NHL Power Rankings: Maple Leafs are the early Stanley Cup favorite, but they're not the best team in hockey
Tampa Bay keeps its No. 1 spot just above soaring contenders Toronto and Nashville
Two months into the 2018-19 NHL season, the Toronto Maple Leafs are your .
But they're not the best team in hockey.
The standings will tell you that, and so will we. The Tampa Bay Lightning, after all, are coming off a winning streak of their own, and their 41 points through 28 games is unmatched. But to suggest the top of the NHL isn't a little crowded and admit that Toronto isn't far off at No. 2 is to suggest, well, that you haven't been paying close attention to hockey these last two months.
We probably sound like a broken record by now, but this can't be overstated: There really isn't a true favorite atop the NHL even as we glide deeper into December. The Lightning are awesome. The Maple Leafs are dangerous. The Nashville Predators are deep. The Buffalo Sabres are promising. The Winnipeg Jets are rounding into form. The Boston Bruins are capable when healthy. And the list goes on. Only those first three might be legitimate Cup contenders at this point, but they alone are about as close as can be.
Down the standings, things are just as muddy in some places. (Are you for real or are you not, Minnesota Wild?) But they're clearer in others, like the bottom of the entire league, where in this week's NHL Power Rankings we find the poorly streaking Chicago Blackhawks:
|1||Lightning||They're averaging almost four goals per game. Enough said.||--||62-16|
|2||Maple Leafs||Welcome back, William Nylander. And look out, NHL.||--||46-28|
|3||Predators||It's not necessarily that they're falling off. It's that everyone else is tearing it up.||--||47-29|
|4||Avalanche||No regulation losses in their last 10 games. Oh, and try stopping Nathan MacKinnon.||1||38-30|
|5||Sabres||If they can clean things up on the road, they'll be golden. It's a plus that one of their few losses of late came against Nashville, of all teams.||1||33-39|
|6||Jets||If the Patrik Laine of November lives on, so, too, will the Jets' rise up the Central.||2||47-30|
|7||Flames||Catch them on the power play at home and, well, good luck.||2||50-25|
|8||Capitals||The depth has sure chipped in this season. But let's not make a habit of blowing four-goal leads, OK?||1||48-26|
|9||Blue Jackets||Pierre-Luc Dubois is worth watching right now. They just need to stay steady on defense.||2||47-31|
|10||Stars||They seem very overlooked for a team that's 9-3-1 at home, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Their top line is still something to marvel at as long as it does its job.||4||43-32|
|11||Bruins||Catching up to Tampa and Toronto isn't going to be easy even when they do get healthy. But they've weathered the storm fairly.||1||49-24|
|12||Wild||They just don't like being hailed as a contender, do they? Toronto is tough, but they're looking a lot more vulnerable than a few weeks ago.||6||37-36|
|13||Sharks||It's still early, but maybe this team is just OK. We're two months in, and the big-name blue line has yet to translate to anything other than .500 play.||1||46-27|
|14||Islanders||Robin Lehner's absence doesn't exactly kill their goalie situation, but it doesn't make it ideal, either. Credit to them for staying relevant regardless.||1||48-27|
|15||Golden Knights||Marc-Andre Fleury staying upright will be key down the stretch. Things seem to be working in Las Vegas, too.||3||43-32|
|16||Rangers||The disparity between their home and away marks is pretty wild. The team touting its minor-league prospects more than NHL happenings tells you what they're focused on anyway.||3||32-36|
|17||Canadiens||And now they can't score with any kind of regularity. That hot start is way in the rear-view mirror.||1||44-30|
|18||Hurricanes||We're just going to say it: They are not that good. At least they're never at the very bottom, but this middle-of-the-road stuff gets old. They have to get creative.||1||46-29|
|19||Ducks||John Gibson deserves so, so much from this team.||7||35-37|
|20||Coyotes||They picked a good week to showcase some of their better stuff with the announcement they'll be headed to the Central once Seattle's team arrives.||9||39-35|
|21||Penguins||At least they're making some changes, right? They're still going to need some help at goalie down the stretch.||2||44-26|
|22||Red Wings||Tough week ahead with Tampa and Toronto on the docket. If they just put up a fight, that'll be a win.||2||32-40|
|23||Oilers||Get better soon, Connor McDavid. If they want any chance of scrapping their way back into it, he needs to be on his A game.||1||35-38|
|24||Senators||Somehow they've stayed competent during what's otherwise looked like an embarrassing start to a rebuild.||6||29-47|
|25||Panthers||Their big rest should help. The offense is at least showing signs of life despite the mediocre record of the last few weeks.||4||36-32|
|26||Flyers||It looks like Dave Hakstol is safe. Should he be?||2||37-37|
|27||Devils||If you want a win in the NHL these days, all you have to do is host the Devils.||4||31-41|
|28||Canucks||It's getting rougher and rougher in Vancouver, and no one except for the Blackhawks and Senators is giving up more goals.||3||35-36|
|29||Blues||Three more to Injured Reserve. An unofficial white flag for a season gone awry in a hurry?||1||45-28|
|30||Kings||Suddenly, there is life. And Jonathan Quick is mostly responsible! How long until he gets dealt for prospects?||1||31-42|
|31||Blackhawks||Yep. They've hit the cellar. A four-game losing streak and minus-27 goal differential ensures it's where they belong.||4||36-34|
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