Speculation that Ryan Miller could end up with the St. Louis Blues before the trade deadline just won’t seem to die. It would be a bold move for the Blues, who are already getting good goaltending, on the whole, from Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak. Chris Stewart, who was recently dropped to the fourth line, could be the player going back.
Amid all this the Blues have been outstanding lately and usurped the Anaheim Ducks for top spot in this week’s thn.com Power Rankings. (Last week’s rankings in parentheses.)
1. ST. LOUIS (5): The Blues showed a ton of class by going to Yale University to participate last Friday in White Out for Mandi, in honor of Jaden Schwartz’s sister who died of leukemia three years ago. That was in the middle of and eastern road trip in which they won three of four games, with the lone clunker coming in a 7-1 loss to New Jersey.
2. ANAHEIM (1): After going 23 straight games without losing one on home ice in regulation time, the Ducks dropped two at the Honda Center in just over a week. The positive was they defeated Los Angeles in back-to-back games, including the outdoor game at Dodger Stadium, by a combined score of 5-1.
3. BOSTON (7): Both the Bruins and Brad ‘Little Ball of Hate’ Marchand have been sizzling lately. The Bruins have won four in a row and have points in five of their past six games and Marchand, who started the season with one goal in 14 games, has 6-5-11 totals in his past seven.
4. PITTSBURGH (4): The Penguins have not lost to a playoff-bound team since Boston defeated them back on Dec. 7. They’ve only lost five games since then, but none of them has been against very good competition. And when they lose to the bottom feeders, they tend to serve up real clunkers, as they did last weekend in a 3-0 loss to Dallas.
5. CHICAGO (2): The Blackhawks showed a good amount of character battling back from down two goals on the road to beat Vancouver Wednesday night, but the fact of the matter is they have the same number of wins in 2014 as Calgary. Their struggles in overtime and the shootout continue. The Hawks were 1-6 in January in games that went beyond 60 minutes.
6. COLORADO (6): The Avalanche has been buried in its local market by the Broncos being in the Super Bowl, but the team continues to march on behind the strong goaltending of Semyon Varlamov. The Avalanche has been a little up and down lately, but will have managed to go the entire month of January without losing back-to-back games.
7. SAN JOSE (3): The Sharks were on quite a roll, winning six in a row before losing back-to-back games to Edmonton and Los Angeles. Even more troubling was the fact they failed to even score a goal in those games. On Wednesday night, they fired 59 shots at Ben Scrivens of Edmonton – and a total of 90 when you account for shots blocked and shots missed – in a 3-0 loss.
8. TAMPA BAY (9): Lightning defenseman Mark Barberio is supposed to cut his hair next month as part of a fundraiser for cancer research, but he might want to wait on that. He has a goal in each of his past four games, three of which were Lightning wins. The only loss came in a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Toronto in which the outshot the Leafs 42-26.
9. MINNESOTA (14): The Wild became only the second team in the NHL to defeat Anaheim on the Ducks home ice when they picked up a 4-2 victory Tuesday night. As the trade deadline approaches, rumors continue to circulate that Ryan Miller could be on the move to Minnesota from Buffalo to stabilize the Wild’s goaltending issues.
10. TORONTO (8): The Maple Leafs avoided a three-game losing streak by stealing a 3-2 win over Tampa Bay Tuesday night and finally look to have settled on a No. 1 goalie in Jonathan Bernier, who was brilliant Tuesday night in stopping 40 shots and making perhaps the save of the season on Martin St-Louis to preserve the victory.
11. NY RANGERS (15): The Rangers needed to sweep both games of the outdoor series and that’s exactly what they did, improving goalie Henrik Lundqvist’s record in outdoor games to 3-0-0. Speaking of improvement, Lundqvist has returned to form after a very rough patch, which is very good news, because this team will go only as far as its goaltending and defense will carry it.
12. PHOENIX (18): The Coyotes have picked up points in each of their past three games and looked methodical and impressive in a 3-0 victory over Los Angeles Tuesday night. Now the question is whether a goaltending issue has developed in the desert. After giving up eight goals in two games, Mike Smith was replaced by Thomas Greiss for the Los Angeles game and he pitched a shutout, earning another start against Buffalo Thursday night.
13. LOS ANGELES (11): The Kings are still holding their own in the Western Conference, but this is a team that simply cannot score goals at the moment, either inside or outside. Their only victory in their past six games was a 1-0 win over San Jose Monday night. All told, the Kings have managed only two goals in their past four games. The good news is they had as much trouble scoring goals two years ago when they won the Stanley Cup.
14. MONTREAL (13): After giving up at least four goals in six straight games, the Canadiens and beleaguered goaltender Carey Price got back into line with a 3-0 victory over Carolina Tuesday night. The slump moved the Canadiens from having a firm grip on a playoff spot and a top-three standing in the Atlantic Division to a situation where they’re hanging onto their post-season hopes by their fingernails.
15. VANCOUVER (10): The Canucks have gone 2-3-0 without John Tortorella behind the bench and have lost three of their past four, including gagging up a two-goal lead in a 5-2 loss to Chicago Wednesday night. Daniel Sedin, who was struggling with twin brother Henrik in the lineup, has gone MIA while Daniel sits out with bruised ribs. He has one assist in the five games Henrik has missed.
16. PHILADELPHIA (17): With their playoff hopes fading once again, the Flyers needed a game like their 5-0 win over Detroit Wednesday night in a big way. Going into that game, the Flyers had lost four in a row and didn’t look particularly good in their losses to Columbus and Boston earlier in the week. Speculation is that Flyers center Claude Giroux will get the call from Canada if Steven Stamkos isn’t available for the Olympics.
17. WASHINGTON (26): The Capitals are at their best when they basically abandon any notion that they’re a defensive team and simply try to outscore their opponents. They’ve scored 10 goals in their past two games and defenseman Mike Green has come alive. How tough a time are the Caps having keeping goals out? Well, they’re thinking of having Alex Ovechkin suit up in goal.
18. CAROLINA (24): The Hurricanes had a nice little run of four straight victories snapped when they lost 3-0 to Montreal on Tuesday night. That game, however, was their fifth in seven nights. The game before, the Canes got two goals from Eric Staal a minute apart and the winner from Jordan Staal in a victory over Columbus.
19. DETROIT (16): Well, so much for this move to the Eastern Conference being a boon for the Red Wings. Not only are they in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time in more than two decades, they’re also on pace for their worst points percentage in that time. Their record against eastern teams is a very ordinary 14-10-8.
20. DALLAS (22): The Stars had a three-game winning streak snapped in a 4-3 loss to Colorado Monday night. The Stars signed Ryan Garbutt to a three-year extension, meaning he won’t be moved at the trade deadline. The Stars will, however, have to make a decision on Ray Whitney and Vernon Fiddler if they’re out of the race by then. Both will be unrestricted free agents this summer.
21. OTTAWA (20): The Senators received two big goals from an unlikely source – farmhand Stephane Da Costa – in a 3-2 win over Columbus Tuesday night, but they’ll need more consistent scoring from their impact players if they hope to get back into the playoff race. Bobby Ryan, for example, hasn’t scored in five straight games and has just one in his past 12.
22. COLUMBUS (12): Just when it looked as though the Blue Jackets were cementing their playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, they proceeded to lose three in a row and dropped out of the race once again. Particularly stinging was a 3-2 loss to Carolina on Monday night, a game in which they were leading 2-0 with less than 10 minutes to go in the third period.
23. WINNIPEG (19): After posting impressive wins over Chicago and Toronto, the Jets lost just their second game in eight under new coach Paul Maurice in a 4-3 loss to Nashville Wednesday night. Maurice seems to be pushing all the right buttons so far in Winnipeg and is getting some monster performances from emerging rookie defenseman Jacob Trouba.
24. CALGARY (28): This is the highest we’ve had the Flames all season. Even though they still firmly hold down 28th overall in the NHL standings, the Flames have won three in a row and have established their identity as a hard-working team that will make all their opponents work for a victory. Their last two wins – against Nashville and Chicago – came in extra time.
25. EDMONTON (29): Ditto for the Oilers, who are in 29th place in the NHL standings. But they’ve also won three in a row and received the kind of goaltending they’ve been searching for all season when Ben Scrivens stopped 59 shots in a 3-0 victory over San Jose Wednesday night. The Oilers are finally starting to score, netting a total of 12 goals in those three games.
26. NASHVILLE (23): The Predators stopped the Jets winning ways by beating them 4-3 Wednesday night, but their goaltending without Pekka Rinne in the lineup continues to be a problem. In fact, the Predators have given up 30 more goals than they’ve scored this season and gave up five (including the shootout winner) in losses to Calgary and Edmonton.
27. NEW JERSEY (21): After posting impressive victories over St. Louis and Washington, the Devils dropped two straight to the Rangers and Blues and were outscored by a 10-3 margin. Martin Brodeur allowed six goals in the outdoor game against the Rangers and has said he would be open to being dealt at the trade deadline.
28. FLORIDA (27): Goalie Tim Thomas had his return to Boston ruined in a 6-2 loss to the Bruins Tuesday night. Going into Thursday night’s game against Toronto, the Panthers have three players – Brad Boyes, Aleksander Barkov and Tom Gilbert – tied for the team lead in scoring with just 24 points.
29. NY ISLANDERS (25): Easily the most disappointing team in the entire NHL this season, the Islanders were basically buried when they dropped four in a row, including a 2-1 loss to the Rangers Wednesday night under the stars at Yankee Stadium. The Islanders problem is that they’re a one-trick pony. Shut down their three best players and they can’t respond.
30. BUFFALO (30): The Sabres continue the nightmare that is this season, losing seven of the past eight games. The market for Ryan Miller continues to be a fluid one, with Minnesota and St. Louis being mentioned as the most likely destinations for the U.S. Olympic goalie. Matt Moulson and Steve Ott are also in play as the deadline approaches.
Ken Campbell is the senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. To read more from Ken and THN’s other stable of experts, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Ken on Twitter at @THNKenCampbell.