NHL Power Rankings: Calgary Eliminated, Buffalo in Trouble, Top Seed in Question

Tom Schreier@tschreier3Correspondent IApril 1, 2012

NHL Power Rankings: Calgary Eliminated, Buffalo in Trouble, Top Seed in Question

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    There are only two things I know:

    1. Certain teams have been eliminated from the playoffs (sorry, Calgary)
    2.  Others are struggling to hold their spot (yikes, Buffalo)

    Here’s a (kind of) bold prediction:

    Hockey fans around the country will see two divisions drop from the playoffs in the first round.

    Washington may make the playoffs—their fate is in their hands—and could win their division (that is less likely). This means that unless Florida whiffs on their last four games (they could), they’ll be the three seed and Washington will be the eight.

    I see the Rangers matched up with Washington in the first round. Sound familiar? It is, except Washington typically is the one seed. The Rangers should take this matchup easily. They have a plus-44 goal differential and are hot (four-game win streak).

    Washington is 5-3-2 in their last 10 and have a minus-11 goal differential.

    The Devils have to feel good about the six seed. It’s better than a matchup with Pittsburgh or Philly. They get the limping Panthers (see slide) that have a minus-23 goal differential and have won their division essentially by default*.

    *I realize if they blow it, I’ll look like an idiot, but with a two-point lead and a game in hand, they should win the Southeast.

    With a Rangers win over the Caps and a Devils win over Florida, there goes the Southeast.

    The only way I see the Pacific surviving the first round is if San Jose gets the three-seed.

    I see the slumping Red Wings getting the six-seed, and the Sharks have eliminated them from the playoffs in the last two years.

    Otherwise, I see San Jose/LA/Dallas/Phoenix losing to top-seeded Vancouver and St. Louis in the first round and Detroit taking a series against a less-experienced playoff team like LA, Dallas or Phoenix in the three-six matchup.

30. Montreal Canadiens

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    Last week: 27

    With a 2-3-5 record in their last 10, the Canadiens’ last three games couldn’t come sooner.

29. Edmonton Oilers

2 of 30

    Last week: 25

    It’s a tough ending for an Oiler team that showed promise early in the season.

    Edmonton has lost their last two games by a combined score of 7-2 and must travel to LA and Vancouver to finish off the season.

28. Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Last week: 30

    With recent wins over Detroit, Florida and St. Louis, three playoff-bound teams, fans in Columbus have to feel good about the team’s effort down the homestretch.

27. Toronto Maple Leafs

4 of 30

    Last week: 28

    I’m sorry, Leafs fans. I’m sorry.

26. Minnesota Wild

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    Last week: 29

    Wins over the Panthers and Kings are nice at the end of the season.

    They indicate the team is not packing it in despite having their playoff hopes dashed months ago.

25. Anaheim Ducks

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    Last week: 24

    Anaheim got a win over their NorCal brethren that put the Sharks’ chances of making the playoffs in jeopardy.

    At this point in the season, that’s a victory that Ducks fans can hang their hat on.

24. Carolina Hurricanes

7 of 30

    Last week: 22

    Losers of four of their last five, the Canes are limping towards the finish line of what has been a tough season.

23. Tampa Bay Lightning

8 of 30

    Last week: 23

    Tampa Bay has been mediocre down the stretch.

    If they patch up their defense in the offseason (no small task, mind you), they should be more competitive than they were this year.

22. New York Islanders

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    Last week: 26

    Recent wins over Florida and Pittsburgh (twice) should be enough to keep a few fans around for an Islander franchise hoping to avoid playing in front of a myriad of empty seats next season and avoid relocation in the future.

21. Winnipeg Jets

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    Last week: 21

    The Jets won’t make the playoffs this year, but have shown promise that they will in the future.

20. Calgary Flames

11 of 30

    Last week: 19

    Following their five-game win streak, the Flames lost eight of their last nine.

    They have been eliminated from the playoffs as a result.

19. Buffalo Sabres

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    Last week: 18

    It’s coming down to the wire between Buffalo and Washington.

    Suffering a regulation loss to Toronto (Toronto) at this point in the season has to hurt.

18. Colorado Avalanche

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    Last week: 14

    Four straight losses at this point in the season is troubling, but the Avs had to feel good sticking a dagger into the Flames’ playoff hopes with a 4-1 in the Saddledome.

17. Dallas Stars

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    Last week: 12

    It’s been a rough road trip for the Stars, who went 1-3-0 in four games and finished the trip with a 3-0 loss in San Jose.

    Still, despite their recent woes, they’re still in the playoff hunt.

16. Washington Capitals

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    Last week: 20

    Despite losing to Buffalo 5-1, Washington is the front-runner to get the eight seed in the East.

15. Florida Panthers

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    Last week: 11

    Florida is backing into the playoffs.

    They have lost five of their last six games.

    And it’s not like they’ve been playing a daunting schedule.

    Those five losses came against Carolina, Edmonton, the Islanders, Minnesota and Columbus.

14. San Jose Sharks

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    Last week: 16

    A 3-0 win over Dallas is pivotal after dropping games in Anaheim and Phoenix.

13. Ottawa Senators

18 of 30

    Last week: 17

    The Sens have won three straight and could give their first-round opponent fits if they stay hot.

12. Phoenix Coyotes

19 of 30

    Last week: 15

    The Yotes have blanked their Pacific Division rivals, San Jose and Anaheim, in recent contests and aren’t going to go down without a fight.

11. Los Angeles Kings

20 of 30

    Last week: 13

    A shootout loss to Minnesota hurts, but otherwise, the Kings are winning at the right time.

    They’re 7-2-1 in their last 10 and have a bona fide chance of getting the three seed in the West.

10. Detroit Red Wings

21 of 30

    Last week: 10

    The Red Wings only have two wins in their last 10 games?

    That’s brutal.

9. New Jersey Devils

22 of 30

    Last week: 8

    Winners of their last three games, the Devils should enter the playoffs with momentum on their side.

8. Nashville Predators

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    Last week: 7

    At 4-5-1 in their last 10, the Preds really could use a bigger push if they want to hold on to that four-five seed…

    Although really, the six seed against a weak Pacific Division opponent might be more favorable.

7. Boston Bruins

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    Last week: 9

    Boston had only one regulation loss following their four-game losing streak in the middle of the month, finishing up 6-1-1.

    Their recent play pretty much assures them of the division crown and the No. 2 seed in the East.

6. Philadelphia Flyers

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    Last week: 2

    At 6-2-2, the Flyers appear to be destined to get the five seed and probably will face the cross-town rival Penguins in the first round.

5. St. Louis Blues

26 of 30

    Last week: 3

    The Blues have cooled off and were passed by a red-hot Vancouver team for the No. 1 seed in the West over the weekend.

4. Chicago Blackhawks

27 of 30

    Last week: 4

    The Hawks are winning at the right time.

    They are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins

28 of 30

    Last week: 1

    Two losses to the Islanders and an injured Crosby is tough to handle at this point in the season.

2. New York Rangers

29 of 30

    Last week: 6

    The Rangers have won six of their last seven and appear determined to get the No. 1 seed in the East.

1. Vancouver Canucks

30 of 30

    Last week: 5

    The Canucks are on fire.

    They’ve won six straight and could get the No. 1 seed in the West.