NHL Power Rankings
by Joe Paciella - 03/07/2008
As we enter the last full month of the NHL regular season we find tight races in the Northwest Division, atop the Eastern Conference and for those oh-so-important eighth and final playoff spots.
1. Detroit Red Wings (94 pts.) - Ye gads! The once mighty Red Wings are not looking as invincible anymore. It really has come down to losing the close ones; in their last 10 losses, all but two have been by two goals or less.
2. Dallas Stars (87 pts.) - Dallas is winning at an impressive clip, but they can't seem to get San Jose or Anaheim off their tail. The Stars dropped only two games in February, but still sit only three points ahead of the Sharks, who occupy second place in the Pacific.
3. San Jose Sharks (84 pts.) - Ironman goaltender Evgeni Nabokov has done well for his squad this year, leading the league in wins and ranking third in shutouts. The Sharks will need this solid play come April in the Western Conference playoffs if they are to advance against tough competition.
4. Montreal Canadians (83 pts.) - In a move that may have some scratching their heads, Montreal shipped their All-Star goaltender Christobal Huet to Washington and will rest their Stanley Cup hopes on rookie Carey Price in net the rest of the way.
5. Anaheim Ducks (83 pts.) - Anaheim is not giving up hope of winning the Pacific Division. They have rolled off wins in 11 of their last 14 and sit just four points behind Dallas for the division lead.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins (83 pts.) - Watch out. Evgeni Malkin is second in the league in points and guess who came back? That's right, Sidney Crosby. Now, the Atlantic Division-leading Penguins are primed for a playoff push.
7. New Jersey Devils (82 pts.) - New Jersey is not currently in the driver's seat in the Eastern Conference, but for right now, they are close enough. Martin Brodeur will have to maintain his solid play if these low-scoring Devils are to move to the top.
8. Ottawa Senators (81 pts.) - The Senators have struggled in games where the opposing defense holds them to three goals or less. Since February, they have won only once when scoring fewer than four goals, and have not scored more than three in any loss.
9. New York Rangers (79 pts.) - New York has managed to get points out of their last 11 games. As a result, they now sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, looking pretty good for a playoff berth.
10. Calgary Flames (79 pts.) - The Flames lead the tightest race the NHL has to offer. Four teams sit within three points of each other.
11. Minnesota Wild (79 pts.) - In the hotly contested Northwest Division Minnesota sits tied with Calgary in points but would be the six seed if the playoffs started today. Colorado is just one point back. This division could possibly come down to the Wild's matchup with the Avs on April 6.
12. Colorado Avalanche (78 pts.) - The Avs are walking a very fine line right now. On one hand, they are only one point out of the No. 3 seed. In the other, they are only two points away from missing the playoff altogether. It almost goes without saying, the month of March will be important for Colorado.
13. Carolina Hurricanes (77 pts.) - Carolina has taken advantage of a recent six-game homestand, winning four and gathering nine total points in the process. They currently sit just five points ahead of Washington for the lead in the Southeast.
14. Boston Bruins (77 pts.) - It's not just goaltender Tim Thomas that is keeping Boston in the playoff hunt. Zdeno Chara is second in the league in goals scored for defensemen, and even though he only has 15 goals, the scoring potential still stretches opposing defenses, making it easier for the front line.
15. Vancouver Canucks (76 pts.) - The middle of February was looking pretty good for Vancouver, before a recent rash of losses set them back into a tie for the last spot in the Western Conference playoff race. By beating Nashville, they tied the Predators in the standings and would be the last team in the playoffs if they started today.
16. Philadelphia Flyers (76 pts.) - Philadelphia was in absolute free fall before winning three straight last week. Now the Flyers are trying to fend off pesky Buffalo and the young, hungry Capitals for the eighth and final playoff spot.
17. Nashville Predators (76 pts.) - Nashville has a good chance to get in the playoffs, even though right now they are on the outside looking in. Out of their remaining games, three are against Detroit and one is against San Jose. Everything else is very winnable.
18. Chicago Blackhawks (72 pts.) - Chicago is suddenly playing inspired hockey, and making a run for the playoffs. Their most recent victory was a 3-0 shutout of the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
19. Phoenix Coyotes (73 pts.) - It's starting to look like the Coyotes will miss the playoffs. What started as a season where no one gave them a chance, turned into one where they made a serious charge. To be successful next year, they will need to improve on their home record, which is one of the worst in the league.
20. Buffalo Sabres (73 pts.) - It's a good thing that goaltender Ryan Miller was able to return from taking a shot off his mask. In his place, backup Jocelyn Thibault let in two goals on seven shots, and has a dismal goals-against average of 3.71 on the season. This lack of depth is something to keep in mind if the Sabres need to give Miller a rest down the stretch.
21. Toronto Maple Leafs (70 pts.) - Toronto still has the slightest glimmer of hope to make the playoffs, but a very high percentage of games need to be won for that to happen. A big win in Boston is a good way to keep that playoff push going.
22. Washington Capitals (72 pts.) - The Capitals made a move to get goaltender Christobal Huet from Montreal and it has worked out thus far. In the two games Huet has started, Washington has only allowed two goals while scoring 14. That's right, 14. But now, he is questionable with a bad back. Keep tabs on this one.
23. New York Islanders (71 pts.) - The Isles are showing life as they try to recover from a horrid January (that really did spill into February) and try to make a push for the eighth and final spot in the East. It will be difficult though, with most of their remaining games against strong Atlantic Division opponents.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets (70 pts.) - The lack of offense has finally caught up with Columbus and taken them out of any serious playoff conversation. As a team, they have only scored 12 goals in their last eight losses.
25. Florida Panthers (70 pts.) - Power play efficiency is something Florida can build on for next year. Even though they are in the bottom of the league in power play opportunities, they are fifth in the league with the man advantage. If they can draw some more penalties next season, it may be enough for them to challenge for a playoff spot.
26. St. Louis Blues (68 pts.) - Coach Andy Murray is taking some heat for the Blues recent slide, but can it really be the coach's fault if the players are not executing on the ice?
27. Edmonton Oilers (67 pts.) - It's tough for a team to come back when they get off to a bad start, and Edmonton is no different. October and November put them in a spot that was close to impossible to recover from.
28. Atlanta Thrashers (65 pts.) - Atlanta can now be officially taken out of any postseason talk. An eight-game losing streak will do that at this juncture of the season.
29. Tampa Bay Lightning (59 pts.) - To be a good team in the NHL, home ice must be protected, and an over .500 road record is also necessary. The Lightning do not have the latter, with only 10 wins outside of Tampa.
30. Los Angeles Kings (59 pts.) - The Kings are back to their old losing ways, thanks in large part to the defense. They have dropped five of their last six, giving up 21 goals in those defeats.