1. New York Rangers (50-21-7; last week-3) – The Rangers enter the final week of the 2014-15 regular season tied for the most points with Anaheim (107) but New York has played two fewer games. The Rangers also have the best goal-differential (+58) in the NHL. They have won their last three games and are tied with Chicago for the fewest goals allowed (182).
2. Anaheim Ducks (50-23-7; last week-1) – At two points ahead of St. Louis and three points ahead of Nashville (who both have a game in hand), Anaheim still has the inside track to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The Ducks' last two games are very winnable as they host Dallas on Wednesday then go to Arizona on Saturday. The Ducks are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games.
3. St. Louis Blues (49-23-7; last week-5) – The Blues have won their last three games including a huge 2-1 win at Chicago on Sunday which kept them right on Anaheim’s heels. St. Louis has the best goal-differential in the Western Conference (+45). Their last three games are all difficult but they are at the Scottrade Center, where they are 25-11-2 this season: vs. Winnipeg, Chicago and Minnesota.
4. Montreal Canadiens (48-22-10; last week-2) – If the Rangers slip up, the Canadiens could be right there to take advantage and grab the No. 1 seed in the East. Montreal is 5-2-3 in its last 10 games. The Habs host Detroit on Thursday, then visit Toronto on Saturday.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning (48-24-8; last week-6) – Tampa Bay is in very good shape as it is guaranteed a top-3 seed in the Eastern Conference and is still in play to be the top team. The Lightning are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games and they had to take a certain amount of satisfaction in eliminating the Panthers from playoff contention with a 4-0 shutout on Saturday. Tampa Bay closes things out at Amalie Arena (30-8-1, best home record in the NHL) vs. New Jersey and Boston.
6. Nashville Predators (47-22-10; last week-4) – The Predators are basically a lock to be a top-4 seed but more than anything, they need confidence going into the playoffs after a bumpy last month or so. Nashville has a goal-differential of +30. They are at Colorado on Tuesday, host Minnesota on Thursday and travel to Dallas on Saturday.
7. Chicago Blackhawks (48-25-6; last week-7) – Chicago is three points behind St. Louis and two behind Nashville. If for no other reason than to avoid Minnesota (which looks like it'll be the No. 5 seed), the Blackhawks should try to get out of the No. 4 spot. Chicago has the second-best goal-differential (+43) in the West.
8. Washington Capitals (44-25-11; last week-11) – Seemingly out of nowhere, the Capitals woke up on Monday in first place in the Metropolitan Division. Washington is 7-2-1 in its last 10 games and they picked up a huge 2-1 win at Detroit on Sunday. They host Boston on Wednesday in a matchup with huge playoff implications for both clubs.
9. Minnesota Wild (44-26-8; last week-8) – The Wild fell 3-2 in a shootout vs. Detroit on Saturday but they are still 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Minnesota has a busy week with four games including three on the road to close out the regular season. They are the team that none of the top-4 seeds in the West want to see in a brutal first-round series.
10. New York Islanders (46-27-6; last week-10) – The Islanders blanked the Sabres 3-0 on Saturday but that hardly counts as a win. New York is 3-5-2 in their last 10 games and unless things change dramatically this week, many will pick them to lose their opening playoff series. The Islanders are at the Flyers on Tuesday and Penguins on Thursday before wrapping up with a game vs. Blue Jackets on Saturday.
11. Boston Bruins (41-25-13; last week-16) – Of the playoff contenders, few would have predicted that Boston would be the hottest team heading into its last three games. The Bruins have won their last five games to vault into a tie with the Penguins and Red Wings (all have 95 points) for sixth-place in the East. Boston’s last contest is at Tampa Bay on Saturday which ironically enough could be a first-round playoff matchup as well.
12. Vancouver Canucks (45-29-5; last week-12) – Vancouver still hasn’t clinched a playoff spot after losing their past two games. That might be a formality but Calgary is only two points behind them while Los Angeles and Winnipeg trail the Canucks by three points apiece. Vancouver’s last three games are at Rogers Arena (only 21-15-2): vs. Kings, Coyotes and Oilers.
13. Calgary Flames (43-29-7; last week-14) – The feel-good story in the NHL this season is alive and well heading into this final week. Calgary is 5-3-2 in its last 10 games including a 4-0 shutout at Edmonton on Saturday. The Flames host the Kings on Thursday and visit the Jets on Saturday, two tilts that look like they could not mean more to all three teams involved.
14. Los Angeles Kings (39-25-14; last week-17) – With four games left, if the playoffs started today, LA would be in (over Winnipeg) by virtue of a tiebreaker. The Kings are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games and the defending champs are certainly cutting it close as to whether they’ll reach the postseason or not. They visit Edmonton on Tuesday and host San Jose on Saturday, two must-wins that should help them immensely.
15. Detroit Red Wings (41-25-13; last week-13) – The Red Wings are falling apart which is not a good omen for their playoff hopes. Detroit is 3-5-2 in its last 10 games. Two of their last three games are against Carolina though so that should help them figure out what ails them.
16. Pittsburgh Penguins (42-26-11; last week-9) – Speaking of Eastern Conference teams that are imitating the Titanic, the Penguins are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. They have lost three in a row including a 4-1 no-show to their hated rivals the Flyers on Sunday who had absolutely nothing left to play for. The only good news for Pittsburgh is that superstar center Evgeni Malkin (28 goals, 42 assists) returned to action vs. Philadelphia after being out for a week with an undisclosed injury.
17. Winnipeg Jets (40-26-12; last week-15) – If the Jets miss the playoffs, you can bet that it’ll be a long summer for their star defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (18 goals, 27 assists). He was suspended four games for a brutal cross-check vs. Rangers. He will return on Saturday vs. Calgary, their season finale which could very well mean everything.
18. Ottawa Senators (40-26-13; last week-18) – As nobody predicted, Toronto might have ruined Ottawa’s season with a 3-2 shootout win on Sunday. The Senators are only two points behind the Penguins, Bruins and Red Wings but the trouble is that they all have three games remaining. Ottawa hosts Pittsburgh on Tuesday in an enormous contest for the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
19. San Jose Sharks (39-31-9; last week-not ranked) – The Sharks are still mathematically alive but a playoff spot is simply not happening for them this season. A 5-3 loss at Arizona on Saturday was a fitting way to basically close the book on a very disappointing season for San Jose. They would like nothing better than to ruin LA’s playoff hopes on Saturday with a win.
20. Florida Panthers (36-29-15; last week-not ranked) – Florida is the rare team that will miss the postseason but should be (mostly) satisfied with their 2014-15 campaign. They exceeded everyone’s expectations and proved that they should be a mainstay in the playoffs beginning next season. They could throw a serious wrench in Boston’s playoff bid with a victory on Thursday.