NHL Power Rankings: Hurricanes back on top; Markstrom drives Flames’ climb

NHL Power Rankings
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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings the Carolina Hurricanes are back in the top spot thanks to a perfect 8-0-0 start through the month of October.

Elsewhere, the St. Louis Blues continue to benefit from a trade they did not make, while the Calgary Flames make a big climb thanks to Jacob Markstrom turning into a brick wall.

We look at all of those teams and more.

Where does your team sit?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Carolina Hurricanes (Last week: 2). If Frederik Andersen is good, this team is going to be one of the league’s best. This start is no fluke.

2. Florida Panthers (LW: 1). Why did Joel Quenneville coach on Wednesday? A black eye on an otherwise great start to the season.

3. St. Louis Blues (LW: 5). Bet they are glad they did not trade Vladimir Tarasenko. Bet a lot of teams are wishing they had traded for Vladimir Tarasenko when they had the chance to buy low with him.

4. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 4). Since the start of the 2020-21 season Connor McDavid has 121 points in 63 regular season games. That is 1.92 points per game. That is a 158 point pace per 82 games. Ridiculous production.

5. Calgary Flames (LW: 17). Jacob Markstrom is almost entirely responsible for this current ranking and this six-game winning streak they are entering the week with.

6. New York Rangers (LW: 6). Igor Shesterkin is almost entirely responsible for this current ranking. The Rangers have some flaws and question marks, but they also have a lot of All-Stars and top-line talent. Shesterkin is the most game-changing of them all right now given the position he plays and its importance.

7. Washington Capitals (LW: 9). Alex Ovechkin enters the week with nine goals in his first eight games. He is 36 years old and not slowing down.

8. New York Islanders (LW: 10). After dropping back-to-back games to open the season the Islanders are on a five-game point streak, earning eight out of a possible 10 points in the process.

9. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 13). Slow start, but they are starting to get it together with or without Nikita Kucherov.

[Related: Lightning’s Kucherov to miss 8-10 weeks]

10. Boston Bruins (LW: 7). Linus Ullmark has been really good so far, which is a promising development.

11. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 16). They are getting the goaltending they need and Cam Atkinson has been a sensational pickup for them.

12. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 3). They have lost three games in a row after a strong start, but they are finally starting to get some players back. That will help.

13. Colorado Avalanche (14). They are starting to stack points after a slow start. Still the most talented roster in the league.

14. New Jersey Devils (LW: 15). Jack Hughes being sidelined is a problem, but Dougie Hamilton has been a game-changer for their defense.

15. Vegas Golden Knights (LW: 23). They are starting to trend in the right direction. Good sign for when they start getting their top players back in the lineup.

16. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 20). Kyle Connor is a star and Pierre-Luc Dubois‘ bounce back season continues. Both great signs for this team.

17. Minnesota Wild (LW: 8). Kirill Kaprizov has yet to score a goal this season, but he has 26 shots on goal. Eventually they will start going in the net.

18. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 18). They have not yet found any consistency but they are staying competitive thanks to some strong goaltending and Patrik Laine.

19. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 22). Even with back-to-back wins this team still seems like it is far away from where it needs to be and wants to be.

20. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 24). Still the most stunning start in the league, but it still seems like a mirage. Sorry, Buffalo. We have seen this from the Sabres before early in the season. I am not a believer here.

21. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 21). This team plays hard and has some actual building blocks. Better days are ahead, Red Wings fans.

22. San Jose Sharks (LW: 11). Strong start, but things are starting to rapidly cool off here. Roster still has a lot of flaws.

23. Nashville Predators (LW: 28). Nice little winning streak this week, but this is still going to be a goalie dependent team. And even with great goaltending they are still only .500 right now.

24. Seattle Kraken (LW: 26). They have been carrying the play a bit recently and showing some potential to be a competitive team this season. They are not going to be an easy win for anybody.

25. Dallas Stars (LW: 12). Very disappointing start for the Stars, who have yet to win a game in regulation this season. They need Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov to heat up soon.

26. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 19). Point of concern: They have .923 goaltending from Thatcher Demko and Jaroslav Halak and still only won three of their first nine games. That level of goaltending should produce more wins.

27. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 27). Some big injuries on defense are really going to put their depth there to the test.

[Related: Kings’ Doughty, Walker sidelined]

28. Ottawa Senators (LW: 25). Matt Murrary has the big contract, but Filip Gustavsson might be the answer in goal here.

29. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 29). At this point the only thing that matters here is Trevor Zegras, Jamie Drysdale, and Mason McTavish showing continued development.

30. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 30). The key for the Canadiens this season was going to be Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki taking big steps forward. They have zero goals — combined — in the first 10 games. And now Caufield has been sent down to the AHL.

31. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 31). Just a badly overmatched roster pretty much every night. We knew this was going to be an ugly season. But this ugly?

32. Chicago Blackhawks (LW: 32). How bad is this situation? Marc-Andre Fleury said this week it is difficult to keep smiling. Read that again. Marc-Andre Fleury is having trouble smiling.

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    Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews returns to ice, hints at retirement

    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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    CHICAGO — Longtime Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews returned to the ice but hinted his stellar NHL career could be winding down after 15 years.

    Toews, 34, skated with teammates prior to Chicago’s game with the Dallas Stars. It was his first time practicing with them since a game in Edmonton on Jan. 28.

    He made a statement through the team on Feb. 19 saying he would be stepping away because of the effects of Chronic Immune Response Syndrome and “long COVID.”

    In meeting with reporters, Toews stopped short of saying he hoped to play in any of last-place Chicago’s nine remaining games. His eight-year, $84 million contract is set to expire at the end of the season.

    Toews said he’s feeling stronger, but isn’t sure if he’ll be able to play again for the Blackhawks or another team.

    “Both if I’m being fully honest,” Toews said. “I feel like I’ve said it already, that I’ve gotten to the point where my health is more important.

    “When you’re young and you’re playing for a Stanley Cup and everyone’s playing through something, that means something and it’s worthwhile. But I’m at that point where it feels like more damage is being done than is a good thing.”

    Toews, the Blackhawks’ first-round draft pick (third overall) in 2006, joined the team in 2007 and was a pillar of Stanley Cup championship clubs in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

    At the peak of his career, he was one of the NHL’s top two-way centers, winning the Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward in 2013.

    In 1,060 regular-season games, Toews has 371 goals and 509 assists. In 139 playoff games, he’s posted 45 goals and 74 assists, and he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2010.

    Toews missed the entire 2020-21 season with Chronic Immune Response System, which caused debilitating inflammation and fatigue.

    He appeared in 71 games in 2021-22, then started this season with renewed energy before slowing and eventually shutting himself down.

    Entering this season, it looked as if Chicago might deal him, as it did fellow star Patrick Kane, before the March trade deadline. But Kane went to the New York Rangers and Toews to injured reserve.

    Toews believed he was progressing before a relapse in January left him so sore and tired that he could barely “put on my skates or roll out of bed to come to the rink.”

    Toews said his progress over the past month has been “pretty encouraging” and he’s delighted to be back among his teammates. He has no timetable beyond that.

    “We’re just going to go day by day here,” Chicago coach Luke Richardson said. He deserves anything he wants to try to achieve here.”

    Richardson hoped Toews “can take that next step later in the week and hopefully (he) gives us the green light to go in a game.”

    But Toews emphasized his long-term health and ability to lead a “normal life” is most important. He wants to go out on a positive note and not hit the ice for a game playing through excessive pain and dysfunction.

    “It’s definitely on my mind that this could be my last few weeks here as a Blackhawk in Chicago,” Toews said. “It’s definitely very important for me to go out there and enjoy the game and just kind of soak it in and just really appreciate everything I’ve been able to be part of here in Chicago.”

    Budding Wild star Matt Boldy more willing to shoot, and it shows

    Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

    ST. PAUL, Minn. — Matt Boldy was unable to resist a smile in the aftermath of his second hat trick in five games for the Minnesota Wild, a young right wing and reluctant star trying to make sense of a remarkable hot streak.

    Does the puck feel as if it’s automatically going in the net these days each time he shoots?

    “Yeah, it does,” Boldy said in the locker room after leading the first-place Wild to a 5-1 win over Seattle. “My linemates are playing great. Hopefully you guys are giving them a lot of credit. You look at some of those goals – just putting it on a tee for me.”

    This non-attention-seeker has found himself squarely in the NHL spotlight. Boldy has 11 goals in nine games since Wild superstar Kirill Kaprizov was sidelined with a lower-body injury to raise his goal total to 28, in part because he’s been more willing to shoot. With vision and stickhandling as strengths and the humility of being a second-year player, it’s easy to be in a pass-first mindset.

    “Everybody kind of took turns talking to him. But it’s not that he didn’t want to. A lot of times a situation like that where a guy’s got that skillset, it’s a real unselfish quality, right?” coach Dean Evason said. “But I think he gets now that he helps the team a lot when he scores goals.”

    The Wild were confident enough in Boldy’s scoring ability to commit a seven-year, $49 million contract extension to him earlier this winter, after all.

    “I think I’ve always had that mentality, but sometimes you just get into spots and it comes off your stick good,” Boldy said. “When things are going well, the puck goes in the net.”’

    The Wild are 6-1-2 without Kaprizov. Boldy is a big reason why.

    “You go through the slumps, you learn what you need to do to score. I think he’s found a good way to be in the right spot and shoot the puck when he had a good opportunity,” center Joel Eriksson Ek said.

    The Wild have only won one division title in 22 years, the five-team Northwest Division in 2007-08. They’re leading the eight-team Central Division with eight games to go, with both Colorado and Dallas too close for comfort. They haven’t won a playoff series since 2015.

    With Kaprizov due back before the postseason and Boldy on this heater, a Wild team that ranks just 23rd in the league in goals per game (2.93) ought to have a better chance to advance. Eriksson Ek and Marcus Johansson have been ideal linemates for the Boston College product and Massachusetts native.

    Since the Wild entered the league in the 2000-01 season, only five NHL players have had more hat tricks at age 21 or younger than Boldy with three: Patrik Laine (eight), Marian Gaborik (five), Steven Stamkos (five), Alex DeBrincat (four) and Connor McDavid (four). Boldy turns 22 next week, so there’s still time for one or two more.

    “He’s big. He controls the puck a lot. He’s got a good shot, good release. He’s smart. He switches it up. He’s got good moves on breakaways. He’s a total player,” goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. ”Fun to watch him grow this year.”

    Pezzetta scores shootout winner; Canadiens beat Sabres 4-3

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    Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports

    BUFFALO, N.Y. ⁠— Brendan Gallagher and the Montreal Canadiens rallied back to avoid playoff elimination with less than three weeks left in their season. The Buffalo Sabres, meanwhile, are running out of chances to stay in the Eastern Conference wild-card hunt.

    Gallagher forced overtime by scoring his 200th career goal, and Michael Pezzetta scored the decisive shootout goal in a 4-3 win over the Sabres on Monday night.

    “It’s one of those things I think we earned that chance. We weren’t fantastic but we did enough on the road tonight to get a win,” Gallagher said. “Smiles all around.”

    The Canadiens could laugh, especially after Pezzetta celebrated his goal by putting his stick between his legs and riding it like a wooden horse — much like former NHL tough guy Dave “Tiger” Williams did during his 14-year NHL career spanning the 1970s and 80s.

    “I’m not sure we’ll see that again. One of a kind,” said Gallagher. “I’d be worried about falling over.”

    Pezzetta scored by driving in from the right circle to beat Eric Comrie inside the far post. Buffalo’s Jack Quinn scored in the fourth shootout round, but was matched by Montreal’s Jesse Ylonen, whose shot from in tight managed to trickle in through Comrie.

    Jordan Harris and Alex Belzile also scored for Montreal, and Jake Allen stopped 30 shots through overtime, while allowing one goal on six shootout attempts.

    Montreal would have been eliminated from playoff contention for a second straight season – and two years removed from reaching the Stanley Cup Final – with any type of loss.

    The Sabres squandered a 3-2 third-period lead to drop to 3-6-3 in their past 12. Buffalo also blew a chance to move to within four points of idle Pittsburgh, which holds the eighth and final playoff spot.

    “Just a little hesitation,” forward JJ Peterka said of the Sabres third-period lapse. “We didn’t play with much energy and we didn’t play that aggressive as we played the two periods before. I think that was the difference.”

    Buffalo’s Lukas Rousek scored a goal and added an assist while filling in for leading scorer Tage Thompson, who did not play due to an upper body injury. Peterka and defenseman Riley Stillman also scored, and Comrie stopped 38 shots through overtime, and allowed two goals on six shootout attempts.

    Montreal blew two one-goal leads to fall behind 3-2 on Stillman’s goal at the 8:31 mark of the second period.

    Gallagher scored on the fly by using Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin as a screen to snap in a shot inside the far left post. With the goal, Gallagher tied Bobby Rousseau for 24th on the Canadiens career scoring list.

    “I liked the way we corrected ourselves, it’s a sign of maturity, in the way we stayed on task,” Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis said, in recalling how the Canadiens recently unraveled in an 8-4 loss two weeks ago to Colorado, which plays a similar up-tempo style as Buffalo.


    The Sabres hosted their third Pride Night, with Russian D Ilya Lyubushkin electing not to participate in warmups by citing an anti-gay Kremlin law and fears of retribution at home in Moscow, where he has family and visits in the offseason. The remainder of the team wore dark blue jerseys with the Sabres logo on the front encircled by a rainbow-colored outline.

    During the first intermission, the Sabres broadcast a video in which GM Kevyn Adams said: “This is about recognizing someone’s humanity and true identity. We know there are people out there struggling with who they are, and we want them to know that they have an ally in the Buffalo Sabres.”


    Canadiens: At the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.

    Sabres: Host the New York Rangers on Friday night.

    Flyers chairman Scott to retire; Hilferty becomes successor

    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    PHILADELPHIA — Dave Scott will retire as chairman of the Philadelphia Flyers’ parent company Comcast Spectacor and be replaced by Dan Hilferty.

    Hilferty, who was recently named CEO of Comcast Spectacor, will succeed Scott as chairman of the company on April 17 and as the team’s governor on July 1.

    Scott joined Comcast Spectacor in December 2013 and the Flyers have struggled under his reign. They will miss the playoffs for a third straight season and haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1975.

    “Our number one goal for the Flyers will be to consistently compete for the Stanley Cup,” Hilferty said. “It is going to be a process that will take time to get on that path, but I’m confident we are headed in the right direction with Danny Briere as interim GM, Coach Tortorella, and our hiring of a President of Hockey Operations soon. Our leadership team will be fully focused to deliver on this for our fans while also continuing to make the sports complex the best location for sports and entertainment in the nation.”

    As Chairman and CEO of Comcast Spectacor, Hilferty will lead the company’s entire portfolio, including the Philadelphia Flyers. Spectacor Sports and Entertainment CEO Valerie Camillo will continue to work directly with Hilferty, overseeing the Wells Fargo Center, including its continued transformation, and lead the Flyers’ business operations.