Posted by Katie Peverada
The NHL regular season will come to an end on Sunday, and there are still playoff spots to be decided, four in the East and two in the West. But all the teams in this week's Super Six have claimed their berth. Boston continues to roll in the East and remains three points ahead of St. Louis for the Presidents' Trophy. The West is a bit of a different story, as several teams in last week's Super Six are currently on two-game losing streaks. The Blackhawks, though, have once again cracked this week's rankings.
1. Boston Bruins: There's not much left to say about the Bruins that you don't already know, but one fun fact is that they're the only team in the league this year who has at least 30 wins on home ice. The Bruins are the most consistent team in the league in several aspects, which is why they are the best team. They have defense, offense, goaltending and not a slate of injuries to their stars. Even their lines are consistent, with their top line combining for 188 points through 79 games. Their 53 wins are more than the lowly Sabres have points (51). Their goal differential (+84) is 16 higher than St. Louis'. Even if the Bruins sit their top players in their last few regular season games, they can still win the Presidents' Trophy - backup goaltender Chad Johnson hasn't lost a game since giving up one goal in a Dec. 28 loss to Ottawa.
2. Los Angeles Kings: The Kings, 7-3 in their last 10, have three games remaining: two very winnable road-games against Calgary and Edmonton and their final game at home against Anaheim. It won't make a difference which team they face in the first round - Sharks or Ducks - they'll still rely heavily on Jonathan Quick and their stalwart defense. The Kings are second-best in the league in terms of limiting the other team's shots, giving up only 26.5 per game. They're first in the league in goals against per game, giving up a stout 2.05 per. But their offense needs to pick it up, as they're only averaging 2.39 goals per game.
3. Chicago Blackhawks: Sure, a team making a jump from outside the rankings to the third spot may seem unrealistic, but when a team wins three games in a row, including a 4-2 win over St. Louis, without players like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Johnny Oduya and Michael Handzus in the lineup, you have to give them credit. Chicago has had to show their incredible depth lately as a result of injuries to key players. Corey Crawford has been solid through all of the injuries, and the playoff-returns of Kane and Toews will thrust the Hawks back into the conversation. A tough test comes Wednesday against Montreal, but they face Washington and Nashville in their last two. Wins in all three would prove vital, as they could leapfrog Colorado for the second spot in the division, which would mean home ice in their first-round matchup.
4. Colorado Avalanche: No matter what happens to the Avalanche in the playoffs, first-year coach Patrick Roy should win the Jack Adams Award. Roy has taken the second-worst team in 2012-13 and turned them into a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. Colorado has won 50 games for the first time since the 2000-01 season, which also happens to be the last time they won the Cup. The one knock is that the team is still young and inexperienced. Plus, they will need to come together and find a way to win without Matt Duchene and limit the opponents' shots on net, as they give up a rather high 32.7 a game. Semyon Varlamov, as good as he's been this year, can't do it all.
5. St. Louis Blues: The Blues just broke the franchise record for wins in a season (52), but they also dropped games against the injury-riddled Blackhawks and Avalanche, and squeaked out a 2-1 win over Buffalo. They're playing as if they don't care if they win the Presidents' Trophy, which is okay, but Anaheim is only three points behind them for the number one seed in the West. T.J. Oshie, David Backes and Alexander Steen are doing fine offensively, but St. Louis' biggest strength heading in to the postseason will be its defense, which gives up a mere 26.5 shots per game, tied for second in the league. And Ryan Miller is doing fine in net with a 2.56 GAA, but interestingly enough, the goalie they gave up, Jaroslav Halak, is sporting a 2.29 GAA up in Washington.
6. San Jose Sharks: The Sharks lost to Nashville 3-0 at home. This continues a scary trend of losing against teams that won't even make the playoffs, as ten of their 12 home losses this season are against non-playoff-bound teams. As of now, the Sharks are destined to play the Kings in the first round, which is not good, since the Kings are 3-1-1 against the Sharks this season. One concern might be the number of minutes Antti Niemi has played in goal this season, as he is third in the league with 3,650:42. When every game matters for a team, a fresh goaltender is key.