Power Rankings: Ducks have firm grip on No. 1 spot

Ken Campbell
Boston Bruins v Anaheim Ducks

No NHL team had held down the No. 1 spot in three straight thn.com Power Rankings, until this week when the Anaheim Ducks became the first to do it. And why not? They’re in first overall in the NHL, they haven’t lost at home in regulation time in 20 games this season and are the hottest team in the league with a 9-1-0 mark in their past 10.

Sounds like solid reasoning to us. Here are this week’s rankings, along with last week’s in parentheses:

1. ANAHEIM (1): When San Jose beat the Ducks 3-1 in late December, they became the only team to beat Anaheim in regulation in almost five weeks. The Ducks then went out and posted a four-game winning streak, meaning they’ve lost once in regulation time in their past 18 games. Don’t look now, but Corey Perry is third in goals with 24, seven behind Alex Ovechkin, and has a history of torrid second halves of the season.

2. ST. LOUIS (2): The team that wasn’t supposed to be able to score this season has been proving us wrong. The Blues are riding a league-high six-game winning streak and have scored at least five goals in four of those games. With a 5-2 win over Edmonton in which they thoroughly dominated Tuesday night, the Blues hit the 30-win mark in their 42nd game. That marked the fastest to 30 wins in franchise history

3. PITTSBURGH (4): Like the Blues, the Penguins have been scoring a ton, but that’s to be expected from this group. Including shootout winners, the Penguins have scored at least five goals in four of their past five games. At the other end of the ice, the Canadian Olympic team might have wanted to take Marc-Andre Fleury solely for shootout situations. Fleury has stopped all 11 shooters he’s faced in three shootouts this season and dating back to last season, has won eight straight shootouts.

Read more

THN Power Rankings: Ducks swimming along at halfway point

Ken Campbell
Getzlaf and Thornton

Believe it or not, the NHL schedule will officially hit the halfway point tonight. The first half of the season has been largely dominated by Western Conference teams, but teams from the east are making some gains. In fact, for the first time this season, there are three Eastern Conference teams in the top 10 of thn.com’s Power Rankings.

But the top three spots are occupied by western teams, including the Anaheim Ducks at No. 1 for the second consecutive ranking. (Last ranking, after a week off for Christmas, are in parentheses.)

1. ANAHEIM (1): The Ducks lost their first game in regulation for the first time in more than a month against San Jose Sunday, which ended a 10-game winning streak. They returned the favor to the Sharks on New Year’s Eve and are still undefeated in regulation on home ice this season. Ryan Getzlaf is making a serious bid for the Lady Byng Trophy with 47 points and just 15 penalty minutes.

2. ST. LOUIS (5): The Blues closed out 2013 with points in six straight games, four of which Alexander Steen missed with a concussion. Speaking of Olympians, the Blues placed three players on the U.S. team – defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, center David Backes and right winger T.J. Oshie – more than any other team in the NHL. The Blues, in fact, could have as many as 11 Olympians.

3. CHICAGO (3): After scoring 17 goals in three games, the Blackhawks showed they could grind it out with the biggest team in the league when they defeated Los Angeles Monday night. Goalie Corey Crawford is expected to return to the lineup tonight against the New York Islanders, but the outstanding play of Antti Raanta in his absence will almost certainly put him on a short leash.

4. PITTSBURGH (2): The injury parade continued for the Penguins when they lost Pascal Dupuis, likely for the rest of the season, with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Brooks Orpik returned to the lineup, but Paul Martin, out with a broken leg, hasn’t even started skating yet. All the injuries have kept the Penguins from resting 19-year-old defenseman Olli Maatta, which they finally did in a 2-1 loss to New Jersey Tuesday.

5. SAN JOSE (8): The only blemish on the Sharks record in the past two weeks was a 6-3 loss to Anaheim Tuesday night. Three of the four victories were in shootouts. Until mid-December, Tomas Hertl was the leading contender for the Calder Trophy, but his knee-on-knee collision with Dustin Brown and subsequent surgery have likely ended his pursuit of the Calder and a spot on the Czech Olympic team.

6. BOSTON (7): Back-to-back losses to Ottawa and the New York Islanders were not the ideal way for the Bruins to end the year. The Bruins are enduring a major run of injuries, but none of them will have more impact than the season-ending knee injury to defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, one of the most underrated defensemen in the NHL and a perfect complement on the blueline to Zdeno Chara.

7. TAMPA BAY (9): The Lightning opened a four-game road trip through western Canada on a great note with a 4-2 win over the surging Canucks. The Lightning continue to wait for superstar Steven Stamkos to return from his broken leg, but they have been acquitting themselves rather well with a 12-7-4 mark without Stamkos in the lineup. Ben Bishop deserved to be on the U.S. Olympic team, plain and simple.

8. LOS ANGELES (4): A four-game losing streak can put a team in jeopardy in the Western Conference in a hurry, and considering the Kings are in St. Louis tonight, putting an end to it will be no easy task. It’s even more difficult when you’re incapable of scoring more than two goals a game. Goalie Jonathan Quick has shown signs of progress in rehabbing his groin injury, but with Martin Jones and Ben Scrivens playing so well, the Kings have no need to rush him.

9. COLORADO (10): The Avs remarkable luck when it came to injuries hit a bump when P.A. Parenteau was sidelined until after the Olympic break when he injured his knee against Winnipeg on the weekend. Their run of playing over the heads also came to an end with a 5-5-4 record in December. The Avs are still five points up in the playoff race, but they can’t afford a letdown during the stretch run.

10. VANCOUVER (6): The Canucks were spectacular in December, compiling a 10-1-2 record, but gave up an uncharacteristic four goals in a 4-2 loss to Tampa Bay on New Year’s Day. The Canucks are the fourth-best defensive team in the league, no surprise considering John Tortorella is behind the bench. But they have all kinds of trouble scoring, no surprise considering John Tortorella is behind the bench.

11. PHOENIX (13): The Coyotes past six games have gone to extra time, but the Coyotes have won only two of them. The Coyotes began their longest homestand of the season with a 4-3 overtime win over Edmonton Tuesday night and news that captain Shane Doan is on the mend from his bout of Rocky Mountain Fever. He practiced for the first time Monday, but no timetable has been set for his return.

12. DALLAS (14): The Stars continue to gain points and confidence, particularly after beating Los Angeles twice in the span of eight days and picking up at least a point in each of their past eight games. Tyler Seguin, who hit the 20-goal mark for the second time in his career, has 16 points in his past 17 games, but it’s been feast or famine. He has been shut out in 12 of those games and the other five have all been multiple-point games.

13. MONTREAL (11): Prior to losing 5-4 in overtime against Carolina Tuesday night, the Canadiens had scored one or fewer goals in seven of their previous nine games in regulation. The one game where they managed to score enough goals to win, the Canadiens blew a three-goal lead in the third period, largely because they were undisciplined and having to kill penalties.

14. TORONTO (16): Fresh off a three-game win streak and a shootout victory in the Winter Classic, the Maple Leafs shored up their blueline depth by acquiring Tim Gleason from Carolina for John-Michael Liles and a prospect. They’ll need it. The Leafs are still getting outshot by double digits on a regular basis and are getting bailed out by Jonathan Bernier, who has emerged as the No. 1 goalie.

15. PHILADELPHIA (17): With points in eight of their past nine games, the Flyers have saved their season and enter the New Year in possession of a playoff spot. And they’ve done it with significant contributions from the expected – Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn – and the unexpected – Steve Mason and Michael Raffl. After being put on a line with Giroux and Jakub Voracek, Raffl had six points in eight games.

16. DETROIT (18): If the Red Wings miss the playoffs this season – and that is becoming an increasing possibility of late – they’ll have their performance in shootouts in the first half of the season to blame for it. The Red Wings are 1-7 in the post-game skills contest after dropping a shootout to Toronto in the Winter Classic. The Red Wings depth is taking a hit with injuries to Darren Helm (groin pull) and Patrick Eaves (possible concussion).

17. WASHINGTON (15): Alex Ovechkin took 19 shots in games against Buffalo and Ottawa to end the season and failed to score on all of them. Not surprisingly, the Capitals scored just one goal in each game and have lost four of their past five. Phillip Grubauer has emerged as the No. 1 goaltender, which has pushed Michal Neuvirth into healthy-scratch status and asking for a trade.

18. WINNIPEG (22): The Jets take just their second three-game winning streak into Ottawa tonight. Like so many other backups around the league this season, Al Montoya has been far better than the No. 1 goalie, in this case Ondrej Pavelec. Montoya was in goal for all three games of the win streak and gave up only two goals. Overall, Montoya has an 8-2-1 record with a .934 save percentage this season.

19. NEW JERSEY (20): With points in seven of their past eight games, the Devils are still hanging around a playoff spot in the woeful Metropolitan Division. Jaromir Jagr publicly announced he has no intention of asking to be dealt to his eighth NHL team before the deadline, saying he plans to stick with the Devils for the rest of this season and is intent on helping them earn a playoff spot.

20. NY RANGERS (24): The Rangers got out of their house of horrors at Madison Square Garden and won two of three games, but more importantly, they got their No. 1 goaltender back. After watching backup Cam Talbot play three straight games from the bench, Henrik Lundqvist posted successive victories on the road against Tampa Bay and Florida. Even with their lackluster play, the Rangers remain only two points out of a playoff spot.

21. MINNESOTA (12): With a six-game losing streak, the Wild is currently the coldest team in the league at the moment. Things are so bad that coach Mike Yeo is in serious jeopardy of losing his job and if he’s fired, will be replaced by someone with NHL experience, with Peter Laviolette, Ron Wilson and Paul Maurice being floated as possible replacements.

22. NASHVILLE (21): After losing six in a row and not looking good doing it, the Predators posted impressive victories over Los Angeles and Detroit to end the calendar year. What’s even more important is the Predators scored nine goals in those wins after struggling to score more than two goals per game during the losing streak. The most productive of them was Mike Fisher, who had six points in the two wins.

23. OTTAWA (25): With captain Jason Spezza out of the lineup, it was imperative that some of the depth players on the Senators step up and Cory Conacher and Mika Zibanejad did just that in back-to-back wins over Boston and Washington on home ice. Conacher ended a 31-game goal drought with one against Boston and Zibanejad a 12-gamer with a goal against Washington.

24. CAROLINA (23): In an effort to acquire every player who ever played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Hurricanes dealt for John-Michael Liles on New Year’s Day. After dropping five in a row, the Hurricanes got an absolutely necessary win Tuesday night when they overcame a 3-0 deficit in the third period en route to a 5-4 overtime win over Montreal.

25. COLUMBUS (26): Remember Nathan Horton? He was the guy who signed a seven-year, $37.1 million contract in July, then underwent shoulder surgery. But the wait could end tonight if Horton is cleared to play against Phoenix. Just as importantly, Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, out a month with a groin injury, might dress in a backup role for the game.

26. NY ISLANDERS (29): With 10 goals and two wins in their past two games, the Islanders are finally beginning to show the kind of firepower that was expected of them. Just as importantly for a team that has blown so many leads this season –nine of their losses this season have come in games when they entered the third period with a lead – the Islanders came back from deficits in successive wins against Minnesota and Boston.

27. FLORIDA (19): The Panthers tied a franchise record with 17 points in the month of December, but most of that hay was made in the middle of the month. Since Dec. 20, the Panthers have won just one of their past five games. In a 2-1 shootout loss to the Rangers Tuesday night, veteran goalie Tim Thomas had his first start in three weeks and stopped 30 shots.

28. EDMONTON (30): The Oilers have points in each of their past four games after losing six in a row. The Oilers young forwards have been carrying the mail of late, particularly Taylor Hall, who has four multiple-point games in his past six. That likely won’t be enough to earn him a spot on the Canadian Olympic team, but then again Steve Yzerman will have a chance to see Hall himself in action when Tampa Bay visits Edmonton in three days.

29. CALGARY (27): De facto GM Brian Burke acquired Kevin Westgarth in his first deal at the helm of the Flames, making good on his promise to have more truculence in the Flames lineup. But what the Flames could really use is goals, since they’re 26th in the league. You can expect the Michael Cammalleri sweepstakes to heat up considerably leading up to the March 5 trade deadline.

30. BUFFALO (28): The fact that Ryan Miller was named to the U.S. Olympic team despite the fact he tends goal for the worst team in the NHL is a testament to the heroic season he’s having. In a 2-1 shootout win against Washington Sunday afternoon, he stopped 49 shots in regulation and overtime – including all 12 off the stick of NHL goal leader Alex Ovechkin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Power Rankings: Boudreau and Ducks sitting pretty

Ken Campbell
Ducks celebrating

It should be an emotional return to the Verizon Center for Bruce Boudreau Monday night in his first appearance in Washington since the Capitals fired him in 2011. It might be hard for him not to say “I told you so,” to the Capitals, since his team is the hottest in the league and the one that fired him is mucking around the middle of the pack.

Thanks to a six-game winning streak, the Ducks lead our Power Rankings for this week. An Eastern Conference team makes it to No. 2 for the first time this season and the Buffalo Sabres have crawled out of the basement. (Last week’s ranking in parentheses.)

1. ANAHEIM (3): The Ducks are riding a six-game winning streak and haven’t given up more than two goals in any of those games. They’re still undefeated in regulation time at home. They have a three-game swing through the east with three very winnable games – New Jersey, the Islanders and Washington – before Christmas. The Ducks stars are getting it done, but Nick Bonino is quietly having a terrific season – already establishing career highs in goals (10), assists (15) and points (25). Read more

Power Rankings: Blackhawks soaring again

Ken Campbell
(Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Chicago Blackhawks have played 34 games this season and in almost half of them – 14 to be exact – they have scored at least five goals. It’s no surprise they are by far the highest scoring team in the NHL and it should come as no shock that the defending champs head our Power Rankings for this week. (Last week’s ranking in parentheses.)

1. CHICAGO (2): After enduring their first dip with three straight losses, the defending champions came back with a vengeance, winning three straight and outscoring their opponents 19-6. With Corey Crawford out up to three weeks with a groin injury, the Hawks depth in goal will be tested. But as long as they keep putting up six and seven a game, they should be all right.

2. LOS ANGELES (4): The Kings were humming along just fine without No. 1 goalie Jonathan Quick thanks to the heroics of Ben Scrivens, then comes along Martin Jones, who goes 4-0-0 and pitches back-to-back shutouts. His teammates have responded in kind, scoring at least three goals in each of the past five games, all wins.

3. ANAHEIM (5): Corey Perry may be scoring in bunches, with goals in seven straight, but the defense pairing of Ben Lovejoy and Cam Fowler has been huge in keeping pucks out at the other end. In a 2-0-2 stretch against some of the toughest opponents in the Western Conference, Fowler and Lovejoy were on the ice for two even-strength goals. The Ducks still have not lost a game in regulation at home.

4. BOSTON (6): Anybody getting the feeling the Bruins are just warming up for a monster second half? They’ve won five of their past six and are starting to feast upon their inferior Eastern Conference competition. The Bruins will be tested though. They have to deal with long-term absences of Chris Kelly and Shawn Thornton up front and Dougie Hamilton and Adam McQuaid at the back end.

5. ST. LOUIS (8): When St. Louis and Winnipeg Jets played to a scoreless tie in the first period of Tuesday night’s game, that represented a major victory for the Blues, who had been outscored 10-1 in the first periods of their previous four games. Predictably, Alex Steen’s torrid scoring streak has cooled somewhat. His goal against the Jets was his first in five games.

Read more

Power Rankings: Improvement in the Eastern Conference

Ken Campbell
malkin

Western Conference domination is still alive and well in the NHL, but at least a couple of eastern teams are beginning to put a dent in it. For the second time this season, an eastern team has made an appearance in the top five of THN.com’s Power Rankings and there are three in the top 10. (Last week’s rankings in parentheses.)

1. SAN JOSE (3): Consecutive wins over Los Angeles, St. Louis, Anaheim and Toronto and a record of 9-1-0 in their past 10 have the Sharks on some kind of roll. After winning five in a row at home, the Sharks are in the midst of a four-game road trip with three of them against Eastern Conference opponents. Joe Thornton has been a beast with 4-15-19 totals in his past 17 games. Let’s just hope he never, ever has a four-goal game. Read more

Power Rankings: Alex Steen leads powerhouse Blues to the top

Ken Campbell
Alex Steen. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

1. St. Louis (5): The Blues have won their past five straight games by a combined score of 20-5 and just when you think Alex Steen is going to return to reality, he picks up the pace with his mind-boggling scoring. The Blues are healthy and productive and not only beat you on the scoreboard, but they punish you too. There is nary a shortcoming in this lineup at the moment.

2. Chicago (6): Even though the Hawks hold down first place overall in the NHL, they’re almost, but not quite as hot as the Blues. The defending champs have won four in a row and outscored their opponents 18-7. All four wins, though, have come on the road. A 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames Wednesday night marked the first ever career start and victory for Antti Raanta and extended Patrick Kane’s point-scoring streak to 12 games. Read more

Power Rankings: Kings of the crop

Ken Campbell
kings-450681191

If the current trend continues, the Eastern Conference will establish an ignominious first in NHL history this season. Never before has one conference or division had its top team finish lower than sixth overall. And the only time that happened was in 1967-68 and 1969-70 when all the expansion teams were grouped in the same division.

Through one quarter of the season, though, the Boston Bruins are the top team in the Eastern Conference, but sit ninth in the overall standings. Thankfully, they’re not that far down this week’s Power Rankings. (Last week’s rank in parentheses.)

1. Los Angeles (11): The 2012 Stanley Cup champions will have to wear the scarlet letter of losing to Buffalo for eternity, but they’re the hottest team in the league at the moment with four straight wins and points in their past seven games. Jonathan Quick out a month with a wonky groin? Not a problem. We’ll just put in Ben Scrivens and watch him pitch two straight shutouts. Read more

Power Rankings: High-flying Blackhawks lifted by explosive offense

Ken Campbell
blackhawks-187615683

The Buffalo Sabres have not yet climbed out of the NHL’s basement, but they have moved out of the depths of THN’s Power Rankings, at least for the moment.

That has as much to do with how badly the Edmonton Oilers have played lately as it has anything the Sabres have done, but the Sabres deserve some love after all they’ve been through to start the season. And we’re at least a little encouraged that they have cleaned house, firing GM Darcy Regier and coach Ron Rolston. New hockey ops president Pat LaFontaine said he will name a GM soon. Read more