Posted: Tue March 26, 2013 3:51PM; Updated: Wed March 27, 2013 6:12PM
Adrian Dater
Adrian Dater>INSIDE THE NHL

Penguins still roosting atop my Power Rankings

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Sidney Corsby
While the Flyers have seen their playoff fortunes plunge, Sidney Crosby has his eyes on the grand prize.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

For the second straight week, the Penguins keep the top spot in the SI.com Power Rankings. I'm not taking as much grief for my decision to put them there as I did last week, not with the Blackhawks and Ducks and Bruins (oh, my) all starting to lose some games. Meanwhile, the Wild have cracked the top 5 for the first time as woebegone Colorado and Florida hold down the rear.

To the list...

1Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 1
Does GM Ray Shero want to win the Stanley Cup again or what? Here's a guy whose team had won 12 in a row entering Tuesday's game against Montreal, probably well on its way to first overall in the Eastern Conference, and he makes two fairly big trades for Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray. Some people think Shero overpaid, but I disagree. Morrow is a tremendous leader and Murray should do well in the more physical Eastern Conference. Morrow figures to play with Evgeni Malkin and former Dallas Stars teammate James Neal. Sidney Crosby approved of Morrow's addition, that's for sure. "Great acquisition, great leader," Crosby told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "He's going to be tough for other teams to handle." Shero deserves credit for going for it, for being big and bold. It's tough to see where the Penguins have a weakness now as the playoffs near. Last week: 3-0-0
 
2Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 2
They lost at Anaheim, 4-2, last Wednesday in something of a Western showdown, but I still think Chicago is the better overall team. "We needed a rest," Hawks forward Jamal Mayers told the Chicago Tribune of the team's five off-days after the Ducks game. "The reality is we were playing a lot of hockey. We should be excited and ready to go." For a while on Monday night, the Hawks did look excited, but they got sloppy in the third period and blew a 5-4 game to the Kings in yet another test in the West. I'm not worried -- yet. Marian Hossa remains out with an upper-body injury, suspected to be to a shoulder, but coach Joel Quenneville said his skilled forward should be back soon. Last week: 0-2-0
 
3Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 4
Anaheim Ducks (22-6-4)
They've finally cooled off (thanks no doubt to SI.com's Brian Cazeneuve, who lauded them last weekend ), losing two in a row at home to the Red Wings and then again on Monday night to San Jose. It was definitely a surprise seeing that second defeat by Detroit, 2-1 on Sunday, after the Ducks had been roasted by the Wings, 5-1, on Friday night to end their 13-game home winning streak. "This is a real though stretch we're going through against a lot of really good teams," coach Bruce Boudreau told the assembled masses of the media. "So we have to bring our A game every night or we won't be successful." Of note: rookie goalie Viktor Fasth was yanked from Friday's game after allowing four goals early in the second period. Most Ducks observers believe that Jonas Hiller will be the No. 1 guy from here on out. Last week: 1-3-0
 
4Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 8
Minnesota Wild (19-10-2)
Ryan Suter for the Norris Trophy. Guess he was worth all that money ($98 million) after all, as the defenseman has been brilliant (points in 11 of his last 14 games) for a month or more. He and rookie Jonas Brodin are the league's best defensive pair right now, period, and the Wild really look great. Yeah, there is still the question of their overall depth on defense. Suter and Brodin are playing nearly half the game on most nights, but Devin Setoguchi (goals in four of his last six games entering Monday) has picked it up. Kyle Brodziak got Minny's first short-handed goal of the season on Monday night in Dallas, breaking a 4-4 tie en route to a 7-4 win. Note to NHL media who are unfamiliar with playoff travel to Minnesota: Whatever you do, grab a bowl of the wild rice soup at the Hotel St. Paul. You WILL thank me...or else. Last week: 3-0-0
 
5Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 3
They suffered a rare home loss on Saturday, 2-1 to the Sabres of all teams, and now have the Penguins and Bruins coming up. So, we'll really see what Montreal is made of now. On Monday, the Habs picked up veteran forward Jeff Halpern, 36, who should help on face-offs (Montreal is 15th in the league) and penalty killing (19th) -- two areas of concern. To get a guy like Halpern, who has nearly 900 games of NHL experience, off the waiver wire was a good move by GM Marc Bergevin. A looming playoff berth has to make Michel Therrien a Jack Adams Award finalist if there is any justice in this world. Last week: 1-1-1
 
6Boston Bruins
Last Week: 5
Boston Bruins (21-7-3)
They pulled out a 3-2 shootout win on Monday night against Toronto to split a home-and-home as injuries start to take a toll. Valuable forward Chris Kelly (broken tibia) is gone indefinitely. Defenseman Adam McQuaid will be out 4-to-6 weeks with a shoulder ailment, and Boston will miss his physical presence, but he is expected back for the playoffs. Johnny Boychuk (foot) is also sidelined after getting hit with a shot by teammate Tyler Seguin at practice on Friday, but he shouldn't be out long. With the bodies piling up, GM Peter Chiarelli said he won't make any hasty trades. "I assumed [the injuries] were coming. We've definitely talked about that," he told Comcast Sports New England. "But we've also been fortunate. Chris [Kelly] isn't as bad as it could have been and we're fortunate that Adam [McQuaid] isn't as bad as it could have been. But the injuries don't make things any more urgent because everybody is dealing with them. Nothing has changed in that way." Last week: 2-2-0
 
7Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 11
A very good week for the Canucks, who went into L.A. on Saturday and shut out the Kings, then followed it up with a win the next night in Colorado despite being a tired team. Cory Schneider appears to have the No. 1 job in net firmly in hand again. I still think the Canucks should try to trade Roberto Luongo, but the window for this season probably has closed unless a team like Florida just wants to get it over with now and start blowing things up. I think a Luongo-for-Tomas Fleischmann trade would be great for both teams. Coach Alain Vigneault finally did the smart thing by moving Jason Garrison to the point on the No. 1 power play unit. His big slap shot will make defenders back off a lot. Just ask Paul Stastny; the Avs center will miss the next 10 days or so after taking a Garrison slapper to his left foot on Sunday night. Last week: 4-0-0
 
8St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 6
St. Louis Blues (17-12-2)
Chris Stewart is a beast again. Occasionally flogged in the media (and by his coaches) for his commitment to all things excellent, Stewart got in great shape during the off-season and lockout and is playing hungry again. Could that hunger be for a fat new contract? Probably. But so what? Isn't that what players are supposed to do? We'll see what Stewart does after signing a likely big-money deal with the Blues this spring or summer, but for now, let the good times roll. Stewart has points in seven of his last 10 games, with 15 goals on the year. He had 15 in 79 games last season. Still, the Blues lost two of three last week. Other forwards besides Stewart need to score, starting with David Backes (no goals in 11 straight games). Last week: 1-2-0
 
9Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 7
Walrus-mustachioed coach Paul MacLean and his team just keep finding ways to grind out wins. Witness its 3-2 shootout victory at home over New Jersey on Monday night. MacLean was unhappy that his Sens spent much of it bottled up in their own end, but goalie Ben Bishop made 32 saves and rookie center Mika Zibanejad netted the winner in the skills competition. "It's certainly not our prettiest win," defenseman Chris Phillips told reporters. "At the end of the day, at the end of the season that's a big two points for us. They're right on our heels in the standings." The playoffs seem assured now. Question is, will the return of Craig Anderson, Jason Spezza and, maybe, Erik Karlsson create a letdown effect? With a top-notch coach like MacLean at the helm, I doubt it. Last week: 2-1-0
 
10Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 9
The defending Cup champs have been just OK lately, but all I really care about with these guys is if they make the playoffs, and it seems highly probable that they will. Who wants to play them in the early rounds? The Kings have been only slightly affected by the Cup Hangover, which I credit to the long lockout. They went into Chicago on Monday night and got a gutsy 5-4 win, which proved to me that they still care. That was the first tilt of a five-game road trip, which I think will be good for them at this point in the season. Players will tell you that a long roadie is a valuable bonding experience for the playoffs. Last week: 2-2-0
 
11Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 10
A great week started with a two-game sweep of the Ducks in Anaheim's previously undented conclave, then came a sojourn into Phoenix for another win. Jimmy Howard is playing well in goal, so there is still the chance that I could be wrong about Detroit's Stanley Cup chances. But if the Wings can go into places like Anaheim and win twice against a hot squad, I will not dismiss this team. They are still the Red Wings. They may not be THE Wings of yore, but they remain a good, and dangerous, bunch. Last week: 3-1-0
 
12Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 12
Rumors surfaced on Monday night that the Leafs were sniffing the possibility of adding veteran Calgary Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff to the roster. I hope it happens, but I doubt it will. I've talked to a lot of general managers lately, and they ALL have said that trades will be harder to make this year at the deadline for two reasons: the short season will allow more teams to falsely believe that they still have a shot at the playoffs and the salary cap falling from $70.2 million to $64.3 next season will make it harder to find space for new acquisitions. Toronto is shaping up as a team that is good, but not good enough. It definitely needs another piece or two, but this is probably the wrong year to try to get them. Yet, adding Kipper's $5.8 million cap hit to the payroll would be affordable for GM Dave Nonis. That would bring Toronto to just under $51 million for next season's signed players, with Nazem Kadri being the toughest guy to re-sign. But he'll only be an RFA, so it's not a huge worry. Pull the trigger, Nonis. Last week: 2-0-2
 
13New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 19
They dropped a tough one to the Senators in a shootout on Monday night, but with Martin Brodeur back in net and seemingly healthy after his back problems, the Devils should be in good enough shape to slip into the playoffs. It's been a very tough year for them in many ways -- Ilya Kovalchuk will be lost for two-to-four weeks due to a shoulder injury -- but they are still in the playoff picture and hanging tough. I wouldn't want to play them in a postseason series, especially when Kovalchuk is back in business. Last week: 2-2-0
 
14New York Rangers
Last Week: 16
It's very tough to gauge where this team is going, but it doesn't seem to be headed to another Eastern Conference Finals appearance. Marc Staal's absence due to an eye injury has hurt, Marian Gaborik is having a mediocre season and is rumored to be on the trade block, and Brad Richards (no goals in seven games) is back in a slump. Yet, the Blueshirts entered Tuesday in eighth place in the East. They are still a threat. I think GM Glen Sather will make a trade for a solid forward in the coming days, probably sacrificing a draft pick or two. David Jones of Colorado and Florida's Tomas Fleischmann are possibilities. Also, playmaking winger Mats Zucarello is on his way back from the KHL "He's a highly skilled player, familiar with the team and coaching staff," defenseman Ryan McDonagh told the New York Daily News. "He's played in the league and had some success, and he's a real positive guy in the locker room, too. Everybody gets along with him." Last week: 1-1-1
 
15Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 13
Alexander Semin got himself a nice five-year, $35 million contract extension on Monday. I'm not sure that's a great signing for the long term because I do wonder whether he will ease off a bit now that he's gotten the big ticket. Sorry if that comes off to many as an "enigmatic Russian" putdown, but I just have a feeling that this contract might be a bad one for GM Jim Rutherford. But Semin has been a fine player to this point. He had 30 points (including eight goals) in his first 30 games. Average a point a game in this league these days, and you get paid. The 'Canes, however, have lost five in a row and they've scored all of one goal in four of those defeats. Eric Staal is in something of a slump lately: two tallies in his last 10 games. Maybe five-days rest will rejuvenate this team for the two key divisional meetings with Winnipeg that loom this week. Last week: 0-2-0
 
16Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 17
Columbus remains the NHL's biggest feel-good story of the second half even if a 5-2 loss at Nashville on Saturday night ended its 12-game point streak. The Jackets' four-game road trip continues in Vancouver against the hot Canucks, with the Oilers and Flames up next. That they are right there in the hunt for a playoff spot is great news for their long-suffering fans. Ten of those 12 games in the streak were decided by one goal. If these guys get into the postseason tournament, a much-improved goalie like Sergei Bobrovsky could make them a very dangerous opponent. Last week: 2-1-0
 
17San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 21
San Jose Sharks (14-11-6)
Nice win on Monday night in Anaheim, just when people like me were ready to bury these fish. Earlier in the day, they traded big, popular D-man Douglas Murray to the Penguins for two draft picks, and the deal could easily be seen as a white flag waved by GM Doug Wilson on his team's Stanley Cup chances. But the Sharks responded against a tough foe on the road like a squad that believes it's still in the running. Joe Pavelski broke an eight-game point drought with a goal in the win. If he can get it going, the Sharks still have a shot at making some noise. Last week: 2-1-0
 
18Washington Capitals
Last Week: 26
Let's give some kudos to first-year coach Adam Oates for getting his guys to stick with his system and make the playoffs a possibility. (Their math says they need 19 points in their last 16 tilts.) The Caps came into the week riding a three-game win streak and Alex Ovechkin has scored at least one goal in his last five matches, which should shut up his critics for a while anyway. Braden Holtby has really picked up his play of late in net lately, too, with wins in his last three starts. These guys probably aren't good enough to make a long run, but if they sneak into the playoffs, this season will be seen as a royal salvage job if not a rousing success. Last week: 3-1-0
 
19Nashville Predators
Last Week: 25
Just when you're ready to count them out, they find a way to get back in the playoff race. A 3-2 home win over Edmonton on Monday night was Nashville's third straight overall. Martin Erat, after a talking-to by coach Barry Trotz, has started to get his act together, and Pekka Rinne has won three straight starts. He'll need to be in top form down the stretch if the Preds are to sneak into the playoffs. But with Trotz at the helm, that is possible. One problem though: Nashville's 33 games-played entering Tuesday were the most in the Western Conference. Last week: 3-1-0
 
20Winnipeg Jets
Last Week: 14
Winnipeg Jets (17-14-2)
I appreciate their winning record, but I just can't muster much excitement for this team's prospects. Winnipeg has the 26th-ranked power play in the league (14.3 percent), which will kill them in the end if it doesn't get a lot better. The penalty kill (74.3, 24th overall) isn't much good, either. Yet, the Jets entered Tuesday in first place in the Southeast Division. Which says it all about the Southeast Division. But if you don't have good special teams come playoff time? Fuhgeddaboudit. Last week: 2-2-0
 
21Dallas Stars
Last Week: 29
Dallas Stars (15-14-3)
They had a chance to stay in the top eight on Monday night at home against Minnesota, but folded in the third period. A 4-4 game turned into a 7-4 loss, with goalie Kari Lehtonen looking awful in the clutch. Their trade of Brenden Morrow to Pittsburgh was something of a white flag by GM Joe Nieuwendyk. The standings show Dallas still has a shot at a playoff spot, but when you trade a leader like Morrow for a prospect and a fifth-round pick near the deadline, it's a sure sign that the GM doesn't believe enough in his team. Last week: 2-2-0
 
22Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 18
Phoenix Coyotes (13-15-4)
A loss at home to Detroit on Monday night was the Coyotes' sixth straight and eight in their last 10 games. That kind of schneid during a short season is deadly. They have too many holes on defense, and their offense hasn't recovered from the major hit it took when took when Ray Whitney departed for Dallas. Only a Shane Doan goal in L.A. last Tuesday prevented Phoenix from being shut out in four straight games and it's all these guys can do to squeeze out more than two goals per game. "I'm a big believer that you earn your breaks and you earn your confidence, and right now we're not doing those things," coach Dave Tippett lamented after the loss to Detroit. On the plus side, Radim Vrbata has returned from injury, but can't be expected to find his form in a hurry. Last week: 0-3-0
 
23New York Islanders
Last Week: 15
I was really ready to believe in the yin of Charles Wang when the Isles had a 3-1 third-period lead in their March 19 game against Ottawa. Final score: 5-3, Senators, which made me want to chuck my yin and Wang in the nearest Nassau County trash receptacle. When will this team win a big game at HOME, where it is a pathetic 6-11-2? The loss to Ottawa, the beginning of a three-game slide halted by a fortuitous meeting with the woeful Panthers, was yet another reminder that these Isles will always leave me yanking big orange tufts of hair out of my skull any time they snooker me into thinking they've arrived as an actual playoff-caliber team. Last week: 1-3-0
 
24Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 29
Buffalo Sabres (13-15-4)
It's all still very tempting to think that this team can win three or four in a row, sneak into the eighth playoff spot in the East, and see what Ryan Miller can do in a seven-game series. His 2-1 win in Montreal on Saturday was proof positive that the former USA Olympic gold-medal starter can still win a big game against a superior opponent. All these Sabres need is for Miller to get real hot down the stretch. He's more than capable of it, but you have to wonder just how much energy he has left by this point. He spent much of the lockout battling NHL lawyers, then much of the season trying to overcome his team's sub-par defense. Last week: 3-2-0
 
25Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 24
They're not out of it yet, but missing the playoffs becomes more of a real possibility with each loss. Now Daniel Briere is out indefinitely with a concussion. Philly nearly snapped Pittsburgh's 11-game winning streak on Sunday night, but a late collapse ended with a 2-1 OT loss. If Philly goes golfing early, it would be the first time since 2006-07. GM Paul Holmgren might try to sell off a few pieces (Andrei Meszaros anyone?), but it looks pretty clear that the Flyers' season is in the balance as they open a five-game homestand this week with the Rangers, Islanders, Bruins, Capitals and Canadiens coming in. Last week: 0-0-1
 
26Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 23
With Guy Boucher out and Jon Cooper in, we'll start to see whether the Bolts' decline was really was the former coach's fault. I agree with my SI.com colleague Allan "The Ghost and Mr." Muir, who believes that Boucher got a raw deal from GM Steve Yzerman. Good luck to Cooper winning games with goaltending as presently constituted by Mr. Yzerman's dealings. Last week: 0-3-0
 
27Calgary Flames
Last Week: 28
Calgary Flames (12-14-4)
Rumors continue to swirl that Jarome Iginla's days as a Flame could be coming to an end. But the price, as reported, seems awfully high (a player and maybe two top prospects). I keep thinking he'd look awfully good in a Bruins uniform, but so far that oft-rumored deal hasn't happened. The Flames no doubt will make a deal or two as their season winds to another unsatisfying close. Last week: 1-2-0
 
28Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 22
Edmonton Oilers (11-13-7)
After looking good again for a little while, the Oil fell back on old, losing ways and now the playoffs look out of reach again. I sure got these guys wrong, eh? They have all that talent, but rarely do they look like a real team. First-year coach Ralph Krueger has to take some of the blame for that. Last week: 0-2-1
 
29Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 27
What a miserable week for a team that has lost six of its last seven games. One big problem: slow starts. Colorado has allowed the first goal in 10 of its last 11 games and 22 of 31 overall. J.S. Giguere blasted the team's effort after a 5-2 loss at Dallas, calling it "unacceptable." And yet, coach Joe Sacco continues to hold down his job, much to the chagrin of many fans. Last week: 1-2-0
 
30Florida Panthers
Last Week: 30
After beating the Hurricanes and Rangers on the road, they dropped two to the Devils and Isles (an ugly 5-0 loss). Injuries have hurt, for sure, but coach Kevin Dineen just couldn't keep this team together like he did during his first, fine year on the job. His Cats' 116 goals-against continue to lead the league by a wide margin and Alexei Kovalev quietly retired after 1,316 games -- not all of them with Florida, although it probably felt that way this season. These battered Panthers are so bad, he just couldn't put it off any longer. Last week: 2-2-0
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