- The Vegas Golden Knights' improbable inaugural success continues as the expansion squad competes for the top record in the NHL, but is gets the nod for No. 1 in our Power Rankings.
If you had asked the Golden Knights for their reasonable expectations heading into their first season, what do you think the answer would be? Coming in at.500? Not finishing dead last? Maybe just not being a total dumpster fire?
There's no precedent—anywhere—for this type of expansion success. It started with a masterful job of drafting by George McPhee. Fantastic coaching by Gerard Gallant. Terrific play by some unheralded players. Great goaltending—from multiple netminders.
There's no way to explain it, other than good players playing well, as a unit.
But now that the Knights are here, where do they go? Is it deep run in the playoffs, or bust? Is it Cup or bust? How do you manage expectations for a team that had none entering the season?
Expectations should be sky high. No reason to say, Well, we made it to the second round when everyone thought we would bad! Go for it. Make a trade or two. Chances like this don't come often in the NHL.
Here’s how we see teams stacking up this week, from 31-1:
31. Arizona Coyotes
Last week: 31 (-)
Six of their last eight games went into overtime with wins against St. Louis and the Islanders. Progress!
30. Buffalo Sabres
Last week: 30 (-)
They’ve shown some compete, and given their record, that's a nice attribute to have.
29. Ottawa Senators
Last week: 29 (-)
Even if Matt Duchene (eight points in nine games) is having a nice January, it's still not nearly enough, especially given what they gave up. Get ready for a firesale.
28. Vancouver Canucks
Last week: 28 (-)
How much did the Canucks build upon two big wins against Columbus and Minnesota ? They lost dropped their first two games out of the break to the Oilers and Jets.
27. Montreal Canadiens
Last week: 27 (-)
Things won't get any easier for the Habs. They have to wait until Super Bowl Sunday to play a team currently below them in the standings.
26. Florida Panthers
Last week: 26 (-)
The Panthers have gotten a lot of time off in January, which is good, given they finish the month facing Dallas, Washington and the Islanders.
25. Edmonton Oilers
Last week: 24 (-1)
The Ryan Nugent-Hopkins injury confirms the obvious: the Oilers should start selling and re-tooling for next year.
24. Detroit Red Wings
Last week: 25 (+1)
The win against Chicago was good, but it's done nothing to dispel the fact that the Wings have trouble beating teams that are above league-average.
23. Carolina Hurricanes
Last week: 23 (-)
Does new ownership mean the Canes—a bubble team—are likely to make a big move? They shouldn't. It's a nice young core in Raleigh. But don't be surprised if something happens./p>
22. Chicago Blackhawks
Last week: 19 (-3)
It's early days, but I’m not sure the Anthony Duclar move is going to pay dividends—and it's certainly not enough to get other people scoring.
21. New York Islanders
Last week: 18 (-3)
Mathew Barzal is quickly taking over the Calder Trophy race, and the combination of JohnTavares and Josh Bailey is lethal. It's becoming more and more absurd that the Islanders don't have a goalie to match the league’s highest-scoring offense.
20. Anaheim Ducks
Last week: 20 (-)
A good win against Pittsburgh, followed by one against L.A. and a tough loss to San Jose. Not sure Rickard Rakell is getting enough attention for his play.
19. New York Rangers
Last week: 21 (+2)
Losing Kevin Shattenkirk from the blue line corps is a blow, and it does explain why he wasn't playing too well. Between injuries and inconsistencies, it might be time to start thinking about selling.
18. Minnesota Wild
Last week: 11 (-7)
A really impressive win over the Bolts, capped off by the first goal of the season from Zach Parise. It will be interesting to see if the finally-healthy winger can get hot.
17. Philadelphia Flyers
Last week: 22 (+5)
After a bad showing against the Rangers by Brian Elliott, the Flyers went with Michal Neuvirth against Toronto. It was the right move—and should continue to be the move. Going 8-2-0 in their last 10 has the Flyers on the rise.
16. Los Angeles Kings
Last week: 10 (-6)
This is a team on the skid in desperate need of offensive consistency. Rick Nash, who was in L.A. on Sunday, could be a nice fit.
15. Colorado Avalanche
Last week: 17 (+2)
It's time to start calling this thing real, because that's what it is: a young, explosive offense that shows little sign of slowing down. Nathan MacKinnon is a serious Hart Trophy candidate.
14. Pittsburgh Penguins
Last week: 16 (+2)
Are things starting to break for the struggling Champs?? They've picked up wins over the Bruins, Rangers and Kings in recent weeks.
13. San Jose Sharks
Last week: 14 (+1)
A tough loss to Colorado, another the win against Los Angeles. The Sharks have only beaten mediocre-to-bad teams since the New Year.
12. Columbus Blue Jackets
Last week: 13 (+1)
Very up-and-down, even though the shootout win over Dallas was big. There are two big tests coming up in the Golden Knights and Wild.
11. Toronto Maple Leafs
Last week: 9 (-2)
Toronto is 19th in goals-against and fourth on the penalty kill. Not something you see often. It might mean there's room for improvement at even strength.
10. New Jersey Devils
Last week: 15 (+5)
The Devils won two games in a row to stop the bleeding after six straight losses, then lost three straight again. Even in the losses, they were playing well with 25-plus shots in each game.
9. Dallas Stars
Last week: 12 (+3)
Dallas has something to say about that whole best-line-in-hockey thing. The Stars might have a case too—the problem is the rest of the forwards.
8. Calgary Flames
Last week: 7 (-1)
They had to lose eventually, with two tough losses after the bye to Winnipeg and Buffalo. At least they got points in each. Mike Smith has only given up three goals three times since December.
7. St. Louis Blues
Last week: 8 (+1)
Back-to-back wins over the Devils and Knights; three straight losses to Philly, Washington and Florida; wins against Toronto and Ottawa and a loss to Arizona. That's been the story since the Jaden Schwartz injury.
6. Boston Bruins
Last week: 6 (-)
They're on franchise's the best point streak in 25 years at 17 games. The best line in hockey? Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak. And right now, it's not even close.
5. Washington Capitals
Last week: 4 (-1)
Let's give some love to John Carlson. The 28-year-old has 37 points, third-most amongst defensemen, and is playing over 26 minutes a night, fifth amongst blueliners. Carlson and Dmitry Orlov form a nice top-pair.
4. Winnipeg Jets
Last week: 3 (-1)
If the NHL were headed to the Olympics, we'd be talking about Blake Wheeler as Team USA captain and Connor Hellebuyck between the pipes for the Americans. They are the fuel behind this team. And the scary thing? Patrik Laine probably has another level to get to.
3. Nashville Predators
Last week: 5 (+2)
Beating the Knights with a shutout from Juuse Saros is always a welcome thing. The Preds have been especially good of late on the penalty kill.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
Last week: 1 (-1)
Some concerning comments after the Vegas loss, especially this from defenseman Anton Stralman: "We're not a good team if we don't work, and tonight was one of those nights that we didn't show." No need to panic yet, but something to look out for.
1. Vegas Golden Knights
Last week: 2 (+1)
To go down to Tampa and put on that performance? Yeah, that'll get you bumped in the rankings. If Marc-Andre Fleury keeps this up, you might be looking at your Vezina winner.