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Isles exceed all expectations

Evgeni Nabokov has been one of the biggest difference-makers on the Islanders squad this season. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Evgeni Nabokov has been one of the biggest difference-makers on the Islanders squad this season. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

Not many people would have imagined the New York Islanders would be hovering near the top 10 (and ahead of the cross-town Rangers) of THN's NHL Power Rankings at any point in this lockout season, but that was exactly where they were – and at the most important time of the regular season.

Yes, the Isles' top line of John Tavares, Matt Moulson and Brad Boyes is one of the few to have all three players break the 30-point plateau this season. However, they are getting timely contributions from throughout the roster – Michael Grabner was second on the team with three game-winning goals, while Franz Nielsen was third on the squad with 22 assists – and starting goalie Evgeni Nabokov has kept them in games long enough for Tavares & Co. to take over.

It’s still possible for the Isles to finish fifth in the East, but it's more likely they’ll wind up with the sixth or seventh seed and a playoff date with the Capitals, Bruins or Canadiens. The way they’ve been playing lately, those teams no longer seem like too tough a test for them.

THE HOCKEY NEWS POWER RANKINGS
RK.
TEAM
LW
OVERALL
P10
THE SCOOP
1
Chicago Blackhawks
1
34-5-5
8-0-2
Hawks’ league-best 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio of 1.52 is nearly a full goal better than the 30th-place Panthers (0.57); the second-ranked Pens (1.35) aren’t that close to them either.
2
Pittsburgh Penguins
2
34-10-0
8-2-0
Penguins have identical home and road records (17-5-0); their power play (24.4 percent) is second only to the Capitals (26.1 percent).
3
Anaheim Ducks
5
28-11-6
5-4-1
Barring a collapse in their final three games, Ducks will be the second playoff seed in the West. They’re hoping to get more – much more – out of Bobby Ryan, who has only one point in his past eight games.
4
Los Angeles Kings
3
26-14-5
6-2-2
Kings are hoping to hold off Sharks and Blues for fourth place in the West – and for good reason: they’re the NHL’s most dominant home team (18-4-1) and just 8-10-4 away from Staples Center.
5
Boston Bruins
7
27-12-5
5-4-1
Bruins tied with Habs for Northeast Division crown, but have a game in hand. Milan Lucic was a healthy scratch Saturday for the first time since his rookie season.
6
Vancouver Canucks
4
25-13-7
6-3-1
Nucks have Northwest Division and third overall seed in the West all but locked up. They’ve got a good measuring stick of their competitiveness in upcoming games against Ducks, Hawks this week before ending regular season (and likely resting some regulars) Saturday against Oilers.
7
Washington Capitals
9
25-18-12
9-1-0
Capitals are arguably the league’s hottest team right now, but nobody will believe they’re completely for real until they consistently run roughshod over non-Southeast Division teams. They can still finish out of the playoffs or make a quick exit – and if that happens, fans and ownership may forget these days in a hurry.
8
Toronto Maple Leafs
8
25-15-5
6-3-1
At 0-5, Leafs are one of only three teams without a shootout win (Canes and Flames are the others). If Toronto had won a couple of those games, they’d be challenging Canadiens, Bruins for division lead.
9
Montreal Canadiens
6
27-13-5
4-6-0
With Carey Price struggling through his worst slump in recent memory, Habs look decidedly ordinary. If he can reclaim his early-season form, they’ll be dangerous again. But right now, that looks like a big if.
10
San Jose Sharks
11
24-14-7
6-3-1
Sharks are the league’s most successful shootout team (8-4). That’s one of the reasons goalie Antti Niemi should be prominent in the minds of Vezina Trophy voters.
11
St. Louis Blues
10
26-17-2
7-3-0
Just one Blues player has 30 or more points this season (Chris Stewart, with 32 points). They’re likely to only go as far in the playoffs as their goaltending carousel will take them.
12
New York Islanders
12
24-16-5
8-0-2
All three of Isles’ final regular-season games are on the road, but that’s more than fine by them: with a 14-5-2 record away from home, only Pens (17-5-0) and Hawks (17-2-2) are better.
13
New York Rangers
18
24-17-4
7-2-1
Blueshirts’ recent hot streak materialized in the nick of time, but their remaining three games all are against non-playoff teams (Florida, Carolina, New Jersey) who will be relaxed. In other words, danger still abounds.
14
Columbus Blue Jackets
15
22-17-7
7-3-0
Jackets’ amazing turnaround shows no signs of slowing down. However, they have only two games remaining (one against awful Preds, one against Stars) and must win both to remain in playoff picture.
15
Ottawa Senators
17
23-15-6
4-6-0
Sens aren’t cruising toward post-season by any means, but return of goalie Craig Anderson – and the possible return of top blueliner Erik Karlsson – will be like trade deadline acquisitions.
16
Minnesota Wild
14
24-18-3
3-6-1
With two wins in their past seven games, Wild are slumping at the worst time. They sure could use improved play from top center Mikko Koivu (two points in his past 11 games).
17
Dallas Stars
13
22-19-4
6-3-1
Stars have made it interesting with late-season, post-trade-deadline surge, yet won’t make playoffs without help from other teams. This remains a team in transition, but owner Tom Gaglardi could sure use post-season revenue to help money-losing operation.
18
Winnipeg Jets
20
23-19-3
5-4-1
Shootout loss to Islanders Saturday puts dent in Jets’ playoff hopes, but they can still sneak in if they win their final three and one of Rangers/Sens/Isles falter.
19
Detroit Red Wings
16
20-16-8
3-4-3
With just one win in their past six games, Red Wings’ streak of 21 consecutive playoff seasons is in serious jeopardy. Their last regular-season game this Saturday against Dallas could have win-and-in/lose-and-out implications.
20
Phoenix Coyotes
19
19-17-8
5-2-3
Yotes on verge of missing playoffs for the first time since 2009. With uncertainty surrounding the franchise’s future in Arizona and GM Don Maloney and coach Dave Tippett both unsigned for next season, not much seems set in stone for next season.
21
Buffalo Sabres
21
19-20-6
6-4-0
Star goalie Ryan Miller gave a sarcastic wave to jeering Sabres fans in Buffalo’s 8-4 shellacking at the hands of the Rangers Friday night. Was it a goodbye wave? Many think he’ll be moved in the off-season.
22
Philadelphia Flyers
22
20-22-3
5-5-0
Flyers are beasts at home (13-7-2), pushovers on the road (7-15-1); Claude Giroux is averaging nearly as many minutes (21:16) as Philly’s second-and-third-most used defensemen.
23
New Jersey Devils
23
17-18-10
2-7-1
Devils’ freefall shows no signs of slowing down. Will GM Lou Lamoriello look at his goalie situation – where he’ll have two forty-somethings in Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg – and make changes for next season?
24
Calgary Flames
25
19-22-4
6-4-0
Flames have won three straight, hurting their chances of landing a top-3 pick in this summer’s NHL draft. This franchise can’t even tank correctly.
25
Edmonton Oilers
24
17-20-7
3-7-0
Special teams aren’t the issue in Edmonton. Shots on net (where they’re fifth-worst in the league) and shots-against (where they’re the second-worst) is another story altogether.
26
Carolina Hurricanes
29
18-24-3
2-7-1
Hurricanes need good health to rebound next season, but also a bounce-back year from Jeff Skinner (minus-20 in 39 games).
27
Colorado Avalanche
27
15-23-7
3-4-3
Avalanche have the league’s worst road record (3-15-4). Everyone talks about the tough decisions Edmonton must make with their youngsters this summer, but Avs are more or less at the same point in their evolution.
28
Tampa Bay Lightning
26
17-24-4
2-6-2
Bolts clearly need to improve their defense, but have only $2.6 million in available cap space next season. GM Steve Yzerman will have to be creative.
29
Nashville Predators
28
15-21-9
1-7-2
No team gets fewer pucks to the net than the Preds, who average just 26 shots per game. A Nathan MacKinnon or Jonathan Drouin in the draft could be just what the doctor ordered.
30
Florida Panthers
30
13-26-6
3-7-0
Panthers have dropped six straight and almost assuredly will have best chance at drafting first overall this summer. Seth Jones, anyone?

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