NHL Power Rankings
by Joe Paciella - 03/21/2008
March Madness isn't just for the basketball players. With just a few games left in the regular season, there are still multiple races underway that will go down to the wire. And let's not forget about the unbeatable Sharks, the Red Wing's drop, and the Rangers surge…
1. San Jose Sharks (97 pts.) - Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov (and Brian Boucher for a game) has vaulted the Sharks into the No. 1 spot in the power rankings this week, due in large part to a stretch of 13 games where they have given up more than two goals only once.
2. Detroit Red Wings (104 pts.) - The Red Wings were the first squad to clinch a spot for the postseason, which was no surprise. This is the first time in many weeks, however, that Detroit loses their top spot in the rankings. The reason? Well, the Sharks are just plain hotter right now, and have closed the gap in total points.
3. Anaheim Ducks (92 pts.) - The Ducks have two of their seven remaining games against San Jose. They will need to win both of these, plus beat up on Phoenix and Los Angeles, if they want to take down the Sharks for the Pacific Division title.
4. Montreal Canadians (92 pts.) - Montreal can take control of the Northeast Division and the Eastern Conference with a strong finish, but this could be difficult. The rest of their games are against divisional foes, and their record against them isn't as strong as against the other two Eastern Conference divisions.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins (91 pts.) - Sidney Crosby re-injured his ankle and again has missed time. It's becoming apparent, though, that Pittsburgh does not need Sid the Kid to stay competitive. They are just one point out of first place in the Eastern Conference with their remaining cast, led by Evgeni Malkin.
6. New Jersey Devils (91 pts.) - New Jersey would be the No. 2 seed in the East if the playoffs started today. If they can get by nine tough games left on their schedule and remain in the race for first, they will have passed a difficult test and will be ready for the playoffs.
7. Dallas Stars (89 pts.) - The Stars have hit a wall as of late, and San Jose has blown right by them en route to a commanding lead in the division. Losers of six of their last seven, Dallas will have to regain some of the momentum they had earlier this year if they are to make a serious playoff run.
8. New York Rangers (87 pts.) - Those two losses to Florida and Tampa Bay hurt, but those two wins against Pittsburgh and New Jersey have the Blue Shirts right back in the hunt for the Atlantic Division and possibly the Eastern Conference.
9. Carolina Hurricanes (87 pts.) - Tuesday's game with Washington could all but lock it up for Carolina. With a seven-point lead in the standings as of today, a win over the Caps would put them in great position.
10. Ottawa Senators (89 pts.) - The Senators are limping into the playoffs and that does not bode well. With only 10 wins since the All-Star break, they will need to find that spark that once helped them build their lead in the Eastern Conference, which seems like so long ago.
11. Minnesota Wild (87 pts.) - Three straight shootout losses and five straight loses overall have Minnesota clinging to a very thin lead in the Northwest Division.
12. Vancouver Canucks (86 pts.) - Vancouver is trying to get into the sixth spot in the Western Conference. By doing so, they will virtually assure that they will play a division rival, instead of going on the road to play most likely Detroit or San Jose as a No. 7 or No. 8.
13. Calgary Flames (86 pts.) - It looks like the Northwest Division is going to get four teams in the playoffs. It's anyone's guess where they will be seeded though; the Flames could end up anywhere from a No. 3 seed all the way to a No. 8.
14. Colorado Avalanche (84 pts.) - The Northwest Division won't be decided for another week or so, and the playoff seedings most likely won't be decided until the last game or two. Colorado does have an edge, though, as they have the most wins out of any of the Northwest Divisional teams against divisional foes.
15. Washington Capitals (80 pts.) - Alexander Ovechkin is leading the NHL in points, which is the main reason why Washington is in the position they are in. If they can jump Buffalo and Philadelphia in the standings, they will be in the playoffs.
16. Philadelphia Flyers (82 pts.) - Philly has a brutal schedule down the stretch. They face the Rangers twice, the Penguins twice and the Devils twice. Their other two are against the Islanders, who can always play a spoiler role.
17. Boston Bruins (83 pts.) - The loss to Washington on Sunday was as big for the Capitals as it was bad for the Bruins. Instead of having a commanding lead over the Caps and Sabres, Boston now sits just two points ahead of the ninth team in the East and will have to be careful they don't drop any more important ones.
18. Edmonton Oilers (79 pts.) - Winning 10 of their last 13, Edmonton has surged up to the 10th spot in the West. Although this run is too late for them to make the playoffs, it sure will make it tough on their opponents that have postseason aspirations if they keep playing this way.
19. Florida Panthers (79 pts.) - No team has liked the month of March more than Florida. In February they looked completely out of the playoff hunt; now they are just a few points from getting in.
20. Buffalo Sabres (81 pts.) - Buffalo is trying their best to make one final push for the postseason, but it's not looking promising. With multiple games left against Ottawa, Boston and Montreal, they face a schedule that may be too unyielding.
21. Nashville Predators (80 pts.) - Nashville has a fairly soft schedule down the stretch. All four Northwest Division teams are fighting for those final playoff spots, so the Predators could sneak up and pass by one or two of them if they can turn around their recent poor play.
22. Chicago Blackhawks (77 pts.) - About the only thing that there is left to root for in Chicago is if rookie sensation Patrick Kane can hold off the Capital's Nicklas Backstrom as the NHL's leading rookie scorer. The two squared off on Wednesday night, with Kane having the better night. Currently, he holds a two-point advantage and also has one game at hand over Backstrom.
23. Phoenix Coyotes (78 pts.) - Four straight losses (where they were outscored 24-12) have officially put an end to the Coyotes' playoff hopes, even if the mathematicians still say they have a chance.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets (77 pts.) - The season is not all for naught. Columbus set a franchise record for points in a season with 75 when they beat Detroit of all teams this past Sunday.
25. Toronto Maple Leafs (76 pts.) - Toronto has gotten 10 point thus far in the month of March, but with only a handful of games left, it will be almost impossible for them to make up the six point deficit to make the playoffs.
26. Atlanta Thrashers (70 pts.) - Your team will not be a playoff contender if you don't have a netminder on your team that has a goals-against average under three. Atlanta is the perfect example of that this year.
27. St. Louis Blues (71 pts.) - Let's hope that the Cardinals field a good team this season.
28. New York Islanders (71 pts.) - The wheels have completely fallen off for the Isles, who should be eliminated from playoff contention any time now. They are currently on a six-game losing streak, and have dropped 10 of their last 12.
29. Tampa Bay Lightning (66 pts.) - Just four years removed from a Stanley Cup, this team is going to finish last in the Eastern Conference.
30. Los Angeles Kings (64 pts.) - The dubious distinction of being the first team eliminated from playoff contention goes to…the Los Angeles Kings. It's ok though; most Kings fans probably shifted their interest to Kobe Bryant and his team at this point anyway.