1. Washington Capitals (50-14-5, last week No. 1) – As expected, the Capitals were the first team in the league to clinch a playoff spot and they have gone 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. On Tuesday, they beat Carolina 2-1 in overtime thanks to Alex Ovechkin’s (42 goals, 21 assists) game-winner. His 17th career overtime goal is second in NHL history to Jaromir Jagr’s 19 .
2. Los Angeles Kings (42-22-5, last week No. 7) – The Kings have certainly made a statement to their Western Conference foes these last few days as they won 5-0 at Chicago on Monday then followed that up with a 5-2 victory in Dallas on Tuesday. Against the Blackhawks, Jonathan Quick (35-17-4, 2.14 goals against average, .921 save percentage) set the U.S. goaltender record with the 41st shutout of his NHL career. Stop me if you’ve heard this before but LA appears to be peaking (7-2-1 in its last 10 games) at the right time.
3. Anaheim Ducks (38-21-9, last week No. 2) – Have the three California teams ever all been this good in the same season? Anaheim is also 7-2-1 in its last 10 games after destroying New Jersey 7-1 on Monday. If there is any justice in the universe, the Kings and Ducks will meet at some point in the playoffs this spring.
4. St. Louis Blues (41-21-9, last week No. 6) – You are lying if you think that you can correctly pick which team will win the Central Division this season. The Blues are tied with the Stars in first-place but St. Louis is playing better (6-4-0 in last 10 games) lately than the Stars so I trust them more. Still, St. Louis’ 7-4 loss to Calgary on Monday made you pause a bit.
5. Chicago Blackhawks (41-23-6, last week No. 3) – It’s been a puzzling stretch for the Blackhawks (4-5-1 in last 10 games) who bottomed out in that shutout loss to the Kings. Chicago has fallen three points behind Dallas and St. Louis in the Central Division although they do have a game in hand on both. They host red-hot Philadelphia (7-2-1 in last 10 games) in a big contest for both clubs on Wednesday.
6. New York Islanders (38-21-9, last week No. 4) – The Islanders are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games despite Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Penguins. New York is tied for second-place in the Atlantic Division with the Rangers but the Isles have played one less game than their neighbors. New York is 21-8-4 at Barclays Center and their goal-differential is plus-24.
7. Florida Panthers (39-22-9, last week No. 9) – The Atlantic Division race is another one that seems to change daily. Florida regained first-place on Tuesday with a 4-1 win in Montreal. Their goal-differential (plus-27) is second-best in the Eastern Conference and they have a chance to pick up another win in Canada as they visit Toronto on Thursday.
8. Boston Bruins (39-24-8, last week No. 9) – Boston started its California trip with a 3-2 loss in San Jose on Tuesday but they are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games. The Bruins are off until Friday when they’ll begin probably the hardest back-to-back you can find at the moment in the NHL: at Anaheim then at Los Angeles. Somehow, the B’s have scored the third most goals in the league (215) this season.
9. Tampa Bay Lightning (40-25-5, last week No. 8) – Today, Tampa Bay sits in third-place in the Atlantic Division but that could certainly change as they trail Florida by two points and Boston by one point. The Lightning are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games but I can’t explain their 4-1 no-show loss in Toronto on Tuesday. Tampa Bay has allowed 167 goals this season, the second-fewest in the East (behind Washington’s 161).
10. New York Rangers (39-23-7, last week No. 5) – The last time out, the Rangers lost 5-3 to the Penguins on Sunday to fall to 5-4-1 in their last 10 games. New York has a brutal three-games-in-four-days stretch later this week: at Anaheim, at LA and at San Jose. Rangers fans are probably a little worried since the team is 16-15-4 on the road in 2015-16.
11. Dallas Stars (41-21-9, last week No. 10) – This might be a little harsh but after such a promising start, the Stars are falling apart (3-4-3 in last 10 games) like Marco Rubio. The good news for Dallas is that they still have time (namely 11 regular season tilts) to get things right for the postseason. As it stands, they are the No. 1 seed in the West but I’d be shocked if they are there in a few weeks.
12. San Jose Sharks (39-24-6, last week No. 13) – The Rob Kardashian to LA’s Kim and Anaheim’s Khloe, the Sharks are always facing an uphill climb for attention. San Jose is 7-3-0 in its last 10 games after beating Boston on Tuesday. They are the only team in playoff contention in the NHL with a sub-.500 record at home (14-15-3). Fashion icon Brent Burns (26 goals, 38 assists) tied a franchise-record for goals by a defenseman with a tally against the Bruins and he should shatter Sandis Ozolinsh’s mark.
13. Nashville Predators (35-22-13, last week No. 11) – Life is good in the Music City: ABC’s Nashville returns on Wednesday and the Predators are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games. With 12 games left for both teams, Nashville has an eight-point lead over Minnesota (the 2nd Wild Card in the West) so there should be some more playoff hockey in Tennessee. Veteran right wing James Neal (26 goals, 18 assists) provided all the offense as he bagged a hat trick in Monday’s 3-2 win at Edmonton.
14. Pittsburgh Penguins (37-24-8, last week No. 14) – Star center Evgeni Malkin (27 goals, 31 assists) might be done for the season (expected out 6-8 weeks with upper body injury) but the Penguins have soldiered on with three straight wins (7-3-0 in last 10 games). With a game in hand on Detroit (currently the other Wild Card team), Pittsburgh leads the Red Wings by three points. Pittsburgh hosts Carolina on Thursday and they can further damage the Hurricanes’ unlikely playoff hopes with a regulation loss.
15. Philadelphia Flyers (33-23-12, last week No. 17) – Say this for the Flyers: they are definitely making the Wild Card race in the Eastern Conference pretty interesting. While Detroit has struggled (5-5-0 in last 10 games), Philadelphia has thrived. The Flyers’ 4-3 win over the Red Wings on Tuesday could be a defining moment for both teams.
16. Detroit Red Wings (34-25-11, last week No. 15) – The Red Wings are stuck in a tough spot since they’re trying desperately to reach the playoffs for the 25th season in a row (!) but truthfully, it would be pretty hollow since they’d be lucky to win a single game against the Capitals. Of all the teams in the top-8 in either conference, Detroit is the only one with a negative goal-differential (minus-10). They are a point ahead of Philadelphia but the Flyers have two games in hand.
17. Minnesota Wild (32-27-11, last week No. 16) – This much is clear in the West: whichever club grabs the second Wild Card spot (Minnesota or Colorado) won’t be a very good team. The Wild are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games after losing 3-2 to overtime against Ottawa on Tuesday. Minnesota has one more point than Colorado so the No. 8 seed could come down to the final day of the regular season.
18. Colorado Avalanche (35-31-4, last week No. 18) – The Avalanche haven’t been able to make a move (5-5-0 in last 10 games) while the Wild have faltered yet again. Colorado has been off since a terrible 3-2 loss to the Jets on Saturday. They have a golden opportunity to pick up some points in Canada as they play at Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
19. Carolina Hurricanes (31-26-13, last week No. 19) – The Flyers have passed the Hurricanes (up 3 points on Carolina with 2 games in hand) but it’s hard to criticize them too much since they’ve overachieved just to get here. Carolina is 4-3-3 in its last 10 games but the tell-tale goal-differential is a hideous minus-17. Noah Hanifin (3 goals, 13 assists) only turned 19 in January but he looks like the franchise defenseman that the Hurricanes desperately need.
20. Ottawa Senators (33-30-8, last week No. 20) – There hasn’t been much movement in this section of the rankings since it feels like all these teams are hovering around .500 in the past few weeks. Ottawa has won its last two games but they are only 4-4-2 in their last 10. Time is running out on them, five points behind Detroit (with Philadelphia and Carolina also in their way).
21. New Jersey Devils (33-30-7, last week No. 21) – Goaltender Keith Kinkaid (7-7-1, 2.70 goals against average, .903 save percentage and 2 shutouts) was named the No. 1 star of the week by the NHL and he promptly went out that night and got lit up (allowing 6 goals before he was pulled) by the Ducks. New Jersey is 4-6-0 in its last 10 games as they have settled into 12th-place in the East. I can almost guarantee that they’ll finish this season with the fewest goals scored (154) in the league.
22. Montreal Canadiens (32-32-6, last week No. 22) – Just when you think that things can get any worse for the Canadiens, superstar defenseman P.K. Subban (6 goals, 45 assists) suffered a scary neck injury against the Sabres last Thursday. He left on a stretcher and went to the hospital but thankfully, it seems like he’ll be OK. I see no reason why Montreal should bring him back to action in this lost season though.
23. Arizona Coyotes (30-32-7, last week No. 26) – With the potential of two expansion teams coming into the NHL (Quebec and Las Vegas) this summer, here is my annual question of why a franchise still resides in Arizona? I get that commissioner Gary Bettman wanted to grow the game in other markets but at some point, you have to pull the plug when it’s obviously not working in certain places. Anyway, the Coyotes are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games but they have won two in a row after blanking Edmonton 4-0 on Saturday.
24. Vancouver Canucks (27-29-12, last week No. 25) – The scary part for the Canucks is that their rebuilding process is only just beginning, it could get worse than this. Vancouver is 5-5-0 in its last 10 games but they lost 5-2 to Winnipeg on Monday. Their offense is non-existent which is why their goal-differential is so ugly (minus-31).
25. Buffalo Sabres (28-33-9, last week No. 24) – It seems silly to say about a club way down here but I don’t think that the Sabres are that far off from being good again. With a solid off-season (in terms of signing quality free agents and making a few smart trades), I believe that Buffalo can be in the playoff mix as soon as next season. Granted, I don’t know how much you can trust a team that wants injury-prone Robin Lehner (5-9-4, 2.45 goals against average, .926 save percentage and 1 shutout) to be its No. 1 goaltender moving forward.
26. Columbus Blue Jackets (28-33-8, last week No. 23) – In keeping with that theme of next season, it’ll be interesting to see if 2015-16 was a mulligan for the Blue Jackets or a sign of a team that was overhyped to begin with. Tampa Bay shut out Columbus 4-0 on Sunday but the Blue Jackets are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games. They host Detroit on Thursday in a very crucial matchup for the Red Wings.
27. Winnipeg Jets (29-35-5, last week No. 27) – That sound you hear is another pointless Jets season passing by. Amazingly enough, the bottom four teams in the West are all from Canada. Only 13 games left before Winnipeg fans can focus on what exactly, the CFL?
28. Calgary Flames (29-35-5, last week No. 28) – Is it too lazy to call the Flames a dumpster fire (haha sorry)? Calgary is ending this terrible season on a predictably low note, going 3-5-2 in its last 10 games. That impressive win over the Blues only makes you wonder what could have been.
29. Edmonton Oilers (27-38-7, last week No. 29) – The Oilers at least are going out with some pride intact (5-4-1 in last 10 games). They have played the most games in the NHL so only 10 games are left for this collection of misfits. They could still finish with the worst record and the worst goal-differential (minus-41) in the league.
30. Toronto Maple Leafs (24-34-11, last week No. 30) – I’m sure that you stopped paying attention to the Leafs months (if not years) ago but they have won two straight games. They are going to finish last in the Eastern Conference and the Oilers are the most likely team that they could have a better record than this season. They host Florida on Thursday, do they serve green beer in Canada on St. Patrick’s Day?
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate