For the last several weeks, the conversation — as subjective as these talks are — centered around the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks as to who was the true No. 1 team in the league. There’s a new team (at least for this season) to consider: the Pittsburgh Penguins. A 12-game winning streak, the longest in the NHL this season, isn’t too bad of an argument.
1. Penguins 25-8 -0 +2
The Pens may play in the East, which doesn’t compare from top to bottom to the West, but Pittsburgh has beaten its conference’s best on this streak, including Boston (twice) and Montreal. And this ranking takes into account the grit they just acquired via Stars forward Brenden Morrow and Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray.
2. Ducks 22-5 -4 —
The Ducks fell to the Red Wings twice over the weekend. (Sunday’s loss got really ugly, too, with unsportsmanlike and misconduct penalties flying everywhere.) That lack of composure, however, doesn’t negate Wednesday’s 4-2 victory over Chicago.
3. Blackhawks 24-3 -3 -2
That loss to the Ducks has stewed since last Wednesday. The ‘Hawks don’t get back on the ice until Monday night, although it appears they will face the Kings minus Marian Hossa (upper-body injury). He was injured in the 4-2 decision against the Ducks, which is much more worrisome than bragging rights lost in the tilt.
4. Canadiens 20-6 -5 +1
Minus a mental block against Buffalo, the Habs have gotten over on some of the East’s worst teams. (The Sabres beat the Canadiens twice last week.) The Habs are 7-2-1 over the last 10 games, even if only three of those opponents (Boston, Ottawa and New Jersey) are playoff teams.
5. Wild 18-10 -2 +3
Minnesota has all but erased the memories of the slow start and the second guessing of the signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter last offseason. The Wild are on a five-game winning streak, the latest a 2-0 victory over the Sharks on Saturday.
6. Bruins 20-7 -3 -2
Boston enters the week having lost three of its last four games, scoring six goals in the process. Makes sense that they were reportedly in the hunt for Dallas forward Brenden Morrow, but this team has enough talent to get out of this scoring slump itself.
7. Canucks 17-9 -6 +10
The Canucks aren’t giving up the Northwest lead to the Wild that easily. The Canucks’ 3-2 victory over the Avalanche on Sunday expanded their winning streak to four games and kept Vancouver ahead in the standings by two points. Even if it’s a little too early to scoreboard watch.
8. Maple Leafs 17-12 -3 +6
It took a game-winning goal from enforcer Frazer McLaren for the Leafs to topple the Bruins, a team that had beaten Toronto in each of their last eight meetings. (The rematch of Saturday’s 3-2 decision is in Boston on Monday night.) If the Leafs get contributions from odd places like that, watch out.
9. Senators 17-9 -6 —
The Sens couldn’t solve the Bruins on Thursday, although there is nothing new there. Boston hasn’t lost a game in Ottawa in nearly three years. But at least the Sens rebounded with a 5-3 victory over Tampa Bay in head coach Guy Boucher’s last game behind the Bolts’ bench.
10. Red Wings 16-11 -5 —
Beating any team twice in a span of three days is a feat, let alone when that team is the Ducks. A victory against the Coyotes on Monday night and Detroit will have its first three-game winning streak since early February.
11. Kings 17-12 -2 -4
Going scoreless in back-to-back games (Dallas on Thursday and Vancouver on Saturday) isn’t going to douse the fire around the Jarome Iginla rumors — even if the Flames’ veteran forward isn’t the scoring threat he once was.
12. Devils 15-11 -6 +3
Martin Brodeur has returned and all is well. The veteran goalie has won his two decisions (against Carolina on Thursday and Florida on Saturday) in his first starts since missing a month with back issues.
13. Blues 17-12 -2 -7
Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff’s 36-save effort in a 3-2 Calgary victory on Sunday ruined what could have been a feel-good trip to Alberta. The Blues had shut out the Oilers, 3-0, a day prior. Another missed chance to find the consistency the Blues showed early in the season.
14. Blue Jackets 13-13 -6 +5
Playoffs? OK, the fact that the Blue Jackets are in contention has had a while to seep in. But Columbus has been one of the hottest teams in hockey. A 5-2 setback to the Predators was the Blue Jackets’ first regulation loss since last month. They enter play Monday night just a point behind eighth-place Dallas.
15. Jets 17-14 -2 -3
Back-to-back losses last week to the Capitals made the Jets’ grasp on the division much shakier. A victory against the Lightning (and the team’s new interim coaching staff) on Sunday helps, but Winnipeg needs to avoid any letdowns — unless it wants to fumble the Southeast lead like Tampa Bay and Carolina have done already.
16. Stars 15-13 -3 +6
The Stars dealt captain Brenden Morrow with “an eye on the future,” GM Joe Nieuwendyk said. The “now” could be worse. The Stars would be in the playoffs, be it as the eighth seed in the West, if the regular season ended on Sunday night.
17. Sharks 13-11 -6 -6
It doesn’t seem the Sharks are panicking as they enter play Monday night in ninth place, a spot out of the playoffs. Still, the standings are prettier than their team scoring stats. A 2-0 loss to Minnesota on Saturday further solidified their status as the lowest-scoring team in the league (2.20 goals per game).
18. Rangers 15-13 -3 —
Rangers coach John Tortorella said he was “thinking about points” after Sunday’s shootout loss to the Caps. The Rangers have gotten at least a point in three of their last four games and sit in the eighth and final playoff spot entering play Monday.
19. Capitals 15-16 -1 +8
The Caps enter Tuesday’s game against the Islanders riding a three-game winning streak. It’s their second three-game run this month. (The last was followed by a three-game skid.) Captain Alex Ovechkin is on a season-high five-game goal streak. Nicklas Backstrom finally looks like Nicklas Backstrom. Maybe the Caps can turn this around.
20. Predators 13-13 -6 —
Ten goals over the last two games? These are the Predators, right? Nashville has slowly inched up from the scoring basement, sitting tied in 24th with the Devils (2.44 goals per game) entering play Monday.
21. Hurricanes 15-13 -2 -5
The ‘Canes ride a five-game skid entering Tuesday’s game against the Jets. Carolina has forward Tuomo Ruutu back from hip surgery, not a second too soon for a foundering offense that has scored a combined four goals over the last four games.
22. Coyotes 13-14 -4 -9
The Coyotes reportedly held a players-only meeting after dropping their fifth game in a row Thursday. Pretty sure captain Shane Doan, who leads the Coyotes in hits (81), threw some verbal elbows.
23. Flames 12-14 -4 +1
Calgary upped its home winning streak to seven games with Sunday’s win over the Blues. The problem, among many, is that the Flames face a road-heavy schedule down the stretch.
24. Sabres 13-15 -4 +5
Buffalo has a solid three-game winning streak going after wins over Toronto and Montreal (twice). It’s the Sabres longest run in a year and puts them within at least striking distance of a playoff spot.
25. Islanders 14-15 -3 -4
Winning at home has continued to be a struggle, although the Islanders salvaged a four-game homestand with a shutout of the Panthers on Sunday. Their 14 points through 19 home games puts them in a tie for the fifth-fewest points in team history.
26. Oilers 11-12 -7 -3
The Oilers have gotten points in five of their last six games, but it’s that one game that they didn’t that is most troubling: a listless 3-0 shutout to the Blues on Saturday.
27. Flyers 13-16 -2 -1
Philly is hosting its next five games, beginning with a contest against the Rangers on Tuesday. It’s safe to say a letdown here would mean it’s pretty much over for the Flyers.
28. Avalanche 11-16 -4 —
A mostly bleak season could get a little more so if center Paul Stastny and defenseman Ryan Wilson — both forced off the ice in Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Canucks — are out for any significant time.
29. Lightning 13-18 -1 -4
Guy Boucher is out as head coach, robbing fans nationwide of his grimaces and other facial intricacies. He did have the Bolts off to a 6-1 start this season before defense became optional.
30. Panthers 9-18 -6 —
This team is such a nonfactor (outside of the trade rumor mill) that even a major name like Alexei Kovalev can retire and nobody seems to notice.