Not much to distinguish between the top two spots this week, but the Capitals get the nod on the strength of Nick Backstrom’s shootout winner in Monday’s 2–1 decision over the Ducks. But while Washington and Anaheim are the class of the field, the Predators are closing in thanks to a season-best string of play. Nashville hasn’t lost in regulation in 12 games and is a solid 13-3-4 in its past 20, establishing itself as a prohibitive favorite to claim one of the two Western Conference wild card berths. Defense may be their calling card, but the offense has come to life for the Preds, scoring at least four goals in four straight and three in six consecutive games. 

Biggest jump: Nashville Predators (12 to 4)

Biggest drop: New Jersey Devils (21 to 28)

1. WASHINGTON CAPITALS
LAST WEEK: 2
RECORD: 49-13-4
It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, right? The Caps have proved that all year long, finding ways to win games after allowing the opposition to take an early lead. After coming from behind to win 2–1 on Monday night in Anaheim, Washington is now 20-11-4 in games in which it has allowed the first goal.Last week: 3-1-0

2. ANAHEIM DUCKS

LAST WEEK: 1
RECORD: 37-19-9
Their 11-game winning streak came to a cruel end on Monday night, but not before the Ducks took control of the Pacific Division. They’ve also put at least one point up on the board in 14 straight (12-0-2), the NHL’s longest such run since the Bruins went 16 in a row back in 2014. Last week: 3-0-1
3. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

LAST WEEK: 4
RECORD: 39-23-4
The Flyers brought an end to their franchise-record nine-game winning streak, but not before the Lightning took over top spot in the Atlantic Division. And they kissed and made up with Jonathan Drouin? Not a bad week for the Bolts. Last week: 2-1-0
4. NEW YORK RANGERS

LAST WEEK: 3
RECORD: 38-22-6
A big emotional win over the first-place Capitals … followed by a big emotional loss to the hated Islanders. This team’s commitment is all over the place. The return of Henrik Lundqvist (neck spasms) should help even things out later this week. If they’re lucky, they’ll get Rick Nash (knee) back in the lineup as well. Last week:1-2-0
5. NASHVILLE PREDATORS

LAST WEEK: 12
RECORD: 33-21-12
Probably time to recognize that the Preds have quietly gone 8-0-4 in their last 12 and are poised to be the opponent no team wants to face in the first round. A new-look second line led by Filip Forsberg has become a difference maker for Nashville. He has 16 points during this hot streak, tops in the NHL. Last week: 2-0-1
6. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

LAST WEEK: 5
RECORD: 41-21-5
A year ago, the Hawks ranked 19th on the power play, clicking at a middling 17.6%. This season? They’re No. 1. Chicago converted on two of three chances in Sunday’s 4–1 victory over the Red Wings to bump their season success rate to a sizzling 24.1%. The young blood—Artemi Panarin, Teuvo Teravainen and Artem Anisimov—have given the unit the mobility and unpredictability that it lacked in 2014-15. Last week: 2-1-0
7. LOS ANGELES KINGS

LAST WEEK: 6
RECORD: 39-22-4
No way around it: that 3–2 loss to the Ducks hurt. As well as the Kings have played of late, winning six of eight and allowing only six goals in those wins, they gave away the Pacific lead by dropping a pair to Anaheim in a span of a week. Their next meeting, on April 7, should be a dandy. Last week: 2-1-0
8. ST. LOUIS BLUES

LAST WEEK: 7
RECORD: 38-20-9
Never a dull moment with these guys. The Blues coughed up a 3–0 lead against the Senators before sealing the deal in OT. Then they allowed the Wild to pull to within one after scoring the first three goals. Have to think coach Ken Hitchcock was peeling the paint off the walls ahead of practice this week. Last week: 2-0-0
9. NEW YORK ISLANDERS

LAST WEEK: 11
RECORD: 36-20-7
The Isles made it rain on their seven-game road trip, going 6-1 to bank 12 points. The capper was a wild 6–4 win over the Rangers at MSG that allowed them to pull to within three points of the Blueshirts and second place in the Metro. Up next: a must-win game with the fourth-place Penguins. Last week: 3-0-0
10.  SAN JOSE SHARKS

LAST WEEK: 8
RECORD: 36-23-6
Attention, Mike Babcock: That Brent Burns kid can play a little defense when he sets his mind to it. The Team Canada hopeful had a –15 rating on Jan. 2. Since then, he’s +11, a reflection of his improved all-around play and its impact on the success of his team. Last week: 1-1-0
11. DALLAS STARS

LAST WEEK: 9
RECORD: 40-20-7
About time for the Stars to start finding some traction, isn’t it? Since Jan. 1, they’re just 12-12-4, ranking them 23rd in the league. They’ve also allowed 94 goals, more than any other team. Time for Antti Niemi or Kari Lehtonen to make a difference between the pipes. Last week: 2-1-0
12. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

LAST WEEK: 10
RECORD: 34-23-8
Evgeni Malkin picked the right time to heat up. Geno has four goals in his past four games, and seven points in six games since he returned from a lower-body injury to help the Pens remain in the hunt for third spot in the Metro. Last week: 2-2-0
13. FLORIDA PANTHERS

LAST WEEK: 13
RECORD: 36-21-9
Just when it looked like the Panthers were on the verge of something special, the wind has deserted their sails. The Cats have just two wins to show for their past seven games, largely because their defense has left netminders Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya vulnerable due to sloppy coverage. Luongo is really feeling the pain, posting a .888 save percentage over his past 10 appearances. Last week: 1-2-1
14. BOSTON BRUINS

LAST WEEK: 15
RECORD: 37-23-7
Congrats to Claude Julien, who passed the legendary Art Ross to become the winningest coach in Bruins history with Monday night’s OT victory over the Panthers. And to GM Don Sweeney, whose big trade deadline acquisition, Lee Stempniak, has a goal and six points in four games since coming over from the Devils. Last week: 2-1-0
15. MINNESOTA WILD

LAST WEEK: 19
RECORD: 31-26-10
It’s tough to switch goalies in the middle of a playoff push, but it might be time to see what Darcy Kuemper can do while giving struggling keeper Devan Dubnyk a chance to recharge his batteries. Kuemper’s put up a 2.24 GAA and a .922 save percentage this season, and after coming on strong in relief of Dubnyk in Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Blues he looks like he’s ready to handle a heavier load. Last week: 3-1-0
16.  PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

LAST WEEK: 16
RECORD: 31-23-11
If the Flyers fall short of the playoffs this season—and with just a 40.6% chance according to Sportsclubstats.com, they probably will—they’ll look back on a game like Thursday’s 4-0 home loss to the Oilers and wonder how things could possibly go so terribly awry. That one really, really hurt. Last week: 2-1-0
17. DETROIT RED WINGS

LAST WEEK: 14
RECORD: 32-22-11
Coach Jeff Blashill says he’s not worried about Petr Mrazek’s game long-term. Short-term? That’s another story. The young keeper has allowed five goals in three of his past seven appearances, posting a 3-3-1 mark with a 3.81 goals-against average and .868 save percentage. A team that ranks 23rd in goal scoring can’t dig itself out of holes that deep. He needs to be better. Last week: 0-2-0
18. COLORADO AVALANCHE

LAST WEEK: 17
RECORD: 34-30-4
The Avs dug themselves a hole last week, losing to both the Wild and the Predators to put their playoff chances in jeopardy. They responded with a solid win over the Coyotes on Monday night, but those head-to-head losses against wild card rivals could come back to haunt them. Last week: 2-2-0
19. OTTAWA SENATORS

LAST WEEK: 18
RECORD: 31-29-7
Just six points separate the Sens from a wild card berth, but after watching them choke away five of the eight points that were up for grabs last week, it’s hard to picture them embarking on another miraculous late-season run. As long as they’re giving up 3+ goals per game, they’re toast. Last week: 1-2-1
20. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS

LAST WEEK: 20
RECORD: 27-31-8
If nothing else comes of this season, at least the Jackets know they have a viable NHL goaltender in Joonas Korpisalo. The rookie sensation improved to 12-3-3 in his past 18 starts with a win over the Oilers on Friday and his stats (2.24 GAA, .930 save percentage) are both top 10 over that stretch. Last week: 1-1-0