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Burnside's Power Rankings: Vegas proving doubters -- and logic -- wrong

Despite having started four different goaltenders, the expansion Golden Knights are contending for the Pacific

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB /

By the end of the week, everyone around the hockey world will be giving a good, long look at the standings, as the passing of Thanksgiving marks the unofficial taking-stock-point with just more than a quarter of the season already in the books. 

The Terrific 10 and the Frigid Five will give you a pretty good idea where the smiles will live - and where the faces of anguish call home. 

Read on.

Previous rankings: Preseason | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6

1. Tampa Bay Lightning (1) Good on the New York Islanders for putting a brief bump in the road of the runaway freight train that 15-3-2 Tampa Bay represents. Still, the Lightning have it all going on, and it's not really close at this stage of the season.

2. Toronto Maple Leafs (3) The more the Leafs do things they shouldn't - like win with Auston Matthews banged up - the easier it is to imagine them on a long playoff run next spring. Winners of six in a row and keeping the heat on the Lightning in the Atlantic Division.

3. St. Louis Blues (2) The Blues continue to represent the surprise of the west - maybe the entire league, at this point - with a 15-5-1 record and exemplary 8-3-1 record on the road. Not bad considering both the power play and penalty kill have only been average.

4. Winnipeg Jets (7) The Jets have won four in a row and have the third-best winning percentage in the league. Seventh in the league in goals scored per game, but more importantly for the historically-leaky franchise, they are ninth in goals allowed per game. Sounds like a recipe for a postseason berth.

5. Vegas Golden Knights (6) The Knights get pounded by Edmonton, but bounce right back like one of those wobbly toys. Four different netminders have started games for the expansion team and they're still somehow 8-1-0 at home after Sunday's impressive win over Los Angeles - and a point behind the Kings for the top spot in the Pacific Division.

6. Nashville Predators (10) The Predators are scoring in quantity and are 6-1 in their last seven. Getting it done by committee as Preds are averaging more than three goals a game (11th in the NHL) but don't have anyone in the top 30 in scoring.

7. Columbus Blue Jackets (-) The Blue Jackets rejoin the Terrific 10 after an 0-3-1 slide, having won three in a row. They aren't getting the offense they need to sustain this, but that's why Sergei Bobrovsky gets the big bucks. Good for GM Jarmo Kekalainen to get the Cam Atkinson deal done (seven years, $41.125 million).

8. New Jersey Devils (4) The Devils have started to drift ever so slightly with a 4-3-3 record in their last 10. Still, they boast the fifth-best winning percentage in the NHL and are 6-2-2 away from home. Last season, the Devils were 12-23-6.

9. New York Islanders (-) We actually had the Isles several slots higher in their return to the Terrific 10, having won three in a row, but then they gave up three first-period goals to Carolina on Sunday. So there you have it. Mathew Barzal has moved into sole possession of the rookie scoring lead with an assist Sunday. The Isles are still undefeated in regulation at home: 6-0-2.

10. Detroit Red Wings (-) Dropped the Kings out of 10th spot after their loss in Vegas. Sorry about that. And a good chance to recognize a stretch of strong play from a Detroit team that still is a longshot to make the playoffs in our books. But credit to the Wings, who are 6-2-2 in their last 10, and woke up Monday in third place in the Atlantic Division.


Frigid Five

27. Florida Panthers (29) The Panthers show signs for about 24 hours that they're about to pull out of their first-quarter malaise. Then they play like they did on the weekend on the west coast. Second-fewest points in the Eastern Conference. That won't get it done.

28. Montreal Canadiens (-) The Habs return to the Frigid Five with a vengeance, getting blown out 6-0 by Toronto on Saturday and boast the 30th-ranked offense in the NHL. No Carey Price still, and all of a sudden, this season is looking very much like two years ago when Price missed most of the season and the Habs spectacularly collapsed out of contention.

29. Edmonton Oilers (28) The Oilers continue to flounder, coming off an ugly 6-3 loss to Dallas on the road Saturday. Can't win at home, can't win on the road (where else are they going to play?) and are starting to look like last season was a complete fluke.

30. Arizona Coyotes (31) You know what? We're not dumping the 'Yotes at the bottom of the rankings this week. That's what happens when you win two in a row for the first time this season. Enjoy the streak, it may not last long.

31. Buffalo Sabres (30) Welcome to the basement. Still, this pretty much sums up the Sabres, who have a minus-25 goal differential, just five regulation or overtime wins this season and are dead last in goals per game and 28th in goals allowed per game.

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. You can follow Scott on Twitter @OvertimeScottB, and listen to his Burnside Chats podcast here.

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