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Posted: Tuesday March 30, 2010 3:08PM; Updated: Thursday April 1, 2010 2:34PM
Allan Muir
Allan Muir>NHL POWER RANKINGS

Red Wings have reason to believe

Story Highlights

Detroit is 8-0-1 in its last nine games, healthy and loading up for the playoffs

The Devils have made the playoffs 13 seasons in a row, but must fear Philly

Leaky goalies and a slow defense caused blood pressure to rise in Chicago

Biggest climb: Senators (23 to 12)

Biggest fall: Penguins (4 to 9), Wild (21 to 26)

A reminder: These rankings are based on many factors, and not one is scientific. They're heavily influenced by recent play, taking into account expectations versus achievement, quality of opponents, injuries, hot or cold streaks, lucky bounces, bad breaks, official malfeasance, travel schedule, and my uncannily intuitive gut calls on how each team stacks up against the rest of the Original 30. Please note that I, unlike some referees, do not have it in for your team and no homer glasses of any color were worn during the formulation of these rankings.

Want to send me a comment about the rankings or maybe a cool video clip that cries out to be shared? Scroll to the bottom of this page for my Mailbag. I read 'em all and if you're halfway civil -- or at least clever in your skewering of my decisions -- I'll try to get back to you.

NHL Power Rankings
1Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 3
Heard from plenty of disbelievers last week when the Red Wings were bumped up to third. Don't expect as many complaints now that they've won five straight games, are 8-0-1 in their last nine and look to be back in Cup-challenge mode. Mike Babcock credits a healthy lineup and Jimmy Howard providing goaltending "as good as we've had since I've been here." But this rank isn't just about a hot streak. The Wings are 14-4-4 this season against the five clubs currently ahead of them in the standings. Watch out, West. Last week: 4-0
 
2Washington Capitals
Last Week: 1
With not just the playoffs but the conference clinched, they should be using the final weeks to stay healthy, refine their systems and batten the hatches. But with a 2-1-2 mark in their last five, they haven't looked sharp. Injuries have played a part, but the Caps are slipping back into that "score their way out of trouble" mode. The hockey's about to change, boys. Time to tighten up. Last week: 1-1-1
 
3Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 3
Phoenix Coyotes (47-23-6)
Their nine-game win streak was snapped by the Hawks on Tuesday, but they still had a banner week, clinching their first playoff berth since 2001-02. They'll have trouble catching the Sharks in the Pacific, but their 100-point (and counting) season should secure home ice in the first round. Lee Stempniak's been a big part of the success, scoring 12 times in 12 games with Phoenix. No player has more since the deadline. Last week: 1-1-1
 
4San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 10
San Jose Sharks (47-19-10)
It looks like that 5-1 skunking by the Oilers finally shook the Sharks out of their lethargy. Or maybe it was the savvy decision by coach Todd MacLellan to move underperforming Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau to separate lines. Either way, San Jose has won four straight, including a three-game sweep at home. Tougher to defend, and perhaps motivated by that kick in the rump, they've built a four-point lead in the Western Conference. Last week: 4-0
 
5Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 5
Losses to the Oilers and Sharks highlighted the vulnerability of their defense, but they are in solid shape overall heading down the stretch. The penalty kill, a sore spot much of the season, has blanked the opposition in seven of the last nine games. And with veteran forwards Mikael Samuelsson and Pavel Demitra due back this week, the forward corps should be as deep as it's been all season. Last week: 1-2
 
6New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 9
The very model of consistency, they clinched their 13th consecutive trip to the postseason with Saturday's 4-2 win over the Habs. Now it's a matter of holding on to home ice...and avoiding the Flyers in the first round. No surprise that they were blown out in Philly on Sunday. They've won just three of their last 17 road games and are 1-5 this season against them. Last week: 2-1-1
 
7Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 11
Buffalo Sabres (41-23-10)
The playoff drought is over. They clinched their first postseason berth in three years, and second in seven, with Saturday's 7-1 drubbing of the languid Lightning. It's hard to imagine where they would be without trophy candidates Ryan Miller and Tyler Myers, but don't overlook the contributions of Jochen Hecht, who has seven goals since the break and 20 on the season. Last week: 2-1
 
8Nashville Predators
Last Week: 7
They're close to booking their postseason pass, going 8-4 in their last 12 games, but some nice stat work by the Nashville City Paper shows there's reason for concern. They've allowed just 26 goals over that span, but 17 were scored in the third period. Another late meltdown against the Coyotes on Thursday almost cost them before David Legwand snatched the extra point in the shootout. Last week: 1-1-1
 
9Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 4
The defending champs are struggling with Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar on the sidelines and Marc-Andre Fleury doing his best pylon impression, but they still managed to take four key points out of a pair of feisty weekend meetings with the Flyers and Leafs. That was enough to give them a leg up in the Atlantic race, but even with both injured stars due back this week, they'll be in tough to dethrone the Devils as division champs. Last week: 2-1-1
 
10Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 6
With just seven games left in the season, blood pressure is surely rising in Chicago. The Hawks were swept over the weekend by the golf-minded Blue Jackets and have dropped six of eight. It's easy to point to the goaltending, but the ailing defense has seemed a step slow for weeks. Duncan Keith (minus-7 since the break) may be killing his Norris hopes as he fades down the stretch. Last week: 1-2
 
11Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 8
With the return of Mike Cammalleri, Marc-Andre Bergeron and Maxim Lapierre, they finally iced a full lineup last week. And what happens? Glen Metropolit goes down, possibly for the season, with a separated shoulder suffered in a collision with New Jersey's Rod Pelley. It's a tough break: among his career-high 16 goals were 10 power play markers, tops on the team. Last week: 1-1-1
 
12Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 23
Ottawa Senators (41-30-5)
Their stars are proving to be as streaky as the team. Ottawa's won four straight after dropping five in a row, getting the ship righted thanks to a pair of shutouts from Brian Elliott and a seven-game point streak from Daniel Alfredsson (3-7-10). Not much help from Alexei Kovalev, though. The enigmatic winger is pointless in 12 despite averaging almost 18 minutes of ice per night. Last week: 4-0
 
13Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 12
Heading to the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, they should be feeling pretty good about themselves. But with three straight losses, and five Ls in their last seven, they aren't exactly building up a head of steam. Jonathan Quick is struggling, with an ugly .852 save percentage in his last four starts. So is the penalty kill that has allowed six goals over that span. Last week: 1-2-1
 
14Boston Bruins
Last Week: 17
Boston Bruins (34-28-12)
Maybe it was an aberration, just one afternoon where everything went right, but after going a season-high eight games without scoring a power play goal (0-22), they tallied three times with the extra man in a 5-0 win over the Flames on Saturday. Probably best not to expect that to continue for the NHL's worst offense, especially with Marc Savard in civvies, but Claude Julien's decision to reward effort with PP ice time helped the B's finally find some magic. Last week: 2-1
 
15Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 13
Considered a playoff lock coming out of the break, the young Avs are sliding perilously close to a crushing DNQ after losing five of six. The odds remain in their favor, but it's getting tough to feel the love. Craig Anderson continues to sag, and the inexperience of the Stastny-Stewart-Galliardi top line is showing. The trio was minus-14 in two weekend losses. Last week: 1-2-1
 
16Atlanta Thrashers
Last Week: 14
It's not so much that their four-game winning streak was snapped. It's that, with a chance to grab a share of eighth place at home, they offered an uninspired effort while losing 4-0 to the Bruins. A 4-0 win in Raleigh on Sunday kept Atlanta in the hunt, but it had a too little, too late feel to it. The game against the Bruins was their moment...and they went out and wasted it. Last week: 1-1-1
 
17Calgary Flames
Last Week: 15
Calgary Flames (38-29-9)
That stunning four-goal, first period outburst against the Caps on Sunday kept their flickering playoff hopes alive, but does a team that wet the bed as thoroughly as they did against the B's and the Isles deserve to play deep into April? Hey, if a ninth-place team needs to be reminded of its perilous position by an irate GM before it finds it's A-game, maybe there's a reason it's in ninth. Last week: 2-2
 
18St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 18
St. Louis Blues (36-30-9)
They sure picked a lousy time to suffer their first regulation loss to the Red Wings. After going 4-0-1 against them, Wednesday's 4-2 downer left St. Louis in run-the-table mode for their final nine games. A precarious position, but they got the streak rolling with two wins at Scottrade Center, the former house of horrors where they've now managed to take five of their last seven. Last week: 2-1
 
19Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 25
I know they've made some big changes, but did I miss where they picked up Amanda Whurlitzer and Kelly Leak? The Bad News Buds have spent the month finding ways to win games they would have been blown out of earlier in the season and making Bruins fans miserable with an 8-2-1 record in their last 11. Jonas Gustavsson is starting to look like a keeper with seven straight wins, including five in extra time. Last week: 2-1-1
 
20Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 16
You have to hand it to them -- they've got plenty of fight. They've taken four of their last six to overtime or the shootout, eventually winning three. Their late-season run could cost them a shot at a top-three pick, but kids like Brandon Sutter, Zach Boychuk, Jamie McBain and Drayson Bowman are learning what it takes to win. Last week: 1-1-1
 
21Dallas Stars
Last Week: 22
Dallas Stars (33-28-14)
Brad Richards and his dominance on the power play is one of the underreported stories of the season. The dynamic center reclaimed the top spot on the special teams scoring charts with three PP points in Saturday's 4-1 win in LA. His ability to effectively distribute the puck has been the unit's strength all season, but his willingness to blast away, as he did twice against the Kings, gives it a different dimension. A little more selfishness might go a long way. Last week: 2-1
 
22Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 19
Anaheim Ducks (35-31-8)
Listless road losses to the Flames and Canucks snuffed any real hope they held of making the postseason and pushed Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer that much closer to the rocking chair. But as those stars get ready to say goodbye, the Ducks got their first look at top prospect Nick Bonino. The Boston College center, signed last week, stepped in for the injured Ryan Getzlaf and looked comfortable in his first taste of NHL action. Last week: 1-2
 
23Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 20
Their losing streak reached five, sending them into eighth and their fans scrambling for the ledge...until their favorite slump-busters came to town. The Devils have been their plaything all season, meekly dropping five of six to set the stage for the one playoff matchup that looks to favor the Broad Street Bullies. Of course, they actually have to hold on to a spot, no sure thing for a team that dressed its fifth and sixth goalies of the season last week. Last week: 1-2-1
 
24New York Rangers
Last Week: 24
New York Rangers (33-32-10)
A convincing 5-0 whipping of the Isles (the first game broadcast in 3-D, no less) and a come-from-behind shootout win over the Devils kept their playoff hopes alive, but they managed to shoot themselves in the foot on Saturday. The Blueshirts blew a two-goal, first period lead, allowing the Leafs to steal a key point in OT. It was their third OT loss of the month, and it dropped them to 1-7. Those missed points will haunt them. Last week: 2-0-1
 
25New York Islanders
Last Week: 28
They're 5-2-2 in their last nine and, outside of a 5-0 loss the Rangers, playing so far above their pay grade it's astonishing that no one is talking about the job Scott Gordon is doing. Still, it's hard to get too excited about the future when the Rick DiPietro situation continues to hang over them like a black cloud. It was announced last week that the goalie would be shut down for the season and was still experiencing knee swelling. Is anyone really counting on him next year? Last week: 2-1
 
26Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 21
Minnesota Wild (36-33-6)
Josh Harding and Chuck Kobasew joined Mikko Koivu and Cam Barker on the sidelines after Friday's dismal 6-2 loss in Detroit, but the rash of injuries has a bright side: it's giving the Wild a chance to look at what they've got in the system. Casey Wellman's made a nice impression, showing some defensive hustle and grit by taking on Flyers' tough guy Daniel Carcillo. The Wild's track record with prospects is, ahem, spotty, so it'll be interesting to see how they handle the 23-year-old next season. Last week: 1-2
 
27Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 27
Now this is what Columbus was expecting from the kids. Steve Mason backstopped two wins over Chicago. Jakub Voracek chipped in with three goals and six points. Derrick Brassard had three assists. Trevor Frischmon showed some serious giddyup in his NHL debut. If the Jackets offered this kind of urgency all season, they might not have been officially eliminated from the playoff race on Friday. Last week: 2-1-1
 
28Florida Panthers
Last Week: 26
Florida Panthers (30-33-11)
If anyone deserves a break from the Hockey Gods next season, it might be David Booth. The hard-luck power forward suffered his second concussion of the season after taking a Jaroslav Spacek elbow to the head. The team decided to shut him down for the season, but what about the future? He may come back 100 percent, but Peter DeBoer is concerned the Cats might have an Eric Lindros situation on their hands. Last week: 1-2
 
29Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 29
Edmonton Oilers (24-44-7)
They are probably beyond the point of excuses, but here's one they can trot out for fun: They've lost 457 man-games to injury, a scurvy total that leads the NHL and far exceeds their previous franchise record of 346. At least this trauma unit is getting solid goaltending. Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk have combined for a .939 save percentage over their past five starts. Last week: 1-2
 
30Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 30
If you're new owner Jeff Vinik, what are you going to do with a team that's rung up a 4-9-1 mark and been outscored 55-32 since the break? Move forward with the same front office, coaching staff and lineup? Unlikely. The Bolts may not be playing with the postseason in mind, but everyone from the GM to the training staff has to prove over the next two weeks that they should be retained. At this rate, expect significant changes over the summer. Last week: 2-1

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