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Stars aligning

At 38-26-5 the Dallas Stars sit third in the Western Conference. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

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At 38-26-5 the Dallas Stars sit third in the Western Conference. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

I’m going to say this right now: if Ken Hitchcock doesn’t win the Jack Adams Award this year, I’ll eat my Union army Civil War cap.

The St. Louis Blues take top spot away from the Vancouver Canucks this week because it’s just become too hard to ignore the season they’ve put together and the recent success they’ve had to push them to 97 points and the NHL lead.

But the Blues aren’t the only team you can’t ignore right now. The Dallas Stars have been playing how we expect the Dallas Stars to play…though we usually expect this from them in October. At 9-0-1 in their past 10, the Stars have moved into top spot of a Pacific Division that has been surprisingly meek this season. With currently only two teams from that division in the West’s top eight, it might be indicative of how difficult it is to play in that grouping, or that it’s just not as good as it has been in recent years.

Will it hold up for the Stars? With only three games left against divisional rivals this season (twice against San Jose) the Stars should be able to get the job done against a slate that has a heavy Northwest lean to it.

(P.S. Is Michael Ryder having the quietest 30-goal season ever?)

THE HOCKEY NEWS POWER RANKINGS
RK.
TEAM
LW
OVERALL
P10
THE SCOOP
1
St. Louis Blues
2
45-18-7
9-1-0
Between Ken Hitchcock's system (for which he should win the Jack Adams, hands down) and Jaroslav Halak's playoff history, the Blues will be a tough out for anyone.
2
Pittsburgh Penguins
5
42-21-5
9-1-0
It's not just about where you currently sit in the standings, but a combination of that and how you're playing. The Pens have won nine in a row and are shockingly making a pitch for the East's No. 1 seed. Have allowed only 13 goals during their streak.
3
Nashville Predators
4
40-21-7
7-2-1
Preds take off on four-game road trip to the desperate Pacific Division this week. Last time they went on four-game road trip was 1-3 swing at the end of November.
4
Vancouver Canucks
1
42-19-8
4-4-2
In their past eight games, the Sedin's have combined for one assist, while Roberto Luongo has allowed 11 goals on past 70 shots (.843 SP).
5
New York Rangers
3
43-18-7
5-3-2
Protective Rangers fans will scream blasphemy over this slotting, but when your week includes three road losses to playoff teams and an overtime win at home over the Islanders, you're bound to drop when compared to other performances.
6
Dallas Stars
11
38-26-5
9-0-1
Last week we noted if the Stars beat the Canucks on the road and Sharks at home they'd move up again...so here they are. Stars have lost only once since Feb. 19.
7
Detroit Red Wings
6
44-22-3
4-5-1
Are 3-3 without Lidstrom and Datsyuk, scoring 20 and allowing 14 in that span. Don't want to penalize a team without its stars too much, especially when backup Joey MacDonald started all last week.
8
New Jersey Devils
14
40-24-5
5-4-1
Allowed only four goals in four wins last week that included decisive victories over Rangers, Flyers. Ilya Kovalchuk easily Devils MVP, but talk of league MVP overblown.
9
Philadelphia Flyers
9
39-22-7
7-3-0
Is Ilya Bryzgalov finally finding his groove? The NHL's first star of the week pulled a Ryan Miller in earning back-to-back shutouts to keep Flyers tight with Pens. Loss to Devils only black mark on the week.
10
Chicago Blackhawks
7
37-25-8
5-4-1
Loss to Blues had to be disheartening and somewhat worrisome, but win over Rangers gave them good W on the week.
11
Boston Bruins
10
40-25-3
4-5-1
Losses to Washington and Pittsburgh continue worries for Bruins, who are now at risk of dropping Northeast title to Senators (though Boston has two games in hand).
12
Ottawa Senators
12
36-25-9
6-3-1
Convincing win over Rangers puts Senators in striking distance of home-ice advantage. Giant, 6-foot-7 goalie Ben Bishop off to great start with Sens after being acquired for second-rounder.
13
Phoenix Coyotes
8
34-25-10
5-4-1
Blew great opportunity to earn key points against Columbus and Minnesota (shootout loss) last week, but shutout of struggling Sharks had enormous playoff implications.
14
Washington Capitals
22
35-28-6
6-3-1
Just when you thought the Capitals were going to miss the playoffs, they pull off three straight wins to take back control of their own destiny.
15
Calgary Flames
23
32-25-12
4-3-3
Wasn't the most challenging week with games against Habs, Jets and Wild, but give Flames full credit for pulling out three wins - that's what separates playoff teams from ninth-place teams in the end.
16
Los Angeles Kings
13
32-25-12
5-4-1

Four-game road trip was a success with wins over Nashville and Chicago. More importantly, with 12 goals in four games, is the offense finally waking up?

17
Colorado Avalanche
16
36-30-4
7-3-0
Benefitted from matchups with Wild and Oilers last week. The Semyon Varlamov trade doesn't look so bad at the moment, does it?
18
Florida Panthers
20
32-23-13
5-3-2
It seems the Panthers, 1-1-1 last week, are just going to float into the post-season on the strength of early-season success.
19
Winnipeg Jets
19
32-29-8
5-3-2
Last time the Jets had a "biggest game of the year" they trumped Florida 7-0. This week, the "biggest game of the year" is a home game against Washington on Friday.
20
Buffalo Sabres
17
32-29-8
7-2-1
Would have been nice to get points over Bruins and Jets, but still a two-win week for Sabres. The Capitals surge couldn't have come at a worse time for the Sabres, who have looked promising lately.
21
Anaheim Ducks
21
29-30-10
4-6-0
Ducks haven't won a game where they've scored fewer than three goals since Feb. 15 despite recent stellar play of Jonas Hiller, who has .929 SP in past three games, but is 1-2-0.
22
San Jose Sharks
15
33-25-9
2-6-2
Everyone expected the Sharks would correct their problems in time to make a strong push to the playoffs, but the team has just four wins in its past 18 games and has scored just six goals in its past five games (all losses).
23
Tampa Bay Lightning
18
31-30-7
5-4-1
The four-game winning streak that got the Lightning back into the playoff picture was completely wiped away by three straight losses last week.
24
Columbus Blue Jackets
27
22-40-7
5-5-0
Blue Jackets seem to be heating up just in time to play the role of spoiler perfectly, beating Coyotes, Kings last week. Can't fault NHL's worst team for losing back-to-back games against the league's best.
25
Carolina Hurricanes
26
26-28-15
4-2-4
Justin Faulk is a beauty. Goal against Caps last week was his second game-winner of the season - he's giving Canes fans more promise for the future.
26
Toronto Maple Leafs
25
30-31-8
1-7-2
Shut out in past two games and have completely played themselves out of the post-season in the past two weeks.
27

Montreal Canadiens

30
27-32-10
3-7-0
Return of Andrei Markov helped knock off Canucks on the road, but this is way too little, way too late to achieve anything of consequence.
28
New York Islanders
24
28-31-10
3-5-2
Isles are 1-3-1 in past five games against Atlantic as that division slugs it out for post-season positioning.
29
Minnesota Wild
29
29-30-10
3-6-1
If you are on the playoff bubble and need a W, the Wild are the team to play.
30
Edmonton Oilers
28
26-35-7
4-5-1
Lost to last week's No. 30-ranked team on this list. If the Oilers ended up with the No. 1 pick, would they draft forward Nail Yakupov, or go with defenseman Ryan Murray or Matt Dumba?

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.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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