Courtesy Twitter: @CapitalsPR

Race to the playoffs is getting tight as trade deadline approaches.

The NHL trade deadline is about three weeks away, and it’s beginning to become clear which teams will be buying and which will be selling.

Teams such as the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights are meeting expectations at the top of the league while others, such as the Vancouver Canucks, are getting hot after some very slow starts.

Some teams are question marks. Will the Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, and Chicago Blackhawks be able to hang on to secure a playoff spot?

This week wasn’t without its drama: Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger was (expectedly) fired; Erik Karlsson made it clear he doesn’t like playing for a losing team; the Flyers were embarrassed 9-0 by the New York Rangers.

Things are getting interesting and that will remain to be the case until the deadline comes around.

Without further ado, let’s see where all 31 NHL teams find themselves in this week’s rankings.

Courtesy Twitter: @BuffaloSabres

31. Buffalo Sabres

Previous Ranking: 31

Head coach fired, no Jack Eichel and a 13-game losing streak. Will the Sabres ever be good again?

30. Anaheim Ducks

Previous Ranking: 29

The Ducks went 1-3 this past week while getting outscored 8-19.

Jamie Drysdale and Trevor Zegras are the only things keeping Ducks fans from pulling their hair out. Here’s to hoping the future is as bright as it seems.

29. Ottawa Senators

Previous Ranking: 30

We talk about how dreadful the Senators are, week in and week out, so let’s change it up.

Brady Tkachuk has been jaw-dropping good in the offensive zone- one of the best in the league. The Senators must prioritize building around the 21-year-old because he really is the future.

28. Dallas Stars

Previous Ranking: 24

Just as we thought the Stars might be turning things around, they recently went 1-1-2 while being outscored 10-12. The good news? Joe Pavelski is still balling, rookie goalie Jake Oettinger looks very comfortable, and Alexander Radulov is back.

27. Detroit Red Wings

Previous Ranking: 28

The Red Wings are coming off one of their best weeks to date, having gone 2-1 while outscoring opponents 8-6. The power play deserves a shoutout for actually scoring goals.

26. New Jersey Devils

Previous Ranking: 27

It seemed like all the New Jersey Devils were doing was losing, but they had a week to be happy about. They went 2-1-1 while outscoring opponents 10-7 and are on a two-game winning streak.

One of these wins even came against the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins. The young guns are carrying this team and who knows what could happen if the veterans can get going.

25. San Jose Sharks

Previous Ranking: 26

The Sharks actually scored goals and defended well this week, something we’ve barely seen from them all season.

This week was messy: Erik Karlsson came out saying he didn’t want to go through a rebuild like he did in Ottawa. Not to point fingers, but has he seen the cap situation? This is a team that’s likely going to be rebuilding for a really, really long time.

24. Nashville Predators

Previous Ranking: 25

The Predators had a better week, but are still dealing with the same issues: limited offensive production, bad goaltending, and injuries. Expect them to be active (-ly dealing) at the trade deadline.

23. Arizona Coyotes

Previous Ranking: 19

Talk about an ugly week. The Coyotes have been pretty awful lately: they were outscored 3-14 this past week and are on a five-game losing streak.

22. Chicago Blackhawks

Previous Ranking: 17

The Blackhawks are another team that have not been having fun. They’re on a three game losing streak and were outscored 7-14 over that span.

The Blackhawks, who don’t look awful in the standings and are playing in a bad division, are still in the playoff conversation, but Patrick Kane must continue to be the leader and player his teammates and fans need him to be before hopes of postseason hockey slip away.

News of a potential Kirby Dach return within the next month couldn’t have come at a better time.

Courtesy Twitter: @LAKings

21. Los Angeles Kings

Previous Ranking: 18

The Kings being a potential playoff team was fun while it lasted, but they’ve been falling back down to earth. Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty look like they’re still in their primes, but this is a rebuilding team that probably should sell at the deadline.

20. New York Rangers

Previous Ranking: 22

The Rangers have been dealing with some COVID-19 scares: three players missed time after being placed in protocol and the day that two of them returned, the entire coaching staff became unavailable.

This was no problem for the Rangers, who beat up on the Philadelphia Flyers 9-0 the day of. Hartford Wolf Pack squad for new coaching staff?

19. St. Louis Blues

Previous Ranking: 15

The Blues look pretty bad for a team that’s supposed to be one of the best. They’re bottom-of-the pack in far too many categories and have only just ended a five-game losing streak. They’ve been outscored 8-15 over the last week.

Jaden Schwartz, who’s been out for over a month, is coming back soon, but will that be enough to whip this disappointing team back into shape?

18. Calgary Flames

Previous Ranking: 20

The Flames did lose 7-3 to the Oilers this past week, but they’ve looked much better under new head coach Darryl Sutter. Is this happening just in time for a late playoff push?

17. Montreal Canadiens

Previous Ranking: 14

The Canadiens are still in a playoff position, but that might not be the case for much longer if they don’t get hot. Other teams are surging and they’re going to need lots of guys to get going if they hope to maintain their position in the standings.

16. Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous Ranking: 23

The Blue Jackets are coming off a solid week in which they didn’t lose once in regulation.

They aren’t in a playoff position now, but have a realistic chance at chasing down the Blackhawks and getting in as the fourth place team. They just have to avoid any more losing streaks.

15. Philadelphia Flyers

Previous Ranking: 16

The Flyers did lose to the Rangers 9-0, but went 2-2 this past week.

They came out of that embarrassment with a win the next night, but will need to stack those up if they hope to earn a spot in the playoffs. They’re already underperforming like crazy and can’t afford any more sloppiness.

14. Vancouver Canucks

Previous Ranking: 21

The Canucks are quietly getting very, very hot.

The North isn’t the strongest division, but it’s very impressive that they’ve gone from one of the worst teams in the league to just two points out of a playoff spot. The Canucks are on a four-game winning streak and outscored opponents 11-7 over that span.

13. Boston Bruins

Previous Ranking: 10

It can’t be denied that the Bruins are one of the best teams in the league, at least on paper, but they’re having a great deal of trouble actually scoring. We should expect them to be actively looking for some goal-scorers at the deadline.

12. Winnipeg Jets

Previous Ranking: 12

The Jets didn’t have a week to write home about, but they’re getting the job done and remain one of the best teams in their division (thanks to guys like Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers).

Courtesy Twitter: @penguins

11. Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous Ranking: 9

Just when the Penguins were playing like one of the top teams in the league, Evgeni Malkin got hurt and is week-to-week.

Malkin had just gotten going after a slow start to the season and is a big reason why the Penguins have looked as good as they have. Does this injury mean they’ll be active at the deadline?

10. Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous Ranking: 6

The Maple Leafs played just three times this week, but failed to come up with a win over that span. They’re going through a rough stretch, but they will be fine.

It has become clear, however, that they should be one of the more active teams at the trade deadline.

9. Carolina Hurricanes

Previous Ranking: 1

After a fantastic week, the Hurricanes cooled off and won just one game over their last three. They’re still one of the best teams in the league and will get better once Vincent Trochek, who was amazing before getting hurt, returns.

Shoutout to the goalies, as well, who have been stepping up big time.

8. New York Islanders

Previous Ranking: 2

Captain Anders Lee, arguably the team’s first-half MVP, is out for the season with an ACL injury. This is not good.

The New York Islanders absolutely have to go after someone at the deadline because while they’re still elite without Lee, they’re in win-now mode and must be as stacked as possible if they hope to make a deep run.

7. Edmonton Oilers

Previous Ranking: 11

Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid are still the two best players on the planet and have been playing like it. The team is getting hot at the right time and they should have no problem finishing in a top spot in their division.

6. Florida Panthers

Previous Ranking: 5

The Panthers have consistently been a top team both in their division and the league, something they deserve credit for.

The Panthers are having the best start to a season ever, and have veterans Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau to thank for that.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous Ranking: 3

Nikita Kucherov is skating, but he won’t be ready to return until the playoffs roll around. Clearly, the Lightning don’t need him. It’s hard to believe a team is so good that it can be one of the best in the league without its best player.

4. Minnesota Wild

Previous Ranking: 8

Man, this Wild team is fun. Kirill Kaprizov is producing at an incredible rate and this team looks just wonderful all-around. Over the past week, Minnesota went 3-1 while outscoring opponents 12-6.

3. Vegas Golden Knights

Previous Ranking: 7

The Golden Knights are rolling. They had cooled off a bit, but are now on a five-game winning streak and outscored opponents 21-12 over that span. Unfortunately, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo is out with an injury and there’s no timetable for his return.

Courtesy Twitter: @Avalanche

2. Colorado Avalanche

Previous Ranking: 13

This is the Avalanche team we’ve been waiting all year to see. They’re on a five-game winning streak during which they’ve outscored opponents 19-6.

Philipp Grubauer deserves all the praise he’s been getting. The Avs are scoring, but Grubauer has been a brick wall in net, something they’re going to need from him once the playoffs roll around.

1. Washington Capitals

Previous Ranking: 4

The hottest team in the league comes in at number one. The Capitals are on a seven-game winning streak and outscored opponents 16-6 over their past four games. It doesn’t feel like we’re in 2021, however.

Nicklas Backstrom is playing like he’s in his prime and Alexander Ovechkin is making history night in and night out.

Leen has written about the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, and international soccer. She is currently the primary NHL writer for ESNY. Leen's work has been featured on Bleacher Report and she was formerly a contributor for FanSided's New York Mets blog, Rising Apple. She is a co-host of the Yankees-Mets Express podcast.