NHL Power Rankings: Golden Knights rise to No. 1; Pens threaten crowded top five
Vegas ascends to the top of the league, but plenty of formidable contenders are right on their heels
Who needs the NHL in the 2018 Winter Olympics when you can get the NHL's crowded race for regular-season supremacy?
OK, so no one's saying Pyeongchang wouldn't be a little spicier with Team USA stocked with the best of the pros, but if you're into mid-February fights for future Presidents' Trophy recognition, then the NHL couldn't be better.
As you'll see at the top of our latest NHL power rankings, the Tampa Bay Lightning no longer hold the No. 1 spot as the in-season trade deadline draws closer. That fleeting honor belongs to the Vegas Golden Knights, an expansion team that's normalized its dominance to the point that people don't even take the time to comprehend how quickly they were assembled over the summer. But neither the Lightning nor the Boston Bruins -- and Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins -- are far behind in a top-heavy push toward March.
The Pens are especially hot as they abruptly reignite hope for a third straight Stanley Cup run, but they're just one of many teams embracing the "contender" label entering the new week:
|1||Golden Knights||This is reality. In their inaugural year, they have teams scared to come to their ice.||2||45-21|
|2||Lightning||For as pedestrian as they've been lately, they still own some of the NHL's top scorers.||1||48-18|
|3||Bruins||For their sake, a lopsided loss to Vancouver better have been a mirage like their October woes.||1||44-17|
|4||Jets||Promising youth vs. promising youth in Florida vs. Winnipeg, and the Jets dominated.||2||42-19|
|5||Maple Leafs||Somebody is back to shooting their way out of trouble.||--||42-22|
|6||Predators||Will Mike Fisher be the only big name to join the lineup in March?||2||47-14|
|7||Penguins||Oh. Oh wow. The defending champs picked the right time to turn on the heat.||3||41-26|
|8||Stars||A full series of Stars-Sharks would be something, actually.||1||38-26|
|9||Sharks||If they get bold to fill Joe Thornton's shoes, look out.||3||39-23|
|10||Blues||A little tricky to figure out, their offense has an odd tendency to go stagnant.||2||37-28|
|11||Capitals||Considering their slip-ups against inferior foes, they might warrant an even lower spot.||2||41-23|
|12||Flyers||So it's time to start taking them seriously if you aren't already.||2||35-25|
|13||Wild||How happy would they be to host a playoff series?||2||40-24|
|14||Ducks||Don't look now, but they are very much in play for the No. 2 spot in the Pacific.||2||36-24|
|15||Devils||For a while, it looked like too little, too late. Maybe not.||4||36-26|
|16||Flames||It's way too early, but doesn't this feel like another one-and-done run?||1||35-27|
|17||Kings||They're slipping, but no one with a similar record even comes close to their goal differential.||4||39-26|
|18||Avalanche||They gained Nathan MacKinnon to lose Erik Johnson.||1||38-25|
|19||Islanders||Their superb goaltending as of late counts for something.||2||30-31|
|20||Hurricanes||Shooting hasn't been a problem. Scoring has, mostly.||--||30-29|
|21||Blue Jackets||What happened to last season's defensive darling?||3||38-28|
|22||Panthers||Check the postseason in a year or two. These guys are on the rise.||2||35-26|
|23||Blackhawks||A 7-1 victory over the Caps sounds great. But the rebuild should still be on.||--||30-33|
|24||Rangers||They're not exactly making this easy on Henrik Lundqvist.||2||32-32|
|25||Red Wings||They're already talking about 2018 draft picks.||--||26-34|
|26||Oilers||It's a shame seeing Connor McDavid unleash his best at a time his team is all but dead.||--||30-35|
|27||Canucks||Time for wheeling and dealing.||1||25-37|
|28||Senators||On the road, they've won just seven of 20 games.||1||26-33|
|29||Canadiens||What an odd, ugly year for Carey Price and the Habs.||2||26-33|
|30||Coyotes||Who knew four straight wins would ever be possible?||1||23-36|
|31||Sabres||They've yet to hit double-digit wins at home or on the road.||1||22-36|
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