By Joe Haggerty
Teams are biting the dust on a daily basis now that there are less than 10 games to go in the season, and the playoff picture is clearing up. While the Leafs and Hurricanes are still hanging around, it appears the top eight teams are set in East, with the Buffalo Sabres rounding out the bunch after a strong second-half run.
The only question now is where the teams will finish within the top eight spots.
Meanwhile in the Western Conference, the Flames and the Stars are outside the top eight but continue to knock on the postseason door in the picture of parity. It should be an interesting final three weeks of the regular season.
Without further ado, here are this weeks power rankings:
1. Vancouver Canucks (50-17-9, last week: 1) The Canucks have 50 wins for the first time in franchise history, and have won 10 of their last 11 games. Bring on the playoffs before they suffer any more injuries.
2. Philadelphia Flyers (45-20-10, last week: 2) The Flyers are hanging on for dear life to the top spot in the East, but they havent beaten a quality opponent in nearly a month.
3. Washington Capitals (44-22-10, last week: 4) Marco Sturm scored his first goal for the Capitals, and it figures that it would come against the Canadiens.
4. Detroit Red Wings (44-22-10, last week: 3) The Wings have one win in their last five games, and are battling without Pavel Datsyuk in the lineup. Luckily it doesnt appear the Jimmy Howard injury is serious.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins (45-23-8, last week: 7) Who would have thought the Penguins would still be threatening the Flyers for the Atlantic Division lead after Sidney Crosby went down in early January? Its all pure heart and guts for Pittsburgh right now.
6. San Jose Sharks (44-23-9, last week: 5) Logan Couture has hit 30 goals this season and set a San Jose franchise record for a rookie. Time to start engraving that Calder Trophy.
7. Boston Bruins (42-23-10, last week: 8) The Bruins continue to dust themselves off after their tough losing steak at the beginning of March, and it looks like theyre hitting their stride again. The power play is clicking for the first time in months.
8. Los Angeles Kings (43-26-6, last week: 12) The Kings looked like they were rounding into great shape for the playoffs, but the ankle surgery for Anze Kopitar really gives the Kings a death blow.
9. Nashville Predators (41-25-10, last week: 10) It appears the Predators are steaming into their sixth playoff berth in the last seven seasons. They will be a tough draw in the first round given their goaltending and grit as long as Barry Trotz can avoid flying sticks.
10. Phoenix Coyotes (41-25-11, last week: 6) The one-sided loss to the Sharks knocked the Coyotes down a few pegs, but theyre still riding high into the postseason.
11. Tampa Bay Lightning (40-24-11, last week: 11) The Bolts are in line for their first playoff appearance since 2007, but arent exactly finishing strong. Theres a softness to this team thats a playoff concern.
12. New York Rangers (41-30-5, last week: 15) The Rangers will be a handful in the playoffs with selfless players ready to step in front of shots, not to mention Henrik Lundqvist and his NHL-leading 11 shutouts.
13. Anaheim Ducks (43-28-5, last week: 13) Corey Perry leads the NHL in goals scored and is emerging as a force for a Ducks team thats battling through a lot of adversity. He and Milan Lucic are the only NHL players with 30 goals and 100 penalty minutes in the league this season.
14. Chicago Blackhawks (41-26-8, last week: 9) The Blackhawks are still fighting for their playoff lives despite a talent-littered roster and Jonathan Toews going Captain crazy.
15. Buffalo Sabres (38-28-9, last week: 17) Nathan Gerbe has 13 of his 14 goals after the Sabres reached the halfway mark of the season, and three of them are game-winners. Looks like another Boston College midget has infiltrated the NHL.
16. Dallas Stars (38-26-10, last week: 16) The Stars have one win in their last six games, and now have to regain their mojo on the road. Guess theyre not so bright and big at night.
17. Calgary Flames (38-28-11, last week: 18) The Flames had a great win over the Oilers last weekend, but need a miracle every day for the rest of the regular season.
18. Montreal Canadiens (40-29-7, last week: 9) The Canadiens quit in the third period against the Bruins last week, and the hockey gods dont look favorably on that.
19. Toronto Maple Leafs (34-32-10, last week: 21) The Leafs are in do-or-die mode seven points out of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
20. Carolina Hurricanes (34-34-4, last week: 14) The Young and Restless 'Canes have had several chances to get back into the Eastern Conference mix, but just cant get over the hump.
21. Atlanta Thrashers (32-31-12, last week: 22) Looks like itll be another year before the Thrashers get a chance to win a playoff game.
22. St. Louis Blues (34-32-9, last week: 25) The Blues have won 6 out of 10 games, but that couldnt keep T.J. Oshie from going AWOL.
23. New Jersey Devils (34-36-5, last week: 20) Zach Parises final moments in New Jersey are all the Devils fans have left at this point, but at least they made it interesting.
24. Minnesota Wild (35-32-8, last week: 23) Players and coaches only meetings after an eight-game losing streak. Good times in Minnesota.
25. Columbus Blue Jackets (33-31-11, last week: 24) Scott Arniel called things a mess in Columbus. A stick salute for some honestly amid another underachieving campaign.
26. New York Islanders (29-35-11, last week: 26) Trevor Gillies is eligible to return to the Isles at this point. Woo-ho.
27. Florida Panthers (29-36-11, last week: 27) Three wins in their last 15 games for a Panthers team thats once again tanked for the season.
28. Ottawa Senators (29-37-10, last week: 28) Cory Clouston has managed to wring one last winning streak to end the season. Looks like the rats are looking for lifeboats on the Titanic as it takes on some water.
29. Colorado Avalanche (28-39-8, last week: 29) Hopefully Joe Sakic can salvage this mess.
30. Edmonton Oilers (23-41-11, last week: 30) Blowing a three-goal lead against Calgary in a Battle for Alberta game is about as bad as it gets.