Now that the Olympic break is here, the NHL standings will be frozen for the next couple weeks as will my weekly power rankings. With that said, allow us to take an in-depth look as there were some dramatic changes throughout. And yes, the Ducks have been replaced in the top spot for the time being.
1. St. Louis Blues 39-12-6 (T-1st in Central) +1 Last week: 2
One player that may be overlooked going into the Olympic break is the captain of the Blues, David Backes. He is without a doubt one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL and his leadership is one of the many reasons why the Blues are the best team in the league. They have yet to lose a divisional game in regulation this season and rest assured they will win the Central.
2. Anaheim Ducks 41-14-5 (1st in Pacific) -1 Last week: 1
There is no better way for the NHL to return from the break than having the Ducks battle the Blues on February 28 in what could be a preview of the Western Conference finals. If there are any in question of the Blues being the superior of the two, be sure to catch that game.
3. San Jose Sharks 37-16-6 (2nd in Pacific) — Last week: 3
The Sharks have an incredibly easy schedule coming up and if they have any shot at catching Anaheim in the division, this would be their chance. A part of being a good team is being able to handle your business against the much weaker teams.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins 40-15-3 (1st in Metropolitan) — Last week: 4
Even after a rare shootout loss to the Rangers, this is still the best team in the Eastern Conference. Marc-Andre Fleury has been one of the greater stories this year with his league-leading 31 wins after a dismal Stanley Cup playoff last season. What many do not realize is that these next two weeks are the best thing for him. He can now rest up after starting in 47 games.
5. Boston Bruins 37-16-4 (1st in Atlantic) — Last week: 5
Two weeks ago, the Bruins were sharing first place with Tampa Bay. Now that they are quietly pulling away from them and the teams that follow, it is safe to say they now own the division… and they will probably win it.
6. Colorado Avalanche 37-16-5 (3rd in Central) — Last week: 6
Many who are reading these rankings for the first time may be wondering if Chicago was skipped. There is nothing wrong with your eyes, just look below. Patrick Roy still has a better team than the first place ‘Hawks.
7. Chicago Blackhawks 35-11-14 (T-1st in Central) — Last week: 7
Last week, we compared this team to the Denver Broncos. Not only are they a high-scoring team with a mediocre defense, but they also have the most overtime losses than any other team in the league. How well can they deal with pressure? I am still not convinced that they will survive the first round of the playoffs unless they improve their blueline by the March 5 trade deadline.
8. New York Rangers 32-24-3 (2nd in Metropolitan) +1 Last week: 9
They stunned the Penguins in a shootout this weekend while maintaining second place. However, they face a tough road ahead after the break facing Chicago, a red-hot Philadelphia, Boston and Toronto.
9. Toronto Maple Leafs 32-22-6 (T-3rd in Atlantic) +1 Last week: 10
Phil Kessel remains hot as the Leafs keep clawing away. Despite what their seed is come April, they are still a scary team to face.
10. Tampa Bay Lightning 33-20-5 (2nd in Atlantic) -2 Last week: 8
No player deserved to be added to Team Canada’s roster more than Martin St. Louis. He will fill in for his injured teammate Steven Stamkos. Even though they had a sub-par week, they are still going to shock a team or two in the playoffs.
11. Minnesota Wild 31-21-7 (4th in Central) +1 Last week: 12
For as good as this team is, it is a wonder why they are not closer to the top of the division. Oh that’s right, they play in the Central.
12. Montreal Canadiens 32-21-6 (T-3rd in Atlantic) +4 Last week: 16
Three straight wins this week for Carey Price and he may have climbed his way to the top goaltender spot for Team Canada. They are playing very well now, but it concerns me when your leading scorer is a defenseman.
13. Phoenix Coyotes 27-21-10 (4th in Pacific) +1 Last week: 14
The Coyotes climb a spot this week as they leaped over the struggling Canucks in the division. The big question is will Mike Babcock need to call upon Mike Smith in Sochi?
14. Columbus Blue Jackets 29-24-5 (T-4th in Metropolitan) -3 Last week: 11
Just when things were going well for this squad, they drop two in a row and allow the Flyers to take third place. And to make matters worse, Washington is right there. I smell a seller at the trade deadline here.
15. Philadelphia Flyers 30-23-6 (3rd in Metropolitan) +3 Last week: 18
This division is getting interesting. Just when you think the Flyers are calling it a season, they go on a spurge winning four in a row. And as tight as this division is, you only need a two-game winning streak to climb.
16. Los Angeles Kings 31-22-6 (3rd in Pacific) -3 Last week: 13
Who wants third place to secure a playoff spot? Right now, it looks like Phoenix wants it more.
17. Dallas Stars 27-21-10 (5th in Central) — Last week: 17
Hey, it is no longer a three-way tie for last place. This team is going places.
18. Carolina Hurricanes 26-22-9 (T-6th in Metropolitan) +1 Last week: 19
The Staal brothers are doing their best to compete in this soap opera of a division. They are only three points out of the last wild card spot at this juncture.
19. Vancouver Canucks 26-24-9 (5th in Pacific) -4 Last week: 15
Wow… this team has issues. Seven straight losses have them declining four spots in my rankings- worst in the league this week. I need to YouTube some John Tortorella interviews to see what he has to say (or doesn’t have to say) about his team.
20. Detroit Red Wings 24-19-12 (5th in Atlantic) — Last week: 20
Pavel Datsuk is back after missing over a month with a knee injury. The key here is to keep him healthy just because of what he brings to the table. This desperate hockey team needs his skill and creativity to get that extra point in overtime shootouts.
21. Ottawa Senators 26-22-11 (6th in Atlantic) — Last week: 21
After a week of going 2-1-1, there is no need to place them any higher or lower.
22. Washington Capitals 27-23-9 (T-4th in Metropolitan) +2 Last week: 24
The roller coaster ride of a season continues for Adam Oates and his Caps. Six points separate the six teams below the Penguins. Which of these teams are for real?
23. Winnipeg Jets 28-26-6 (6th in Central) -1 Last week: 22
As I said the same thing about Nashville last week, Winnipeg may want to consider trading for draft picks. Andrew Ladd and Tobias Enstrom would make fine additions on other teams.
24. Calgary Flames 22-29-7 (6th in Pacific) +1 Last week: 25
The Flames are in the same boat as Winnipeg. Mike Cammalleri will be one of the most sought-after players this March.
25. Nashville Predators 25-24-10 (7th in Central) -2 Last week: 23
Shea Weber would look pretty good in a Blackhawks jersey would he not? Either that or picture him in a Pittsburgh jersey. Yea, that’s what I thought.
26. New Jersey Devils 24-22-13 (T-6th in Metropolitan) — Last week: 26
Rumors already started this past week about teams interested in Jaromir Jagr, Colorado being one of them.
27. New York Islanders 22-30-8 (8th in Metropolitan) — Last week: 27
We know Thomas Vanek wants out of Long Island, but could Evgeni Nabokov be trade bait also? The Penguins and Lightning might be interested.
28. Florida Panthers 22-29-7 (7th in Atlantic) — Last week: 28
They had a nice win against the Leafs this week, but dropped the next two. They need to be on the lookout for a scoring winger in the summer.
29. Edmonton Oilers 20-33-7 (7th in Pacific) — Last week: 29
Just like every other week, I am speechless when it comes to this team of talented players who cannot score.
30. Buffalo Sabres 15-34-8 (8th in Atlantic) — Last week: 30
Not much going on here other than three straight losses this week. I am sure Ryan Miller is looking forward to the Olympics.