NHL Power Rankings: Blues, Canadiens, Flyers, Rangers could soon surge
1. Anaheim Ducks (43-14-5) – The Ducks have won both of their games since the Olympic break and three in a row overall. They didn’t make any huge deals Wednesday, dealing forward Dustin Penner, goaltender Viktor Fasth for draft picks and acquiring defenseman Stephane Robidas. Anaheim is three points ahead of St. Louis in the vaunted Western Conference and leads the NHL with 91 points.
2. St. Louis Blues (41-14-6) – You could say that the Blues made the most important move of the trade deadline: grabbing goaltender Ryan Miller from Buffalo. That solves their one obvious weakness and they become even more of an odds-on favorite to win the Cup. They have the best goal-differential in the NHL at plus-63.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (41-16-4) – The best team in the Eastern Conference is now in the conversation for top club in the NHL, despite the fact that their conference is mostly wretched. Pens general manager Ray Shero usually makes notable trades at the deadline but this year was an exception. Shero has to feel comfortable with his current group.
4. Chicago Blackhawks (36-13-14) – As long as they don’t suffer any major injuries to key players, the Blackhawks will still be an easy pick to win their second Cup in a row. More than most other teams, the regular season isn’t a huge deal to them since they know what to expect. They are 4-4-2 in their last 10 games and 5-8 in overtime and shootouts.
5. Boston Bruins (39-17-5) – Boston didn’t do much at the trade deadline to address their issues on the blue line: they claimed Corey Potter off waivers from Edmonton and got Andrej Meszaros from Philadelphia for a third round pick. Meszaros will be in the lineup, but it’s hard to see Potter replacing any of their current young defensemen. The B’s are in the early portion of an insane stretch: six games in nine days.
6. Colorado Avalanche (40-17-5) – The Avalanche have won their last three games, proving that their pre-Olympic work wasn’t a fluke by any means. They are a young team so it’s tough to see them getting past Anaheim, St. Louis or Chicago in the playoffs, but they certainly have plenty to be excited about for the next few years. Earning the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoffs would be a reasonable goal for them.
7. San Jose Sharks (39-17-7) – The Sharks are another team that didn’t really do much at the trade deadline. They look locked into second place in the Pacific Division behind Anaheim. Their next three games are all at home against probable playoff teams from the East: Pittsburgh, Montreal and Toronto.
8. Los Angeles Kings (35-22-6) – No team in the NHL is hotter than the Kings: they won their last game before the break and have proceeded to win their first four coming out of it. Even better for the Kings, they traded for three-time 40-goal scorer Marian Gaborik. The catch with Gaborik is his health, but if he can make it through the rest of the season, look out.
9. Minnesota Wild (34-21-7) – The Wild are right there with the Kings since they have also won five straight. Another thing that mirrors LA is that they acquired a proven goal-scorer: Matt Moulson from Buffalo. He has 17 goals and 21 assists this season and had three 30-goal seasons in a row with the Islanders.
10. Montreal Canadiens (34-22-7) – No team pulled off a more stealth move on the day of the trade deadline than Montreal. The Habs hadn’t been discussed in hardly any major rumors (thanks experts), but at the last minute they swooped in and picked up Thomas Vanek from the Islanders for a second-round pick and a prospect. Vanek has always been a Bruins killer, so this only adds to the rivalry since they very well could meet in the postseason.
11. Tampa Bay Lightning (34-23-5) – After much speculation, Tampa Bay finally traded captain Martin St. Louis to the Rangers for their captain Ryan Callahan along with a first round pick and conditional second round pick. When you get over the initial shock, this is a really nice move for the Lightning since St. Louis is 38 and Callahan is 28. Oh and Steven Stamkos tweeted that he’ll return Thursday vs. Buffalo so life isn’t too bad in Tampa.
12. Toronto Maple Leafs (32-23-8) – For the first time since 2006, the Leafs didn’t make a deadline move, which is interesting since they have plenty of holes (namely on defense) to fill. On the other hand, this has to give the players confidence that management had their backs. The Leafs’ schedule is really tough coming up as they play at the Rangers then host the Flyers before going to California to play those three great teams.
13. Philadelphia Flyers (32-24-6) – The Flyers didn’t grab the top trade headline but they made a very solid move in trading for Andrew MacDonald in exchange for a second round pick, third round pick and prospect. Assuming they re-sign him this summer, MacDonald could be their top defenseman for years to come. They are in the middle of a stretch against seven Eastern Conference teams, so grabbing wins in March is quite important for playoff seeding.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets (32-25-5) – Columbus is in good shape to make the postseason for only the second time in franchise history. Trading Gaborik was a bit surprising, but they are clearly building for the future as well as this season. It should be a dog fight between them, the Flyers, Rangers, Capitals and possibly the Devils for second place in the Metropolitan Division.
15. New York Rangers (33-26-3) – The Rangers are going for it this season by netting St. Louis (29 goals, 32 assists). Callahan was a team leader and fit their style perfectly, so it will be interesting to see how the more offensive-minded St. Louis does in Manhattan. They’ve lost their last two games and they can’t afford a long losing streak given how tight the Eastern Conference playoff picture is at seeds 4-8.
16. Dallas Stars (29-23-10) – By picking up Tim Thomas from Florida, it’s a mini-Bruins reunion as he is reunited with Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley (teammates on the 2011 Cup winner in Boston). Thomas is quality insurance in case Kari Lehtonen falters or just needs a break. Hanging onto the eighth spot in the West, they need points with their next three games at home: Canucks, Wild and Blue Jackets.
17. Washington Capitals (29-23-10) – The Capitals are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games and they picked up a pair of decent veterans at the deadline: forward Dustin Penner and goaltender Jaroslav Halak. They won, 4-2, at Boston on Saturday and in a weird scheduling quirk, they go back to TD Garden Thursday. Alex Ovechkin (43 goals) is boat racing his competition, with Toronto’s Phil Kessel (33 goals) in second place for the NHL goal-scoring lead.
18. Detroit Red Wings (28-21-12) – The Red Wings are currently ninth in the Eastern Conference so they have to pick it up fast with only 21 games left in their regular season. Their only move this week was a good one as they picked up underrated center David Legwand (10 goals, 30 assists), who played for Nashville his entire career. You could argue that no team has had worse luck with injuries this season than the Red Wings, who are shutting down Pavel Datsyuk for three weeks.
19. Winnipeg Jets (30-26-7) – They could have used a jolt of energy provided by a trade but all they did was sign veteran defenseman Mark Stuart to a four-year extension. The Jets are in 10th in the Western Conference but only a point behind Dallas. On the plus side, Winnipeg is 6-2-2 in its last 10 games.
20. Phoenix Coyotes (28-23-11) – The Coyotes didn’t make a big splash, but depth forwards Martin Erat and John Mitchell (traded from Washington) should help. They host the Canadiens Thursday before embarking on a four-game East Coast trip which could go a long way towards determining if they qualify for the postseason. Mike Smith made 23 saves in a 1-0 shutout vs. Vancouver Tuesday; Phoenix has to hope he gets hot down the stretch.
Follow Metro sports writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate