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NHL Power Rankings: Islanders, Rangers, Kings climb

Anders Lee and the Islanders are trying to fend off some tough competition in the MetGetty Images
  1. 1. Nashville Predators (40-13-7; last week-1) – I hate to sound like a broken record (do kids still know what those are?) but the Predators are the top team in the NHL and there is still no debate about that. Nashville has six points more than any other club and they are tied with the Rangers and Blues for the best goal-differential in the league (plus-40). The Predators are also 25-3-1 at Bridgestone Arena this season, which is insane.
  2. 2. Montreal Canadiens (38-16-5; last week-3) – It might be their location but at least stateside, Montreal’s ascent this season has been rather quiet. They have the most points (81) in the Eastern Conference and they are tied with Anaheim for the second most in the NHL. The Canadiens are only one point ahead of the Lightning but their trump card is three games in hand vs. their Atlantic Division rivals.
  3. 3. St. Louis Blues (38-17-4; last week-2) – Nashville is starting to pull away from St. Louis (up seven points) but the Blues are almost a lock for a top-four seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Their 186 goals scored are the second most in the West behind Dallas (189). St. Louis hosts Montreal on Tuesday in a huge tilt and possible Stanley Cup Final preview before heading out on a five-game road trip with four contests in Canada.
  4. 4. Tampa Bay Lightning (39-19-6; last week-4) – The Lightning have slipped up a bit lately (5-4-1 in its last 10 games) to allow Montreal to leapfrog them into first place in the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division. The Lightning have scored 203 goals this season, the most in the NHL, so there is that. After a five-game road trip that ended with a 5-4 loss in Colorado on Sunday, they are off until Friday when they host Chicago in a marquee matchup.
  5. 5. New York Islanders (39-20-2; last week-7) – The Metropolitan Division is by far the best race in the NHL with only four points separating the top four teams. Whoever wins it will definitely have earned their crown. A 4-0 shutout loss at home to the Canucks on Sunday was surprising, but the Islanders can bounce back with three more games at Nassau Coliseum this week: Coyotes, Flames and Hurricanes.
  6. 6. Anaheim Ducks (37-16-7; last week-5) – John Gibson looked over his head in his first couple games back as the Ducks’ starting goaltender but he has won the last two contests. Anaheim has three games at Honda Center this week, bookmarked by two important contests: Red Wings, Senators and Kings. The Ducks have allowed 168 goals, the most of any team currently in the top eight of the Western Conference.
  7. 7. New York Rangers (36-16-6; last week-10) – The Rangers’ freight train continues to roll: New York is 7-1-2 in its last 10 games to pull into second place in the Metropolitan Division. The Rangers are only two points behind their rivals from Long Island. If the postseason began today, the Rangers would be the fourth seed, which is pretty remarkable considering how this season started for them.
  8. 8. Detroit Red Wings (33-14-10; last week-8) – Detroit is still within striking distance of Montreal (five points back) and Tampa Bay (four points back), if they should go on another long win-streak. The Red Wings are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. Detroit’s 7-6 overtime win (thanks to Niklas Kronwall) at Dallas on Saturday will undoubtedly go down as one of the craziest games in the NHL this season.
  9. 9. Pittsburgh Penguins (34-17-9; last week-9) – Nobody had a better weekend than the Penguins as they won 4-2 at St. Louis on Saturday then came back the next night to destroy Florida, 5-1, at the Consol Energy Center. Pittsburgh is 6-3-1 in its last 10 games but that’s left them in fifth place in the East. Wednesday’s game at Washington is huge, especially since the Capitals trail them by only one point.
  10. 10. Chicago Blackhawks (35-20-5; last week-6) – The Blackhawks are 4-3-3 in their last 10 games which has left them a shocking 12 points behind the Predators in the Central Division. No question, the lowest point of Chicago’s season thus far happened on Sunday as it got rocked, 6-2, at the United Center by the Bruins (who came in on a six-game winless streak). It probably doesn’t help that Corey Crawford has allowed three-plus goals in his last seven starts, culminating in getting pulled vs. Boston.
  11. 11. Washington Capitals (33-18-10; last week-11) – The Capitals lost 3-2 in Philadelphia on Sunday but they are still 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. Washington is in seventh place in the East but that is a bit misleading since it is up nine points on eighth place Boston. After the Penguins game, Washington should clean up at Carolina on Friday and against Toronto on Sunday.
  12. 12. Minnesota Wild (31-21-7; last week-13) – Minnesota’s meteoric rise has been incredible: it is 8-1-1 in its last 10 games. The Wild hung a franchise-record six third period goals on Dallas on Sunday in a 6-2 victory. Minnesota hosts Edmonton on Tuesday which might be the lock of the week in the league.
  13. 13. Los Angeles Kings (28-18-12; last week-15) – The Kings have won an NHL-best seven games in a row and their many struggles this season seem like they never happened at all. Goaltender Jonathan Quick was the No. 1 star of the week after going 3-0-0 with 1.33 goals against average and .959 save percentage. The Red Wings and Senators come to Staples Center this week before LA heads out on a three-game road trip.
  14. 14. Vancouver Canucks (34-22-3; last week-17) – The 4-0 win at the Islanders on Sunday was probably Vancouver’s best victory of the season but that is coupled with the sobering reality that goaltender Ryan Miller could be out for a while. He suffered a leg injury and was sent back to Vancouver for an MRI. Eddie Lack’s time as a No. 1 goaltender begins on Tuesday in Boston.
  15. 15. Winnipeg Jets (30-20-11; last week-12) – Things are starting to get real for the Jets: they are 4-3-3 in their last 10 games. Plus, Minnesota and Los Angeles are the hottest teams in the NHL and they are both breathing down Winnipeg’s neck now, within two points and three points respectively. The Jets’ next four games are at the MTS Centre: Stars, Blues, Kings and Senators.
  16. 16. Calgary Flames (32-23-4; last week-14) – The Flames are still chugging along (6-3-1 in their last 10 games) but they are in ninth-place in the West because of the Wild and Kings’ amazing stretches. I think their best hope is to catch Winnipeg since I don’t see Minnesota and Los Angeles falling back anytime soon. It is a scary time for Calgary who start a season-long seven game road trip on Tuesday at the Rangers.
  17. 17. Boston Bruins (29-21-9; last week-18) – I don’t want to overreact to one game out of 82 but Boston very well might have saved its season with the shocking 6-2 whitewashing in Chicago. With one week left before the trade deadline, the key for the Bruins is to carry that over to a winnable week: vs. Canucks, at Devils and vs. Coyotes. After suffering what looked like a seriousknee injury on Friday in St. Louis, who knows how long star center David Krejci will be out?
  18. 18. San Jose Sharks (30-23-8; last week-16) – At this point, it is tough to see the Sharks making the playoffs this season as they’ve dropped to 10th-place in the loaded Western Conference. That is, unless they finally blow things up with a blockbuster deal (Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau?). San Jose is 3-6-1 in their last 10 games and they lost 2-1 on Saturday vs. LA in the Stadium Series game at Levi’s Stadium, fun times.
  19. 19. Philadelphia Flyers (26-23-11; last week-not ranked) – I’m pretty sure this is the first time that the Flyers have been featured in the power rankings this season, so I’m sure the City of Brotherly Love is honored. It was a four-point weekend at the Wells Fargo Center for Philadelphia as it beat Nashville 3-2 in a shootout on Saturday then they outlasted Washington on Sunday 3-2. The Flyers are only one point behind Florida and four points behind Boston for that final playoff spot.
  20. 20. Florida Panthers (26-21-12; last week-20) – For a while, it’s been assumed that the Panthers were the main threat to the Bruins and the eighth-seed but now the Flyers look like a far more dangerous threat. Florida has dropped their last two games and they have a home-and-home coming up with Chicago so good luck with that. The Panthers’ goal-differential has dropped to minus-23, which is disgusting.

 
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