The playoff picture is very messy and will only get messier in the closing weeks of the season. Martin Brodeur’s return in New Jersey has sparked the Devils’ play, while the return of Sean Avery has Rangers fans hoping for similar results. Let me know where you agree, or disagree, with the rankings.
1. New Jersey Devils (43-20-3) – Marty Brodeur’s return went much better than Tiger Woods’ did. The NHL’s best goalie is just three wins and four shutouts away from becoming the all-time leader in both categories.
2. Detroit Red Wings (44-15-8) – Despite losing to Nashville 8-0 and to Columbus 8-2, Detroit has lost just five times since the start of February.
3. San Jose Sharks (43-12-10) – If San Jose wants to do any damage in the playoffs, then Patrick Marleau is going to have to step his game up. He has just three points in his last 10 games and the Sharks are 5-4-1.
4. Boston Bruins (43-16-9) – Speaking of slumps, Marc Savard, once a potential MVP candidate, has not scored a goal in 14 games and the Bruins are 4-8-2 in that span.
5. Philadelphia Flyers (36-19-10) – There is a big debate about who will be starting in net for the Flyers in the playoffs; but Philly fans shouldn’t be worried regardless of the decision, because Danny Briere will be returning to the lineup very soon.
6. Washington Capitals (41-21-6) – Alex Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 47 and shots with 427; two strong reasons why he’ll be taking home his second consecutive MVP at the end of the season.
7. Calgary Flames (39-22-6)– What do you get when you add Olli Jokinen to Jarome Iginla and Michael Cammalleri? A line that has combined for 88 goals so far this season.
8. Chicago Blackhawks (37-19-9) – The Hawks are experiencing a little case of the injury bug, but all of the key components will be ready come playoff time.
9. Pittsburgh Penguins (36-26-6)– When a coach is fired it can be either a very good thing or a very bad thing. Since Michel Terrien was fired on February 15 the Pens have gone 9-1-1...you be the judge.
10. Vancouver Canucks (34-23-8) – The only way to tell the Sedin twins apart is by looking at their point totals; Daniel has the edge 64-60.
11. Montreal Canadiens (36-24-7) – The Canadiens’ playoff hopes may rest on the shoulders of Carey Price who has just four wins since January 21; Montreal should be a little concerned.
12. Carolina Hurricanes (36-27-6) – Carolina has stayed in the playoff hunt by taking the fewest penalty minutes of any team in the league.
13. Florida Panthers (34-24-9) – The Panthers’ goalies have the second best save percentage in the league, and that comes with facing the most shots per game (34.9).
14. Columbus Blue Jackets (34-27-6)– Steve Mason pretty much has the Calder Trophy wrapped up, but he’s got his sights set on the Vezina. Mason leads the league in shutouts with nine.
15. Buffalo Sabres (33-27-7) – If Ryan Miller doesn’t come back from that high ankle sprain sometime soon then the Sabres can kiss their playoff hopes goodbye.
16. New York Rangers (34-25-8) – The good news is if the Rangers don’t make the playoffs, Sean Avery can get back to Vogue Magazine for his summer internship quicker.
17. Nashville Predators (33-29-5)– Pekka Rinne is another rookie goalie who has pulled his team out of the gutter and into the playoff race. Rinne has countered Dan Ellis’ 11-18-4 record by going 22-11-1.
18. Edmonton Oilers (32-27-7) – Sheldon Souray’s hyper-extended knee might not bode well for the Oilers’ playoff chances.
19. Minnesota Wild (32-28-6) –Niklas Backstrom is getting some serious consideration for the Vezina Trophy; his .921 save percentage and 2.36 goals-against average only support that.
20. St. Louis Blues (30-28-8) – In the Blues’ last seven wins goalie Chris Mason has surrendered just 10 goals.
21. Anaheim Ducks (31-30--6) – The Ducks are 4-6-1 in their last 11; that might have a lot to do with the fact that they lead the NHL in penalty minutes with 1171.
22. Dallas Stars (31-28-8) – The Stars have gone just 3-7-1 since Brad Richards broke his wrist on Feb. 16.
23. Los Angeles Kings (29-28-9) – It was a sad week for the LA organization after the passing of Kings’ first general manager Larry Regan; the Kings have won three straight.
24. Ottawa Senators (27-29-10) – The Pizza Line is on pace for just 218 points after combining for 263 points last season.
25. Toronto Maple Leafs (27-28-13) – I’ll take atrocious things for $1000, Alex. OK, and the answer is: .885. Um, what is Toronto’s collective save percentage? Correct!
26. Phoenix Coyotes (28-33-6) – Phoenix traded its best goal-scorer away. Hopefully they can pick up a better scorer in the draft because the young Coyotes rank dead last in goals-scored (166).
27. New York Islanders (22-37-8)– Despite the Islanders being outscored by the largest margin the league, they are starting to win games and lose their chokehold on the first pick in the draft.
28. Atlanta Thrashers (26-35-6) – Even Ilya Kovalchuk, who has 28 points in his last 14 games, can’t help the Thrashers who have the leagues worst penalty-kill at 75.9 percent.
29. Colorado Avalanche (29-37-1) – The Avalanche continue to slide, winning just seven of their last 25 games.
30. Tampa Bay Lightning (21-32-14) – The Lightning love going to the extra period to settle things, they just aren’t any good at it.