The Anaheim Ducks have been a fixture at No. 1 in our Power Rankings for much of this season, but they know their true value will be judged in the playoffs. That’s why GM Bob Murray went out and boldly bolstered his defense corps just before the trade deadline.
The Anaheim Ducks have a 12-point lead on the next best team in the toughest division in hockey. If there was a team content to stand pat at the trade deadline, it should have been the Ducks.
Instead, GM Bob Murray made a flurry of moves just under the wire to radically alter his defense corps. The Ducks feel they’re now better equipped to get through the battle of attrition that is the Western Conference in the playoffs. In the here and now, however, the Ducks sit atop thn.com’s weekly Power Rankings. (Last week’s rankings in parentheses.)
1. ANAHEIM (3): The Ducks were on their way to a second straight defeat and a repeat of Game 7 of their second-round playoff series before their stunning third-period comeback against the Kings last Friday. Coming up: In Arizona against the tanking Coyotes tonight, then home to more challenging opponents – Pittsburgh and Montreal.
2. PITTSBURGH (6): Penguins GM Jim Rutherford dealt away his top-two defensemen in terms of hits in Simon Despres and Robert Bortuzzo, but gained more blueline experience in the reacquired Ben Lovejoy and Ian Cole. Coming up: On the road in Columbus, then a three-game trip through California, which doesn’t seem as imposing these days as it once was.
3. N.Y RANGERS (8): The Rangers are currently without ‘The King’ (the injured Henrik Lundqvist) and ‘The Duke’ (the traded Anthony Duclair), but their win over Nashville Monday night has them currently ruling the Metropolitan Division. Coming up: A five-game road trip starts Wednesday with Detroit, then Chicago.
4. MINNESOTA (2): The Wild waited out the Buffalo Sabres and got Chris Stewart for a reduced price at the buzzer and stole the hearts of fans on trade deadline day by acquiring Jordan Leopold. Coming up: Home to Ottawa tonight, then two on the road against Washington and Carolina.
5. DETROIT (7): Prior to the trade deadline, the Red Wings went 4-1-1 on a grueling six-game road trip, with the only regulation-time defeat coming in a 1-0 loss to Los Angeles. Coming up: Four of the next five on home ice, starting with the Rangers Wednesday night. The Red Wings and Predators are tied for the fewest regulation-time losses on home ice with five.
6. MONTREAL (6): The Canadiens continue to baffle. They were at their baffling best (worst?) when they kicked off a four-game, post-trade-deadline road trip with a limp 4-0 defeat in San Jose. Coming up: The road trip continues with games in Anaheim, Los Angeles and Arizona.
7. NASHVILLE (4): This next little while could determine how good the Predators are. The best team in the NHL is mired in its worst stretch. Until last weekend, the Predators hadn’t lost two in a row in regulation. Now they’ve lost three. Coming up: On the road in New Jersey tonight, then home against the Islanders and Winnipeg.
8. ST. LOUIS (9): It’s understandable that the Blues would be seeking more depth than talent at the deadline, which is why they traded for an injured defenseman (Zbynek Michalek), a rugged defenseman (Robert Bortuzzo) and a guy with a lot of miles (Olli Jokinen). Coming up: A five-game road trip comes to an end with games in Philadelphia and Toronto.
9. TAMPA BAY (11): The Lightning would be running away with the Eastern Conference if they weren’t such a terrible road team. They’re just 15-14-5 away from the Amalie Arena. Coming up: A three-game home stand with very winnable games against Buffalo, Toronto and Dallas.
10. N.Y ISLANDERS (13): The Islanders weren’t expecting to do too much of anything leading up to the deadline, then went out and made the kind of depth moves that could prove really valuable down the road in acquiring Tyler Kennedy and Michal Neuvirth. Coming up: A four-game road trip starts tonight in Dallas.
11. WASHINGTON (10): After seven years as the assistant GM, Brian MacLellan endured his first deadline run in the big chair and acquitted himself well, obtaining Curtis Glencross and Tim Gleason. Coming up: In Columbus tonight and then home for five straight, where the Capitals are 18-8-5.
12. WINNIPEG (14): Somebody stop Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. After going almost four years without making an NHL-player-for-NHL-player trade, he went bonkers leading up to the trade deadline. Coming up: Home to the surging Senators Wednesday night, then on the road for four straight.
13. VANCOUVER (12): The Canucks are 7-3-0 in their past 10 and are 2-1-0 without Ryan Miller, but lost to Buffalo and almost blew a 5-2 lead Sunday night before beating St. Louis 6-5 in shootout. Coming up: Home to San Jose tonight, then on the road in Arizona and San Jose.
14. CHICAGO (13): In his first game as a Blackhawk, the crown jewel of the trade deadline, Antoine Vermette, had no points and no shots in almost 13 minutes of ice time. Coming up: Home to Edmonton and Arizona, then six of their next seven on the road.
15. BOSTON (19): The Bruins tinkered with their bottom-six forwards at the trade deadline, but there are still holes on this team’s blueline that weren’t patched up. Coming up: Three straight at home against Calgary, Philadelphia and Detroit.
16. OTTAWA (22): Is the hottest team in the NHL setting itself up for an excruciating end of the season where they finish too low to make the playoffs and too high to get a blue-chip pick? Coming up: A five-game road trip ends with back-to-back games in Minnesota and Winnipeg, then it’s home for three.
17. SAN JOSE (20): After kind of a strange trade deadline, Sharks GM Doug Wilson cryptically had this to say: “The results are not acceptable, and the next 19 games will dictate a lot of the decisions that we make on people.” Coming up: In Vancouver tonight, then home for five straight, where the Sharks are a surprisingly bad 15-14-5.
18. CALGARY (16): Disaster struck in one of the worst possible ways when it was announced that captain Mark Giordano will miss the rest of the season with a torn bicep. Wisely, the Flames did not mortgage their future to replace him at the deadline. Coming up: The fourth of an eight-game Eastern Conference road trip goes tonight in Philadelphia. At 9-14-2, the Flames are the second-worst team in the west against eastern teams.
19. FLORIDA (23): In his quest to play for every team in every professional league in the world before he retires in 53 years, Jaromir Jagr had an impressive debut for the Panthers. A seven-game home stretch continues tonight against Toronto, then three more at home.
20. LOS ANGELES (1): Remember last week how we went all nuts saying the Kings were back and finally shifting it into gear? Yeah, forget we ever said that, OK? The Kings went out and lost three straight and were outscored 10-4. Coming up: In Edmonton tonight, then home to Montreal and Pittsburgh.
21. PHILADELPHIA (17): The Flyers are spinning their wheels in the present, but set themselves up for a great future with four picks and a good defenseman in Radko Gudas in exchange for two defensemen, one of them who’s 40 and hadn’t played all season. Coming up: Home to Calgary and St. Louis, then on the road for two.
22. NEW JERSEY (21): Recent frequent scratches Michael Ryder and Martin Havlat were a little miffed they didn’t get dealt at the deadline. Perhaps if their play had earned them a spot in the lineup of one of the worst teams in the league…Coming up: Home tonight to Nashville, then Columbus and Philadelphia.
23. COLORADO (18): Since turning professional in 2010-11, Jordan Caron has not been able to stick with a strong Boston team and has been shuttling between the minors and the NHL. He should get a chance to prove he can play with the Avs. What he does with it is up to him. Coming up: Home to Pittsburgh Wednesday, then on the road in Columbus and Minnesota, where for $5,000, Gabriel Landeskog gets a chance to reach over the bench and punch and punch Mikko Koivu in the face again.
24. COLUMBUS (29): GM Jarmo Kekalainen resisted the urge to blow up a Blue Jackets team that has been besieged by injuries this season, instead dealing defensemen James Wisniewski and Jordan Leopold. Coming up: Home to Washington tonight, then three of the next four on the road.
25. DALLAS (27): After watching his team lose 5-4 to Colorado in a shootout Saturday, coach Lindy Ruff was remarkably blunt about the play of goalie Kari Lehtonen. “The goaltending performance doesn’t match the effort of the team,” he said. Coming up: Home to the Islanders tonight in what should be a scorefest, then five straight on the road.
26. CAROLINA (26): With most of his heavy lifting done prior to Monday, GM Ron Francis was quiet at the trade deadline. Then his team went out and quietly and meekly got rolled over by Chicago. Coming up: Five straight at home, where they’re a respectable 14-11-3.
27. TORONTO (26): Olli Jokinen, we hardly knew ye. Oh well, at least he has more career overtime points with the Maple Leafs than David Clarkson does. Coming up: In Florida tonight and Tampa Thursday, then the next three on home ice. Will the Leafs do a video tribute to Jokinen’s career when St. Louis comes in Saturday night?
28. EDMONTON (28): GM Craig MacTavish said Monday good times are on the way and they’re, “on the horizon of another decade of really great Oilers hockey.” On the horizon? Really? If you say so. Coming up: Home tonight to Los Angeles, then five straight on the road.
29. BUFFALO (29): At this point in the season, losing equals winning. That’s why the Sabres tanked at the trade deadline. Call it “roster management” or “housecleaning” but it’s also giving your team the best shot at having a 100 percent chance at one of the top two picks. And for the Sabres, it’s smart. Coming up: In Tampa tonight, then three more on the road.
30. ARIZONA (30): The Coyotes added all kinds of futures to their portfolio at the deadline, but the present is a complete and utter mess. The way they’re playing, no wonder Buffalo had to unload so many roster players at the deadline. Coming up: A six-game home stand kicks off tonight against Anaheim.