The National Hockey League heads to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic break this week. A flurry of games on the schedule highlighted a busy Friday and Saturday. There are a number of teams heading in the right direction but far too many have gone into tailspins that have them outside looking in on the playoff picture. Others have not been able to get any traction.
Power Rankings-Eastern Conference-Olympic Break
Adam Says: I am hoping this is the last Olympic break rankings ever. I am not a fan of shutting down the season for two weeks. Bring on the World Cup and let’s play it in August every 2 or 4 years. As for the rankings, the east is still top heavy with only a couple really good teams, plenty of mediocre teams and some really bad teams. Not anywhere near as quality as you get to see in the West. Lou, I am sorry you drew the West holy cow that is a tough rankings job you have.
1) Pittsburgh (0)-They are turning into the only East team who will contend for the President’s Trophy.
2) Boston (0)-While the fall behind Pittsburgh in the race for the top seed, they are also distancing themselves from Tampa Bay for the division title.
3) Tampa Bay (0)-This team will be one to watch after the Olympic break. Martin St. Louis won’t be playing to prove her deserved an Olympic roster spot, but Steven Stamkos is expected to return.
4) Montreal (+1)-Thought they have struggled lately, I still like them better than the two teams on their heels. They can play a defensive game and more importantly have had some solid road play.
5) NY Rangers (+1)-If they ever can figure out a way to play better on home ice this team will be a lock for home ice in the first round. If not, they may not even make the playoffs.
6) Toronto (+2)-Can I just say the opposite of what the Rangers problem is?
7) Columbus (0)-What stands out to me if their goal differential. Of all the teams around them in the standings they are the only one who scores more than they give up with a +9 margin. Wait did I just talk about Columbus and offense in the same sentence?
8) Detroit-(+1)-I was high on then, then gave up on then, now I am back thinking they could be a dark horse. If they ever get fully healthy I would be scared of seeing them as an opponent.
9) Philadelphia (-5)-Remember when they were charging up the standings and looking to even challenge for home ice? Reality has set in for a team I expect to finish around 500.
10) Carolina (+2)-Cam Ward is coming back after the break and this could be as good as a deadline trade deal.
11) Washington (0)-Is there any fan base more tired of seeing their team go to shootouts? At least they have won 8 of 15 I guess.
12) Ottawa (-2)-They have points in seven of their last 10 games, but again are giving up too many goals. This team is the poster child for inconstant season.
13) New Jersey (0)-If you take them past 60 minutes you tend to win. Cory Schneider seems to be the goalie taking charge, but as a whole 0-8 in shootouts and five more overtime losses are a lot of points to leave on the table. Is Martin Brodeur a guy who could move at the deadline?
14) NY Islanders (0)-They had a solid start to the 2014 calendar. Then mid-January hit and we all realized they are the same Islanders. Look to Vanek to be moved after turning down a contract extension.
15) Florida (0)-The weather in Sunrise is nice this time of year.
16) Buffalo (0)-This team has played perfectly since my last ranking. That is if the goal is to lock up the best chance at the top draft pick early.
Power Rankings-Western Conference-Olympic Break
Lou says, “This power ranking poll has changed almost daily in the last week. At one point we had Colorado, Chicago, and San Jose vying for the top spot. We lament the lack of consistency in the NHL this season. There is none. Teams get hot then fade; just take a look at Adam’s Eastern Poll. Well, without further ado here is the West as we head to Sochi.”
1. St Louis (+4) Of all the clubs in the West at the break the Blues are the ones with a 7-2-1 record. Despite their recent schneid coach Ken Hitchcock kept a level head and held the bench together to see it through and get into a first place tie with the Blackhawks in the Division.
2. San Jose (+1) This choice for the second spot in the West is based more on a gut feeling than the Sharks’ recent games. They are getting healthy with a number of injured bodies healing in time for the resumption of the NHL schedule. They have a solid hold on second in the Pacific and may challenge the Ducks late.
3. Anaheim Ducks (-2) The Ducks have had issues at home of late and scoring at home disappeared on them. They won their last game heading into the Sochi break and now need to regroup for the final push for the Pacific crown.
4. Colorado Avalanche (+2) The Avs had their own stretch of bad games including two miserable losses on the east coast when the Rangers and Flyers abused them. A win on the Island made things palatable for Patrick Roy’s club.
5. Minnesota Wild (+2) The Wild had their winter of discontent where they were giving up late goals to lose matches they were leading. Heading to the break they are 6-2-2 and charging up the ladder. They sit in the sixth spot in the conference. Having rediscovered their game look for them to challenge the Avs who are loaded with youngsters unfamiliar with the pressures of the playoff hunt.
6. Chicago Blackhawks (-4) For several weeks, the Hawks have appeared to be going through the paces. Their downturn can be traced to a drubbing they took on home ice at the hands of the Rangers; a game they hardly took seriously and their opponent took advantage. For much of the season they have toyed with undermanned teams and became almost disinterested. And now they have been tied by the Blues for the Divisional lead.
7. Winnipeg Jets (+3) Remembering this is a power ranking poll and not a reflection of the standings, the Jets earned a big jump in this poll. Paul Maurice has his entire bench on the same page. Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien seem energized and Ondrej Pavalec has settled down a bit. The Jets are 6-3-1 over their last ten and are no longer a pushover on the schedule.
8. Dallas Stars (+1) The Stars have been all over the map this season. The darlings of many pundits they have disappointed many. Tyler Seguin has been hot of late but he never looks like the leader on the team.
9. Phoenix Coyotes (-1) The Coyotes are tied with the Stars with 64 points through 58 games. As with many clubs, the Coyotes’ offense has gone absent leaving Mike Smith needing to pitch a shutout each night.
10. Los Angeles Kings (-5) We might like the Kings here but they have been dreadful on offense. They are 2-8-0 over the last ten and scoring is an absolute mystery for their forwards; ff their “D” do not score they do not win those two games.
11. Nashville Predators (+1) Holding your own in the West just does not cut it. Injuries to important players and positions have made the Predators’ path to the playoffs difficult at best. A trade for Devan Dubnyk was hoped to sure up the net the lack of support in front of um makes the Preds vulnerable.
12. Calgary Flames (+2) The Flames have 6-3-1 and are playing well since their line brawl with the Canucks. They are not likely to catch fire enough to chase down a playoff spot; they have 51 points and the 8th spot is 13 points away.
13. Vancouver Canucks (-2) The Canucks have been heading in the opposite direction since the Flames line brawl game. Daniel Sedin’s ribs have kept him out of the lineup and out of the Sochi Games. But even with the Twins intact this Canucks team is in disarray. They have lost seven straight and are 2-8-0 over their last ten and are outside the playoffs looking inside. However, they are one point back of three teams with 64 points.
14. Edmonton Oilers (0) The Oilers showed spunk on a recent trip to the East. They defeated a Rangers club that may have taken them too lightly. Even at 5-3-2 in their last ten they are going nowhere fast. All that talent, speed and young legs has totaled up to 47 points through 60 games. They have a -46 goal differential and no one seems to pay any attention to the defensive zone. Only the Islanders have given up more goals (200) than the Oilers (199).