NHL Power Rankings: Penguins shoot up, as do Blackhawks and Panthers - Metro US

NHL Power Rankings: Penguins shoot up, as do Blackhawks and Panthers

The Penguins are getting hot right in time for the playoffs.
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1. Washington Capitals (55-17-7, last week No. 1) – The Capitals are the odds on favorite to win the Stanley Cup according to Las Vegas sportsbooks, so no pressure or anything guys. They have pretty much been the best team in the NHL this season wire-to-wire and it looks like they’ll finish 10+ points ahead of everyone else. Washington’s goal-differential is plus-58 and their home (29-7-3)/road (26-10-4) splits are similarly amazing.

2. St. Louis Blues (48-23-9, last week No. 2) – With two games left in the regular season, the Blues are tied with the Stars for the most points in the Western Conference and the No. 1 seed. Dallas owns the tiebreaker though since they have three more regulation plus overtime wins (46) than St. Louis. The Blues are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games and they have won two games in a row heading into Thursday’s pivotal matchup in Chicago.

3. Dallas Stars (48-23-9, last week No. 3) – As I mentioned, the Stars have the inside track to get the top spot in the Western Conference. They close the regular season out with two home games vs. Colorado on Thursday and Nashville on Saturday. Left wing Jamie Benn (41 goals, 47 assists) is having another stellar campaign with five goals and an assist in his last five games.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins (47-25-8, last week No. 7) – The hottest team in the NHL has shown no signs of slowing down as they have won their last seven games in a row and they are 9-1-0 in their last 10. Believe it or not, the Penguins now have the second-most points in the Eastern Conference. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (35-17-6, 2.29 goals against average, .921 save percentage and 5 shutouts) is out with another concussion but so far rookie Matt Murray (8-2-1, 1.98 goals against average, .930 save percentage and 1 shutout) has been much more than an adequate replacement.

5.Chicago Blackhawks (47-26-7, last week No. 9) – With Tuesday’s 6-2 win over Arizona, the Blackhawks reached the 100-point plateau for the third straight season. The NHL’s reigning No. 1 star of the week left wing Artemi Panarin (28 goals, 46 assists) has 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) in his last three games. He’s become a lock for the Calder Memorial Trophy given out to the league’s top rookie.

6. Florida Panthers (46-25-9, last week No. 11) – Florida clinched the Atlantic Division title on Tuesday with a 4-1 win at Montreal. In the process, the Panthers went over 100 points (101) for the first time in franchise history. They have won four straight games and they are 7-3-0 in their last 10.

7. Los Angeles Kings (47-28-5, last week No. 4) – It’s been a bumpy ride for the Kings lately (4-6-0 in their last 10 games) but their 5-4 overtime win at Calgary on Tuesday thanks to Jeff Carter’s goal (24 goals, 37 assists) helped them set a franchise record for the most wins in a regular season. They are tied with the Ducks atop the Pacific Division but Anaheim has a game in hand. LA hosts Anaheim on Thursday at Staples Center in a contest that will likely decide the division race.

8. Anaheim Ducks (44-24-11, last week No. 5) – Anaheim’s disappointing 2-1 overtime loss to Winnipeg on Tuesday gave the Kings some more hope that they can wrestle back the top spot in the Pacific Division from the Ducks. Anaheim is still 6-2-2 in its last 10 games but they have four less regulation plus overtime wins (41) than Los Angeles. Their goal-differential is plus-23 which is also behind LA (plus-30).

9. New York Rangers (45-26-9, last week No. 6) – New York beat Tampa Bay 3-2 on Tuesday but at three points behind Pittsburgh with two games remaining, it looks like they have been relegated to either third-place in the Metropolitan Division or even the first Wild Card (the Islanders are only two points back of them). The Rangers have won their last two games and they are 5-3-2 in their last 10. They host the Islanders on Thursday at Madison Square Garden, that’s obviously a key tilt for both clubs.

10.San Jose Sharks (45-29-6, last week No. 10) – The Sharks blanked the Wild 3-0 on Tuesday and they are still technically alive for first or second-place in the Pacific Division but it’s hard to see them jumping either Anaheim or LA who are both three points ahead of them with two games left. San Jose is 6-4-0 in their last 10 games and their goal-differential is plus-31. With that victory in Minnesota, the Sharks recorded the second-most road wins (28) in a season in NHL history (trailing only Detroit’s 31 in 2005-06).

11. New York Islanders (44-26-9, last week No. 12) – Defenseman Thomas Hickey (6 goals, 12 assists) scored the overtime winner as the Islanders beat the Capitals 4-3 on Tuesday to clinch a playoff spot. New York is 6-4-0 in its last 10 games to close within two points of the Rangers. At six points ahead of the Flyers, New York is also in good shape to avoid the No. 8 seed and a first-round date with the Capitals.

12. Tampa Bay Lightning (45-30-5, last week No. 8) – A season that has already been filled with unexpected setbacks took another dramatic turn as franchise center Steven Stamkos (36 goals, 28 assists) is out indefinitely with a blood clot in his arm. He could return in the playoffs but who knows how long the Lightning will survive without him? Tampa Bay has lost its last two games and they are 5-5-0 in their last 10.

13. Nashville Predators (40-26-14, last week No. 13) – It had become a foregone conclusion but Nashville officially eliminated Colorado from playoff contention with Tuesday’s 4-3 win. The Predators have sealed the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference and the only question left is if they’ll meet the Ducks or the Kings in the first-round. After a slow start to his sophomore season, left wing Filip Forsberg (32 goals, 29 assists) has heated up at the right time.

14. Philadelphia Flyers (39-26-13, last week No. 15) – For one team, the Flyers are wielding plenty of power in terms of determining the last two playoff berths in the East (3rd place in the Atlantic Division and the 2nd Wild Card). Currently, Philadelphia holds the second Wild Card (they are tied with Boston but have two games in hand). They visit Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena on Wednesday in a huge meeting for both clubs.

15. Detroit Red Wings (40-28-11, last week No. 17) – The Red Wings are also tied with the Bruins but they have one game in hand over Boston. Detroit has won its last two games and they are 6-4-0 on their last 10. After Wednesday’s showdown with the Flyers, Detroit goes to Boston on Thursday for another enormous contest.

16. Minnesota Wild (38-32-11, last week No. 14) – The Wild truly backed into a playoff spot as they’ve lost four games in a row but so has the Avalanche who are five points behind them. Minnesota hosts Calgary on Saturday in their regular season finale before they meet Dallas or St. Louis in the first-round of the playoffs. It’ll be another one-and-done for the Wild in the playoffs.

17. Boston Bruins (41-30-9, last week No. 16) – What a mess as the Bruins are 2-7-1 in their last 10 games. They started their all-important three-game homestand to close out the regular season with a 2-1 shootout loss to the Hurricanes on Tuesday. If they can beat the Red Wings and Senators on Saturday, they should still make the postseason otherwise head coach Claude Julien will be fired.

18. Carolina Hurricanes (35-29-16, last week No. 20) – Carolina’s playoff hopes were officially extinguished last weekend but they are still playing hard as evidenced by Tuesday’s gritty win in Boston. The Hurricanes host the Canadiens on Thursday then visit Florida on Saturday in their last game of 2015-16. They are 4-3-3 in their last 10 games but they are going to finish with an ugly goal-differential (minus-23).

19. Colorado Avalanche (39-37-4, last week No. 18) – For such a flawed team, it’s kind of amazing that Colorado hung around for this long in the mighty Western Conference. Tuesday’s elimination in Nashville allowed head coach Patrick Roy to fully unload some more on his club. You have to wonder if his constant negativity has started to wear on a mostly young group of players.

20. New Jersey Devils (37-35-8, last week No. 19) – This is the point where we reach the teams that have been a major disappointment this season or never really had that much of a chance in the first place. New Jersey has dropped its last three games but somehow they are still going to finish at least .500, reinforcing the fact that it’s really hard to be under .500 in today’s NHL. They host the Lightning on Thursday in a game that will clearly mean much more to Tampa Bay.

21. Ottawa Senators (36-35-9, last week No. 22) – The Senators have lost their last two games and they are 4-5-1 in their last 10. Their crummy season had another choke job (one of their hallmarks in 2015-16) as they blew a 3-0 lead in Tuesday’s eventual 5-3 loss to the Penguins. Erik Karlsson (16 goals, 64 assists) became the first defenseman in 10 years (since Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom in 2005-06) to reach 80 points.

22. Buffalo Sabres (34-35-11, last week No. 24) – Even the Sabres could finish at or above .500 this season, what a strange world. Buffalo has won three consecutive games and they are an impressive 6-2-2 in their last 10. They host Columbus on Friday and then close things out against the Islanders in Brooklyn on Saturday.

23. Montreal Canadiens (36-38-6, last week No. 23) – With two games left in their miserable season, the Canadiens officially shut down their two best players: goaltender Carey Price (10-2-0, 2.06 goals against average, .934 save percentage and 2 shutouts) and defenseman P.K. Subban (6 goals, 45 assists). I wouldn’t call that news though since Montreal was eliminated from the playoffs weeks ago so who was dumb enough to think that they’d actually return for no particular reason? It should be a fascinating off-season for the Habs who have plenty of holes to fill.

24. Arizona Coyotes (35-38-7, last week No. 21) – These are the hopeless few teams that are guaranteed of finishing below .500 this season. Arizona has lost its last two games and they are 4-6-0 in their last 10 after Tuesday’s 6-2 blowout in Chicago. The Coyotes are one of the worst road teams in the NHL (13-23-3) so there is that.

25. Winnipeg Jets (33-39-8, last week No. 26) – Long after their fate had been decided, the Jets have played well again. They have won two games in a row and they are 4-3-3 in their last 10. Winnipeg gets one last mini-trip to California as they travel to San Jose on Thursday and Los Angeles on Saturday.

26. Vancouver Canucks (30-36-13, last week No. 30) – Vancouver was at the bottom of the power rankings last week (as I’m sure that you remember) but they have rallied to win their last three games. They’ll be a part of Canadian history on Wednesday as they visit Edmonton and help to close Rexall Place. The Canucks then go to Calgary on Thursday and host the Oilers on Saturday.

27. Calgary Flames (33-40-7, last week No. 25) – Fittingly, the Flames are going out with a thud (3-5-2 in their last 10 games). They appear to have the mantle of most goals allowed (256) this season all to themselves. After playing Vancouver, they end things in Minnesota on Saturday.

28. Columbus Blue Jackets (31-40-8, last week No. 28) – Columbus is 3-7-0 in their last 10 games as they put the finishing touches on a horrible season. Their goal-differential (minus-41) is tied with the Maple Leafs for the second-worst in the league. They are in Toronto on Wednesday so I wouldn’t recommend watching a second of that pointless game.

29. Toronto Maple Leafs (28-40-11, last week No. 27) – The Maple Leafs have lost three in a row and they are 4-6-0 in their last 10 games. They are at Philadelphia on Thursday in a game that with big playoff implications for the Flyers. Toronto is going to finish with the fewest regulation plus overtime wins in the NHL (right now they’re stuck at 22).

30. Edmonton Oilers (30-43-7, last week No. 29) – The Oilers stopped caring a long time ago, as they showed in their 5-0 loss to Calgary their last time out on Saturday. Their home-and-home with Vancouver to end 2015-16 means little besides closing up their old building. The future can only get better for this former NHL superpower that hasn’t been relevant in years.

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

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