Saturday, December 6, 2014

Brodeur records first win with Blues in relief


UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Among many platitudes, Martin Brodeur is often lauded for his calm demeanor. But even a veteran of 21 seasons and a three-time winner of the Stanley Cup, four-time winner of the Vezina Trophy and owner of NHL records in games played, minutes played and shutouts still gets nervous before every game.


Once he was tapped on the shoulder by St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, his team trailing by three goals to the New York Islanders after one period of play at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday, there were no nerves, only the mission of keeping his team in the game and hoping to provide a spark.


"It seems that when you're preparing yourself you're nervousness comes from what if, what if. … When you get into the momentum of a game, I think that's what probably what players saw in me in New Jersey through the years, how composed I am when I play the game," Brodeur said. "It doesn't mean I'm not excited or nervous in between periods or before games."


Once Brodeur was settled in relief of an ineffective Jake Allen he went to work. The owner of 688 career victories with the New Jersey Devils earned win No. 1 with the Blues, making 14 saves to help St. Louis rally for a 6-4 win. The victory was Brodeur's 52nd against the Islanders, his most against any NHL team.


"He just said 'Marty, let’s go.' That's it," Brodeur said of Hitchcock. "Jake battled hard, made some great saves, but it was just [to try to] change the momentum to put me in there. And it worked out well."


In the process, Brodeur was reminded why he continues to play the game.


"When we [tied it] up 3-3 I'm like, 'That's my game now,'" Brodeur said. "There's no escaping that. That's why I play. These atmospheres, the feeling that I'm feeling in there, it's what I'm looking for. And that’s why I was not ready to let go of the game. Definitely a good feeling."


What was a 3-0 hole turned into a good feeling for the Blues, who tied the game with three goals in 12:34 of the second and put the game away in the third to erase another deficit after Brodeur allowed a John Tavares goal with 54 seconds left in the period to give the Islanders a 4-3 lead.


"He gave us a huge lift," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "Jake doesn't get taken out there because of his play. That falls on our shoulders and something we take responsibility for. We had a fresh goalie in there, fresh mindset going into the second period.


"He's a steady goalie. He's a calming presence back there and someone who in the locker room is getting us ready to go and ready to fight the battle."



Martin Brodeur



Goalie - STL


RECORD: 1-1-0

GAA: 3.03 | SVP: .872



In need of goaltending help with Brian Elliott sidelined because of a knee injury, the Blues signed Brodeur, 42, to a one-year contract Tuesday after he spent days working out with them. Brodeur debuted with the Blues on Thursday when he made 23 saves in a 4-3 loss to the Nashville Predators but showed little signs of rust. On Saturday he made seven of his 14 saves in the third, including key saves on Anders Lee and Casey Cizikas midway through the period, and one late on Cal Clutterbuck to preserve the Blues' two-goal lead.

"He's had a long rest," Hitchcock said. "Time to play. People are worried he's 42 years old. I don't look at it that way. He looks the same to me. What he did in the third period is he made three big saves. When it was 5-4 he made two big saves and even at 6-4 he makes a great save so they don't get a crack at us with an empty net, which is a good sign."


It was also a good sign for the Blues considering Allen's struggles and Elliott not close to returning from injury. The win put St. Louis in a first-place tie with the Predators in the Central Division with 36 points, one ahead of the third place Chicago Blackhawks.


"I felt excited," Brodeur said. "These are great moments in people's careers. You get to play in the NHL again and have your first win under your belt. It felt good. I'm pretty excited.


"I didn't come back not to win. That's what I like to do. It's all about winning. But getting the first one is unexpected. It's not like it's a start or anything. But I'll take it."


---



Friday, December 5, 2014

Halak, Islanders have proven to be perfect match


Jaroslav Halak has found a home.


After watching 26 goaltenders get selected before him at the 2003 NHL Draft.


After stealing the No. 1 job from Carey Price and leading the Montreal Canadiens to an unlikely berth in the 2010 Eastern Conference Final, only to be traded to the St. Louis Blues a few weeks later.


After playing extremely well for the Blues for four seasons, only to be traded to the Buffalo Sabres for another goalie, Ryan Miller, last season.


After being traded twice more in the next two months, Halak has landed with the New York Islanders.


And he's not going anywhere.


Halak has found a place where he is wanted, and more importantly, needed. He's rewarded the faith the Islanders showed in signing him to a four-year, $18 million contract by solidifying a position that had been in a constant state of flux on Long Island.


The Islanders had been looking for a No. 1 goalie for years, and Halak has been looking for a team that believed he could be one for just as long.


The match has been perfect so far.


"Since I've been here we've gone through a lot of goalies," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "They've been quality goaltenders. But to know we have a couple of guys now back there, hopefully they can stay healthy. It's been a big plus for our hockey club."


Halak has won 11 straight games, breaking an Islanders record held by Billy Smith. He'll look to extend that mark Saturday when the Islanders host the Blues.


He has provided the stability the Islanders have sought between the pipes and then some, helping them get off to a 19-7-0 start to the season. It's the first time the Islanders have won 19 of their first 26 games in a season.


Halak has a 1.24 goals against average and .952 save percentage during his streak, and Capuano believes a big part of this run of success has been Halak's mental approach to his craft.


"I think he's dialed in mentally," Capuano said. "I've said this before; I said it at the start of the year. I think he's a guy that puts a lot of pressure on himself. I think he's a guy who I had to let him know to come to the rink every day and enjoy it again. I just thought mentally he was a little frustrated and right now he's in a good place. When you're playing with confidence and you're in the right frame of mind, things go well for an athlete."


The goaltender Halak has beaten the past two games understands exactly what that mental comfort can do.


Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson had a similarly rocky path to Halak before landing the No. 1 job with Ottawa, with stops with the Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers and Colorado Avalanche along the way.


He said once a team shows that faith in you, it allows a goaltender to find the head space necessary to excel because he doesn't feel like every little mistake will cost you your job.


"There are some guys that are a high draft pick that get every chance in the world to try and prove themselves," Anderson said. "It's just a different path for every goaltender. My path was one of those where I had to back up and learn and learn, and when I got my opportunities I had to make the most of it. I think Jaroslav was in the same situation. When he broke in with Montreal he was behind a great goaltender with Carey Price, and every chance he got he had to prove himself. It wasn't like, 'Oh well, you screwed up. Here, we'll throw you in again.' He had to earn everything he got."


There is a certain sense of calm a goaltender feels when he gets the security of a long-term contract, Anderson said.


Halak, however, is not exactly a picture of Zen.


The pressure he puts on himself that Capuano was referring to remains evident, and came through Thursday after he helped the Islanders to a 2-1 victory against the Senators.


Halak allowed one goal, on a second-period 5-on-3 power play, and was not very pleased about it afterward.


"Pretty much they had nothing until the 5-on-3 power play and they scored a goal," he said. "I would like to get that one back, but guys got a big one for me in the third. I'm not saying I'm upset. I'm just saying some of the goals you'd like to get back, and that's maybe one of those. But at the end of the night we got two points and I didn't cost us the game."


Halak said that last part with a straight face. He made 12 saves in the third period of a 1-1 hockey game as the Senators poured it on in an attempt to win a game honoring the retirement of their longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson. The only thing that stopped them from doing it was Halak and Casey Cizikas scoring the game-winner with 6:27 to play in the third.


But Halak was worried he would cost the Islanders the game.


As much pressure as Halak may be putting on his own performances, it is not evident to his teammates.


In fact, it's the exact opposite.


"Everyone sort of plays like [Halak] a bit," Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey said. "He's quiet in the net and I think it rubs off on us. He makes every save he should. You don't see him making the 10-bell save because he's always in position [so] he doesn't need to.


"When any goalie's playing on their game it makes it really easy on the team. Confidence-wise you know they're not going to get anything they don't deserve. That just makes your mentality simple; go out and get one or two [goals] and you have a chance to win. We got two [Thursday] and he shut the door."


When you've had to prove yourself your entire life, every opportunity to prove your doubters wrong tends to be embraced.


In Halak's first game against the Canadiens, on March 10, 2011, he made 27 saves in a 4-1 Blues victory. In his first game back in Montreal, on Jan. 10, 2012, Halak shut the Canadiens out 3-0.


On Saturday Halak will have his first chance to show the Blues they made a mistake letting him go.


The Blues certainly weren't the first team to do it, but they most likely will be the last.


Halak won't be changing teams again anytime soon.



Senators forward a Prince of a prospect


Hockey is a game. A fun, fast-paced, emotional game. But at its core, it is also a way of life.


Early morning practices, long drives to tournaments across state lines, and giving up a lot in order to gain even more somewhere down the line. Shane Prince, the Ottawa Senators' second round pick (No. 61) of the 2011 NHL Draft, especially knows this to be true.


"As a kid, I always envisioned [making it]. I wasn't in hockey just for the fun of it," Prince said. "My dad was very passionate about it, and he sacrificed a lot to make me as good of a player as I could possibly be, and I obviously sacrificed a lot, too. It ended up paying off, and it's been awesome."


The 22-year-old Spencerport, N.Y. native played major junior in the Ontario Hockey League with Kitchener and Ottawa. He put up 42 points in 128 games over his first two seasons, and then recorded a total of 178 points in 116 games during his final two years, finishing fourth in the OHL in scoring in 2011-12.


Senators prospect Shane Prince was one of many young hockey players who dreamed of growing up and turning pro. Now, he's living that dream, but still hungry for more. (Photo: JustSports Photography)


Now playing for the Senators' American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton, N.Y., Prince says that hunger to produce still drives him each night on the ice.


"Everyone wants to score goals, but he's really driven by scoring goals," Binghamton Senators coach Luke Richardson said. "He's a real competitor, and that's a good thing. You can coach systems, and positions, and even a little technique, but you can't coach emotion. He's got it."


A quarter of the way into his third pro season, the left wing has an additional luxury not many guys playing in the AHL have: an incredible proximity to home. Spencerport sits just west of the city of Rochester, less than a three-hour car ride up the interstate from Binghamton.


"I know when I go home on off days, guys tell me they wish they could do the same thing," he said. "I know I'm definitely lucky to be able to be that close to home and see my family and friends often. A lot of them come to games in Binghamton, and obviously to the games we play in Rochester."


Prince, who scored his first professional goal against Rochester two years ago, has lit the lamp 47 more times since then. He enters Friday's action riding a seven-game scoring streak, and he was named CCM/AHL Player of the Week after scoring five goals and adding an assist in three games this past week.


"Shane Prince tries harder than anybody. He's taken some big steps in a short time," Richardson said. "Sometimes waiting your turn is tough. But I think he's handling it very well, and that's going to give him an even better chance [to get a call up]."


Life has a funny way of putting everyone exactly where he or she needs to be. Prince may have started plotting points on the map in Kitchener, but it was in Ottawa that hockey's decision-makers started connecting those dots. Prince is now plotting points in Binghamton, determined to once again make a mark in Canada's capital.


Though three years can seem like an eternity, Prince is still only 22. For someone with the work ethic and commitment to improving each and every time he steps on the ice, those 267 miles between Binghamton and Ottawa aren't as vast as they may seem.


"I think he's definitely taken steps to get closer [to the NHL]," Richardson said. "What I tell him always is, ‘You got to make sure you're playing your best.' You never know when that call might come. He's doing a good job to get noticed right now."


Richardson himself knows a thing or two about playing in the NHL. A defenseman, he was drafted No. 7 overall in 1987 by the Toronto Maple Leafs, and played in 1,417 NHL games over 21 seasons. An Ottawa native, he too spent some time in the OHL before making the jump.


His first year as a head coach with Binghamton in 2012-13 was Prince's first season in the AHL, giving Richardson the chance to see the growth from a 19-year-old kid fresh out of juniors to a player who can eventually position himself to challenge for a spot in Ottawa.


"He's kind of understood that he's been in the league for a few years now," Richardson said, "and [that] he needs to take a step in the leadership role, and I've seen that this year."


Richardson notes the maturity he has seen form, and the emergence of a complete, 200-foot game that is a key piece to getting a shot at the top. Prince himself echoes the same thing.


"I focus on being that complete player, and I think this year I'm really coming around to that complete game," Prince said. "There are some things in this game that you can't control. It's not my decision whether I get called up or not. All I can do is kind of force the issue with playing good and bringing it hard every night."


For the latest news, scores and stats from around the American Hockey League, visit theahl.com .



Fantasy: Point-per-game scorers rising in 2014-15


Not since the 2007-08 NHL season have we seen so many players scoring at such a high rate. Back in that '07-08 season, players like Dany Heatley, Vincent Lecavalier and Marc Savard were household names in terms of point production. All three of them averaged at least a point per game that season. In fact, of players that appeared in at least 35 games in the '07-08 season, 23 of them ended up averaging at least one point per game.


After the '07-08 season, scoring seemed to drop a bit. In the 2011-12 season, only nine players that played in at least 35 games averaged over a point per game. And just last season, only 13 players accomplished the feat.



























































Point-Per-Game Production
Season Games Played
PPG Players
2014-15 at least 10 22
2013-14at least 3513
2012-13*at least 2020
2011-12at least 359
2010-11at least 3515
2009-10at least 3521
2008-09at least 3520
2007-08at least 3523
* 48-game season


Fast forward to this season and things seem to be looking up.


With most teams having played somewhere around 25-26 games this season, I used the benchmark that a player must have appeared in at least 10 of their team's games (approximately 40 percent). And at this moment, 22 players are averaging at least one point per game this season.

From Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby at the top of the list averaging 1.38 points-per-game to Chicago Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg averaging exactly 1.00 point-per-game, we've seen plenty of household names among the 22 players, and plenty of unlikely, pleasant surprises. If you've been fortunate enough to have any of these guys on your fantasy team, it's likely helped you immensely in the standings. But can they keep it going for a full 82-game season? That is the big question.


Here's a look at whether or not I believe these players can sustain this type of production for the remainder of the regular season. (P.S. - selling high on some of the players I believe won't sustain the point-per-game production might not be a bad idea for fantasy owners).


























PLAYER TEAM POINTS-PER-GAME SUSTAINABLE
Sidney Crosby , C 1.32 PPG
YES

Analysis: He's averaged over a PPG in every season he's played in. He'll keep it going and likely lead the group (assuming he stays healthy).















Jakub Voracek, RW
1.32 PPG
YES

Analysis: He's never done so in his career and I don't expect him to finish the season second in this category, but at this point, I'm a believer for this season. He and Claude Giroux seem to have some sort of magical connection.














Pavel Datsyuk, C/LW
1.21 PPG
NO

Analysis: He has 19 points in 15 games right now, but this one is a little interesting because of his injury history. While he has averaged at least a PPG in two of the past five seasons, he's missed 87 out of a potential 320 games during that time (26 percent of his team's games). I'm still saying he's going to be a PPG player this season, but that it won't be in a full season. Something like 50-60 games seems more likely.















Tyler Seguin, C/RW
1.24 PPG
YES

Analysis: He had 84 points in 80 games last season and his 11 multi-point games this season are tied for the most in the NHL.















Evgeni Malkin, C/RW
1.25 PPG
YES

Analysis: He's averaged over a PPG in all but one of his previous eight seasons.















Steven Stamkos, C/RW
1.12 PPG
YES

Analysis: He's averaged at least a PPG in every season since his rookie campaign in 2008-09.















Claude Giroux, C/RW
1.12 PPG
YES

Analysis: He has averaged at least a PPG in each of the past three seasons. He's also got an abnormally low shooting percentage (6.5) and even more startling even strength shooting percentage (1.41). He has just one goal during even strength play this season after putting home 21 in those situations last season. Expect these percentages to move closer to to the norm as the season progresses.















Rick Nash, LW/RW
1.08 PPG
YES

Analysis: He's a different player and is playing consistently dominant hockey this season. He has a point in 19 of 24 games (third best among forwards). Nash has only accomplished the feat once in his career (2008-09), but he's still just 30 years old and in his prime.















Derek Stepan, C
1.08 PPG
NO

Analysis: He has 13 points in 12 games this season, just barely exceeding the 10-game benchmark. Keeping at this rate seems unlikely, but at some point in his career, he will be a PPG player.















Phil Kessel, RW
1.08 PPG
YES

Analysis: This will come down to the wire, but I think Kessel could be a 35-goal, 85-point player this season.















Vladimir Tarasenko, RW
1.04 PPG
NO

Analysis: No player has provided more excitement in the NHL than Tarasenko and he's certainly capable of scoring 40-plus goals this season, but I still think he falls short of the PPG mark.















Tyler Johnson, C/RW
1.04 PPG
NO

Analysis: He's thrived centering a line with Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov on his wings to the tune of 28 points in 27 games, but the second-year forward is unlikely to keep at this pace.














Mark Giordano, D
1.00 PPG
NO

Analysis: The last time a defenseman averaged at least a PPG over a full season was Mike Green in 2009-10 for the Washington Capitals (76 points in 75 games). Giordano is an elite defenseman, but he won't remain a PPG player.














Nicklas Backstrom, C
1.04 PPG
YES

Analysis: His 20 assists are tied for fifth most in the NHL, and having Alex Ovechkin on your wing helps. He's exceeded the PPG mark four times in his career.














Patrick Kane, C/RW
1.00 PPG
YES

Analysis: He had just 10 points in his first 16 games, but has 15 in his past nine. Somewhere in the middle will be the end result, meaning a fourth season averaging a PPG in his career.















Ryan Johansen, C/RW
1.04 PPG
YES

Analysis: This was the toughest call of the bunch, but he seems to have raised his game to a new level this season after posting 63 points last season. My concern is that he doesn't have a ton of talent around him in Columbus. However, he's still been able to record points in 16 of 25 games this season, proving his consistency regardless of who's on the ice with him.















Patric Hornqvist, RW
1.04 PPG
NO

Analysis: Riding shotgun with either Crosby or Malkin helps, but prior to joining the Penguins, he averaged 0.59 PPG in 363 games. Jumping to 1.00 is a stretch for the full season.















Filip Forsberg, C/LW/RW
1.00 PPG
NO

Analysis: The front-runner for the Calder Trophy has had a fantastic season, but averaging a PPG over a full season is a different story for a 20-year old rookie. Not since Malkin in 2006-07 have we seen a rookie average at least a PPG over a full season (he had 85 in 78 games) and only 34 rookies in NHL history have accomplished the feat (playing in at least 35 games), according to hockey-reference.com.















Corey Perry, RW
1.00 PPG
YES

Analysis: He's as good as a goal-scorer as you'll find and should be good for 82-plus points while playing alongside Ryan Getzlaf.














Ryan Callahan, RW
1.00 PPG
NO

Analysis: He's off to the best start of his career playing on a line with Stamkos, but he's never had more than 54 points in a single season.















Kris Versteeg, LW/RW
1.00 PPG
NO

Analysis: He's posted 14 points in the past eight games since being promoted to a line with Kane and Brad Richards, but clearly that kind of production is unsustainable for a full season for a player that's never averaged more than 0.76 in any season.














Zach Parise, LW
1.00 PPG
YES

Analysis: He hasn't achieved the feat since the 2009-10 season with the New Jersey Devils, but he looks fresher than ever with 19 points in 19 games for the Wild.



Based on my predictions, 14 of these 22 players would finish the season averaging over 1.00 point-per-game. However, there are a few players on the outside of the heralded point-per-game mark that I believe can join the exclusive group as the season progresses.


This list includes: Ryan Getzlaf, Henrik Zetterberg, Henrik Sedin, John Tavares, Jamie Benn, Taylor Hall and Joe Thornton.


With the addition of these eight players, that now puts my total at 21 players that will average at least one point per game in 2014-15. That's just short of the 2007-08 mark, but it would be the most in the past five years.


The season is a long ways away from being over and only time will tell whether or not these 22 players are capable of keeping at this high scoring rate.


---



Brodeur solid in goal in Blues debut despite loss


NASHVILLE -- Not playing in eight months, even a future member of the Hockey Hall of Fame like Martin Brodeur was curious about how a return to NHL action would feel like.


After all, a 42-year-old doesn't react like a 22-year old. There's a lot of mileage on Brodeur's body.


But despite a 4-3 loss in his St. Louis Blues debut to the Nashville Predators on Thursday, in which Brodeur stopped 20 shots, it was evident that there is still some game left in the tank. It was Brodeur's first game since April 13, as a member of the New Jersey Devils.


"It was a different feeling for me [Thursday]," Brodeur said. "I haven't played in a long time. And coming in the organization with different players, different team, coaching staff, not sure what to expect. I did it for so long with the same people over and over."


Brodeur's first game in a 22-season NHL career for a team other than the Devils didn't result in career victory No. 689, but there was sufficient evidence that the Blues can get some quality work from Brodeur while No. 1 goalie Brian Elliott recovers from a knee injury.


"I thought he was really good [Thursday]," Blues defenseman Barret Jackman said of Brodeur. "He gives you an extra defenseman back there with his puck touches. I feel he's only going to get stronger. I thought, especially in the first period, he was stellar and made some big saves for us.


"I'm not a goalie but I'm sure it's not easy going from practicing with a few guys and taking a few shots to game pace in December. It's an elite pace right now. I thought he looked pretty good."


Brodeur especially was strong early as Nashville had 16 of its 24 shots Thursday in the first period. He stopped Colin Wilson in the first minute of the game on a breakaway, and with seven minutes left in the period he made terrific back-to-back left-pad saves on Calle Jarnkrok and Craig Smith.


"You never know how it's going to start," Brodeur said. "But getting in some work from the get-go, I was happy. Just feel the puck and feel the pressure and see how the game's coming at me."


It was a chance for the Blues to feed off their goalie's effective and timely saves.


"It was nice seeing him make those saves," left wing Jaden Schwartz said. "He definitely kept us in it and gave us a chance to win. ... Really he had no chance on a few of those. Not his fault at all.


"It's obviously pretty special. I know it's his first game in a uniform other than New Jersey Devils so I'm sure it was pretty special for him. I was definitely excited to see him make some big saves there early to keep us in it. Tough we didn't get the win for him. Hopefully we get that for him the next time."



Martin Brodeur



Goalie - STL


RECORD: 0-1-0

GAA: 4.07 | SVP: .833



There were mistakes made in front of Brodeur on Thursday, and those mistakes wound up in the Blues' net. Brodeur didn't have much of a chance on any of the four he allowed, but in typical goalie fashion he felt there was one or two he'd like back.

"The second goal, I don't think [Eric Nystrom] was aiming there," Brodeur said of getting beat five-hole from the slot. "I think he was going top glove and he fanned on it. I took it away from him and he went through my legs. Any time a goal goes through you it's never a fun goal to allow."


Brodeur was not at all critical of his new teammates for the miscues that resulted in Predators goals. But it is going to take time and repetitions for the players and Brodeur to work hand-in-hand.


"We have skilled players and they make plays," Brodeur said. "I played in an organization that we were pretty limited in skill so we got the puck moving north all the time and didn't really make plays. These guys, they're talented. They're making plays. Sometimes it's good and sometimes we make mistakes. But I'm really happy with the way the boys played in front of me."


With the hoopla surrounding Brodeur's change in jersey, even he reflected on it one final time as he stepped onto the ice for the first time.


"In warm-ups when I came out and I saw the colors of the jerseys, it was just weird to look at. But that went away pretty quick," Brodeur said. "... But glad it's over and now I got it under my belt and we're going to stop talking about it and just play hockey."



Super 16: Atlantic contenders ready to push Bruins


Time remains undefeated in life, and it may be causing a shift in the balance of power for the Atlantic Division.


The Boston Bruins have four division titles, two Stanley Cup Final appearances and a championship in the past six seasons, but they also didn't have quite the cache of young star players other successful franchises like the Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins possess.


Injuries have been a problem so far this season, but so too has a trio of teams with younger impact talent. This could be a problem for the Bruins not just in 2014-15 but in the years to follow. The Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings and especially the Tampa Bay Lightning look poised to contend for Atlantic Division titles for the next several seasons, in part because of their collections of young talent.


Boston has talented young players, guys like Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Reilly Smith who are already really good at the NHL level, and others like David Pastrnak, Alexander Khokhlachev and Seth Griffith could rise to that level in coming seasons.


Lightning captain Steven Stamkos is yet to celebrate his 25th birthday. (Photo: Dave Reginek/NHLI)


And some of the Bruins top players are not "old" yet. Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand are 26. Tuukka Rask is 27. David Krejci is 28. But great players at that age start to become very expensive, and general manager Peter Chiarelli has already had to make some difficult decisions to remove title-winning players from the roster because of salary-cap concerns.


Meanwhile, the Lightning, Red Wings and Canadiens have all crafted rosters talented enough to challenge the Bruins, both in 2014-15 and beyond. The Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres have also been collecting large sums of precocious talent and could join this group in the near future.


Tampa Bay is loaded with present and potential young stars. Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat have yet to celebrate their 25th birthday. Jonathan Drouin was the best prospect not in the NHL before this season, and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is the best at his position not currently in the League.


Detroit has parlayed its incredible scouting, drafting and developing into a new generation of impact talent to support Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. There are young forwards (Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan) and defensemen (Danny DeKeyser, Brendan Smith) having a big impact now and elite prospect Anthony Mantha could join them soon.


Montreal already beat Boston in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, though that was clearly an upset. Now the Canadiens are trying to prove they are at the Bruins level over a full season. P.K. Subban, Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher will be leading that crusade for years to come. GM Marc Bergevin has made a couple of deft moves already this season to help clear cap space for next season, when the Canadiens could be able to make the roster even better.


Foretelling the Bruins demise in 2014-15 is foolish at this point. Boston still needs to see what the team looks like with Zdeno Chara and David Krejci healthy. And the future can still be bright, especially if a few young players develop. Malcolm Subban could prove to be one of the most valuable trade assets in the NHL in the coming months or years as well.


The Bruins don't have half the roster locked into long-term contracts like Chicago and Los Angeles does. There will be more tough decisions for Chiarelli, including key players needing new contracts this offseason. Boston's window as a championship contender doesn't have to close, but the margin for error is getting smaller.


A big part of that is the window to contend for a couple of other teams in the Atlantic is just starting to open.


DISCLAIMER: While the Super 16 is NHL.com's weekly power rankings, it focuses more on the "power" than the "rankings" when determining the order. It's not always going to look like the League standings and likely will take more of a long view than a short one. If two teams are close the tiebreaker almost always is this: If the two teams started a seven-game series right now, who would prevail? Stop by to see where your favorite team ranks, but stay for the information.


1. Chicago Blackhawks (16-8-1)


The Blackhawks have won seven of eight, and just beat three of the best teams in the Western Conference by a combined 12-3 margin. One team has won the Presidents' Trophy and the Stanley Cup in the past six seasons, and that was the Blackhawks in 2013. This incarnation could be better than that one.


MUST READ: Red Fisher of the Montreal Gazette writes about the passing of a special man, Montreal Canadiens icon Jean Beliveau.


2. Tampa Bay Lightning (17-6-3)


Ryan Callahan has 17 goals and 38 points in 41 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning since arriving in a trade from the New York Rangers. Martin St. Louis has 11 goals and 28 points in 43 games for New York. St. Louis' contributions to help the Rangers to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final can't be diminished, but that also helped net the Lightning a second first-round draft pick in the trade.


MUST READ: Vincent Lecavalier wore No. 4 with the Lightning because of his idol and had a special connection to Beliveau, writes Curtis Zupke for NHL.com and Sarah Baicker for CSN Philadelphia.


3. Pittsburgh Penguins (17-5-2)


The injuries keep piling up, but so do the victories. The overall possession numbers have slipped a little, but the Penguins are still in the top eight in both Corsi and Fenwick when the score is close (within a goal in the first two periods or tied in the third).


MUST READ: Beliveau was captain of the Canadiens and hero of Canadians, writes Bruce Weber for the New York Times.


4. St. Louis Blues (16-7-2)


If Martin Brodeur plays well in a short burst for the Blues, that will be a great story. The numbers do not lie though. In the past four years, 36 goaltenders have played in at least 120 games. Brodeur's save percentage is 36th at .904 in 183 games. For what it's worth, Tomas Vokoun is at .920 in 125 games and Ilya Bryzgalov is at .912 in 199 games in that same span. Brian Elliott is the Blues' best goaltender, and will give them the best chance to win this season.


MUST READ: Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette writes about the man affectionately known as Le Gros Bill.


5. Nashville Predators (16-6-2)


Several teams in Major League Baseball have found success in building bullpens by buying in bulk from the bargain bin. Predators general manager David Poile may have stumbled onto something with a similar approach this offseason. Teams often add one veteran player to fill a certain position or void, but Poile opted for a net instead of a pole when he decided he need help at center.


Mike Ribeiro has been great. Derek Roy and Olli Jokinen have been OK (both have been average possession players, at least). Given the rules of the collective bargaining agreement about players in the minors not counting against the salary cap up to $925,000 (and that rises to $950,000 next season), why not try Poile's approach and grab three veterans at a bargain price instead of one?


MUST READ: The hype for Beliveau as an amateur player reached incredible levels, writes Vince Lunny for the Hockey News (in 1955).


6. New York Islanders (18-7-0)


From 1998 (the year after Roberto Luongo) to 2005, the Islanders had 11 first-round picks. The best of the lot was either Tim Connolly, Raffi Torres or Sean Bergenheim. From 2006 to 2011, the Islanders had seven first-round picks. Five of them have either double-digit goals or at least 18 points in the NHL this season (not all for the Islanders because of the Nino Niederreiter trade). That, plus some nice veteran additions, is how a rebuild works. It just took the Islanders a long time to get there.


MUST READ: Beliveau was viewed by many as the "father of the Canadiens," writes Francois Gagnon (en Francais) for RDS.ca.


7. Minnesota Wild (14-9-1)


After his team drubbed the Montreal Canadiens at even strength Wednesday, coach Mike Yeo said the only thing preventing the Wild from being elite was the power play. Nashville is the only other team among the top 14 in the NHL in points per game that has converted less than 14 percent of its power plays. The Predators are at 12.0 percent, while the Wild are at 9.0. If Minnesota gets to 14 percent (still in the bottom third), it will be an elite team.


MUST READ: Everyone who ever met Beliveau had a story to tell, writes Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette.


8. Los Angeles Kings (13-7-5)


The Kings haven't played anywhere near the level they've been at the past couple seasons, and yet they are still six points back of the top seed in the West with two games in hand. Jake Muzzin has been great since missing the start of the season, and like TJ Brodie in Calgary, the Robin to the team's Batman looks more and more like a star in the making (and the making is almost complete).


MUST READ: Ten life lessons to be learned from a true gentleman, writes Joanie Godin (en Francais) for the Journal de Montreal.


9. Anaheim Ducks (15-6-5)


Sami Vatanen did not play in more than half of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoff games for the Ducks. Inserting him into the lineup didn't receive as much fanfare as John Gibson in net, but the diminutive Vatanen helped the Ducks control the middle of the second-round series against the Kings, and he's playing at a very high level in 2014-15. The older ones keep getting hurt, but they younger ones are carrying the defense corps anyway.


MUST READ: Beliveau's legend was never hyperbole for younger fans, writes Laura Saba of Eyes On The Prize.


10. Vancouver Canucks (17-7-1)


Through 12 games of his NHL career, Bo Horvat has won more than 59 percent of his faceoffs, but is still among the worst on the team in the puck possession stats. He has five points in 12 games, but is playing less than 10 minutes per contest. Will they trust with a few more shifts per game, and can he handle them?


MUST READ: Beliveau was "the Pope of Hockey," writes Serge Touchette for NHL.com.


11. Detroit Red Wings (14-6-5)


Six wins in eight games has helped the Red Wings get beyond an inconsistent start to the season. They prevent shot attempts and earn advantageous faceoffs (second in the League in Corsi-against per 60 minutes and second in percentage of offensive zone faceoffs). They are the equivalent of a football team that plays solid defense and wins the field position battle. In both sports, those types of teams win a lot.


MUST READ: Beliveau and Gordie Howe were great rivals but greater friends, writes Stubbs for the Montreal Gazette.


12. Montreal Canadiens (17-8-2)


A couple of weeks ago the Canadiens were atop the NHL standings. Now they are close, but some of that is games played (they are eighth in points per game). They are still just about the same team, though playing time and roles on the defense corps need to be sorted out now that Bryan Allen and Sergei Gonchar have joined the ranks. The Canadiens need more time to evaluate those two veterans, but they don't look like better options than Nathan Beaulieu at this point.


MUST READ: Beliveau was an uncommon man with a common touch, writes Jack Todd for the Montreal Gazette.


13. Toronto Maple Leafs (13-8-3)


The Maple Leafs were the worst possession team in the NHL each of the past two seasons. They're still among the worst, but a four-percent increase in Corsi and about a seven-percent jump in Fenwick from last season is a significant boost. The top line is still doing most of the scoring, but the depth guys are competent, which is a major step forward from the previous campaign.


MUST READ: Beliveau had no equal, writes Steve Simmons of the Toronto Star.


14. Boston Bruins (14-11-1)


Dougie Hamilton has five goals, 15 points, 60 shots on goals and the Bruins control more than 55 percent of the shot attempts when he is on the ice. He's also up to more than 22 minutes per game in part because of injuries to several others on defense. Boston needs to find out what it has with the young defensemen, and Hamilton certainly looks like a keeper.


MUST READ: Beliveau had the respect of his archrivals in Boston, even as he tormented them, writes Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe.


15. San Jose Sharks (12-10-4)


The results continue to be a frustrating blend of inconsistency and playing up or down to opponents. San Jose beat the Islanders, Lightning and Ducks in November, while also losing to the Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets. The pieces are in place, except for possibly another top defenseman to go along with Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The returns on Brent Burns back on defense have dwindled of late.


MUST READ: Beliveau was in a class of his own, writes Sean Icon for All About The Habs.


16. Florida Panthers (10-7-6)


The Panthers couldn't score early on, but the offense is coming around a little. No. 1 pick Aaron Ekblad is tied for the team lead in scoring, and getting Vincent Trocheck a regular spot (11 points in 14 games) has helped. If one or two more young players start to produce like Ekblad, Trocheck and Nick Bjugstad are, this team will compete for a playoff spot. They are 6-3-2 and have 29 goals in that span after 20 in 12 games to start the season.


MUST READ: Beliveau's greatest achievement may have been his character, writes former teammate Ken Dryden for the Toronto Star.