NHL Power Rankings: Never-say-die Capitals finish on top, Senators and Sabres bring up the rear

There should be no doubt in anyone's mind as to who finished No. 1 in the 2017-18 NHL season: Your (unbelievable but actual) Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.

We'll spend months -- and probably years -- remembering just how improbable the Capitals' run to glory was. From the team seemingly getting worse after another early postseason exit last season and a subsequent cap-strapped offseason to ousting the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins and cruising past the historically hot-starting Vegas Golden Knights, there is no shortage of craziness attached to Washington's first Stanley Cup Final victory.

But the Capitals obviously weren't the only team that exceeded expectations or offered some on-ice drama in 2018. As we put a bow on the latest NHL season, we wanted to take one final look at the NHL's 31-team pecking order.

The playoff picture provided a nice blueprint for ranking teams as we enter the 2018-19 offseason, but some clubs -- like the Colorado Avalanche, for example -- deserve a little more love than their postseason results suggest, whereas others -- looking at you, Philadelphia Flyers -- probably deserve a hearty scowl.

Until free agency begins and teams undergo some reshaping, here's our final edition of 2018 NHL Power Rankings:

Biggest Movers
6 Capitals
5 Ducks
Rk
Teams
 
Chg
Rcrd
1 Capitals Their season rewrote history as much as it cemented the postseason legacies of Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby. It's still hard to believe it, but they refused to quit. And in a weird year for NHL playoffs, they came up big when it mattered. 617-9
2 Golden Knights The big question is: Where to go from here? But as for 2017-18, how can you even be remotely displeased? They took a ragtag bunch of outcasts, owned their conference and legitimatized hockey fandom in Vegas. 317-14
3 Lightning If you want to be bold, you can rightfully suggest they were the No. 2 team here. It's still a disappointment their star power couldn't deliver in the clutch, but their goal-scoring was unmatched. --24-7
4 Predators It's probably fair to revive those questions about Pekka Rinne's age, but this team showed it is still on an upswing. Forget a Cup hangover. They were the NHL's deepest team all year. 319-10
5 Jets Yes, they beat the Predators, but there's room for growth. Still, it's about time to start considering them annual contenders. The youth is emerging, and Connor Hellebuyck is more than a keeper. 318-9
6 Bruins We can forgive Brad Marchand for licking, because his team defied the odds plenty of times throughout the year. Banged up or not, they could've made a Cup run if not for Tampa Bay. 216-10
7 Penguins This is a really ambiguous No. 7. They would've had no business getting back to the Final, and yet they used sheer talent and experience (Sidney Crosby, blah blah blah) to avoid an early exit. 113-10
8 Maple Leafs It's hard not to have a sour taste from their last-game collapse, but they flashed enough grit in the postseason to make it clear they're still elite on the right night. 220-9
9 Sharks The most underrated second-half storyline of the season was Evander Kane's resurgence amid new scenery. The Sharks did good locking him up. 116-11
10 Blue Jackets It's hard to think their formula is going to get the job done moving forward, but they still had the defensive edge to stall the Capitals early in the postseason. 416-11
11 Wild Like Columbus, they just don't get it done in the playoffs. But from top to bottom, especially considering the injuries they dealt with, they aren't lacking pieces. --15-12
12 Avalanche The Avs?! Yes, the Avs. We all knew they weren't beating the Predators, but Nathan MacKinnon killed it in 2017-18, and to suggest Colorado didn't completely exceed expectations overall is to, well, lie? 117-8
13 Devils Much like the Avs, they were anticipated postseason pushovers, but that doesn't mean their season wasn't impressive. Taylor Hall finally had help, and they finally looked like they were having fun. 210-13
14 Ducks Injuries can derail you, and they sure seemed to early in the season. Then things sputtered to a halt in the postseason. 516-11
15 Flyers Yikes. Here's a team that legitimately looked unstoppable for certain stretches and yet died under its own weight of unpreparedness. They were maddeningly enigmatic. 312-13
16 Kings Jonathan Quick was superb and all, but the grizzled game plan only worked for so long. It didn't work against Vegas at all, in fact. --11-19
17 Panthers Look out for 2018-19. Bob Boughner had them hot down the stretch, and imagine if they add a couple pieces. --11-11
18 Blues An unfortunate step back this year. But they basically admitted defeat at the deadline, even if their spot in the standings was enviable to others. --10-14
19 Stars They should be ranked lower just because of how much stock they put into free agency to turn them around. This team was bound to disappoint if it didn't at least go deep with its new faces. --16-11
20 Hurricanes Their ineptitude extended a playoff drought but, more importantly, finally ushered in changes behind the bench. --13-11
21 Flames They went all in on their defense, which wasn't a bad plan necessarily, but things never panned out, and they were no good at home. --19-10
22 Oilers They either proved that everyone except Connor McDavid and maybe Leon Draisaitl had a fraudulent 2016-17, or they just had one heck of an off year in what was supposed to be a Cup run. --16-12
23 Islanders Well, John Tavares was good as usual, but his contract situation was not, at least in terms of New York re-signing its stud. Let's see what's to come. --14-11
24 Blackhawks This was finally the year that personnel decisions came back to bite them. Talent still remains, but nothing else better explains their minus-46 goal differential. --9-17
25 Rangers Oof. Like the Blackhawks, their big-name reign came to a crashing halt, and their collapse was evident early on amid disorganized defense. Alain Vigneault is out now, though, and more rebuilding awaits. --14-13
26 Canucks They were maybe a little better than this spot indicates, finishing on a decent stretch and identifying Bo Horvat and others as keys of the future. --13-16
27 Red Wings It was another dark year all around, but at least they did a little cap maneuvering at the deadline. --14-13
28 Coyotes They were a make-or-break team entering the year, and the standings say they broke. But Antti Raanta was better than expected, and they actually improved quite a bit from the dismal season before. --13-13
29 Canadiens Carey Price's health was an ongoing problem, and so was just about everything else in Montreal. The Habs were, at times, the clear-cut worst in the NHL. --15-10
30 Senators They were the anti-Avalanche in terms of doing a 180 from 2016-17, and by hanging on to Erik Karlsson, they've delayed the inevitable of a massive overhaul. --13-14
31 Sabres A minus-81 goal differential is just absurd. They started slowly, they finished slowly, and their rebuild needs a rebuild. --17-9
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