The Anaheim Ducks are in a heated battle for both the Pacific Division and Presidents’ Trophy titles and remained in the race for both with two enormous comeback wins over Winnipeg and Edmonton.
The Comeback Kids have come back to top thn.com’s Power Rankings this week. The Anaheim Ducks were down three goals in the final period Monday night against Winnipeg before capping their greatest comeback in franchise history with a 5-4 overtime win, then were down two in the third against Edmonton Wednesday night before scoring three times to take the game in regulation time.
After a brief surge by Eastern Conference teams, five of the top six spots are occupied by Western Conference teams. (Last week’s ranking in parentheses.)
1. ANAHEIM (5): There’s no way Corey Perry could score 50 goals this season, is there? Well, he’ll need nine in his final six games, but the way Perry finishes his seasons, don’t bet against it. True to form, he has four goals in his past three games, including two in a 3-2 win over Edmonton Wednesday night in which the Ducks were largely outplayed.
2. COLORADO (9): It isn’t just that the Avs have won their past four games, which is in and of itself impressive. It’s that they’ve done it without Matt Duchene in the lineup. The Avs are 14-6 this season in games that go beyond 60 minutes, with three of those victories coming either in overtime or a shootout. Of the 10 overtime goals the Avs have scored this season, defenseman Tyson Barrie has three of them.
3. BOSTON (1): The Bruins suffered their first regulation loss since Jan. 9 – a span of almost three months – when Detroit took them down Wednesday night. Still, the Bruins are 8-1-1 in their past 10 and have emerged as the runaway favorite to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup final. Patrice Bergeron’s eight-game goal streak was snapped in the Detroit game, but he had an assist to give him 8-4-12 totals in his past nine.
4. ST. LOUIS (2): When T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner over Philadelphia Tuesday night, it gave him nine goals in the skills contest this season. His current conversion rate of 75 percent (9-for-12) would be the fourth best in league history for players taking more than 10 shots in a season. The Blues have a new look on their third line, with Patrik Berglund between Magnus Paajarvi and Steve Ott.
5. SAN JOSE (4): The Sharks, a team that often has a rather fragile psyche at this time of year, has the opportunity to make an emphatic statement Thursday night in their game against Los Angeles. First, a win would help them avoid playing the Kings in the first round of the playoffs. Second, a win would give the Sharks a boost going into the first round if they do end up playing the Kings. The Sharks are 1-2-1 against the Kings this season, with one of those losses coming in overtime.
6. LOS ANGELES (3): With wins in six of their past seven games, the Kings clinched a playoff spot with their 4-0 victory over Phoenix Wednesday night. Anze Kopitar, who has 4-2-6 totals in his past four games, should get serious consideration for the Selke Trophy this season. Is there a team in the NHL that anyone would rather face less in the first round than the Kings?
7. NY RANGERS (7): When Mark Messier says you have a “great chance” of winning the Stanley Cup, you take notice. After all, Messier knows a little about winning championships. Going into the playoffs, the Rangers certainly won’t be afraid to take penalties, since they have seven shorthanded goals (and just five power-play goals) in their past 15 games. Martin St-Louis scored his first as a Ranger in 15 games – a shorthanded goal – in a 3-1 win over Vancouver Tuesday night.
8. TAMPA BAY (10): The Lighting has already done what almost nobody gave them a chance to do this season and that’s qualifying for the playoffs. If someone had told you before the season that Steven Stamkos would miss 45 games and the Lightning would trade Martin St-Louis at the deadline, would you have believed it? No, which is why Jon Cooper will get some serious consideration for the Jack Adams Award.
9. PITTSBURGH (11): Just when it looked as though the Penguins had things figured out with two straight victories, they looked singularly unimpressive in a 4-1 loss to Carolina Tuesday night. With the Penguins on the verge of winning the Metropolitan Division and the pretty much locked into the second seed in the Eastern Conference, perhaps a malaise has set in. They’re just 8-8-2 since the Olympic break.
10. CHICAGO (6): With the Blackhawks all but locked into a first-round series with Colorado, they’ve decided to shut captain Jonathan Toews down for the rest of the regular season. Both Toews and Patrick Kane are expected back for the playoffs for the flagging Blackhawks, who lost all three games on an eastern road trip and have dropped four of their past five overall.
11. DETROIT (17): Anyone who downplays the importance of good drafting and developing players should take notice of the surging Red Wings, who defeated the best team in the NHL when they knocked off Boston 3-2 Wednesday night. In a season in which their injuries should have given them no business being in the playoff hunt, the Red Wings are thriving down the stretch, largely because of the red-hot Gustav Nyquist and a band of Grand Rapids Griffins who won the American League championship last season.
12. MONTREAL (8): The Canadiens were knocked out of second place in the Atlantic Division when they lost 3-1 to Tampa Bay Tuesday night, but they remain one of the hottest teams in the league with an 8-2-0 mark in their past 10. Defenseman Douglas Murray faces a phone hearing Thursday for his vicious elbow to the head of Mike Kostka Tuesday night, which means the most he’ll receive is a five-game suspension.
13. DALLAS (19): With 16 goals in their past three games, the Stars are finding their offensive groove at exactly the right time. At the other end of the ice, goalie Kari Lehtonen has heated up considerably himself. In his past six starts, Lehtonen has a 5-1-0 record with a 1.67 goals-against average and .950 save percentage. The Stars playoff hopes were boosted by L.A’s win over Phoenix Wednesday night.
14. MINNESOTA (15): Despite posting an impressive 3-2 win over Los Angeles on the road Tuesday night, the Wild suffered a setback when Mikael Granlund left the game with an apparent concussion. Granlund, who missed 13 games earlier this season with a concussion, may not be back soon. Goalie Josh Harding, who has not played since New Year’s Eve after being forced out with multiple sclerosis, is practicing with the Wild, but there is no timetable set for his return.
15. PHILADELPHIA (16): The Flyers are comfortably in a playoff spot, but it could have been a lot more comfortable had they not dropped back-to-back shootouts against Boston and St. Louis. The Flyers could all but clinch third place in the Metropolitan Division and a playoff spot with a win over Columbus Thursday night.
16. COLUMBUS (14): The Blue Jackets are 0-5-1 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, but a win there Thursday night would be an enormous boost for them. Another boost will soon come in the form of rookie defenseman Ryan Murray, who underwent arthroscopic surgery March 7. Murray was supposed to miss four-to-six weeks, but could be back in the lineup this weekend when they face Chicago Friday and the Islanders Sunday.
17. PHOENIX (12): Is it possible a team can struggle on offense after losing its No. 1 goalie? Mike Smith is one of the best puckhandling goaltenders in the league and is an enormous help on the breakout. Whatever the reason, the Coyotes scoring has dried up in the past three games, with Phoenix scoring just two goals. Smith is expected to be out at least one more week with his knee injury.
18. TORONTO (20): The Maple Leafs halted an eight-game losing streak with a 3-2 win over Calgary Tuesday night, but face an uphill climb if they hope to get back into the playoff race, starting with a home game Thursday night against Boston. Paging Phil Kessel: the Leafs sniper has just 2-2-4 totals in his past 11 games. Linemates James van Riemsdyk (3-3-6 totals in his past 15) and Tyler Bozak (2-3-5 in past 11) have dried up as well.
19. NEW JERSEY (21): Not to continuing beating a dead horse here, but 34 players in the NHL currently have more shootout goals than the Devils entire team this season. The Devils had five chances to win a shootout against the woeful Buffalo Sabres before losing and dropping to 0-11 in the skills contest Tuesday night. Ryane Clowe, who missed 32 games with a concussion earlier this season, apparently avoided one when he took a big hit from Quinton Howden Monday night.
20. WASHINGTON (13): How a team fighting for its playoff life turns in an effort like the 5-0 loss the Capitals suffered at the hands of Dallas on home ice Tuesday night is impossible to figure. But the Capitals continue to confound with four straight losses in which they have given up a total of 18 goals. On one of them in the Dallas game, coach Adam Oates claimed Alex Ovechkin “quit” on the play.
21. NY ISLANDERS (26): Showing the woeful Islanders a bit of love here because they’ve won three straight and have points in seven of their past eight. What’s best about all that is they’re still firmly in the bottom five in the league and have a shot at winning the draft lottery. Rookie Ryan Strome is quietly putting together a very good truncated NHL season and has 1-5-6 totals in his past five games.
22. WINNIPEG (24): The Jets played hard on a four-game swing through the killer Pacific Division, going 2-0-1 and beating San Jose and Phoenix and losing in overtime to Anaheim. But that loss to the Ducks Monday night was an ugly one – the Jets had a 4-0 lead and blew it by giving up a goal with 23 seconds left before losing in just 16 seconds in overtime. Give them credit, though, for bouncing back and winning in Phoenix the next night.
23. NASHVILLE (22): The Predators have points in five of their past six and in a shocking development, have scored four or more goals in four of those games. Goalie Pekka Rinne has had a difficult time finding his game after returning from a hip infection. He’s just 3-6-1 and has been pulled twice, with a 2.89 goals-against average and .898 save percentage.
24. CAROLINA (27): There has been almost nothing redeeming about the Hurricanes season, aside from the fact that Jeff Skinner scored his 30th goal of the season, marking the second time in his career he has hit that mark and making him just the 15th player in NHL history to have two 30-goal seasons before his 22nd birthday. The Hurricanes are coming off a road win over Pittsburgh and have points in each of their past four games.
25. OTTAWA (23): The Senators had their playoff hopes effectively snuffed out for good in a 2-1 loss to the Islanders Wednesday night. Going into that game, they had points in each of their past five games and were keeping their faint post-season hopes alive. One bright spot was the play of Kyle Turris, who earned first star of the week honors with a 4-3-7 totals in four games.
26. VANCOUVER (18): The Canucks have been outscored 8-2 in their past two games on home ice. Henrik Sedin reported Wednesday that his injured knee is getting better and he hopes to return at some point during the Canucks final five games of the season. Former coach Alain Vigneault and the Rangers effectively stuck the final dagger in the Canucks playoff hopes by beating them 3-1 Tuesday night.
27. CALGARY (25): Bryce Van Brabant – is that a great name or what? – became the 10th Flames player this season to make his NHL debut when he hit the ice for Calgary’s 3-2 loss to Toronto Tuesday night. The 22-year-old Brabant was signed as a free agent out of Quinnipiac University. Captain Mark Giordano was fittingly named the Flames nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy.
28. EDMONTON (29): Another blown game, another learning experience. Three minutes into the third period on the road against Anaheim Wednesday night, the Oilers had a 2-0 lead, but watched that evaporate before losing 3-2 to the powerhouse Ducks. The Oilers young trio of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has provided virtually all the offense of late. Hall has 17 shots in his past two games.
29. FLORIDA (28): Rookie Nick Bjugstad has put together a solid rookie season and had two assists in the Panthers 6-3 loss in New Jersey Monday night, but appeared to have been demoted when he was taken off the top line and had his ice time cut. “The reasoning was his play,” Panthers coach Peter Horachek told reporters. “It wasn’t very good.”
30. BUFFALO (30): It will be an emotional game Thursday night when the Sabres visit St. Louis. It will be the first time they will have faced former goaltender Ryan Miller and former captain Steve Ott. Prospect center Mikhail Grigorenko joined the Rochester Americans after his season with the Quebec Remparts ended and he could see time in one of the Sabres final six games.