NHL Power Rankings: Who's for real so far? Beware of Predators and Lightning

We're almost finished with our first month of the 2018-19 NHL season, so it's finally becoming obvious just which teams are contenders and pretenders.

Just kidding.

If you've followed hockey for even one season, you know that standings can change in just a few weeks' time, let alone over the course of the year. Presidents' Trophy winners often start hot and stay steady until the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it's rare if the muddled middle of the pack doesn't feature a whole lot of movement along the way.

And yet, with a few weeks of this season in the books, it is a little easier to figure out a few of these so-called "contenders." For example: The Nashville Predators, who return to No. 1 in our latest edition of Power Rankings, are about as real as they come. Their depth has never been doubted, but now they're also touting a second starting-caliber goalie in Pekka Rinne replacement Juuse Saros. The Tampa Bay Lightning, meanwhile, don't even have Steven Stamkos scoring at a high rate and look like the dominant force we expected them to be. On the flip side, if anyone figured the Los Angeles Kings would be back in the playoffs, they sure don't look like the safest bet after a slow -- literally, slow -- start.

We've got it all in this week's pecking order. Risers, like the Zach Parise-powered Minnesota Wild. Fallers, like the Dallas Stars, who can't seem to get much production outside of their dangerous first line. And one 31-team picture of how the NHL season is shaping up:

Biggest Movers
16 Wild
11 Stars
Rk
Teams
 
Chg
Rcrd
1 Predators If Juuse Saros takes Pekka Rinne's job while the latter is hurt, that's an amazing problem for Nashville to have. 147-29
2 Lightning And Steven Stamkos hasn't even hit his stride yet. 462-16
3 Avalanche How can you ignore that top line? You can't. It's not only Nathan MacKinnon right now. Few teams are hotter. 538-30
4 Maple Leafs Two straight losses don't look good, but Auston Matthews is playing lights out. Their talent will right the ship. 346-28
5 Jets Don't look now, but they can play defense, too! The only thing keeping them from jumping higher is the fact that two of their last three wins came against bottom-of-the-barrel competition. 547-30
6 Bruins Rough week for the Bruins, and they need depth to step up behind that first line. That first line, though? Killer. 349-24
7 Flames You don't beat Boston by accident, and can we even hold a loss to the Preds against them? With Travis Hamonic on the mend, they'll get even better. 850-25
8 Penguins Reminder: Matt Murray is good. Sidney Crosby hasn't even begun to get going, so their rebound is extra impressive. 644-26
9 Capitals The defense is concerning, sure, but they're also scoring more than anyone in the league. --48-26
10 Wild Zach Parise is on fire. They started on an awful note, but three straight wins has them rolling even against top competition. 1637-36
11 Canadiens It seems wrong to put them this high, but that's because of preseason expectations. Everything is generally going well, and Shea Weber will be back. 244-30
12 Hurricanes They had a very tough week, and a win over Detroit hardly means much. But Sebastian Aho and Micheal Ferland still give them juice. 846-29
13 Sharks This week is the real test, and they should have Joe Thornton back. But any winning streak helps after their start. 546-27
14 Golden Knights Welcome back, Marc-Andre Fleury. Now let's get you some help on the offensive end of the ice. 1343-32
15 Devils So much for that lock-down defense to open the year. Still, Cory Schneider should return soon. 1031-41
16 Ducks If this were based solely on John Gibson's performance, they'd be top 10, easily. 935-37
17 Oilers It's alive! It's alive! Connor McDavid is still pretty much doing it all, but beating Boston and Winnipeg proves they're not dead yet. 1135-38
18 Blue Jackets As long as Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky are producing, they'll be in games. Seth Jones coming back certainly helps. 147-31
19 Senators OK, no more ignoring them. What's going on? Thomas Chabot and a bunch of little-known names producing, that's what! 629-47
20 Blackhawks Good to see Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews back to doing what they do. And Corey Crawford will aid them in the net. 836-34
21 Sabres Their up-and-coming talent should have them chippy all year. Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner are a fun duo. 533-39
22 Stars Like Boston, they've got an awesome first line, but they need help beyond that. 1143-32
23 Canucks To sneak out wins against Boston and Pittsburgh is an accomplishment for a unit missing Elias Pettersson. 635-36
24 Islanders Just read the names on their top line, and you'll see why it's going to be hard for them to get out of the bottom 10 all season. 348-27
25 Blues Jake Allen is going to be the focal point of Blues discussion all season, isn't he? 145-28
26 Panthers The best thing about their last week was that both losses came in overtime. Sooner or later, they'll pick it up. 336-32
27 Flyers There are holes across the board. Not enough offense. Not enough goalie stability (again). Insert at-least-Gritty-is-great joke. 537-37
28 Rangers Heck, what a great week they had. Behind Henrik Lundqvist, they upset the Avs, pushed the Caps to OT and then lost to a hot Flames team. That's good stuff considering the rebuild. 232-36
29 Kings Yikes. Old, slow and streaking in the wrong direction. 931-42
30 Coyotes If you've only scored 11 goals in seven games, that's a problem. 139-35
31 Red Wings A minus-19 goal differential is an even bigger problem. --32-40
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