NHL Power Rankings: Playoff races getting close in Central, West

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings the Colorado Avalanche climb to the top spot thanks to their recent dominant play, while the Florida Panthers reach the second spot just behind them as they continue to make a push for the Central Division.

Elsewhere, the playoff races in the Central and West Divisions are starting to get very interesting as some surprising teams begin to emerge.

In the Central, Nashville has completely turned its season around to open the week in the fourth playoff spot after overtaking Dallas, Columbus, and Chicago. The Blackhawks are still hanging around, while the Stars still have a huge games in hand advantage where they could easily make up some ground.

In the West, Arizona has very quietly overtaken the St. Louis Blues for the fourth playoff spot while San Jose has gotten hot to tie the Blues in the standings. That race has turned into a three-team race where the Blues are suddenly facing a significant challenge.

Where do all of these teams, as well as your favorite team, sit in this week’s NHL Power Rankings?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Colorado Avalanche. They are 15-2-3 in their past 20 games, including 14-0-2 in the past 16 games. Not only are they winning, they are completely dominating teams. The best team in hockey right now.

2. Florida Panthers. They are on a six-game winning streak and have a legit shot to win the Central Division. You did not expect that at the start of the season.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning. They have hit their first real slump of the season, but and Sunday’s loss to Detroit was ugly. But everybody knows how good this team is. They should only care about rest and playoff positioning right now. This is nothing more than a small blip on the radar.

4. Carolina Hurricanes. Petr Mrazek returns to the lineup and immediately posts a shutout. If they get goaltending they will be an incredibly difficult team to beat. They also have another rising star in Martin Necas.

5. Washington Capitals. It is pretty remarkable their record is as good as it is given how inconsistent their goaltending has been this season. They are the only team in the bottom-10 in save percentage in the league currently occupying a playoff spot.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins. They are proving to have much better depth than anybody thought they would at the start of the season.

7. New York Islanders. Mathew Barzal is playing at an exceptionally high level right now and is should be on the must-watch list for every hockey fan.

8. Toronto Maple Leafs. They are playing well, but they are very reliant on overtime and shootout right now. They have just three regulation wins in their past 14 games.

9. Minnesota Wild. Great goaltending, a strong defense, and a balanced offense can take you a long way. They could still use a little extra help for their power play.

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10. Vegas Golden Knights. They are a much better team than 10th, but weekly NHL Power Rankings are very fluid and they have lost five out of eight and enter the week on a three-game losing streak. That includes two games (where they managed just three total goals) against the team immediately ahead of them.

11. Edmonton Oilers. They opened March with a three-game losing streak against Toronto where they looked totally outclassed. They have looked like a completely different team since then.

12. Nashville Predators. The special teams are still lousy but Juuse Saros is backstopping them to playoff contention.

13. Boston Bruins. It is necessary for them to find more offense somewhere.

14. Arizona Coyotes. Even with a five-game losing streak earlier in March they have very quietly overtaken St. Louis for the fourth playoff spot in the West Division. They have won six out of eight games entering the week. Their remaining schedule favors them in this race.

15. San Jose Sharks. The biggest jump of the week. With a four-game winning streak and wins in six out of their past eight games the Sharks are all of a sudden right back in the playoff race.

16. New York Rangers. Adam Fox is quickly becoming one of the best defenseman in hockey. Not one of the best young defenseman. Simply one of the best defenseman. Period.

17. Montreal Canadiens. He will probably not win it, but Jeff Petry should be in the top-five of every Norris Trophy ballot this season.

18. Winnipeg Jets. Connor Hellebuyck remains one of the league’s best goalies and is still playing great despite being asked to take on a huge workload.

19. Dallas Stars. Do not rule them out in the Central Division playoff race. They have several games in hand on everybody they are trailing and enough head-to-head matchups to make up a gap that is closer than it appears.

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20. Philadelphia Flyers. They just have a lot of problems right now that go beyond Carter Hart‘s struggles.

21. Chicago Blackhawks. Kirby Dach is back and that is great news. The four wins in the past 14 games entering the week is not great news.

22. Vancouver Canucks. The most important thing for the Canucks right now is making sure everybody is okay and healthy.

23. St. Louis Blues. They are just 2-7-4 since March 6 and the offense has completely disappeared.

24. New Jersey Devils. It looks like Kyle Palmieri is on his way out of New Jersey, creating an even bigger need for more goal scorers this offseason.

25. Calgary Flames. Just an all around disappointing performance, especially after the coaching change.

26. Columbus Blue Jackets. Patrik Laine has been benched twice, has one goal in 20 games, and Jack Roslovic was a healthy scratch this week. Why even trade Pierre-Luc Dubois?

27. Los Angeles Kings. It is a small sample size, but Cal Petersen has been great in his brief Kings career over the past couple of years.

28. Ottawa Senators. You do not have to look very hard to see a promising future here. There is very real, very legitimate young talent on this roster.

29. Detroit Red Wings. If they move Jonathan Bernier to a team in need of a goalie before the trade deadline they will have an even more difficult time getting wins.

30. Anaheim Ducks. Even John Gibson is struggling on this roster.

31. Buffalo Sabres. They have two wins in a week and at least a point in four consecutive games. Hey, it is something.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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