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NHL power rankings: Tough week moves Chicago Blackhawks down

Chicago, which enjoyed a long stay atop these rankings, has fallen for the second straight week.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Regardless of how they fare in the regular season, the Chicago Blackhawks should be considered a legitimate threat by simply qualifying for the playoffs. The forward depth, the underlying metrics, the star power -- it's all there.

Yet, at the same time, it's hard to overlook their recent struggles.

The 'Hawks are at no risk of falling out of the top eight in the Western Conference, but they haven't looked as good as division rivals in St. Louis and Nashville. Chicago's defense has been worse than usual, as reflected by its declining shot suppression numbers. Corey Crawford may not be as big of a problem as some fans believe, but he hasn't been good enough, either, and though Patrick Kane has been excellent, no one else on the roster is close to point per game production.

These problems can be addressed, of course, and as Kane said, every club goes through funks like this. Even so, the Blackhawks hold themselves to an incredibly high standard. 2014-15 is Stanley Cup or bust.

Undoubtedly, something needs to change for Chicago to reach its goals.

Fallers

The Blackhawks have lost three in a row and have won just two of their last seven. This weekend was a low point for them: a 4-1 loss to Colorado on Friday and a 6-2 defeat to Boston on Sunday have dropped Chicago to fourth in the Western Conference and 12 points behind the conference-leading Predators.

Patrick Sharp is among those who have underperformed of late. The veteran winger has failed to register a point in eight consecutive contests and looked particularly bad on Sunday.

While the Blackhawks should have no problem holding onto a playoff spot, the San Jose Sharks aren't so lucky. Following a series of head-scratching moves, Doug Wilson's squad has taken a significant step backwards this year and has descended to the edge of the playoff picture following a 3-6-1 stretch.

The Sharks, who were a legitimate contender last spring, sit in 10th place in the West heading into Monday's action. Given Minnesota and Los Angeles' recent surges and Calgary's unexpected success, it's possible that San Jose goes home after 82 games this year.

Predictably, confidence amongst Sharks fans has noticeably waned, and recent talks about trading Antti Niemi haven't helped quiet concerns. True, Niemi hasn't been great, but without him, it's impossible to see the Sharks making much (if any) noise this spring.

Riser

A Stadium Series victory and two other triumphs this week push Los Angeles further up the rankings. The Kings have won seven straight -- two of which came against Tampa Bay -- and suddenly, January's struggles feel like a distant memory.

Jonathan Quick has been at the forefront of this success. The two-time Stanley Cup champion has allowed only five goals in his last four appearances and looked especially good at Levi's Stadium on Saturday, when he stopped 31 of 32 shots to earn the W.

Jeff Carter leads L.A. in points with 46 (18 goals, 28 assists) and has been on fire of late, as well. He's riding a six-game point streak, which includes a three-assist performance against the Flames and a two-goal showing in Colorado. Dwight King has stepped up, too, and has contributed eight points (three goals, five assists) in his past six.

SB Nation presents: Why award season will favor the Predators

1


Nashville Predators

Team blog: On the Forecheck

Record: 40-13-7

2


+3

St. Louis Blues

Record: 38-17-4

3


Detroit Red Wings

Record: 33-14-10

4


-3

Chicago Blackhawks

Record: 35-20-5

5


-1

Tampa Bay Lightning

Team blog: Raw Charge

Record: 37-19-6

6


Anaheim Ducks

Team blog: Anaheim Calling

Record: 37-16-7

7


New York Islanders

Record: 39-20-2

8


Montreal Canadiens

Record: 38-16-5

9


+3

Los Angeles Kings

Record: 28-18-12

10


New York Rangers

Team blog: Blueshirt Banter

Record: 36-16-6

11


-2

Pittsburgh Penguins

Team blog: Pensburgh

Record: 34-17-9

12


-1

Washington Capitals

Team blog: Japers' Rink

Record: 33-18-10

13


Minnesota Wild

Record: 31-21-7

14


+2

Vancouver Canucks

Team blog: Nucks Misconduct

Record: 34-22-3

15


-1

Boston Bruins

Record: 29-21-9

16


+1

Winnipeg Jets

Record: 30-20-11

17


-2

San Jose Sharks

Team blog: Fear the Fin

Record: 30-23-8

18


Calgary Flames

Record: 32-23-4

19


+1

Florida Panthers

Team blog: Litter Box Cats

Record: 26-21-12

20


-1

Dallas Stars

Team blog: Defending Big D

Record: 27-24-9

21


Philadelphia Flyers

Record: 26-23-11

22


+2

Ottawa Senators

Team blog: Silver Seven

Record: 24-23-10

23


-1

Colorado Avalanche

Team blog: Mile High Hockey

Record: 26-23-11

24


+1

New Jersey Devils

Team blog: In Lou we Trust

Record: 24-26-9

25


-2

Columbus Blue Jackets

Team blog: The Cannon

Record: 26-28-4

26


Carolina Hurricanes

Team blog: Canes Country

Record: 21-30-7

27


Toronto Maple Leafs

Record: 24-31-5

28


Arizona Coyotes

Team blog: Five for Howling

Record: 20-32-7

29


Edmonton Oilers

Team blog: Copper & Blue

Record: 17-34-10

30


Buffalo Sabres

Team blog: Die by the Blade

Record: 17-38-5