1. Boston Bruins (8-1-1, 17 pts) | Previous: 1
Continue to have the look of the best team built for the playoffs in the East and thanks to the Islanders, now have an additional $5 million (pro-rated) in cap space.
2. New Jersey (8-1-3, 19 pts) | Previous: 3
The Devils are showing last season was no fluke despite the loss of Zach Parise and Pete DeBoer continues to show he’s one of the top coaches in the game.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (8-5-0, 16 pts) | Previous: 4
The back to back losses to New Jersey shouldn’t start a panic but this team needs some tinkering leading into the April 3rd trade deadline.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs (8-5-0, 16 pts) | Previous: 13
The Leafs have made a huge surge in the past two weeks, moving up 9 spots. James Reimer has quieted the Roberto Luongo trade chatter and this is a team that can skate and are very tough to play against, making it difficult on the opposition. Toronto is an impressive 6-1-0 on the road. Are they for real?
5. New York Rangers (6-5-0, 12 pts) | Previous: 6
Winners of two straight, the Rangers are starting to get to their game but like the Penguins, New York has some tinkering that needs to made in the coming months. A second line center and power play quarterback highlight the top needs.
6. Carolina Hurricanes (6-4-1, 13 pts) | Previous: 9
The Canes are starting to look like the team that many thought would compete for the division title. Eric Staal has been a force with 8 goals and a +10 rating but is Cam Ward’s days as an elite goaltender a thing of the past?
7. Tampa Bay Lightning (6-5-0, 12 pts) | Previous: 2
Losers of four straight, the Lightning have to prove they can win on the road where they are 1-4-0 on the season.
8. Philadelphia Flyers (5-7-1, 11 pts) | Previous: 11
Ilya Bryzgalov continues to be a bright spot and the scoring is eventually going to come. I wouldn’t be worried about the Flyers not being a playoff team come April.
9. Montreal Canadiens (6-4-1, 13 pts) | Previous: 8
In the midst of a three game losing streak and coming off an embarrassing 6-0 home loss to the rival Maple Leafs, it will be interesting to see how the Canadiens respond in the next couple games. Head coach Michel Therrien, though, has this team on the right track.
10. Ottawa Senators (6-4-2, 14 pts) | Previous: 5
The Senators should stay competitive but losing Jason Spezza has been a huge blow and could open the door for Sergei Gonchar to be moved by the April 3rd deadline if the Senators are on the outside looking in of the playoffs.
11. Winnipeg Jets (5-5-1, 11 pts) | Previous: 7
A team that is still learning how to win tough games consistently.
12. Buffalo Sabres (5-7-1, 11 pts) | Previous: 10
The Sabres could be headed towards a situation where owner Terry Pegula finally cleans house with the coaching staff and front office. Something many around the league feel he should have did prior to this season.
13. New York Islanders (4-7-1, 9 pts) | Previous: 12
Losers of five straight, the Islanders have shown flashes this season against Pittsburgh in two meetings but a losing organization like the Islanders just can’t avoid those long losing streaks. They still look like a team that won’t be a serious contender for a playoff spot.
14. Florida Panthers (4-6-1, 9 pts) | Previous: 15
No surprise, the Panthers rank 28th in Goals For with 25 and have a conference worst minus-15 goal differential. However, in a winnable division, as the Panthers get healthy don’t rule them out.
15. Washington Capitals (3-8-1, 7 pts) | Previous: 14
Alexander Ovechkin should be the least of the Capitals worries.