Jaden Schwartz and the Blues are creeping up the rankings. Credit: Getty Images
1) Anaheim Ducks (35-8-5; last week-1) – Things are great at Disneyland: the Ducks have won seven games in a row and they are still unbeaten in regulation at the Honda Center (19-0-2). Goaltender Jonas Hiller (23-4-4, .914 save percentage, 2.34 GAA, 3 shutouts) was named the NHL’s second star of the week. Anaheim is tied with Chicago for the second best goal-differential in the NHL (plus-42).
2) St. Louis Blues (32-8-5; last week-3) – The Ducks are the hottest team in the league but the Blues are right there behind them, hence why they appear above the mighty Blackhawks this week. St. Louis is running away with the best goal-differential in the NHL (plus-63). The Blues are built for the postseason and anything less than a long run this spring will be a huge disappointment for this true Cup contender.
3) Chicago Blackhawks (30-8-11; last week-3) – The unthinkable happened last week as the Blackhawks suffered their first three-game losing streak of the season. Chicago is a pedestrian 4-1-5 in its last 10 games, showing that any team can go through a midseason slump. The Blackhawks have scored a league-best 177 goals, but surprisingly with all their talent, they are just 4-6 in overtime and shootouts this season.
4) Pittsburgh Penguins (33-12-2; last week-4) – The Penguins are starting to put some distance between them and the rest of the Eastern Conference (up eight points on Boston and Tampa Bay). They are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games with a plus-40 goal differential. Barring some major injuries, they’ll be the team to beat in the East.
5) San Jose Sharks (29-12-6; last week-5) – The Sharks had a chance to make a statement against the banged up Bruins on Saturday at the SAP Center but they failed as Boston won, 1-0. Getting snubbed for Team Canada should motivate Joe Thornton (NHL leading 45 assists), who typically goes missing in the postseason. San Jose is on a rare East Coast road trip: they won, 2-1, at Washington on Tuesday and they now go to Florida and Tampa Bay.
6) Colorado Avalanche (29-12-5; last week-9) – The Avalanche have started to find a groove again with Semyon Varlamov (22-8-5, .927 save percentage, 2.33 GAA) leading the way for the young but loaded team. They are not going to finish ahead of Chicago or St. Louis but they should comfortably come in third in the Pacific Division, which is nothing to sniff at. They are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games and it doesn’t get much better than Tuesday night's 3-2 win in Chicago.
7) Boston Bruins (29-15-2; last week-5) – As expected, the trip to California was painful (1-2 with nine goals allowed in two losses). It won’t get much easier as Boston heads back to the road for a game in Dallas Thursday, then their first meeting of the season with Chicago on Sunday. Getting Loui Eriksson and Shawn Thornton back in the lineup should help them immensely.
8) Tampa Bay Lightning (28-15-4; last week-7) – Quietly, the Lightning have become a legitimate contender in the East thanks to Martin St. Louis and Ben Bishop. Who knows? Steven Stamkos might even return sooner than we think (possibly Sochi). The Lightning are 14-5-2 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
9) Los Angeles Kings (28-14-5; last week-8) – The Kings cleared up their goaltending situation by trading backup Ben Scrivens to Edmonton for a third-round pick in the 2014 draft. Martin Jones is back with LA and Jonathan Quick is at full speed. The issue for the Kings all season has been goal-scoring: they only have 120 goals, which helps explain why they are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games.
10) Montreal Canadiens (26-16-5; last week-10) – With Boston’s recent struggles, Montreal has closed within three points of its Original 6 rivals. The Canadiens are another team that can’t score: they have only potted 118 goals and allowed 111. The upcoming four-game road trip: Ottawa, Toronto, Pittsburgh and Detroit will be tough.
11) Vancouver Canucks (24-14-9) – The Canucks are also staying in the same spot because they haven’t really improved or gotten worse lately. Vancouver will have its work cut out for itself trying to finish in front of any of the three teams from California. Perhaps they’ll be the first to win in regulation at Anaheim Wednesday.
12) Minnesota Wild (25-19-5; last week-13) – Now we’re getting into some teams, like the Wild, with negative goal-differentials (minus-4). They get some benefit of the doubt since they’re in the Pacific Division. However, that sorry road record (9-12-3) is embarrassing.
13) Philaelphia Flyers (24-19-5; last week-14) – If the Flyers were a stock, you’d want to buy them at this point. They have their swagger back, going 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. Plus they are in a cushy part of the schedule, with five more games against non-playoff teams: Nashville, Islanders (twice), Carolina and Columbus.
14) Washington Capitals (22-16-8; last week-18) – Alex Ovechkin still leads the NHL in goals (33) although his crazy pace has slowed down some. We're not saying it’ll be pretty since these teams aren’t particularly good, but the race between the Flyers, Capitals, Rangers and Devils for second-place in the Metropolitan Division should be entertaining.
15) Toronto Maple Leafs (23-20-5; last week-16) – Toronto was falling apart, but Tuesday’s 4-3 win in Boston could turn things around. Team USA’s Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk have carried the Maple Leafs, and USA fans can only hope they do the same in Sochi. The Maple Leafs are 8-10-4 on the road which is unacceptable for a playoff contender, even in the weak Eastern Conference.
16) New York Rangers (24-21-3; last week-not ranked) – Henrik Lundqvist emerged from his personal slump to earn the third star in the NHL last week. New York is 6-3-1 in its last 10 games to get back in the playoff race. Chris Kreider is a rookie of the year candidate as he seems to get better every game.
17) New Jersey Devils (20-18-10; last week-not ranked) – Father Time is still undefeated, but Martin Brodeur and Jaromir Jagr are both having brilliant seasons in the twilights of their Hall of Fame careers. The Devils are the only team in the NHL to have not won in overtime or a shootout (0-7). Points will be hard to get in their next three games: at Colorado, at Phoenix and vs. St. Louis.
18) Ottawa Senators (21-18-8; last week-20) – Don’t look now but the Senators -who were left for dead - have gone 7-1-2 in their last 10 games. They are going to be in a dogfight with Toronto and Detroit for third place in the Atlantic Division. Their 3-0 win in Minnesota Tuesday was one of their most complete 60 minutes of the season.
19) Detroit Red Wings (20-16-10; last week-) – For a proud team like the Red Wings, it’s been a very rough season so far. At least they aren’t in the Western Conference anymore where they wouldn’t have much of a chance to make the playoffs. The incomparable Pavel Datsyuk’s (groin) absence has really hurt them. Who would have guessed that?
20) Columbus Blue Jackets (22-20-4; last week-not ranked) – With Nathan Horton up front and Sergei Bobrovsky between the pipes, this is the Blue Jackets team that got so much love in the preseason. They have won their last four games and they are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games to rise from the ashes. There is no reason why they can’t leap all the way from sixth to second in the Metropolitan Division since only four points separates them and the Capitals.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter:@RichSlate