- Jesse Rogers, Chicago Cubs beat reporter
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It’s not a surprise that the Washington Capitals, with a recent 14-game winning streak under their belt, sit atop the rankings. Nor could anyone argue too much that the San Jose Sharks are ranked ahead of the Blackhawks at No. 2.
The Hawks’ 5-4 loss on Sunday at home to the Detroit Red Wings kept them from being higher than No. 3. Despite some spotty play both before and after the Olympic break, the Hawks are just one win behind Washington for the NHL lead.
The defending champion Penguins lurk just behind the Hawks at No. 4 and the surprising Phoenix Coyotes round out the top five.
The Hawks began the week with a bad loss to the lowly New York Islanders. Despite leading after the first period again and outshooting their opponent in lopsided fashion, they gave up four goals in the second period en route to the 5-3 loss. Bounce-back wins against the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks guaranteed a .500 week and a top-five position in the rankings.
The Hawks held the top spot for weeks until Washington went on its run and the Sharks began the post-Olympic schedule by going 2-1, losing only to the New Jersey Devils. Unless both teams collapse, San Jose or Chicago should finish the season with the No. 1 seed and home-ice advantage throughout the conference playoffs.
1dJeff Gold and Ben Arledge