Posted: Wednesday March 9, 2011 6:26PM ; Updated: Thursday March 10, 2011 10:13AM
Brian Cazeneuve
Brian Cazeneuve>NHL POWER RANKINGS

Canucks squeak back to No. 1

Story Highlights

The inconsistent Canucks have been playing tight playoff-style games

Defense continued to fuel the Capitals' steady rise to number four

Duncan Keith is fine and the Blackhawks are looking sharp again

NOTE: All stats and records through games of Monday, March 7.

NHL Power Rankings
1Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 2
The team that soared to midseason has been on cruise control. After exchanging wins and losses for 13 games, they finally won two in a row for the first time in a month. "We'd like some momentum soon," says Henrik Sedin. Without it, the on-off switch may be harder to find when it's needed. Meanwhile, their games have clearly become more defensive. In their last seven, the winning team has scored only three goals or less. Last week: 3-1-0
 
2Boston Bruins
Last Week: 6
Boston Bruins (38-19-8)
With a 1-0 shutout of Ottawa, the Bs capped one of best road trips in franchise history. In sweeping six games, they held foes to just nine goals. The team's last 6-0 trip took place in 1972, when its stars included Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito. "I don't think we have any of those kinds of names or players," said captain Zdeno Chara. "Those are such legends that it's hard to really be compared to those guys." One optimistic note: That was the last Boston team to win the Cup. Last week: 2-0-1
 
3Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 1
Their worst week of the season culminated with a 7-0 road monstrosity against the Rangers. "We're at the stage now where it's a test of our character," defenseman Chris Pronger said. "We're facing some adversity and we've got to show our mettle here and understand it's going to take some hard work to get out of it and get everybody on the same page. We are still in a good position, but I don't think anybody in this locker room is happy with the way we're playing right now." If they are, they've been drinking. Last week: 0-3-0
 
4Washington Capitals
Last Week: 8
After a 6-0 loss to the Rangers two weeks ago, they've reeled off a five-game win streak, each victory by a single goal. Against the Islanders, they showed glimpses of potential explosiveness as Brooks Laich tied the score with 48 seconds to play and Alex Ovechkin won it in OT with a brilliant end-to-end rush. Still, that marked the first time in three home games that the goal-strapped Caps had scored a goal for keeper Michal Neuvirth. These aren't your older brother's Capitals. Last week: 4-0-0
 
5San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 5
San Jose Sharks (38-22-6)
Having played the fewest home games (29) and most on the road (35) in the NHL, these hot fish are settling in for a season-high six-game home spell with words of caution from coach Todd McLellan: "There's the danger of coming home and relaxing. You're in a comfortable environment. You're eating your food and sleeping in your bed. Around town people are telling you things are going well. That can be dangerous." Last week: 2-1-0
 
6Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 4
They dropped three games, including an OT loss to Phoenix, on the West coast last week, blowing a 4-1 lead in the third period. The loss left coach Mike Babcock with pointed words about his team. "There gets to be a point in your season where you've got to decide if you think you're a championship-caliber team," he ranted. "There is a right way to play, and unless you get 23 guys doing it the same way, nothing is going to happen." Last week: 0-2-1
 
7Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 12
Maybe these Northerners like Southern cooking. On a three-game trip, the Habs methodically beat Atlanta, Florida and Tampa Bay. Goalie Carey Price turned back 113 shots in the three wins that bode well for the long haul. "We all bought into this trip," he says. "When we do that and commit ourselves to our plan, we're able to do things like this." Last week: 3-0-0
 
8Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 9
Along with eight straight wins, they got some good news when doctors found no fractures in Duncan Keith's hand after the star defenseman blocked a shot last week. Keith's improved play has been a major spark for the Hawks' offense, which has scored four goals or more in the last five games. "We're clicking -- kind of playing without thinking," he says. "We feel if we make a mistake, it's OK, so we're not making them." Last week: 3-0-0
 
9Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 3
Since amassing eight goals against Phoenix on Feb. 23, they've squeezed out two or less in six straight games. Steven Stamkos is sputtering and even more troubling, the Bolts have been getting off to horrendous starts. "It didn't surprise me; it shocked me," coach Guy Boucher said after his club gave up two early goals in three minutes to Montreal. "Everything we do now falls on everybody, whether we've got two guys that are out there asleep or whether we've got one or 15." Last week: 0-2-1
 
10Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 7
They played three games that were decided in OT, including a win over Boston and losses to Toronto and New Jersey, two teams were on a sustained roll. Even with Sidney Crosby still out, the Pens are getting some bodies back and benefiting from the resolve of playing without their biggest stars. "In the past six or seven games we've played better," says Craig Adams. "Maybe it is just mentally moving on or moving forward with what we have and not waiting for guys to come back." Last week: 1-0-2
 
11Calgary Flames
Last Week: 13
Calgary Flames (35-24-9)
By scoring his 30th goal of the season on a penalty shot against Nashville, captain Jarome Iginla became just the tenth player in NHL history to hit the 30 mark in 10 consecutive seasons. Eight of them are in the Hall-of-Fame and Jaromir Jagr is surely headed there. "When I started playing, I was just trying to make it," says Iginla who, with eight points in his last four games, has been as hot as his team. "It just means I've been extremely lucky over the years to play with some great passers." Last week: 3-1-0
 
12Dallas Stars
Last Week: 14
Dallas Stars (36-23-7)
With a recent 5-0-1 run after a five-game skid, they're back on solid footing at exactly the right time as they stare at a seven-game home stand that includes games against six prospective playoff teams. What's more, they now lead the league with eight victories in which they've rallied from at least two goals down. "This group's been good about coming back all year," says Brenden Morrow. "Last year and in year's past that may have been something that we weren't mentally tough enough to overcome." Last week: 3-0-1
 
13Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 11
Phoenix Coyotes (34-23-10)
After tough one-goal losses to Dallas and L.A., they salvaged the week with a shootout win against Detroit. Still, a cloud hung over the franchise as Commissioner Gary Bettman warned that the NHL might have to relocate the team if lawsuits threatening to hold up city bonds that could keep it in Glendale weren't resolved. "We're getting close to the end," Bettman said. Local fans hope that isn't the case for the Yotes. Last week: 1-2-0
 
14Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 10
They were one of the last remaining teams that hadn't blown a blown a third-period lead this season, but that stat and their playoff fortunes changed with a 4-3 OT loss to charging Dallas. "When you look at the standings, it's tough to let them off the hook like that," said Anze Kopitar. "Especially with everything being clogged up from the fifth to the tenth spot, you just can't afford to lose these types of games." Indeed. Last week: 1-1-1
 
15Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 19
Anaheim Ducks (35-26-5)
They enjoyed OT wins over Detroit and Dallas, but were still awaiting word on goalie Jonas Hiller, who has been out with complications from vertigo since Feb. 13. "I know most of the doctors in Orange County," Hiller joked. "I had some more tests, but I think it will take some time. The hard part is the mental side, not knowing how long it's going to take and having to watch the team without being able to help." In the meantime, the inimitable Razor Ray Emery has been brought in to help out in net. Last week: 2-1-0
 
16Nashville Predators
Last Week: 16
Don't blame them for their lack of scoring chances lately; blame the lack of production on what chances they've had. That's the way coach Barry Trotz sees it. "I looked at the last two games and we outshot Edmonton 72-48 and we've got one goal," he groaned. "We're shooting blanks." Last week: 1-1-1
 
17Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 15
Minnesota Wild (34-25-7)
Facing a road trip against two playoff bubble teams (Nashville, Dallas) and two locks (Vancouver, San Jose), they couldn't have liked the prospect of not having Cal Clutterbuck and Mikko Koivu, two of their top four goal scorers, out of the lineup. "We can't tell everyone to wait while we get our guys on the ice," says coach Todd Richards. "We have to make the most of right now and other guys will have to play bigger roles." Last week: 1-1-1
 
18New York Rangers
Last Week: 17
They bounced back from an earlier 0-3 homestand as streaking Ryan Callahan scored four goals against the reeling Flyers and now has 10 in 16 games since coming back from a broken hand. "When it rains, it pours," he joked with a nod to all you cliche mavens out there. "We haven't changed our style at all. I believed that goals would come. We just didn't get the bounces. We stuck with it." They're going to have to keep sticking with it as the Sabres, Canes and Leafs are on their tail for the last two playoff berths in the East. Last week: 2-2-0
 
19Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 20
Buffalo Sabres (32-25-8)
Defenseman Anjrej Sekera was named one of the NHL's Three Stars of the Week for good reason. He had a goal and seven assists in four very fruitful games for the thriving Sabres, who are making a strong playoff push. With two or more points in five consecutive games, Sekera became only the second Buffalo backliner in history, after John Van Boxmeer in 1981, to do achieve the feat. Last week: 3-0-1
 
20Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 21
Despite their two wins, they remained too porous for their coach's liking. The Canes allow the most shots on goal per game (33.6) of any team in the league. And their breakdowns come in waves. Against Chicago last week, they gave up three goals in a decisive span of just 4:32. "We did some good things, but we had some turnovers and we weren't responsible," grumbled coach Paul Maurice. "It only takes a few minutes." Last week: 2-1-0
 
21Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 22
Their loss to streaking Chicago ended a 10-2-4 run that was a franchise-best since 2003, a streak that has lifted not only their playoff hopes, but also their prospects for the future. "There's a positive feeling about the club now," chortled GM Brian Burke. "You can sense that the guys believe in what we're trying to do." Last week: 2-1-0
 
22New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 23
With an astounding run of 20-2-2 and a forgiving schedule ahead ? two games against the sadsack Sens, two with the Thrashers and one with the Isles -- the fantasy of reaching the playoffs seems more plausible than ever. What's more, the team that was once 10-29-2 stood just a single game from the .500 mark. "We thought that was impossible," said wizardly coach Jacques Lemaire, "but that's what we were looking for a long time ago." Last week: 3-0-0
 
23Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 18
They had a chance to win any or all of their four games and instead came up snakeyes, settling for a pair of loser points. The most frustrating setback was a 2-1 loss to Vancouver that lasted until the eighth round of the shootout before Raffi Torres finally beat Steve Mason. "So close," sighed the vanquished netminder. "You're right where you want to be and then you give away points." Last week: 0-2-2
 
24St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 24
St. Louis Blues (29-28-9)
It was no doubt a relief to welcome back Jaroslav Halak, the Slovakian netminder who has been out since Feb. 14 with an injured right hand. After leading the Habs to the Eastern Conference finals last spring, he's 19-17-6 with four shutouts and a .907 save percentage. His replacement, big Ben Bishop, who was reassigned to the minors, went 3-4, but isn't yet consistent enough for a regular NHL stint. Last week: 1-3-0
 
25Atlanta Thrashers
Last Week: 25
Sum up their scoring woes thusly: Until a 4-3 OT win over Florida, the last time they scored four goals or more in a winning effort was way back on Jan. 2. Before Saturday's game, they had managed 40 shots or more in five straight and had all of seven goals to show for it. That's a 3.3 success rate. The club that won six straight to end November hasn't won three in a row since. Last week: 1-2-0
 
26New York Islanders
Last Week: 28
If nothing else, they have a much different look to them than when they went 14 straight games and 21 of 22 without a win earlier this season. Even a recent shootout loss to the Devils gave coach Jack Capuano cause for optimism. "I like the fact that we don't quit," he said. "We play 60 minutes of hockey and it's gratifying for our coaching staff to see that." Gratifying for the fans, too, who should like what they've been seeing the second half of the season. Last week: 2-0-2
 
27Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 27
With the recent slump of their so-called penalty kill, they dropped to a 76.5 percent "success" rate against the man advantage, dead last among the league's Original 30 teams. Still, there is no escaping the fact that Colorado has had a tough time keeping players, especially penalty killers, healthy for extended stretches. The Avs have lost 342 manpower games to injury, a statistic they must be sorry to say leads the Western Conference. Last week: 0-1-1
 
28Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 30
Edmonton Oilers (23-35-8)
Fans must wonder where this team has been all season. In three conference wins against Nashville, Columbus and Colorado, it outscored its foes 11-4 and played some cracklin' hockey. Still, in a scene that has become a microcosm for a dreary season, fans in section 231 of Rexall Place were rained out of a recent game against Bruins, causing team President Patrick LaForge to write a general letter of apology. At least he didn't need to apologize for last week's play. Last week: 3-0-0
 
29Florida Panthers
Last Week: 26
In their five games without a win, they've scored a not-so-grand total of seven goals. Still, the two most recent defeats, tp Atlanta and Washington, both went down in the first minute of OT. The 3-2 loss to the Caps, in which they rallied for a tie in the final minutes, was especially rough. "We looked them in the eye and didn't back down," said center Marty Reasoner. "Of course, we're seeing too many times when we try to find positives in losses." Last week: 0-2-2
 
30Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 29
Ottawa Senators (22-34-9)
If goalie Craig Anderson looks a little different, it's because his new mask has finally arrived. Until now, he's been wearing his old one from his days with the Avs. "Helmets are the easiest things to throw on and go," he says. "They all fit pretty much the same with a few adjustments. It doesn't take much to get used to them." Too bad there's nothing wrong with the Sens that some new headgear wouldn't fix. Last week: 1-2-0

 
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