- 1. Montreal Canadiens (42-18-6; last week-2) – Finally, a shakeup at the top of the rankings! The Ducks have one more point (91) than the Canadiens but Montreal has played one less game and their goal-differential (+31) is far superior to Anaheim’s. After Nashville’s Pekka Rinne missed so much time, Carey Price (37-13-3, 1.89 GAA, .936 save %, 7 shutouts) is a lock for the Vezina Trophy and he could be the first goaltender since Montreal’s Jose Theodore in 2002 to win the Hart Trophy (MVP) as well in the same season.
- 2. Anaheim Ducks (42-18-7; last week-3) – As mentioned above, the Ducks have the most points in the NHL and competing in the Western Conference, that still carries plenty of weight. In their last game, Anaheim lost 5-2 to Pittsburgh at the Honda Center on Friday but they are still 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. It is a really tough week for the Ducks with road games at Vancouver, Calgary and Minnesota followed by a home game vs. Nashville-all playoff teams from the West.
- 3. Tampa Bay Lightning (41-20-6; last week-6) – Just like they have been all season, the Lightning are right next to the Canadiens (two points behind them). Tampa Bay is 7-3-0 in their last ten games and they have won the last three including a crazy 5-4 victory vs. Dallas on Saturday. The Lightning have scored the most goals in the league (222) so it’s not surprising that they have the best goal-differential (+45) as well.
- 4. New York Rangers (40-17-7; last week-5) – You can’t be anything but very impressed with how well the Rangers have been playing for weeks now. They picked up a 1-0 overtime win at Chicago on Sunday thanks to Derick Brassard. Cam Talbot (14-6-4, 2.33 GAA, .921 save%, 5 shutouts) stopped 29 shots against the Blackhawks and he earned the third star of the week in the NHL.
- 5. Nashville Predators (41-9-7; last week-1) – I am not abandoning the Predators but I have to admit that it has been a tough couple weeks in Music City with Nashville dropping its last six games in a row. Things have tightened up in the Central Division as St. Louis trails Nashville by two points and Chicago is only five points behind the Predators. Nashville heads out on a four-game road trip this week including three games in California but I bet that losing streak ends in Monday at Arizona.
- 6. St. Louis Blues (41-19-5; last week-4) – The Blues are currently the third seed in the Western Conference but that could certainly change sometime soon. St. Louis is 5-4-1 in their last 10 games but they seem to be back on the right track after a 6-1 blowout win on Toronto on Saturday. The Blues are at Scottrade Center for three straight games this week (Jets, Flyers and Wild) then they go to Dallas on Sunday.
- 7. New York Islanders (42-21-4; last week-7) – The Islanders still lead the Metropolitan Division but the Rangers have pulled within one point and the Penguins are only two points behind them. New York is at Toronto on Monday before hosting the Rangers, Senators and Canadiens at Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders are 5-2-3 in the last 10 games and they have scored the second-most goals (214) in the NHL.
- 8. Pittsburgh Penguins (36-17-9; last week-8) – At 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, the Penguins are making their move. Their 1-0 win at LA on Saturday was outstanding and they wrap up their West Coast trip in San Jose on Monday. Their goal-differential is +28 thanks to only 160 goals allowed so far this season.
- 9. Chicago Blackhawks (39-21-6; last week-10) – A game like the 1-0 loss to the Rangers on Sunday shows the immeasurable value of Patrick Kane (27 goals, 37 assists) and how much that Chicago really misses him when he’s out. The Blackhawks only have a pair of games this week and while they are both on the road (at Arizona and San Jose), they should get two points each time. Chicago has 16 more games to figure out how they can maximize their abilities without Kane before the postseason because who knows if he’ll be back by then.
- 10. Detroit Red Wings (36-17-11; last week-9) – Like most teams in the league, Detroit’s backup goaltender situation is sketchy to say the least. Jonas Gustavsson gave up four goals in two periods at Boston on Sunday, was pulled and now is out with an injury. The Red Wings have dropped their last two games but they host the Oilers and Blue Jackets this week then go to the Flyers-all quite winnable contests.
- 11. Washington Capitals (36-21-10; last week-11) – Washington is playing fine (6-4-0 in their last 10 games) but they have to be paying a little more attention now to Boston who is only six points behind them with two games in hand. The Capitals have three games at Verizon Center this week: vs. Rangers, Stars and Bruins. Alex Ovechkin (44 goals, 25 assists, 20 power-play goals, 10 game-winning goals) is Price’s main competition for the Hart Trophy.
- 12. Minnesota Wild (36-23-7; last week-12) – The Wild lost 3-2 to the Avalanche on Sunday but they remain one of the hottest teams in the NHL (8-2-0 in their last 10 games). If Minnesota wants home ice in the playoffs, they’ll have to catch Chicago who is currently five points in front of them. The Wild host the Devils on Tuesday before two big Western Conference games: vs. Anaheim on Friday and at St. Louis the next night.
- 13. Vancouver Canucks (37-24-4; last week-14) – As it has been all season, the race for second-place in the Pacific Division is very close. The Canucks are up one point on the Flames, three points on the Kings and six points on the Sharks. Vancouver’s next five games are at Rogers Arena so they are in good shape to stay where they are in the standings.
- 14. Winnipeg Jets (33-21-12; last week-13) – The Jets are hanging around, going 5-3-2 in their last 10 games including a 3-1 win at Nashville on Saturday. Winnipeg won’t be home for another week as they go to St. Louis on Tuesday followed by a trip to the Sunshine State to face the Panthers on Thursday and Lightning on Saturday. They can’t afford to slip up since a couple losses in a row would push them out of the playoff picture in the crowded West.
- 15.Calgary Flames (36-25-5; last week-15) – Calgary’s 5-4 shootout loss at Ottawa on Sunday was one of the most exciting games of the season since the Flames trailed 4-0 in the third period before rallying with four consecutive goals. Jiri Hudler (23 goals, 33 assists) leads Calgary in points and he put up eight points (4 goals, 4 assists) to earn the first star of the week in the NHL. The Flames are clinging to the eighth spot in the Western Conference and you have to admit that it would be fun to see this young team get into the postseason.
- 16. Boston Bruins (33-22-10; last week-16) – Nobody in the league had a better weekend than the Bruins: they rallied for a 3-2 overtime win vs. Flyers on Saturday then beat Detroit 5-3 on Sunday. Boston is 5-1-1 in their last seven games and Max Talbot looks like a nice veteran addition to the team. The Senators are five points behind the Bruins and Ottawa hosts Boston on Tuesday in a key matchup for the second Wild Card in the Eastern Conference.
- 17. Los Angeles Kings (31-21-13; last week-15) – For my money, seeing if the Kings even reach the playoffs or not this season is one of the top storylines in the NHL. The defending champs are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games but they reside in ninth-place in the West. They go to Colorado on Tuesday and Vancouver on Thursday which is harder than it looks since LA is 10-14-6 on the road.
- 18. Colorado Avalanche (30-25-11; last week-not ranked) – It should be a happy time in Colorado (relatively speaking) since the Avalanche have won their last three games and they are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. Plus, Semyon Varlamov is the second star of the week after a remarkable trio of games (3-0-0, 0.69 GAA, .981 save% and 1 shutout). The catch is that Varlamov left Sunday’s game vs. Minnesota with an undisclosed injury so the Avalanche are holding their breath until they hear more details about that.
- 19. Florida Panthers (29-23-14; last week-18) – Nobody in the league has a worse goaltending situation than the Panthers since both Roberto Luongo and his backup Al Montoya are out with injuries. Riding journeyman goaltender Dan Ellis as you try to climb the standings to sneak into the playoffs is not an ideal situation to say the least. Florida hosts Winnipeg on Thursday before a back-to-back this weekend at Carolina on Saturday then the Rangers on Sunday.
- 20. San Jose Sharks (32-26-8; last week-20) – The Sharks didn’t make any big moves at the trade deadline so I have very little faith in their ability to make a run into the postseason. San Jose is 4-6-0 in their last 10 games. They have three games this week at the SAP Center (where they are 15-15-5): Pittsburgh, Nashville and Chicago.
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