NHL Power Rankings: Rangers stumble, Ducks climb – Metro US

NHL Power Rankings: Rangers stumble, Ducks climb

NHL Power Rankings: Rangers stumble, Ducks climb
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1. Anaheim Ducks (49-22-7; last week-5)– The only top team that had a good last week was the Ducks. Anaheim has won its last three straight games and they have the most points (105) in the NHL. The Ducks only have four games left in the regular season in their quest for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and Presidents’ Trophy (for best record).

2.Montreal Canadiens (47-21-8; last week-2)– With the Rangers’ back-to-back losses over the weekend, Montreal was able to slide back into the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens have one more point (102) than New York but the Rangers have one game in hand. If the playoffs started today, the Canadiens would play the Bruins, just saying.

3.New York Rangers (47-21-7; last week-1)– For the first time in what feels like weeks, the Rangers are not playing that great. It was a strange weekend as they barely showed up for a 4-2 loss at Boston on Saturday then followed that up with a 5-2 loss to the Capitals on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist returned against the Bruins for his first appearance in nearly two months: getting him in shape for the postseason has to be the main focus for this Cup contender.

4.Nashville Predators (47-22-8; last week-6)– The Predators clinched a playoff spot over the weekend (a mere formality for them) but they have more work to do to win the ultra-competitive Central Division. Nashville is up three points on St. Louis but the Blues have two games in hand. It is a quiet week in Music City with only home games against Vancouver on Tuesday and Dallas on Saturday.

5.St. Louis Blues (46-22-7; last week-3)– The Blues still control their destiny in terms of lofty goals like the No. 1 seed in the West and a Central Division title but it will take a much better effort than the one exhibited in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to Columbus. Left wing Alexander Steen (24 goals, 38 assists) is out with a lower body injury that he picked up in a knee-to-knee hit vs. Blue Jackets. St. Louis has to be holding its breath that he isn’t out for too long with the playoffs starting in a little over two weeks.

6.Tampa Bay Lightning (46-23-7; last week-4)– It’s not a title that any team wants at this time of the year (or ever) but the Lightning appear to be more banged up than any other playoff team. Defenseman Jason Garrison is out three-to-four weeks with an upper-body injury while defenseman Andrej Sustr is out one-to-two weeks and center Tyler Johnson is also out with their own upper-body injuries. The Lightning opened a five-game road trip with a humbling 4-0 defeat to the Red Wings on Saturday.

7.ChicagoBlackhawks (45-24-6; last week-7)– The Blackhawks have the Wild breathing down their necks (only 1 point behind) so Sunday’s 4-3 win at Winnipeg was huge for many reasons. Chicago is 6-3-1 in its last 10 games and they have another tough contest on Monday vs. Los Angeles. It is a tough upcoming week for the Blackhawks with additional home games vs. Vancouver on Thursday and Sunday vs. St. Louis sandwiched around a layup in Buffalo on Friday.

8.MinnesotaWild (44-25-7; last week-11)– The buzzsaw known as the Wild continues to roll along: 8-2-0 in their last 10 games. Goaltender Devan Dubynk (35-11-3, 2.05 goals against average, .930 save percentage, 6 shutouts) was named the No. 1 star in the NHL last week. Winners of five straight games, Minnesota is the hottest team in the league and home ice in the postseason is right there for them to grab.

9.Pittsburgh Penguins (42-23-11; last week-9)– The Penguins were falling apart before our eyes but managed to recover to win their last two games including a 3-2 shootout win vs. San Jose on Sunday. Even if you’re not a Pittsburgh fan, you have to feel bad for defenseman Kris Letang (11 goals, 43 assists) who suffered a concussion on Saturday vs. Arizona. Very few players in the NHL have had worse luck in terms of injuries and illness than him these last few seasons.

10.NewYork Islanders (45-27-5; last week-8)– Speaking of good teams that were a mess, the Islanders have fallen to fifth in the Eastern Conference. They are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games but they did pick up a vital 5-4 win over the Red Wings on Sunday. Of their last five games in the regular season, four are against non-playoff teams so I expect them to figure things out before the playoffs begin.

11.Washington Capitals (41-25-10; last week-12)– Thanks to two more goals by Alex Ovechkin (who leads the NHL with 49), Washington picked up an impressive 5-2 road win against the Rangers on Sunday. The Capitals could catch the Islanders since they are only three points behind them and have one game left in hand. Conversely, they have to keep their heads on a swivel with Boston three points behind them.

12.Vancouver Canucks (43-27-5; last week-13)– Nobody has a tougher week ahead than the Canucks who have four road games: at St. Louis, Nashville, Chicago and Winnipeg. Vancouver is 6-3-1 in their last 10 games but they lost 4-3 in overtime to Dallas on Saturday. The stakes are high with Calgary only two points behind them and LA three points back of their Pacific Division rival.

13.Detroit Red Wings (40-23-12; last week-10)– Barring a monumental collapse, the Red Wings should reach the postseason but with their current sketchy goaltending situation, that looks like it could be a short stay. Detroit is 3-6-1 in their last 10 games and neither Petr Mrazek (who was pulled on Sunday at Islanders) nor Jimmy Howard is inspiring much confidence in their ability to make key saves. It’ll be a telling couple games as the Red Wings host the Senators on Tuesday and Bruins on Thursday-the two teams creeping up on them in the Atlantic Division.

14.Calgary Flames (41-28-7; last week-16)– The Flames are this good but there is a real possibility that they’ll miss the playoffs since they only lead the Kings by one point and LA has a game in hand. All Calgary can do is worry about themselves and they showed plenty of purpose with a 5-2 win at Nashville on Sunday. Their next three games are on the road (where they are 20-15-2 this season): at Dallas, St. Louis and Edmonton.

15.Winnipeg Jets (39-25-12; last week-14)– It was a crushing loss for the Jets vs. Chicago as Jonathan Toews scored the game-winning goal with 31 seconds left in regulation. That meant that Winnipeg didn’t earn any precious points, on their home ice where they are 21-12-5. The Jets host the Rangers on Tuesday and Canucks on Saturday in what are both essentially must-wins.

16.Boston Bruins (38-25-13; last week-18)– It was a great weekend for the Bruins who beat the Rangers 4-2 on Saturday then came back with a 2-1 overtime win on Sunday at Carolina. Boston can almost eliminate Florida on Tuesday from the Wild Card race when they visit TD Garden. Their last home game of the regular season is on Saturday vs. Toronto.

17.Los Angeles Kings (37-24-14; last week-17)– The cliché that every game is like a playoff game is actually true for Los Angeles. That’s why Saturday’s 4-1 loss at Minnesota was a tough blow for the Kings’ playoff hopes. Their meeting at Chicago on Monday is must-see TV. There is some light at the end of the tunnel for LA with two of their next five games against the Oilers.

18.Ottawa Senators (37-26-12; last week-15)– Andrew Hammond (14-1-1, 1.92 goals against average, .938 save percentage, 2 shutouts) has missed the last two games and not surprisingly, Ottawa’s insane run came to a halt with an overtime loss at Toronto and 4-2 loss to Florida this past weekend. The Senators tumbled out of the top eight in the East and now they have some work to do to get back in. Ottawa is three points behind Boston and they have one game in hand.

19.FloridaPanthers (35-26-15; last week-20)– The ageless Jaromir Jagr scored two goals in Florida’s 4-2 win at Ottawa that was by far their most important one of the season. The Panthers have two more shots at the Bruins but if they lose in regulation on Tuesday, the second matchup probably won’t matter. Center Nick Bjugstad’s (24 goals, 19 assists) season is over after back surgery which is a shame.

20.Dallas Stars (37-29-10; last week-not ranked)–Credit to the Stars for not mailing it in at the end of the regular season. Odds are that they’ll miss out on the playoffs by a few points but Dallas is 8-2-0 in its last 10 games. If I am a Western Conference team, I don’t want to see them in these last few weeks since they look like the toughest spoiler in the NHL.

Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter.