The Boston Bruins finally lost a game when they dropped a shootout to the Montreal Canadiens Monday night, but no team in the NHL has a better goals differential, no team has more wins at home and no team is riding as hot a streak as the Bruins.
So it stands to reason that no team will usurp them in this week’s thn.com Power Rankings. (Last week’s ranking in parentheses.)
1. BOSTON (1): Despite the fact Dennis Seidenberg tore both his ACL and MCL in late December, the Bruins have not ruled out the possibility of him returning if they go deep into the playoffs. The way the Bruins are playing, they’ve actually replaced someone they thought was irreplaceable. Johnny Boychuk and Matt Bartkowski have stepped up their games and Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton have been as solid as a rock. Or a couple of rocks.
2. ST. LOUIS (2): The Blues experienced a bit of a hiccup when they suffered their first loss to a Central Division team, then lost to Philadelphia, but looked their old selves in road wins over Pittsburgh and Toronto. David Backes has had as many goals in his last six games (six) as he had during the entire lockout-shortened season in 2012-13.
3. LOS ANGELES (13): Like most of the elite teams in the Western Conference, the Kings have feasted on the east this season going into their last game against an Eastern Conference opponent Thursday night in Pittsburgh. The Kings have won all four of their games on an eastern road swing, capped by a win in Washington in which they battled back from a two-goal deficit, then blew a one-goal lead of their own before winning in a shootout.
4. SAN JOSE (5): It looks as though the race between the Sharks and Anaheim for the Pacific Division title – and the good fortune to avoid Los Angeles in the first round – will go right down to the wire. The Sharks have picked up points in their past four games, the last one of which was against Edmonton where Joe Pavelski picked up a hat trick and Adam Burish broke a finger. Logan Couture missed the Edmonton game after blocking a shot the night before in Calgary, but is not expected to miss significant time.
5. ANAHEIM (6): Both the Ducks and goalie Jonas Hiller gained some much needed redemption Wednesday night in a 3-2 win over Calgary, two weeks after the Ducks were blown out 7-2 by the Flames. Teemu Selanne, who has crossed swords with coach Bruce Boudreau this season over his deployment, was bumped to the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and responded with a goal and an assist against the Flames.
6. CHICAGO (3): In what will be a repeat of last year’s Stanley Cup final and could be a preview to this year’s final, the Blackhawks take on the Bruins in Boston Thursday night. Playing in his first-ever NHL game in a 4-2 win over Dallas Tuesday night, Teuvo Teravainen did not record a shot in 11:39 of ice time, but won all seven faceoffs he took and was on the ice for a power-play goal.
7. NY RANGERS (14): The Rangers have won five in a row for the first time this season, including rare back-to-back wins on home ice. They continue to ride the hot goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist, who has a 1.24 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage in the past four games. Speaking of hot, Martin St-Louis is the opposite of that, with no goals and three assists in 12 games since joining the Rangers at the trade deadline.
8. MONTREAL (9): Winners of six of their past seven games, the Canadiens are definitely giving the Bruins something to fear, compiling a 3-0-1 record against them with one of those victories coming in the shootout. With Brandon Prust, Travis Moen and Dale Weise all out with injuries, the Canadiens rebuilt their fourth line with Ryan White between Lars Eller and Michael Bournival.
9. COLORADO (7): The Avs put a halt to a three-game losing streak with a 5-4 shootout win over Nashville Tuesday night. Patrick Roy was one of the greatest playoff goalies of all-time, now it looks as though we’ll get to see if he possesses the same magic as a coach. Leading goal scorer Ryan O’Reilly is still looking(?) for his first penalty of the season.
10. TAMPA BAY (8): Despite losing their past two games in extra time, the Lightning has picked up a point in each of its past nine, the third-longest such stretch in franchise history and the longest since they won the Stanley Cup in 2003-04. After struggling to get his game back after returning from injury, Steven Stamkos has found his stride with seven goals in his past seven. Four of those have come on the power play.
11. PITTSBURGH (4): It looks as though Evgeni Malkin with be out of the lineup for two-to-three weeks with a foot injury, but that might be the least of the Penguins worries. They’ve looked very ordinary since the Olympic break (6-6-2), prompting veteran defenseman Rob Scuderi to question his team’s passion of late.
12. PHOENIX (12): The Coyotes took a collective deep breath when goalie Mike Smith had to be helped off the ice after a collision with Derick Brassard of the Rangers. The Coyotes have listed Smith as day-to-day with a leg injury, but have no real answer as to when he’ll be ready to play again. Thomas Greiss, who has performed admirably in the backup role, will have to carry the duties in the short-, and possibly long-term.
13. WASHINGTON (15): After digging themselves an enormous hole, the Capitals are showing signs of climbing back out and into a playoff spot, earning points in six straight games. No team has lost more shootout games than the nine the Caps have dropped this season, but then again, no team has played in as many shootouts as the 18 in which the Capitals have participated. Rookie Evgeni Kuznetsov has provided a spark of both energy and offense.
14. COLUMBUS (17): Backup Curtis McElhinney stepped in and stopped 22 of 23 shots after Sergei Bobrovsky left with the flu Tuesday night, leading the Blue Jackets to a crucial 4-2 win over Detroit. More importantly, the Blue Jackets scored two power-play goals against the Red Wings after enduring a stretch in which they went 0-for-36 with the extra man.
15. MINNESOTA (11): The Wild enters a road trip where they’ll play St. Louis, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Chicago with questions abound about its goaltending and ability to score goals. Darcy Kuemper, who will likely have to carry the goaltending load through the playoffs, was pulled after allowing three goals on just 12 shots in a 5-2 loss to Vancouver Tuesday night. The other option is Ilya Bryzgalov. Good luck with that.
16. PHILADELPHIA (10): The way things are shaping up, the Flyers will play the Rangers in the first round of the playoffs and the Rangers will have home-ice advantage. That’s not good news if you’re the Flyers. They haven’t won in New York in their past eight tries, capped by a 3-1 loss to the Rangers Wednesday night. The oft-injured Steve Downie left the Flyers 4-1 win over St. Louis Saturday after only 45 seconds with another suspected concussion, but could be back in the lineup Friday.
17. DETROIT (18): It’s hard to imagine where the Red Wings would be without Gustav Nyquist, who has a six-game goal scoring streak going and has eight goals in that span. Pavel Datsyuk tweeted he hopes to return “soon” from a knee injury and Henrik Zetterberg might be able to come back if the Red Wings go on a long playoff run, but in the short term, the Red Wings hopes of making the playoffs will ride on their young talent.
18. VANCOUVER (21): With three straight victories and wins in four of the their past five games, the Canucks still have an enormous amount of work to do if they want to make the playoffs. Running the table through their last eight games of the season would help. At least the Canucks are aided by the fact that Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler are both back in the lineup.
19. DALLAS (19): The Stars wouldn’t be fighting for their playoff lives at the moment if not for their disappointing play in the past two weeks. They’ve won only two of seven games in that time. And if they want to get back into a playoff spot, they’re not going to face an easy time of it. Next on the docket: a five-game road trip. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are having career seasons, but the Stars lack of offensive depth has been their most significant shortcoming.
20. TORONTO (16): Get that 18-wheeler fired up because it looks like it’s going off the cliff. The Maple Leafs have lost six in a row, dropped out of a playoff spot and are getting outshot by huge margins. And the faithful are getting ugly. First, they attacked James Reimer’s wife on Twitter and now the knives are out for captain Dion Phaneuf. The Leafs have given up 24 goals in their six losses.
21. NEW JERSEY (25): The Devils are out of the playoffs, so let’s get to the fun stuff. Goalie Martin Brodeur says former NHL clown Sean Avery embarrassed himself on Dancing With the Stars. Avery responds with the following tweet: “Woke up beside a #Supermodel to hear news that #Fatso made a comment…” We can’t even make this stuff up.
22. NASHVILLE (29): If and when the Predators do not make the playoffs, they can point to their home record as a huge reason for their woes. Nashville has not won a home game in a month and overall has a 15-17-5 record this season at the Bridgestone Arena. Calle Jarnkrok, who came from Detroit in the David Legwand trade, has an assist in each of his first three games and scored in the shootout in the loss to Colorado Tuesday. Fellow rookie Seth Jones is out with a concussion.
23. OTTAWA (27): The news just keeps getting worse for the Senators, who shut down Bobby Ryan for the season so he could have sports hernia surgery. Ryan has apparently been dealing with this nagging injury since November. The Senators, meanwhile, have stumbled through the month of March with just three wins, including just one in their past eight games.
24. WINNIPEG (20): With nine losses in their past 11 games, the Jets have clinched another playoff-less spring in Winnipeg. Jets captain Andrew Ladd came under fire for leaving the team before their 2-1 loss to Dallas to be with his wife for the birth of the couple’s second child. The Jets have all but confirmed that Paul Maurice will be behind the bench next season if he wants the coaching job permanently.
25. CALGARY (24): Get ready for this one. No team has scored more goals since the Olympic break than the Flames, who are giving a lot of looks to their young players and at least playing a brand of hockey that is entertaining. The Flames will once again miss the playoffs by a country mile, but did gain some form of redemption by trouncing Edmonton 8-1 in the last installment this season of the Battle(?) of Alberta.
26. NY ISLANDERS (28): After looking absolutely dismal in a 6-0 loss to Minnesota last week, the Islanders rebounded with impressive wins over Columbus and Carolina. The Islanders are a respectable 17-17-1 on the road this season, but have been done in with an 11-18-8 mark at the decrepit Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders almost blew a 4-0 lead before beating Carolina 5-4 on Tuesday night.
27. CAROLINA (22): GM Jim Rutherford will almost certainly be stepping down after this season and will hand the reins to Ron Francis. The Hall of Famer faces a daunting task returning the Hurricanes to respectability and will have to make decisions of the futures of goalie Cam Ward and center Eric Staal, franchise stalwarts and holdovers from the 2006 Stanley Cup who are both enduring disappointing seasons.
28. FLORIDA (26): Oft-injured defenseman Erik Gudbranson is expected to return to the lineup after missing nine games with a knee injury, but Tom Gilbert will miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery for a sports hernia. On the more optimistic front, both Vincent Trocheck and Brandon Pirri have made positive contributions since getting into the lineup.
29. EDMONTON (23): After a fairly decent stretch, the Oiler have fallen hard with three straight losses, lowlighted by an 8-1 loss to Calgary last weekend in which a fan tossed an Oilers sweater on the ice and Taylor Hall sprayed coach Dallas Eakins with a water bottle in a pique of anger. Overall, the Oilers have been outscored 16-4 in their past three home games.
30. BUFFALO (30): The only bright light in the past 10 games was a 3-1 win over Edmonton in the Toilet Bowl last weekend. In other news, Alexander Ovechkin, Corey Perry, Joe Pavelski and Phil Kessel all have more goals than Sabres winger Ville Leino has shots in 51 games. Leino is still looking for his first goal and if he manages to get it, he’ll have been paid $4 million per goal this season. Compliance buyout? Hell, yeah.