There's about one month left in the NHL's abbreviated regular season and we're starting to get a pretty good idea of who's going to be in, who's going to be out and who's going to be fighting for their playoff lives in the final weeks. It's time to start keeping a close eye on those standings as teams jockey for positioning as we close out the season. The home stretch means more drama and increased stakes, which means excellent theater ... or excruciating stress, depending on what team you root for.
For a while, it was the Lightning and everyone else. But, as we've highlighted over the past couple weeks, the Colorado Avalanche have emerged as the best team in the NHL. That much is borderline inarguable given the way that they've played over the last month. They remain in the top spot of our Power Rankings this week despite a lack of activity on the schedule in recent days.
But one team that has been revitalized over the past week or so is the Boston Bruins. We had the Bruins as a big winner at the trade deadline and so far the early returns have been about as strong as could be expected. A team that limped into the deadline has come out looking like a legitimate threat, so they've climbed a few spots here this week.
Here's a look at the full rankings:
|They're going to go over a week between games and, honestly, that might be good news for the rest of the division considering how well they were playing leading up to the break. They're 17-1-2 in their last 20 games.
|They've got a nice little winning streak going (six in a row) and are doing a good job keeping pace with the Avs (as impossible as that sounds.)
|The Hurricanes have looked downright dominant at points recently. If they can hit their stride heading into the playoffs and get strong goaltending, I don't see any reason why they shouldn't be legitimate Cup threats.
|They spent three months in the No. 1 slot and now here they are continuing to slip a little bit. They're playing .500 hockey over their past 10 games and now sit third in the division behind the Canes and Panthers. On top of that, they've lost Steven Stamkos for a bit. No reason to panic -- they're one of the league's most complete teams and should be primed for a deep playoff run -- but their postseason life will be a bit easier if they get back to the top of the division.
|They've had some horrible injury luck in the back half of the year. First Aaron Ekblad and now Carter Verhaeghe. Hopefully Verhaeghe can heal up in time for the playoffs, because he's been a revelation for Florida this year.
|They've lost four in a row, Jack Campbell is starting to look human and Zach Hyman is hurt. Things are not going especially great right now.
|I raised my eyebrows at how much the Capitals were willing to give up for Anthony Mantha at the trade deadline, but the early returns have been incredible. He looks like a perfect fit for that team and has four goals in his first four games.
|The Isles have lost their mojo a bit and the offense isn't quite coming together like they'd hoped. Kyle Palmieri hasn't found his groove, Mat Barzal is off his game and the power play stinks. Their defense & goaltending are good enough to get them by for now but they're going to need to start scoring more goals.
|Here come the Bruins? They've looked like a different team since the trade deadline. Taylor Hall has injected some life (and goals) into the second line. Mike Reilly has been tremendous on the blue line. Even Curtis Lazar has helped completely transform the fourth line. And now Tuukka Rask is back. Also, more than half of their remaining games are against the Sabres and Devils...
|The East is looking like it's going to be a dogfight down the stretch and I just have a sneaking suspicion that the Penguins are going to find themselves on the bubble in the final weeks.
|It's hard not to feel for the Wild a little bit. They're finally becoming a more exciting team and taking a step forward this season, but they're destined for an absolutely brutal first round playoff matchup against the Avalanche or Golden Knights.
|They still look solid both on the ice and in the standings but I'm going to continue to question their legitimacy as a contender thanks to that defensive group.
|I thought their horrible start was going to do them in this year (and it still might), but they've been playing some really strong hockey and you can't write them off just yet. If nothing else, this is a team worth getting excited about long-term.
|I still can't believe the Oilers didn't even attempt to get better at the trade deadline.
|I've got a feeling the Preds are going to look back and regret not selling at the deadline. They've lost a few games in a row and have the Stars and Blackhawks right on their heels. Even if they do manage to qualify for the playoffs, I'm not buying them as a worthy challenger.
|Gotta respect their resiliency and refusal to pack it in this season despite various injuries and challenges, but it just seems like they're going to have too tough a road.
|They just can't seem to string together wins with any consistency. Luckily, they're not in any real danger of losing that final North playoff spot.
|The battle for the final spot in the Central is going to be tough down the stretch, and the Blackhawks may have the toughest road to clinching it. Also, the prize is the right to get caved in by the Canes or Lightning so...oh well.
|They've snuck ahead of the Blues and have an easier road to hang onto that final spot in the West. But, uh, good luck against the Avs or Golden Knights.
|They're not playing particularly well (three wins in their last 10 games), are on the playoff bubble and their schedule to close out the season is absolutely brutal. Good luck with that.
|They won three in a row to stoke the...flames...of hope. I wouldn't get too excited, though.
|They're playing hockey again and they picked up an incredibly gutsy win against the Leafs in their first game back. They're still not fully on the other side of the COVID outbreak but that was probably the most meaningful win of their season.
|It's truly stunning how quickly things fell apart for this team. They came into the year with so much hope and now there are a lot of questions to be addressed this offseason.
|It looked like they might be pushing for a playoff spot and then they promptly fell apart. But congratulations to Patrick Marleau for playing in his one millionth game.
|This season is basically over for them now, so can we start officially campaigning for them to keep the purple and gold Reverse Retro jerseys full-time?
|The Blue Jackets have a ton of questions ahead of them this offseason and I'm starting to wonder if John Tortorella will be back.
|Jakub Vrana got on the board in his first game in Detroit. He could be a really nice piece for a rebuilding team.
|I'm going to miss the Sens' Sicko movement when all of this is said and done.
|Six losses in a row and one win in their last 10 games. Just like that the Sabres are on their heels. May as well just pack it in for draft position.
|I feel obligated to put them here because they're the first team officially eliminated from playoff contention, but they've got points in seven of their past 10 games (including five wins) so good for them.