With Blackhawks' run over, Ducks lurking in power rankings; Coyotes move up to 16th.
By AJ PEREZ FS Arizona
Blackhawks have a new streak going.
Chicago saw three runs halted by a 6-2 loss to Colorado on Friday night: a record season-opening point streak (24 games), a team-record 11-game winning streak and the third-longest NHL point streak ever (30 consecutive games stretching back to last season).
The 'Hawks followed that defeat with a loss to the Oilers on Sunday, meaning they enter play Monday with just a six-point advantage on the Ducks for the West lead -- and Anaheim has two games in hand. That has to be a little disheartening.
1. Blackhawks 21-2 -3 --
Could the ‘Hawks follow the Sharks -- who began the season 7-0 after a severe downturn -- into a lengthy swoon? There figured to be a letdown after the record-setting run, but Chicago can’t afford a lengthy one if it wants to win the conference.
2. Ducks 18-3 -3 --
Anaheim’s domination at home continued with Sunday’s 4-2 victory over St. Louis, the Ducks' 11th win in a row at Honda Center. The team also locked up captain
Ryan Getzlaf to an eight-year extension, making it a very productive last several days.
Tuukka Rask doesn’t have to prove much, as he’s been more than a serviceable replacement for Tim Thomas. But Saturday’s win over the Flyers -- a team he surrendered a three-goal lead to in a Game 7 loss during the playoffs three years ago -- in his first meeting since that collapse didn’t hurt.
Not a bad five-game stretch for the Michael Ryder-
Brian Gionta line. They totaled 19 points as the Habs won four of those five games -- all on the road -- to claim the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Let’s point out that the Bruins have played four fewer games.
Evgeni Malkin’s return from concussion lasted all of three games as the Pens forward is out again with an upper-body (possibly shoulder) injury. He missed Sunday’s game against the Islanders, not that the Pens needed him in a 6-1 win.
The Kings are arguably the hottest team in hockey and in the most competitive division. L.A. has won eight of its last 10. Sure, the team may need some more balanced scoring and goalie
Jonathan Quick isn’t near his form from last postseason, but the Kings are surging nonetheless.
Craig Anderson is improving from a serious ankle sprain that has kept him out of the lineup since Feb. 21. His backups, including
Robin Lehner, have filled in well enough of late, including Friday’s victory over the Rangers.
8. Maple Leafs 15-10 -1 +1
The Leafs were one
Sidney Crosby shootout goal on Saturday away from what would have been a solid comeback win. The still managed to get five points over their last three home games, basically a pattern the Leafs need to follow to make it back to the postseason.
A victory over the Canucks on Sunday pushed the Wild to the top of the Northwest Division. As the Wild reach the midway point of the shortened season, things have finally come together. Minnesota has seven wins in the last 10 games.
10. Hurricanes 14-9 -1 -2
The ‘Canes have won five of their last six games. Granted, two were over the Panthers, but Carolina seems to be trending in the right direction.
11. Sharks 11-7 -6 -1
San Jose was four-tenths of a second from reaching a shootout, but another defensive breakdown off a face-off allowed Avs forward
Matt Duchene to score the game-winning goal. The Sharks got a point but are a middling 4-6 in shootout/OT games.
Back-to-back losses to the Blue Jackets are cause for concern, even if Columbus has been on a tear of late. Through 26 games, the Red Wings have played 16 at home. The Wings will be have to be a lot better away from Joe Louis since they have the seventh-worst road record (3-5-2) in the league.
13. Rangers 13-9 -2 +7
The deflection that found Rangers defenseman
Marc Staal’s eye on Tuesday reignited the visor debate. While doctors are “optimistic,” the team will be without a top blueliner indefinitely. The Blue Shirts have won two of three games minus Staal, and with players like
Brian Boyle stepping up, they may be able to manage for a stretch.
14. Devils 12-9 -5 -3
New Jersey has the worst goal differential (minus-10) among teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended Sunday night. That’s hardly a positive, especially as 40-year-old starting goalie Martin Brodeur has been sidelined since Feb. 21 with back issues.
15. Canucks 11-7 -6 -9
Vancouver lost the division lead and is now clinging to a playoff spot. Four consecutive losses in a short season can do that.
16. Coyotes 12-10 -3 +1
Phoenix has been unable to challenge for the lead in the ultra-competitive Pacific, where each team is above .500. Now, with the Kings charging ahead, the Coyotes need a statement victory. Say, maybe against those Kings on Tuesday?
17. Jets 12-11 -2 +8
Winnipeg had points in three of its four games on a trip that concluded with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Devils on Sunday. The Jets only got one power-play opportunity in that game, but it’s just as well. Winnipeg is ranked 28th on the man advantage (13.5 percent).
18. Blues 13-10 -2 -3
After a promising start in place of
Jake Allen hasn’t proven to be a much better option in net as he splits time with
Jaroslav Halak. It may not matter who is playing goalie. The skaters could be just as responsible on a team that allows the sixth-most goals per game (3.04).
Jamie Benn left Saturday’s game against the Coyotes with a potential concussion. The Stars lost the game, 2-1, but of more concern is Benn’s health. The Stars became a different team after he agreed to a new deal and ended his holdout.
20. Predators 10-9 -6 -1
That six-goal outburst against the Oilers on Friday get you excited? The Preds returned back to their low-scoring form, getting just one into the Wild’s net on Saturday. Nashville -- the lowest-scoring team in the league (2.08 goals per game) -- did manage to get a point against Minnesota via a shootout loss.
21. Blue Jackets 10-12 -4 +8
Only the Penguins have as long of a current winning streak (five games) as the Blue Jackets. A team that could do little right just a couple weeks ago has looked formidable, including in back-to-back wins over Detroit.
22. Avalanche 10-10 -4 -1
The Avs may not make the playoffs, but at least they can say they are the answer to a trivia question. Colorado was the team that ended the Blackhawks’ run. Colorado chased it with a dramatic OT win over the Sharks on Sunday and a win against the Oilers on Tuesday will give the Avs their longest win streak of the year: three games.
23. Flyers 12-14 -1 -5
If it wasn’t for Buffalo, the Flyers would really be in a spin. Philly had lost three in a row before a 3-2 victory over the Sabres on Sunday. It wasn’t a pretty win and neither are the Flyers’ playoff chances after last week’s rough ride.
24. Islanders 11-12 -3 +3
The Islanders had their five-game point streak snapped in a big way by the Penguins on Sunday. The 6-1 loss included two power-play goals allowed, something that goes against a team that still has the fifth-best penalty kill on the road.
25. Capitals 10-13 -1 +3
The Caps are the biggest conundrum in the NHL. How does a team beat the Bruins 4-3 in OT on Tuesday and then lose to both New York teams (Islanders on Saturday and Rangers on Sunday) by a combined score of 9-3?
26. Oilers 9-11 -5 --
The Oilers had been shut out in the prior two games before Sunday’s 6-5 win over the Blackhawks. A team that can’t hold a lead managed not to completely ruin a 4-0 advantage against Chicago. That’s called progress.
27. Flames 9-10 -4 -3
The only drama left at this point is how many players will move -- and exactly where
Jarome Iginla will end up -- before the April 3 trade deadline.
28. Lightning 10-14 -1 -5
With two wins over their prior 10 games, the only thing the Lightning can cling to at this point is that they’re not the worst team in Florida.
29. Sabres 9-14 -3 -1
It hasn’t been a good season, and the news got worse when forward
Tyler Ennis was forced out of Sunday’s loss to the Flyers with an upper-body injury.
30. Panthers 7-13 -6 --
The NHL Players Association gave approval to realignment last week, not that it matters. The Panthers would be dead last in any division/conference if that plan had been enacted before this season.