NHL Power Rankings (Mar. 13th)
1. St. Louis Blues (44-14-7) (up 3)
All the Blues needed was a proven, top five goaltender to be considered elite and they got him in the form of Ryan Miller at the trade deadline. With Miller between the pipes, who’s yet to lose a game in regulation since coming to the team (4-0-1 record, 1.78 GAA), the possibilities are endless for the Notes.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins (44-17-4) (down 1)
Though the Pens’ D corps is extremely banged up, the team continues to get it done and remain atop the Eastern Conference. Sidney Crosby has worked his usual magic all year (88 points in 65 games played, +10 rating) and Marc-Andre Fleury is having the best season of his career, so once Paul Martin heals up things should be even better for Pittsburgh. The productivity that Dan Bylsma has gotten out of his players this year has been remarkable, specifically out of 19-year old rookie Olli Maata, who wasn’t even supposed to make the team and has 28 points and is a +12.
3. Chicago Blackhawks (38-13-14) (down 1)
Not much to say here. The defending Stanley Cup Champions are still my favorite to emerge out of the West for the second straight year; the Hawks are the most balanced, skilled, and well-coached team in the league.
4. Boston Bruins (42-17-5) (up 2)
12-2-2 in its last sixteen games, the B’s have been rolling the entire second half of the season. Will there ever be a year that the Bruins aren’t in the playoffs?
5. Anaheim Ducks (43-15-7) (down 2)
It seems that age has caught up with Bruce Boudreau’s squad recently. The league’s 12th oldest team is just 4-4-2 in its last ten games and though Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are still producing at their regular rates, depth is proving to be a growing issue. The two Canadian Olympians have combined to score 137 points, but there’s a huge drop-off after them; the next highest point scorer on the team is Nick Bonino, who has 25 less points than Perry and 30 less than Getzlaf. I’ve never thought of the Ducks as more than a first or second round playoff out anyways.
6. San Jose Sharks (42-17-7) (up 1)
The Sharks have been the league’s streakiest team all year, but since the return of Logan Couture after the Olympic break, San Jose has gone 4-0-1 and looks to be back to its customary, high-scoring ways. If the team’s goaltending can continue to be nothing short of stellar, this may finally be the year that the Sharks make it out of the West.
7. Los Angeles Kings (38-22-6) (up 6)
Marian Gaborik has yet to record a point since being acquired by the Kings at the trade deadline, but Los Angeles has still been the West’s hottest team as of late. The Kings are on an eight game winning streak and it doesn’t seem like the USA failing to medal in Sochi has had a negative impact on Jonathan Quick’s mindset.
8. Colorado Avalanche (42-18-5) (down 3)
The Avs aren’t the same team that they were earlier in the season but they’re still a lock to make the playoffs and can hang with any team in the league. Though Nathan Mackinnon’s record-setting point streak is now over, Colorado still has Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly, and Captain Gabriel Landeskog to rely on for scoring.
9. Minnesota Wild (34-22-9) (up 3)
It looks like Darcy Kuemper may be the solution in net for the future after all. Since starting off the season 4-3, the second-year goaltender has compiled an extraordinary 7-1-3 record and has kept Minnesota in its wild card playoff spot. With Matt Moulson now on the roster, the Wild finally have two concrete scoring lines that can matchup up with the best of them.
10. Montreal Canadiens (35-24-7) (up 4)
After adding Thomas Vanek at the trade deadline, the Canadiens immediately emerged as the Eastern Conference’s third-best team behind the Penguins and Bruins. Montreal now has one of the strongest rosters in the league, not to mention the goaltender who led Team Canada to its second-straight Gold Medal at the Winter Olympics.
11. Toronto Maple Leafs (35-24-8) (down 3)
12. Dallas Stars (32-23-10) (up 5) – Can Tim Thomas hold down the fort while Kari Lehtonen is sidelined with a concussion?
13. Columbus Blue Jackets (34-26-5) (down 2)
14. New York Rangers (35-27-4) (down 4) – One would think that with Martin St. Louis this would be the highest-scoring team in the league; however, without a captain, it will be hard for the Blueshirts to play up to the team’s full potential.
15. Phoenix Coyotes (31-24-11) (up 1)
16. Philadelphia Flyers (33-25-7) (up 3) – The Flyers look to have safely secured a playoff spot with a little help from the banged up Red Wings.
17. Washington Capitals (30-27-10) (up 7) – I fully expect the Caps to make the playoffs with Jaro Halak now in net and Dustin Penner standing in front of the net on the power play.
18. Tampa Bay Lightning (34-24-7) (down 9) – Steven Stamkos is back, but this isn’t going to be a playoff team for much longer.
19. New Jersey Devils (29-24-13) (up 6) – The NHL’s last team to win a game, New Jersey would probably be in the playoffs right now if it didn’t have such a slow start. It would also help if the Devils won a shootout (0-8 record in the skills competition).
20. Ottawa Senators (28-25-12) (up 3) – Ales Hemsky (6 points in 3 games played with the Sens) isn’t your typical first-line winger, but he’s certainly an upgrade over anyone Jason Spezza has played with this year.
21. Winnipeg Jets (30-28-8) (down 3)
22. Detroit Red Wings (29-23-13) (down 2) – It’s kind of hard to win hockey games when your team’s top five centers are all injured (Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Weiss, Helm, Andersson). Unless the Wings magically heal up, it looks like the team’s 22-year playoff streak is going to come to an unfortunate end.
23. Nashville Predators (28-28-10) (down 1) – Unluckily, Pekka Rinne came back from his hip injury too late; I think Nashville would’ve been a playoff team if he had been healthy all season.
24. Carolina Hurricanes (28-28-9) (down 3)
25. Vancouver Canucks (29-28-10) (down 10) – The Canucks are 6-17-3 in 2014. Nothing else needs to be said other than that Mike Gillis should never be allowed to work in an NHL team’s front office ever again.
26. Calgary Flames (25-33-7)
27. New York Islanders (25-33-9)
28. Florida Panthers (24-34-7) – Roberto Luongo is back where he’s always wanted to be, but the Cats just can’t muster up enough offense in the first period of games. When the Panthers score first, the team’s won 16 games, but when the team fails to score first, it’s only won 8 games all year.
29. Edmonton Oilers (23-35-8)
30. Buffalo Sabres (19-38-8) – It’s safe to say that Buffalo is going to have its pick of Sam Reinhardt or Aaron Ekblad in the 2014 NHL Draft, unless Edmonton wins the draft lottery again.
Hockey Tracker Rankings are prepared weekly by hockey writer Freddy Kasten.