THN Power Rankings: Surging Bruins take over top spot

Ken Campbell
Bruins celebration

Jarome Iginla’s next goal will give him 557 and sole possession of 25th overall on the NHL’s all-time scoring list. The Boston Bruins shouldn’t have to wait long, since Iginla leads them in goals with 26, proving to be by far the most astute free-agent signing of last summer.

The Bruins, meanwhile, will try to post the NHL’s first 11-game winning streak this season when they travel to Colorado on Friday night, a game they’ll enter as the No. 1 ranked team in THN’s Power Rankings (last week’s ranking in parentheses):

1. BOSTON (2): The Bruins have been an absolute juggernaut at both ends of the ice, outscoring their opponents by a 41-15 margin during their 10-game winning streak. They haven’t allowed more than two goals in six straight games and have scored at least three in every game but two. The Bruins are creating major space in the Eastern Conference and a threat to win their first Presidents’ Trophy since 1990.

2. ST. LOUIS (3): The Blues lost for the first time in regulation against a Central Division team this season when they were thrashed by Chicago Wednesday night. The loss stopped their winning streak at three and marked the first time Ryan Miller has been chased from the net since joining the Blues at the trade deadline. It also denied the Blues the chance to become the first team this season to clinch a playoff spot.

3. CHICAGO (8): The Blackhawks made a huge statement with their 4-0 win over St. Louis Wednesday night, but they’ll be without Patrick Kane for at least two weeks after Brenden Morrow fell on his leg. The Blackhawks 3-2 overtime loss to Philadelphia the night before dropped their overtime record to 0-7. In all, the Blackhawks have left 15 points on the table in overtime and shootouts and gained just five.

4. PITTSBURGH (4): The Penguins have had to deal with injuries all season, but the news is getting a little brighter. James Neal and Chris Kunitz returned to the lineup for a 5-1 win over Dallas Tuesday night and Kris Letang, thought to be gone for the season after suffering a stroke, is no longer showing symptoms and hopes to get back into the lineup soon.

5. SAN JOSE (6): The Sharks were going for their seventh straight win Tuesday night and then went out and promptly lost to Florida. Previous to that, though, they had earned points in eight straight games and are now neck-and-neck with Anaheim for the Pacific Division title and, in all likelihood, the right to avoid having to play Los Angeles in the first round of the playoffs.

6. ANAHEIM (5): Bruce Boudreau’s teams have an annoying habit of getting off to outlandishly good starts, then fading and losing early in the playoffs. So far, two of those things have happened and the Ducks hope to avoid the third. At one time, it looked as though the Ducks were a shoo-in for the Presidents’ Trophy and now they might not even win their own division. Ryan Getzlaf hasn’t scored a goal since before the Olympic break.

7. COLORADO (7): The Avs have adopted the mantra, “Why not us?” for this season. One reason why not is they can’t seem to defend. They’re among the worst teams in the league in terms of shots against and defensive breakdowns and sub-par goaltending were front and center in back-to-back losses to Montreal and Winnipeg in which they gave up a total of 11 goals.

8. TAMPA BAY (16): The Lightning seems to have gotten over its short-lived case of malaise over losing Martin St-Louis and is riding a four-game winning streak. It took Steven Stamkos three games to get going after coming back from his broken leg, but has 5-2-7 totals in his past four games, capped by a natural hat trick in a 5-3 win over Toronto Wednesday night.

9. MONTREAL (17): Last weekend against Ottawa, the Canadiens were less than four minutes from a four-game winning streak, but managed to score three times to tie the game and win it in overtime, which touched off a three-game winning streak. Thomas Vanek scored his first three goals as a Canadien in a 6-3 win over Colorado Tuesday night.

10. PHILADELPHIA (16): Admit it, you were pretty impressed when the Flyers swept their home-and-home series against Pittsburgh last weekend, then followed that up with a 3-2 overtime win over the defending Stanley Cup champions. Flyers captain Claude Giroux has five goals and 14 points in nine games since the Olympic break. Included in that was his goal with 4.2 seconds left in overtime in the win over Chicago Tuesday night.

11. MINNESOTA (10): With his team facing some heat for its inconsistent play of late, coach Mike Yeo rejigged his lines and it worked in a 6-0 win over the Islanders Tuesday night, the same night Ilya Bryzgalov picked up both his first win and shutout with the Wild. For the Islanders game, Mikael Granlund centered Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, while Mikko Koivu was between Matt Moulson and Justin Fontaine. With three assists against the Islanders, Koivu became the all-time highest scorer in franchise history.

12. PHOENIX (13): The Coyotes have won six of their past eight games and made an emphatic statement when they defeated Los Angeles 4-3 on the road Monday night. As the Coyotes chase the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, they’ll be leaning heavily on goalie Mike Smith, who has started nine straight games and leads in virtually every workhorse category in the league. Coach Dave Tippett said he wants to see Smith play out the rest of the schedule.

13. LOS ANGELES (1): The Kings had a torrid eight-game winning streak going, which put them on top of last week’s Power Rankings, but then promptly went out and lost three straight, all of them on home ice. After missing the past two games, captain Dustin Brown hopes to be ready for the Kings game against Washington Thursday night. Coach Darryl Sutter will once again try for his 500th win as an NHL coach in the same game.

14. NY RANGERS (14): The Rangers put up an eight-spot against Ottawa Tuesday night after getting shut out by San Jose two nights before. But the Rangers weren’t the least bit pleased with their play in that game, nor have they been wild about their performance overall of late. The Rangers continue to struggle on home ice, where they’re just 16-16-4 on the season.

15. WASHINGTON (21): The Capitals might be the most flawed team in the NHL, but they have picked it up of late with three straight wins. Alex Ovechkin has two goals in his past three games, but those are the only two points he’s scored in his past seven. Jaroslav Halak is 4-2 with a .931 save percentage for the Capitals.

16. TORONTO (11): Backup goalie James Reimer has not exactly filled the breach since Jonathan Bernier suffered a groin strain – and was in fact called out by coach Randy Carlyle – but the Maple Leafs struggles of late have been very much a team effort. Overall, the Leafs have lost four of the past five and their past three straight. They’ve given up 18 goals in those four defeats.

17. COLUMBUS (12): If the Blue Jackets are going to hang onto their playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, they’re going to have to earn it. They’re in the midst of a stretch in which they play seven games in 12 days and end the season with eight games in 12 days. They’ll welcome back Jared Boll, who has missed the past four months with torn ligaments in his ankle, Thursday night in Montreal before hosting Rick Nash for the first time Saturday night.

18. DETROIT (19): When defenseman Jonathan Ericsson went down with a broken finger Tuesday night, it marked the sixth consecutive game a Red Wing had left with an injury and now he’s out four-to-six weeks. With a roster that looked an awful lot like the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Red Wings picked up a huge 3-2 win over Toronto in that game, but things don’t get any easier for them in the stretch run. Do not expect other NHL teams to be sending sympathy cards.

19. DALLAS (9): It will almost certainly go down to the last couple of games of the season to determine whether the surprising Stars will make the playoffs, but they certainly didn’t do themselves any favors by losing three in a row, a stretch that included a shootout loss to Calgary and a laugher against Winnipeg. In their past two games, the Stars have been outscored 12-3.

20. WINNIPEG (24): Reality has begun to set in once again in Winnipeg. After getting out to a 9-2-0 start under new coach Paul Maurice, the Jets have crashed back to earth with a 4-5-4 mark. For that reason, the Jets now face having to leapfrog two teams in order to make the playoffs in the Western Conference. They helped themselves with an enormous 5-4 overtime win over Colorado Wednesday night.

21. VANCOUVER (23): The Canucks have been playing a little better lately and seem to have found some offense, but the fact is they have not won two games in a row in exactly two months. That kind of inconsistency will put you on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. If the Canucks are going to actually pull off that feat, they’ll have no better opportunity than Saturday when the host Buffalo.

22. CAROLINA (25): Goalie Anton Khudobin stopped 46 shots and the Hurricanes got their first win in Columbus in 10 years when they defeated the Blue Jackets 3-1 Tuesday night. The win came one day after coach Kirk Muller vociferously called out his players in practice, accusing some of them of playing for new contracts and not playing a team game.

23. EDMONTON (28): It might simply be one of those mirages when a team that has no pressure on it plays better down the stretch, but the Oilers have managed to pick up points in seven of nine games this month. That stretch could be in jeopardy if Jordan Eberle, who left the Oilers 5-1 win over Nashville Tuesday night with a knee injury, is out for any extended period of time.

24. CALGARY (27): The Oilers are not the only Alberta-based team that has heated up of late, with the Flames posting three wins in four games themselves. Two of those wins were rather impressive ones at home against Anaheim and on the road against Dallas. Meanwhile, the Flames signed Kenny Agostino, one of the players acquired in the Jarome Iginla trade, after he completed his season at Yale and Agostino will be in the lineup Friday night when the Flames host Nashville.

25. NEW JERSEY (18): The Devils will need a miracle to get into the playoffs and haven’t helped their cause by dropping three in a row going into a Thursday night game in which they welcome back Zach Parise for the first time. After a 4-2 loss to Boston Tuesday night, Martin Brodeur called out his teammates, saying, “Our effort is just not at the right spot for the urgency we need to make that push to the playoffs.”

26. FLORIDA (29): The Panthers have picked up points in three straight games and have finally started to score goals with some semblance of regularity, picking up 15 goals in their past four games. In a 3-2 win over San Jose Tuesday night, Roberto Luongo stopped 52 shots, including 28 in the third period alone and youngsters Brandon Pirri and Quinton Howden both scored.

27. OTTAWA (20): The Senators could not have looked worse than they did Tuesday night in dropping a sloppy 8-4 loss to the Rangers on home ice. That capped a four-game losing streak – two of those losses were in extra time – and all but eliminated them from serious contention for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.

28. NY ISLANDERS (26): While former Islander Matt Moulson was torching their team in a 6-0 Minnesota win Tuesday night, fans were calling for GM Garth Snow to be fired. Don’t expect owner Charles Wang to be listening. In move that undoubtedly put spell checks into overdrive, free agent defenseman Kevin Czuczman signed with the Islanders out of Lake Superior State University and made his NHL debut against Minnesota.

29. NASHVILLE (22): After displaying a brief offensive surge, the Predators have gone back to their old ways, scoring just a combined two goals in three consecutive losses to St. Louis, Edmonton and Vancouver. Newly acquired defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who was minus-6 in three games, watched the Predators 2-0 loss to Vancouver Wednesday night from the press box.

30. BUFFALO (30): To the surprise of no one, the Sabres have lost seven games in a row and have scored just six goals during that stretch. At the other end of the ice, the Sabres have been besieged by injury and when Matt Hackett makes his NHL debut against Edmonton in The Toilet Bowl™ Thursday night, it will mean the Sabres have used four different goalies in the past five games.