NHL.com's Super 16: Predators Finish Season Ranked 5th
We've finally reached the point where the debate about the NHL's top 16 teams is over. But that doesn't mean we can't deliver one final installment of our power rankings before the Stanley Cup Playoffs get under way.
The postseason begins Wednesday, and NHL.com's Super 16 this week takes a snapshot of which teams participating in the postseason are playing their best heading into their first-round series.
Who are the teams to beat? Who is stumbling into the second season? Let's take a look:
|TEAM (RECORD)||LAST WK||COMMENTARY|
|1||Vancouver (51-22-9)||1||The truly impressive part of the Canucks finishing 8-1-0 is they did it without Daniel Sedin, who has been out since suffering a concussion. If he returns for the first round, there's no more dangerous team entering the postseason.|
|2||Pittsburgh (51-25-6)||5||A note of warning for Pens fans: the last team to have a Hart Trophy winner and win the Stanley Cup in the same season was the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004 with Martin St. Louis.|
Last year's championship team finished 6-3-1 in the regular season; this year's went 7-2-1 in its last 10 games. Tim Thomas allowed more than two goals once in his final eight starts.
|4||N.Y. Rangers (51-24-7)||3||They're a tough team to gauge entering the postseason. The Rangers lost three of their last four, but the final two were almost meaningless with backup Martin Biron making one of the starts. Can they flip the switch vs. Ottawa?|
|5||Nashville (48-26-8)||8||They won their final three games, and split the season series with Detroit. If the Red Wings don't solve their road woes, the Predators have a chance to reverse their fortunes against Detroit in the postseason.|
|6||New Jersey (48-28-6)||9||
Their current six-game winning streak is the longest in the NHL right now. The Devils haven't made it out of the first round since 2007, but perhaps their strong finish can carry over against the Panthers.
|7||St. Louis (49-22-11)||4||
They battled for the Presidents' Trophy and would've won it if not for their 4-4-4 finish to the season. The Blues scored just 10 goals over their final five games. They'll need to score more vs. San Jose.
Much like the Canucks, the Blackhawks found a way to close strong without a star playing recovering from a concussion. Jonathan Toews missed the final 22 games, but Chicago went 13-5-4 without its captain.
|9||Philadelphia (47-26-9)||2||They alternated wins and losses over their final eight games. Facing the Penguins in round one, the Flyers' PK needs to improve -- it's allowed five goals in its last 17 times shorthanded.|
|10||Phoenix (42-27-13)||13||Goaltender Mike Smith carried the Coyotes to the Pacific crown, and he'll likely have to do the same in the playoffs. He went 7-0-2 in his last nine games and allowed a mere two goals in his last five starts.|
|11||San Jose (43-29-10)||16||Have the real Sharks stood up? They went 7-2-0 in their last nine and 9-4-0 after Martin Havlat's return March 15. They'll need that momentum against the Blues, who swept the Sharks in the regular season.|
|12||Detroit (48-28-6)||12||Injuries played a part, but they don't completely explain Detroit's 7-11-4 finish. The Wings' last regulation road win against a playoff team was Dec. 26; on the bright side, it came in Nashville.|
|13||Washington (42-32-8)||15||They enter the playoffs about as healthy as they've been all season. Nicklas Backstrom looked like his old self Saturday vs. the Rangers. The Caps went 10-4-2 to finish the season.|
|14||Los Angeles (40-27-15)||11||A pair of losses to the Sharks to close the schedule cost the Kings a chance at the Pacific title and a No. 3 seed. Now they draw the Canucks, with whom they split the season series two games apiece.|
The Sens dropped their final three games and scored just four goals in that stretch. They took three of four from the Rangers this season and earned more points on the road (48) than they did at home (44).
|16||Florida (38-26-18)||NR||To say they stumbled into the playoffs would be an understatement. The Panthers went 2-3-5 in their final 10 games, but they did go 2-1-1 against the Devils in the regular season.|
Author: Dave Lozo | NHL.com Staff Writer