Blackhawks

NHL Power Rankings: Predators peaking at right time

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NHL Power Rankings: Predators peaking at right time

The Predators are 13-2-5 since Feb. 12, and are seriously threatening to take over the No. 3 seed from the Blackhawks in the Central Division. The Stars and Blues are neck-and-neck for the top spot after St. Louis recorded a franchise-record fourth straight shutout victory.

Meanwhile in the East, the Panthers knocked off the Lightning over the weekend to remain atop the Atlantic Division by two points. The Penguins also continued their winning ways with a dominant victory over the Red Wings and an overtime win over the Rangers, who may be their first-round opponent in the Stanley Cup 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

 

Rank Team
Last Week Record/Comment
1 1

53-16-5, 111 points: The Capitals can clinch home-ice advantage throughout the entire Stanley Cup playoffs with a win over Columbus on Monday, and it's not even April yet. That's how big of a cushion they've built.

2   4 45-22-9, 99 points: There may not be a team playing better hockey right now than the Blues, who haven't allowed a goal in four consecutive games, which is a new franchise record. No team wants a piece of them in the first round of the playoffs.
3 2 45-25-5, 95 points: The Kings went on a mini three-game road trip last week, and failed to come away with a point in all of them. They finished strong, however, with a 6-4 victory over Edmonton, improving their home record to 5-0-1 in their last six games.
4 5

42-25-8, 92 points: A month ago, the Penguins wanted no part of the Rangers in another playoff series. Now, they're practically inviting it. Sidney Crosby is making a legitimate push for the Hart Trophy after another dominant second half of the season; he has 21 goals and 28 assists in 38 games since the calendar flipped to 2016.

5 3

41-23-10, 92 points: There was an opening to pull even with or surpass the Kings, who lost three straight last week, atop the Pacific Division, but could only pick up one point against the lowly Canadiens and Maple Leafs. Still, they remain just three points behind with a game in hand on Los Angeles.

6   6 45-22-9, 99 points: The Stars have won four of their last five games, their most recent victory against San Jose despite getting outshot 36-17. They found a way to win, and with the playoffs right around the corner, it certainly won't be the last time they'll have to dig deep and win ugly.
7  7 43-27-5, 91 points: Anton Stralman suffered a broken leg over the weekend, which will force him to miss the rest of the regular season. Coach Jon Cooper didn't rule out a potential return in the playoffs, but nonetheless, it's a tough blow for a team with a real shot at getting back to the Stanley Cup Final.
8 8 44-25-7, 95 points: After picking up just two wins in their last nine games, the Blackhawks recorded back-to-back victories over the weekend to clinch a playoff spot for the eighth consecutive year, the third-longest active streak — Detroit (24 seasons) and Pittsburgh (9) — in the NHL. 
9 9

42-24-9, 93 points: The Panthers earned a pair of impressive victories against divisional foes last week (Boston and Tampa Bay) to remain atop the Atlantic Division by two points.

10   11 39-23-13, 91 points: The Predators are one of two teams this season to have more than one 30-goal scorer: Filip Forsberg (31) and James Neal (30). Who would've thought? Dallas is the other (Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin).
11   13 43-24-9, 95 points: The Rangers are 3-0-1 in their last four games, but all the attention is on the fact they've lost three straight games to a Penguins team they had previously dominated and may end up drawing in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
12   12 40-28-8, 88 points: Brad Marchand hasn't scored in eight consecutive games, and the Bruins have felt the effects of it. They're 2-5-1 during that span, and now find themselves peaking over their shoulder again with Detroit only three points away plus a game in hand.
13   10

41-28-6, 88 points: After winning eight out of their last 11 games, the Sharks have lost three in a row for the first time since early December, likely locking themselves in at the No. 3 seed in the Pacific with the Ducks up four points with a game in hand.

14   14 40-25-9, 89 points: The Islanders, who had previously lost four straight games, stayed above water last week by going 2-2, but they're certainly not safe in that first wild-card spot. 
15   15

36-25-13, 85 points: Claude Giroux left Saturday's game with a head injury, but luckily for the Flyers, he won't miss any time, which is good news. So is this: Their next three games will be at home, where they are 19-10-7 this season compared to 17-15-6 on the road.

16   17

37-28-11, 85 points: The Wild picked up a 4-0 victory Colorado over the weekend in a must-win situation, which was essentially a four-point swing in a tight battle for the final wild-card spot between the two teams. Zach Parise has seven points (five goals, two assists) in his last three games, including his third hat trick of the season.

17 16 37-27-11, 85 points: Detroit's playoff streak of 24 straight seasons is in serious jeopardy after losing to Pittsburgh 7-2 over the weekend at home. That's a difficult one to swallow at this time of the year.
18 21

33-28-15, 81 points: If there's one team that has deserved better fate this season, it's arguably the Hurricanes. They're four points away from the final wild-card spot in the East, but are up two games on the Flyers. Those 15 overtime losses means 15 more points were left on the table.

19   18 38-33-4, 80 points: The Avalanche wisely made the decision to reassign top prospect Mikko Rantanen after his ninth NHL game, saving the first year of his entry-level contract. The decision was probably made easier after Colorado got shut out by Minnesota 4-0 on Saturday, and now trail by five points for the final wild-card spot in the West.
20   19

34-33-9, 77 points: The Senators blew a 3-0 lead over the weekend, and fell to the Ducks 4-3 in overtime, extending their losing streak to three games. They're slipping further and further down the standings, which actually isn't a bad thing.

21 20

36-32-8, 80 points: Devils rookie goaltender Scott Wedgewood is on a nice little run right now: He's 2-1-1 with a 1.25 goals against average and .957 save percentage, including a shutout, in four straight starts since joining the Devils.

22   23 34-34-7, 75 points: The Coyotes won just three games (out of 14) in the month of February. They've won their last three straight, and own a 7-4-1 record in March. While it's not helping them for draft lottery purposes, it's a nice confidence builder to close out the regular season on a positive note.
23   22 34-36-6, 74 points: P.K. Subban has not played since suffering a scary neck injury on March 10, and it'd be wise to shut him down for the rest of the season. No reason he shouldn't take the extra time off and extended offseason to get 100 percent healthy. 
24 25

31-34-10, 72 points: Sam Reinhart has quietly put together a strong March. In 12 games this month, he has three goals and eight assists, and logged a career-high 22:54 of ice time against Calgary on March 3.

25 24

31-38-6, 68 points: After picking up a point in seven of their previous eight games, the Flames have lost three in a row and have allowed a combined 15 goals during their latest losing streak.

26   26

30-41-7, 67 points: Nail Yakupov reportedly requested a trade near the deadline, but a deal couldn't get ironed out. This is another case where both sides need a fresh start, a theme too common in Edmonton. He'll likely be traded this offseason, and the Oilers won't have any problem finding takers.

27   29 31-38-6, 68 points: The Jets followed up a 2-0 win over Vancouver with a 4-1 victory over Los Angeles last week behind stellar goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec, who allowed only one goal on 62 total shots.
28 28

30-37-8, 68 points: The Blue Jackets played one of their worst games of the season in a 5-1 loss to Nashville over the weekend, where they were outshot 48-19, which led to a 20-second postgame press conference by coach John Tortorella. Wonder if the end of the season presser will be shorter.

29   27

27-35-13, 67 points: The Canucks have lost eight consecutive games, and have been shut out in four of those. The end of the season can't come soon enough for them.

30   30

27-36-11, 65 points: Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock realizes his team has a real shot at landing the No. 1 overall pick (Auston Matthews), but they sure won't try to increase their odds by losing on purpose: "If you cheat the system, it cheats you." Admire that attitude, and hard to argue against it.

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

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

He’s back.

Corey Crawford was officially activated from injured reserve on Thursday and will start in goal for the first time since Dec. 23, 2017 when the Blackhawks host the Arizona Coyotes.

"It’s exciting," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I’m sure he’s looking forward to it and we’re all excited about it as well. It’ll be a fun situation for the guys, seeing him back in the net as well. So we’re looking for everyone to be excited about tonight’s game."

The two-time Stanley Cup champion was medically cleared to practice from his concussion on Oct. 1, but the Blackhawks wanted to give Crawford as much time as he needed to get his conditioning and puck-tracking skills up to game speed before putting him into game action.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said on Wednesday. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. It was a pretty long process. ... 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."

To make room for Crawford on the 23-man roster, the Blackhawks have assigned forward Luke Johnson to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Brandon Saad, who wore a white healthy scratch jersey all week at practice, will take his spot in the lineup.

For now, the Blackhawks will hang on to Anton Forsberg and carry three goaltenders as insurance as they get ready to start a seven-games-in-11-days stretch.

Crawford was 16-9-2 with a 2.27 goals against average, .929 save percentage and two shutouts in 28 games last season. The Blackhawks were 17-30-8 without him and finished last in the Central Division.

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: