NHL Power Rankings: Capitals, Predators keep rising, but Tampa Bay is still No. 1

When the Washington Capitals absolutely dominated at home in 2016-17, coasting their way to a second straight Presidents' Trophy, there was little doubt that they, despite a not-so-sterling postseason reputation, were the class of the NHL.

This time around, the Tampa Bay Lightning have it in the bag. (This, of course, refers to the "it" as the 2017-18 regular-season crown.) Things can definitely change -- it is just December, right? But if we're talking strictly about hockey's most viable contender in advance of the winter holidays, it has to be the club that employs Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy. You know, the one that has lost only six of its 29 games in regulation and is outpacing the NHL's second-best team in goal differential by almost 10 points?

The Lightning have a long way to go, and if the Capitals have taught us anything, it's that pre-Stanley Cup playoffs prizes aren't really prizes anyway. Still, there's not a single team that has even come close to warranting as much consideration for the No. 1 spot in our weekly power rankings, and that remains the case even as the Los Angeles Kings soon look to push their win streak into double digits.

The Philadelphia Flyers are on the upswing if only because there was nowhere to go but up after their recent slide. The Washington Capitals are on the rise thanks to a streak of their own. And the Nashville Predators remain a team to watch as they climb the top five. The Lightning, however, reign supreme as we take another stab at dissecting the NHL from top to bottom:

Biggest Movers
8 Flyers
4 Penguins
Rk
Teams
 
Chg
Rcrd
1 Lightning We're now in month No. 3 of the season and Tampa Bay has but a few mild scratches on its armor. --3-1
2 Kings Imagine if they actually start holding onto leads. --2-3
3 Blues The Jaden Schwartz injury is a bummer to the highest degree. 11-3
4 Predators James Neal got the best of his old friends, but we have a feeling Nashville will have the last laugh in the playoffs. 15-1
5 Maple Leafs They're deeper than you think, and they're fresh off a game in which they perfectly capitalized on the Penguins' early-game struggles. 16-1
6 Jets Their loss to Tampa exemplifies the bigger picture: They are gritty and talented, but are they gritty and talented enough to take down the big dogs? 33-2
7 Blue Jackets They might be the quietest well-rounded contender in the conference. There are elite pieces in all the right spots. --3-2
8 Golden Knights Forget their Twitter account. They're back on a roll with any goalie they can find. 33-4
9 Capitals Chemistry only goes so far, but the Caps are saying all the right things as they put a rough stretch way behind them. 33-2
10 Islanders Yes, Boston is trending upward, but looking bad in net against the Bruins is cause for concern. 22-2
11 Devils We know they're fast and can score, but it seems the calls for more toughness are valid. 24-0
12 Rangers The road forward is no cakewalk. But back-to-back Henrik Lundqvist starts should have them ready to fight. 22-4
13 Sharks An upcoming three-game road trip will tell us even more about who they are. --2-3
14 Penguins The slow starts continue to kill them. 42-1
15 Flames Sam Bennett picked a good time to awaken from his slumber. 64-2
16 Blackhawks Gustav Forling is exactly the kind of defensive promise they needed. 13-0
17 Bruins Their 3-1 victory over Islanders was their kind of game: Chippy and defensive. 24-2
18 Stars Once again, we see how easily Dallas succumbs to quick and successive scoring strikes. 23-3
19 Wild Something has to be tweaked, but there's enough on this team for a rise up the Central. 22-2
20 Canucks With each week, they're looking more and more like we thought they would. 24-2
21 Flyers Three straight wins means we can't rule them dead yet. But how long will a complete rebuild be delayed? 83-3
22 Avalanche Seven goals against Florida doesn't mean they're back to October form, but it does mean they still have some fight. --3-1
23 Canadiens What a season for Carey Price. 34-1
24 Ducks The clock keeps ticking. They're not going to get the Senators every week. --4-1
25 Hurricanes Hey, at least they have a new owner! 24-2
26 Oilers Heartbreak season is back in full force. 22-2
27 Panthers Weird stat: They've actually been way better against so-so teams than against the worst ones. --0-2
28 Red Wings Their latest blowout loss wasn't as bad as it seemed. But there have been far too many of them in the first place. 20-4
29 Senators Are we in for a blowout sale? Reports suggest it might not be far off. 43-2
30 Sabres Speaking of blowout sales, Buffalo is going to have a good one. --3-3
31 Coyotes If Anthony Duclair and Co. were up against anyone other than Sergei Bobrovsky, Arizona might have had a shot against Columbus. That's just the way this season has gone. --1-4
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