind of new that maybe something special was going to happen," Kane told NBC Sports Chicago. "I think he scored in his first game in the NHL, we had a really good game, we had the puck a lot, we sensed that this could be a fun way to play hockey."

Off the ice, Kane said Panarin would use Google translate on his phone to communicate while Kane would try using a Russian accent while saying English words.

The two of them got a chance to hang out for a little bit on Friday and Kane still keeps tabs on his former linemate.

"I always really enjoy watching him," Kane said. "If we have an off night or something, he's a really fun player to watch."

Blackhawks and Blue Jackets both going through own challenges of Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad trade

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks and Blue Jackets both going through own challenges of Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad trade

COLUMBUS — The Blackhawks and Blue Jackets blockbuster trade from the 2017 offseason is always a hot topic in Chicago when things aren't going great. It especially is when the two teams square off against each other, like Saturday at Nationwide Arena for the first time this season.

If it wasn't already apparent in Chicago, Artemi Panarin has emerged as a real NHL superstar and is set for a giant payday when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2019. He set a Blue Jackets record with 82 points in a single season and has nine points (three goals, six assists) through six games this season.

Brandon Saad, on the other hand, had a challenging first year back with the Blackhawks in 2017-18 after netting only 35 points in 82 games and is off to a slow start this year as well with zero goals and two assists through six games. After a demotion to the fourth line, he was close to being a healthy scratch on Thursday, which only magnifies where things are at as the two get ready to clash.

But Saad was never going to be able to replace Panarin's offensive production. Everybody knows that. Yet, the offensive comparisons will always be there as a barometer and that's something Saad doesn't think about, no matter how much fans talk about it.

"I don't think I do it," he said. "We're different players. He's a great player. Fans are going to do whatever comparisons they want, but at the end of the day you've got to be true to yourself and do what you bring to the table. He's a great player around the league. You can see his highlights and his goals, he's definitely a special player. But at the end of the day I've got confidence in my abilities too. We both bring different attributes, but they're going to make comparisons regardless."

A big reason why the Blackhawks reacquired Saad, other than his ability to play a 200-foot game, is because he carries a $6 million cap hit through 2020-21, which is two years more than Panarin at the same cap hit. (It's also important to note that the Blackhawks hoped they were getting a reliable, young backup goaltender in Anton Forsberg, but the injury to Corey Crawford thrust him into a role he wasn't exactly prepared for.)

It's not all rainbows for Columbus right now regarding where things stand with Panarin, who has made it clear he's not ready to sign a long-term extension. All signs point to the 26-year-old winger hitting the market, putting the Blue Jackets in a tricky situation ahead of the trade deadline. The Blackhawks very well could have found themselves in this position, too, had a deal not been made.

Both sides are dealing with their own challenges of the trade. Saad is still a key piece to the Blackhawks' puzzle and they're hoping to get more out of him, for no other reason than the team's overall success.

"You want to have success regardless of who you're playing for, who you're traded for, things like that," Saad said. "Naturally, just as competitors, you want to bring that excitement and you want to have success with the team and personally."