NHL Power Rankings: Stars Join Penguins and Blues Atop the Hockey Hierarchy

Tom Schreier@tschreier3Correspondent IMarch 11, 2012

NHL Power Rankings: Stars Join Penguins and Blues Atop the Hockey Hierarchy

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    Dallas has an opportunity to run away with the Pacific and ensure that they’ll make the playoffs this year.

    The bankrupt Stars are in need of a postseason appearance, their first since 2007-08, if they’re going to fill their seats and become solvent in the near future.

    Despite losing superstar Brad Richards in the offseason, the Stars have stuck around all season and been in contention for a playoff spot.

    What they didn’t expect is that the two powerhouse California teams, San Jose and LA, would take a step back this season and struggle down the stretch.

    This is an opportunity of a lifetime for this franchise.

    The reason they are in this position is that they didn’t declare themselves "sellers" in the offseason, holding on to key pieces like Steve Ott, Sheldon Souray, Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow.

    And the ownership has been rewarded with their faith at a time when it would be easy to get anything they can for their superstars while removing their salaries from the books.

    That said, Dallas cannot get complacent.

    The Coyotes are hanging around, and the Sharks and Kings are supremely talented clubs that should make a push late in the season and are not out of the running for the Pacific Division title yet.

    Will the Stars make the postseason this season? Could they make a run for the Cup?

    We’ll have to wait and see.

30. Edmonton Oilers

1 of 30

    Last week: 29

    Having lost five of their last six games, the Oil are once again banking on the lottery to get a good pick come draft time.

29. Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Last week: 30

    Columbus had won four straight over quality opponents—Colorado, Phoenix and Los Angeles—before getting rolled 4-1 in St. Louis.

28. Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Last week: 23

    I’m sorry, Leafs fans, it’s hard seeing a team with one win in their last 10 games making the postseason…

27. Montreal Canadiens

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    Last week: 28

    They’re picking up wins here and there, but make no mistake, Montreal is going out with pride and hoping that they get a good pick in the lottery.

26. New York Islanders

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    Last week: 26

    The Islanders will eventually play another team.

    New York faced the Devils three times in a row, losing twice.

25. Minnesota Wild

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    Last week: 25

    You can pretty much jam this season in the wood chipper. It’s over.

    The Wild dropped four straight before beating Phoenix in a shootout on Thursday.

24. Anaheim Ducks

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    Last week: 24

    The Ducks showed signs of life in February, but the momentum didn’t carry over into March.

    Anaheim picked up wins against the mediocre Flames and Oilers at home, but lost to tough competition—Los Angeles, St. Louis and Dallas—on the road.

    Save for a serious rally, the Ducks looks like they’ll be on the outside looking in this season.

23. Carolina Hurricanes

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    Last week: 27

    Picking up two wins over division rivals, Tampa and Washington, is always good.

    It’s not enough to make people outside of Raleigh to think that the Canes will make the playoffs this season.

22. San Jose Sharks

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    Last week: 16

    The Sharks are sinking.

    San Jose has one win in their last eight games.

21. Tampa Bay Lightning

10 of 30

    Last week: 19

    Losers in their last three contests, the Lightning appear to be fading away from the playoff picture.

20. Los Angeles Kings

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    Last week: 17

    The Kings have to be kicking themselves for losing to Columbus (and then Detroit) during a pivotal stretch that will make or break LA this season.

19. Winnipeg Jets

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    Last week: 13

    So you’re telling me there’s a chance?

    Winnipeg could make the playoffs this year.

18. Calgary Flames

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    Last week: 22

    Calgary is right in the mix in the West and will face San Jose and Phoenix, two other bubble teams, at home this week.

17. Phoenix Coyotes

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    Last week: 12

    Instead of writing about it, I’ll provide a video montage of how March has gone for the Coyotes.

    The funny thing is that they’re still in the playoff picture.

16. Washington Capitals

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    Last week: 21

    The Caps are in position to take the Southeast Division once again this year.

    There’s a catch, though.

    They’ve got a daunting five-game road trip coming up.

15. Florida Panthers

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    Last week: 14

    Florida has dropped four of their last five.

    Certainly they can feel Washington breathing down their necks.

14. Colorado Avalanche

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    Last week: 20

    Winners of three of their last four, Colorado is in position to make the postseason this year.

13. Buffalo Sabres

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    Last week: 18

    Buffalo is still in the playoff hunt, but need to pick up wins against teams like Winnipeg (also in the hunt) and Boston (struggling) if they’re serious about a playoff push.

12. Ottawa Senators

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    Last week: 11

    Who would have thought?

    The Sens are in position to catch the Bruins in the Northeast Division.

11. Boston Bruins

20 of 30

    Last week: 8

    At the beginning of the year, the Big Bad Bruins looked hefty, hefty, hefty.

    Now, they look wimpy, wimpy, wimpy.

    Recently, the team has rolled over the moribund Leafs and Sabres, but couldn’t pick up wins against the Islanders, Rangers and Caps.

10. New Jersey Devils

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    Last week: 10

    New Jersey is on a stretch where they’ve played a team from New York in four straight games and will play Philadelphia in their next two.

    The Devils are currently 3-1 against New York, winning their last three (vs. the Rangers once and Islanders twice) by a combined score of 11-3.

9. Detroit Red Wings

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    Last week: 2

    The Winged Wheel may have hit the skids.

    Detroit has lost three of their last four and have let St. Louis create some separation in the Central.

8. Vancouver Canucks

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    Last week: 4

    Recent losses to Buffalo and Montreal have to be troubling for Canucks fans.

    Not that they’re too worried, though.

    Vancouver’s got a pretty comfortable cushion in the Northwest Division.

7. New York Rangers

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    Last week: 3

    New York may be on top of the East, but they’re in a bit of trouble now.

    The Blueshirts are currently 0-3 on their road trip.

    Fortunately, they return to face the Islanders and will play seven straight in the Garden.

6. Nashville Predators

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    Last week: 6

    With wins in three of their last four games, the Predators are in position to close the gap between them and the reeling Red Wings.

5. Philadelphia Flyers

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    Last week: 9

    Owners of the league’s best offense, Philadelphia has won five in a row, potentially making the Atlantic a three-way race down the stretch.

4. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Last week: 7

    Despite beginning March with three games on the road, Chicago is 3-1 this month.

    The St. Louis loss looks bad, but now that they’re out of the tailspin, the Hawks look like they’ve solidified a playoff spot for themselves.

3. St. Louis Blues

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    Last week: 1

    St. Louis has won eight of their last nine contests.

    They’re good.

2. Dallas Stars

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    Last week: 15

    With five straight wins, the Stars are in position to run away with the Pacific.

    This could be a watershed season for a franchise on the ropes.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Last week: 5

    Remember when Pittsburgh lost a game?

    Me neither.

    The Penguins have been dancing all over everyone.

    They’ve won eight straight.