There’s less than two weeks left in the NHL regular season and with only a handful of games remaining, every point means so very much. In the Eastern Conference, only the second wild-card spot really still seems to be up for grabs and only the Ottawa Senators (three points behind) are close enough to catch the Bruins for that last playoff spot.
On the other end of the spectrum in the West, the Los Angeles Kings are teetering on the edge of not qualifying for the playoffs and sit two points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild-card spot. Kings players have logged a lot of minutes over the past few years, just like the Bruins in the East, but Jets D-man Dustin Byfuglien is also facing a lengthy suspension that could derail the Jets’ chances.
It should be instructive to see if LA has got anything left in the tank for a late-season rally into the postseason.
Without further ado, here are this week’s power rankings:
1. Anaheim Ducks (50-22-7, rank last week: 4) – The Ducks have won four in a row and they lead the NHL with 107 points. It’s another very impressive regular season for them as they wrap up their third Pacific Division title.
2. New York Rangers (48-21-7, LW: 1) - A big victory over Winnipeg got the Rangers back in the winning ways, and they have King Henrik back in the fold as well. Those guys are setting up for a pretty good run.
3. Nashville Predators (47-22-9, LW: 7) – Some impressive wins by the Predators over the Canadiens and Lightning as they head toward the playoffs on a good note.
4. Montreal Canadiens (47-22-8, LW: 2) – It’s amazing that they just can’t beat the Tampa Bay Lightning. It’s kind of like how they just can’t lose to the Bruins.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning (47-24-7, LW: 3) – The Bolts probably should be ahead of the Habs given their thorough domination of them, but they’ll just have to settle for the perfect 5-0-0 record against them this season.
6. Chicago Blackhawks (46-24-6, LW: 6) – Big wins over Winnipeg and Los Angeles and Patrick Kane has returned to practice. Things are looking up for Chicago.
7. Minnesota Wild (44-25-7, LW: 13) – The Wild are 26-6-2 since the middle of January and they’ve turned Devan Dubnyk into the second coming of [insert Minnesota goaltending great here].
8. St. Louis Blues (46-23-7, LW: 5) – The Blues have lost five of six and got spanked pretty badly by Columbus and Vancouver in back-to-back losses. They are not finishing up strong.
9. Vancouver Canucks (45-27-5, LW: 11) – Canucks started off a big road trip with an impressive win over the Blues, but their work isn’t done yet in what’s been a very promising season for them.
10. New York Islanders (45-27-5, LW: 9) – At 4-6-3, the month of March has brought the Isles crashing back to Earth with a thud.
11. Pittsburgh Penguins (42-24-11, LW: 8) – Tough blow losing Kris Letang to a serious concussion after he was tossed by Shane Doan. The Penguins can’t afford to lose any of their top end players given the real lack of depth on their top-heavy roster.
12. Calgary Flames (42-28-7, LW: 16) – The Flames have won two in a row at exactly the right time and still have a huge game potentially looming with the Kings next week. That will be a real test for a young, inexperienced Calgary bunch.
13. Detroit Red Wings (40-23-13, LW: 10) – Big shootout loss to the Sens where Wings were having a difficult time generating offense with no Pavel Datsyuk in the lineup. Detroit limping to the finish line.
14. Washington Capitals (42-25-10, LW: 14) – The Capitals have gone on a solid 6-2-0 run since shutting out the Bruins a couple of weeks ago.
15. Boston Bruins (39-25-13, LW: 18) – A three-game winning streak is the latest upswing for the roller-coaster Bruins. The kill-shot win over the Panthers on Tuesday night was an impressive show of killer instinct.
16. Winnipeg Jets (39-26-12, LW: 12) – Bad time for Dustin Byfuglien to lose his temper and get suspended, isn’t it?
17. Los Angeles Kings (37-25-14, LW: 17) – This Kings group has played a L-O-T of hockey over the last few years. They just might not have it in them this season, but don’t count them out until the math says they are done.
18. Ottawa Senators (38-26-12, LW: 15) – Who knew the Hamburglar could hurt his back carrying the Senators?
19. Florida Panthers (35-27-15, LW: 19) – The Panthers battled valiantly over the last few months, but one soft Roberto Luongo goal allowed was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
20. Dallas Stars (37-30-10, LW: 20) – Dallas now knows that flashy scoring isn’t enough.
21. San Jose Sharks (38-30-9, LW: 21) – Things will be getting real this summer when the Sharks miss the playoffs for the first time since trading for Jumbo Joe.
22. Columbus Blue Jackets (37-35-4, LW: 25) – The Blue Jackets have won seven in a row and whetted the fans’ appetite for next season when Columbus is again healthy.
23. Philadelphia Flyers (31-29-17, LW: 24) – Tough year for Ron Hextall, who should be looking to shake things up this winter. If only they could play the Penguins every single night.
24. Colorado Avalanche (35-30-12, LW: 22) – The Avs need to hang their head in shame after losing 4-1 to the Edmonton Oilers and then getting stomped by the Sharks. Wait until next year, Patrick.
25. New Jersey Devils (31-33-13, LW: 23) – The Devils have lost six in a row down the stretch and need some serious youth on next season's roster.
26. Toronto Maple Leafs (29-43-6, LW: 26) – Credit Tyler Bozak for not going down without a fight in his hat trick performance against Ottawa last weekend. But that’s about all I’ve got for this dysfunctional group.
27. Carolina Hurricanes (28-37-11, LW: 27) – The Hurricanes are a tough out even now, but they’ve also lost six of their last eight games headed into the final stretch.
28. Edmonton Oilers (23-41-13, LW: 28) – The Oilers lost six in a row to start March and had won three straight with Richard Bachman playing strong between the pipes prior to playing the victim to the streaking Ducks.
29. Arizona Coyotes (23-46-8, LW: 29) – Tank harder, Arizona...tank harder.
30. Buffalo Sabres (22-47-8, LW: 30) – The Sabres have won two in a row. It might be time for Tim Murray to order a few code reds, and get some AHL guys in the Buffalo lineup for these crucial final few games.