Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson have the Bruins at the top of the Eastern Conference. Credit: Getty Images
1. Boston Bruins (52-17-6; last week-2) – The numbers all back it up: Boston is currently the top team in the NHL. The Bruins went 15-1-1 in March and have a league-best 110 points (one more than St. Louis). Boston also has the best goal-differential (plus-83) with seven games left in the regular season.
2. St. Louis Blues (51-17-7; last week-1) – The Blues aren’t being penalized for playing poorly, they are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. It’s more about the Bruins being on fire. They are in a good battle with Boston for the Presidents’ Trophy (most points in the NHL) and who knows, it might mean something since they very well could meet in the Stanley Cup Final. St. Louis’ 1-0 shootout win over Philadelphia on Tuesday looked like a playoff game.
3. Anaheim Ducks (49-18-8; last week-5) – Regular season wins don’t get much sweeter than Anaheim’s epic 5-4 overtime comeback victory vs. Winnipeg on Monday. The Ducks were down 4-0 midway through the game before scoring four unanswered then having Stephane Robidas getting the game-winner. Anaheim is 6-3-1 in its last 10 games and its next four are all against non-playoff teams: two vs. Edmonton, Nashville and Vancouver.
4. San Jose Sharks (48-20-9; last week-3) – The Sharks are only one point behind the Ducks, but Anaheim has two games in hand over their rivals. San Jose hosts Los Angeles on Thursday in a game that is typically devoid of meaning in the regular season. But it could set the tone for the playoffs when they certainly could meet at some point. The Sharks are 5-3-2 in their last 10 games and they look like a lock to be No. 3 or 4 in the Western Conference.
5. Colorado Avalanche (48-21-6; last week-6) – Matt Duchene (knee) is out at least for the first round of the playoffs, which is terrible news for a team making their first playoff appearance since 2010. He led Colorado with 23 goals and 47 assists. It is a credit to the Avs though for not feeling bad for themselves as they’ve won their last four games.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins (48-23-5; last week-6) – The Penguins are not going to get the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference but they will nab the No. 2 seed and wouldn’t meet the Bruins until the Eastern Conference Finals. Pittsburgh is trending in the wrong direction: it is 4-5-1- in its last 10 games. They flat-lined on Tuesday with a mystifying 4-1 loss to the Hurricanes.
7. Chicago Blackhawks (42-19-5; last week-4) – You start to see why teams so rarely repeat as Cup champions in the modern era of the NHL. Jonathan Toews (upper body) is out for the rest of the regular season, leaving his playoff status up in the air. The rigors of a Cup run, plus an Olympic year means it is almost impossible for Chicago to recapture the same magic of last year. It also doesn’t help that they’re in the loaded West where they probably won’t even have home ice in the first round.
8. Los Angeles Kings (44-26-6; last week-8) – Nothing illustrates the depth and quality of the West more than the fact that the Kings will most likely be the No. 6 seed. LA is the team that nobody will want to face due to its championship pedigree, most of the same core and arguably the best goaltender in the West - Jonathan Quick. The Kings can clinch a playoff spot on Wednesday with any type of win vs. Phoenix.
9. Tampa Bay Lightning (42-25-9; last week-10) – The Lightning are playing great again, 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, and at the right time. Tampa Bay started out a six-game homestand with a nice 3-1 win over Montreal on Tuesday. They'll likely be the No. 3 seed but No. 4 wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize if they stumble a bit.
10. Montreal Canadiens (43-27-7; last week-9) – Much like Tampa Bay and Boston, Montreal has been great (8-2-0 in its last 10 games) the past few weeks. The Canadiens only have five games left but are in good shape for home ice in the first round. This weekend is a taste of the playoffs as they host Ottawa on Friday and go to Detroit on Saturday - two teams battling for the Wild Card in the Eastern Conference.
11. New York Rangers (43-30-4; last week-12) – The Rangers have very quietly been playing wonderful hockey (8-2-0 in their last 10 games) to vault ahead of Philadelphia. By virtue of their 3-1 victory on Tuesday in Vancouver, they’ve earned a franchise record 25 road wins this season. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh hurt his shoulder vs. the Canucks but the good news is that he’s still traveling with the team.
12. Philadelphia Flyers (39-27-9; last week-11) – If the Flyers can survive a tough few days: hosting Columbus on Thursday and at Boston on Saturday, they get the hopeless Sabres and Panthers after that. Philadelphia is 3-7 in shootouts including Tuesday’s 1-0 loss at St. Louis. Whomever they play in the first round of the playoffs won't matter - they'll be in for a serious fight regardless.
13. Minnesota Wild (39-26-11; last week-13) – The Wild have won their last two games which is nice and all but they are almost set for the No. 7 seed. That’s better than No. 8 or out of the playoffs but they are going to be heavy underdogs in the first round. The fact that they are 16-17-6 on the road doesn’t make us feel better about them lasting for a while this spring.
14. Dallas Stars (37-27-11; last week-18) – The race for the No. 8 seed in the West is a great race between the Stars and Coyotes, two teams that would easily quality if they were in the Eastern Conference. Dallas has won its last three games, including a 5-0 whitewashing of Washington on Tuesday. Tyler Seguin’s first season in Texas has been a true success with 33 goals and 44 assists - the fourth most points in the NHL.
15. Phoenix Coyotes (36-27-13; last week-14) – No matter who misses the playoffs in the West - either the Stars or Coyotes - they will represent one of the better teams to miss the postseason in recent memory in the NHL. The Coyotes are 5-3-2 in their last 10 games and they have the same amount of points (85) as the Stars, but Dallas has one game in hand. Phoenix has the edge in experience over Dallas but they also have three games left on the road where they are 15-14-9.
16. Detroit Red Wings (35-26-14; last week-16) – It says something about the season that Detroit is playing their best hockey at 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. The Red Wings have won their last two games but they will have their hands full with Boston on Wednesday without Daniel Alfredsson and Pavel Datsyuk. The good news is that two of their next four games are against the Sabres.
17. Columbus Blue Jackets (38-30-7; last week-15) – Columbus is hanging on to the eighth spot in the East by their fingernails: one point in front of Toronto, two points ahead of Washington and three points on top of New Jersey. The Blue Jackets have a tough back-to-back: at Philadelphia on Thursday then hosting banged up Chicago on Friday. They are in a good place in the sense that they’ve played fewer games than those three closest foes.
18. Toronto Maple Leafs (37-32-8; last week-19) – No idea how a team that just suffered through an eight-game losing streak could move up in the rankings but what other choice do we have? Toronto beat Calgary 3-2 on Tuesday so their reward is a meeting with the Bruins on Thursday at Air Canada Centre. Head coach Randy Carlyle is definitely working for his job over these next few weeks.
19. Washington Capitals (36-30-8; last week-17) – The Caps are falling apart at the worst possible time. They are 4-3-3 in their last 10 games which sounds worse when you consider the 5-0 beating they absorbed on Tuesday vs. Dallas. Have we mentioned that Alexander Ovechkin hasn’t scored an even-strength goal in a month?
20. New Jersey Devils (32-28-16; last week-not ranked) – The Devils own our favorite stat in the NHL this season: they are 0-11 in shootouts. How is that even possible? It’s easy to make fun of the stupid shootouts, but if New Jersey had just won five or six of those, it would be comfortably on the inside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture instead of a longshot outside of it.
Follow Metro sports writer Richard Slate on Twitter:@RichSlate