Power Rankings: Maple Leafs have turned into front-runners

From ESPN - October 12, 2017

Our committee of 20 hockey experts has voted. Granted, it's based on a small sample size, but the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins no longer rule the Power Rankings roost. A young, high-scoring squad has roused its long-suffering fan base in Toronto and become the early team to beat, followed by some of the usual suspects -- and a few surprises (welcome, Vegas!).

If the first week of hockey was any indication, it's going to be a fun season. Here are the Week 2 NHL Power Rankings:

1. Toronto Maple Leafs, record: 3-1-0

The Maple Leafs have been even better than advertised in the early going, with a thrilling overtime win against the Blackhawks worthy of particular note. And of the 20 Toronto players who have skated a shift thus far, 19 have at least one point.

2. Chicago Blackhawks, 3-0-1

Chicago brought the band back together this offseason. And -- how about that? -- the old Hawks have a few more hits left in them. Get to know 19-year-old rookie Alex DeBrincat (three points in four games). He has lead-singer capabilities.

3. Washington Capitals, 2-1-1

Alex Ovechkin has cooled off after his first two games -- he's on pace for only 164 goals now -- but it's hard to find a weakness on a team that seemed to have all the boxes checked off last season as well.

4. St. Louis Blues, 4-0-0

The Blues are 4-0 for the second time in franchise history, and -- even better -- their scoring is balanced, with five players at two-plus goals already. This is not just the Vladimir Tarasenko show (though we'd tune in for that, too).

5. Pittsburgh Penguins, 2-1-1

Those who cited the Penguins' lack of depth as a weakness this preseason look spot on thus far. On the other hand, this team has a knack for creating scoring stars out of nowhere, and a PDO (a way to measure "puck luck") that is second worst in the league means that the sticks will start to heat up soon.

6. Columbus Blue Jackets, 2-1-0

Artemi Panarin -- who was brought over from Chicago in one of the summer's highest-profile trades -- has not missed a beat with his new team, logging three assists through three games. And after it looked like Sonny Milano might have plateaued, the 21-year-old already has four goals this season.

7. Los Angeles Kings, 2-0-1

Jonathan Quick leads a stingy defense (one goal allowed in two games), and Anze Kopitar (two goals in his first two games) is scoring again. It's (kind of) like 2014 all over again.

8. Edmonton Oilers, 1-2-1

It's off to a rocky 1-2 start, but this is still the Connor McDavid Show (see: hat trick on opening night) -- and this is still a team expected to contend for the Stanley Cup. No need to McWorry.

9. Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-1-0

The bad news for Tampa? Andrei Vasilevskiy has a 3.66 goals-against average and .900 save percentage so far. The good news? He's going to finish with stats much better than those, and his team is 2-1-0 despite its netminder's early struggles.

10. Vegas Golden Knights, 3-0-0

The Knights are the feel-good story in sports, plus they are fun to watch -- and we are not just talking about Cirque-du-Soleil intermission acts and glow-in-the-dark drumlines. James Neal, by the way, is on pace for 137 goals.

11. Anaheim Ducks, 2-1-1

The Ducks are 1-1-1, while managing around injuries to key players like defensemen Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm. And hey, their streak of 29 consecutive home wins over the Flames could not last forever.

12. Calgary Flames, 3-1-0

The mullet has landed! Jaromir Jagr, age 45, made his Flames debut Wednesday night against the Kings, and will try to bat his age again this season. He racked up a respectable 46 points last year in his 26th (!!!) NHL season.

13. Colorado Avalanche, 3-1-0

After a woeful 2016-17 and a summer beset by Matt Duchene drama, the Avs collected two wins in their first three games -- and all on the road. Not bad for second-year head coach Jared Bednar.

14. Carolina Hurricanes, 1-0-1

It has been somewhat of an inauspicious start for a team that many thought would take a big step forward this season. But on the bright side, the Canes are playing a gentlemanly game this season, being whistled for the league's fewest minor penalties thus far (12 PIM).

15. New Jersey Devils, 3-0-0

Given that the Devils have a decades-long history of scoring struggles -- perhaps self-inflicted -- the fact that they have scored 16 goals in their first three games so far this season has shocked the hockey world. While their even-strength shooting percentage of 13.2 percent leans to the unsustainable side, the injection of skill in the form of rookies Jesper Bratt and Nico Hischier, along with trade acquisition Marcus Johansson, has been readily apparent.

16. Detroit Red Wings, 2-1-0

17. Ottawa Senators, 1-0-2

18. Philadelphia Flyers, 2-2-0

19. New York Rangers, 1-3-0

20. Nashville Predators, 1-2-0

21. Minnesota Wild, 0-1-1

22. Montreal Canadiens, 1-3-0

23. Dallas Stars, 1-2-0

24. Winnipeg Jets, 1-2-0

25. Boston Bruins, 1-2-0

26. New York Islanders, 1-2-1

27. San Jose Sharks, 0-2-0

28. Florida Panthers, 1-0-1

29. Vancouver Canucks, 1-0-1

30. Buffalo Sabres, 0-2-1

31. Arizona Coyotes, 0-2-1


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