Records through March 27
1) Pittsburgh Penguins (26-8-0, previous No. 3) – It’s hard to have a much better week than the Penguins. They are riding a 13-game win streak and they’ve acquired Brendan Morrow, Jarome Iginla and Douglas Murray. The only things to worry about for them is the health of Marc-Andre Fleury (who left Tuesday’s game) and Kris Letang who went back on IR after returning for a game.
2) Chicago Blackhawks (25-4-3, previous No. 1) – No longer on their epic win streak, the focus and pressure has been taken off the Blackhawks. Chicago has an NHL-best goal-differential of plus-37 while they have the best home record (12-2-1) and road record (13-2-2).
3) Anaheim Ducks (22-7-4, previous No. 2) – There is bad news in Disneyland as the Ducks have lost four games in a row, twice to Detroit and twice to San Jose. The surprising part is that the first three were at the Honda Center where the Ducks were 13-1-0. Anaheim scored one goal in each game against the Red Wings and were blanked by the Sharks on Wednesday, shocking for a team that has scored the second most goals in the Western Conference (104).
4) Montreal Canadiens (21-7-5, previous No. 4) – The Canadiens proved their resiliency by rallying twice in the third period in Boston on Wednesday. This was after pulled Carey Price after the second period plus lost 1-0 in Pittsburgh the night before. Montreal and Boston will have a great battle for first place in the Northeast Division.
5) Boston Bruins (21-7-4, previous No. 5) – The B’s are understandably reeling after a brutal loss to the Canadiens on Wednesday followed by them losing out on the Jarome Iginla sweepstakes when it looked to be a done deal that he’d joined the spoked 'B.' Boston gets two days without a game for the first time in over a month which should do wonders for the banged up team that’s currently missing three regulars (Chris Kelly, Adam McQuaid and Johnny Boychuk).
6) Minnesota Wild (20-10-2, previous No. 7) – The Penguins understandably are getting most of the publicity but the Wild are the hottest team in the Western Conference, having won their last seven games in a row. Minnesota is 9-1-0 in their last 10 games and 12-3-1 at the Xcel Energy Center. The crazy part is that a team that is so reliant on its top lines has scored 90 goals.
7) Vancouver Canucks (18-9-6, previous No. 12) – Similar to the Wild, the Canucks have really found their game in the last few weeks. They’ve won five straight games to tie Minnesota atop the Northwest Division. Vancouver is 7-3-0 in their last 10 games and 9-4-3 on the road which are both good trends
8) Ottawa Senators (18-9-6, previous No. 8) – Head coach Paul MacLean and his comical moustache is close to wrapping up the NHL coach of the year award with this remarkable run his team has turned in. They might not do anything in the playoffs but with 15 games left in the regular season, they look like a lock to make it (barring a major collapse) which for them is still very impressive.
9) Detroit Red Wings (17-11-5, previous No. 11) – The Red Wings began their four-game road trip with two excellent wins in Anaheim then they won in Phoenix last night. If they can grab two points in San Jose tonight, you’ll know that the Red Wings are truly back after a uncharacteristically slow start to the season. The ironic part was that Detroit was under .500 (5-6-2) on the road before the trip.
10) Los Angeles Kings (18-12-2, previously No. 6) – It was a strange week for the Kings who lost two in a row at home, where they are great (12-4-1) but then won 5-4 at Chicago on Monday. They are 6-8-1 on the road this season but that victory against the NHL’s best team could go a long way to giving them confidence during the stretch run.
11) Winnipeg Jets (18-14-2, previous No. 13) – Up six points now on Carolina and seven ahead of Washington, the surprising Jets are in good shape for the third seed in the Eastern Conference. They are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games and 10-6-2 on the road this season which are good signs, unlike their goal-differential of -11 which is the worst mark of any team in the top eight of either conference.
12) Toronto Maple Leafs (18-12-4, previous No. 15) – The Leafs are treading water (3-3-4 in their last 10 games) but they are still in good shape to make the playoffs for the first time in nine years which in Canada is magnified tenfold. Toronto has identical 9-6-2 records at Air Canada Centre and on the road but they are 0-4 in shootouts. Good news for them is that if they make the postseason, they won’t face a shootout.
13) St. Louis Blues (17-13-2, previous No. 9) – The Blues have lost their last two games to drop into seventh place in the Western Conference. Anything can happen in the NHL playoffs as we see every spring but St. Louis really doesn’t want to face Chicago or Anaheim in the first round of the playoffs. Their next three games are really tough: vs. Kings, at Wild and at Blackhawks.
14) San Jose Sharks (14-12-2, previous No. 17) – The Sharks are hanging on for dear life to the eighth seed in the Western Conference but they are coming off their best two wins of the season: sweeping a home-and-home series with Anaheim. It’ll be interesting to see what they do at the trade deadline (April 3), they’ve already shipped defenseman Douglas Murray to Pittsburgh.
15) New York Rangers (16-13-3, previous No. 14) – If they make the playoffs, the Rangers are still a team that nobody in the Eastern Conference wants to face since their games always tend to be such physical grinds. New York’s margin for error is so small since they’ve scored a conference-low 78 goals. Up next, they play the three Eastern Conference Canadian teams (Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg) who would all be in the postseason if it started today.
16) New Jersey Devils (15-11-7, previous No. 16) – Ilya Kovalchuk is out with a shoulder injury for 2-4 weeks which means the Devils could drop out of the playoff picture if they’re not careful. This team hasn’t had any luck this season since Kovalchuk’s injury followed quickly in the footsteps of Martin Brodeur’s injury. Getting back to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second straight year seems highly unlikely.
17) Nashville Predators (14-13-6, previously No. 13) – The Predators haven’t been themselves for most of the season but they are turning it on (3 consecutive wins) when it matters most. Nashville needs to a find a way to win more on the road (5-11-2) since they are fine at home (9-2-4), otherwise they could miss the playoffs.
18) New York Islanders (15-15-3, previous No. 19) – One of the sneaky storylines in the NHL is that the Islanders have a decent chance to make the playoffs which would be a huge accomplishment for them. They’ve won their last two games and they are excellent on the road (9-4-1). Now they have to win at dumpy Nassau Coliseum (6-11-2).
19) Dallas Stars (15-14-3, previously not ranked) – You can certainly question Dallas’ desire to make the playoffs this season as they traded winger Brendan Morrow to Pittsburgh but they are only three points out of the eighth seed so like it or not, they will be a factor in who makes it. PS why is that franchise still there?
20) Columbus Blue Jackets (13-13-7, previous No. 20) – The Blue Jackets lost a heartbreaker, 1-0 in a shootout at Vancouver, on Tuesday but one of the worst road teams in the NHL (3-9-2) has a good chance to bounce back. They are in Edmonton on Thursday and Calgary on Friday, two of the worst teams in the Western Conference that aren’t going anywhere this season. If Columbus is serious about make the playoffs, they need more points on this trip.
Follow Metro sports writer Richard Slate on Twitter @RichSlate