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Power rankings: the Blackhawks bottom out

Matt Larkin
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Power rankings: the Blackhawks bottom out

Brandon Saad. Author: (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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Power rankings: the Blackhawks bottom out

Matt Larkin
By:

While the Bruins stay on top and the Leafs surge, the freefalling Hawks fall to an unfamiliar address: the basement floor.

The Boston Bruins seem poised to eternally hold the top spot in these power rankings, which I’ll complete for Ken Campbell during his NHL boycott while the 2018 Olympic men’s hockey tournament runs.

We’ve said almost everything there is to say about Boston’s brilliance of late. This team hasn’t lost consecutive games in regulation for three months. So let’s peer all the way to the bottom of these rankings instead to focus on something different. That sound you hear is the laughing ghost of Bill Wirtz. After a joyous decade punctuated with three Stanley Cups, multiple future Hall of Famers and standing-room-only crowds, the Chicago Blackhawks are finally returning to life on the bottom of the NHL. They’ve lost seven straight games and 11 of 13. They now sit 12 points out of a playoff spot, and the team they’re chasing, the Minnesota Wild, has a game in hand. The run is over, folks. It doesn’t get any worse than a 6-1 defeat to the Arizona Coyotes. Chicago hasn’t been .500 or worse this late in a season since Feb. 13, 2008, the last season it missed the playoffs. Duncan Keith just doesn’t have the support on defense he used to. That’s what happens when a team that just got swept in the first round of the playoffs loses four of its top six D-men over an off-season. Even though goaltender Corey Crawford, the team’s MVP this season, has begun skating, it’s fair to wonder if it would even be smart for him to return and risk worsening an already-serious vertigo condition.

THE CREAM OF THE CROP
1. Boston Bruins (1)
2. Nashville Predators (2)
3. Toronto Maple Leafs (9)
4. Tampa Bay Lightning (5)
5. Pittsburgh Penguins (6)
6. Vegas Golden Knights (7)
7. Winnipeg Jets (3)
8. Dallas Stars (4)
9. St. Louis Blues (13)
10. Minnesota Wild (11)

The Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron has the Selke Trophy practically locked up, but did you know he’s fourth in the NHL in goals per game? Time to place him squarely in the Hart discussion, too…Speaking of awards talk, the Predators’ P.K. Subban is zeroing in on the Norris. Even if Brendan Gallagher says P.K. just wants attention, he deserves it given how well he’s playing right now…the Leafs are hockey’s hottest team of late, with eight wins in their past nine, though the one loss came to Boston. They’re a different team with Mitch Marner on the second line in Leo Komarov’s place… The Bolts remain the league’s most talent-rich team but look mortal of late. Is complacency setting in? We’ve seen it time and again with the Washington Capitals when they’ve locked up a playoff spot too early…the Penguins are doing the opposite, going 13-4-1 since the calendar switched to 2018, and we know GM Jim Rutherford is a strong bet to land them a third-line center at the deadline…The Golden Knights have slowed down, playing .500 hockey over their past six games, but they never hit the slump everyone seems to expect. They still own the NHL’s best home record and would have home ice advantage in the first three rounds if the playoffs started today…Mark Scheifele has averaged 23:15 of ice in three games since returning from his shoulder injury. It’s safe to say the Jets didn’t rush their star center back…The Stars get a disproportionate amount of offense from their Mega Line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov and seem like an ideal suitor for a secondary scoring rental such as Rick Nash…getting Jaden Schwartz back is a boon for the Blues, but Carter Hutton’s save percentage has slipped to a so-so .913 in February, while Jake Allen sits at .901 this month. The Blues aren’t serious contenders until they know who The Man is in goal…the Wild’s points percentage has climbed all the way to .607. Coach Bruce Boudreau has finished at .600 or better in nine of his 10 completed seasons, and his career mark of .654 is second all-time to Scotty Bowman among coaches with at least 250 games.

THE MUSHY MIDDLE
11. Washington Capitals (8)
12. Florida Panthers (10)
13. Carolina Hurricanes (24)
14. Columbus Blue Jackets (21)
15. San Jose Sharks (15)
16. New Jersey Devils (17)
17. Los Angeles Kings (18)
18. Philadelphia Flyers (19)
19. Calgary Flames (12)
20. Anaheim Ducks (16)

The Capitals locked up Lars Eller but have just 14 current roster players signed through next year with only $12.6 million in projected cap space. If John Carlson continues his stellar play, how can they possibly afford him? …Make that five wins in six games for the Panthers, who sit nine points out of a playoff spot but have played an NHL-low 53 games…Justin Faulk just became the first Hurricanes D-man to record a hat trick since…Jaccob Slavin last March. This just in: the Canes have good D-men…The Blue Jackets are on pace to finish the year with just two 20-goal scorers and zero 30-goal scorers…How banged up are the Sharks? Well, Brent Burns just played forward for the first time since 2014-15…New Jersey’s Taylor Hall has points in 15 straight games. With 23 goals, he’s just five away from setting a new career high. Hard to believe he’s never topped 27…The Dion Phaneuf trade gives the Kings defensive depth but doesn’t address their need for more scoring… Travis Konency’s past 21 games with the Flyers: 10 goals, 21 points. Raise your hand if you knew that…The Flames' playoff hopes took a huge hit with Mike Smith’s groin injuriy. David Rittich’s first outing as the “starter”: four goals, .897 SP. Hold on tight…The Ducks are on pace for 16 “loser points,” which would tie them for the second most ever. Four teams share the record at 18.

VYING FOR THE PARTICIPATION BADGE
21. Arizona Coyotes (31)
22. Detroit Red Wings (28)
23. Colorado Avalanche (14)
24. Vancouver Canucks (29)
25. Montreal Canadiens (20)
26. New York Islanders (23)
27. Buffalo Sabres (26)
28. New York Rangers (30)
29. Edmonton Oilers (22)
30. Ottawa Senators (25)
31. Chicago Blackhawks (27)

The Coyotes have won three of four! Raise a glass. Their points percentage of .351 is now only the seventh-worst of the cap era…How weird must it be to sit fourth in your division yet 18 points behind the third-place team? Such is life for the Red Wings…The Avalanche are .500 in six games since Nathan MacKinnon’s injury, but two of their three wins were against lowly Edmonton and Buffalo. Hurry back, Nate…Brock Boeser’s goal pace after 35 games? 49. Since then, he’s scored at a 24-goal pace. The Canucks rookie comes from the NCAA. His regular season schedule at North Dakota last year: 35 games…Only four players have won more shorthanded faceoffs than Tomas Plekanec this season. He’s a viable rental chip for the Habs to trade…How bad are the Islanders defensively? They’re second only to Tampa Bay in goals yet have a minus-20 goal differential…The Sabres should enjoy the No .27 ranking while it lasts. It’s gonna get ugly with Jack Eichel lost to another high ankle sprain… Calling out Henrik Lundqvist, who recently pledged his commitment to riding out a Rangers rebuild, wasn’t the smartest move for coach Alain Vigneault, whose days appear numbered in Manhattan…If the season ended today, the Oilers’ lottery odds would be top-five. Sigh…The Phaneuf deal saved the Senators’ $4 million in real money over the next three years…The Hawks’ seven-game losing streak is their longest since 2011-12. In 2012-13, they lost seven regulation games in the entire 48-game season.

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Power rankings: the Blackhawks bottom out