By Allan Muir
March 11, 2014
NHL Power Rankings
1 St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 1
St. Louis Blues (44-14-6)
The main reason why St. Louis is pulling away in its top-heavy division? After knocking off Colorado and Minnesota on the road over the weekend, the Blues have won 17 straight against Central opponents and now boast an 18-0-1 mark against them for the season. But they're not just feasting on locals. With three road wins last week, the Blues now have 21 on the year, tops in the league and two more than they earned during the last full schedule of 2011-12. (Last week: 4-0-0)
2 Boston Bruins
Last Week: 3
Boston Bruins (42-17-5)
Another efficient week for the Bruins, who rode two wins over the Panthers and one over the Lightning to a season sweep of the state of Florida (9-0). The addition of Andrei Meszaros at the deadline helps solidify the back end, but maybe not as much as the rapid development of Kevan Miller. The rookie has done a nice job defensively and proved to be a reliable physical presence in the absence of Adam McQuaid. (Last week: 4-0-0)
3 Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 5
For all the success the Avs have had this season, including a smart 17-7-1 record since the calendar changed to 2014, they haven't yet figured out how to solve the Blues. Still, after being skated out of the building in two November losses, there was a moral victory to be culled from Saturday's 2-1 loss to St. Louis. Coach Patrick Roy rightly assessed the effort as better than in the team's win over Detroit on Thursday, and with the Avs earning most of the chances in the game, it's clear that the gap between them is closing on the ice as well as in the standings. (Last week: 2-1-0(
4 Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 14
The NHL's hottest team rattled off eight wins in a row, including three straight on the road, and its stingiest defense has allowed only 12 goals during the streak. The Kings' GAA has fallen to just 2.04 per game while their Marian Gaborik-enhanced offense is finally starting to find its groove. Maybe the most frightening thing about this team is its ability to turn games into 40-minute contests. Los Angeles is 21-0-0 this season when leading after two periods. (Last week: 3-0-0)
5 San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 6
San Jose Sharks (41-17-7)
With the Ducks swooning, the Sharks have ridden a 7-2-1 streak to within four points of first place in the Pacific Division. But as nice as their past couple of wins, over Pittsburgh and Montreal, have been, it's the way they were earned that speaks loudly about the Sharks' chances heading into the postseason. San Jose dug its way out of a two-goal deficit against the Pens by hitting everything in sight, then stood up to every physical challenge offered by the Habs in a fight-filled 4-0 blowout on Saturday. This team won't be pushed around. (Last week: 2-0-1)
6 Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 4
The Pens wrapped up a five-game road trip with hard-fought wins over the Ducks and Capitals, and now get to play eight of their remaining 11 March games at Consol Energy Center where they have an Eastern Conference-leading 23-4-2 mark. Nice to see blueliner Brooks Orpik have a solid game in that 3-2 victory over the Caps on Monday. He's been lousy of late, but that one was a throwback to his simple, physical best. Maybe it's a sign of good things to come. (Last week: 3-1-0)
7 Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 2
Anaheim Ducks (43-15-7)
The Ryan Getzlaf/Corey Perry-led Ducks collapsed down the stretch in the wake of the 2010 Olympic Games. After the current edition of their team dropped three straight last week, it's fair to wonder if history is about to repeat itself. Anaheim's offense is in a rut, producing two or fewer goals in six of its last nine games, and the power play has connected just once in its last 19 chances. GM Bob Murray says he likes his team as-is, but you have to wonder if his inability to add a significant forward at the deadline will come back to haunt him. (Last week: 0-1-2)
8 Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 7
Chicago Blackhawks (38-13-14)
It doesn't matter that the victims were Columbus and Buffalo. Stringing together consecutive victories for just the second time in their past 14 games has to feel like a glorious winning stretch to the Hawks. Still, they know that their 18-9-10 mark over their last 37 games has brought them back to the pack, and they've got to find the "on" switch well before they get to the playoffs. And with no major adds at the deadline, they're going to have to figure out how to flip it themselves. (Last week: 2-1-0)
9 Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 8
Minnesota Wild (34-22-8)
A 9-3-3 run helps put this team's recent hiccup in context, but it was a lost weekend for the Wild, who blew a third-period late in Dallas and then had to dig their way out of an early two-goal deficit against the Blues in order to secure a point at home on Sunday. The Wild still have a hold on the West's first wild card spot, but giving up those two late goals to the Stars -- both self-inflicted wounds -- allowed Dallas to pull to within four points. On the bright side, Matt Moulson (1-1-2) looks like a good fit on the second line after two games with Minnesota. (Last week: 0-1-1)
10 New York Rangers
Last Week: 9
New York Rangers (35-26-4)
A league executive told me last week that he thought the Rangers were a good bet to make the Eastern Conference Final, and that was before the Blueshirts added Martin St. Louis to their mix. The 2013 Art Ross Trophy winner gives New York a different dimension up front, bringing speed and consistent production to an offense that needed a dose of each. Add another strong week from Henrik Lundqvist, who earned his 300th career win by shutting out the Red Wings on Sunday to a re-signed Dan Girardi and the pieces are all coming together for this team. (Last week: 2-0-1)
11 Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 11
Artem Anisimov picked a good time to turn on the jets. The NHL's Second Star of the Week has six goals and seven points in the team's six games since the Olympic break, and he set a franchise record by scoring the clinching goal in three straight wins. After a tough 6-1 loss to the Hawks on Thursday, he came back and scored the only goal in a 1-0 shutout of the Predators. Anisimov now has 19 goals this season, a new career high. (Last week: 2-1-0)
12 Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 18
GM Paul Holmgren didn't get his men at the deadline, failing to bring in either Ryan Kesler or Shea Weber, but he has to like the look of his team down the stretch. The Flyers are 7-1-1 since the start of February and if not for their sluggish start in Saturday's loss to Toronto, they'd be on a four-game winning streak. Might be time for Philly's PR team to start pumping the tires of Craig Berube for coach of the year. (Last week: 1-0-1)
13 Dallas Stars
Last Week: 15
Dallas Stars (31-23-10)
It started out as such a promising week for the Stars. The trade that brought them Conn Smythe and Vezina Trophy-winner Tim Thomas. The humiliation by the Islanders of their closest playoff pursuer, Vancouver, and then a stunning come-from-behind win over the team that Dallas is pursuing, the Wild. But then came the concussion sustained by starting goalie Kari Lehtonen followed by the frightening cardiac event suffered by forward Rich Peverley on Monday night. After watching their teammate collapse like that, will this club all right? (Last week: 2-1-0)
14 Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 10
Someone is probably willing to put a positive spin on a couple of points gained from shootout losses as valuable ground gained, but there's really no way to sugarcoat five straight defeats, including three at home. Shaken by the trade of captain (and offensive lynchpin) Martin St. Louis, the Bolts look like a team that is struggling to adapt to a new normal. The return of Steven Stamkos hasn't helped them out of their funk. After two decent games, their sniper looked off his game on Monday night against the Coyotes. His rust might take a while to shake. (Last week: 0-2-2)
15 Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 17
Their formula's a pretty beautiful thing when it works: Toronto's top line, led by Hart Trophy-candidate Phil Kessel, chips in with a couple of goals; goalie Jonathan Bernier makes like a four-by-six brick wall; David Clarkson takes an opponent out behind the woodshed; and Dion Phaneuf throws himself in front of pucks like he's getting paid to do it. I still don't trust a team that gives up a league-worst 36.1 shots per game, but you have to respect its ability to string together a few wins. (Last week: 3-0-0)
16 Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 13
Detroit Red Wings (29-22-13)
Coach Mike Babcock proved what he could do with a team of talented, disciplined players in Sochi. Unfortunately, that's not what he has to work with in Detroit. This injury-riddled lineup knows how to take a lead, but it doesn't know how to hold one. The Wings have lost leads in the final minute of play in in three of their six games since the Olympic break, including an embarrassing OT loss to the Avs on the night of Nick Lidstrom's number retirement. (Last week: 1-2-1)
17 Winnipeg Jets
Last Week: 12
Winnipeg Jets (30-28-8)
As an outsider, it's easy to sympathize with GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. His team was down a key forward (Mark Schiefele) and unlikely to make much noise in the playoffs even with the rookie center in the lineup. Folding his hand and holding onto his assets instead of making a big push at the deadline was the sensible thing to do. But for Winnipeg's long-suffering fans, the GM's inactivity came off like a tacit acceptance of mediocrity. Or worse, fear of making a mistake. (Last week: 0-2-2)
18 Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 16
There was talk last week after Montreal acquired --alright, stole-- Thomas Vanek that his combination of size and finishing touch might be enough to propel the Habs into contention for the Eastern Conference title. It didn't last long. A 1-3 West Coast swing and an injury to top-four defenseman Josh Gorges that may sideline him the rest of the regular season have tempered expectations. You have to give Montreal some leeway after a brutal stretch of seven games in 11 days, but 3-3-1 wasn't the result this team expected. With four out of their next five games at home, the Habs need to quickly jump start their stretch drive. (Last week: 1-2-0)
19 Washington Capitals
Last Week: 19
There was a piece written in the wake of Monday night's 3-2 loss to the Pens in which author Mike Wise complimented several aspects of Washington's game, but he concluded that the Caps simply couldn't match Pittsburgh's grit. Again, Pittsburgh's grit. If that standard of physical tenacity is beyond these Caps, then there's no need to play the final 16 games of the season. They're done. (Last week: 1-3-0)
20 New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 21
New Jersey Devils (28-24-13)
No wonder Jaromir Jagr wants to stick around. According to beat writer Rich Chere, the Devils, who scored 2.29 goals per game in the first half, have turned into an offensive juggernaut, averaging 4.33 since the Olympic break. Of course, that focus has taken away from their defensive duties -- their goals-against is up from 2.47 to 3.5 per night -- but as long as they score more than they give up, the trade-off works. They're 4-2 since Sochi and have pulled within two points of a wild card berth. (Last week: 2-1-0)
21 Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 22
Phoenix Coyotes (30-24-11)
A team that's let a wild card berth slip out of its grasp can't afford to blow two-goal leads in the third period. That's exactly what the Coyotes did twice in a seven-day span, with the latest meltdown occurring on Saturday in Washington when they allowed the Caps to score twice in 32 seconds and turn the tide of the game. The Yotes have to tighten up in their own zone, and figure out a way to win out East where they've dropped four of their last five. (Last week: 2-1-0)
22 Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 20
Ottawa Senators (28-25-12)
Monday night's home game against the Predators was a must-win for a team that had lost six of 10. Well, after falling behind 3-0 only to lose in OT, let's make that seven of 11. Nice comeback in the third to earn a point, but how does a team fighting for its playoff life dig itself a hole like that? Oh yeah, that's right ... the Sens just aren't that good. (Last week: 1-2-1)
23 Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 23
With just two wins in their last 10 games --including a 3-2 OT win over the Sharks on the road last Tuesday -- the Hurricanes have tumbled wholeheartedly into irrelevance with only a top-10 draft pick on the line from here on out. There was good news off the ice, though, with goalie Anton Khudobin signing a new two-year deal and GM Jim Rutherford somehow getting the Devils to take Tuomo Ruutu and his brutal contract off Carolina's hands. (Last week: 1-2-0)
24 Calgary Flames
Last Week: 24
Calgary Flames (25-33-7)
There's no spinning Brian Burke's failure to move Mike Cammalleri at the deadline. The market might not have been what Burke had hoped, but something would have been better than the nothing the veteran forward will become in July. That said, Burke deserves full marks for turning goalie Reto Berra into a second rounder. Not only is that terrific value, but by moving Berra a spot opened in Calgary for Joni Ortio. His numbers haven't been great so far -- 2.24 GAA and .907 save percentage -- but it was important to get a good look at the 22-year-old netminder down the stretch to see if he's someone who can contribute next season. (Last week: 2-2-0)
25 New York Islanders
Last Week: 27
Talk about a lousy week. First, GM Garth Snow got a tail pinned on him by the Canadiens in his humiliating Thomas Vanek deal. Then the Isles were beaten up for their lunch money by the Flames and Oilers. New York was poised to go 0-for-Western Canada when the Isles went down 3-0 to the floundering Canucks before scoring a franchise-record seven third-period goals and salvaging two points. Meaningless, sure, but during a season like this you bask in any bright spot you can find. (Last week: 2-2-0)
26 Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 25
Vancouver Canucks (29-28-10)
At this point, no one in Vancouver should assume they know exactly what rock bottom looks like. Just when the Canucks thought they'd slammed face-first into it after a heartless 6-1 loss to Dallas, they flailed and flopped their way to a new low by allowing the Islanders -- the Islanders! -- to score seven third-period goals in a 7-4 drubbing on Monday—the very same day that GM Mike Gillis sent out a letter to season ticket holders expressing his commitment to win the Stanley Cup. If this keeps up much longer, he might have to pursue that goal with a new organization. (Last week: 1-3-0)
27 Nashville Predators
Last Week: 26
After dropping four straight at home -- and scoring all of three goals in the process -- the Preds took their show on the road and pulled one out in OT against Ottawa. Nice to end the skid, but it's too little, too late. Eight points and four teams separate Nashville from the final wild card spot, an impassable canyon for a team that's won just three of its last 10. At least Nashville's deadline trade looks like it might pay dividends down the road. Forward Calle Jarnkrok has three goals in his first two games with AHL Milwaukee. (Last week: 1-3-0)
28 Florida Panthers
Last Week: 28
Florida Panthers (24-33-7)
No surprise that they dropped a pair to the Bruins, or that they knocked off the cellar-dwelling Sabres, but who on Earth saw that Roberto Luongo deal coming? Say what you want about the risk involved with picking up his bloated contract, but for a team in search of an identity, and some long-term stability between the pipes, that was the sort of win that'll give Panthers fans a reason to come back with higher hopes next season. (Last week: 1-2-0)
29 Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 30
Edmonton Oilers (22-35-8) )
The Oilers started the season with Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera between the pipes. After some savvy work by GM Craig MacTavish, they'll head into next season with Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth. Neither is an established No. 1, but both have displayed that potential to be one during the past 12 months. Getting Scrivens under contract and Fasth in a deal made this a one-step-forward week for the Oil. (Last week: 2-1-0)
30 Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 29
Buffalo Sabres (19-37-8)
Give it up for Tim Murray. Faced with a surprisingly tight market, the Sabres' rookie GM performed like a seasoned vet on his first deadline day. Not only did he manage to snag decent returns for Matt Moulson and Jaroslav Halak, he showed a willingness to be aggressive by moving his own picks and acquire a pair of forward prospects he coveted from the Kings. It takes conviction and courage and a well-defined plan to make deals like those. (Last week: 1-2-0)

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