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Capital punishment

Alex Ovechkin is having a down year in terms of production, but he's posted 10 points in his past seven games. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Alex Ovechkin is having a down year in terms of production, but he's posted 10 points in his past seven games. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images)

Two teams wrapped with the stigma of underachieving at the most important time of the year have caught fire and are coming on strong after letting off the gas a little during the regular season.

The San Jose Sharks’ post-season struggles are well-documented: In eight of the past nine seasons, San Jose has posted at least 95 points (and at least 100 points five times), but have yet to advance to the Stanley Cup final despite owning some awesome firepower.

In the East, it’s the Washington Capitals who are headed down the same road. With three consecutive division titles, the young Caps are full of offense and excitement, but have also lost three straight Game 7s to end their season. Are they just learning to lose before they win big, or are they writing the same story as the Sharks?

Regardless, known for their dynamic regular seasons, both the Capitals and Sharks struggled at times in 2010-11, but both have fought back to assume control of their divisions once again. With the Caps committing to defense and the more-experienced Sharks hitting an upswing at the right time, is this the season both reach their award-winning potential?

THE HOCKEY NEWS POWER RANKINGS
RK.
TEAM
LW
OVERALL
P10
THE SCOOP
1
Vancouver Canucks
1
46-16-9
8-2-0
First place all but locked down - only thing left to figure out is if Daniel Sedin can win the Hart a year after brother Henrik.
2
Washington Capitals
6
40-20-10
9-1-0
Strong defense has allowed just 12 goals during eight-game winning streak.
3
Detroit Red Wings
4
41-20-8
4-4-2
Bounce back with two wins after four-game losing streak, face a stiff test at home to Washington Wednesday.
4
Philadelphia Flyers
2
42-19-7
4-4-2
Haven't beaten a team currently in a playoff position since 4-2 win over Rangers Feb. 20 - face Florida, Atlanta, Dallas on the road this week.
5
Chicago Blackhawks
7
38-24-8
7-1-2
Jonathan Toews has 21 points in past 13 games as he chases down consideration for the Hart Trophy.
6
San Jose Sharks
5
39-23-8
6-2-2
Strong February being followed by a mediocre March so far. Tough 6-3 loss to Hawks brings back bad memories of Western final sweep last season.
7
Pittsburgh Penguins
9
40-22-8
4-3-3
Marc-Andre Fleury is very quietly having the best season of his young career.
8
Los Angeles Kings
11
39-25-5
7-2-1
Seven wins in past 10 games has Kings up to fifth place in West, but still only three clear of ninth-place Nashville.
9
Boston Bruins
3
38-21-9
6-2-2
Four losses in a row has given new life to the Montreal Canadiens who are tracking the Bruins for the division title and home-ice advantage.
10
Montreal Canadiens
10
38-24-7
7-3-0
Big wins over Tampa, Boston and Pittsburgh recently has the Canadiens on a roll as they face the Caps and Lightning on home ice this week.
11
Tampa Bay Lightning
8
39-22-9
4-4-2
The sixth-ranked offense in the league still averages more goals against than goals for.
12
Phoenix Coyotes
14
36-23-11
4-4-2
After Ilya Bryzgalov last year, Keith Yandle is this year's story in the desert, but captain Shane Doan carries on with magnificent consistency.
13
Calgary Flames
12
36-26-9
5-4-1
A .500 team on the road, Flames spend six of final 11 games away from home. Games against Phoenix and Colorado at the Saddledome this week are must-wins.
14
Dallas Stars
13
37-24-8
6-2-2
Alex Goligoski with eight points, plus-4 rating in 10 games as a Star.
15
Buffalo Sabres
18
34-27-8
6-2-2
Thomas Vanek coming on with eight points in past five games and is on pace for best points season since 2006-07.
16
New York Rangers
19
36-30-4
5-5-0
Only playoff team with a sub-.500 record at home, Rangers live and die by Henrik Lundqvist, who would be a Vezina lock in any other year.
17
Nashville Predators
17
35-24-10
4-4-2
League's fourth-best penalty kill is rendered less effective by the league's 28th-ranked power play.
18
New Jersey Devils
22
32-32-4
8-2-0
Incredible run continues with just three losses since start of February, but with four teams to leap frog and eight points to make up in 14 games, are the playoffs still possible?
19
Anaheim Ducks
15
37-27-5
5-4-1
Dan Ellis will never replace the season Jonas Hiller was having, but he's still earning key wins that are keeping the Ducks in the race.
20
Minnesota Wild
16
35-28-7
3-6-1
Are still above .500 on the road despite losing past three games on the road to Nashville, Dallas and Vancouver. Wrong time to hit a rough patch, the Wild scored a total of two goals in those games.
21
Atlanta Thrashers
25
29-28-12
4-4-2
Only team in the league with a losing record after scoring the first goal of the game - likely too late to salvage a playoff season.
22
Carolina Hurricanes
21
31-28-10
3-5-2
Four-game losing skid couldn't have come at a worse time, but after facing Buffalo Tuesday, Canes see bottom-feeders Toronto, Islanders and Ottawa where they must make up ground.
23
Toronto Maple Leafs
23
30-30-10
4-3-3
No room for error as Buds take slim playoff hopes to Carolina and Florida this week before facing the tough Bruins at home Saturday.
24
St. Louis Blues
24
31-29-9
4-6-0
At one point this season, the Blues had one of the lowest GAA's in the league - but with 27 goals against in seven March games, the Blues are now 21st in that stat.
25
New York Islanders
27
27-32-11
4-2-4
Al Montoya leading Isles down an impressive finish with a .930 SP and 2.09 GAA in past 13 games played.
26
Florida Panthers
26
28-32-9
3-5-2
Not many good storylines from another lost season, but Mike Santorelli is a nice surprise as he chases down 20 goals.
27
Columbus Blue Jackets
20
32-27-9
3-4-3
Same old sad story for Blue Jackets, who look like a playoff team at times, but hit nasty streaks of atrocious hockey too often.
28
Ottawa Senators
30
25-35-9
6-4-0
Craig Anderson was struggling with the Avs, but has proven to be a nice pickup for Sens, going 6-3-0 with a 1.81 GAA and .946 SP in Canada's capital - only question now is can Ottawa keep him around next season?
29
Edmonton Oilers
29
23-38-9
4-5-1
First Taylor Hall, now Sam Gagner as the 21-year-old was chasing down a new career-high in points.
30
Colorado Avalanche
28
26-34-8
1-8-1
Have won just one game since Jan. 24 - this streak is as dreadful as the Devils' surge is demonic.

The Hockey News ranks the teams 1-30 each Monday based on a combination of last week’s play and a squad’s overall outlook.

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