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Burnside's Power Rankings: Panthers playing way into postseason

On a six-game win streak, Florida has moved within one point of the second wild-card spot with three games in hand

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

Five weeks from right now, we'll be examining the first-round playoff matchups in the National Hockey League. Lots can -- and will -- change over that time, but the clock is definitely ticking.

Herein our weekly Power Rankings, starting with the Terrific 10 and finishing, as always, with the Frigid Five.

 
1. Nashville Predators

Last week: No. 2

There's a new sheriff in town and, well, you know the bit. But the Predators are smoking hot right now with eight wins in a row, including four straight on the road capped by Sunday's come-from-behind overtime win in Colorado. Nashville is now pulling away from the pack in the Central Division and the Western Conference and has pulled just one back of Tampa Bay in the race for the Presidents' Trophy.

 

2. Florida Panthers

Last week: No. 10

Sorry, that's how hot the Panthers are right now with six straight wins, and they woke up Monday morning one point back of Columbus for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with three games in hand. If the Cats do make it, where does Aleksander Barkov fit in both the Hart and Frank J. Selke Trophy races? Near the top is the correct answer.

 

3. Tampa Bay Lightning

Last week: No. 8

The Lightning are finding ways to win, no matter the style of game, with a nice 6-0-1 stretch, including a wacky 7-6 come-from-behind win over Philadelphia on Saturday. Tampa Bay has redefined itself as the power in the Eastern Conference, and this is before Ryan McDonagh plays his first game as a Bolt.

 

4. Boston Bruins

Last week: No. 3

Looks like Rick Nash will be a fine fit in Boston as the Bruins have won three in a row, this despite missing their MVP (and a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate) Patrice Bergeron, who is out with a foot injury.

 

5. Anaheim Ducks

Last week: NR

The Ducks return to the Terrific 10 with a nice run that has seen them go 6-1-1 in their last seven, including whipping Chicago on Sunday in a game featuring a rare bout between Ducks agitating center Ryan Kesler and Chicago captain Jonathan Toews.

 

6. Toronto Maple Leafs

Last week: No. 1

The Leafs looked out of sync in getting whipped at the Stadium Series game Saturday in Annapolis by Washington, but they're still a tidy 6-2-2 in their last 10 -- and still without Auston Matthews.

 

7. Philadelphia Flyers

Last week: No. 6

So, which is the real Flyer team? The one that went 10-0-1 through the end of February or the one that is winless in three and starting to leak in goal and along the blue line? Still, they're just two points out of first in the Metropolitan Division.

 

8. Vegas Golden Knights

Last week: No. 4

The Golden Knights had a nice bounce-back win Sunday over New Jersey after dropping three straight. Struggling against Pacific Division foes of late, but they're still a lock to be the top team in the division.

 

9. Arizona Coyotes

Last week NR

The Coyotes continue to ride the hot hand of potential free-agent netminder Antti Raanta to a 7-2-1 record in their last 10. Raanta is 7-1-1 in his last nine starts and allowed 18 goals over that span.

 

10. New York Rangers

Last week: No. 31

Once again, a little credit where it's due as the Rangers, post-fire sale, end up sweeping a Western road trip and are actually five points out of a playoff spot as of Monday morning. Go figure.

 

Frigid Five


 

27. New Jersey Devils

Last week: NR

Feast or famine for the Devils, who have lost three straight in spite of the heroic efforts of Taylor Hall, who has points in 18 straight games and in the last 25 in which he's appeared (he missed three with injury). The Devils still own a small cushion as the top wild-card team in the Eastern Conference, but too many swings for John Hynes' team at this critical point in the season.

 

28. Calgary Flames

Last week: NR

The Flames are, likewise, watching their playoff chances sink beneath the surface with three straight losses as they're four points back with three teams to jump. The absence of starting netminder Mike Smith has had a far more detrimental effect than most could have predicted.

 

29. New York Islanders

Last week: No. 28

The Islanders' playoff hopes are slowly circling the sink. Fan unrest over GM Garth Snow's conservative trade deadline strategy and the team's general malaise on both sides of the puck have made for an ugly early spring in Islander Nation as the Isles now need to displace four teams to earn a playoff berth.

 

30. St. Louis Blues

Last week: No. 29

The Blues blew a late third-period lead in Dallas on Saturday and are now 2-6-2 in their last 10. Still, just two points out of the second wild-card spot, but something is definitely amiss with the Blues, who dealt veteran center Paul Stastny last Monday to division foe Winnipeg.

 

31. Edmonton Oilers

Last week: NR

The Oilers have lost three in a row and look like a team that is all done. Not a good look for anyone on this team right now.

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Scott Burnside is a senior digital correspondent for DallasStars.com. You can follow him on Twitter @OvertimeScottB, and listen to his podcast.

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