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Penguins on the warpath

With 102 points, the Penguins are five behind the first-place Rangers and only one up on Philadelphia for fourth. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

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With 102 points, the Penguins are five behind the first-place Rangers and only one up on Philadelphia for fourth. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

The New York Rangers grab top spot in the final edition of this season's THN.com NHL Power Rankings, but another Atlantic division team – the Pittsburgh Penguins – are going to be right up there with them in the minds of pre-playoff prognosticators as the biggest Stanley Cup favorites.



The Penguins had an off week last week, dropping three of four games and losing a chance to catch the Blueshirts for first overall in the Eastern Conference. However, freshly-returned superstar Sidney Crosby is heating up with six points in his past two games and fellow star Evgeni Malkin is averaging two points a game in his past eight contests.

Sure, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is looking a little tired (with a record of 0-3-0, a goals-against average of 5.32 and a .788 save percentage in his past three games), but he's also played 65 times this season. Under normal circumstances, coach Dan Bylsma might give him a rest in the final week of the regular season, but Pittsburgh must fend off their biggest rivals (the Philadelphia Flyers) to hang on to home ice advantage, so they may have no choice but to go with him when the Pens take on the Bruins, Rangers and Flyers this week.

Once the playoffs begin, the Power Rankings will shut down until the start of next season. Thanks for following along every week – and see you next year.

THE HOCKEY NEWS POWER RANKINGS
RK.
TEAM
LW
OVERALL
P10
THE SCOOP
1
New York Rangers
4
50-22-7
6-4-0
Rangers lead the league with 50 wins - the most they've had since 1993-94 when they had 52 and won the Stanley Cup.
2
Vancouver Canucks
6
49-21-9
7-2-1
Fan angst is building in Vancouver, but the fact is this team has six straight wins and looks fully prepared to defend its Western Conference championship. This advice will fall on deaf ears, but relax, Nucks fans. There's a long ride still to come.
3
St. Louis Blues
2
48-21-10
4-3-3
Blues have racked up 48 wins, the most since they had 51 in 1999-2000. That team lost in the first round to San Jose - the same team St. Louis could be playing in this year's first round.
4
Philadelphia Flyers
3
46-24-9
6-2-2
Flyers haven't won more than two in a row since early March. However, two wins over their arch-rivals in Pittsburgh over the past two weeks have their fans feeling better about an increasingly likely first round series against the Pens.
5
Pittsburgh Penguins
1
48-25-6
5-4-1
Sure, the Pens didn't look like a juggernaut last week. They're still going to be the go-to Cup favorite for many a pundit.
6
Chicago Blackhawks
7
44-26-10
7-1-2
Patrick Sharp's plus-27 mark is the highest among any NHL player in the top 25 in league scoring (Sharp is 24th overall with 67 points).
7
Nashville Predators
5
45-26-8
4-5-1
Late-season stumbles have prevented 45-win Preds from coming close to their franchise record of 51 in a season (set in 2006-07), but if they run the table in their final three games, they can surpass their second-best mark (set in 2009-10).
8
Boston Bruins
10
47-28-4
7-2-1
After an extended slump, Bruins have lost just twice in regulation over their past 10 games. Can they get hot at the right time of year for the second straight year?
9
New Jersey Devils
12
45-28-6
5-4-1
Devils are my dark horse team for the playoffs, but it's only because of their aberration of a season in 2010-11 that they're all that "dark" to begin with.
10
Phoenix Coyotes
15
39-27-13
5-2-3
It's not shocking Keith Yandle is leading all Yotes in average time on ice (22:26), but it is to see sophomore NHLer Oliver Ekman-Larsson second (22:03).
11
Ottawa Senators
16
41-28-10
5-3-2
Surprising Sens surging again, but unless New Jersey collapses and Ottawa wins its final three games, it seems they're locked in to the No. 7 seed and a series with the Bruins.
12
Los Angeles Kings
8
39-27-13
7-2-1
Shootout loss to Minnesota Sunday was a killer for the Kings, who almost certainly will have their playoff hopes decided in a home-and-home series against the Sharks this weekend.
13
Detroit Red Wings
11
47-27-5
3-5-2
Losses to Columbus and Nashville last week open the door for Hawks to overtake Wings for second in the Central; however, that might not be a bad thing, as a sixth-place finish for Detroit could lead to a series against the Kings or Coyotes. That sounds better than a fourth-place finish and a date with the Predators.
14
Florida Panthers
13
37-25-17
4-2-4
If Cats aren't careful, Caps could overtake them for first in the Southeast Division - and what started out as a potential home ice advantage against the Devils would become the final playoff seed in the East and a series against the Rangers.
15
San Jose Sharks
18
40-29-10
6-4-0
Sharks hold the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but their three games this week could (a) put them on the outside looking in and (b) force GM Doug Wilson to seriously consider breaking up their long-serving core. This team looks to be at a crossroads.
16
Washington Capitals
19
40-31-8
5-3-2
Loss of goalie Tomas Vokoun for possibly the rest of the season and playoffs is just more bad news for a franchise that has become accustomed to it in short order.
17
Dallas Stars
9
42-32-5
4-6-0
One win in four games last week has plucky Stars reeling, now trailing Sharks for final playoff spot. Dallas takes on San Jose, Nashville and St. Louis this week.
18
Colorado Avalanche
14
41-33-6
5-3-2
Avs tied with Red Wings for fewest shootout losses (two) this season.
19
Buffalo Sabres
17
38-31-10
6-2-2
Much like Robyn Regehr's old team in Calgary, his current one in Buffalo expended huge amounts of energy to get back into the playoff picture, but looks to have run out of gas.
20
Winnipeg Jets
20
36-34-9
4-5-1
For all the complaining about Evander Kane this season, he's the Jets' top plus/minus man and the only one in double-digits (plus-11) in that department.
21
Carolina Hurricanes
21
31-32-16
5-4-1
Carolina management raves about the play of rookie defenseman Justin Faulk; he won't win the rookie-of-the-year award, but he is the Canes' top minute-muncher (averaging 22:55 a game).
22
Tampa Bay Lightning
24
36-35-7
5-5-0
Martin St-Louis hits the 70-point plateau for the sixth consecutive season and the eighth time in the past nine seasons.
23
Calgary Flames
22
35-29-16
2-4-4
Once again, the Flames come close to a playoff berth, but don't have enough to get there. Time to trade old stars (including Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff) and work on developing new ones.
24
Anaheim Ducks
23
33-35-11
4-5-1
After early resurgence under new coach Bruce Boudreau, Ducks have fallen back to earth - they're 6-10-1 since Feb. 26.
25
New York Islanders
26
33-35-11
5-4-1
Matt Moulson has gotten much praise for recording his third straight 30-goal season, but he's also improved his assist total by 50 percent from last season (22 to 33 this year).
26
Toronto Maple Leafs
25
34-36-9
4-5-1
Fan anger over Leafs' consistent futility at an all-time high; Brian Burke better have long sleeves - and more than a few tricks up them - this off-season.
27
Minnesota Wild
29
34-35-10
5-5-0
Eighteen of the Wild's games finished in a shootout - the most of any team this season.
28
Edmonton Oilers
28
32-38-9
6-2-2
Some good pieces in place for next season, but will head coach Tom Renney be around to play with them? More than a few don't think so.
29
Montreal Canadiens
27
29-35-15
2-3-5
Firing of GM Pierre Gauthier was step one in the rehabilitation of the Habs, but there are about 400 more steps required before they can confidently claim to be serious Cup contenders.
30
Columbus Blue Jackets
30
27-45-7
5-5-0
Wins last week over playoff-bound Wings, Panthers and Blues mean nothing; end to the season can't come quickly enough for this group.

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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