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NHL Power Rankings: Maple Leafs Back Up, Canucks Slide

We're almost at the quarter way mark of the 2018-19 NHL season, and fans are starting to get a good idea of which teams are legitimate contenders - and which ones are lookig like pretenders.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators continue to vie for the top spot in the NHL. Who was No. 1 this week? Did anybody fall to 31st over the Los Angeles Kings? Who else fell and jumped significantly?

Here are this week's power rankings.

31. Los Angeles Kings (6-11-1)

Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Okay, so John Stevens wasn't the problem. Neither is interim head coach Willie Desjardins. The Kings are simply too old and slow to keep up with the rest of the league. Trading Tanner Pearson was only the start for GM Rob Blake. Expect more moves.

30. Vegas Golden Knights (8-11-1)

Regression was inevitable, but did anybody think Vegas would be the second-worst team in the West up to this point? Max Pacioretty has a mere four points in 15 games, while 4-goal man William Karlsson has found the back of the net just four times.

29. Pittsburgh Penguins (7-7-3)

Yikes. Calm and soft-spoken GM Jim Rutherford has admitted he's impatient and is ready to make more trades if the club doesn't get better. The Penguins have lost seven of their last eight, and now Sidney Crosby is out for a week with an upper-body injury. The Pens are really in trouble.

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28. New Jersey Devils (8-8-1)

Hard to believe this team started out the season 4-0-0. The Devils have won their last two games, but there isn't much reason for optimism. It's just not possible to overlook all the flaws on this roster right now.

27. St. Louis Blues (7-7-3)

Not saying Mike Yeo is the problem, but Joel Quenneville is second all-time in coaching wins. Might the Blues decide to bring back their former bench boss - and thus fix an otherwise talented team that just can't live up to the hype?

26. Anaheim Ducks (8-9-4)

The Ducks are going to totally prevent John Gibson from winning the Vezina Trophy, aren't they? If it weren't for him, they'd be vying for dead-last in the NHL with the Kings. Expect a coaching change soon.

25. Vancouver Canucks (10-9-2)

Injuries aren't an excuse. The Canucks lost five of six on that brutal road trip, including a 6-2 embarrassment at the hands of the Minnesota Wild on Thursday. Seems like the annual Winter unraveling is underway in Vancouver.

24. Chicago Blackhawks (7-8-5)

Remember when the Blackhawks fired a legendary head coach, believing their fortunes would maybe change?

Ah well, only the Penguins can brag about having three Stanley Cup championships in the 21st century. Don't feel too bad for the fans in Chicago.

23. Florida Panthers (7-6-3)

Evgenii Dadonov (17 points), and Mike Hoffman (16 points), are scoring in bunches, but the rest of the Panthers ought to get it going soon. Remember, they caught fire in the second half but just narrowly missed the playoffs. We suggest they got hot before the new year this time.

22. Detroit Red Wings (8-9-2)

The Red Wings have won seven of their last 10 games now, overcoming that miserable start to the season. This is still a rebuilding year, so keep your expectations low. But at least the Wings are giving their fans some good hockey to watch.

21. Ottawa Senators (8-8-2)

Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The Sens were everybody's pick to finish last in the NHL, but youngsters Thomas Chabot (22 points), and Chris Tierney (16 points), won't let that happen. Ottawa has played above expectations thus far, so credit head coach Guy Boucher for keeping this locker room together.

20. Philadelphia Flyers (9-9-1)

Claude Giroux has 22 points in 19 games, proving that last season's bounce-back year was no fluke. Now, if the Flyers could just get some half-decent goaltending and more production from the other top-six forwards.

19. Washington Capitals (9-7-3)

Three Words: Stanley. Cup. Hangover.

The Capitals will figure it all out soon enough.

18. Carolina Hurricanes (8-7-3)

Well, the Hurricanes have fallen quite a bit after a hot start. On the bright side, Sebastian Aho continues his torrid pace with 22 points in 18 games.

17. Edmonton Oilers (9-8-1)

Thanks to some guy named Connor McDavid, the Oilers are hanging around in the playoff race and figure to avoid another miserable season. Side note: May they consider bringing aboard Joel Quenneville to replace Todd McLellan, if management begins to lose its patience?

16. New York Rangers (9-8-2)

Wasn't this supposed to be a rebuilding year? The Rangers find themselves in a playoff spot heading into the weekend. What a remarkable job done by rookie head coach David Quinn. Now comes the tricky part: Sustaining this success.

15. Arizona Coyotes (9-8-1)

Are the Coyotes overachieving, considering that Alex Galchenyuk, Derek Stepan and Dylan Strome haven't been scoring much? Or is this team to be taken more seriously as a sleeper club? A 2-1 home win over Nashville on Thursday suggests the latter...for now.

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14. Dallas Stars (10-7-2)

Losing top defenceman John Klingberg for five-to-six weeks is cause for concern. We'll see how new head coach Jim Montgomery prepares his team without their star blueliner. A 1-0 overtime win vs. Boston on Friday was a night start, though.

13. Calgary Flames (10-8-1)

David Rittich should probably be the starter from here on out. Veteran netminder Mike Smith continues to give up too many soft goals. The Flames should be much better than a .500 team, and they may not get there until the goaltending sorts itself out.

12. New York Islanders (10-6-2)

Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Well, nobody thought they be this good after losing their captain in free agency. If this keeps up, Barry Trotz has to be considered the favorite to win the Jack Adams Trophy. Simply remarkable.

11. Colorado Avalanche (9-6-4)

A big comeback win vs. the Boston Bruins on Wednesday. Will it help the Avalanche bust out of their slump? Mikko Rantanen (29 points), and Nate MacKinnon (26 points), are first and second in league scoring. Wow.

10. San Jose Sharks (10-7-3)

Joe Thornton notched his 400th career goal on Tuesday, but you feel like the Sharks should be better. Hard to believe Erik Karlsson has yet to score a goal with his single team. But the other Shark veterans have this team leading the Pacific Division...for now.

9. Buffalo Sabres (11-6-2)

Sabre fans just wanted to see not-awful hockey for once. How about a playoff spot through mid-November? Jeff Skinner is off to a scorching start with 14 goals and seven assists.  Jack Eichel (20 points), and Jason Pominville (15 points), are also producing ample offense..

8. Boston Bruins (10-6-3)

The top line is surging - with David Pastrnak leading the NHL in goals. But the goaltending has been shaking, and the lack of secondary scoring is worrisome. If the Bruins want to compete for a Stanley Cup, they need the rest of the forwards to get going. It's that simple.

7. Columbus Blue Jackets (11-6-2)

The Jackets remain steady as ever. They're getting by with balanced scoring and quality defence. It bodes well for the Jackets in that Metro rivals - Pittsburgh, Philly and - Washington are all struggling in the early going.

6. Montreal Canadiens (10-6-3)

Considering Carey Price's early-season struggles, the Canadiens have to be delighted with where they stand right now. He tuned in a fine performance in Thursday's 3-2 win over Calgary. If and when Price regains his old form, the Habs will take off even more.

5. Winnipeg Jets (11-5-2)

The Jets have erased a slow start and are once again asserting themselves as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. Now, if they could just gain some ground on the surging Wild and Predators...

4. Minnesota Wild (12-5-2)

They may be the oldest team in the NHL, but the Wild are playing like a bunch of 21-year-olds. They're fast, skilled and scoring in bunches. I'm ashamed of myself for predicting a non-playoff year in Minnesota for 2018-19.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (14-6-0)

Ignore the pessimistic fans and the haters. Toronto is second in the East without William Nylander and Auston Matthews right now. John Tavares is earning every penny, and the Leafs look like a true championship contender.

2. Nashville Predators (13-5-1)

Three straight losses for the Predators prevents them from taking the No. 1 spot. But there's nothing to worry about in the Music City. The only thing stopping this team from winning the Western Conference is the Winnipeg Jets, who eliminated the Preds in the second round of last season's playoffs.

1. Tampa Bay Lightning (13-5-1)

Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In case you didn't take Tampa seriously before, they erased a 2-0 deficit in Pittsburgh and handed the Penguins a 4-3 loss. Seven players already have double-digit points. As everybody expected, Brayden Point leads the team in scoring with 22 points.

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