Tuesday March 29th, 2016

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There's no shortage of intrigue at the top of our Power Rankings as the season heads into its final two weeks. The Blues took a significant leap up the list, and in the estimation of fans, even with their 4–0 thrashing of the Capitals there's still no denying Washington's claim to the top spot given the way the Caps have played during the past few weeks. The way the Predators and Wild are going, both wild cards could be favored in their opening-round series against the Pacific and Central Division champs. And keep an eye on the Penguins, a team that finally looks like it is having fun again under coach Mike Sullivan. They're playing fast and loose, daring opponents to keep up. So far, few can.

Biggest jump: St. Louis Blues (7 to 2); Minnesota Wild (18 to 13)

Biggest drop: Los Angeles Kings (3 to 8)

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  • 1
    1Washington Capitals
    last week: 1
    record: 54-16-5
    The stat nerds may be waving their arms and shouting about underlying numbers, but here's the only thing that matters right now: The Caps are the Presidents' Trophy winners. That's a truly remarkable achievement and one that should be savored, no matter what happens next. Last week: 3-1-0

  • 2
    2St. Louis Blues
    last week: 7
    record: 45-22-9
    Earlier this month, the Blues allowed 13 goals while suffering back-to-back losses to the lowly Flames and lowlier Oilers. Since then, St. Louis has posted four consecutive shutouts while establishing a franchise-record whitewash streak of 240:18. Oh, and they've grabbed a share of top spot in the Western Conference as well. Could this, finally, be their year? Last week: 3-0-0

  • 3
    3Pittsburgh Penguins
    last week: 4
    record: 42-25-8
    So, everyone who has Erik Karlsson as the favorite to win the Norris Trophy must have Kris Letang at No. 2, eh? He's been the highest scoring defenseman in the league since Mike Sullivan took over behind the Penguins' bench, scoring 43 points in his past 39 games while helping to propel his team into the playoff picture. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 4
    4Nashville Predators
    last week: 2
    record: 39-24-13
    In time, it'll be okay. But right now, losing out on Jimmy Vesey feels like just about the worst thing that could have happened to the Preds with the playoffs looming. And it's gonna sting for awhile. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 5
    5Dallas Stars
    last week: 9
    record: 45-22-9
    If the Stars fall short in their bid to win the Central Division, it'll be because of their habit of playing down to lesser teams like Arizona. If they win it, it'll be because of their ability to raise their compete level against top clubs like Chicago and San Jose. Their physicality, and some clutch netminding from Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi, made the the difference in those wins over the Hawks and Sharks. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 6
    6Anaheim Ducks
    last week: 6
    record: 42-23-10
    Monday's 2–1 win in Edmonton lifted the Ducks to a 3-1-1 mark on their five-game Canadian road swing and pulled them to within a single point of Los Angeles for the top spot in the Pacific. Brandon Pirri chipped in four points on the trip, including the game-winning goal against the Oilers. Just another genius pick-up by GM Bob Murray. Last week: 2-1-1

  • 7
    7San Jose Sharks
    last week: 5
    record: 42-28-6
    The Sharks pulled out of their three-game home-losing skid at the most opportune moment, knocking off the Kings on Monday night to secure their return to the Stanley Cup playoffs. With four of their final six games featuring a non-qualifying opponent, they still have a shot at earning home ice for the first round. Last week: 1-3-0

  • 8
    8Los Angeles Kings
    last week: 3
    record: 45-26-5
    Reuniting the Jeff Carter-Tyler Toffoli-Milan Lucic line helped the Kings break out of their scoring slump for one game, a 6–4 win over Edmonton, but it was back to scratching around in the dirt in Monday's 5–2 loss to San Jose. LA has now dropped five of six and scored more than twice only once in that span. Just as concerning: The Kings have allowed 20 goals in their past five games. What an inopportune time to go cold at both ends of the ice. Last week: 1-3-0

  • 9
    9Florida Panthers
    last week: 14
    record: 42-24-9
    The Cats closed out their road trip in a big way, picking up wins in Boston and Tampa to secure their hold on the top spot in the Atlantic. Now to seal the deal. Florida has seven games remaining and a 10-2 record against their upcoming opponents. They control their destiny. Last week: 2-0-0

  • 10
    10Tampa Bay Lightning
    last week: 10
    record: 44-27-5
    No way around it: The broken leg suffered by Anton Stralman in Friday's 7–4 win over the Islanders seriously impacts Tampa Bay's standing as a Stanley Cup contender. There's no replacing the 29-year-old defender, who plays upwards of 22 minutes per game on the team's top pair and is a key on their power play. They'll be in tough to stay alive in the tournament while he recuperates. Last week: 3-1-0

  • 11
    11Chicago Blackhawks
    last week: 11
    record: 44-25-7
    Not sure that knocking off a couple of patsies like the Flames and Canucks will do much to soothe the jangled nerves in Chicago, but at this point of the season no one turns their nose up at four points. Tuesday's game against the Wild should afford a better view of where this team is at right now. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 12
    12Philadelphia Flyers
    last week: 8
    record: 37-25-13
    If the Flyers end up making the postseason, they might look back on Monday's OT win over the Jets as the pivotal moment. If nothing else, the defensive play by Shayne Gostisbehere leading to the breakaway clincher by Claude Giroux was as exciting a moment as any this season at Wells Fargo Center. Last week: 2-1-1

  • 13
    13Minnesota Wild
    last week: 18
    record: 37-28-11
    Zach Parise is scoring (five goals in two games). Devan Dubnyk looks unbeatable (10-1-1 in his past 13 starts). The power play is on fire (25% since John Torchetti took over behind the bench). And now, as a result of beating Colorado in the biggest game of Minnesota's season (so far), the Wild have a 94.9% chance of securing the West's second wild-card berth. They've earned it. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 14
    14New York Rangers
    last week: 13
    record: 43-24-9
    Three straight wins followed by a solid loss in OT to the Penguins has the Rangers in command of the second spot in the Metro. I'm still not convinced they're going to give anyone a lot of trouble come playoff time, though. New York is a pushover in the possession game against top teams. Might be a short spring. Last week: 2-0-1

  • 15
    15Detroit Red Wings
    last week: 16
    record: 38-27-11
    Humiliated by the Penguins, a needlessly scrambly finish against the Sabres ... I mean, where's the leadership? At a time when the Wings need to be rallying around somebody, both Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk look too exhausted to carry the torch. If someone is going to step up, Tuesday's game in Montreal is the time to do it. Last week: 2-2-0

  • 16
    16Boston Bruins
    last week: 12
    record: 40-28-8
    A 3–1 win over the Maple Leafs on Saturday put a stop to their five-game losing skid but it did nothing to soothe concerns about this team heading toward the playoffs. Fits and spurts of good play might work in Toronto, but it's a lousy formula against quality opponents. With road games in St. Louis and Chicago this week, we'll have a really good idea about how prepared this team is by the end of the week. Last week: 1-2-0

  • 17
    17New York Islanders
    last week: 17
    The Isles took two of three last week to pull out of a potentially devastating slide, but they have to be concerned about their goaltending heading down to the wire. Thomas Greiss is 1-5-1 in his past seven starts and has allowed at least three goals five times. J.F. Berube struggled mightily in a win against the Hurricanes on Sunday, allowing a pair of brutal goals. Time for one of them to step up or the Isles could be sitting out the postseason. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 18
    18Carolina Hurricanes
    last week: 20
    record: 33-28-15
    Another sign of better things to come for the 'Canes: With four goals in his past three games, including a pair in Sunday's 3–2 win over the Devils, Victor Rask now has 20 for the season. It's a significant milestone for the sophomore forward who looks like he'll be a staple of their top-six for years to come. Last week: 2-1-1

  • 19
    19Colorado Avalanche
    last week: 15
    record: 39-33-4
    The Avs had two home games to stake their claim to a wild-card berth and they spit the bit in both. Getting outscored 5–1 in the third periods of those losses to the Flyers and Wild really sums it up: When push came to shove, they buckled under the pressure. Injuries aside, this isn't a playoff-caliber team. Last week: 0-2-0

  • 20
    20New Jersey Devils
    last week: 21
    record: 36-32-8
    Rookie netminder Scott Wedgewood has been terrific since stepping in for the injured Cory Schneider, going 2-1-1 with a .957 save percentage and 1.24 GAA in four appearances. Trade bait, perhaps? Last week: 1-1-1

  • 21
    21Buffalo Sabres
    last week: 22
    record: 31-35-10
    A nice week on and off the ice for the Sabres, who picked up a pair of wins and a pair of college graduates. Power forward Hudson Fasching, a 2013 fourth rounder, signed after three solid years at the University of Minnesota. GM Tim Murray also added coveted free-agent defenseman Casey Nelson out of Minnesota State-Mankato. The 2016 WCHA Defensive Player of the Year picked up points in each of his first two games with Buffalo. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 22
    22Ottawa Senators
    last week: 19
    record: 34-33-9
    No winner of the Norris Trophy has ever come from a team that hasn’t made the playoffs. Can Erik Karlsson buck the trend? Despite his conference-leading scoring numbers, there are plenty of questions about his defense. And no matter how much the stat is reviled by the analytical crowd, that –2 rating looks pretty ugly. He's going to be in tough to pick up the third Norris of his career in June. Last week: 0-2-1

  • 23
    arizona Coyotes
    last week: 28
    record: 34-35-7
    The 'Yotes had won three straight and six of eight before dropping a 5–2 decision to the Flames on Monday night. Anthony Duclair picked up both goals in the loss, giving him 19 for the season. Have to think his teammates will be looking at him and Max Domi (18) over the final few games to try to get the rookies to 20. Last week: 3-1-0

  • 24
    24Montreal Canadiens
    last week: 23
    record: 34-36-6
    After starting 9-0-0, Montreal's season came to an ignominious end with Saturday's loss to the Rangers. The Canadiens have suffered through worse campaigns statistically, but it's hard to remember one in which they've sucked the life out of their fanbase quite like this. Carey Price's injury was truly devastating. Last week: 1-2-1

  • 25
    25Calgary Flames
    last week: 25
    record: 32-38-6
    Johnny Gaudreau lit the lamp in Saturday's loss in Minnesota, which is noteworthy because he almost never scores on the road. The tally was just his fifth as a visitor all season, compared to 23 he's scored at the Saddledome. The kid needs to learn to handle tougher matchups if he's going to become a truly elite player. Last week: 1-2-0

  • 26
    26Edmonton Oilers
    last week: 24
    record: 30-42-7
    Picking up Patrick Maroon for a third-rounder is looking like one of the trade deadline's best deals. The burly winger has provided a reliable physical presence, as expected, but he's also surprised with his offensive production (five goals and 11 points in 13 games since joining the Oilers). With two years remaining on his deal, he could make himself an important part of this rebuild. Last week: 1-3-0

  • 27
    27Toronto Maple Leafs
    last week: 27
    record: 27-37-11
    Coach Mike Babcock can't make this team score, but he sure makes it work. The Leafs roundly outplayed the playoff-bound Lightning on Monday night, outshooting them 34-18, another sign of the foundation being laid during this transitional campaign. Last week: 1-2-0

  • 28
    28Winnipeg Jets
    last week: 30
    record: 31-38-7
    Their playoff hopes were officially dashed last week, but there's still something to look forward to for Jets fans. Kyle Connor, the team's top pick last June, could choose to turn pro after scoring 35 goals and 71 points in just 38 games with Michigan. With little left to prove at the college level, it makes sense for the flashy forward to move on to the next stage of his career. Last week: 2-1-1

  • 29
    29Columbus Blue Jackets
    last week: 26
    record: 30-38-8
    After going 0-5-1 in their last six games away from Nationwide Arena, the Jackets may well end the season as the league's worst road team. They'll play four of their next five away from the friendly confines of their home rink, and could easily finish last overall as well. Last week: 1-3-0

  • 30
    30Vancouver Canucks
    last week: 29
    record: 27-35-13
    Must be long lines at Canada Post lately, what with all the mailed-in performances by the Canucks. Vancouver is 0-7-1 in its past eight games, a span during which the Canucks scored a total of seven goals while being blanked four times. Easy to question the heart of several players on this squad, most notably Jake Virtanen and Emerson Etem. Not sure either of them are NHL players at this point. Last week: 0-3-1

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