NHL Power Rankings: Injuries hurting Blackhawks

NHL Power Rankings: Injuries hurting Blackhawks

Friday, December 17, 2010
11:25 AM

By Kevin Kurz
Comcast SportsNet

1Last week: 4; Record: 21-7-5
The Flyers proved themselves to be the class of the Eastern Conference and maybe the league with wins over the Bruins, Pens and Habs this week. Chris Prongers status is concerning, though, as hes unquestionably their most important player.

2Last week: 6; Record: 17-8-4
Vancouver still boasts the best power play in the NHL, and Ryan Kesler just gets better and better. He already has 15 goals in just 29 games this season.

3Last week: 3; Record: 21-10-2
The Pens dropped games to division rivals Philly and the Rangers this week, a minor hiccup after a long and impressive winning streak. Still, they get points for their uncanny ability to move furniture into hotel hallways.

4Last week: 1; Record: 20-7-3
Niklas Lidstrom recorded his first NHL hat trick in a 19-year career on Wednesday. Even more impressive, it looks like he could play another 19 years in the league.

5Last week: 5; Record: 19-11-2
Thursdays win over Boston was huge for the Canadiens after a disappointing home loss to another nemesis, Philadelphia. Carey Price and Tim Thomas will likely battle the rest of the way when these two teams face off, and thats about as good of a goaltending battle as there is.

6Last week: 10; Record: 18-10-3
Dallas games with San Jose are indicative of just how close the Pacific Division is this year, as all three have gone past regulation. They split this week, with each team winning on the other teams ice.

7Last week: 17; Record: 20-13-1
The Rangers are surprising everyone this year, considering the number of injuries to key players they have had to overcome. Could John Tortorella be an early candidate for the Jack Adams?

8Last week: 8; Record: 17-10-4
Sudden free agent Evgeni Nabokovs name has been mentioned as a good fit for the Lightning, and well, it would make sense for a team that has struggled between the pipes while Dan Ellis keeps complaining.

9Last week: 9; Record: 16-10-4
Just when Boston looked like it was ready to take its place among the Eastern Conferences top clubs, it has a brutal road trip with losses to key division rivals.

10Last week: 16; Record: 17-11-5
Atlanta smells blood with the Capitals recent slump, and is battling with Tampa Bay to overtake Washington for the top spot in a surprisingly hot Southeast Division.

11Last week: 3; Record: 18-11-4
The Capitals have shown a propensity to fold when the lights are brightest the past few years. Maybe those HBO cameramen can hide in the corner until they end their losing streak.

12Last week: 14; Record: 17-11-1
Marco Sturm could be a very good addition by Dean Lombardi. That is, if he gets his speed back after undergoing major knee surgery for an injury that occurred in last years playoffs while with Boston.

13Last week: 15; Record: 17-10-4
Tomas Fleischmann scores a hat trick this week, while defenseman Scott Hannan has been brutal in Washington. That trade looks like a steal so far for Colorado.

14Last week: 7; Record: 16-14-3
Chicago has suffered some third period meltdowns as of late, and the absences of Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane have been noticeable. On the plus side, goaltender Corey Crawford looks like a keeper.

15Last week: 20; Record: 16-8-6
Anders Lindback notches back-to-back shutouts to keep the Preds right in the thick of things. So what if they were against the Panthers and Islanders?

16Last week: 18; Record: 16-11-5
The Sharks never got that veteran d-man they were looking for in the offseason, and now it looks like they need one more than ever. Some of the inexperienced players on their back end have made glaring mistakes at inopportune times.

17Last week: 22; Record: 17-14-4
Beating the Caps in overtime was a great way for Anaheim to begin a key seven-game road trip that begins with several games on the East Coast.

18Last week: 13; Record: 14-9-7
Phoenix was forced to find a backup goalie on the street for its game against the Rangers on Thursday night, as Ilya Bryzgalov was home with the flu. Tom Fenton had the best seat in the house for the 4-3 shootout win.

19Last week: 11; Record: 16-12-3
Columbus wrapped up a terrible Canadian West Coast trip this week, losing all three games. When you have the third-worst power play in the NHL, those results are bound to happen.

20Last week: 12; Record: 15-10-5
The Blues let out a huge sigh of relief when they got news that Erik Johnsons knee is day-to-day. The key defenseman limped off of the ice Wednesday night, and he needs to stay healthy for the Blues to remain in the race.

21Last week: 23; Record: 13-14-4
Give Buffalo credit for hanging together and righting the ship after a horrific start. The win against Boston this week shows that they are improving, and could easily slip right back into playoff position.

22Last week: 21; Record: 14-12-4
Will a couple nice come-from-behind wins this week spark the Hurricanes? Theyve now won three in a row, but are still behind their division rivals.

23Last week: 25; Record: 14-15-3
Calgary won the battle of disappointing Canadian teams on Thursday with a 5-2 win over Toronto in Dion Phaneufs return to the Saddledome.

24Last week: 29; Record: 12-15-4
Some dubious number for Toronto: only the Islanders and Devils score fewer goals-per-game than the Maple Leafs, and only the Oilers have a worse penalty-killing percentage.

25Last week: 24; Record: 14-16-3
Sergei Gonchar leads the Sens in ice time (24:59), and is last in plus-minus (-16). Should the Senators remain out of contention, look for his name to start getting mentioned in trade rumors in a month or so (San Jose, maybe)?

26Last week: 19; Record: 13-13-4
Minnesota is fading fast, as evidenced by Thursdays loss to lowly Ottawa, putting them in 14th place in the Western Conference.

27Last week: 28; Record: 13-16-0
Several experts have said that the Panthers are a much better club than their record indicates. Well, their record stinks.

28Last week: 27; Record: 12-14-5
Its somewhat old news, but anyone complaining about the Linus Omark shootout move against the Lightning has to get with the times. Hate the game, not the player.

29Last week: 26; Record: 9-19-2
Ilya Kovalchuk finally recorded a multiple-goal game for the Devils this year in their win over Phoenix. It catapulted him into a tie for 113th in the NHL in goals scored, with seven.

30Last week: 30; Record: 6-18-5
Despite their second win in 22 games on Thursday, the Islanders have yet to show any recent signs that they arent the worst team in the league. And really, its not even close.

Kevin Kurz covered the Philadelphia Flyers for seven seasons as the managing editor for He is currently a digital content producer for Comcast SportsNet.

Bears offense opens up in 24-23 comeback win over Denver Broncos

Bears offense opens up in 24-23 comeback win over Denver Broncos

Preseason games are about isolated goods and bads, snapshots really, rather than sweeping overalls. All in the eye of the beholder. And for the Bears, after losses to Baltimore and Cincinnati in Matt Nagy’s first efforts as a head coach, getting out of Denver with a 24-23 win over the Broncos looked pretty good in the eyes of any Bears beholder.

Saturday’s preseason game three was a collection of snapshots for the Bears, playing their third “practice” game but the first with enough of the starters on offense and defense to matter, or at least as much as these can matter.

The Bears achieved their first win under Nagy on the right arm of No. 2 quarterback Chase Daniel, pressed into extra duty when Tyler Bray was hurt in the third quarter, and who completed 19 of 28 passes for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns, including the game-winner just inside the 2-minute warning on a 12-yard throw to tight end Ben Braunecker. The win was preserved when cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc punched the ball out of the hands of Denver receiver Isaiah McKenzie and linebacker Isaiah Irving gathered in the loose football to end a potential Denver comeback drive at the Chicago 38.

Before all of that, in his longest appearance of the presesason, quarterback Mitch Trubisky started and directed a pair of sustained drives, the first covering 51 yards to a missed field-goal attempt, and a second going 75 yards and culminating in a touchdown. Combined with the work by Daniel, the Bears put up five drives 50 yards or longer. Trubisky completed 9 of 14 passes for 90 yards, a touchdown and an interception, and the No. 1 offense produced 10 first downs.

Notably perhaps, the Trubisky score came in a fashion that was previewed more than a few times throughout camp, and that projects as a template for a staple in the offense under Nagy:

A high-percentage flip going to tight end Trey Burton cutting across the field and going seven yards for Trubisky’s first TD pass of the preseason. The design of the play forced the Denver secondary to drop in coverage of Bears wide receivers and left rush linebacker Von Miller needing to choose between dropping into a short zone or going after Trubisky. Miller did the latter and Burton, who caught 4 of 5 passes directed to him for 45 yards, was alone in the underneath zone.

“I’m just trying to be who I am, do what the coaches ask me to do and go wherever that leads,” Burton told the FOX 32 broadcast. “Obviously, every week and every game is different so whatever my role is, I’m down for it.”

Trubisky did suffer his first interception over the span of two preseasons and 71 pass attempts, but appeared to be victimized when running back Tarik Cohen broke off the route on a short in-cut and failed to break back toward Trubisky. The throw was to where Cohen was supposed to be but was instead an easy pick for Denver safety Justin Simmons.

“I think [Cohen] learned he can’t do that,” Nagy said.

But the passing offense overall was functional under Trubisky, not insignificant in the context of the quarterback in a new offense with a complement of receivers largely unfamiliar with him. And some who hadn’t graced stat sheets to date.

Kevin White came up with his first two catches of the preseason and followed each with some nifty running after the catches. White also drew a 37-yard pass interference penalty that accounted for about half the yardage on the Trubisky touchdown drive.

Rookie Anthony Miller caught 3 passes for 33 yards, with a long of 19 yards. Allen Robinson started by played sparingly in the first half in the first test of his surgically repaired left ACL and was not targeted. Taylor Gabriel, with a foot injury, did not play for the third straight game.

Thoughts from Bears-Broncos: Injury absences, special teams woes and a world of confusion over new helmet rule


Thoughts from Bears-Broncos: Injury absences, special teams woes and a world of confusion over new helmet rule

No Roquan Smith but Bears injury absences vs. Broncos far more troubling
No real surprise that coaches decided to hold linebacker Roquan Smith out, given that the rookie had exactly one practice in pad and two without pads last week after signing his contract on Monday. But it was not Smith’s absence that was concerning coming out of the Bears ____ loss to the Denver Broncos.
Linebacker Leonard Floyd, who has been hampered by injuries in each of this first two Bears seasons, went out midway through the first half with an unspecified hand injury and did not return. Tight end Adam Shaheen, starting his second straight game after three catches for 53 yards at Cincinnati, caught a first-quarter pass from Mitchell Trubisky but left the field on a cart after injuring his ankle during the ensuing tackle.
Along with Floyd’s absence, the pass rush was again without outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, who hasn’t been on the field since the first practice of training camp, that after missing play time with ankle twisted in the first April minicamp practice and with a hamstring strain in a June minicamp practice.
The Bears did get a sack from Roy Robertson-Harris, his third in as many games and likely establishing him as the starting defensive end opposite Akiem Hick in the Bears’ base 3-4.
First quarter not-so-special teams
Repeating a pattern from some years past, Bears kick returns did the offense no favors early, with multiple mistakes in first quarter alone:
Recently signed running back Knile Davis took the opening kickoff six yards deep in the end zone and got it only to the Chicago 15;
After the first Denver three-and-out, Cre’Von LeBlanc fair-caught a punt at the Chicago 5 instead of gambling on a touchback. Three plays later Mitch Trubisky mishandled a high snap and was sacked in the end zone for a safety.
On the free kick, reserve tight end Ben Braunecker lost contain and contributed to a 17-yard return by Isaiah McKenzie, setting the Broncos up at their 40, from where they moved for a first-quarter field goal. After that field goal, Davis returned the Denver kickoff 43 yards but the runback was nullified by a holding penalty.
Throw in Cody Parkey’s missed field goal from 52 yards and Bears special teams combined for one of the poorer possible quarters short of allowing a touchdown return.
Helmet hi-jinks
And the league thought it had problems with the catch rule?
The NFL’s leading-with-the-helmet prohibition and its enforcement bordering on the bizarre reared its ugly head early  flag on Denver cornerback Isaac Yiadom for his tackle of Bears tight end Adam Shaheen defies explanation. Yiadom got his head in front of Shaheen’s quads in a textbook go-low tackle with minimal risk to either player but was hit with a 15-yard penalty. Not sure what Yiadom was supposed to lead with? His feet?
Then Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller drew a leading-with-the-helmet when he went shoulder-first into tight end Andy Janovich, while Denver left tackle Garrett Bolles went helmet-first into a basic cut block on linebacker Leonard Floyd and drew no flag.
Duly noted
Quirky rules and their enforcement don’t account for a worrisome spate of penalties (eight through three quarters) that cost the Bears more than 100 yards. 
In the first half alone, besides the Fuller flag, tackles Charles Leno and Bobby Massie drew holding penalties, and a holding penalty on the kickoff-return team negated a 43-yard return by Knile Davis. Tight end Ben Braunecker was tagged for pass interference.