NHL Power Rankings: Here come the Golden Knights
So let’s talk about the Vegas Golden Knights for a little bit.
At this point they are no longer just a fun story at the start of the season. They might actually be a legitimately good hockey team that is getting better.
They enter the week riding their second five-game winning streak of the season and what makes this one so impressive is the fact they are starting to carry the play in games. It is not just a matter of of them winning games with some percentage based success. During their current winning streak the Golden Knights have attempted 54 percent of the 5-on-5 shot attempts in its games and has outshot every single team during the streak by a a 180-120 margin. That includes two absolutely dominating performances against the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings.
What makes all of this even more astonishing is the fact they are still doing it with their third, fourth and fifth string goalies.
The driving force behind Vegas’ success has clearly been the play of their forwards, with James Neal, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, David Perron and William Karlsson all putting up huge numbers.
The Golden Knights are already off to the best start of any expansion team in NHL history, so now we really have to start asking if this team is a legitimate threat to make the playoffs.
Recent history suggests they just might be.
As of Monday they have 31 points in their first 22 games. Over the past five seasons there have been 23 teams that had a similar start. Twenty-one of those teams went on to make the playoffs.
Early on Vegas’ success seemed to be more of an unsustainable, percentage driven run of good luck producing unexpected results.
Now the process is starting to match the results.
We have them among the elites in this week’s edition of the power rankings, as well as new teams at the top and bottom of the rankings.
The best of the best
1. St. Louis Blues -- We have a new team in the top spot, and it is still incredible what this team has accomplished this season given the injury situation it has dealt with at times.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning -- Still a terrifying team, but it was only a matter of time until they hit a little bit of a cold snap. That has happened this past week with two regulation losses in a row. The first time all season that has happened.
3. New Jersey Devils -- Simply one of the biggest surprises in the NHL this season and it is a lot of young players (Nico Hischier, Will Butcher) making a big impact. Taylor Hall is also having what could be a career year.
4. Vegas Golden Knights -- If the Devils are one of the biggest surprises, then Vegas is most definitely the biggest surprise.
5. Nashville Predators -- Kyle Turris has already made a huge impact since his arrival in Nashville. With that center depth this is going to be a fierce team to contend with.
The second tier
6. Columbus Blue Jackets -- They are not scoring goals at the same pace they did a season ago but Sergei Bobrovsky looks like he is putting together yet another Vezina Trophy caliber season in net.
7. Winnipeg Jets -- Connor Hellebuyck has been quite a pleasant surprise this season. His play in net is a big reason the Jets have climbed to the top of the standings.
8. New York Islanders -- Goaltending could be a concern, but this is an offense that is clicking on all cylinders right now. For as great as John Tavares has been the team’s leading scorer as of Monday is ... Josh Bailey.
9. New York Rangers -- The overall record is not great but since starting the season 2-6-2 the Rangers have won 11 of their past 14 games including four in a row entering the week.
10. Washington Capitals -- They may not win the Presidents’ Trophy for a third consecutive season but this is still a dangerous team. Alex Ovechkin is currently on pace for close to 60 goals this season.
11. Toronto Maple Leafs -- They tend to run really hot and cold, which is probably what should be expected of a young team with a ton of talent but still a couple of weaknesses that need to be addressed.
The middle ground
12. San Jose Sharks -- The duo of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell has been tremendous in net this season and has helped the Sharks become one of the toughest teams in the league to score against.
13. Los Angeles Kings -- After an incredible start the Kings have won just two of their past nine games and are back to having trouble finding the back of the net. This looks familiar.
14. Calgary Flames -- Johnny Gaudreau has taken the leap from “good young player” to “one of the most dominant offensive players in the NHL.”
15. Chicago Blackhawks -- More than a quarter of the way through the season and I am still not sure what to make of the Blackhawks. Sometimes they look like a contender again. Sometimes they look like the top-heavy team that lacks depth on paper.
16. Boston Bruins -- When they are healthy they can be an extremely dangerous team. Still need a little more depth. But the top of the lineup is strong.
17. Carolina Hurricanes -- Teuvo Teravainen is starting to put it together. This has the makings of a breakout season for him.
18. Vancouver Canucks -- Brock Boeser has been everything the Canucks have needed in a young player. Currently leading all NHL rookies (and the Canucks as a team) in scoring.
19. Minnesota Wild -- Eric Staal is proving that last season’s bounce back year in Minnesota was not a fluke.
20. Pittsburgh Penguins -- Great showing against Tampa Bay, but still a team that has a lot of holes that need to be addressed before it can make another Stanley Cup run.
21. Dallas Stars -- They won the offseason again, but the results still are not what they should be on the ice given all of the roster movement and preseason hype.
22. Anaheim Ducks -- Injuries, particularly to centers Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler, have absolutely devastated this team’s ability to score goals.
23. Ottawa Senators -- Okay maybe we had them a little too high in recent editions of the power rankings. They enter the week with six losses in a row and have won just eight of their first 22 games. This is starting to become a concern.
24. Montreal Canadiens -- Just when it looked like Montreal was starting to turn it around they go and drop six of their next eight games.
25. Detroit Red Wings -- They have probably overachieved a bit to this point and it is kind of amazing they open the week in a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. Still, their points percentage is 24th in the NHL. This is not a good team.
26. Colorado Avalanche -- Nathan MacKinnon is having a breakout season for the Avalanche, while Mikko Rantonen and Alexander Kerfoot look like they can be players to maybe build around. It is not much, but it is a little progress.
27. Edmonton Oilers -- Connor McDavid’s defense has been called into question. Why is it that when a team underachieves or fails to meet expectations the blame always shifts to the best players and not, say, the management team that put together a flawed roster around the game’s best player?
28. Philadelphia Flyers -- With wins in just three of their past 15 games it is a big fall in the rankings for the Flyers. They enter Monday on a seven-game losing streak.
29. Florida Panthers -- This team could really use a couple of forwards like Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith at the moment.
30. Arizona Coyotes -- With wins in four of their past six games the Coyotes are able to finally climb out of the bottom spot in the power rankings. This team was never as bad as its early record indicated. How good is it? Still a mystery. But it was never that bad.
31. Buffalo Sabres -- Such a disappointing situation. This team should be so much better than it is at this point and it only seems to be taking steps backwards.