Can you feel it?
NHL postseason action is less than one month away and there are some dandy playoff races going on across the league. Whether it be for a Wild Card spot, a division race or home ice advantage, there is plenty of play for right now in a league that sports more parity than you will see in any other major North American sport.
Like has been the case over the last few weeks, there is little movement near the top of the rankings, however, the Capitals jump into the top five this week on the back of a seven-game winning streak while the Islanders, Coyotes, Stars, Panthers, and Blackhawks make positive moves of their own.
On the negative side, the Wild lead the way by dropping six spots while the Flames dropped four spots thanks to a four-game losing streak.
Let’s see how the league stacks up this week!
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (53-13-4)
Last Week: 1
So the Lightning have played in 70 games this season, and lost 13 times within the first 60 minutes.
Their dominance was on display Monday night in Toronto when they fed the Leafs they own lunch while dominating play en route to a convincing 6-2 win. The interesting thing is that the Lightning – assuming they win their first-round matchup – will face the Maple Leafs or Bruins – two teams on a first-round collision course – in the second round thanks to the NHL’s nonsensical playoff format.
2. Boston Bruins (42-18-9)
Last Week: 2
Oh my goodness the Bruins failed to get a point in a game in which they were a participant.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were the first team since January 19th to beat the Bruins in regulation with a 4-2 victory on Sunday night. The Bruins are still 8-1-1 over their last 10 games and thanks to Tampa Bay’s beatdown of Toronto on Monday, still hold a four-point lead over their Atlantic rivals for home ice advantage in the first round.
3. San Jose Sharks (42-19-8)
Last Week: 5 (+2)
The Sharks are sizzling-hot right now with wins in each of their last five games as well as seven over their last 10.
A 3-0 shutout of the Wild in Minnesota on Monday was a positive sign for the Sharks who entered play as the league’s 25th-ranked road defense while Martin Jones, he of a .890 Sv% on the road prior to the shutout, was excellent in stopping all 24 shots he faced.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs (42-22-5)
Last Week: 3 (-1)
The Maple Leafs were handled on Monday, but that ended a streak of going 4-1-1 over their previous six and nabbing five of a possible six points in a three-game Western Canada road trip.
The Maple Leafs are tied with the Sharks and Flames for second in the league with 42 regulation+overtime wins while their +47 goal differential is the second-best mark in hockey. That said, at the end of the day it could still land them in Boston for Game 1 of the first round, something that hasn’t gone over well for the Maple Leafs in the past.
5. Washington Capitals (41-21-7)
Last Week: 6 (+1)
The Capitals can be an extremely streaky team as they have now won seven straight games entering Tuesday night’s rivalry tilt with the Penguins.
That’s also nine wins over their last 10 games as they look to fend off the Islanders for the top spot in the Metro, a spot that as of before play on Tuesday will provide them with a first-round matchup with… the Pittsburgh Penguins. Yes, please.
6. New York Islanders (40-22-7)
Last Week: 9 (+3)
The Islanders have dropped a pair of games to the Philadelphia Flyers over their last five, but they’re a clean 3-0-0 over their other three to get back within two points of the Washington Capitals for top spot in the Metro.
They are also dealing with an injury to goaltender Robin Lehner, however, it was no problem for Thomas Greiss who shutout the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday and owns numbers that resemble a Vezina candidate as well. The Islanders have been in good hands regardless of who’s been tending the twine.
7. Carolina Hurricanes (38-24-7)
Last Week: 7
The Hurricanes have won seven of their last 10 to temporarily grab onto third place in the Metro, although a Penguins victory on Tuesday changes that.
The Canes have rebounded nicely from an 8-1 blasting on home ice at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets on Friday with wins over the Predators and Avalanche since, and they’ll get three days of rest before a monumental clash with the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Friday.
8. Calgary Flames (42-20-7)
Last Week: 4 (-4)
The Flames have fallen on tough times of late with four straight losses which has seen them yield way to the Sharks for top spot in the Pacific Division.
They rebounded with a convincing win over the Golden Knights, but Calgary’s main problem has been up front as they scored two goals or less in six of their seven games prior to Sunday’s 6-2 win. We will see if the offensive explosion carries over Tuesday against the lowly Devils, but all the sudden the Flames have questions marks all over the place heading down the home stretch.
9. Pittsburgh Penguins (37-23-9)
Last Week: 11 (+2)
The Penguins just keep rolling as they are 6-2-2 over their last eight games and are nipping at the heels of the Hurricanes for third spot in the Metro.
They’ve won four of their last five including putting an end to that 19-game point streak the Bruins carried into Sunday’s matchup. Sidney Crosby is the hottest player in hockey right now as he looks to put his name back atop the list of best player in the game.
10. Vegas Golden Knights (38-27-5)
Last Week: 8 (-2)
The Golden Knights had one last chance to make some ground on the Flames on Sunday and didn’t step up in the form of a 6-2 loss at the Saddledome in Calgary.
The loss snapped a six-game win streak for the Golden Knights and they will all the sudden be looking over their shoulder at the Arizona Coyotes if Arizona can upset the Blues in St. Louis on Tuesday – a win that would put them just six points back of Vegas with 12 games to play for each club.
11. Winnipeg Jets (40-24-4)
Last Week: 10 (-1)
All the sudden the race for the top spot in the Central has turned into a turtle race as the Jets and Predators both cannot seem to grab any sort of momentum.
The Jets buried the Hurricanes in Carolina 8-1 on Friday, but followed that up with a 3-1 loss to the Capitals in Washington on Sunday. A big one against the Sharks awaits on Tuesday before another pair of tough ones against the Bruins and Flames on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
12. Nashville Predators (39-26-5)
Last Week: 12
The Predators sit tight at 12th as they too have struggled to find consistency while they wait for their trade deadline moves to pay off.
One item that hasn’t improved much at all is their 30th-ranked power play as they are just 2 for 21 over their last seven games, good for a 9.5% clip. This entire club will need to find another gear if they are to escape anybody in the first round of the playoffs.
13. Arizona Coyotes (34-3-5)
Last Week: 16 (+3)
The Coyotes are going to be one heck of a story if they can complete the comeback and get into the postseason.
In fact, with a win on Tuesday in St. Louis, the Coyotes would leapfrog the Minnesota Wild for the second Wild Card spot in the west with each team having played 70 games. Considering the rash of injuries they are dealing with, the Coyotes are shaping up to be the story of the season if they can pull it off.
14. St. Louis Blues (36-25-7)
Last Week: 13 (-1)
The Blues might want to be careful as their epic streak from basement to playoff spot is standing on thin ice.
With a loss on Tuesday to the Coyotes, the Blues would sit just four points ahead of Arizona who would then own the second Wild Card spot. They would also sit just two points ahead of the Stars for the third spot in the Central if the Stars can win in Buffalo on Monday. There’s lots going on, but the Blues will need to find a way to win without Vladimir Tarasenko in the lineup.
15. Dallas Stars (35-28-5)
Last Week: 18 (+3)
The Stars have done well to keep pace with the Coyotes in the Wild Card race as they have won four of their last five entering Tuesday’s contest against the Sabres.
Count Ben Bishop as the hottest goaltender in the league after posting back-to-back shutouts over the Avalanche and Blackhawks and will look to keep that streak alive against a struggling Eichel-less Sabres team Tuesday. If this team goes anywhere, it will be on defense and goaltending.
16. Philadelphia Flyers (34-27-8)
Last Week: 17 (+1)
The Flyers keep on making their push for the postseason as their win over the Senators on Monday got them within three points of the Blue Jackets for the second and final Wild Card spot in the east.
That’s now four wins over their last five games as they look towards a difficult back-to-back later in the week at home against the Capitals on Thursday before taking on the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Friday. Every game is a playoff game now in Philadelphia.
17. Montreal Canadiens (36-26-7)
Last Week: 15 (-2)
The Canadiens are stumbling at the wrong time as they’ve lost back-to-back games heading into a favorable home tilt with the Red Wings on Tuesday.
Montreal is another team with a dismal power play as their 12.4% mark is dead last in the NHL. They also have some big games coming up this month as they will face the Flyers, Hurricanes and Blue Jackets before the month is out, three clubs they will fight alongside for a Wild Card spot in the east.
18. Columbus Blue Jackets (38-28-3)
Last Week: 20 (+2)
The Blue Jackets are still looking to find a rhythm with their new pieces aboard as they are just 3-5-0 since making some bold trades ahead of the February 25th NHL trade deadline.
They have a tough week ahead with two games against the Bruins with that aforementioned big-time clash with the Hurricanes mixed in. Afterwards, they’ll play five of their next seven games on the road.
19. Florida Panthers (30-27-12)
Last Week: 22 (+3)
It’s too little, too late for the Panthers in a difficult Eastern Conference but they have done well to notch at least a point in eight of their last 10.
Unfortunately, they’ve lost four games in extra time in that span, and don’t discount those four points as they too would have moved to within three of the second Wild Card spot in the east if they claimed those. On a positive note, rookie netminder Sam Montembault is 2-0-1 with a 2.32 GAA and .904 Sv% across the first three starts to his NHL career.
20. Edmonton Oilers (31-31-7)
Last Week: 19 (-1)
The Oilers continue to make a late push for the postseason as they have won seven of their last 10 and have notched at least one point in eight of their last 10.
If it weren’t for the Maple Leafs, the Oilers are on a five-game winning streak as their only two losses in regulation over their last 10 have been at the hands of Toronto. The remainder of their month is extremely favorable as they’ll face the Devils, Coyotes, Senators, Kings, and Ducks before the month is out.
21. Minnesota Wild (33-29-8)
Last Week: 14 (-6)
The Wild take a steep drop in the rankings as they have lost four of their last five games.
They won a big 3-0 matchup with the Lighting on the road last Thursday, but followed that up with a rather embarrassing 6-2 loss to the Panthers on Friday. If that weren’t enough, they returned home and were shutout at the hands of the Sharks on Monday, putting their hold on the second Wild Card spot in serious jeopardy.
22. Chicago Blackhawks (30-30-9)
Last Week: 25 (+3)
It’s going to take a heck of a stretch run for the Blackhawks to get back into a Wild Card spot in the west, but they are giving it another go.
They have won three games in a row, a streak that was punctuated by a 7-1 blasting of the Arizona Coyotes on Monday night – a huge win for the Hawks. They hit the road for a couple of Eastern Conference matchups in Toronto and Montreal, but they could come home to face the Canucks on Monday much closer to a playoff spot.
23. Colorado Avalanche (30-28-12)
Last Week: 21 (-2)
The Avalanche are going to really need some secondary scoring at this point as Gabriel Landeskog is out four-to-six weeks with an upper-body injury, meaning he could even miss the first round of the playoffs if his team qualifies.
Colorado will have to replace the 33 goals and 69 points their captain posted in 68 contests this season, and thankfully they have their fortune in their own hands with games against the Wild, Stars, Blackhawks (twice) and Coyotes – all teams involved in the Wild Card race – before the month of March comes to a conclusion.
24. New York Rangers (28-28-13)
Last Week: 23 (-1)
The Rangers continued their overtime woes last night when they dropped a 3-2 OT decision in Edmonton to the streaking Oilers.
Their play on the road has decimated their season as they’re just 11-17-5 away from MSG this season while their road defense ranks among the worst in the NHL. We will see what kind of turnaround the Rangers will have next season, but the spoiler label could fit for them with nothing to lose.
25. Buffalo Sabres (30-29-9)
Last Week: 24 (-1)
The Sabres free fall down the Eastern Conference standings seems like it has gone under the radar outside of Buffalo.
A season that started with some much promise has torn at the seams as they have just two wins in their last 10 games and will miss Jack Eichel for two more beginning Tuesday night against the Stars.
26. Vancouver Canucks (28-32-9)
Last Week: 26
The Canucks are not going to get into the postseason this year, but it was a nice push.
Another piece of the future will get on board soon as they signed 2018 first-round pick Quinn Hughes to an Entry-Level contract and will surely bring him up for a cup of coffee down the stretch. It wouldn’t be too far fetched to see Hughes and Olli Juolevi on the Canucks’ blueline when the season opens next year.
27. Anaheim Ducks (27-34-9)
Last Week: 27
The nice thing about getting young people into the lineup late in a non-competitive season is it ensures you have players fired up to play every single night.
That was the case on Friday when the 31st-ranked offense of the Ducks put the boots to Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens in the form of an 8-2 final. With contributions from Troy Terry and Max Jones, the Ducks have a little something to feel good about down the stretch.
28. Los Angeles Kings (25-36-8)
Last Week: 29 (+1)
The Kings got a little boost of their own recently from a player that is part of their future.
Carl Grundstrom – acquired from the Maple Leafs in the Jake Muzzin trade – scored a goal in each of his first two NHL games over the weekend, a welcomed sight for Kings fans that haven’t had much to cheer for this season. Now, some luck in the lottery would be an even brighter spot for this franchise heading towards their rebuild.
29. New Jersey Devils (25-35-9)
Last Week: 28 (-1)
It’s been an ugly stretch for the Devils of late as they have dropped six games in a row heading into a tough matchup in Calgary on Tuesday.
While the Prudential Center isn’t nearly as bumping as it was a year ago at this time, the Devils have a quality shot at a top-two pick in the draft this season which gives them a sliver of hope moving forward. I have a feeling GM Ray Shero won’t be quiet in free agency again this season.
30. Detroit Red Wings (24-36-10)
Last Week: 30
The Red Wings are scuffling badly down the stretch and you have to wonder if it’s worth putting the injured Dylan Larkin back into the lineup at this point.
The good news is if the Wings can get either Jack Hughes or Kappo Kakko in the draft this summer, their forward group looks fantastic for the future. However, the back end still needs help if they want to compete anytime soon.
31. Ottawa Senators (23-41-6)
Last Week: 31
Hard to envision the Senators moving out of this spot for the remainder of the season as they have won just once in their last 10 and have points in just two of their last 10.
They are six-points clear of finishing with the best odds of winning the top pick in the draft lottery and should get at least one of the top two picks. It still appears to be a long time before Ottawa recovers from their epic collapse since Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Final.