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Super 16: Streaking Penguins claim top spot

by Dave Lozo

It's been a Western Conference squad sitting atop the Super 16 power rankings since the second week of the season, but a 12-game winning streak by the Pittsburgh Penguins has them slotted in the top spot this week.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks were the marquee matchup on the schedule last week, with the Ducks rallying for the 4-2 victory. But the Ducks dropped their next two games, while the Penguins have yet to lose in March.

The next three spots in the Super 16 are owned by Western teams. How does the rest of the list look this week? Let's take a look:

1 4 Pittsburgh Penguins: Twelve wins in a row, nine without the services of Evgeni Malkin. During the streak, Sidney Crosby has five goals and 22 points. But the Pens are doing it with defense, too, holding opponents to two goals or fewer in eight straight games.
2 2 Chicago Blackhawks: In their showdown with the Ducks, they fell apart late and saw their 2-1 lead turn into a 4-2 loss. It's not exactly a stretch of poor hockey, but since their 21-0-3 start to the season, Chicago is 3-3-0.
3 1
Anaheim Ducks: After beating the Blackhawks, the Ducks dropped two straight to the Red Wings at home by a combined 7-2 margin. This upcoming week doesn't get any easier, as they play a home-and-home series with the Sharks before heading to Chicago for a rematch with the Blackhawks.
4 7 Minnesota Wild: During this stretch in which the Wild have won seven of eight, goaltender Niklas Backstrom has stated his case for Vezina Trophy consideration. He is 8-2-0 overall in March with a 2.23 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.
5 4 Montreal Canadiens: Two losses in their past eight games, both to the Buffalo Sabres, and in both games the Canadiens won the puck-possession battle. P.K. Subban leads all defensemen in goals with nine and is third in points with 22 despite missing six games to start the season.
6 6
St. Louis Blues: They were sitting 11-9-2 on March 5 after a 6-4 road loss to the Los Angeles Kings, but are 6-3-0 since thanks largely to a return to form on defense. In their past six games, which include four wins, the Blues have two goals or fewer in five games and have two shutouts.
7 3
Boston Bruins: On March 12, the Bruins held at two-goal lead late in the third period in Pittsburgh. What looked like a certain win instead became the start of a stretch of four losses in seven games.
8 10
Detroit Red Wings: The Red Wings have won four of five and started their four-game road trip with two wins in Anaheim. Justin Abdelkader has six goals this season and five have come in his past four games. After an uneven start, the Red Wings are finding themselves.
9 9 Ottawa Senators: Injuries, injuries and more injuries have been the story all season in Ottawa, but there could be some good news coming. Jason Spezza, the team's leading scorer in 2011-12, could be back by the end of the month. Also, the Senators have won four of five.
10 12 Vancouver Canucks: After dropping a 3-1 decision at home to the Wild in a Northwest showdown, the Canucks have won four in a row. After two years of romping through the division, maybe a strong challenger in the Wild will be a blessing.
11 8 Los Angeles Kings: The Kings have lost two straight, looking like the team from last season before it hit its stride. Both losses were shutouts in which Jonathan Quick allowed a total of three goals. The Kings have a goal drought of 126:14.
12 13 Columbus Blue Jackets: Their 12-game unbeaten streak came to an end in Nashville on Saturday, but the Jackets remain in striking distance of a playoff spot. They play five of their next six and 11 of their final 16 games on the road.
13 NR Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs wobbled a bit, but they are 2-0-2 in their past four games and are coming off their first win against the Bruins since March 2011, a span of eight games. Nazem Kadri is tied for eighth in points despite playing less than 16 minutes per game.
14 NR New Jersey Devils: The good news is Martin Brodeur is back and 2-0 since returning (with a goal). The bad news is Ilya Kovalchuk is out 2-4 weeks. Scoring has been an issue for the Devils this season, and they will be tested down the stretch without their top forward.
15 14
Winnipeg Jets: They split four games at home in a very busy week, with both losses coming to the Capitals. The recipe remains simple for the Jets -- play at home like they did last season, and a trip to the postseason is in the cards.
16 NR Dallas Stars: Since getting bludgeoned 8-1 at home by Chicago, the Stars have won three of four to get themselves into eighth in the West. They dealt Brenden Morrow on Sunday, which could be a sign the Stars are looking more toward the future than the postseason.

Just Missed: N.Y. Rangers, Carolina, San Jose, Nashville, Washington


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