NHL Power Rankings: Sharks gain on Lightning for top spot; Blues soar back into playoff contention

We're not saying anyone other than the Tampa Bay Lightning is the clear-cut front-runner for a 2018-19 Stanley Cup run, but we are saying that the San Jose Sharks are gaining on them.

Tampa is an absolute powerhouse, yes. (Insert your favorite additional praise about the Lightning steamrolling the rest of the NHL this season.) But if any team deserves your attention now that we're halfway through February and pressing on toward the postseason, it's the Sharks. The Calgary Flames and New York Islanders may be the most surprising of the league's top contenders at this point, and they both deserve every ounce of credit they get, but the Sharks have been on our radars since before October. And now they're rounding into form all over the ice -- a true threat for anyone with sights set on the Cup.

Between Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson, we know the Sharks had the big names. But with Evander Kane back on fire and Karlsson regaining health, the only thing that's keeping us from truly considering a swap at No. 1 in our NHL Power Rankings is the fact Martin Jones isn't having his best season in the net. This is an All-Star goalie we're talking about, of course, so there's still time for improvement. But even with questions there (until the deadline, perhaps?), it's hard not to fall in love with what's coming out of San Jose.

Elsewhere in our rankings, the St. Louis Blues suddenly look like playoff material thanks to rookie Jordan Binnington's success in goal, the Columbus Blue Jackets are on the brink of a make-or-break deadline and the Chicago Blackhawks are farther removed from the NHL cellar thanks to a big winning streak:

Biggest Movers
5 Blues
5 Penguins
Rk
Teams
 
Chg
Rcrd
1 Lightning They've got a somewhat difficult schedule this week, but that hasn't meant much all year. They're a juggernaut, plain and simple. --62-16
2 Sharks If only Martin Jones was playing at an elite level. This roster is rounding into Stanley Cup Final form on both sides of the ice. 246-27
3 Flames Even after their loss to the Canucks, their numbers are incredible. Don't tell us you predicted a plus-41 goal differential for this team. 150-25
4 Maple Leafs William Nylander has finally started to catch fire, but they need others to do the same. Still, their speed is hard to overlook. 146-28
5 Islanders They thrive off a busy schedule. They've lost absolutely no steam because of it. Barry Trotz deserves all the credit in the world. 148-27
6 Jets Their slight slide isn't as much because of their own performance as it is the teams ahead of them. Oh, and Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele are just awesome. 347-30
7 Predators Not sure Brian Boyle and Cody McLeod make a huge difference, but at least they're getting tougher. They're going to need to scrap it out down the stretch. --47-29
8 Canadiens Until they embarrass themselves against top teams like Toronto, they deserve this. It's still hard to believe. 244-30
9 Bruins Their leading scorer injured himself because of course he did. But a deadline deal for help would ensure they stay in the top 10. --49-24
10 Capitals It's no coincidence that the Caps are back on track at the same time as Evgeny Kuznetsov's hot streak. Their offense has killer potential for the playoffs. 348-26
11 Golden Knights They're starting to showcase something that carried them during their inaugural run: Offensive balance. --43-32
12 Blue Jackets This week might determine whether they buy or sell, not to mention auction stars like Sergei Bobrovsky. They've got three premier opponents on deck. 347-31
13 Penguins Things still aren't fully clicking, unless, of course, we're talking Evgeni Malkin's antics. 544-26
14 Hurricanes Until the playoffs actually start, we'll be skeptical. But the Nino Niederreiter addition is an underrated boost. 246-29
15 Blues They're the favorites for Second-Half Comeback Team of the Year. Between Ryan O'Reilly and Jordan Binnington, they suddenly look like the real deal. 545-28
16 Flyers What a critical juncture we've reached after they rode Carter Hart into the playoff picture. It's either stock up or sell out at the deadline. 137-37
17 Stars They've got three more games on the road this week. Weathering this stretch would help prove they're legitimately in the postseason hunt. 543-32
18 Wild Is it too early to write off the Victor Rask trade? Probably. But they need offense. 437-36
19 Sabres They can still go quite a bit higher here. Credit to Rasmus Dahlin for lighting it up during their slow stretch. --33-39
20 Canucks When all is said and done, if they are sitting at No. 20, it's not the worst thing in the world. But they need to load up in the offseason. 235-36
21 Blackhawks At least the Dylan Strome trade already looks promising. Any other year, a seven-game winning streak in Chicago would mean a spot in the top 10. 536-34
22 Rangers The offensive production has been promising of late, but most of the guys responsible for that might be gone after the deadline. 132-36
23 Panthers They came out of a tough week with their heads held high, but just hanging with contenders doesn't do a whole lot this time of the season. 136-32
24 Coyotes Try looking at their stat sheet and coming away thinking it's an NHL lineup. 239-35
25 Avalanche For a good couple of months, they looked like serious contenders with a first line to justify it. Now? Far from it. 438-30
26 Oilers It's not even fun to whine about Connor McDavid needing offensive help anymore. 135-38
27 Kings They've been the steadiest of the lower-tier teams for a while now, but this week's schedule won't help. 231-42
28 Devils Taylor Hall might prefer to just stay off the ice now. --31-41
29 Senators We're finally on the verge of discovering Mark Stone and Matt Duchene's fate, which is really the biggest story of their season at this point. 229-47
30 Red Wings Even their best young prospects are slumping now. The early season glimmers of hope seem so distant. 532-40
31 Ducks Now Bob Murray can see how bad this has gotten for himself. What an absolute train wreck. 135-37
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