NHL Power Rankings: Maple Leafs climb into top five, but Lightning stay at No. 1
Tampa Bay has been a little too goalie dependent lately, but it remains the head of the pack
While you're busy enjoying the 2018 Winter Olympics without any NHL-fueled men's hockey, the NHL is busy sorting itself out for the playoff race.
And we are busy sorting out who's who in the mid-February push for postseason contention.
If you've been riding the Tampa Bay Lightning bandwagon since they took the league by storm in October, you don't have to hop off just yet, because they're back to a winning streak thanks to some superb saves in net. That's one of the reasons they remain atop our latest edition of NHL Power Rankings, although their continued supremacy doesn't mean the rest of hockey's best is far behind.
Take the Boston Bruins, for example. They were upset by the Buffalo Sabres and almost coughed up a weekend game against the slumping New Jersey Devils, and yet there's also an argument to be made that no one has been better since December kicked off, especially since Bruce Cassidy's bunch is still an admirable 8-2 in its past 10.
Throw in the Vegas Golden Knights, who have endured some goaltending issues; the Nashville Predators, who are still getting elite work from Pekka Rinne; and even the Toronto Maple Leafs, who climbed into the top five this week on the heels of three straight wins and Mitchell Marner production, and you have yourself a tight crop of front-runners:
|1||Lightning||Andrei Vasilevskiy has kept them afloat lately, but they'll be fine with plenty of home games to close the season.||--||54-23|
|2||Bruins||Even with that slip-up vs. Buffalo, their goal differential is second only to Tampa.||--||50-20|
|3||Golden Knights||We just can't wait for playoff time to see what they're really about.||--||51-24|
|4||Predators||Not the greatest week for them, but holy smokes, Pekka Rinne is still the man.||--||53-18|
|5||Maple Leafs||Dallas could've been here if not for a late stinker. No one's on a hotter 10-game stretch than Toronto.||4||49-26|
|6||Jets||As Mark Scheifele re-adjusts to the lineup, they should be fine down the stretch.||1||52-20|
|7||Stars||They were guaranteed a top-five spot before their 6-0 embarrassment vs. Vancouver.||1||42-32|
|8||Blues||Don't let their drop fool you. They're still good against their own division.||2||44-32|
|9||Capitals||It's still hard to believe just how bad most of us thought they would be this season.||2||49-26|
|10||Penguins||The big boys are back to play.||4||47-29|
|11||Wild||Finally, post-break, we're seeing some consistency. Devan Dubnyk is still that dude, too.||4||45-26|
|12||Sharks||Still not sold on what they can do long-term without Joe Thornton, but maybe the deadline changes that.||2||45-27|
|13||Kings||They're awesome in the third period and their goal differential is still killer, but the pressure is on.||1||45-29|
|14||Flyers||Get them in the playoffs and look out, because they're golden against their superiors.||4||42-26|
|15||Flames||They can't afford a big blow to Mike Smith at this point.||1||37-35|
|16||Ducks||Hats off to them for at least being in the playoff picture after so many injuries.||1||44-25|
|17||Avalanche||No Nathan MacKinnon? No problem against no Jack Eichel.||4||43-30|
|18||Blue Jackets||Even before their Devils rout, they were outshooting teams regularly.||1||45-30|
|19||Devils||They needed more than a wakeup call to best Boston. October seems like so long ago.||8||44-29|
|20||Hurricanes||Here comes their annual late-season spoiler run.||3||36-35|
|21||Islanders||At the end of the season, we might wonder how they allowed so many goals and finished so well.||1||35-37|
|22||Rangers||The upset of Winnipeg is nice, but this team just told its fans it's entering rebuild mode.||--||34-39|
|23||Blackhawks||Speaking of rebuild, someone needs one ASAP.||2||33-39|
|24||Panthers||The offseason is going to be a lot of fun with this young club.||--||44-30|
|25||Red Wings||Somehow, there is still some fight left in this team.||--||30-39|
|26||Oilers||These four-goal Connor McDavid nights were supposed to be previews of the playoffs!||--||36-40|
|27||Canadiens||If you're a Habs fan, you can at least take solace in the youthful emergence of late.||--||29-40|
|28||Canucks||So who saw them beating Dallas 6-0? I didn't think so.||--||31-40|
|29||Senators||Ugly, ugly, ugly. Their conference finals bout with the Pens seems distant now.||--||28-43|
|30||Sabres||Worst news ever: Jack Eichel is out indefinitely.||--||25-45|
|31||Coyotes||Going toe to toe with Philly at least made another loss less lackadaisical.||--||29-41|
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