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NHL Power Rankings: Nashville goalies keep Preds on top

The return of Pikka Rinne helps solidify the Predators spot atop the best in the NHL.Getty Images

1.NashvillePredators (35-12-6; last week-1)– Carter Hutton did his job to hold the fort and nowPekkaRinneis back so the Predators are really in good shape. Nashville has the most points in the NHL and their goal-differential is +34. The Predators kick off a four-gamehomestand(Lightning, Jets, Devils, Sharks) on Tuesday, they are an NHL-best 21-3-1 at Bridgestone Arena.

2.Anaheim Ducks (34-13-7; last week-3)– Every other divisional race in the NHL is competitive except for the Pacific which the Ducks have owned since day one this season. They are 12 points ahead of second-place San Jose and have the second most points in the league. RyanGetzlafreturned on Sunday after missing two games with an injury but Corey Perry has carried the load with four goals and two assists in his last four games to earn the NHL’s second star of the week.

3.Tampa Bay Lightning(34-16-5; last week-4)– Few would have predicted it but the race in the Atlantic Division has turned out to be great. The Lightning are only ahead of the hard-chargingCanadiensand Red Wings by two points apiece. Tampa Bay picked up a huge 5-3 win over Anaheim on Sunday that could have been a possible Stanley Cup Final preview for later this season.

4.Detroit Red Wings (31-12-9; last week-5)– The Red Wings are playing as well as anyone in the NHL. They are 9-1-0 in their last 10 games and they have won their past three contests. Detroit has a tough week coming up as they go to Pittsburgh on Wednesday then they host Winnipeg on Saturday and Montreal on Monday.

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5.St. Louis Blues(34-15-4; last week-2)– The Blues are a really good team but as Sunday’s 4-2 loss showed, the Blackhawks still have their number. You get the feeling that the rivals will meet again in the postseason as well and you have to like Chicago’s chances there. St. Louis hosts Arizona on Tuesday before a trip to see Tampa Bay on Thursday and Florida on Sunday.

6.MontrealCanadiens (34-15-3; last week-6)– Speaking of teams that own their rivals, Montreal finished off a four-game season series sweep vs. Boston on Sunday with an easy 3-1 victory. The Canadiens outscored the Bruins 16-6 and Carey Price nearly put up his second shutout in a row against them. David Desharnais has six points (1 goal, 5 assists) in his last three games, earning him the NHL’s third star of the week.

7.Chicago Blackhawks (33-18-2; last week-8)– Chicago is only 5-5-0 in their last 10 games but as usual, they tend to show up in the big games such as Sunday’s 4-2 win at St. Louis. They have the best goal-differential (+40) in the NHL. They begin an eight-game homestand on Monday vs. Arizona so expect them to go up from here.

8.New York Islanders (34-18-1; last week-7)– Does anyone want to win the Metropolitan Division? The Islanders were running away with it for a while but now that they have struggled (5-5-0 in their last 10), it has opened the door for Pittsburgh, Washington and the Rangers to make a move. The Islanders have a dream four-game homestand on deck: vs. Oilers, Maple Leafs, Blue Jackets and Rangers.

9.Pittsburgh Penguins (30-15-8; last week-9)– The Penguins ended their last road trip with an ugly 5-0 loss in Vancouver. Pittsburgh is 4-4-2 in their last 10 games so they are another club that is going through a tough stretch. A win vs. Detroit would certainly give them a big boost moving forward.

10.New YorkRangers (30-16-5; last week-10)– New York is 6-3-1 in their last 10 games but they could drop soon since Henrik Lundqvist is expected to miss an extended period of time following a scary injury to his throat area (a puck hit him there). Cam Talbot is a decent goaltender but Lundqvist is perhaps the most valuable to his team in the entire league. New York heads out on a four-game road trip (Toronto, Colorado, Arizona, Islanders) starting on Tuesday.

11.Washington Capitals(28-16-10; last week-13)– The Capitals have also been up and down lately, with a bad 3-1 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday their most recent result. On the surface, it’s not as daunting as it usually seems but Washington still has to go to California for three games this week followed by a game in Pittsburgh. Alexander Ovechkin and Braden Holtby are doing everything, the role players have to pull their weight more for the Capitals.

12.Boston Bruins (28-18-7; last week-11)– If Montreal did not exist, Boston would be fine. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality. The Bruins have to hope to avoid the Canadiens in the postseason this spring otherwise they’ll get bounced just like last year and this time it probably will take fewer than seven games to do it.

13.Winnipeg Jets (27-18-10; last week-14)– The Evander Kane drama reached a fever pitch last week before he was surprisingly shut down for the season with shoulder surgery. Winnipeg is only 4-4-2 in their last 10 games but they are still in position for fifth-place in the Western Conference. They couldn’t ask for three harder games coming up as they host red-hot Minnesota on Tuesday before going to Nashville on Thursday and Detroit on Saturday.

14.San Jose Sharks(28-19-7; last week-12)– If you can make sense of the Sharks (who lost 5-4 to the Hurricanes on Saturday), more power to you. All I can conclude about them is that they are not very good (scorching hot take, I know). Maybe this will be the year they finally do something in the playoffs, haha yeah right.

15.Vancouver Canucks (29-19-3; last week-16)– Saturday’s 5-0 destruction of Pittsburgh was maybe their top moment of the season but we’ll have to see if it gives the Canucks any forward push. Second-place in the Pacific is still up for grabs if anyone wants it. Vancouver has four games in the next six days: at Minnesota, at Chicago, vs. Boston and vs. Calgary.

16.Calgary Flames (29-21-3; last week-15)– Calgary is holding strong to eighth-place in the West, five points clear of both Minnesota and Los Angeles. The Flames got blanked 4-0 by the Penguins in their last game on Friday but they are still 7-3-0 in their past 10 games. Three divisional games this week-at Sharks, at Kings and vs. Canucks-are all very important to them.

17.Minnesota Wild(25-20-6; last week-19)– I never thought I would say this in 2014-15 but the Wild are on fire (winners of 5 straight and 7-2-1 in their last 10 games). Devan Dubnyk continues to be their unexpected catalyst as he picked up two more shutouts last week and the first star of the week in the NHL. Minnesota kicks off the week with a key back-to-back: vs. Vancouver then at Winnipeg.

18.Dallas Stars (24-21-8; last week-17)– It is getting late on the Stars but Sunday’s 3-2 overtime win (thanks to Ales Hemsky) at the Rangers was very clutch. Now Dallas needs another positive result on Tuesday at Boston. Rookie defenseman John Klingberg (10 goals, 18 assists, +10) has come out of nowhere to be a really important player for them.

19.Florida Panthers (23-17-11; last week-not ranked)– The choices down here are obviously pretty terrible. The Panthers realistically are about the only team outside of the top eight in the Eastern Conference that still have a shot to get in. That might change after the gauntlet they face this week: vs. Anaheim, at Minnesota, at Dallas and vs. St. Louis.

20.Los Angeles Kings (22-18-12; last week-20)– Hope you didn’t put your hard-earned money down on Kings playoff tickets quite yet. LA is five points out of the playoffs with 30 games left. They are at Columbus on Monday before home games against Calgary, Washington and Tampa Bay.

Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter:@RichSlate

 
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