Posted: Tue April 9, 2013 4:39PM; Updated: Wed April 10, 2013 10:12AM
Adrian Dater

Blackhawks retake top of NHL Power Rankings

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Jonathan Toews
Jonathan Toews and the Blackhawks were fastest out of the gate and the first to grab a playoff berth.
Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

Meet the new No. 1, same as the old No. 1.

The Chicago Blackhawks are back on top in the new NHL Power Rankings, knocking Pittsburgh out after the Penguins' three-week run at Number 1. Chicago should get Patrick Sharp back on Tuesday in Minnesota, a potential boost to the Hawks' offense and dressing room.

Meanwhile, we had some strong movers, pro and con, on the list this week. The St. Louis Blues made a nice jump and the Carolina Hurricanes kept sliding as goals fill their net --- no thanks to key injuries and rotten luck.

Let's move on to the countdown, shall we?

1Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 2
The city of broad shoulders has the right to wear the proverbial chip on one again. (Thanks. Yes, I'm sure that nobody has ever thought of the "shoulder" and "chip on it" reference before.) After a dip in play that coincided with injuries to key forwards Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa, the Hawks seem to be getting their second wind. They looked like big, bad bullies again in a 7-1 win at Detroit on March 31, followed that up by grabbing at least a point in each of their following four games, and clinched a playoff berth with Sunday's 1-0 win over Nashville. "We obviously wanted to stay in the spot we're in in the standings," captain Jonathan Toews told reporters. "But first and foremost, our No. 1 goal coming in every season is we want to make the playoffs." Sharp, out for the last 14 games with the dreaded upper-body injury, is a very important part of this team, and there is just enough time left in the regular season for him to get back up to speed for the playoffs. Last week: 2-0-1
2Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 1
A thinner-looking Sidney Crosby met the media for the first time since he took that slap shot to the face from teammate Brooks Orpik. (When Sid can eat solid food again, no doubt Orpik will want to take him out for a few good steak dinners.) Crosby said "it hasn't been too enjoyable" eating mostly just through a straw since suffering a broken jaw and losing several lower teeth. But the good news seems to be that he is not also concussed, as was rumored late last week, and that a return by the start of the playoffs seems feasible --- though no official timetable has been placed on his return. Valuable winger James Neal, though, does have a concussion and will miss at least the next few games. Very worrisome news there for coach Dan Bylsma. On the other hand, indispensable D-man Kris Letang (lower body) returned to practice on Monday. The gist of it all for the Pens seems to be getting as healthy as they can in time for the postseason. Last week: 1-2-0
3Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 3
Anaheim Ducks (27-8-5)
Ryan Getzlaf has been seen walking in a cast around the Ducks' facilities the last few days. But his injury does not appear to be long-term. Phew. Meanwhile, the Ducks are winning games again, including a wild one over the Kings at home on Sunday night. Viktor Fasth allowed a couple of softies, and most observers believe Jonas Hiller will be coach Bruce Boudreau's starter in the playoffs. But it's not like Fasth was awful against the Kings while making 38 saves. If the Ducks have a weakness, it's their penalty killing. At 80 percent entering Tuesday, they ranked 22nd in the league. No problems with the power play, though. At 22.6 percent, it's eighth overall. Last week: 3-1-0
4Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 4
As colleague Stu Hackel nicely illustrated in a feature on the Habs (which you can read HERE ), Montreal is winning by just plain outworking opponents. That was the case in their weekend victory over Boston, which could go a long way toward winning the Northeast Division and a guaranteed top-four seeding for the first round. As Hackel also noted, no power play has been as productive as Montreal's (league-leading 35 PPG). Michael Ryder is playing very well as a Hab again, with 18 points in his first 18 games since coming over in trade from Dallas. Under first-year coach Michel Therrien and GM Marc Bergevin, it has been a complete turnaround for the Habs -- and it doesn't appear to be a fluke anymore. These guys are legit. Last week: 2-1-0
5Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 7
It would have been nice to get that extra point in a game at Anaheim on Sunday. The Kings got a late tying goal from Dustin Brown and outplayed the Ducks for large stretches despite playing the day before, but fell 4-3 in a shootout. Robyn Regehr has looked good since he became a King, with a point and plus-3 in the first three games. Regehr gives L.A. a much more reliable net presence in his own zone. Drew Doughty is starting to look better offensively, too. He's scored a goal in his last two games -- giving him three on the season. A playoff spot seems assured for the defending Stanley Cup champs, and nobody is going to want to play them. Last week: 2-1-1
6Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 10
As the drama of L'Affaire Luongo settles, they are on a solid roll -- 9-2 since March 18. Speaking of Luongo: it's nice to have the guy around in case anything happens to Cory Schneider, though it's tough for Bobby Loo to not be playing. Instead of a blocker and catching glove, he's wearing the golden handcuffs of his cumbersome contract. Vancouver has a very good defense that gets vital contributions from the work of the forwards in coach Alain Vigneault's system. The D will get even better now, with Ryan Kesler back in the lineup. The Canucks are also formidable at home -- after Monday's 2-0 shutout of Phoenix, they'd won six in a row there by an 18-5 combined score. More important: the Sedins are getting hot again: nine points in their previous two games. Last week: 3-0-0
7Boston Bruins
Last Week: 8
Boston Bruins (25-9-4)
The Bs are going to the playoffs, but the possible long-term absence -- and for now the word is just that, "possible" -- of two-way center Patrice Bergeron is this team's big worry. Boston's chances of making a deep playoff run will go down extensively if the B's have to play without the NHL's reigning Selke Trophy winner. For now, Tyler Seguin will try to fill the void by moving to center, on a line with Jaromir Jagr (Yahggahh to the locals). Seguin was just 3-for-12 on face-offs in his first game as Bergeron's replacement. That's a steep drop from Bergeron's 61.5 percent mark in the dot. The Bruins are labeling Bergeron's latest concussion -- he's had four -- as "moderate." They'd better hope that's true, and that his symptoms don't worsen between now and Game 1 of the playoffs. Last week: 3-1-0
8St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 13
St. Louis Blues (21-14-2)
Hats off to GM Doug Armstrong for fleecing the Flames (that phrase might be patented at some point) out of Jay Bouwmeester. He's the perfect defenseman on a team where it's not all up to him. Even Bouwmeester might admit that he's not a No. 1 defenseman, and the Blues already have a great one in Alex Pietrangelo. But J-Bo's a perfect 2, 3 or 4, and so far he's played great for a rejuvenated outfit. The Blues have won four in a row, but worries remain at goaltender. With Jaroslav Halak out for a while, it'll be up to Brian Elliott and Jake Allen to get it done. Elliott, who had nine shutouts last season, got his first on Sunday in a 1-0 win over Detroit at the Joe. Last week: 3-0-0
9Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 9
Big win for the Leafs on Monday night against the Rangers. Newcomer Ryan O'Byrne netted a goal in his Toronto debut, after scoring all of two in his previous 175 games for Colorado and Montreal. Phil Kessel broke a 10-game scoring drought by potting two markers for coach Randy Carlyle, who will need as much offense as he can get while Joffrey Lupul convalesces with his latest injury (reportedly to his neck). To me, the Leafs are probably the most surprising team in the league this year, with the Ducks close behind. But with Anaheim, you knew something great was always possible with a couple of thoroughbreds in Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf around. The Leafs arguably have only one star -- Kessel, although their young leading scorer, Nazem Kadri, is on his way -- but they have succeeded by buying into Carlyle's defense-first system. Still, the loss again of Lupul will hurt eventually. Last week: 2-1-0
10Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 5
Minnesota Wild (22-14-2)
Despite the addition of Jason Pominville at the deadline (at a steep price), the Wild are starting to stumble a bit down the stretch. The playoffs still are not assured, but they should make it. They need more goal-scoring from their top guys, though, and that includes Pominville. The ex-Sabre has done pretty well so far individually, with four points in his first four games. But what about Dany Heatley? The former 50-goal man underwent shoulder surgery after a dustup with former San Jose teammate Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The Wild are painting a very optimistic picture about his prognosis: coach Mike Yeo said Heatley could still return before the end of the regular season. That must be some surgeon in Minny. I've never heard of anyone returning to action that fast after a shoulder operation. Last week: 1-2-0
11San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 11
San Jose Sharks (20-11-7)
Wonder if GM Doug Wilson regrets any of his deadline moves, which can be filed under the banner of "Sell-off." The way his team has been playing of late, probably not. Not only have the Sharks somehow gotten hot and now look a shoo-in for the playoffs, they have a bunch of early-round draft picks to look forward to after the trading of Douglas Murray, Ryane Clowe and Michal Handzus. Question is: will Wilson regret losing those playoff-hardened veterans when the postseason hits? It'll be an interesting question, but if Wilson's team keeps playing like this, he could emerge as Deadline Day's biggest winner. Maybe that won't be apparent right away, but down the road it might. Last week: 2-0-1
12Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 6
Ottawa Senators (19-13-6)
The big news on Monday was word that Norris Trophy defenseman Erik Karlsson is back on skates again. As colleague Allan "The Ghost and Mr." Muir noted, Karlsson wasn't exactly dancing out there, but who among us thought he would have any chance to play again this season after suffering that gruesome Achilles injury from the skate of Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke? Coach Paul MacLean called it "great news", but can Karlsson really make it all the way back to play at all this year? I'll believe it when I see it. The Sens still aren't a lock for the playoffs. Losing a bad one on Sunday to the putrid Panthers didn't do much for securing one of the eight magic berths. But goalie Craig Anderson is back, and now there is hope about Karlsson. Last week: 0-3-0
13New York Islanders
Last Week: 18
Can this be real? Can the Islanders really be among the top eight teams in the East, with under three weeks to go? You bet your autographed O-Pee-Chee Eddie Westfall card they are. Islander fever! As's Eli Bernstein noted in a feature on John Tavares (that you can read HERE), "The fruits of his drive have been improved point totals every season since he came into the league, and any naysayers have largely been silenced." No. 91 indeed has arrived as a player, with 23 goals and 40 points entering Tuesday. His skating clearly has improved since his rookie year, and he has the air of a player who knows he's the best on the ice most nights. The Islanders, of course, have blown a lot of playoff-drive pushes in recent years. More proving needs to be done. But with Tavares leading the way, it is possible. Last week: 2-0-1
14Washington Capitals
Last Week: 22
What a great turnaround story they have been. Earlier in the season, if somebody told me the Caps would be in playoff territory by now, I'd have done the full Jim Mora routine. Playoffs? Playoffs? Yes, playoffs. The Caps are looking good to make them. Now, granted: playing in one of the worst divisions in recent hockey memory has helped this prospect along. But they are playing legitimately good hockey right now, led by the captain Alex Ovechkin. Let's give it up for the Great 8. He's been outstanding since the middle third of the season, after some foolish pundits (me, Mr. Muir, Mr. Stu Hackel) wondered aloud if the Caps should trade him or if he was washed up. Goalie Braden Holtby has been great, too. I don't think this is a championship team, but the fact that it's a playoff team again? Consider me chastened. Last week: 4-0-0
15New York Rangers
Last Week: 17
They'll hold on to a playoff spot. If the DaterJinx takes effect now for the Blueshirts...sorry. I like this team a lot better post-trade deadline, with its added grit and hustle guys. But the Rangers are still making things too hard on themselves, with Monday's loss to Toronto one example. They had just made a great third-period comeback from 3-1 down to knot it on enemy ice, but 39 seconds after Derek Stepan's tying goal, they allowed a too-easy Phil Kessel tally and that was that. Defenseman Dan Girardi (minus-3) needs to be better, as does Michael Del Zotto (minus-2, three goals in 37 games). But I still think the Rangers will make it through the postseason portal. Last week: 2-1-1
16Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 12
A couple of victories over moribund Colorado helped buffer their chances of another playoff berth (22 straight seasons now). But they also lost at Phoenix and, more important, at home to St. Louis, 1-0, on Sunday. They're just too up-and-down to take seriously for the Stanley Cup, the only standard against which this franchise judges itself. The Wings are still too banged up, with Damien Brunner (hip flexor) being the latest to go on the shelf with an injury. They might still sneak into the playoffs, but it seems like another one-and-out for the once-mighty Wings. Last week: 1-2-0
17Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 26
Phoenix Coyotes (17-16-6)
A potentially fatal blow to their playoff chances on Monday night, that dismal 2-0 loss at Vancouver. Phoenix was outshot 41-19 in a game it had to win. The team's seven-game losing streak last month was also a killer to its postseason hopes. Too bad, because things are finally starting to turn around with the fans. They are showing up at Arena in good numbers, and seem to be fully behind the team. And the Yotes were playing well before that loss at Rogers Arena. The probably have to win out to avoid an early tee time. Last week: 3-1-0
18Dallas Stars
Last Week: 21
Dallas Stars (18-17-3)
Just when you were ready to write them off based on their deadline action, they turn around and win a couple in a row to tease their fans with the notion that a playoff berth still might happen. And it might. I've said it all year: Kari Lehtonen is a top-shelf goalie who gives his team a chance to win every night. "They (people who think the Stars are done) can keep thinking that," said forward Jamie Benn, who had two assists and scored the lone goal in a shootout win at San Jose on Sunday. "The only thing that matters is what we believe in this dressing room. It's not going to be pretty some nights, but the effort is going to be there and the heart and the character. I think you saw part of that tonight." Last week: 2-1-0
19Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 27
Buffalo Sabres (16-17-6)
Here's another team, like the Caps, that deserve a good hosanna from this humble scribe. They always do this, though: the Sabres are a great team when the pressure is off and they can make a too-little-too-late playoff run. Still, to get to the point where they have any chance s a credit to all involved here. Ryan Miller is playing very well right now. So, there is your reason for hope, Buffalo. He's won his last three starts, with a saves-percentage of .940 or better in each one. Last week: 3-0-0
20New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 14
Thank goodness for those three-point games, otherwise Lou Lamoriello's lads would be making plans at golf courses across the globe. Fact is, though, the Devils have been playing bad hockey for a while now, with their last happy ending on March 23, a 2-1 win over the sadsack Panthers. Ilya Kovalchuk, out since March 23 with a shoulder injury has started skating, but it may be too late. New Jersey is on the outside looking in at the top eight. The year has not been kind to the defending Eastern champs. Last week: 0-2-1
21Winnipeg Jets
Last Week: 19
Winnipeg Jets (19-19-2)
A nice 4-1 win over Philadelphia kept theif playoff/division title hopes alive. Now come games against Buffalo, Florida, Tampa Bay, Carolina and the Islanders. This is THE five-game stretch of the season for the Jets, in other words. Coach Claude Noel moved Dustin Byfuglien up to forward, where he hasn't played since his days with the Blackhawks when they won the Cup in 2010. Big Buff proved how effective he can be in that role during that playoff run. What the Jets really need most, though, is a dynamic center. Now that the trade deadline has passed and they didn't get one, the playoffs are going to be a struggle, but their schedule could help them. Last week: 1-2-0
22Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 20
They rode a four-game winning streak into Winnipeg on Saturday. Another win and the Flyers would have passed the Jets in the conference standings. A 4-1 loss later, and Philly trailed 10th-place Winnipeg by three points, although they still had two games in hand. So, while catching the Jets still is a realistic goal, catching the eighth-place Islanders -- down by five points, with only one game in hand -- seems a lot more problematic. The Flyers simply haven't put both ends of their game together much this season. And time is running out. Last week: 2-1-0
23Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 16
Edmonton Oilers (16-16-7)
Let's face it, they choked. The Oilers were right there for a playoff spot last week, then they lost three in a row, sending me for some painkillers to soothe the legs I've broken climbing on and jumping off their bandwagon. Now I firmly believe they still don't have what it takes to make the playoffs, and that's the bottom line. They need a better defense and a goaltender. Period. End of story. Until next week, perhaps. But with the Oilers' luck, they'll somehow draw the winning ping-pong ball at the NHL Draft lottery on April 29. If they were to land the No. 1 pick, it would be for the fourth year in a row. FOURTH YEAR IN A ROW! Can we just rename the NHL draft podium after Steve Tambellini? Last week: 1-3-0
24Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 15
It was nice while it lasted. OK, maybe I'm writing the first line of the CBJ obituary a little too fast. But in the Western Conference, the two-game losing streak the Jackets suffered last week can be the coup de grace for a playoff chance. It appears that is what it will be for Columbus, which lost back-to-back games to Minnesota and St. Louis. Now comes the possible trade-deadline hangover for C-Bus management. They gave up a lot of their team identity in their three-players to the Rangers for Marian Gaborik deal. I think it was a bad move, an opinion I'll feel times-two if they can't make the playoffs. Last week: 1-2-0
25Nashville Predators
Last Week: 24
Their shutout loss to Chicago on Sunday might have been the death knell for their playoff chances. Coach Barry Trotz called them "remote" after the game, but what does the estimable site say about that? Um, well, yeah. Maybe Trotz was right. The site, which calculates the percentage chances of teams making the playoffs based on their records says the Preds are now at 1.8 percent for avoiding the melancholy task of hauling the golf clubs out of the closet at the end of April. That ain't too good. Last week: 1-3-0
26Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 23
They overachieved for a while when Cam Ward was out, but just couldn't overcome the loss of their No. 1 goalie for this long. The absence of blueliner Justin Falk (knee), who has just been activated, surely hurt, as did the loss of defenseman Joni Pitkanen, who broke his heel in a collision with the end boards (You can watch the video HERE). Carolina is 1-9-0 in its last 10, including five losses in a row, and can't keep the puck out of its net. With Ward and some health, the 'Canes seemed well on their way to the playoffs. Without him and it, they are headed to the draft lottery as GM Jim Rutherford chews his knuckles in anguished frustration. Last week: 0-4-0
27Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 25
They're still not technically out of the Southeast title chase, but it's only a matter of time. At least the Bolts have a young goalie on which to make optimistic forecasts for the future. Ben Bishop is a 'tender on the rise, and next year I say he'll become the next Brian Elliott (circa 2011-12). It was tough to see Cory Conacher go, though. Pure heart and spunk -- he's the kind of player teams really miss. Last week: 1-2-1
28Florida Panthers
Last Week: 28
A win over Ottawa on Sunday kept the Cats out of 30th place. But even if they don't come in dead last, they'll still have a nice shot at the No. 1 pick. The NHL's bottom-dweller will have a 25-percent chance, the 29th-place team gets an 18.8-percent shot. No team can move down more than one spot in the lottery, with the draft order to be determined on April 29. So, the question is: Do the Cats need more on offense or defense? I'll say defense, since Florida is the league leader in goals-allowed this season. Seth Jones could probably help that. Last week: 2-1-0
29Calgary Flames
Last Week: 29
Calgary Flames (14-20-4)
A win at Colorado on Monday night moved them three points ahead -- or behind, depending on your point of view -- of Colorado for 30th-place. The Flames are in a definite rebuild situation after dealing off most of their name players at the deadline. There is not a lot of evidence that things will turn around fast -- but a possible top-3 pick in one of the deeper drafts in years should help somewhere down the line. Last week: 1-3-0
30Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 30
And finally, the Avalanche. They are flat-lining so badly at the end that veteran goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere did his best Howard Beale "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore" routine after a 3-1 loss to the Flames at home on Monday night. Check out these quotes: "Some guys are more worried about their Vegas trip at the end of the season than playing the games, than playing every minute of the games. Quite frankly, I don't care about your Vegas trip right now." And this: "I'm embarrassed to be here right now. It's not even funny." And finally: "I've been around for 15 years in this league and I don't know what it is. I don't know why we seem like we don't care about points. And it's just embarrassing, the way we, you know, the energy we have in the room and the way we approach practices and the way we approach this game. It's not how you're going to win any games in this league." And last week they didn't. Last week: 0-3-1
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