Finally…a new face at the top of the power rankings…and well deserved, too. The Pens have been unconscious during their hot streak. The potential for some of the Conference Finals this year is very intriguing with the way Pittsburgh, Montreal, Boston, Anaheim and Chicago have been playing.
Before that though…it’s going to be a wild finish to the postseason tournament. The No. 6 through 14 place teams in the West are separated by six points while 6 through 13 in the East is separated by seven points. The season’s final week may be one of the most fun in recent memory. On to the rankings:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins 22-8-0 (44 points) [#4 last week]
Red hot doesn’t even begin to describe them. They just dispatched the Bruins twice, the Rangers and the Maple Leafs to extend their win streak to nine games. The Caps, Isles and Flyers are up for them this week. Not out of this world to think that this time next week their win streak will be at a dozen.
2. Chicago Blackhawks 23-2-3 (49 points) [#1 last week]
Things are back to normal in the Windy City. They won a close game at Columbus and then just absolutely smoked the Stars in Dallas by an 8-1 mark. Those three days off before the Columbus game seem to have re-charged them. Their road show continues this week with Colorado and Anaheim. The Avs stopped their point streak and Anaheim is hot on their heels for the top spot in the West.
3. Anaheim Ducks 20-3-4 (44 points) [#2 last week]
The only reason they move down a spot is because Pittsburgh has been unreal. Anaheim still hauled in a nice week with victories at Minnesota and Dallas but fell in OT to St. Louis. Boy do they get hell over the next two weeks though. How’s this for strength of schedule: San Jose (three times), Chicago (twice) and Detroit (twice). This will be an unbelievable test.
4. Montreal Canadiens 19-5-4 (42 points) [#3 last week]
They took care of two playoff teams this past week in Ottawa and NJ. Now they’ve won five in a row and six of their last seven. Their speed up front and forecheck is suffocating. Their defensemen don’t let you breathe either. They will be a very tough out especially with home ice advantage in most likely the first two series.
5. Minnesota Wild 15-10-2 (32 points) [#7 last week]
They lost a tight one to Anaheim but buried Colorado twice. I’m still not sure the secondary scoring is there. Yes, a few of them potted some goals in one of the Colorado games, but against elite teams? I’m not sure they’ll hang very long with teams who have a few stud defenders.
6. Detroit Red Wings 14-10-5 (33 points) [#9 last week]
They broke a three-game losing streak with wins at Edmonton and at Vancouver. Detroit has been solid, but they haven’t been VERY strong like in years past. That will be put to the test again this week when they see Anaheim twice and Minnesota.
7. Boston Bruins 19-5-3 (41 points) [#5 last week]
They lost to the Penguins twice on the road, so they have to drop a bit in our rankings. They did take care of business against Ottawa, Florida and Washington. I have to admit, if the Devils don’t get there, I really would like to see a Bruins-Pens Conference Finals. I think that would have “all-time great series” potential with the talent, star power, hitting and goaltending between the two squads.
8. Los Angeles Kings 15-10-2 (32 points) [#6 last week]
A 2-2 week for them. They are still looking for a little more consistency in the goaltending department. The Kings were pushed to six games last year in the Stanley Cup Finals even with superb goaltending. Jonathan Quick isn’t anywhere that level right now. He needs to take a stride in that direction if the Kings are to make any type of run at Lord Stanley again.
9. Ottawa Senators 15-8-6 (36 points) [#10 last week]
Hmmm…who are the Sens? OT losses to Boston and Montreal but beat Buffalo and Winnipeg. They haven’t had a quality win against a playoff team in weeks. Time for them to take the next step…they’ll see Boston again on Thursday at home.
10. St. Louis Blues 16-10-2 (34 points) [#13 last week]
Oh yea, the goaltending is back in a big way. Three goals allowed in the last three games…all wins. They played solid teams too in San Jose, Phoenix and Anaheim. If the goaltending is going to play this well, they may be able to replicate, and perhaps, surpass last year’s results.
11. Vancouver Canucks 13-8-6 (32 points) [#11 last week]
Grueling and grinding week ahead with five games in seven days. It won’t be a cupcake schedule either…LA, St. Louis and Minnesota are on the menu.
12. Toronto Maple Leafs 15-12-2 (32 points) [#8 last week]
They have now lost five in a row but at least they’ll have four days of rest in five days before their game against Tampa on Wednesday. Where they are now is about right; they’re not an elite squad but they’re also not a fringe team. Where they are now, is about where they will finish.
13. Winnipeg Jets 15-12-2 (32 points) [#18 last week]
What a run they’ve been on. A truly incredible job done by Claude Noel this season. A 3-1 week in which they took out the Leafs (twice) and Rangers. They now have a hold on the division lead. Now they’re at home for a while. Tuesday’s game vs. Boston will be an interesting litmus test to see where they stand against the elite East teams.
14. Carolina Hurricanes 15-11-1 (31 points) [#12 last week]
They’ve fallen out of first place thanks to a 1-2 week in which they lost to Washington and Tampa Bay. They’ll be challenged with the Rangers and Devils this week.
15. San Jose Sharks 12-9-6 (30 points) [#14 last week]
Sharks had a tough week and only came away with two points in three games, one of those a win against LA. Could be make or break for the Sharks this week…they get Edmonton, Anahiem and Minnesota…all on the road.
16. New Jersey Devils 13-10-6 (32 points) [#16 last week]
The Devils played crisp hockey all week. They dismantled the Flyers at home, played well enough to get a point in Philly and would have earned points if not for a silly turnover on Saturday night by Marek Zidlicky against the Canadiens. Telling week ahead for NJ: they’ll get the Rangers and the Hurricanes, both who are directly chasing them in the standings.
17. New York Rangers 13-12-2 (28 points) [#15 last week]
Is this the beginning of the end for John Tortorella? Having lost three in a row on the road this past week, they’ll have Carolina at home to start this week and travel to NJ the next night. If the Rangers drop both games, it wouldn’t surprise me if heads start to roll.
18. Phoenix Coyotes 13-11-4 (30 points) [#17 last week]
Jekyll and Hyde week for them. They blew away LA, blanked by St. Louis and fell in OT to Columbus. They’re still above .500 after going to the Conference Finals last year. They’re technically in ninth place but have enough points to be in the postseason. Big week ahead though…they’ll get LA (twice) and Vancouver in a four-day stretch.
19. New York Islanders 13-12-3 (29 points) [#22 last week]
A pair of wins over the state of Florida this week has put the Isles back in playoff talk. Before the season, a lot of folks thought they could be a team playing in the postseason. HUGE home stretch coming up this week with games against Ottawa, Montreal and Pittsburgh. We’ll see just how good they are.
20. Columbus Blue Jackets 11-12-6 (28 points) [#23 last week]
They are hanging tough after an extremely poor start. They got points in all three games this week with extra session losses to Vancouver and Chicago and a 1-0 win over Phoenix. I’m not sure how much longer they are going to enjoy it for but Blue Jackets fans should soak up the fun while they can.
21. Edmonton Oilers 11-11-6 (28 points) [#25 last week]
Points in all three games this past week earns them a bump in our rankings. They beat Colorado and Nashville and squeaked out a point in Hockey Town. Only two games this week and they are at home against San Jose and St. Louis. They need at least one of those games, if not three points.
22. Philadelphia Flyers 13-15-1 (27 points) [#24 last week]
Only two games this past week and they beat NJ in a shootout at home after the Devils knocked their brakes off on Wednesday. Weird schedule for them this week; at Tampa….five-day break ….at Pittsburgh. Alrighty then.
23. Nashville Predators 11-12-6 (28 points) [#19 last week]
Lost 16-9 over their last three games. Their last quality win? Almost a month ago when they beat Detroit at home on February 19. This team lives and dies with the performance of Pekka Rinne. While he is normally fantastic, if he is off for an extended period of time…this team finds itself in big trouble…like it is right now.
24. Calgary Flames 11-11-4 (26 points) [#27 last week]
They defended home ice well this week with wins over Detroit and Nashville. While they are 14th, they are just four points our of a playoff spot. Some very winnable games for them this week as they will take on Dallas, Nashville and Columbus.
25. Dallas Stars 12-12-3 (27 points) [#20 last week]
Were outscored 14-2 this week against the Blackhawks, Nashville and Anaheim and have lost four straight overall.
26. Washington Capitals 12-15-1 (25 points) [#26 last week]
They’ve played much better hockey of late. They thrashed Buffalo last night and even beat Carolina this week. But playing better is not going to get them in the playoffs. They are capable of ripping off a big win streak, but a four-game road trip looms this week with Pittsburgh, Winnipeg (twice) and the Rangers on the docket.
27. Tampa Bay Lightning 12-15-1 (25 points) [#28 last week]
A 2-1 week with an impressive win over Carolina. This week they get Philadelphia, Toronto, Ottawa and Winnipeg. Do they have a run left in them?
28. Buffalo Sabres 10-15-4 (24 points) [#29 last week]
Nice win over the Rangers but they lost to a playoff team in Ottawa and then got bruised last night by the Caps. I don’t think it’s out of the question for the Sabres to get on a run, but it’s looking bleak with just 19 games left.
29. Colorado Avalanche 10-13-4 (24 points) [#21 last week]
Allowed 15 goals in three losses to Minnesota (twice) and Edmonton. The Patrick Roy days sure feel like a decade ago, huh? They’re dead last in the West with the Blackhawks and Canucks on deck this week.
30. Florida Panthers 7-16-6 (20 points) [#29 last week]
One-goal losses to Tampa and the Isles sandwiched around a blowout by the Bruins. Yes, this is who the Panthers are right now.