Blackhawks

NHL Power Rankings: Who's on top entering 2015-16 season?

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NHL Power Rankings: Who's on top entering 2015-16 season?

The biggest challenge about putting together preseason NHL Power Rankings is separating where you believe teams stand entering the season as opposed to where you believe they'll finish.

Let's give it a crack anyways.
 
Check in with CSNChicago.com for updated rankings every Monday throughout the 2015-16 campaign.

 

Rank Team
Last Week Comment
1   -

Three Stanley Cups in six years, it's only fair the defending champions claim the No. 1 spot entering the year despite an offseason roster makeover.

2   -

The Lightning should be the favorites to win this year's Stanley Cup, returning with virtually the same roster. The big question is, will Steven Stamkos' contract talks — or lack thereof — be a distraction and get in the way of another deep postseason run?

3   -

With the additions of Carl Hagelin (speed), Kevin Bieksa (toughness), Chris Stewart (depth) and Shawn Horcoff (leadership), this is by far Bruce Boudreau's best team, on paper, in Anaheim. Time to put it together.

4   -

The Capitals may feel the loss of Mike Green on the blue line more than they think, but Vezina Trophy candidate Braden Holtby should help ease the pain. The acquisition of T.J. Oshie relieves some offensive pressure off Alex Ovechkin, while Justin Williams, aka Mr. Game 7, gives Washington a big-time player in big-time moments.

5   -

Sidney Crosby finally gets the right-winger he's never had in Phil Kessel, who may surpass 40 goals for the first time in his career. The issue for the Penguins isn't on the ice; it's staying there. They're healthy ... right now.

6   -

It's been a whirlwind offseason for the Kings, but a recharged and hungry group after missing the postseason following three deep playoff runs — which included two Stanley Cups — and the additional spark of Milan Lucic makes Los Angeles as dangerous a team in the West as any.

7   -

The Blues have nothing left to prove in the regular season, and everything to prove in the postseason. Which is why the acquisition of Troy Brouwer was a sneaky good trade. 

8   -

Coach Jim Blashill gives the Red Wings a much-needed breath of fresh air behind the bench. Durability (and goaltending) might be their biggest issue, but unlike last year, depth isn't a problem. If — and it's a big if — they can stay healthy, Detroit can hang with anyone.

9   -

The Rangers won't be in the mix for the President's Trophy this season after losing some scoring depth up front, but their defense and goaltending is still great enough to make them a contender in the East.

10   -

The Canadiens sneak in at No. 10, simply because Carey Price is that good, but he can only take his team — that struggles to score — so far. At 31, can Alexander Semin resemble that 40-goal scorer he once was in Washington? They need him to be.

11   -

Four-time 30-goal scorer Patrick Sharp joins a Stars offense that scored the second-most goals last year, and gets a healthy Valeri Nichushkin back. With that fire power on offense, Dallas' defense just needs to be average and they'll be a playoff team.

12   -

The Blue Jackets began last season with a 6-15-2 record and lost a league-high 508 man-games due to injuries yet still were within reaching distance of a playoff berth during the final weeks. The question isn't if they'll make the playoffs, it's if they can win their first round in franchise history.

13   -

The Islanders are a team that's ready to take the next step, but they didn't do much in the offseason to help. Can Jack Capuano lead them there? Retaining him during an offseason that saw Mike Babcock, Dan Bylsma and Todd McClellan on the market was bold. 

14   -

The Sharks may have something left in the tank before they officially enter rebuild mode. A new voice under coach Peter DeBoer, a nice top-six addition in Joel Ward, a reliable top-four veteran defenseman in Paul Martin and potential sleeper Martin Jones in net could make San Jose a surprise team in the Pacific Division.

15   -

The Flames were bound to take a step back after defying analytics last year, until GM Brad Treliving prevented that from happening with the acquisition of rising star Dougie Hamilton and reliable penalty killer Michael Frolik.

16   -

The Predators rival the Rangers for best defensive unit, but Nashville relied too heavily on rookie Filip Forsberg to score goals and it did nothing to address that in the offseason. Defense wins championships, but you have to put the puck in the net as well, especially in the Central Division.

17   -

Nobody knows exactly what the Bruins' plan was this offseason. The loss of Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton will certainly hurt, leaving 38-year-old Zdeno Chara as the sole anchor of the blue line. Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Tuukka Rask should (barely) keep them above water.

18   -

The Panthers are filled with youngsters ready to explode, led by 19-year-old defenseman Aaron Ekblad. If it all comes together at the same time, watch out. But there may be more growing pains.

19   -

Don't expect to see the same Devan Dubnyk that dominated the second half of last year, but also don't expect the guy who suffered a meltdown in the second round to the Blackhawks. The Wild lived and died by Dubnyk last season, and it may be more of the same this year. They go as he goes.

20   -

After a rough start, rookies Mark Stone and goaltender Andrew Hammond spearheaded the Senators into a playoff spot on the final day of the regular season after finishing the season on a remarkable 23-4-4 run. Can they replicate that?

21   -

The Jets are fighting an uphill battle in the NHL's toughest division that got even better. Ondrej Pavelec must respond to his career year last season with an even better one if Winnipeg has a shot at returning to the playoffs.

22   - The Avalanche were a terrible puck-possession team last season. A bounce back year from Nathan MacKinnon and puck-moving defenseman Francois Beauchemin should improve those numbers, but will it be enough to catapult Colorado back to relevancy?
23   -

Henrik and Daniel Sedin will be enough to keep the Canucks from hitting the basement. That's about it.

24   -

Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek will again lead the team in scoring, but it won't matter as the Flyers have too many questions with few answers.

25   -

Finally, the Oilers bring in a No. 1 overall pick to a healthy environment under new leadership in GM Peter Chiarelli and coach Todd McClellan. Connor McDavid will change life in Edmonton.

26   -

There are still many holes on this roster that will take time to fill, but the foundation is set: Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly up the middle with Dan Bylsma at the helm is the right place to start.

27   -

The Hurricanes' roster is about as thin as it gets, and it may get even thinner after selling at the trade deadline, which could include captain Erik Staal, who's in a contract year. When it's all said and done, the Hurricanes may be the favorites to land the No. 1 overall pick.

28   -

Mike Babcock is the perfect man for this job, and his presence could accelerate the Maple Leafs' rebuild. But their roster is still at least two years away from playoff contention.

29   -

The only thing preventing the Devils from sinking is Cory Schneider.

30   -

Oliver Ekman-Larsson will have another Norris Trophy-type season, but nobody will notice.

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.

Four takeaways: Alex DeBrincat salvages divisional game for Blackhawks in overtime on Duncan Keith’s special night

Four takeaways: Alex DeBrincat salvages divisional game for Blackhawks in overtime on Duncan Keith’s special night

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues at the United Center on Saturday night:

1. Special night for Duncan Keith — and Brent Seabrook

The Blackhawks celebrated Keith's 1,000-game milestone in the perfect way. Every player wore a No. 2 jersey during warmups, his family was on the ice for the pregame ceremony, and Patrick Sharp made an appearance to present Keith with a silver stick. Seabrook was also paired with Keith among the starters, a great touch by Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff.

But it was also a historic day for Keith's partner and close friend Seabrook, who became the franchise leader in games played by a defenseman, surpassing Bob Murray who previously held that mark at 1,008. It's only fitting Keith and Seabrook shared that moment together.

"We've been riding shotgun together for our whole careers," Keith said. "I couldn't imagine my career, my 1,000 games without him and all the experiences and memories that I've had winning and even losing, and the fun times we've had off the ice. I owe a lot of my success, and I think the team does as well, to Brent and what he means to the team and what he brings to our friendship and as a teammate."

To put a bow on the game, Keith had a vintage Keith moment on the game-tying goal in the third period when he intercepted a pass in the neutral zone on his backhand, then fed Toews a dart leading him into the offensive zone that set up DeBrincat's goal. 

2. Alex DeBrincat's torrid start

The Blackhawks continued to get contributions from their top players such as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, both of whom extended their point streaks to five games to open the season. But DeBrincat has propelled himself into that conversation as a top player on this team.

He had a multi-goal effort for the second straight game, upping his goal total on the season to a team-leading six. His overtime winner is the first of his NHL career in that fashion.

DeBrincat didn't score his sixth goal until Nov. 12 last season, which was the 18th game. And he still finished with 28. While it's hard to envision him continuing to score at more than a goal-per-game pace, it's not hard to see him continuing to be one of the best players on the ice and generating offense and scoring chances on a nightly basis.

"I think I'm getting pretty lucky right now," DeBrincat said. "I'm playing with [Toews] and [Dominik] Kahun, they're making great plays and getting me the puck. It's pretty easy when you have those guys as your linemates. Even on that last goal, [Erik Gustafsson] made a great pass backdoor to me. Pretty easy tap in."

3. Squandering another two-goal lead

The Blackhawks took a 2-0 lead for the third straight game. And they squandered it for the third straight game, in large part because they committed five straight penalties in the second and third periods.

It's no longer a blip at this point and is becoming an alarming trend, even though the Blackhawks have come back to force overtime in each of those three games. That will be something the Blackhawks work on all season long.

But Quenneville would have liked to have seen the Blackhawks keep their foot on the gas pedal and cash in on their opportunities to make it a 3-0 game.

"Score the third goal," he said. "I loved the way we were playing. We had a lot of good things going. Eventually they’re going to get chances, get opportunities. But we had some great chances to get it to three. It was one of those nights, every game is kind of different how the leads changed."

4. Brotherly love

For the first time in the NHL, the Schmaltz brothers finally got their chance to go up against each other at the highest level. There had been a handful of other opportunities in the past, but it never lined up for a variety of reasons. 

They didn't see much of each other while on the ice — they were on together for only 1:30 of the game — but Nick did commit a penalty that led to Jordan assisting on the Blues' first goal on a delayed call. 

The best battles between Jordan, who turned 25 on Oct. 8, and Nick, 22, came when they were kids.

"We had a little roller rink downstairs in our house growing up," Nick said. "It would be me vs. my sister (Kylie) and my brother. Those were probably the best battles. Someone would usually come up crying or high-stick or puck to the face or something like that. A lot of good memories. Looking back at it, it was awesome to have that and work on each other’s game and push each other to get better."