The New York Rangers grab top spot in the final edition of this season's THN.com NHL Power Rankings, but another Atlantic division team – the Pittsburgh Penguins – are going to be right up there with them in the minds of pre-playoff prognosticators as the biggest Stanley Cup favorites.
The Penguins had an off week last week, dropping three of four games and losing a chance to catch the Blueshirts for first overall in the Eastern Conference. However, freshly-returned superstar Sidney Crosby is heating up with six points in his past two games and fellow star Evgeni Malkin is averaging two points a game in his past eight contests.
Sure, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is looking a little tired (with a record of 0-3-0, a goals-against average of 5.32 and a .788 save percentage in his past three games), but he's also played 65 times this season. Under normal circumstances, coach Dan Bylsma might give him a rest in the final week of the regular season, but Pittsburgh must fend off their biggest rivals (the Philadelphia Flyers) to hang on to home ice advantage, so they may have no choice but to go with him when the Pens take on the Bruins, Rangers and Flyers this week.
Once the playoffs begin, the Power Rankings will shut down until the start of next season. Thanks for following along every week – and see you next year.
Rangers lead the league with 50 wins - the most they've had since 1993-94 when they had 52 and won the Stanley Cup.
Fan angst is building in Vancouver, but the fact is this team has six straight wins and looks fully prepared to defend its Western Conference championship. This advice will fall on deaf ears, but relax, Nucks fans. There's a long ride still to come.
Blues have racked up 48 wins, the most since they had 51 in 1999-2000. That team lost in the first round to San Jose - the same team St. Louis could be playing in this year's first round.
Flyers haven't won more than two in a row since early March. However, two wins over their arch-rivals in Pittsburgh over the past two weeks have their fans feeling better about an increasingly likely first round series against the Pens.
Sure, the Pens didn't look like a juggernaut last week. They're still going to be the go-to Cup favorite for many a pundit.
Patrick Sharp's plus-27 mark is the highest among any NHL player in the top 25 in league scoring (Sharp is 24th overall with 67 points).
Late-season stumbles have prevented 45-win Preds from coming close to their franchise record of 51 in a season (set in 2006-07), but if they run the table in their final three games, they can surpass their second-best mark (set in 2009-10).
After an extended slump, Bruins have lost just twice in regulation over their past 10 games. Can they get hot at the right time of year for the second straight year?
Devils are my dark horse team for the playoffs, but it's only because of their aberration of a season in 2010-11 that they're all that "dark" to begin with.
It's not shocking Keith Yandle is leading all Yotes in average time on ice (22:26), but it is to see sophomore NHLer Oliver Ekman-Larsson second (22:03).
Surprising Sens surging again, but unless New Jersey collapses and Ottawa wins its final three games, it seems they're locked in to the No. 7 seed and a series with the Bruins.
Shootout loss to Minnesota Sunday was a killer for the Kings, who almost certainly will have their playoff hopes decided in a home-and-home series against the Sharks this weekend.
Losses to Columbus and Nashville last week open the door for Hawks to overtake Wings for second in the Central; however, that might not be a bad thing, as a sixth-place finish for Detroit could lead to a series against the Kings or Coyotes. That sounds better than a fourth-place finish and a date with the Predators.
If Cats aren't careful, Caps could overtake them for first in the Southeast Division - and what started out as a potential home ice advantage against the Devils would become the final playoff seed in the East and a series against the Rangers.
Sharks hold the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but their three games this week could (a) put them on the outside looking in and (b) force GM Doug Wilson to seriously consider breaking up their long-serving core. This team looks to be at a crossroads.
Loss of goalie Tomas Vokoun for possibly the rest of the season and playoffs is just more bad news for a franchise that has become accustomed to it in short order.
One win in four games last week has plucky Stars reeling, now trailing Sharks for final playoff spot. Dallas takes on San Jose, Nashville and St. Louis this week.
Avs tied with Red Wings for fewest shootout losses (two) this season.
Much like Robyn Regehr's old team in Calgary, his current one in Buffalo expended huge amounts of energy to get back into the playoff picture, but looks to have run out of gas.
For all the complaining about Evander Kane this season, he's the Jets' top plus/minus man and the only one in double-digits (plus-11) in that department.
Carolina management raves about the play of rookie defenseman Justin Faulk; he won't win the rookie-of-the-year award, but he is the Canes' top minute-muncher (averaging 22:55 a game).
Martin St-Louis hits the 70-point plateau for the sixth consecutive season and the eighth time in the past nine seasons.
Once again, the Flames come close to a playoff berth, but don't have enough to get there. Time to trade old stars (including Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff) and work on developing new ones.
After early resurgence under new coach Bruce Boudreau, Ducks have fallen back to earth - they're 6-10-1 since Feb. 26.
Matt Moulson has gotten much praise for recording his third straight 30-goal season, but he's also improved his assist total by 50 percent from last season (22 to 33 this year).
Fan anger over Leafs' consistent futility at an all-time high; Brian Burke better have long sleeves - and more than a few tricks up them - this off-season.
Eighteen of the Wild's games finished in a shootout - the most of any team this season.
Some good pieces in place for next season, but will head coach Tom Renney be around to play with them? More than a few don't think so.
Firing of GM Pierre Gauthier was step one in the rehabilitation of the Habs, but there are about 400 more steps required before they can confidently claim to be serious Cup contenders.
Wins last week over playoff-bound Wings, Panthers and Blues mean nothing; end to the season can't come quickly enough for this group.
The Hockey News ranks the teams 1-30 each Monday based on a combination of last week’s play and a squad’s overall outlook.
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