Tuesday April 7th, 2009

Biggest Climb: Anaheim Ducks (15 to 10)

Biggest Fall: St. Louis Blues (10 to 14)

A reminder: These rankings are based primarily on recent quality of play, with overall record and my remarkably intuitive gut calls worked into the mix. Heck, if I went strictly off record, these would be no different than the standings, and you already know where to find those. Statistics and records are through Sunday's games. Also worth noting: the new record by Spinnerette is all kinds of brilliant.

Want to send me a comment about the rankings? Scroll to the bottom of this page for my Mailbag. I read 'em all and if you're halfway civil -- or at least clever in your skewering of my decisions-- I'll try to get back to you.

NHL Power Rankings
1Boston Bruins
Last Week: 1
Boston Bruins (51-17-10)
Plenty to celebrate in Boston, where six straight wins clinched their first Eastern title since 2002 and GM Peter Chiarelli locked up likely Vezina-winner Tim Thomas with a four-year extension. Doesn't seem that long ago that signing Thomas was said to be the final nail in Mike O'Connell's professional coffin. Last week: 3-0
 
2San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 2
San Jose Sharks (52-16-11)
Doubters aren't letting hockey's best record interfere with strenuous Shark-bashing. Fair enough. Until they prove themselves in the playoffs, they're an easy target. Still, their fans should revel in the franchise-record 52nd win and the news that all the injured (save for Torrey Mitchell) should be in uniform before the postseason. Last week: 3-1
 
3Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 4
With the win column glued at 49 through three straight losses, they finally became just the third franchise with four straight 50-win seasons. They also made it clear that Chris Osgood's their man for the playoffs: he'll start three of their final four games. Last week: 1-1
 
4Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 6
He won't win it, but can we include Cam Ward in the Vezina talk? The NHL's player of month for March (10-1-2 and 1.98 GAA) powered the 'Canes to their first playoff berth since their Cup season of '06 and helped set them up as the hottest team heading into the postseason. Last week: 2-0
 
5Washington Capitals
Last Week: 7
They can pat themselves on the back after finally coming up with some secondary scoring and improved five-on-five play last week. But honestly, how do you overlook their continued sloppiness with the puck? Jose Theodore won't be their Achilles heel. Defensive and neutral zone turnovers will be what kills them. Last week: 2-0-1
 
6Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 3
Back-to-back losses over the weekend might have put the kibosh on their hope of home ice in the first round, but it's hard to be too disappointed with a team that has just three regulation defeats in its last 20. Last week: 1-1-1
 
7Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 8
Looking for a sleeper pick for your playoff pool? Offer up your cockiest smile and call the name of Claude Giroux. The rookie forward was held off the scoreboard in a shootout loss to the Sens, but had multi-point games in each of his three prior contests (3-4-7). Last week: 1-1-1
 
8Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 5
The great Lemmy Kilmister insists the chase is sweeter than the catch. So maybe these guys are big Motorhead fans? After six weeks of tracking down the Flames, they held on to first for all of a day before losing three straight. More troubling: their sloppy defensive play and 13 goals allowed by Roberto Luongo. Last Week: 1-2-1
 
9New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 9
The six-game losing streak is over, but really, who are these guys? They were waxed by the Rangers and Penguins by a combined 9-1, then struggled to get past also-rans Buffalo and Tampa in a pair of one-goal squeakers. They have to be concerned about the health of Patrik Elias. The offense is struggling without him. Last week: 2-2
 
10Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 15
Anaheim Ducks (41-33-6)
They may be a just one-line team, but it's one hell of a line. Getzlaf/Perry/Ryan has produced 18 goals and 24 assists in the last 11 games, powering the 9-2 dash to the finish that has Anaheim positioned to be a miserable first-round foe. Last week: 3-1
 
11Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 14
Should be a lot easier now to pick up a tee time at Chicago golf courses. For the first time in seven years, the Hawks are in the playoffs. And they're going in on a defensive high, having allowed just 63 shots and two goals-against in last week's trio of wins. Oh, and didja hear da Bears traded for Jay Cutler? Last week: 3-1
 
12Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 12
They'll eventually secure that first-ever berth, but they're learning a valuable lesson from the hockey gods in the process: don't advertise the tickets until you've made the stinking playoffs. Dogged by uneven performances for two weeks, they have just two wins in seven and only three games left to build some forward momentum. Last week: 1-0-2
 
13Calgary Flames
Last Week: 13
Calgary Flames (44-28-6)
How do you make a 13-point division lead vanish into thin air? Win just six of 15. It's one thing to be cold with the extra man -- the power play's in an inexplicable 0-for-25 slump -- and it's something else to not make anything happen. If I'm an opposing coach, I tell my boys to work 'em over a bit and take our chances on the penalty kill. Last week: 1-2
 
14St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 10
St. Louis Blues (38-31-10)
They need help to secure the final spot in the West after coughing up a point late to Dallas, but can aid their cause by running the table. Phoenix and Colorado have spent the last two weeks regripping their clubs, and the Blues are 4-1 against Columbus. It's not just doable, it'll be a major disappointment if they don't. Last week: 1-1-1
 
15Nashville Predators
Last Week: 11
Final week looks rough: Hawks at home; Wings and Wild on the road, but they can grab the eight seed by sticking to the aggressive blueprint that worked so well to turn Saturday's game against the Jackets. Preds are a tough out when they have the forecheck going. Last week: 1-2-1
 
16New York Rangers
Last Week: 17
If adding Antropov/Morris/Avery was the talent equivalent of a bottle of Five-Hour Energy, they're clearly into Hour 10. They've lost five of six and enter the final week knotted with Florida. To keep their spot, they must take care of business vs. the Habs and Flyers (twice). Wonder if Hank Lundqvist still has that Team Sweden mask lying around? Last week: 1-2
 
17Florida Panthers
Last Week: 19
Florida Panthers (39-29-11)
Are they reverting to old (bad) habits at the worst possible time? Coach thinks so. "We've just got to cut loose here and go for it," Pete DeBoer told The Sun-Sentinel. "I still find a little hesitation in our game . . . we've got to take a little bit more of a carefree approach." They showed a bit more zazz in Sunday's season-saving win over the Pens, but must crank it up to 11 over the final three contests. Last week: 2-1
 
18Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 16
Minnesota Wild (37-33-9)
Any Wild fan who wants to play the "I believe" card, be my guest. The reality is their season ended when Marian Hossa scored with less than a minute left to steal a point, possibly two, from their playoff hope chest on Sunday. Just as well. A team that hasn't won back-to-back in six weeks belongs on the sidelines anyway. Last week: 1-1-1
 
19Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 23
Just when they seemed to rediscover their swagger on a 5-0-1 run, they got the worst possible news. Andrei Markov and Mathieu Schneider, the Vin Diesel and Paul Walker of a revived power play, are out: Markov for three weeks, Schneider for the year. Honestly, the Habs are baked without them. Last week: 3-0
 
20Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 18
Buffalo Sabres (38-31-9)
When Darcy Regier pores over the wreckage of this season, he'll probably come to a clear conclusion: It's not that his Sabres lack talent. They lack consistency. Too few players can be counted on night to night, week to week. If only this were as easy a problem to cure as it is to diagnose, Regier would be all set. Last week: 1-1-1
 
21Atlanta Thrashers
Last Week: 21
Even after the debacle against the Caps, they're going out on a high note, winning 11 of their last 15. The trick now is figuring out their starters for next year. Don Waddell said he'll be looking to deal Kari Lehtonen or Ondrej Pavelec for a skater. Bet on the former second overall pick to be the one sent packing. Last week: 2-1
 
22Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 20
Edmonton Oilers (37-33-9)
Remember The Sopranos episode where the Russian mobster was forced to dig his own grave, but instead of hopping in for a dirt nap, he whacked Paulie with the shovel and got away? After losing six of eight, the Oilers dug themselves a deep one . . . but the rest of the West won't make like Paulie Walnuts this time. Last week: 1-2
 
23Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 22
Ottawa Senators (34-34-10)
If owner Eugene Melnyk is smart -- no indication otherwise from this corner -- he'll look beyond the finishing kick under Cory Clouston and boot GM Bryan Murray to the curb. Let's face it: hiring Clouston wasn't a stroke of genius. He was merely Ottawa's cheapest option. Just because it worked shouldn't get Murray off the hook for misjudgments that sent the franchise into a tailspin. Last week: 1-2
 
24Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 26
Phoenix Coyotes (34-38-7)
Who's the real Al Montoya? The one who made the most of his NHL debut by stopping 23 shots while shutting out the Avs? Or the one who coughed up six goals to the Kings on 32 shots? If Wayne Gretzky's a smart coach -- jury remains out -- he'll sit Ilya Bryzgalov the rest of the way and give former first-rounder Montoya a chance to define himself. Last week: 3-1
 
25Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 24
There's talk Dean Lombardi may move his first-rounder this summer to speed the rebuilding. Says here Dino needs to tap the brakes. He should be able to grab an impact forward in the 5-10 range and give his young assets another year to grow without the pressure of a playoffs-or-bust mentality. Last week: 1-2
 
26Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 25
They talk the good talk about professional pride and going out on a high note, but after watching them spit up 14 goals in back-to-back games against the Flyers and Habs, it's tough not to see they've already packed it in. At least Brian Burke brought in reinforcements for next season, signing college free agents Christian Hanson and Tyler Bozak. Last week: 1-2
 
27Dallas Stars
Last Week: 28
Dallas Stars (35-34-10)
They're rewarding their season-ticket-holders with a shirts-off-their-backs promotion at the final home game, and Sergei Zubov is shown on the JumboTron handing a sweater to a fan. "Game-worn?" asked one press box wag. "Wonder how many years back they had to go to find that." You see, Zubov played just 10 games this season . . . Well, guess you had to be there. Last week: 2-1-1
 
28New York Islanders
Last Week: 27
Even counting Saturday's emotionally-stirring win over the ferocious Lightning, they've won just two of their last 10. That should pretty much ensure they end up with either John Tavares or Victor Hedman. Of course, a couple more losses this week wouldn't hurt the cause. . . cough, cough . . . Last week: 1-2
 
29Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 29
Plenty of blame to go around for those 263 goals-allowed?and plenty of players to shoulder it. The Bolts set a new single-season standard for blueline instability, dressing 21 defensemen so far. Despite appearances, not one was chosen at random from the crowd. Last week: 0-2-1
 
30Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 30
Not to rub salt in the wounds of a team that has suffered through six months of Peter Budaj and Andrew Raycroft, but when Tim Thomas wins the Vezina, he'll be the first ever draftee of this franchise to claim the award . . . The Avs let him walk for nothing. Have a nice summer! Last week: 1-1

Allan Muir's Mailbag
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