NHL Power Rankings: Blues and Bruins catch fire as the Canadiens take a tumble
St. Louis continues to climb out of the depths, while Boston is quietly surging despite injuries
A couple things can't be said enough as the NHL trade deadline approaches and teams prepare for the home stretch of the 2018-19 season.
First: The Tampa Bay Lightning deserve every bit of attention they get. They're a tired story now, right? They've been the front-runner for months. Well, just hold on a second. Take a second to consider what kind of headlines they'd be racking up if they played baseball or basketball -- other sports that require long seasons. And don't try to write that off by suggesting Tampa isn't as dominant as NBA or MLB powerhouses that warrant the hype. Let us remind you they're working with a plus-77 goal differential. Their regulation-loss totals have yet to hit double digits at home and away. And their best player might hit 125 points. That is absurd.
Second: While the Lightning are very clearly No. 1 in the NHL, there's no telling who will emerge from the five to seven teams vying for premier playoff positioning after them. This is the case almost every year, of course, but just this week, our Power Rankings showcase two surprise streakers in the Blues and Boston Bruins. We've known Boston is among postseason favorites for a while, but with leading scorer David Pastrnak out of action, the Bruins have proceeded to play some of their best hockey of the year. St. Louis, meanwhile, has risen from the ashes behind rookie goalie Jordan Binnington and just might be a top-10 team come next week.
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It's all on display in this week's NHL pecking order, which also features a tumble by the Montreal Canadiens, who finally ran into top-tier competition:
|1||Lightning||They should really be a bigger story. If there were an MLB or an NBA team doing what they're doing, it'd be national news. Anything less than a Final appearance would be a major letdown.||--||56-13|
|2||Sharks||No reasonable hockey fan would object to a Sharks vs. Lightning championship. This group has more than enough big-name talent to go the distance.||--||43-22|
|3||Flames||If you like them at No. 2, that's fine, too. But you have to wonder what their playoff ceiling will be after a three-goal loss to Tampa.||--||44-21|
|4||Maple Leafs||If we were them, we'd be just a little afraid of Boston's come-up. It's not like they're lacking star power, though.||--||43-24|
|5||Islanders||Make a splash at the deadline, and all of a sudden we're talking about a legitimate postseason contender.||--||42-23|
|6||Bruins||Somehow, they're playing some of their best hockey without their best scorer. This team is quietly shaping up to be the postseason's biggest spoiler.||3||43-20|
|7||Jets||They haven't hit their stride like San Jose yet, and we've said several times this year that Patrik Laine could stand to up his game. But the pieces are there.||1||43-25|
|8||Predators||Speaking of deadline splashes, they could probably use one. They've been struggling to restore themselves as top-five material for a while.||1||41-27|
|9||Capitals||Still not too worried about them. Things have settled down, and if they add someone opposite Alex Ovechkin, look out.||1||42-23|
|10||Penguins||This is a weak No. 10. They're almost here by default, because of experience. But where is the spark?||3||39-24|
|11||Blues||On the contrary, this is a strong No. 11. Talk about a team on fire. They can thank Jordan Binnington for their incredible turnaround.||4||37-27|
|12||Blue Jackets||The reality of their chances probably lies in losses to the Isles and Lightning. They're just not quite there. And depending on deadline deals, their fall could become more dramatic.||--||40-28|
|13||Hurricanes||For the first time in a long time, we might actually believe in them. Let's see how creative they get down the stretch.||1||39-25|
|14||Canadiens||Like the Blue Jackets, they just had their shot against contenders and got overwhelmed. This is right about where they really belong, and even that's not horrible considering how the season started.||6||37-28|
|15||Golden Knights||So much for that return trip to the Final.||4||41-27|
|16||Flyers||Such an interesting move to add Cam Talbot to the goalie mix alongside Carter Hart. Now all eyes are on Wayne Simmonds.||--||35-29|
|17||Stars||A critical home stand is underway. And they need every win they can get considering their struggles on the road.||--||37-29|
|18||Sabres||We're back to square one, in a sense. Rebuilding takes time, but it's been like one step forward, one and a half steps back over the last season or so.||1||31-32|
|19||Wild||Yeah, we're going to go ahead and write off the Victor Rask trade now.||1||34-30|
|20||Blackhawks||Quite the 10-game stretch for this crew, which even made an outing in which the Senators scored seven (!) look impressive.||1||32-30|
|21||Panthers||Aleksander Barkov's viral goal at least serves as a reminder that the Panthers aren't completely devoid of star talent.||2||32-28|
|22||Avalanche||It's nice to know this first line is still capable of producing a victory.||3||31-29|
|23||Canucks||A couple of good pieces away. They're still hanging in there with the best of them, which is encouraging.||3||31-32|
|24||Rangers||Was their five-goal showing vs. Pittsburgh more a sign of their promise or the Penguins' inconsistency?||2||28-31|
|25||Coyotes||Good on them for paying respect to Shane Doan. It'll be a temporary relief from their hockey.||1||36-31|
|26||Devils||You wonder just how much change we might see at the deadline. This was a team, remember, that once looked poised to take another leap with its youth this year.||2||27-37|
|27||Red Wings||Auction. Auction. Auction. Keep it going.||3||25-37|
|28||Kings||See: Red Wings. There's nothing else to do at the deadline except sell.||1||25-39|
|29||Oilers||What a joke. Remember when Connor McDavid was supposed to be the next Sidney Crosby? Maybe if he were on a team that knew what it's doing.||3||32-33|
|30||Senators||Broken record alert: The Mark Stone and Matt Duchene deals could make or break their deadline.||1||25-41|
|31||Ducks||Upsetting the Caps gives them their second win in 10 games and improves their goal differential to minus-54!||--||30-35|
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