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BTN Dynamic Dozen: Sea Dogs stay on top, while Knights step out

By Neate Sager

BTN Dynamic Dozen: Sea Dogs stay on top, while Knights step out

BTN Dynamic Dozen: Sea Dogs stay on top, while Knights step outA light schedule last week was not conducive to a ton of movement in the Dynamic Dozen. There was enough action to cause the London Knights, however, to drop out of the ranking for the first time all season, leaving just a sole representative of the Ontario Hockey League.

It's not like it matters since (a) this is a pure math exercise and (b) these are the dog days of the major junior hockey season. The Knights have hit a semi-rough patch with four losses in their past 10 games while the likes of world junior defenceman Scott Harrington, Boston Bruins second-rounder Jared Knight and glue guys such as Tommy Hughes and Chris Tierney have battled myriad injuries and illnesses. Vladislav Namestnikov has also been in a scoring slump. Tierney has resumed practising, right on time for a four-pointer vs. Plymouth where a win might clinch home ice advantage throughout the first three rounds for the Knights.

1. Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL (.566 RPI, -). Perhaps the Gerard Gallant-Mike Kelly management team was correct not to sell the farm for Brandon Gormley. They have allowed just 11 goals in their past seven games with a back end that is supposed to lack a bona fide No. 1 defenceman, although this might be a best-defence-is-a-good-offence scenario. Like they did last year, they are showing they can squeak out the close games against the QMJHL's best. It has not been all clear sailing in the Port City, since the Dogs lost a good depth player recently with Devon Oliver-Dares (broken collarbone) going down. They are in great position to get home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, provided they can win upcoming home games with year-long nemesis Acadie-Bathurst and Quebec.

2 (tied). Shawinigan Cataractes, QMJHL (.558, -). Why yes, the rivalry with Saint John is getting intense. The MasterCard Memorial Cup-host Cataractes did not get out of the showdown unscathed since Kirill Kabanov suffered a concussion, but they went toe-to-toe with the top team for 59-plus minutes. The Cats look like they can hold serve for the remaining 15 games and be ready to strike if Saint John ever slumps (unlikely). Their team defence has been impressive; Shawinigan has allowed more than three goals in a game only once since New Year's Day.

2 (tied). Tri-City Americans, WHL (.558 RPI, +1). Coach Jim Hiller's Ams have a huge week ahead, with another showdown for first overall on Wednesday in Kamloops plus games with Portland and Spokane. Tri-City has been a .500 team for the past few weeks, so this week might be critical for their momentum heading into the final quarter of the season.

4. Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL (.555, +1). Last week was a calm before the storm since the Oil Kings only played once. The biggest takeaway was leading scorer Michael St. Croix drawing a fine line between confidence and cockiness"When you underestimate your opponents and expect to win without paying the price" — that should be posted in phys-ed teachers' offices throughout the land. Edmonton is facing a stretch where it plays five of its next six games away from Rexall Place. If they can get eight or nine of the possible 12 points, they'll be in the drivers' seat to win the conference regular-season title.

5. Portland Winterhawks, WHL (.549, -1). The 19-game home win streak ended in a week that might have been about taking one step back to move forward two down the line. Coach Mike Johnston healthy-scratched Toronto Maple Leafs second-rounder Brad Ross for back-to-back games, so presumably the agitator will be snorting like a bull when he finally gets back in the lineup. The Winterhawks probably would still have their streak if not for Vancouver's Adam Morrison stopping about a hundred (actually 47 shots) last Saturday. Sometimes you just tip your cap to the other guys.

6. Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL (.546, +1). As they hit the three-quarter pole, do the Warriors have enough left to hold off Saskatoon for the Eastern Division title? The Warriors regained lost ground and had star forward Quinton Howden break out of a brief funk last weekend. On the minus side, though, they have an extreme home/road split (.845 point percentage in the Jaw, .438 in all non-Jaw games). Twelve of their final 19 games are on the road, too.

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7. Victoriaville Tigres, QMJHL (.545, -1). Please excuse the buzzword, but the Tigres just had a paradigm week. They scored 13 goals in two games and ended up going even-Stephen. How many times can you write this must be the most exciting offensive show in the Canadian Hockey League east of Edmonton? Eight players are averaging more than a point per game, with overage centre Yanni Gourde being one point from being the first in the CHL this season to hit the century mark. However, without better defence and goaltending, they will have questions about whether they are built for the second season.

8. Plymouth Whalers, OHL (.544, +1). The big, bad Whalers, one of just three teams in the OHL to have reached the 1,000 penalty minute plateau, probably need to beat London on Friday to have any shot at finishing first in the OHL's Western Conference. The Knights have a 10-point lead over the Whalers entering this week's play. The Whalers should be reinforced this week after resting gritty forwards Mitchell Heard and Tom Wilson last week to allow their minor injuries to heal. We would all be better with a week off.

9. Calgary Hitmen, WHL (.540, -1). They are going to be put to the test with Medicine Hat and Edmonton back-to-back on Tuesday and Wednesday. Those results could clear up the Central Division pecking order faster than ProActiv. Calgary is still 15-2-0-0 in its last 17 games, although being five regulars short last week stemmed their momentum. No doubt draft-year goalie Chris Driedger will love matching up this week vs. two goalies drafted by Alberta NHL teams, the Tigers' Tyler Bunz (Edmonton Oilers) and Oil Kings' Laurent Brossoit (Calgary Flames).

10. Saskatoon Blades, WHL (.533, +3). Having top-pairing defenceman Duncan Siemens suffer a concussion is exactly what a team wants before embarking on a stretch when it plays six games in 11 days. The Colorado Avalanche first-rounder went down Saturday after being checked from behind by Medicine Hat's Brendan Hurley, thinning out an already depleted Blades back end. That put a damper on what had been a good week that included mashing Moose Jaw 6-2.

11. Chicoutimi Saguenéens, QMJHL (.532, +3). Is Sébastien Sylvestre French for "secondary scoring?" Silly joke construction aside, that was a theme of the week in which the Sags scored 10 goals in two games whilst getting goals from Sylvestre and other depth players supplied the scoring. Veteran forward Guillaume Asselin has been on a tear since Jan. 1 with 25 points in 14 games, helping lead a pretty balanced attack. Catching Victoriaville, which is six points ahead, is in reach for Chicoutimi but the teams go head-to-head only one more time.

12. Spokane Chiefs, WHL (.531, -1). Struggled last week, allowing 13 goals and taking only 2-of-6 possible points, but coach Don Nachbaur's crew plays their next three games at home beginning with Monday's tilt vs. Seattle. Goalie Mac Engel, the one with a famous name, saw his save percentage dip below the .900 cutoff after being on the hook for two losses.

The next dozen: 13. Niagara IceDogs, OHL (.530, +4); 14. London Knights, OHL (.529, -2); 15. Quebec Remparts, QMJHL (.528, -5); 16. Kamloops Blazers, WHL (.527, —); 17. Acadie-Bathurst Titan, QMJHL (.526, +2); 18. Medicine Hat Tigers, WHL (.525, -3); 19. Rimouski Océanic , QMJHL (.524, -1); 20. Kootenay Ice, WHL (.518, +6); 21. Halifax Mooseheads, (.515, -1); 21. Kitchener Rangers, OHL (.514, +8); 22. Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, QMJHL (.515, +7); 23. Regina Pats, WHL (.505, —); 24. Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL (.503, -2).

Dropping out — Kitchener Rangers, OHL (from 21st to 27th) and Ottawa 67's, OHL (24th to 25th).

Hot teams — Drummondville Voltigeurs (42nd to 32nd) and P.E.I. Rocket (45th to 35th), QMJHL, each up 10 spots.

Cold team — Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, QMJHL, down 11 (32nd to 43rd).

Looking (nowhere but) up — Erie Otters, OHL (.417 RPI).

An explanation on rankings — Buzzing The Net uses Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) with a recency factor. RPI combines a team's record with the strength of its opponents to produce an overall rating. Our method also gives more weight to recently played games. Shootout wins and losses are classified as ties for philosophical and practical reasons. All three CHL leagues are considered equivalent in quality. All results based on play through Sun., Feb. 5.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports . Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: The Canadian Press).


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