10. Tampa Bay Lightning (39-24-9, last week: 7) – The Bolts are 5-0-2 in the last seven games and Steve Stamkos is hitting his stride again coming back from the broken leg. The Lightning are going to be a tough out in the first round.
9. Los Angeles Kings (42-25-6, last week: 10) – The Kings aren’t the sexy pick in the Western Conference, but they are absolutely built for the playoffs. Offense may be their undoing, however.
8. Montreal Canadiens (41-26-7, last week: 9) – Peter Budaj may be the secret weapon against the Bruins in the playoffs as he’s 5-0-0 lifetime against Boston at TD Garden. Big shootout win for the Habs over the Bruins on Monday night.
7. Colorado Avalanche (45-21-6, last week: 5) – The Avs are 2-3-1 in the last six games, and look a little on the light side as the games heavier this much closer to the playoffs. Speedy and dangerous, but inexperienced and not very physical.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins (46-21-5, last week: 6) – The Penguins have veteran leadership calling out the team for a lack of “passion” in the closing weeks of the season, and things are looking messy for Pittsburgh. It may very well not be an elite postseason for the Pens again this season.
5. Anaheim Ducks (46-18-7, last week: 3) – The Ducks have three wins in their last nine games as they’re cooling off just prior to the playoffs.
4. Chicago Blackhawks (42-16-15, last week: 8) – Impressive 4-0 win for the Blackhawks over the St. Louis Blues as they battle with Patrick Kane out of the lineup.
3. San Jose Sharks (46-18-9, last week: 4) – This team doesn’t belong to Jumbo Joe and Patrick Marleau anymore. Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Brent Burns, Antti Niemi, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and names like that are carrying the load for a Sharks team at the top of the standings.
2. St. Louis Blues (49-16-7, last week: 2) – The Blues are 10-2-1 since Ryan Miller showed up in St. Louis, and look like the kind of team that has what it takes to get through the Western Conference gauntlet.
1. Boston Bruins (49-17-6, last week: 1) – The 12-game winning streak is over, but the Bruins are still 20-2-4 in their last 26 games dating back to Jan. 16. Big, strong, disciplined with good goaltending, and built for the playoffs.