1. St. Louis Blues (47-14-7; last week-1) – The Ryan Miller trade seems to be working out quite well for the Blues, huh? Miller is 7-0-1 since he came to St. Louis with a .933 save percentage and 1.61 goals against average. This is the team to beat come playoff time.
2. Boston Bruins (47-17-5; last week-4) – It’s not hard to figure out who the hottest team in the NHL is since Boston has won its last 10 games. Jarome Iginla (26 goals) leads the team in goals and has found the fountain of youth. Top to bottom, the Bruins have the most balanced four lines in the league.
3. San Jose Sharks (45-18-7; last week-7) – Finally, some movement in the most famous NHL power rankings in the U.S.. Anaheim has stumbled a bit and San Jose has taken advantage; they both have 97 points but the Ducks have a game in hand. It should be a great race to see who wins the Pacific Division.
4. Anaheim Ducks (45-17-7; last week-2) – It’s not so much that the Ducks are playing poorly, they dropped because the teams in their lofty neighborhood have all been on tears. We don’t know how it’s possible but after their showdown in San Jose Thursday, their next nine games are all against non-playoff teams. I guess the Ducks will be fine after all.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins (45-19-4; last week-3) – Remember when they looked to be a lock for the top seed in the Eastern Conference? Not so much anymore as Boston has taken off while Pittsburgh has gone 5-4-1 in its last 10 games to fall five points behind the Bruins. The importance of home ice is debatable since the Penguins had it last year in the playoffs but still got swept by the B's.
6. Colorado Avalanche (44-20-5; last week-6) – The Avalanche are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games but Colorado continues to play steady hockey. They host the Bruins on Friday, which should be Boston’s toughest test during their lengthy win streak. Patrick Roy’s return to Montreal as head coach of Colorado didn’t go quite as planned as the Canadiens rolled 6-3 Tuesday night.
7. Chicago Blackhawks (39-15-15; last week-5) – If you had told us a few months ago that Chicago would be seventh, we would have thought you were insane. The Blackhawks have slipped down to here after going 4-5-1 in their last 10 games. This could be nothing more than last year’s Stanley Cup run and the Olympics taking their toll on this All-Star team, count them out at your own peril though.
8. Montreal Canadiens (38-25-7; last week-10) – It took him six games to get his first goal with Montreal but Thomas Vanek did it in style as he scored a hat trick in Tuesday's win over Colorado. Montreal has won its last three games to take over second place in the Atlantic Division, a mile behind Boston. Believe it or not, they are in good shape to get the third or fourth seed in the East, that’s how large the drop-off is after Boston and Pittsburgh.
9. Los Angeles Kings (38-25-6; last week-8) – Despite what you’d expect from this forum, we're not in the knee-jerk reactions business. That’s why we're not fretting over LA’s current three-game losing streak. What would worry us more is Dustin Brown’s status with his mysterious lower body injury.
10. Minnesota Wild (36-23-10; last week-9) – If they get in the playoffs, which looks like a good bet, the Wild are going to give some top team trouble in the first round. They’ve ditched their ultra defensive system so now they score a little more freely thanks to Matt Moulson and their new focus. They bounced back from Monday’s disappointing 4-1 loss at Boston with a 6-0 beating of the hapless Islanders Tuesday.
11. Tampa Bay Lightning (37-24-7; last week-12) – Things are looking up in Tampa, Steven Stamkos has four points (2 goals, 2 assists) in his last three games and the Lightning have won three in a row. Their schedule is tough though, three games in four nights and all on the road: Leafs, Senators and Penguins. Second place in the Atlantic Division and home ice is still within their grasp.
12. Philadephia Flyers (36-25-7; last week-16) – The Flyers are playing well, capped off be a thrilling 3-2 overtime win over Chicago Tuesday thanks to Claude Giroux. Philadelphia has three more home games in a row: Stars, Blues and Kings. That’s a tough trio but the Flyers are 20-12-1 at the Wells Fargo Center this season.
13. Toronto Maple Leafs (36-26-8; last week-11) – Is there a more up and down team in the NHL than Toronto? Every week, they seem to be on a notable winning or losing streak. Jonathan Bernier was back at practice Wednesday which is great news for the Leafs since they have only won four of backup goaltender James Reimer’s last 16 starts.
14. New York Rangers (37-29-4; last week-14) – Henrik Lundqvist became the winningest goaltender in team history Tuesday night (302) as the Rangers blitzed the Senators, 8-4. The most impressive part is that he did it in 102 less games than Mike Richter. With that out of the way, New York has to play better as a team since it went 4-5-1 in its last 10 games.
15. Phoenix Coyotes (33-25-11; last week-17) – The second Wild Card in the Western Conference looks like it’ll come down to either Phoenix or Dallas. The Coyotes are 6-4-0 in their last 10 games and have won their last two, modest numbers but in much better shape than Dallas who appears to be falling apart. Similar to the Wild, this is a team that will not be a pushover by any means if they reach the postseason.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets (35-27-6; last week-15) – The last Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference looks like a dogfight since the Blue Jackets and Capitals both have 76 points and the Red Wings are one point behind them. Of those three, we believe in the Blue Jackets the most since they have the best goaltender (Sergei Bobrovsky). Columbus has an important back-to-back: in Montreal Thursday then hosting the Rangers on Friday.
17. Washington Capitals (33-27-10; last week-20) – The Capitals could push the Maple Leafs for that title of "Up-and-down champion." Washington is enjoying its roller coaster at the moment, having won its last three games. The Caps won, 3-2, Tuesday night in Anaheim, their reward: at the Kings Thursday and at the Sharks on Saturday.
18. Dallas Stars (32-25-11; last week-13) – The Stars have lost their last two games and they have to be careful to make sure that their tailspin doesn’t go much further. They were blown out (5-1) Tuesday in Pittsburgh and Thursday they go to Philadelphia. Things get easier at home as they host Ottawa on Saturday and Winnipeg on Monday.
19. Detroit Red Wings (31-24-13; last week-19) – No pun intended but the Red Wings can’t catch a break this season. Tuesday, they beat Toronto 3-2 but that was tempered with the news that defenseman Jonathan Ericsson broke his middle finger and he’ll be out at least two weeks. Things don’t get easier as they host Pittsburgh Thursday, have a home-and-home with Minnesota this weekend then go to Columbus on Tuesday.
20. Blank – There isn’t one other team in the NHL that deserves to be on this prestigious list this week. Check out all the other “contenders,” they’re all horrible. Sorry guys!
Follow Metro sports writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate