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Power rankings: Vasilevskiy the latest star to power Lightning

Matt Larkin
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Power rankings: Vasilevskiy the latest star to power Lightning

Andrei Vasilevskiy Image by: Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

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Power rankings: Vasilevskiy the latest star to power Lightning

Matt Larkin
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It doesn't seem to matter if Stamkos and Kucherov stop scoring. Another Bolts player picks up the slack. That's why Tampa takes No.1 in the ranks. Watch out for those Islanders, though…

Hey, folks. Kenny Campbell is on a tropical vacation right now, hopefully finding a sandy, breezy outlet for all his rage. I’m commandeering the power rankings for this week.

Credit to Steve Yzerman for betting on pedigree when it came to his goaltending last season. He had the established big-money veteran in Ben Bishop and a young, talented but inconsistent netminder in Andrei Vasilevskiy. Yzerman placed his chips on Vasilevskiy, who was a first-rounder in 2012 and was long considered an elite prospect at his position. We knew Bishop’s days were numbered before last season started when Yzerman handed Vasilevskiy a three-year, $10.5-million extension.

The plan worked perfectly. Bishop wounded up traded to L.A. and later signed with Dallas. Vasilevskiy? Top-two goaltender in the NHL this season, easily. His 16 wins lead the league, and his .933 save percentage ranks second. The Lightning are so loaded that they don’t always win with their powerhouse offense. They have a great backbone in goal, too. Vasilevskiy is as responsible as anyone for Tampa’s first-place spot in the standings and the power rankings this week.

THE CREAM OF THE CROP
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (3)
2. Columbus Blue Jackets (2)
3. St. Louis Blues (1)
4. New York Islanders (10)
5. Nashville Predators (4)
6. Winnipeg Jets (5)
7. Toronto Maple Leafs (9)
8. Vegas Golden Knights (6)
9. New Jersey Devils (11)
10. New York Rangers (15)

As Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos cool off a little bit, Vasilevskiy catches fire. The Bolts can beat you with someone different every night. They’re star-studded and deep… As good as Vasilevskiy is, he isn’t even the top Russian goalie right now. The Jackets’ Sergei Bobrovsky is the world’s best goalie of any nationality, making Columbus the favorite to win the Metro… The forward depth behind the Blues’ big line is a concern, so the imminent return of big two-way pivot Patrik Berglund (shoulder) comes at the perfect time…The Islanders look legitimately scary with John Tavares and Matt Barzal centering two separate powerhouse lines. Tavares won’t want to leave this team as a UFA if it keeps winning like this… Mattias Ekholm is stepping up his offense in Ryan Ellis’ absence on the Predators blueline, and Filip Forsberg is finally showing the consistency to become a big-time NHL star… Believe it or not, goaltending has propped up the Jets’ record so far, disguising subpar possession stats. Who would’ve imagined that? You know there’s a Patrik Laine goal binge coming, though… The fact Toronto is almost keeping pace with Tampa despite six combined goals from Mitch Marner and William Nylander is good news. Those two will catch fire soon… FIVE Vegas forwards are on pace for 65 or more points.  “Underdog” isn’t an accurate description for the Knights anymore… The Devils just won’t go away. If Taylor Hall keeps playing like this, we’ll have to reopen the Taylor vs. Tyler debate. Kyle Palmieri’s injury hurts, though… the Rangers finish November 9-3-0, including wins over Tampa and Columbus. Pavel Buchnevich is quietly one of the season’s bigger breakout stories.

THE MUSHY MIDDLE
11. Washington Capitals (22)
12. San Jose Sharks (25)
13. Carolina Hurricanes (13)
14. Montreal Canadiens (31)
15. Dallas Stars (17)
16. Calgary Flames (5)
17. Minnesota Wild (23)
18. Pittsburgh Penguins (16)
19. Los Angeles Kings (24)
20. Chicago Blackhawks (14)

A weekend hat trick vaulted Alex Ovechkin back into the NHL goals lead. Caps need to trade for a D-man if they want to make this season matter, though…The Sharks have to hope Martin Jones returns to the crease soon, as they’re starting to build some momentum…The Hurricanes are the most dominant possession team in hockey. Only weak goaltending has again dragged them down…It didn’t take long for the Habs’ fate in the standings to start changing immediately after Carey Price’s return. Don’t leave them for dead just yet…Radek Faksa’s hat trick was gravy for a player excelling on faceoffs and manning a shutdown role. Does Dallas have a future Selke Trophy winner there?…Wasn’t the D-corps supposed to be Calgary’s No. 1 strength? It’s been the Flames’ weakness so far, with Travis Hamonic yet to find his game…When this particular Wild team goes 6-3-1 in its past 10, we should take notice, as the October version of this team was ravaged by injuries…No Evgeni Malkin, no Matt Murray means these Penguins will be tested more than they ever have in the Mike Sullivan era…Who are the Kings? They seemed reborn in month 1 under John Stevens but have regressed into a Darryl Sutteresque clone team of late, struggling to score… The Blackhawks must be overjoyed seeing Alex DeBrincat start to bust out, as they need him more than ever with their vets struggling to score.

VYING FOR THE PARTICIPATION BADGE
21. Boston Bruins (18)
22. Detroit Red Wings (21)
23. Edmonton Oilers (29)
24. Florida Panthers (27)
25. Vancouver Canucks (19)
26. Colorado Avalanche (26)
27. Anaheim Ducks (7)
28. Arizona Coyotes (12)
29. Ottawa Senators (20)
30. Buffalo Sabres (30)
31. Philadelphia Flyers (28)

Trust me, Boston doesn’t want journeyman Anton Khudobin winning a crease controversy over Tuukka Rask. It’s not good news for anyone…Detroit’s five-game losing streak is the hockey gods slotting the Wings where they belong. Anthony Mantha is their lone player on pace for a 25-goal season…Two straight victories don’t get the Oilers out of the woods yet. It shouldn’t be that difficult to beat Arizona…Roberto Luongo’s .927 save percentage is his best since 2010-11. If he keeps that up, and Aleksander Barkov stays healthy, the Panthers have a puncher’s chance in the wet paper bag that is the Atlantic Division…don’t fret about your team coming back to Earth, Canucks fans. Every Brock Boeser goal – and Elias Pettersson goal in Sweden – is a victory for the team’s brightening future…Nathan MacKinnon is finally playing like a No. 1 overall pick in Colorado. He’s still just 22. Of the 121 rookie skaters who have played in the NHL this season, 69 are older than MacKinnon…Rickard Rakell is just the latest significant Ducks injury. Who’s left at this point?…Hey, at least Dylan Strome arrives in a low-pressure environment. The Coyotes have no playoff hopes anymore, and Clayton Keller hasn’t scored a goal in 11 games, so any contributions, even modest ones, would be welcome from Strome…Poor Matt Duchene must feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. The Ottawado Senatavalanche have dropped six consecutive games…to quote my colleague Sam McCaig, the Buffalo Sabres have zero goals from their defense this season. Uh, isn’t Phil Housley their coach? Flyers GM Ron Hextall after his team’s ninth consecutive loss: “I’m pretty good with how the team has played over the last nine games.” If that’s his definition of pretty good, what’s “bad”? The 1974-75 Washington Capitals?

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Power rankings: Vasilevskiy the latest star to power Lightning