• The Predators are asserting their control over the West while the Panthers are sneaking up on playoff position in the East.
By Jeremy Fuchs
March 06, 2018

It's too early to fully assess the impact of the deadline, so we'll just play these rankings straight. There’s two interesting things of note. 

First: Bring on the Predators. They’re playing their best hockey of the season, at the best time. Nashville is on an eight-game winning streak and getting key contributions from recently acquired Ryan Hartman and un-retired Mike Fisher. Could Eeli Tolvanen join the fold soon? The Finnish teen forward—the Preds' top draft pick (no. 30) in 2017—is ready to make the jump once the KHL season is over and could make an immediate impact.

Second: Bring on the… Panthers? They're not that far out of it in the East and have some games in hand. The fact that they were in on Ryan McDonagh suggests that they think they have a shot. They could be a dangerous playoff team, especially with Sasha Barkov currently firing on all cylinders. He's found a rhythm with Evgenii Dadonov, giving Florida some offensive depth along with a reinvigorated back end.

Here's how we see teams stacking up in the NHL, from 31-1 (stats and records through Monday's games):

31. Arizona Coyotes
Last week: 31 (-)
Record: 20-34-11

A good win against Minnesota, but Yotes fans still can dream: Pairing up Rasmus Dahlin with Oliver Ekman-Larsson would be fun.

30. Buffalo Sabres
Last week: 30 (-)
Record: 21-34-11

A nice win against Tampa Bay. Buffalo has been competitive all season, but the Sabres just don't have the skill to get over the top. But there's hope: they're buying into Phil Housley.

29. Ottawa Senators
Last week: 29 (-)
Record: 23-32-10

Wouldn't be surprised to see a post-deadline takeoff, now that the swirl of rumors can die down a bit. Erik Karlsson (2-5-7 in four games) has already gotten a start.

28. Vancouver Canucks
Last week: 27 (-1)
Record: 25-32-9

It’s got to be frustrating getting 55 shots off against the Rangers and losing. Goalie Jacob Markstrom has been decent, but it's just not a good enough defense in front of him.

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27. Edmonton Oilers
Last week: 25 (-2)
Record: 28-34-4

They showed some fight against the Kings and Ducks and lost a tough one to Nashville. But it's still the Connor McDavid show with no supports acts.

26. Montreal Canadiens
Last week: 28 (+2)
Record: 25-29-11

It’s puzzling how how a tea with a pretty good power play can be so anemic offensively. Losing Max Pacioretty to injury is a huge blow.

25. New York Rangers
Last week: 26 (+1)
Record: 30-30-6

The Rangers might have scored some keepers in Ryan Spooner and Vlad Namestnikov, but it's obvious the Rangers are trotting out a minor league defense right now.

24.Chicago Blackhawks
Last week: 23 (-1)
Record: 28-30-8

A few ugly losses. It's clear they can't compete without Corey Crawford, but the Hawks have to be concerned that their organization has no goaltending depth right now.

23.Detroit Red Wings
Last week: 24 (+1)
Record: 26-29-10

At points this season, Jimmy Howard has shown he's back in form. He looked better for parts of February, but fatigue may become a factor if the Wings continue to ride him.

22. New York Islanders
Last week: 19 (-3)
Record: 29-29-9

They’re falling off the rails. The Isles are giving up way too many shots and if the offense doesn’t show up on a given night, there’s no chance of a win.

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21. Carolina Hurricanes
Last week: 21 (-)
Record: 29-26-11

Justin Williams remains Mr. Clutch, scoring twice to knock off the six-game losing streak. Still, this team is trending in the wrong direction as playoff time comes near.

20. Florida Panthers
Last week: 22 (+2)
Record: 32-25-6

We thought about putting Florida ahead of Columbus, and next week that may be the case. There was too much offensive talent for the team to remain dormant all season, but the out-of-nowhere good goaltending has stabilized things.

19.Columbus Blue Jackets
Last week: 16 (-3)
Record: 33-28-5

Even with Thomas Vanek, the team is just too one-dimensional offensively. The Jackets are still in playoff position, but Florida is charging hard.

18. St. Louis Blues
Last week: 20 (+2)
Record: 35-26-5

St. Louis certainly has had a fall from grace, although the Blues still have a playoff chance. Injuries to Jay Bouwmeester and Scottie Upshall aren’t helping—imagine a healthy season from this team?

17. Calgary Flames
Last week: 15 (-2)
Record: 32-25-10

They’re in the midst of a bit of a swoon with losses in four straight and just starting a trip out East. The could use Mike Smith back between the pipes, and soon.

16. Colorado Avalanche
Last week: 18 (+2)
Record: 35-24-6

The Avs are obviously a different team when Nathan MacKinnon plays, but 1 for 7 on the power play against Calgary is an interesting development.

15. Anaheim Ducks
Last week: 12 (-3)
Record: 33-21-12

It's a good thing John Gibson has returned to practice, because back-to-back losses to Arizona and Edmonton are unacceptable for a team in the playoff hunt.

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14. New Jersey Devils
Last week: 14 (-)
Record: 33-25-8

Trading for Taylor Hall keeps looking better on a daily basis—his personal point streak is up to 25 games. Still, the Devils are still a bit too top-heavy.

13. Pittsburgh Penguins
Last week: 9 (-4)
Record: 38-35-4

Top goalie Matt Murray is back to skating following a concussion, which is a good sign— the Pens need Murray for any kind of playoff run. Backup options Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith haven’t been up to snuff in his absence.

12. Dallas Stars
Last week: 13 (+1)
Record: 37-23-6

It’s been a mixed bag for the Stars, who have given up five goals twice in their past four games, both to contenders in the Jets and Bolts. It doesn’t help that they’re trying to find their offense right now, too.

11. Los Angeles Kings
Last week: 17 (+6)
Record: 36-25-5

They’re quietly turning things around with good wins against Winnipeg, Vegas and Columbus in recent weeks. Jonathan Quick has led the resurgence from the crease, but there has been a bit more scoring than normal as well.

10. Philadelphia Flyers
Last week: 11 (+1)
Record: 34-21-11

The first three games of Petr Mrazek’s Philly tenure were better than the last three, though he’s had little help from his defense, which is allowing too many shots to get through. He’s still the type of goalie capable of a run that could rival Michael Leighton’s 2010 postseason.

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9. Washington Capitals
Last week: 7 (-2)
Record: 37-21-7

Is it time to talk about Braden Holtby? The Stadium Series win over the Maple Leafs broke a personal six-game losing streak and he’s 3-5-2 in his last 10. Backup Phillipp Grubauer, meanwhile, is 4-2 in his last six.

8. San Jose Sharks
Last week: 10 (+2)
Record: 35-22-9

It's good to see both Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns pick things up, because the Sharks needed that boost. If they could add it to the man-advantage, that would be great—San Jose hasn’t scored on the power play since Feb. 8, an 0 for 28 stretch.

7. Minnesota Wild
Last week: 8 (+1)
Record: 37-22-7

Not sure we're buying the Eric Staal-for-Hart Trophy talk, but what breaking the 30-goal mark this season is undoubtedly impressive. Many contenders have had a weird loss to Arizona, but the Wild’s looked particularly bad.

6. Winnipeg Jets
Last week: 4 (-2)
Record: 39-17-9

It was a tough loss to Nashville, but new acquisition Paul Stastny seems to be settling in quickly. The power play has been a bit up and down of late.

5. Toronto Maple Leafs
Last week: 6 (+1)
Record: 39-22-7

Quietly humming along, and still without Matthews. When he comes back, it will be a race between the Leafs and Boston for the two seed.

4. Boston Bruins
Last week: 5 (+1)
Record: 40-15-8

Well, that was a weird 8-4 win over Pittsburgh last week. The depth from the deadline should help them withstand the loss of Patrice Bergeron for a few weeks, but if Charlie McAvoy is anything more than day-to-day, it will be a big test.

3. Vegas Golden Knights
Last week: 2 (-1)
Record: 42-18-5

Two tough losses in the home-and-home with the Kings. You wonder if they should've added a defender at the trade deadline. The no-superstar crew has been good this year, but an extra body might could have helped down the stretch.

2. Nashville Predators
Last week: 3 (+1)
Record: 42-14-9

The Predators are on fire right now. The win against Winnipeg was especially impressive with Roman Josi racking up five assists. It seems like the Preds can cruise to a division title.

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1. Tampa Bay Lightning
Last week: 1 (-)
Record: 45-17-4

The Lightning could sweep Hart, Art Ross and Vezina this year. (And it's not like Victor Hedman has been bad, either). An embarrassment of depth, and Ondrej Palat should be back from a lower-body injury soon.

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