We all know the Chicago Blackhawks have been soaring this season in the NHL, but what about the playoff contenders situated close to the eighth seed in each conference?
Some fringe playoff contenders have been making some moves lately, finding their groove in the second quarter of the season.
Here are my latest NHL power rankings, complete with borderline playoff contenders on a roll (in italics).
1. Chicago Blackhawks (19-0-3)
The Chicago Blackhawks have not lost in regulation in their first 22 contests this season, and they have won their last nine games. They've scored 70 goals and only allowed 41 scores in that span.
2. Anaheim Ducks (15-3-2)
While Anaheim can't compete with Chicago's defense, the offense is scoring at a strong pace, and the Ducks have gone 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.
3. Montreal Canadians (14-4-4)
A balanced team, the Montreal Canadians are strong on both sides of the puck. They've had a nice stretch recently, going 7-0-3 in their last 10 games and defeating Boston on Sunday.
4. Boston Bruins (14-3-2)
Boston's offense doesn't compare to Chicago's or Anaheim's, but the Bruins have allowed the fewest goals in the NHL this season. They had won six straight games before Sunday's loss to Montreal.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins (14-8-0)
Possessing an explosive offense complete with Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins are fun to watch. This is an offense that can score on anybody when it's rolling.
6. Vancouver Canucks (11-6-4)
The Vancouver Canucks don't blow you away on offense or defense, and a loss to Calgary on Sunday isn't encouraging for a team that has now gone 4-4-2 in its last 10 games.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs (13-9-0)
Toronto simply finds ways to win. The Maple Leafs have proven to be a strong-willed team, going 9-4-0 on the road this season.
8. Ottawa Senators (12-7-4)
The Ottawa Senators have fared relatively well, considering they've been without many of their top stars. That defense certainly helps matters.
9. San Jose Sharks (10-6-4)
After a sizzling start, the San Jose Sharks have lost some bite. Still, that defense has pushed them to 10 wins thus far, in spite of a troubled offense.
10. New Jersey Devils (10-6-5)
The New Jersey Devils are enduring a tough stretch, and—unlike the Sharks—they don't have the defense to rescue them.
11. St. Louis Blues (11-8-2)
The St. Louis Blues have been able to keep their heads above water to an extent, but the 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Sunday highlighted their defensive woes.
12. Detroit Red Wings (10-8-4)
A tough loss to Chicago on Sunday overshadowed the fact that they had beaten Vancouver and San Jose before that. The Detroit Red Wings have been playing better lately.
13. Dallas Stars (11-9-2)
Dallas has the balance on offense and defense to make some waves moving forward. The 4-1 victory over St. Louis on Sunday was proof of that.
14. Carolina Hurricanes (12-8-1)
Carolina is finding ways to win, squeaking out victories. The Hurricanes have gone 7-4-1 on the road this season.
15. Phoenix Coyotes (10-8-3)
The Phoenix Coyotes, like Carolina, have endured a nice stretch recently by eking out wins. The Coyotes hold a modest plus-three scoring differential this season but have gone 6-3-1 in their last 10 games.
16. Los Angeles Kings (10-7-2)
Look out for the defending champs. The Los Angeles Kings suffered a tough defeat to Vancouver on Saturday, but they have gone 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. The five goals allowed to the Canucks on Saturday was an anomaly. Los Angeles has normally been strong on defense this season.
17. Philadelphia Flyers (11-11-1)
The Philadelphia Flyers give up a ton of goals, but they also score a lot. They also know how to win close games, as evidenced by the 2-1 victory over Ottawa on Saturday. They love playing at home, and they've gone 6-4 in their last 10 games.
18. Minnesota Wild (11-8-2)
A strong win on Sunday against Edmonton highlighted a Minnesota Wild team that is hitting its stride. The Wild have gone 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, and the total of four goals on Sunday was a nice sign for a squad that generally has to rely on its defense.
19. New York Rangers (10-8-2)
A 3-2 victory over Buffalo on Sunday was New York's second straight win. The offense needs to be more electric overall for the Rangers to make serious waves, though.
20. Nashville Predators (9-8-5)
The Nashville Predators are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games, and they've dropped two straight. Those woes on offense are crystal clear right now.
21. Winnipeg Jets (10-10-1)
The Winnipeg Jets are an average team offensively, and they rank in the bottom half of the league in goals allowed. A 3-0 loss to Washington on Saturday certainly didn't feel good.
22. Edmonton Oilers (8-9-4)
Given Edmonton's woes on offense, the defense can't have a letdown or the team gets burned. That was evident in the 4-2 loss to Minnesota on Sunday.
23. Tampa Bay Lightning (9-11-1)
The Tampa Bay Lightning have lost four straight games, which is odd considering they've posted a plus-six scoring differential this season. They aren't winning the close games, and it's killing them.
24. Colorado Avalanche (8-8-4)
The Colorado Avalanche are a below-average team on both sides of the puck. A minus-10 scoring differential proves that point, as does an overtime loss to Columbus on Sunday.
25. New York Islanders (9-11-2)
The New York Islanders have a pretty solid offense, but that doesn't matter much when you've allowed 75 goals in 22 games. That defense has to get better for the Islanders to make headway.
26. Washington Capitals (8-11-1)
An average offense combined with a below-average defense equals the Washington Capitals. They aren't getting blown out of the water all the time, but they aren't winning a lot of games either.
27. Buffalo Sabres (9-12-2)
After the loss to the Rangers on Sunday, the Buffalo Sabres have now allowed 73 goals in 23 games. That's enough to make any coaching staff go crazy.
28. Calgary Flames (8-8-4)
Calgary's defense has certainly had its fair share of troubles, but a 4-2 victory over Vancouver on Sunday—coupled with a 5-4-1 record in the last 10 games—may suggest the Flames are heating up.
29. Columbus Blue Jackets (6-12-4)
The Columbus Blue Jackets have the second-worst scoring differential in the NHL, which is fitting given they don't do much particularly well on both sides of the puck. A 2-1 overtime victory over Colorado on Sunday marked progress, though.
30. Florida Panthers (6-11-5)
Holding the worst scoring differential in the league (minus-27) while allowing a league-high 82 goals in 22 games, what else can you say about the Florida Panthers but they stink? It has gotten muggy and uncomfortable in Florida.
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