NHL Power Rankings: The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse
By Kevin Mejia
- Vegas Golden Knights – Even with the goalie controversy in Sin City, the Knights pulled through in game seven against the Canucks. Even with Thatcher Demko standing on his head, Shea Theodore scored late in the third period to give the Knights a lead they would not surrender. Robin Lehner’s dynamic glove save midway through the second prior to the Theodore goal kept the game knotted at zero. The Golden Knights speed and physicality separates them from the rest of the pack. Mark Stone, Alex Tuch, and Nate Schmidt guide the Knights into the Western Conference Finals.
- Tampa Bay Lightning – Five games. It only took the Bolts five games to take down the Boston Bruins. With the most complete forward depth among the remaining teams, the Lightning boast an attack that is challenging to keep up with. Brayden Point has proved to be difficult to deal with as an elite skater and a crafty puck handler. Efficient defenseman Victor Hedman provided the series clinching goal in double overtime of game five, as the d-man has lived up to the hype of his Norris Trophy nomination. The team has overcome its mental barrier after last season’s debacle in the playoffs. Ondřej Palát scoring the first overtime winner for the Bolts gave the team momentum to win four straight games. Tampa faces the New York Islanders as both teams migrate to Edmonton.
- New York Islanders – Barry Trotz is the best coach in the NHL. The man preaches defense like no other. The forecheck this team provides is on another level. Josh Bailey has factored in on most plays, putting up 15 points in 15 games. Mat Barzal. I can’t say this enough. One of the best forwards in the game right now. The speed, the hands, the finish. He can do anything. Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov split the work of the second round, providing acceptable goaltending, as the Flyers forced Varlamov out. Greiss did his duty and got the Islanders through to the conference finals. Ryan Puloch, Adam Pelech, and Devon Toews keep opponents at bay and block a ton of shots. Brock Nelson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau have provided depth scoring for the team, as they move on to face the Lightning.
- Dallas Stars – The third and final team to blow a three to one series lead, the Stars recovered in game seven. Down one goal three separate times in this game, the Stars mental fortitude and veteran leadership came through. Joel Kiviranta scored the game-tying and series-winning-overtime-game-seven goal. For a kid who only played 11 games in the regular season and was making his series debut (third playoff game), he sure made an impact in game seven. Anton Khudobin provided adequate goaltending and will likely continue to provide sparks for the Stars. Miro Heiskanen leads the playoffs in scoring out of players still left in the postseason with 21 points (five goals, 16 assists). The young defenseman doesn’t get talked about enough, as he plays with John Klingberg and Esa Lindell. Heiskanen has proven to be a star this postseason. The Stars will need their ~stars~ to show up if they want to advance past Vegas.