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Down the stretch they come

Posted: Thursday March 07, 2002 9:58 AM


By Jamie MacDonald,

The quality of play hasn't been all that poor since the layoff, and we'll chalk that up to what happens to be at stake as teams coast or charge through the final quarter of the regular season. Enjoy this, the first of a handful of home-stretch editions of the Power Rankings. Power Rankings
11 Detroit Red Wings
"Home stretch" is a misnomer for the Wings, who play seven of nine on the road from March 9-25. Confidence shouldn't be a problem, however, as they haven't lost a road game since Jan. 30.
24 Philadelphia Flyers
Where I went on my Olympic Vacation ... Disney World (Keith Primeau), Hilton Head (Mark Recchi) and Sarasota, Fla. (Bill Barber). It worked. Since the break the Flyers are 3-1-0-0 -- after wins over Chicago, New Jersey and Boston -- and have opened a five-point lead over Toronto and Boston in the Eastern Conference.
35 Colorado Avalanche
Maybe Patrick Roy didn't want in on the great Olympic goaltender debate north of the border, but he went some ways to settling it shortly thereafter. Looking across the ice at gold medalist Martin Brodeur, Roy shut out the Devils as Colorado moved into a two-way tie for second in the West.
4 2 Chicago Blackhawks
Jocelyn Thibault was yanked from Chicago's last game before the Olympic break. He was also yanked in the Blackhawks' first game back. So Steve Passmore got the call Sunday night and extended his winning streak to five games. But, like all goaltenders who can't hide in the OTL lane, that came to an end Tuesday night against Carolina. What's really troubling, though, is that these results have come at home, where the Blackhawks are still 22-4-5-1. Unfortunately they'll travel to L.A., Phoenix, Anaheim and San Jose before St. Patrick's Day.
56 San Jose Sharks
The Mercury News pointed out an unfortunate coincidence after Tuesday's 2-0 home loss to the Predators, in which the Sharks wore their black jerseys. In eight home games in black instead of teal or white, the Sharks have averaged 1.50 goals, won just twice and been shut out twice. Might also have something to do with coming off their fifth and final five-game road trip of the season. This team plays only seven home games the rest of the way.
67 Ottawa Senators
While the Stars deserved all the ink that was spilled after extending their winning streak in games they led after two periods, the Senators upped their record this season to 17-1-1-2 when leading after the first. Since that Feb. 28 win over the Rangers, Ottawa is 0-0-1-1 and can be found out West through March 12.
78 Toronto Maple Leafs
And now, our keynote speaker at our From Bad to Worse convention ... Curtis Joseph. In Utah he took the hard-luck 5-2 loss when his defensemen played "where did he go?" against Sweden, sending most of Canada's hockey fans into a lather. Then Cujo watched as Martin Brodeur backstopped Canada to gold. In his first game back, the Leafs' netminder broke a bone in his left hand against the Hurricanes. And now, our keynote speaker at our Large Skates (with flat blades) to Fill convention ... Corey Schwab.
83 Boston Bruins
Speculation heats up this time every year in Boston where Bill Guerin, who's answering trade rumors at every stop on the road, and Byron Dafoe are a few months from unrestricted free agency. With all the bodies returning over during the stretch drive, perhaps a little run might put and end to that speculation.
99 St. Louis Blues
Since the beginning of the 1998-99 season, good guy Ted Donato has played for six NHL teams -- the Islanders twice -- but was picked up by the Blues on Tuesday. This is the kind of thing that happens when two of your top forwards are out indefinitely.
1010 Los Angeles Kings
Witness this four-game block for the J-A-Z line (Jason Allison, Adam Deadmarsh and Ziggy Palffy). In their first two games after the break: 16 points combined in wins over Columbus and Pittsburgh. In a loss to the Preds and tie against Ottawa: zero points.
1115 Carolina Hurricanes
Does anyone remember Dec. 12? That was the last time Carolina strung three consecutive wins together, and two were over Florida. The recent streak, however, came on the road against Boston, Montreal and Chicago. In addition to those three wins, they also picked up a third goaltender.
1216 Dallas Stars
The Dallas Morning News Web site recently asked, "Who should be the Stars' No. 1 goalie?" Of the 1,268 votes after precincts had reported on Wednesday, more than 84 percent sided with Marty Turco over Ed Belfour. Three-game winning streaks and getting the nod in a Western Conference showdown against Los Angeles have the populous positively giddy.
1311 New York Islanders
Quite the couple of weeks for Michael Peca, who scored an OT game-winner against Philadelphia before the break, won a gold medal, returned to score late (1.4 seconds left in regulation) against Boston, then scored an own-goal in Monday's loss to Pittsburgh, which hadn't won once since Jan. 29.
1413 Edmonton Oilers
Kicked off their longest road trip of the season with a 3-0 win Monday night in Buffalo. When the Oilers return in mid-March, they won't play away from their time zone until the final game of their season against the Wild.
1518 Phoenix Coyotes
Entering Thursday's Western Conference showdown with Vancouver, the Coyotes were a season-high six-games above .500, in the midst of a 4-0-1-1 streak and two games into the five-game homestand they kicked off with wins over Columbus and New Jersey. As a reward, and in an effort to take each game seriously enough to make a run at playoffs, head coach Bobby Francis is scaling back the frequency of practices.
1612 Vancouver Canucks
In three games since the break, Vancouver has scored 13 goals. Only Todd Bertuzzi (2), Andrew Cassels (2) and Trevor Letowski (2) have been multiple scorers. This is the kind of balanced scoring that brought the Canucks back from 18-23-4-1 to 28-24-5-1. Unfortunately, this time around, they've allowed 11 goals and aren't blazing up the standings anymore.
1714 New Jersey Devils
Back home in Alaska over the break, Scott Gomez, with some urging from a friend's mom, found the trigger. Since then he has scored three of New Jersey's eight goals (on three shots) in four games (2-2-0-0).
1822 Calgary Flames
Despite a three-game winning streak, which came to an end Wednesday night in D.C., and another handful of Jarome Iginla goals, Calgary is still seven points behind L.A. in the Western Conference standings. In mid-December, the Flames were up double-digit points.
1919 New York Rangers
Look out be-Low. Not that the folks in the former blue seats have much to say about it, but in a 5-3 loss to Ottawa, the paying customers were whipped into a frenzied chant of LOW MUST GO! LOW MUST GO! Since Feb. 1, the Rangers have only beaten Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Minnesota. We needn't remind you that only one of those teams is a playoff threat.
2017 Montreal Canadiens
From his spot on the bench, team MVP Jose Theodore saw fellow goaltender Jeff Hackett save a goal. Unfortunately, in making the save Wednesday night, Hackett also separated his shoulder. More bad news: In their 5-3 win over division rival Boston, the Canadiens were outshot 41-16.
2121 Washington Capitals
"There has never been anything bigger than this. It's important that the safety and welfare of everyone involved with this fight ... Especially in a fight of this magnitude." These prescient words eloquently summed up the plight of the Caps in relation to the playoffs. Though we believe Gary Shaw, chief operating officer of Lennox Lewis' American-based promoter, had another fight in mind, Washington's hockey outfit is three points from a playoff spot and only a few games away from an eight-game road trip.
2220 Nashville Predators
Because we assume not enough of you are reading Nashville's game recaps, we'll provide a public service. Said Barry Trotz after Tuesday night's 2-0 win over the Sharks, "Coming back from the Olympic break, we said all we could do is turn this into a 23-game playoff series. We'll just keep playing to win, and you never know what can happen. We could get in there." Unlikely, but you have to admire Trotz for proposing and selling such a taxing proposition.
2323 Buffalo Sabres
Assistant coach Brian McCutcheon had reason to root for gold medalist Sarah Hughes at the Olympics; he played with Sarah's father, John, on Cornell's undefeated 1970 team. This team was struck by an Olympic hangover of sorts with a 2-1 loss to Atlanta. Since then, however, Buffalo beat Boston and tied Toronto before being shut out by Edmonton.
2423 Pittsburgh Penguins
Took one giant leap toward rebuilding with the Jaromir Jagr trade, the question now is how much further they'll go as the trade deadline approaches.
2526 Tampa Bay Lightning
Gotta like a guy who rolls up his sleeve and reports ready to work. Chris Digman, fresh from a trade that sent him to Tampa Bay along with Shane Willis for Kevin Weekes, dropped the mitts 15 seconds into his Lightning life.
2627 Minnesota Wild
One of only four teams in the league not to have won 20 games. Hard to even pencil one into the horizon with roadies in St. Louis and Dallas before Columbus on Sunday.
2724 Anaheim Mighty Ducks
No matter how you slice it, Anaheim has more points than only one team in the Western Conference.
2828 Florida Panthers
Time to add to the list of don'ts, somewhere between "Don't say the words 'no' and 'hitter' to a pitcher working one" and "Don't take 20-second shifts in a men's league hockey game when there are only two subs." Pay attention, Florida: Don't announce with 1:07 remaining in a 2-2 overtime tie with the Red Wings that your goaltender has set a record for saves in a game. With 48.5 seconds to go, Brett Hull cashed in on Murphy's Law on his 10th shot of the night (Roberto Luongo faced 60 in all). Hull, as usual, put it best: "The PA announcer should be slapped."
2929 Columbus Blue Jackets
In Sunday's game against the Coyotes, captain Lyle Odelein went the "Cut me, Mick" route. After being clipped by a puck, which also caused a gash requiring 21 stitches to close, his eye was nearly swollen shut, so trainers drained some blood the old-fashioned way.
3030 Atlanta Thrashers
Ranked last this week because they have one more loss than the Blue Jackets.

Related information
2001-02 Rankings: Edition 19
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