THN Power Rankings: Blues ride Miller to No. 1 spot

Ken Campbell
Ryan Miller

The St. Louis Blues got the dominos falling at the trade deadline with the blockbuster trade that saw them acquire Ryan Miller and Steve Ott and since then, they’ve been knocking over their opponents. With Miller in the nets, they’ve won three in a row and are neck-and-neck with the Anaheim Ducks in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy.

And they’re also the No. 1 team in the NHL, at least according to THN’s weekly Power Rankings. As was the case early in the season, this week’s rankings are top-heavy with Western Conference teams. (Rankings from our previous Power Rankings, which were done before the Olympics, are in parentheses.)

1. ST. LOUIS (5): Blues coach Ken Hitchcock doesn’t know much about goaltending, but he knows enough to tout his newest acquisition. “I just know everything sticks to him,” Hitchcock said after Miller stopped 18 of 19 shots in a 2-1 win over Nashville Thursday night. “That’s good for us.” In three games with the Blues, Miller has a 3-0-0 record with a 1.67 goals-against average and .919 save percentage.

2. ANAHEIM (3): The Ducks failed in their bid to get Ryan Kesler at the trade deadline and did not supplement their scoring with either Thomas Vanek or Matt Moulson, but did pick up Stephane Robidas from Dallas, who is still out of the lineup with a broken leg. The Ducks are in the midst of a five-game post-Olympic home stand in which they’re 2-0-1.

3. COLORADO (7): With an assist in a 3-2 overtime win over Detroit Thursday night, Nathan MacKinnon became the first 18-year-old player – eclipsing Wayne Gretzky – to post a point in 13 consecutive games. His has posted 5-13-18 totals over that span and established himself as the undisputed frontrunner for the Calder Trophy. The Avs, meanwhile, have been flying since the Olympic break, going 4-0-0 and outscoring their opponents 17-9.

4. SAN JOSE (6): The Sharks avoided the temptation to keep up with the arms race in the Western Conference and did nothing at the trade deadline, largely because GM Doug Wilson believes in this group. After coming out flat in a 4-2 loss to Buffalo after the Olympic break, the Sharks are 2-0-1 since and came back from two goals down to beat Pittsburgh 5-3 Thursday night. Sharks coach Todd McLellan said afterward it was one of the best games he’s ever seen Brent Burns play.

5. CHICAGO (2): The Blackhawks have managed, for the most part, to avoid a Stanley Cup hangover this season. But there has been something of an Olympics hangover for the Hawks, who had 10 players in Sochi. They’re just 2-2-0, but managed to bounce back from a loss to Colorado with a convincing 6-1 win over Columbus Thursday night. Jonathan Toews, who has five goals in his past three games, is centering a new No. 1 line between Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw.

6. LOS ANGELES (15): The team that couldn’t seem to buy a goal before the Olympic break has gone on a tear since, winning all five of its games and doing so with air-tight defense and opportunistic scoring. In fact, the Kings have allowed just three goals in their past four games, in which goalie Jonathan Quick has stopped 81 of 84 shots. In their wins over Montreal and Winnipeg, the Kings gave up just 17 shots in each game.

7. BOSTON (4): The Bruins lost their first two games after the Olympic break, but then reeled off three straight victories in which they outscored their opponents by a 13-4 margin. In their 3-0 win over Washington Thursday night, the Bruins limited the Capitals to just eight shots in the first two periods and outshot them 43-16. The Bruins seemed like a likely destination for Thomas Vanek, but in the end, GM Peter Chiarelli opted to bolster his defense corps at the deadline.

8. MINNESOTA (10): The Wild has won three straight since the Olympic break and its past five overall and hasn’t given up more than two goals in any of the wins. Matt Moulson, who will make his debut for the Wild Saturday night against Dallas, will play on the second line with Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle. The Wild upgraded offensively, but it will come down to goaltending and the Wild faces a stretch of 20 games in 37 games with a tandem of Darcy Kuemper and Ilya Bryzgalov.

9. PITTSBURGH (1): Those old bugaboos of lax defensive play and sub-par goaltending are coming back to haunt the Penguins post-Olympics. They’ve lost three of four games since the break and have given up at least five goals in all the losses. They blew a two-goal lead to San Jose Thursday night and essentially lost the game when Joe Thornton scored on Jeff Zatkoff from the blueline.

10. TORONTO (10): The Maple Leafs stumbled badly out of the Olympic break before defeating the Rangers 3-2 in overtime Wednesday night. Defensively, the Leafs continue to confound and confuse. In their first game back from the Olympics, a 5-4 overtime loss to Islanders, and the win over the Rangers, the Leafs gave up two shorthanded goals on the same penalty. The Leafs face a crucial five-game road stretch next week, with three of those games against California teams.

11. MONTREAL (11): The Canadiens acquired the crown jewel of trade deadline day in Thomas Vanek, who gives the Canadiens much-needed size, net presence and the ability to create offense in 5-on-5 situations. In his first game with the Canadiens, Vanek registered one shot (despite more than four minutes of power play time) and was minus-1 in a 5-2 loss to Phoenix, a game they controlled for long stretches until falling apart in the third period.

12. PHILADELPHIA (14): The Flyers came out of the Olympic break with an ugly 7-3 loss to San Jose, but have since reeled off three victories – including sweeping a home-and-home set against Washington – and scoring 15 goals in the process. Overall, the Flyers have won seven of their last eight games and hold down second place in the Metropolitan Division. In the two wins over Washington, Claude Giroux had 4-2-6 totals to bring him up to a point-per game this season.

13. DALLAS (19): The Stars are still clinging to a playoff spot in the Western Conference and shored up their goaltending by acquiring Tim Thomas at the deadline. GM Jim Nill did not make any major moves at the deadline because he believes in his team, and it rewarded him with a convincing 6-1 win over Vancouver Thursday night. Tyler Seguin had three goals and two assists in the game, giving him five games this season in which he’s had four or more points. That’s tops in the NHL.

14. NY RANGERS (8): Despite getting into New York only a couple of hours before game time, newly acquired Martin St-Louis played 20 minutes in the Rangers 3-2 overtime loss to Toronto Wednesday night. The Rangers have lost three in a row and have been guilty of throwing games away with miscues in their own zone. The good news is the Rangers play four of their next five on the road, where they’ve been much better than they’ve been at Madison Square Garden this season.

15. TAMPA BAY (15): The high of Steven Stamkos returning to the lineup after missing four months with a broken leg was tempered by the trade of Martin St-Louis to the Rangers. The Lightning has lost four of five since the Olympic break and dropped a 3-1 loss to the worst team in the league in Stamkos’ first game back in the lineup. The Lightning is leaking a little defensively, giving up 13 goals in their past four games.

16. PHOENIX (18): Even though he didn’t register a point in his debut with the Coyotes, Martin Erat paid immediate dividends after coming to Phoenix in a four-player trade. The newly formed line of Kyle Chipchura between Erat and Radim Vrbata accounted for two goals in the Coyotes 5-2 win over Montreal Thursday night. The Coyotes open a four-game road trip in the Eastern Conference Saturday, which is good news since they’re 12-7-3 against eastern teams this season.

17. COLUMBUS (13): Rather than add to the core of his surprising team, Blue Jackets’ GM Jarmo Kekalainen was essentially a seller at the deadline, moving the disappointing Marian Gaborik to Los Angeles. Gaborik, Kekalainen explained, wasn’t a fit for the blue-collar Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets forgot that work ethic Thursday night and were demolished by Chicago. With both Fedor Tyutin and Ryan Murray out, the Blue Jackets have issues on defense, which was why they picked up Nick Schultz.

18. DETROIT (17): The Red Wings are 2-1-1 since the Olympic break, but they’re going to have to be better than that the rest of the way if they want to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time since 1989-90. Ravaged by injuries up front, the Red Wings tried to stem the bleeding by acquiring pending UFA David Legwand, but the reality is if the Red Wings don’t get their key players back and healthy soon, they’re not going anywhere.

19. NEW JERSEY (25): The Devils have picked things up since the Olympic break, winning three of four games and keeping themselves in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Of course, if they weren’t 0-for-8 in shootouts, they’d be firmly in possession of one of those spots. The best news the Devils received is that they’ll be back in the first round of the draft, choosing 30th overall, after the league reconsidered its absurd penalty for the Ilya Kovalchuk contract.

20. WINNIPEG (20): The loss of second-line center Mark Scheifele was a devastating one for the Jets and prompted some to wonder why GM Kevin Cheveldayoff wasn’t more aggressive at the trade deadline. Coach Paul Maurice moved Michael Frolik to center and has been forced to shuffle his lines because of the Scheifele injury, reuniting the Blake Wheeler-Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little line. It was to no avail as the Kings were outshot 43-18 and outscored 3-1 by Los Angeles Thursday night.

21. WASHINGTON (24): The Capitals have been terrible defensively all season and have been true to form of late, allowing 14 goals in their past three games. In a 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins, they were outshot 43-16 and took more than half the game to register their fifth shot on goal. The Capitals are not only porous defensively, they’re struggling offensively, registering five or fewer shots in five of the past nine full periods they’ve played.

22. OTTAWA (20): If the Senators ultimately fail to make the playoffs, they might be able to point to their past two games as the reason why. After picking up a big win in the Heritage Classic against Vancouver, the Senators left four points on the table when they lost to two of the league’s worst teams, Edmonton and Calgary. GM Bryan Murray was in the buying mode at the deadline, acquiring Ales Hemsky for two draft picks and refusing to trade any of his pending UFAs.

23. CAROLINA (22): The Hurricanes were on a post-Olympic spiral, losing three straight before picking up an unlikely overtime win in San Jose Tuesday night. GM Jim Rutherford made only one move at the deadline, moving popular winger Tuomo Ruutu to New Jersey for Andrei Loktionov. Ruutu was not having a good season offensively, but he was one of the few physical, in-your-face forwards the Hurricanes had.

24. EDMONTON (27): The Oilers were 2-1-1 going into the Olympic break and 2-1-1 since then. The question remains: is this an indication the Oilers have finally hit their stride as a team or is it a case of a team getting meaningless wins long after the pressure of the playoff is off it? In any case, the Oilers are 6-2-2 in their past 10 and haven’t given up more than three goals in a game in their past seven.

25. CALGARY (26): The Flames couldn’t find a fit to trade pending UFA Michael Cammalleri at the deadline, but did get draft picks in exchange for Lee Stempniak and Reto Berra. More importantly they called up Corban Knight and Max Reinhart. Knight had a great game in the faceoff circle in a 4-1 win over Ottawa Wednesday night and Joni Ortio picked up his first NHL victory in the same game.

26. NY ISLANDERS (28): Islanders GM Garth Snow discovered teams weren’t willing to pay a premium for deadline rentals and very nearly got caught still having Thomas Vanek on his roster after the trade deadline. The Islanders were upset at how they’d been portrayed by the big, bad Canadian TV networks after trading Vanek and Andrew MacDonald, then went out and proved everyone wrong by blowing a two-goal lead and losing in overtime to Edmonton.

27. VANCOUVER (21): Really, would there be a more depressing team to be around these days than the Canucks? Not only did they trade their franchise goalie in Roberto Luongo, they failed to move Ryan Kesler and have lost 10 of their past 11 games. In a two-game road trip to Phoenix and Dallas, they lost both games and were outscored 7-1. Yes, the Canucks are only three points out of the playoffs in the west, but can we just write them off now?

28. NASHVILLE (23): Wait a minute, maybe there is a more depressing place than Vancouver. The Predators have struck an iceberg and are sinking fast, losing six of their past seven games and scoring just one goal in each of their past three. Even with the return of Pekka Rinne, the Predators are not going to win many games giving their goaltender that kind of offensive support.

29. FLORIDA (29): Roberto Luongo will make his return debut as a Panther Friday night, ushering in a new era of prosperity, potential and lovely unicorns in South Florida. Even GM Dale Tallon said he’s looking forward to winning championships (not a championship) with Luongo. You get LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade in South Florida, you can talk about championships. The Panthers with Luongo? Good luck with that.

30. BUFFALO (30): Don’t look now, but the Sabres are 4-1-0 since the Olympic break and with the Ryan Miller affair behind them, are playing like a team that has had a huge weight removed from it. Speaking of huge, Tyler Myers was a beast in a 3-1 win over Tampa Bay Thursday night, jumping into the play and making things happen offensively the way he did during his rookie year.

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.