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Power Rankings: Golden Knights, Lightning battle for top spot to start second half

Ken Campbell
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Power Rankings: Golden Knights, Lightning battle for top spot to start second half

Brayden McNabb, Erik Haula, James Neal, David Perron and Colin Miller Author: Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

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Power Rankings: Golden Knights, Lightning battle for top spot to start second half

Ken Campbell
By:

The Golden Knights can't be stopped lately and that has them sitting atop this week's Power Rankings. Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers move in opposite directions.

With two games on the schedule, the NHL will officially pass the halfway mark of the season tonight. And our Power Rankings are indeed not turned upside down for the occasion. The Vegas Golden Knights are on top, once again, and the Montreal Canadiens are at the bottom. And both rankings are completely on merit.

Vegas has won eight in a row, but consider in those eight games, the victims have included the Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators. They’ve won at home, they’ve won on the road. They’ve taken leads in games and never looked back and clawed their way back into games. And that’s why they’re the No. 1 team for the first week of 2018.

One note on these rankings for those of you who look at them and scoff. First, regardless of what team you support, I hate your favorite team and love the team that you hate. Second, these rankings are subjective. Third, we base our rankings heavily on recent performance and we ask one question when we do the rankings: If you were playing that night, which team would you least like to face? And while we do take the standings into account, if we wanted their rankings to reflect where they are in the standings, we’d, you know, just run the standings. (Rankings from two weeks ago in parentheses.):

THE CREAM OF THE CROP
1. Vegas Golden Knights (1)
2. Tampa Bay Lightning (5)
3. Washington Capitals (2)
4. Los Angeles Kings (8)
5. Boston Bruins (10)
6. St. Louis Blues (15)
7. Winnipeg Jets (6)
8. Anaheim Ducks (26)
9. Nashville Predators (7)
10. Colorado Avalanche (24)

The Golden Knights have not lost a game in regulation time in more than a month. That’s a 13-game stretch…Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy leads the league in wins, shutouts and save percentage and hasn’t allowed a goal in 164 minutes…Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin on the prospect of scoring 50 goals again this season: “If I did, it would be pretty sick.”…The Kings received a scare Tuesday night when Drew Doughty was on the receiving end of a headshot, but he returned to the game…Tuukka Rask’s troubles are behind him. The Bruins goalie was the NHL’s first star in December…Blues backup Carter Hutton got his second straight start Tuesday night and rewarded the Blues with his second straight win…As good as the Jets are, they’re leaving points on the table. They’re 1-6 in overtime and shootout games…Rickard Rakell has scored a goal in six straight games for the Ducks, the longest current streak in the NHL…Defenseman Ryan Ellis played more than 18 minutes in his first game for Nashville this season after missing the first 38 with an injury…Mikko Rantanen has points in nine of his past 10 games for Colorado, with 12 points in that time span.

THE MUSHY MIDDLE
11. New Jersey Devils (9)
12. Columbus Blue Jackets (19)
13. New York Rangers (3)
14. San Jose Sharks (14)
15. Dallas Stars (18)
16. Toronto Maple Leafs (13)
17. Chicago Blackhawks (4)
18. Minnesota Wild (16)
19. Pittsburgh Penguins (20)
20. Carolina Hurricanes (28)

St. Louis coach Mike Yeo said the Devils are the best team he’s seen in 3-on-3 overtime…After going nine games without a goal, Oliver Bjorkstrand scored two in 78 seconds to lift the Blue Jackets to a 2-1 win over Dallas Tuesday night…After scoring the overtime winner in the Winter Classic, J.T. Miller was moved to the Rangers’ top line with Mika Zibanejad and Mats Zuccarello, while Rick Nash was moved to the second line…Put back on the top line with A Couple of Guys Named Joe, Timo Meier scored twice in San Jose’s 4-1 win over Montreal Tuesday night…After Ben Bishop took the blame for allowing two goals in 78 seconds Tuesday night against Columbus, Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock said, and we quote: “Blah, blah, blah”…Question for you to discuss amongst yourselves: If Timothy Liljegren weren’t playing in the World Junior Championship right now, would the Leafs have called him up after their defensive debacle against Vegas New Year’s Eve?...The Blackhawks have the greatest uniforms of all-time according to fans who voted on nhl.com…Zach Parise played 13:35 in the Wild’s 5-1 over Florida Tuesday, his first game of the season after coming back from back surgery…Kris Letang returned to the Penguins lineup after missing three games, and said he feels better now than he has all season…Even though the Hurricanes’ vaunted defense corps was putrid in a 5-4 overtime loss to Washington Tuesday night, they currently sit clinging desperately to a playoff spot at the halfway point of the season.

VYING FOR THE PARTICIPATION BADGE
21. Detroit Red Wings (22)
22. Florida Panthers (25)
23. Calgary Flames (17)
24. New York Islanders (22)
25. Philadelphia Flyers (12)
26. Edmonton Oilers (11)
27. Buffalo Sabres (30)
28. Ottawa Senators (27)
29. Vancouver Canucks (27)
30. Arizona Coyotes (31)
31. Montreal Canadiens (21)

The Red Wings announced that winger Tyler Bertuzzi, nephew of former NHLer Todd, is staying up with them for the rest of this season…Prior to being pulled in a 5-1 loss to Minnesota Tuesday night, Panthers goalie James Reimer had two shutouts in a span of three games and was in the nets for five straight wins…2015 sixth-rounder Andrew Mangiapane made his NHL debut in the Flames 4-3 overtime win over Chicago New Year’s Eve…Islanders coach Doug Weight said he wanted to see some “emotion and fight” from his team, then watched them lose 5-1 to Boston Tuesday night…Defenseman Ivan Provorov had a rough night in the Flyers' loss to Pittsburgh Tuesday. He was on the ice for four Penguin goals and went for x-rays after blocking a shot…Connor McDavid has been held off the scoresheet for three straight games, the longest such streak of his career…The Sabres have points in nine of 12 games. From a draft perspective, this is no time for this team to start getting hot…With associate coach Marc Crawford now running the power play, rookie defenseman Thomas Chabot is getting a shot running it from the top of the umbrella. They’re hoping to jump start a power play that is 25th in the NHL…After going 17 games with no goals and just six assists, rookie-of-the-year candidate Clayton Keller has points in eight straight games…The Canadiens are 0-5-0 in their past five and have been outscored 16-4. Sacre bleu.

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Power Rankings: Golden Knights, Lightning battle for top spot to start second half