NHL Power Rankings: Penguins, Predators Improve with Addition of Crosby, Radulov

Tom SchreierCorrespondent IMarch 18, 2012

NHL Power Rankings: Penguins, Predators Improve with Addition of Crosby, Radulov

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    The Penguins get Sidney Crosby back during a double-digit winning streak?

    The Predators get the best erstwhile KHL player during arguably their best season in franchise history?

    I’m just going to do a little victory lap for picking a Preds-Pens final before the year started.

    That said, picking those types of things are a crapshoot—and they should be.

    That’s why they play the games.

    And for all we know, I could have easily picked a Minnesota-Buffalo final and looked like a joker.

    Still, let's give a little credence to the prospect of a Nashville-Pittsburgh showdown.

    The reason why I picked those two teams at the beginning of the season was because I thought the Pens were going to roll through the East and be considered surefire Cup winners, only to be upset by an upstart, scrappy team…say, Nashville.

    After all, the shoestring-budget Predators have made the playoffs six of the past seven years and reached the second round for the first time in franchise history last year.

    This year, they went all in, acquiring Hal Gill and reuniting the Kostitsyn brothers.

    And voila, they are in position to pass Detroit in the Central Division.

    As for Pittsburgh, they’ve got their best player back, have the best point differential in the East and are in position to grab the Atlantic Division—and therefore, the No. 1 seed in the postseason—from the Blueshirts.

    This is an experienced, resilient team that will not shrivel under the bright lights of the NHL playoffs. They’ll be considered a bona fide contender as a No. 1 seed—if they aren’t considered that already.

    Then again, for all I know, it could be a Boston-Vancouver rematch, and I’ll look like a fool for making a bold pick.

30. Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Last week: 29

    And then…depression set in.

    The Jackets have dropped four in a row following their four-game winning streak.

29. Edmonton Oilers

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    Last week: 30

    Playing the (familiar) role of spoiler at this point, Edmonton has to enjoy beating Calgary in the Saddledome this past Friday.

28. Minnesota Wild

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    Last week: 25

    The Wild can’t score, and it’s costing them.

    Minnesota has only one win this month, a 3-2 shootout decision in Phoenix.

27. Montreal Canadiens

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    Last week: 27

    The Habs are picking up points slowly but steadily.

    Still, it’s hard to believe they’ll get hot all of a sudden and make the playoffs.

26. New York Islanders

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    Last week: 26

    A 3-2 shootout win over lowly Montreal curtailed a five-game losing streak for the Islanders.

25. Anaheim Ducks

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    Last week: 24

    Losing four of your last five is never fun, but crushing Detroit 4-0 always has to feel good.

24. Carolina Hurricanes

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    Last week: 23

    Although the playoffs are all but out of reach, the Canes continue to pick up quality wins here and there.

    Their 2-0 win over St. Louis after a five-game road trip was especially impressive.

23. Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Last week: 21

    Tampa has a nice little 6-1 win over Boston awhile back…

    Otherwise, it has been a forgettable season for a Lightning team that hasn’t been able to keep the puck out of their own net all season long.

22. Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Last week: 28

    Toronto responded to their five-game losing streak by winning their next two games by a combined score of 6-2.

21. Phoenix Coyotes

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    Last week: 17

    After a stellar February, the Coyotes have floundered in March.

20. Buffalo Sabres

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    Last week: 13

    Buffalo hasn’t won a game in regulation since March 3, but has scraped enough points together to remain in the hunt for the No. 8 spot in the East.

19. Washington Capitals

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    Last week: 16

    The points-starved Caps had a nice little four-game winning streak going.

    Then, they lost in Winnipeg…

18. Winnipeg Jets

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    Last week: 19

    That’s it; back to Winnipeg.

    The Jets have won every game they’ve played at home this month.

17. Calgary Flames

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    Last week: 18

    The Flames had a five-game winning streak snapped in Edmonton, but remain in the playoff hunt.

16. San Jose Sharks

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    Last week: 22

    Things are looking better for the sinking Sharks.

    They’ve won three of their last four.

15. Ottawa Senators

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    Last week: 12

    The Senators really are not taking advantage of Boston’s poor play.

    Ottawa has only one win in its last four games against lowly Buffalo, Montreal (home-and-home) and Toronto.

14. Colorado Avalanche

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    Last week: 14

    By picking up points in their last five games, the Avs remain in the playoff bubble.

13. Florida Panthers

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    Last week: 15

    Something has clicked for the Panthers, a team that appeared all but ready to back into the playoffs as the Southeast Division winner.

    Florida has won four straight and created a buffer between themselves and Washington, Winnipeg and Buffalo.

12. Boston Bruins

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    Last week: 11

    Uh oh…

    The Bruins have only four wins in March and are in jeopardy of relinquishing their division lead to Ottawa.

11. Los Angeles Kings

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    Last week: 20

    Better late than never.

    The Kings are winning at the right time.

    With only two losses in March, L.A. is in position to grab a bottom seed (or even the Pacific Division lead) down the stretch.

10. Detroit Red Wings

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    Last week: 9

    Detroit only has two wins in March and is letting St. Louis run away with the division.

9. New Jersey Devils

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    Last week: 10

    New Jersey is having a good March—only four losses.

    However, three of those four losses came against Atlantic Division opponents: the Islanders, Flyers and Penguins.

8. Vancouver Canucks

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    Last week: 8

    The Canucks have only three wins this month, but remain the No. 2 team in the West.

7. New York Rangers

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    Last week: 7

    The once-mighty Rangers have points in only two of their last seven games.

    New York remains atop the Eastern Conference, but the red-hot Pens are in position to knock them off their perch.

6. Dallas Stars

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    Last week: 2

    Dallas started March off with six straight wins, but recently lost in Winnipeg, 5-2, and was crushed at home by Chicago, 4-1.

    It can’t get cold now…

5. Nashville Predators

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    Last week: 6

    The road has been tough on the otherwise hot Predators.

    Nashville has a shootout win, a shootout loss and a 4-2 regulation loss since embarking on its Pacific Division road trip on Monday.

4. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Last week: 4

    Winners of three of their last four, the Hawks only have one regulation loss, a 5-1 doozy in St. Louis, and have created some separation between themselves and the bubble teams.

3. Philadelphia Flyers

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    Last week: 5

    The Flyers have only one regulation loss this month and are giving division rivals New York and Pittsburgh a run for their money.

2. St. Louis Blues

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    Last week: 3

    In case you missed it, the Blues became the first team to hit the century mark and have assured themselves a playoff spot.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Last week: 1

    The Penguins have won 11 in a row and have some guy named Sidney Crosby back.