NHL power rankings: Defense fuels Bruins' surge
The Boston Bruins seized control of the Eastern Conference with a 12-1-2 run, thanks to balanced scoring and strong goaltending from Tuukka Rask.
During a stretch of nine consecutive wins, the Bruins allowed one goal or recorded a shutout six times.
"Our goaltending has been outstanding all year without question," power forward Jarome Iginla said. "They give us a chance every night with big momentum shifts. We also feel as the game goes on we can start playing physical to start taking over the game and try to wear teams down."
The Bruins surged toward the top seed on their side of the bracket despite suffering a string of injuries on defense. As they get healthier on the blue line, their postseason profile will only improve.
That 15-game surge moved Boston to the top of our power ratings. Here is how the NHL pecking order shakes out:
For more puck coverage, check out The Iceman Cometh.
1 Bruins 47-17-5 +3
GOOD NEWS: Veteran winger Jarome Iginla is finishing fast. He scored six goals and added an assist during a five-game span. He scored just five goals in his first 29 games.
BAD NEWS: Their blue line took another hit when Johnny Boychuk suffered a lower-body injury.
BOTTOM LINE: They became the hottest team in the Eastern Conference with a 12-1-2 run.
2 Blues 47-14-7 -1
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Ryan Miller is 7-0-1 with a 1.61 goals-against average in his first eight starts for his new team.
BAD NEWS: Key winger Vladimir Tarasenko will miss the rest of the regular season -- and then some -- after suffering a broken hand that will require surgery.
BOTTOM LINE: Their immediate goal is to win the President's Trophy and earn the top overall seed. Do they have the stamina finish fast?
3 Avalanche 44-20-5 +3
GOOD NEWS: Winger Jamie McGinn joined the offensive party by scoring 10 points in 15 games.
BAD NEWS: Center Paul Stastny is still regaining his stride after dealing with a recurring back injury.
BOTTOM LINE: They entered the week with the league's best record (23-4-5) in one-goal games.
4 Ducks 45-17-7 -2
GOOD NEWS: Kyle Palmieri perked up by scoring two goals and adding an assist in two games.
BAD NEWS: Their recent four-game losing streak caused them to lose ground in their bid for the top seed.
BOTTOM LINE: They regrouped to win at Colorado and Los Angeles, reminding us they remain Stanley Cup contenders.
5 Blackhawks 39-15-15 -2
GOOD NEWS: After missing five games with an upper body injury, Marian Hossa scored a goal and added two assists in his first game back.
BAD NEWS: Forward Brandon Saad suffered an upper-body injury.
BOTTOM LINE: The Blackhawks stalled with a 5-5 stretch and fell to third in the division.
6 Sharks 45-18-7 +1
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Antti Niemi continued his hot play last week, winning all three starts while posting a 1.67 goals-against average and .950 save percentage.
BAD NEWS: Forward Raffi Torres suffered some recurring knee problems, forcing him out of action after he scored five points in five games.
BOTTOM LINE: They hit stride at the right time, going 11-2-1 during a 14-game span.
7 Penguins 45-19-4 -2
GOOD NEWS: Defenseman Kris Letang, recovering from a stroke, has been cleared to resume practicing. He may return before the playoffs.
BAD NEWS: They have struggled in his absence, going 7-5-2 in the first 14 games he missed.
BOTTOM LINE: Despite injuries keeping players out of a combined 413 games this year heading into the season's final month, they are still bidding for a top seed.
8 Kings 38-25-6
GOOD NEWS: Center Anze Kopitar scored five goals and added nine assists during a 12-game span.
BAD NEWS: The Kings scored three or fewer goals 19 times in 21 games.
BOTTOM LINE: Their climb up the Western Conference ladder ended abruptly with home losses to Toronto, Anaheim and Phoenix.
9 Flyers 36-25-7 +2
GOOD NEWS: Forward Claude Giroux had five assists during a three-game span.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Steve Mason's save percentage since November is a pedestrian .902.
BOTTOM LINE: They gained momentum with a 5-1-1 surge featuring back-to-back victories over the Penguins. But 12 of their last 15 games are against teams that started the week holding a playoff spot.
10 Blue Jackets 35-27-6 +6
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky went 3-0-1 in a span of four starts, posting a 1.25 goals-against average and .958 save percentage.
BAD NEWS: Power forward Nathan Horton is still struggling. He scored just five goals in his first 27 games for Columbus.
BOTTOM LINE: A 6-1-1 surge put them in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
11 Canadiens 38-25-7 -2
GOOD NEWS: No. 3 goaltender Dustin Tokarski shut out Buffalo, improving to 2-0-0 with a 1.84 goals-against average. He helped the Canadiens survive the loss of Carey Price for eight games with a lower-body injury.
BAD NEWS: A tough stretch of six of seven games on the road awaits them.
BOTTOM LINE: The Canadiens need goalie Carey Price to settle back into his Olympic groove and become the difference.
12 Wild 36-23-10
GOOD NEWS: After missing 14 games with a foot injury, defenseman Jared Spurgeon scored six points in his first 10 games back in the lineup.
BAD NEWS: The Wild's offense failed them on a four-game homestand. The team finished 1-0-3 while suffering three shootout losses.
BOTTOM LINE: Coach Mike Yeo keeps shuffling lines and searching for offensive chemistry. They haven't scored four goals in regulation play since Jan. 28.
13 Lightning 37-24-7
GOOD NEWS: Winger Ondrej Palat went on a tear, scoring three goals and adding four assists in four games.
BAD NEWS: Steven Stamkos scored just one goal and added just one assist in his first five games back from a broken leg.
BOTTOM LINE: Life goes on without Martin St. Louis. Former Rangers captain Ryan Callahan is fitting in nicely.
14 Maple Leafs 36-26-8
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender James Reimer stepped in for the injured Jonathan Bernier and stopped 60 of 63 shots with two quality performances.
BAD NEWS: Bernier is on the shelf with a groin muscle strain.
BOTTOM LINE: The Maple Leafs recently won two more overtime games. They are the NHL's top high-wire act.
15 Rangers 37-29-4 -5
GOOD NEWS: They went eight games without allowing a power-play goal, killing 21 penalties.
BAD NEWS: Their offense suddenly got quiet as they lost three of four games.
BOTTOM LINE: After a 3-5-1 downturn, they are headed for a critical three-game trip.
16 Stars 32-25-11 -1
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Kari Lehtonen has recovered from his mild concussion.
BAD NEWS: Forward Rich Peverley will sit out the rest of the season while receiving treatment for his heart condition.
BOTTOM LINE: They kept moving in the right direction by winning eight of 12 games, including a recent 3-0-1 stretch.
17 Coyotes 33-25-11
GOOD NEWS: They finally cleaned up their defense, allowing three or fewer goals in seven consecutive games.
BAD NEWS: Winger Mikkel Boedker recently scored just one goal in a 17-game span.
BOTTOM LINE: They won six times in eight games to gain traction in the playoff race.
18 Capitals 33-27-10
GOOD NEWS: Prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov has fit in snugly on the front lines after finally arriving from the KHL.
BAD NEWS: They headed out on a tough West Coast trip without forward Brooks Laich, whose lingering groin muscle strain could sideline him the rest of the year.
BOTTOM LINE: Goaltender Jaroslav Halak brought some stability in goal, posting a .924 save percentage in his first five starts for this team.
19 Red Wings 31-24-13
GOOD NEWS: America still has a pretty decent health care system.
BAD NEWS: Todd Bertuzzi (lower body) and Justin Abdelkader (lower body) pushed the Red Wings' injured list to 11 players.
BOTTOM LINE: The injuries have taken a huge toll. They lost four straight road games while getting outscored 15-5.
20 Devils 29-27-13 +1
GOOD NEWS: Of their last 14 games this season, 10 are at home -- including four in a span of six days.
BAD NEWS: The Devils were just 16-8-7 in Newark entering the week.
BOTTOM LINE: They have some catching up to do in the wild-card race, so they need to develop a better home-ice advantage ASAP.
21 Senators 28-27-13 -1
GOOD NEWS: Center Jason Spezza scored 25 points in his first 23 games of the New Year.
BAD NEWS: That came at a cost: His plus-minus rating was minus-22 entering this week.
BOTTOM LINE: The Senators were hoping to make a big push down the stretch. Instead they lost five times in six games.
22 Canucks 31-30-10 +1
GOOD NEWS: Winger Alex Burrows scored five goals in four games after scoring no goals in his first 34 games.
BAD NEWS: They allowed 28 goals during an eight-game stretch. The loss of sturdy center Ryan Kesler to a knee injury isn't helping their defensive play.
BOTTOM LINE: The Canucks bottomed out by going 4-12-1 during a 17-game spam.
23 Predators 29-30-10 +1
GOOD NEWS: Thanks to Shea Weber's work running the point, they have the NHL's 10th-best power play this season.
BAD NEWS: They still rank in the bottom third of the NHL in overall scoring.
BOTTOM LINE: Their recent three-game winning streak was another case of too little, too late.
24 Jets 31-30-9 -2
GOOD NEWS: After producing just one point in a span of 10 games, defenseman Tobias Enstrom scored four points in two games last weekend.
BAD NEWS: The good feelings under new coach Paul Maurice did not last. They faded into the sunset with a 1-3-3 slump.
BOTTOM LINE: They won just eight of their first 26 games in the Central Division. That is why they are not going to the playoffs.
25 Hurricanes 30-30-9
GOOD NEWS: Winger Alexander Semin had four goals and five assists during his first eight games of March.
BAD NEWS: Canes forward Jiri Tlusty went on the shelf with a lower-body injury.
BOTTOM LINE: Coach Kirk Muller blew up on his team Monday for good reason. After losing nine of 12 games, they were teetering on the brink of collapse.
26 Flames 28-34-7
GOOD NEWS: Forward Mike Cammalleri didn't pout after Calgary failed to move him to a contender at the trade deadline. He scored six times in 10 games.
BAD NEWS: Their brutal March schedule (16 games in 31 days) is taking a toll.
BOTTOM LINE: Still, the Flames are not an easy W for playoff-bound teams, as the Ducks learned during a 7-2 loss.
27 Oilers 25-36-9 +2
GOOD NEWS: They play 10 of their last 13 games at home.
BAD NEWS: They fell into a 2-for-36 funk on the power play.
BOTTOM LINE: Their recent 9-4-3 upturn reminded fans of what they could have been doing all season, given their high skill level.
28 Islanders 26-35-9 -1
GOOD NEWS: Winger Kyle Okposo had multi-point games in all three games last week.
BAD NEWS: They recently won for just the fifth time in 17 games.
BOTTOM LINE: After failing to sign Thomas Vanek and Andrew MacDonald to contract extensions -- and gaining little for them in bailout trades -- how do they rebuild?
29 Panthers 26-35-8 -1
GOOD NEWS: Forward Scottie Upshall scored nine points during a stretch of 14 games. Former Blackhawks prospect Brandon Pirri scored two goals and added three assists in four games.
BAD NEWS: Centers Jonathan Huberdeau suffered an upper-body injury in the first period of a game with Vancouver.
BOTTOM LINE: Their misery should continue on their current four-game road trip.
30 Sabres 19-42-8
GOOD NEWS: Forward Tyler Ennis scored four goals in an eight-game span.
BAD NEWS: Goaltenders Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth suffered lower-body injuries in succession, forcing Nathan Lieuwen to take over in the nets.
BOTTOM LINE: They lost six consecutive games -- scoring just five goals in the process -- before heading out on a five-game road trip. Odds are that won't end well.