Updated: April 11, 2016, 12:55 PM ET

Capitals regain supremacy over Penguins


By Scott Burnside (posted April 11, 2016)

And there you have it. The 2015-16 regular season is in the books. As it began, so shall it end, then, with our final Power Rankings. The postseason is what you play for, so you'll see that the 16 playoff teams occupy the first 16 places here. If you played well down the stretch but still ended up as a draft lottery team, then you are somewhere south of 16. That's just how it goes. As for those 14 teams that didn't make the cut? We put them in a rough order according to which teams we think are most capable of correcting the errors of their ways.

Rk(LW)TeamRec
1
Washington
56-18-8
The Caps head into the postseason on the heels of a big win over St. Louis that saw Alexander Ovechkin notch his 50th goal of the season and Braden Holtby tie Martin Brodeur's single-season record for wins, at 48. The Presidents' Trophy winners are the gold standard and will being their Stanley Cup pursuit against the Philadelphia Flyers, a team they should handle with relative ease.
2
Dallas
50-23-9
The Stars edged St. Louis for first place in the Central Division and, in theory, will have a much easier time in the first round against slumbering Minnesota. Jason Spezza is on fire, and Dallas might not even need Tyler Seguin, who's injured, until the second round. Which goalie starts for the Stars? And more to the point -- which goalie finishes? That's a bigger question.
3
Pittsburgh
48-26-8
The Pens didn't know their first-round opponent until Sunday, and they'll face the Rangers for the third straight year. But they enter as the NHL's hottest team, having won 14 of 16. Matt Murray, so good in goal in relief of the concussed Marc-Andre Fleury, was injured in the first period of Saturday's loss to Philadelphia. Evgeni Malkin and Olli Maatta have also been missing from the lineup.
4
Anaheim
46-25-11
The Ducks and Kings battled tooth and nail for the Pacific Division crown before Anaheim earned its fourth consecutive title Sunday night. The Ducks will have their hands full with Nashville, but they are a good team with unfinished playoff business.
5
Los Angeles
48-28-6
How delicious is this rematch of the epic 2014 Kings-Sharks first-round series?
6
Florida
47-26-9
Lots of discussion about whether the Panthers, who drew the Islanders, would be a preferred opponent to New York than Pittsburgh would've been. Folks still don't quite get how good this team is. Can it handle the expectations, so rare for a team from South Florida? That's the big question, because the pieces are certainly there.
7
St. Louis
49-24-9
The Blues might start the playoffs without David Backes and Jake Allen. That's not good, considering that they're facing the defending Stanley Cup champions and need all hands on deck to exorcise their considerable playoff demons. Still, if the Blackhawks are vulnerable, it might be best to face them earlier rather than later in the playoff proceedings.
8
Chicago
47-26-9
Speaking of the Blackhawks, Marian Hossa has been banged up, and we know they'll be without the suspended Duncan Keith for the playoff opener. Still, the Blackhawks are who they are -- and that means trouble for the Blues.
9
San Jose
46-30-6
The Sharks had a strong goal differential of plus-31 but their 18-20-3 record at home is troublesome.
10
Nashville
41-27-14
The Preds are healthy and hoping to rekindle some of their mojo from a red-hot post-All-Star run that carried them to the postseason for the second season in a row. It's not a bad thing, necessarily, to start on the road in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and Nashville is deeper down the middle than it's ever been come playoff time.
11
Tampa Bay
46-31-5
The Lightning are beyond banged up; the latest injury was Tyler Johnson going down after an ugly hit in Game 82. He joins key pieces Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman on the sideline to start the postseason. Ben Bishop has been Vezina-worthy, and he'll have to continue that play to get the Bolts out of the first round and past Detroit.
12
NY Rangers
46-27-9
You can never count out a team with Henrik Lundqvist in goal. But there is still something just a bit off about the Rangers, who likely will start the postseason without captain Ryan McDonagh (injured hand). Can Eric Staal contribute meaningfully in his first playoff action since 2009? Can Rick Nash? Can New York's defense get out of its own way? Too many questions, not enough answers.
13
NY Islanders
45-27-10
The Islanders will be without Anders Lee and starting netminder Jaroslav Halak. They're still big and deep up front, but defensive and goaltending issues suggest that they could be one and done.
14
Detroit
41-30-11
So this appears to be Pavel Datsyuk's swan song as an NHLer. The Wings backed into the playoffs, but with the Bolts so crippled by injury, they have a shot at advancing if they get decent goaltending from Jimmy Howard or Petr Mrazek.
15
Philadelphia
41-27-14
No disrespect to the Flyers -- who gamely charged to an unexpected playoff spot in what was expected to be a season of rebuilding -- but they do not match up particularly well against the powerful Capitals. Still, kudos to first-year coach Dave Hakstol for getting his team this far.
16
Minnesota
38-33-11
Not to belabor the point, but the Wild wouldn't have gotten anywhere near the playoffs if the Colorado Avalanche hadn't been so incompetent down the stretch. Minnesota qualified for the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year by losing five straight. The Wild should be cannon fodder for the high-flying Stars.
17
Boston
42-31-9
Yep, the Bruins collapsed in spectacular fashion down the stretch -- concluding with Saturday's 6-1 debacle at home versus lame-duck Ottawa. It likely will cost Claude Julien his job, but the Bruins were as close to a playoff berth as any other team that didn't make it. That's something. Isn't it?
18
Montreal
38-38-6
This disastrous season can't just be about Carey Price being hurt, can it? That's the storyline in Montreal. We'll see if Michel Therrien gets a chance to prove or disprove that narrative next season.
19
New Jersey
38-36-8
The Devils are closer to returning to the playoffs than most people think. At least that's our view.
20
Buffalo
35-36-11
We loved the way the Sabres closed out the season. So much to like about this squad if -- and it's a big if -- the goaltending gets squared away.
21
Calgary
35-40-7
The Flames took a step back this season, which was more or less expected. But assuming that GM Brad Treliving gets his goaltending situation under control, Calgary should be back in the hunt next season.
22
Winnipeg
35-39-8
The Jets finished the season on a high note, which was in direct opposition to their performance during most of the rest of the campaign. Goaltending remains a question mark, but we see lots of reasons the Jets should be in the hunt next season.
23
Arizona
35-39-8
The Coyotes finished well, too, and there is a solid nucleus growing in the desert. Getting a new home squared away, likely in Tempe, will go a long way toward attracting the needed complementary pieces.
24
Ottawa
38-35-9
GM Bryan Murray is giving way to Pierre Dorion. But the changes won't and shouldn't stop there for this underachieving but talented group.
25
Colorado
39-39-4
So, two consecutive playoff misses after winning the Central Division. Is that a players-not-performing issue or a management/coaching-not-performing one? If it's the latter, the Avs are in trouble, because it's hard to imagine Patrick Roy and/or Joe Sakic going anywhere.
26
Carolina
35-31-16
GM Ron Francis still has a lot of work in front of him as he tries get this team back to the playoffs. The Canes missed the postseason for the seventh consecutive year -- prompting even more relocation talk.
27
Edmonton
31-43-8
Gee, Connor McDavid is good. Gee, the Oilers still stink. Go figure. The Oilers have an interesting offseason ahead as they look to move at least one -- if not a couple -- of their key young building blocks from their forward corps.
28
Columbus
34-40-8
Two years in a row we've liked the Blue Jackets to be a playoff team, and two years in a row they've wildly underachieved. What will become of Sergei Bobrovsky? Can they pick up the pieces from this broken season and reverse course next year? Color us skeptical.
29
Toronto
29-42-11
We've never seen a team this bad get so much good media coverage. Yahoo! We lost another game, but we are on the right track. Go figure.
30
Vancouver
31-38-13
A team caught betwixt and between, but mostly just awful. The Canucks deserve some good draft luck to offset this forgettable campaign.

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