Tuesday March 8th, 2016

Not much to distinguish between the top two spots this week, but the Capitals get the nod on the strength of Nick Backstrom's shootout winner in Monday's 2–1 decision over the Ducks. But while Washington and Anaheim are the class of the field, the Predators are closing in thanks to a season-best string of play. Nashville hasn't lost in regulation in 12 games and is a solid 13-3-4 in its past 20, establishing itself as a prohibitive favorite to claim one of the two Western Conference wild card berths. Defense may be their calling card, but the offense has come to life for the Preds, scoring at least four goals in four straight and three in six consecutive games. 

Biggest jump: Nashville Predators (12 to 4)

Biggest drop: New Jersey Devils (21 to 28)


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  • 1
    1Washington Capitals
    last week: 2
    record: 49-13-4
    It's not how you start, it's how you finish, right? The Caps have proved that all year long, finding ways to win games after allowing the opposition to take an early lead. After coming from behind to win 2–1 on Monday night in Anaheim, Washington is now 20-11-4 in games in which it has allowed the first goal. Last week: 3-1-0

  • 2
    2Anaheim Ducks
    last week: 1
    record: 37-19-9
    Their 11-game winning streak came to a cruel end on Monday night, but not before the Ducks took control of the Pacific Division. They've also put at least one point up on the board in 14 straight (12-0-2), the NHL's longest such run since the Bruins went 16 in a row back in 2014. Last week: 3-0-1

  • 3
    3Tampa Bay Lightning
    last week: 4
    record: 39-23-4
    The Flyers brought an end to their franchise-record nine-game winning streak, but not before the Lightning took over top spot in the Atlantic Division. And they kissed and made up with Jonathan Drouin? Not a bad week for the Bolts. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 4
    4New York Rangers
    last week: 3
    record: 38-22-6
    A big emotional win over the first-place Capitals ... followed by a big emotional loss to the hated Islanders. This team's commitment is all over the place. The return of Henrik Lundqvist (neck spasms) should help even things out later this week. If they're lucky, they'll get Rick Nash (knee) back in the lineup as well. Last week:1-2-0

  • 5
    5Nashville Predators
    last week: 12
    record: 33-21-12
    Probably time to recognize that the Preds have quietly gone 8-0-4 in their last 12 and are poised to be the opponent no team wants to face in the first round. A new-look second line led by Filip Forsberg has become a difference maker for Nashville. He has 16 points during this hot streak, tops in the NHL. Last week: 2-0-1

  • 6
    6Chicago Blackhawks
    last week: 5
    record: 41-21-5
    A year ago, the Hawks ranked 19th on the power play, clicking at a middling 17.6%. This season? They're No. 1. Chicago converted on two of three chances in Sunday's 4–1 victory over the Red Wings to bump their season success rate to a sizzling 24.1%. The young blood—Artemi Panarin, Teuvo Teravainen and Artem Anisimov—have given the unit the mobility and unpredictability that it lacked in 2014-15. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 7
    7Los Angeles Kings
    last week: 6
    record: 39-22-4
    No way around it: that 3–2 loss to the Ducks hurt. As well as the Kings have played of late, winning six of eight and allowing only six goals in those wins, they gave away the Pacific lead by dropping a pair to Anaheim in a span of a week. Their next meeting, on April 7, should be a dandy. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 8
    8St. Louis Blues
    last week: 7
    record: 38-20-9
    Never a dull moment with these guys. The Blues coughed up a 3–0 lead against the Senators before sealing the deal in OT. Then they allowed the Wild to pull to within one after scoring the first three goals. Have to think coach Ken Hitchcock was peeling the paint off the walls ahead of practice this week. Last week: 2-0-0

  • 9
    9New York Islanders
    last week: 11
    record: 36-20-7
    The Isles made it rain on their seven-game road trip, going 6-1 to bank 12 points. The capper was a wild 6–4 win over the Rangers at MSG that allowed them to pull to within three points of the Blueshirts and second place in the Metro. Up next: a must-win game with the fourth-place Penguins. Last week: 3-0-0

  • 10
    10San Jose Sharks
    last week: 8
    record: 36-23-6
    Attention, Mike Babcock: That Brent Burns kid can play a little defense when he sets his mind to it. The Team Canada hopeful had a –15 rating on Jan. 2. Since then, he's +11, a reflection of his improved all-around play and its impact on the success of his team. Last week: 1-1-0

  • 11
    11Dallas Stars
    last week: 9
    record: 40-20-7
    About time for the Stars to start finding some traction, isn't it? Since Jan. 1, they're just 12-12-4, ranking them 23rd in the league. They've also allowed 94 goals, more than any other team. Time for Antti Niemi or Kari Lehtonen to make a difference between the pipes. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 12
    12Pittsburgh Penguins
    last week: 10
    record: 34-23-8
    Evgeni Malkin picked the right time to heat up. Geno has four goals in his past four games, and seven points in six games since he returned from a lower-body injury to help the Pens remain in the hunt for third spot in the Metro. Last week: 2-2-0

  • 13
    13Florida Panthers
    last week: 13
    record: 36-21-9
    Just when it looked like the Panthers were on the verge of something special, the wind has deserted their sails. The Cats have just two wins to show for their past seven games, largely because their defense has left netminders Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya vulnerable due to sloppy coverage. Luongo is really feeling the pain, posting a .888 save percentage over his past 10 appearances. Last week: 1-2-1

  • 14
    14Boston Bruins
    last week: 15
    record: 37-23-7
    Congrats to Claude Julien, who passed the legendary Art Ross to become the winningest coach in Bruins history with Monday night's OT victory over the Panthers. And to GM Don Sweeney, whose big trade deadline acquisition, Lee Stempniak, has a goal and six points in four games since coming over from the Devils. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 15
    15Minnesota Wild
    last week: 19
    record: 31-26-10
    It's tough to switch goalies in the middle of a playoff push, but it might be time to see what Darcy Kuemper can do while giving struggling keeper Devan Dubnyk a chance to recharge his batteries. Kuemper's put up a 2.24 GAA and a .922 save percentage this season, and after coming on strong in relief of Dubnyk in Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Blues he looks like he's ready to handle a heavier load. Last week: 3-1-0

  • 16
    16Philadelphia Flyers
    last week: 16
    record: 31-23-11
    If the Flyers fall short of the playoffs this season—and with just a 40.6% chance according to Sportsclubstats.com, they probably will—they'll look back on a game like Thursday's 4-0 home loss to the Oilers and wonder how things could possibly go so terribly awry. That one really, really hurt. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 17
    17Detroit Red Wings
    last week: 14
    record: 32-22-11
    Coach Jeff Blashill says he's not worried about Petr Mrazek's game long-term. Short-term? That's another story. The young keeper has allowed five goals in three of his past seven appearances, posting a 3-3-1 mark with a 3.81 goals-against average and .868 save percentage. A team that ranks 23rd in goal scoring can't dig itself out of holes that deep. He needs to be better. Last week: 0-2-0

  • 18
    18Colorado Avalanche
    last week: 17
    record: 34-30-4
    The Avs dug themselves a hole last week, losing to both the Wild and the Predators to put their playoff chances in jeopardy. They responded with a solid win over the Coyotes on Monday night, but those head-to-head losses against wild card rivals could come back to haunt them. Last week: 2-2-0

  • 19
    19Ottawa Senators
    last week: 18
    record: 31-29-7
    Just six points separate the Sens from a wild card berth, but after watching them choke away five of the eight points that were up for grabs last week, it's hard to picture them embarking on another miraculous late-season run. As long as they're giving up 3+ goals per game, they're toast. Last week: 1-2-1

  • 20
    20Columbus Blue Jackets
    last week: 20
    record: 27-31-8
    If nothing else comes of this season, at least the Jackets know they have a viable NHL goaltender in Joonas Korpisalo. The rookie sensation improved to 12-3-3 in his past 18 starts with a win over the Oilers on Friday and his stats (2.24 GAA, .930 save percentage) are both top 10 over that stretch. Last week: 1-1-0

  • 21
    21Carolina Hurricanes
    last week: 22
    record: 29-26-11
    Nice to see Jeff Skinner playing some of his best hockey of the season as the 'Canes kick off the post-Eric Staal era. The speedy winger has clicked for two goals and four points over his past three games while bringing some strong defensive play. He ranks second in the league with 62 takeaways. Last week: 1-1-0

  • 22
    22Buffalo Sabres
    last week: 24
    record: 27-31-9
    Congrats to Jack Eichel, who on Monday night became just the second rookie this season to reach the 20-goal plateau, and the first Sabres rookie to do it since Pierre Turgeon back in 1998-89. Although his game has faded a bit down the stretch, Eichel looks every bit the part of a franchise cornerstone. Last week: 2-0-2

  • 23
    23Montreal Canadiens
    last week: 23
    record: 30-30-6
    As far as four-game roadies go, that one couldn't have gone much worse. The Habs dropped all four (although they did squeeze a point out of Anaheim) and scored exactly two goals in each of them. Time to start riding the kids hard to see what they might have to offer next season. Last week: 0-2-1

  • 24
    24Edmonton Oilers
    last week: 28
    record: 26-35-7
    As poorly as things went this season, there were a few bright spots to build on. The Oilers went 3-1 on their recent road trip, racking up wins over Philadelphia and Buffalo. Those victories allowed them to finish their season with a 17-14-1 record against the Eastern Conference. Last week: 3-1-0

  • 25
    25Vancouver Canucks
    last week: 25
    record: 25-28-12
    Not sure why Team Sweden would be in a hurry to name Jakob Markstrom to their World Cup squad after he turned in three consecutive soft performances (13 goals on 91 shots), but he looked the part in Saturday's win over the Sharks. Look for him to get a majority of the starts down the stretch. Last week: 1-3-0

  • 26
    26Calgary Flames
    last week: 26
    record: 27-34-5
    Make it four solid starts in his past five appearances for Joni Ortio as he makes a case to be the starter in Calgary next season. The 24-year-old was just 1-2-2 over that stretch, but by holding the opposition to two goals in each of those four starts he looks like he's ready to take on the bulk of the work down the home stretch. Last week: 1-2-1

  • 27
    27Winnipeg Jets
    last week: 27
    record: 27-33-5
    Not to read too much into four games, but man did Mark Schiefele look like a beast last week. The big center got on the board in each contest, posting six goals and eight points. More importantly, he looked like a player who is capable of becoming something more than an excellent second liner. Even though the Jets are limited to playing out the string, they'll be worth watching if only to see where he takes his game over the final month. Last week: 1-2-1

  • 28
    28New Jersey Devils
    last week: 21
    record: 31-29-7
    On a scale of No Biggie to End of Days, the news that Cory Schneider had a Grade 1 MCL sprain and will be reevaluated in two weeks probably has John Cusack gassing up the RV for a trip to Yosemite. Backup Keith Kinkaid has allowed 13 goals on the past 83 shots he's faced, a brutal . 843 save percentage. Last week: 1-3-0

  • 29
    arizona Coyotes
    last week: 29
    record: 28-32-6
    Alex Tanguay looked pretty sharp in his Coyotes debut. The veteran combined with linemates Antoine Vermette and Anthony Duclair to tally nine points in a 5-1 win over the Panthers on Saturday. The pending UFA will get a good look down the stretch to see if he might be a contributor moving forward. Last week: 1-2-0

  • 30
    30Toronto Maple Leafs
    last week: 30
    record: 21-33-11
    Funny how it works, eh? The Leafs have just one win to show for their past 11 games, but has their been more enthusiasm for this team at any point this season? With William Nylander, Nikita Shosnikov and Zach Hyman all scoring their first NHL goals and Kasperi Kapanen making something happen on almost every shift, there's finally reason to hope again in Hogtown. Last week: 0-3-1

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