NHL Power Rankings: Golden Knights jump into top five as Flyers approach league's cellar
Vegas is rounding into form after a rough start, and Tampa Bay remains our clear-cut No. 1
New year, new movement. A little over a week into 2019, we've got some significant shifts in our NHL pecking order, even if the top spot firmly belongs to the Tampa Bay Lightning (stop us if you've heard that before).
A handful of anticipated contenders are on the mend thanks to the Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators getting some key pieces back on the ice just in time for a serious second-half run. But the biggest changes this week come from further below in our power rankings, where the once-slumping Vegas Golden Knights are really putting things together behind former Stanley Cup champion Marc-Andre Fleury. Meanwhile, the Bill Peters-led Calgary Flames are legitimate Pacific Division favorites and the Gritty-fied Philadelphia Flyers are creeping toward the NHL's basement in full-out rebuild mode.
Neither Calgary nor Vegas has been a consistent presence in the top 10 of our NHL power rankings this season, but the tides have since turned, with both the Flames and Golden Knights moving up in the top five this week. The Flyers, meanwhile, are bested in incompetence by only one other team (the Ottawa Senators) now that they've embraced new management and figure to shake up their core moving forward.
Other teams rising and falling in this week's rundown include the Carolina Hurricanes, who are streaking upward; and the Winnipeg Jets, who haven't exactly had a major slip but remain a step behind the league's elite:
|1||Lightning||They are so good right now that it's time to wonder if they can peak in the playoffs. No one comes close to matching their production, and if they fall short of a Cup, it's going to be a major disappointment.||--||36-10|
|2||Maple Leafs||For their sake, we hope Frederik Andersen will be OK down the home stretch. Otherwise, they've got all the pieces to challenge Tampa for a deep run.||--||29-16|
|3||Flames||We're all in on this bunch, but goaltending remains a question mark even as Mike Smith and David Rittich have taken turns in the spotlight.||2||30-13|
|4||Golden Knights||Guess who's back, baby? Marc-Andre Fleury is back, and considering some of their biggest names (like Paul Stastny) have yet to work consistently together, they stand to get even better.||4||28-17|
|5||Capitals||There are kinks to be worked out, including on the power play, but they're still about as well-rounded as you'd hope for a defending Stanley Cup champ.||1||27-15|
|6||Predators||As long as their rehabilitated stars return to form, they can easily finish as a top-three team here.||1||28-17|
|7||Penguins||Matt Murray hasn't lost since coming off injured reserve. It's not what we expected, but it's exactly what Pittsburgh needs. Somehow the Pens always find a way.||1||25-15|
|8||Jets||Sure, they've still got the talent to make it out of the West, but their defense, sans Dustin Byfuglien, seems a step or two below the NHL's top contenders.||5||31-14|
|9||Sharks||Speaking of defense in the West, can anyone locate the Martin Jones we knew and loved from a year ago? It's not like San Jose is lacking for big names on the blue line otherwise.||--||28-14|
|10||Islanders||Barry Trotz alert! A six-game winning streak and their improbable success in net warrants a big jump. How fun would it be if this group can keep it up and take its season into the spring?||2||28-15|
|11||Bruins||As expected, the reinforcements are making a difference. After enduring injury after injury, they're ready to get serious in the Atlantic.||--||27-16|
|12||Blue Jackets||All eyes are on two of their biggest names in Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, and depending on what happens with them, the Blue Jackets could lock in for the stretch run or retool at a dangerous time.||2||28-16|
|13||Avalanche||They own an incredible first line, as we've said all year, but a 3-5-2 stretch into the new year isn't acceptable for a contender. Beware of a farther fall if they can't get consistent.||2||21-18|
|14||Sabres||See: Avalanche. The really intriguing option is if they tap into the trade market for someone to support the Eichels and Skinners of the team.||1||24-17|
|15||Stars||With the way the team's front office has handled the apparent scoring issues, well, it's a wonder Dallas is still functioning. This is a boom-or-bust kind of situation.||1||23-21|
|16||Canadiens||Here's our annual example of a team caught in the middle. Do the Habs try to beef up their defense and push for the playoffs, or save assets and ride this thing out?||2||27-17|
|17||Wild||Let us know if you've got a read on this team, because we don't. If you're looking for the streaky club of the season, it's probably them.||2||23-21|
|18||Canucks||Same old, same old here: Elias Pettersson is amazing, and the Canucks have other promising pieces. But they don't have enough, as currently constructed, to get into the top 16.||1||21-21|
|19||Hurricanes||Normally, we'd say rebuilding is the way to go. (It still is.) But then, of course, they go off and win four in a row.||5||22-20|
|20||Panthers||Credit to Bob Boughner for getting buy-in. This team stumbled out of the gate in a year it was supposed to challenge for a playoff spot, but they're keeping things close and improving their numbers.||--||18-20|
|21||Oilers||Evergreen sentiment: Connor McDavid is doing absolutely everything.||4||23-21|
|22||Ducks||What a curious case here, with John Gibson having a remarkable year and yet Anaheim being in the unique position of deciding whether it should sell while contracts are hot and losses are frequent. The crazy thing is they're still easily within reach of the playoffs.||4||20-19|
|23||Coyotes||Scoring is an absolute drag in Arizona, so that's probably where they should start.||1||21-22|
|24||Devils||All eyes are on Mackenzie Blackwood once he's back in the net, because, really, the rest of this season should be all about pinpointing who's going to solve their goalie problems.||1||18-22|
|25||Rangers||Brace yourselves for February. We might finally be nearing their biggest sell-off yet.||4||20-20|
|26||Blues||They might be the best worst team of this lower tier. Even typical studs like Vladimir Tarasenko have just not produced. And don't get us started on goaltending.||1||20-21|
|27||Blackhawks||A 6-3-1 stretch is actually really impressive considering the slog they endured. Still, it's time to turn attention to the deadline.||2||16-24|
|28||Red Wings||You have to think Jimmy Howard is drawing some eyes around the league. And you wonder how much Detroit would require to cough him up.||2||18-23|
|29||Kings||Like most of these teams toward the basement, we're now just eagerly anticipating which veterans, if any, will be moved in potential blockbuster deals.||1||19-25|
|30||Flyers||Carter Hart has all the praise, but the rest of the season will now probably be defined by what new general manager Chuck Fletcher does with the foundation of the team.||4||18-23|
|31||Senators||The minus-36 goal differential says it all.||--||19-24|
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