- 1. Nashville Predators (41-15-7; last week-1) – I am running out of things to say about the Predators, who have set up shop in this spot for weeks now. They finally have some competition though as Montreal has pulled within two points of them. The Predators have back-to-back games on the road: Monday at Rangers then Tuesday at Devils before they host Islanders on Thursday and Jets on Saturday.
- 2. Montreal Canadiens (41-16-5; last week-2) – The Canadiens are five points ahead of the Lightning for first-place in the Atlantic Division and three points in front of the Islanders for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Star defenseman P.K. Subban had a goal and five assists in three games last week to earn the second star in the NHL. Montreal has won its last four games and they are 7-1-2 in the last 10 games.
- 3. Anaheim Ducks (40-17-7; last week-6) – Behind goaltender John Gibson, the Ducks have stabilized and with Nashville dropping its last two games, Anaheim is only two points behind the Predators for the top seed in the Western Conference. They travel to Arizona on Tuesday before hosting two big tests against some of the best clubs in the East: vs. Montreal on Wednesday and Pittsburgh on Friday. The Ducks are still up 12 points on the Canucks in the Pacific Division so they should be clinching that title any day now.
- 4. St. Louis Blues (40-18-5; last week-3) – They eventually lost 6-5 in a shootout at Vancouver but the fact that St. Louis rallied to reach that point (after trailing 5-2 in the 3rd period) was pretty amazing on Sunday. The one aspect of the Blues that you can second-guess heading into the postseason is their murky goaltending situation. Head coach Ken Hitchcock didn’t help matters by pulling Jake Allen vs. Vancouver but then putting him back in when Brian Elliot struggled as well.
- 5. New York Rangers (38-17-6; last week-5) – The Rangers lost 4-2 at the Flyers on Saturday but New York is still 8-1-1 in its last 10 games. Their meteoric rise has left them two points behind the Islanders for first-place in the Metropolitan Division with three games in hand. The Rangers also made a huge trade on Sunday to acquire Arizona defenseman Keith Yandle (4 goals, 37 assists) who should provide even more scoring punch from their back end.
- 6. Tampa Bay Lightning (38-20-6; last week-4) – Tampa Bay lost 4-3 to Florida on Sunday, something which has rarely happened in recent years. Overnight, the Lightning also made a big trade swapping defenseman Radko Gudas, a first and third-round draft pick to the Flyers for defenseman Braydon Coburn. Tampa Bay has the second best goal-differential in the East (+39) and they should clean up this week with home games vs. three non-playoff teams: Sabres, Maple Leafs and Stars.
- 7. New York Islanders (41-21-2; last week-5) – The Islanders are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games but a stunning 5-3 loss to the Hurricanes on Saturday left the Rangers within striking distance of them. New York is on the road for the next week with four games: at Stars, Predators, Panthers and Maple Leafs. They have scored the second most goals (205) in the NHL, only Tampa Bay (210) has more.
- 8. Pittsburgh Penguins (36-17-9; last week-9) – It has been pretty quiet but the Penguins have won their last four games. They are one point behind the Rangers and three points behind the Islanders. Evgeni Malkin (26 goals, 38 assists) has been great all season and he was named the No. 3 star of the week for putting up two goals and four assists in two games last week.
- 9. Detroit Red Wings (35-15-11; last week-8) – Detroit showed how good they can be by picking up a 4-3 win at Nashville on Saturday. The Red Wings are only one point behind the Lightning and they have three games in hand so don’t be surprised if they jump ahead of Tampa Bay at some point soon. It is a tough week for Detroit as they host the Rangers on Wednesday and Calgary on Friday before going to Boston on Sunday.
- 10. Chicago Blackhawks (37-21-5; last week-10) – Patrick Kane might miss the rest of the season with a broken clavicle which is a huge blow to Chicago’s chances at another Stanley Cup. The Blackhawks were humbled on Friday with a 4-0 loss at Tampa Bay. Center Antoine Vermette (13 goals, 22 assists) was acquired from Arizona on Saturday and he should help them.
- 11. Washington Capitals (34-20-10; last week-11) – As much as any team in the NHL, Washington is getting carried by two players having outstanding seasons: Alex Ovechkin (41 goals, 24 assists) leads the league in goals and points while Braden Holtby (30-15-9, .925 save percentage, 2.16 goals against average, 7 shutouts) has been one of the best goaltenders. In two different trades, the Capitals added depth with forward Curtis Glencross from Calgary and defenseman Tim Gleason from Carolina. The Capitals are in seventh-place in the East but they lead the eighth-place Bruins by seven points (Boston has 2 games in hand).
- 12. Minnesota Wild (33-22-7; last week-13) – The Wild are still rolling (7-2-1 in last 10 games) and Devan Dubnyk (24-8-3, .926 save percentage, 2.15 goals against average, 6 shutouts) was named the No. 1 star of February in the NHL. Four of Minnesota’s next five games are against non-playoff teams so they should keep up their strong play. As it stands, they are in seventh-place in the West, two points behind Vancouver who is in sixth.
- 13. Winnipeg Jets (28-18-12; last week-15) – More than any other team in the league, Winnipeg could benefit the most from Patrick Kane’s absence. The Jets are only three points behind the Blackhawks after going 6-2-2 in their last 10 games. Winnipeg hosts Ottawa on Wednesday before heading out on a four-game road trip which includes three top clubs (Predators, Blues and Lightning).
- 14. Vancouver Canucks (36-23-3; last week-14) – Vancouver almost suffered a crushing loss to St. Louis on Sunday but their shootout win made them 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. Two of their next three games are a home-and-home against San Jose sandwiched around a game at Arizona. In other words, the Canucks should pick up many points this week.
- 15. Los Angeles Kings (29-21-12; last week-13) – After an incredible stretch, the Kings have dropped three games in a row. Amazingly enough, if the playoffs started today LA would be on the outside. The Kings have a must-win on Tuesday at Edmonton before hosting Montreal on Thursday and Pittsburgh on Sunday.
- 16. Calgary Flames (33-25-4; last week-16) – Obviously, nobody in the world would pick the Flames to hold off the Kings but as it stands at the moment, Calgary owns the tiebreaker over LA. The Flames are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games and a grueling road trip continues with four more stops against Eastern Conference teams. Calgary’s great season might go down the drain these next few weeks.
- 17. Boston Bruins (31-22-9; last week-17) – The Bruins are hanging on for dear life to the eighth seed in the East. Florida is only two points behind them while Philadelphia looks like the other contender (6 points back). Boston survived a rocky February and they have three games in four days at TD Garden this week: vs. Flames, Flyers and Red Wings.
- 18. Florida Panthers (28-22-13; last week-20) – Florida traded for Jaromir Jagr on Thursday and they have won their first two games with him, coincidence? With their next four games at home, including the Maple Leafs and Stars, the Panthers have a chance to really make the Bruins sweat. Even if they don’t make the playoffs, Jagr makes a fun team to watch even more exciting.
- 19. Philadelphia Flyers (27-25-11; last week-19) – If I’m being honest here, time is running out on the Flyers’ playoff hopes. Philadelphia has two tough games this week-vs. Calgary and St. Louis-before traveling to Boston on Saturday for a must-win. The Flyers are only 4-3-3 in their last 10 games but they did beat the Rangers 4-2 on Saturday, so all hope is not lost.
- 20. San Jose Sharks (30-25-8; last week-18) – The Sharks only trail the Flames and Kings by two points but they currently are in 10th place in the West. Even worse, they are free-falling (sorry Tom Petty), 2-7-1 in their last 10 games. They host Montreal on Monday before a home-and-home with Vancouver.
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