1.Washington Capitals (54-16-5, last week No. 1) – Washington clinched the Presidents’ Trophy with Monday’s 4-1 victory over Columbus. Other than Braden Holtby (46-9-4, 2.19 goals against average, .923 save percentage and 3 shutouts) picking up three more wins to break Martin Brodeur’s NHL record for wins in a season, the Capitals can now fully turn their attention to what really matters: the postseason. It would be a major disappointment if the Caps don’t at least reach the Stanley Cup Final in June.
2. St. Louis Blues (46-22-9, last week No. 2) – The Blues are tied with the Stars for the most points in the Western Conference and St. Louis is riding a five-game win streak after Tuesday’s 3-1 victory vs. Colorado. They are 8-2-0 in their last 10 games while their home (23-11-4) and road (23-11-5) records are nearly identical. At six points back with five games left in the regular season, the Blackhawks have basically fallen out of the Central Division race that looks like it’ll be won by either Dallas or St. Louis.
3. Dallas Stars (46-22-9, last week No. 3) – Dallas has three more regulation plus overtime wins (44) than St. Louis and their goal-differential (plus-32) is markedly better. The Stars are going to finish as the highest-scoring team in the league (252 goals), the question will be if they can keep that going in the playoffs? For that reason, Tuesday’s 5-2 win vs. Nashville was a good sign.
4. Los Angeles Kings (45-26-5, last week No. 4) – Things remain very tight in the Pacific Division as the three California teams have all slowed down a bit conveniently at the same juncture. LA is 5-4-1 in its last 10 games after Monday’s 5-2 loss at San Jose. The Kings are one point ahead of the Ducks (who have 1 game in hand) but LA has a better goal-differential (plus-28).
5. Anaheim Ducks (42-23-10, last week No. 5) – Anaheim has won its last two games but they are also 5-4-1 in their last 10. Not really having a clear No. 1 goaltender (Frederik Andersen and John Gibson are both good enough to be that) hasn’t really hurt the Ducks who have allowed the second-fewest goals (178) in the NHL. They closed out a 3-1-1 road trip with a 2-1 win at Edmonton on Monday.
6. New York Rangers (43-24-9, last week No. 9) – New York is still hanging on to second-place in the Metropolitan Division but Pittsburgh has made an amazing run to come within one point of them. The Rangers had a chance to create a little more separation but the Penguins beat them 3-2 on Sunday at Madison Square Garden thanks to Sidney Crosby’s (32 goals, 47 assists) overtime game-winner. New York is 5-2-3 in its last 10 games and they are at Carolina on Thursday.
7. Pittsburgh Penguins (43-25-8, last week No. 8) – You are lying if you claim to have seen this coming from Pittsburgh. They are an NHL-best 9-1-0 in their last 10 games after they beat Buffalo 5-4 in a shootout on Tuesday. For a club that didn’t seem like a lock for most of this season to even make the playoffs, this is all hard to comprehend.
8. Tampa Bay Lightning (44-27-5, last week No. 7) – For the moment, the Lightning are back on top in the Atlantic Division (tied with Florida but with 6 more regulation plus overtime wins). Tampa Bay really needed a victory on Monday and they got it by blanking Toronto 3-0. The schedule is in their favor as the Lightning still have two more contests against both Montreal and New Jersey.
9. Chicago Blackhawks (44-26-7, last week No. 6) – The Sports Illustrated cover jinx apparently is still alive and well since the Blackhawks have been falling apart (3-5-2 in last 10 games) after superstar Patrick Kane (39 goals, 55 assists)) appeared on last week’s edition. Seriously though, things could be going better after Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to Minnesota. Goaltender Corey Crawford (35-18-4, 2.32 goals against average and 7 shutouts) is out with possible vertigo symptoms and defenseman Duncan Keith (9 goals, 34 assists) looks headed for a suspension after a vicious slash to Wild forward Charlie Coyle’s face.
10. San Jose Sharks (43-28-6, last week No. 10) – The Sharks are having a nice season that understandably is being overshadowed by what the Kings and Ducks have done thus far. San Jose is only two points behind Anaheim and three points behind Los Angeles, the problem is that they only have five games left on their schedule. For a guy that’s been plagued by bizarre injuries the last few years, it had to feel great for Sharks center Logan Couture (13 goals, 19 assists) to get a hat trick in Tuesday’s 4-1 win at Vancouver.
11. Florida Panthers (42-25-9, last week No. 12) – As a general rule of thumb in the NHL, teams that are attempting to capture a division crown don’t lose 5-2 to terrible clubs like the Maple Leafs (which is what happened to the Panthers on Tuesday). Still, Florida is 6-4-0 in its last 10 games and they are virtually deadlocked with Tampa Bay. Their goal-differential (+29) portends a quality group.
12. New York Islanders (41-25-9, last week No. 14) – The roller coaster Islanders (4-5-1 in last 10 games) are currently pointing up after two straight wins. It looks like the Metropolitan Division will provide both Wild Card teams in the East (Islanders and Flyers) as Detroit continues to slide. New York has a game in hand on the Rangers and Penguins but it’ll be hard to catch either of those teams, especially with the way that Pittsburgh is playing.
13. Nashville Predators (39-25-13, last week No. 11) – It’s been a rough few days for the Predators who have lost their last two games and got spurned by one of their top prospects (Harvard forward Jimmy Vesey) who will now be a free agent. With Chicago’s recent struggles, now would have been the perfect time for Nashville for make a move on them. The good news is that they are going to make the postseason, albeit as a Wild Card in the Western Conference.
14. Minnesota Wild (38-28-11, last week No. 16) – Is their a streakier (assuming that’s a real word) team in the league than the Wild? Right when you forget about them, they reel off six straight wins. Most impressively, Tuesday’s 4-1 triumph vs. Chicago completed a five-game season sweep against the Blackhawks.
15. Philadelphia Flyers (37-25-13, last week No. 15) – The Flyers are another club that was counted out but now has the inside track to a playoff spot this spring. Philadelphia is 6-2-2 in its last 10 games after Monday’s 3-2 overtime win vs. Winnipeg. The Red Wings have the exact same amount of points (87) as the Flyers but Philly has two games in hand.
16. Boston Bruins (40-29-8, last week No. 13) – Bruins fans must have been plagued by nightmares lately since Boston’s downward spiral this season is eerily similar to what happened to them in 2014-15. The B’s are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games after Tuesday’s frustrating 2-1 loss at New Jersey (they outshot the Devils 40-15!). Boston has lost six of its last seven games and it’s no secret why: they have scored a total of 10 goals in that wretched span.
17. Detroit Red Wings (38-28-11, last week No. 17) – With a chance at jumping ahead of Boston on Tuesday, Detroit failed miserably as they blew a 3-2 third period lead and lost 4-3 at Montreal. The Red Wings are 5-5-0 in their last 10 games and their goal-differential is minus-14. They have a few days to regroup before they host red-hot Minnesota on Friday at Joe Louis Arena.
18. Colorado Avalanche (39-34-4, last week No. 18) – The Western Conference playoff window is almost shut as the Avalanche have dropped to five points in back of the Wild. Both teams only have five games apiece left so Colorado realistically might have to win out to have a shot at that second Wild Card. Goal-differential rarely lies and Colorado’s is a telling minus-13.
19. New Jersey Devils (37-32-8, last week No. 19) – The Devils are only five points behind the Flyers but the huge catch is that Philadelphia has two games in hand. New Jersey is 6-3-1 in its last 10 games after Tuesday’s victory against Boston. Cory Schneider (26-23-6, 2.17 goals against average, .923 save percentage and 4 shutouts) is due back any day after missing 10 games in a row but Keith Kinkaid (9-7-1, 2.78 goals against average, .904 save percentage and 2 shutouts) stepped up with a career-high 39 saves against the Bruins.
20. Carolina Hurricanes (33-28-16, last week No. 20) – The Hurricanes are in the same spot as the Devils but the difference is that they are predictably fading fast (3-2-5 in last 10 games). Carolina lost a shootout 2-1 to the Islanders on Tuesday and up next they host the Rangers on Thursday in another important game for a New York team. The Hurricanes lack much top-end talent up front as their low goals scored (187) and poor shootout record (1-5) can attest to.
21. Arizona Coyotes (34-35-7, last week No. 23) – As usual with the anonymous Coyotes, their biggest news of the week came off the ice as NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was in town to talk about a new arena for Arizona. Wait what? I’ve ranted about it too often to count but this promising group deserves to be in a more hockey-loving area.
22. Ottawa Senators (34-33-9, last week No. 21) – In a season full of frustration and underachievement, the Senators capped it off by blowing a 3-0 lead going into the third period as they lost 4-3 to the Ducks on Saturday in overtime. Ottawa is 3-5-2 in its last 10 games. Six more games left for Senators fans to do whatever it is that occupies their time in the off-season (watch the CFL?).
23. Montreal Canadiens (35-36-6, last week No. 22) – You know that the regular season has taken a strange turn when Bruins fans are openly rooting for the Canadiens to win. Such was the case on Tuesday after Boston lost to New Jersey and Montreal helped out the Bruins immensely by rallying for a regulation win against Detroit. With home-and-home sets vs. Tampa Bay and Florida, the Canadiens could be a big determining factor as to who wins the Atlantic Division this season.
24. Buffalo Sabres (31-35-11, last week No. 24) – Buffalo fell to 2-7 in shootouts this season after Tuesday’s loss at Pittsburgh. The Sabres are 4-4-2 in their last 10 games. Their goal-differential is a gross minus-25 and they have five games left in another bumpy rebuliding campaign.
25. Calgary Flames (32-38-6, last week No. 25) – Calgary is 5-4-1 in its last 10 games after Monday’s 5-2 win at Arizona. No team in the league has allowed more goals than the Flames (240) in 2015-16. They are bound to go nowhere in the near future without completely overhauling their disastrous goaltending and defensemen situations.
26. Winnipeg Jets (31-38-7, last week No. 27) – The Jets are another Canadian club with holes up and down their awful lineup. There is such a gap between them and the rest of the Central Division: it could take years to catch up to those other very good teams. Winnipeg is 4-4-2 in its last 10 games so there is that.
27. Toronto Maple Leafs (28-37-11, last week No. 28) – Of all the bottom-feeders in the NHL, the Maple Leafs appear to be the one that playoff contenders don’t want to see in these final few weeks of the regular season. Toronto is 6-4-0 in its last 10 games after Tuesday’s surprisingly one-sided win over Florida. Underrated center Nazem Kadri (17 goals, 27 assists) netted his third career hat trick in that win against the Panthers.
28. Columbus Blue Jackets (30-38-8, last week No. 26) – A season that started so poorly looks like it will end in a similar fashion as the Blue Jackets have lost their last three games (3-7-0 in last 10). Columbus has allowed the most goals in the East (237) so it makes sense that they also have the worst goal-differential (minus-42) in their conference. They are one point ahead of Toronto and they each have six games left to play.
29. Edmonton Oilers (30-42-7, last week No. 29) – The Oilers only have three games remaining in this season which is probably music to the ears of their long-suffering fans. Edmonton is 4-6-0 in their last 10 games and they’ve lost their last two in a row. They are off until Saturday when they host Calgary in a mostly meaningless exhibition.
30. Vancouver Canucks (27-36-13, last week No. 29) – Shoutout to the Canucks, I had no idea how grim things had gotten recently for them until I looked at the standings. Vancouver has dropped its last three games and they are NHL-worst 1-8-1 in their last 10. If there is such thing as tanking in the NHL, this team would fit the profile since their goal-differential is an amazingly horrendous minus-49 (!).
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate