1. Washington Capitals (41-10-4, last week No. 1) – Not that it matters at all but Washington has set a new NHL mark for the best record through 55 games after Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Los Angeles. Indeed, regular season history is well within the grasp of this very dominant group. Anything can happen in the playoffs but it would be a surprise if the Capitals don’t win the Eastern Conference.
2. Dallas Stars (37-15-6, last week No. 3) – They might have lost 2-1 to the Blues in overtime on Tuesday but at the moment, Dallas is back on top in the mighty Western Conference. The Stars are still 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and they have scored the most goals (188) in the NHL. Their plus-32 goal-differential is the best in the West and second in the league behind Washington (plus-58!).
3. Chicago Blackhawks (37-18-5, last week No. 2) – The Blackhawks are only one point behind the Stars but Dallas has played in two fewer games. Chicago dropped in the standings since they are 5-4-1 in their last 10. The Blackhawks took out their frustration on the poor Maple Leafs on Monday, a ruthless 7-2 beating.
4. St. Louis Blues (33-17-9, last week No. 6) – If they were in the Atlantic Division or Pacific Division, St. Louis would be comfortably in first-place. Instead in the loaded Central Division, they find themselves in third behind Dallas and Chicago. Keep in mind that they pulled within five points of the Stars thanks to defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk’s overtime tally.
5. Florida Panthers (33-18-6, last week No. 4) – The biggest surprise in the NHL so far this season continues to perform well. The Panthers still lead the Atlantic Division and they have the second best goal-differential (plus-26) in the East behind the Capitals. They are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games after Monday’s 2-1 shootout win over Pittsburgh (Florida has won its last 6 shootouts in a row).
6. New York Rangers (32-18-6, last week No. 7) – After some sub-par play, the real Rangers have seemingly returned (7-2-1 in their last 10 games) to their rightful place. They get their top defenseman Ryan McDonagh (7 goals, 19 assists, plus-13) back for Wednesday’s showdown with Chicago. He had been out since February 6 with a concussion.
7. Los Angeles Kings (33-20-3, last week No. 5) – For most of this season, the Pacific Division title looked like a foregone conclusion for the Kings. Not so much anymore as Anaheim has closed to within three points of suddenly struggling LA (4-6-0 in their last 10 games). The Kings wrap up their grueling road trip in St. Louis on Thursday and Nashville on Saturday.
8. Anaheim Ducks (29-19-8, last week No. 12) – It’s been some kind of revival for the Ducks who were completely lifeless in the first few months of the season. Anaheim is an NHL-best 8-1-1 in its last 10 games. With San Jose only a point behind them, the Pacific Division suddenly became real interesting.
9. Boston Bruins (31-20-6, last week No. 14) – I’m just as shocked at this particular placement as you probably are as well. These are the facts: Boston has the fourth most points (68) in the East, they are one of the best road teams in the league (19-6-3) and they are only four points behind Florida. However, I wouldn’t go betting your mortgage or child’s college fund on this club’s postseason hopes at this point.
10. New York Islanders (30-19-6, last week No. 8) – The Islanders are only four points behind the Rangers with a game in hand and they have the same solid goal-differential (plus-20) so that should be a nice battle down the stretch for second-place in the Metropolitan Division. New York will get another shot at Washington on Thursday as they host the Capitals at Barclays Center (where they are 19-8-3). A .500 road record (11-11-3) is one of the main things that is holding the Islanders back.
11. San Jose Sharks (30-20-5, last week No. 11) – The Sharks are also taking advantage of the Kings’ recent struggles as San Jose is 6-2-2 in its last 10 games. They opened a key five-game road trip with an impressive 4-2 win at Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Their stellar road record (19-8-2) continues to carry them since they remain under .500 at home (11-12-3).
12. Detroit Red Wings (29-19-9, last week No. 13) – After a wild 6-5 win vs. Boston on Sunday, Detroit fell victim to a brutal scheduling quirk as they got blown out 4-1 the next afternoon at the Islanders. With two goals and an assist against the Bruins, future Hall of Famer Pavel Datsyuk reached 900 points in his remarkable career. It was only his second multi-goal performance of the season (each in the past five contests) so the Red Wings have to hope the 37-year-old has some magic left in 2015-16.
13. Pittsburgh Penguins (28-19-8, last week No. 10) – Perhaps undeservedly so (since they are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games), the Penguins have dropped three spots from last week. They are currently in fifth-place in the Metropolitan Division but only four points behind the Rangers with a game in hand. Thursday’s matchup with Detroit promises to be an important one for both teams.
14. Tampa Bay Lightning (30-22-4, last week No. 9) – While most of the clubs in their proverbial neighborhood are playing well, the Lightning are not (5-5-0 in their last 10 games) relatively speaking. I’m pretty sure that Tampa Bay is better than Detroit and New Jersey for instance but those teams are both ahead of them in the standings. The good news is that the Lightning host the wretched Jets on Thursday so that should be a win for the home team.
15. New Jersey Devils (29-22-7, last week No. 15) – Like a stubborn winter storm, the Devils are holding their ground (5-3-2 in their last 10 games) despite a questionable goal-differential (minus-6). They got rolled 6-3 by the Flyers on Tuesday which is never a good sign. New Jersey has scored an NHL-low 130 goals so that seems to be a potentially fatal issue.
16. Nashville Predators (26-21-10, last week No. 17) – Fittingly in the bottom half of the power rankings, things appear to really start to go off a cliff. Nashville is slowly showing signs of life (5-3-2 in its last 10 games) and they own an inside track to the No. 7 or 8 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They host the road warrior Bruins on Thursday.
17. Carolina Hurricanes (26-21-10, last week No. 21) – How is Carolina doing this you ask (6-2-2 in their last 10 games)? The truth is not out there (sorry X-Files) or at least I have no idea. For what it’s worth (probably a whole lot of nothing), the Hurricanes are only four points behind the Islanders (granted New York has two games in hand on them).
18. Colorado Avalanche (27-25-4, last week No. 18) – In the afterglow of another Broncos Super Bowl win, it’s doubtful that many in Colorado have noticed that the Avalanche are in the playoff hunt (8th in the Western Conference). They have a four-point lead over both Minnesota and Arizona (who have each played three fewer games). It was not a joyous Valentine’s Day this year for the Avalanche who fell 4-1 to the Sabres.
19. Philadelphia Flyers (25-21-10, last week no. 24) – Somehow the Flyers have kept their flickering playoff hopes alive with a 5-3-2 stretch. They might not make the postseason but they can inflict further damage upon fading Montreal on Friday at the Bell Centre. My man crush for tough-as-nails right wing Wayne Simmonds (21 goals, 17 assists, 10 power play goals, 117 penalty minutes) knows no bounds.
20. Arizona Coyotes (26-24-6, last week No. 23) – I’m not quite sure but Arizona might have destroyed Montreal’s soul on Monday in a 6-2 Coyotes laugher. It is an uphill battle for Arizona if they want to get back in the Western Conference playoff picture though. They host Dallas on Thursday in what could turn into an old school NHL high-scoring affair (think 6-5).
21. Minnesota Wild (24-22-10, last week No. 19) – It’s been a rough few weeks for the Wild (2-6-2 in their last 10 games) who fired their long-time head coach Mike Yeo on Saturday. Minnesota immediately responded with a 5-2 win at Vancouver on Monday which ended an eight-game losing streak but who’s counting? The road could be just the cure for them as they are at Calgary on Wednesday and Edmonton on Thursday, two extremely winnable games.
22. Montreal Canadiens (27-26-4, last week No. 16) – This isn’t exactly breaking news but in case you’ve been in outer space, the Canadiens are in big trouble. As we speak, they are in 12th place in the Eastern Conference. It’s hard to see this ending well, you wonder how desperate that Montreal will be at the trade deadline which is less than two weeks away (Feb. 29).
23. Ottawa Senators (26-26-6, last week No. 20) – Another Canadian club that is having a very disappointing season is the Senators. They have 58 points like the Canadiens but they have played one more game and their goal-differential is a horrendous minus-17. Hybrid defenseman Erik Karlsson (11 goals, 52 assists, 23 power play points) has the most assists in the league and he’s tied for third overall in points.
24. Vancouver Canucks (22-22-12, last week No. 22) – Vancouver’s playoff dreams have disappeared to the point where they’ll be lucky to even finish over .500 this season. The Canucks are 3-5-2 in their last 10 games and things don’t appear more promising on Thursday as they host the surging Ducks. Did I mention that Vancouver is the worst home team in the NHL (9-12-5)?
25. Columbus Blue Jackets (23-28-7, last week No. 28) – They are going crazy in the streets of Columbus, right? If they are not, I believe that they should be since the Blue Jackets are 6-1-3 in their last 10 games which for this awful edition is akin to winning the Stanley Cup. Columbus has the same amount of points as Calgary and Winnipeg which is kind of amazing.
26. Buffalo Sabres (23-28-7, last week No. 27 – It’s good to see that Sabres mercurial forward Evander Kane (16 goals, 8 assists) is really growing up before our very own eyes. After attending the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday in Toronto, he missed practice on Monday and was subsequently suspended for a game. Unfortunately for Buffalo, some people never seem to learn.
27. Calgary Flames (25-27-3, last week No. 26) – Goaltender Karri Ramo has a torn ACL, a terrible development for a guy that’ll be a free agent this summer. It’s been that kind of miserable season for the Flames who can’t get of their own way. Calgary is good at home (16-12-0) but their terrible road record (9-15-3) has been one of countless fatal flaws in 2015-16.
28. Winnipeg Jets (25-28-3, last week No. 25) – Tough year to be a Canadian hockey fan, eh? Along with the Maple Leafs and Oilers, the Jets are the other last-place team hailing from Canada. The Metropolitan Division is the only one with an American team in last-place and that’s by default since no Canadian teams actually reside there.
29. Edmonton Oilers (22-30-6, last week No. 30) – The Oilers have the second-worst goal-differential in the league (minus-30) and they are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. Other than that, things are going fantastic in Edmonton. Oh and the Oilers are an NHL-worst 7-19-4 on the road.
30. Toronto Maple Leafs (20-26-9, last week No. 29) – Life isn’t much better in Toronto (at least when it comes to their beloved Maple Leafs) since they are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. Toronto is .500 at Air Canada Centre (8-8-7) but 12-18-2 on the road. The Leafs are so irrelevant these days that hometown hero Drake hasn’t even publicly jumped on their bandwagon yet.