Now that outdoor game and the experiment with the white pants is behind them, the Los Angeles Kings can now concentrate on their annual romp through the stretch run. Backed by a suddenly white-hot (couldn’t help it) Jonathan Quick and a revived offense, the Kings are back and on the rise.
They’ve won seven in a row and are peaking at a very, very good time. That’s why they’re No. 1 in thn.com’s Power Rankings this week, followed closely by another team that is making a big playoff push. (Last week’s ranking in parentheses.)
1. LOS ANGELES (5): Not sure what’s more impressive, the fact the Kings have won seven in a row or the fact they’ve scored 25 goals in that span, including a five-goal game and three four-goal games. Coming up: Three straight at home – well, one of them is in Anaheim – then a two-game trip to Winnipeg and Edmonton Toto, we're not in Santa Clara anymore.
2. MINNESOTA (11): With points in 13 of their past 14 games, the Wild is actually the hottest team in the league at the moment. Devan Dubnyk. That is all. Coming up: Dubnyk faces his former Edmonton teammates Tuesday night, and then it’s off to Nashville and Colorado.
3. ANAHEIM (7): Who would have thought that experimenting with Ilya Bryzgalov would turn out badly? With back-to-back wins over the weekend, the Ducks are clearly pegging their goaltending hopes on the two guys who started the season – Frederik Andersen and John Gibson. Coming up: Home to Detroit, Ottawa and Los Angeles.
4. NASHVILLE (1): The Predators have not been playing particularly well lately, but they still have points in eight of their past nine games. They came up short, big-time, in a statement game they lost 5-2 to the Islanders last week. Coming up: Home to Colorado, Minnesota and Detroit.
5. MONTREAL (4): Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has been linked to almost every potential trade deadline deal out there. Whether he tweaks or goes big, Bergevin almost certainly has to do something to improve a team that, despite its flaws, is in first in the Eastern Conference. Coming up: On the road in St. Louis and Columbus before a Saturday night home date with Toronto.
6. PITTSBURGH (14): Penguins GM Jim Rutherford sure sounds as though he’d like to get Jordan Staal back, but Carolina GM Ron Francis said today he has no intention of moving the younger Staal. Coming up: Five of the next six on the road, including what should be an intriguing Sidney Crosby-Alex Ovechkin matchup in Washington Wednesday night.
7. DETROIT (15): The Red Wings started off their six-game road trip in grand fashion, winning the first two in extra time. Included in that was a wild 7-6 overtime victory over Dallas Saturday night. Coming up: It really gets interesting tonight when the Red Wings start a three-game California swing before ending the trip in Nashville on the weekend.
8. N.Y. RANGERS (3): The Rangers have points in eight straight games, but they certainly aren’t crazy about all the third-period leads they’ve blown of late. Coming up: At home to Calgary and Arizona before embarking on a stretch in which they play six of seven on the road. Not a problem. They have as many wins at home as away.
9. ST. LOUIS (2): After setting a franchise record by recording at least a point in 13 consecutive games, the Blues have been a .500 hockey team in their past eight games. Coming up: Home to Montreal on Tuesday, then on the road for five straight games, four of them in Canada.
10. WASHINGTON (13): The Capitals won four straight with Andre Burakovsky on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Saturday afternoon, Burakovsky was scratched and the Capitals lost. Sometimes coaches think too much. Coming up: A big rivalry game against Pittsburgh Wednesday night, then on the road to Carolina and home to Toronto.
11. TAMPA BAY (10): The Lightning wrapped up a 10-day western road trip with a 5-4 loss to Colorado Saturday. It was their fifth game in eight days and their second in two nights. Coming up: At home to Chicago and on the road in Florida, then 11 of their final 18 at home.
12. VANCOUVER (16): Already facing an epic injury crisis, the Canucks lost their No. 1 goalie mid-game Sunday afternoon when Ryan Miller went down and is out four-to-six weeks. Eddie Lack is now the man, but this could present the chance Jacob Markstrom is seeking. Coming up: A five game eastern road trip ends with games in Boston and Buffalo.
13. N.Y. ISLANDERS (9): Simply cannot stop thinking of where the Islanders would be right now if Thomas Vanek had decided to accept their offer of $50 million over seven years. Coming up: Three winnable games, all at home, against Arizona, Calgary and Carolina.
14. WINNIPEG (12): The Jets have to win and close games out in regulation if they want to remain in the hunt. They have just 24 regulation and overtime wins, which is lowest among teams in the playoff picture today. Coming up: A huge game at home against Dallas, then St. Louis and another big one against Los Angeles.
15. CHICAGO (6): The Blackhawks have looked anything but like a Stanley Cup contender of late. Their porous defense and suspect goaltending has seen them give up 10 goals in the past two games. Coming up: At home to Florida Tuesday night, then two in the state of Florida to round out the week.
16. CALGARY (8): The Flames have reached the make-or-break point of their season. Starting Tuesday, they play seven on the road against Eastern Conference opponents. The Flames are just 8-12-2 against eastern teams this season. Coming up: Three games in four nights in the greater New York metropolitan area.
17. PHILADELPHIA (21): Losing to Buffalo in a shootout was a huge step backward, but impressive wins on home ice over Nashville and Washington have the Flyers still thinking about the playoff possibilities. Coming up: On the road against Carolina and Toronto, two games the Flyers must win if they have playoff aspirations.
18. COLORADO (17): After losing to the Rangers Feb. 12, the Avs found themselves six points out of a playoff spot. They won four of their next five and are still six points out of a playoff spot. That’s not good. Coming up: At Nashville and Dallas then home to Minnesota. All huge games for them.
19. BOSTON (18): The Bruins salvaged an absolute disaster of a road trip with a 6-2 win over Chicago Sunday. The question is, are the Bruins this flawed or are they the Eastern Conference’s version of the L.A. Kings? Coming up: Five of their next six at home, starting with Vancouver Tuesday night.
20. SAN JOSE (19): Outdoor hockey was a huge success in San Jose. The Sharks, unfortunately, have not. The Sharks are in some big trouble here. Coming up: They won’t have any four-point games against Western Conference opponents, with all three home games this week against eastern teams.
21. NEW JERSEY (28): Ten points out of a playoff spot, if the Devils are not thinking of unloading at the deadline, they should be. Jaromir Jagr to Montreal continues to gain steam, but the Devils should get something in return for Scott Gomez, too. Coming up: Home to Arizona, Calgary and Boston.
22. OTTAWA (24): After recording two assists in each of his previous four games, Erik Karlsson changed things up by scoring a goal Saturday in a win over Florida. Coming up: A five-game road trip, kicked off by three games in four nights in California starting Wednesday.
23. FLORIDA (20): With the playoffs a real possibility, the Panthers started a five-game road trip with two impressive wins in Toronto and Montreal, but then dropped games in Ottawa and Pittsburgh that weren’t even really close. Coming up: The road trip ends Tuesday in Chicago, then it’s home for seven straight.
24. COLUMBUS (25): A wake-up call or a ticket out of town. The Blue Jackets made James Wisniewski, their highest-paid defenseman this season, a healthy scratch Sunday. Coming up: Home games against Buffalo, Montreal and New Jersey, teams against which the Blue Jackets have a 1-3-0 record this season.
25. TORONTO (27): The last time the Maple Leafs defeated a U.S. based team was Jan. 9. Of course, they’ve only beaten two teams since then. Coming up: At home to Philadelphia Thursday night, where they’ll try to be spoilers, than four straight on the road starting with Montreal Saturday night.
26. CAROLINA (22): Hurricanes GM Ron Francis has already said he has no intention of moving Jordan Staal before the deadline, but pending free agents Andrej Sekera and Jiri Tlusty are as good as gone. Coming up: Home to Philadelphia and Washington before two on the road.
27. DALLAS (23): In the past three games, the Stars have given up 18 goals. They blew two two-goal leads in the third period against Detroit Saturday, then gave up six in the third to Minnesota Sunday. Coming up: In Winnipeg Tuesday night, then home for the next three.
28. BUFFALO (29): Defenseman Josh Gorges, who hasn’t played since Feb. 10, will likely be shut down for the rest of the season, ending a disastrous first campaign in Buffalo. Coming up: Six of their next seven on the road, where the Sabres are a dismal 6-20-2 this season.
29. EDMONTON (26): Those looking for a massive overhaul beyond the trading of Jeff Petry might be disappointed. GM Craig MacTavish said he plans to “stay the course” at the trade deadline. Coming up: In Minnesota, then home to a couple of soft touches in St. Louis and Los Angeles.
30. ARIZONA (30): The Coyotes embark on a four game road trip tonight, and while they’ll still be a bad team at near the bottom of the standings, the team that returns from the trip could look very different from the one that starts it. Coming up: Three games in the New York area and one in Boston on the weekend.