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Eric Stephens’ NHL power rankings (Jan. 8, 2018)

By in Press Enterprise on January 9, 2018

By Eric Stephens

The most surprising element that has now entered into the Vegas Golden Knights and their storybook inaugural season is not that they won’t stop winning but that disbelievers still can’t process why they won’t.

If you’ve really watched them play at any point in their schedule, you’ll easily see why they are not only leading the Pacific Division but sitting on top of the entire Western Conference. Unless you don’t want to accept how good this first-year team is. Or you’re just a “hater” in today’s parlance.

Not much stock should be put into preseason games but in a 4-2 victory over the Ducks, Vegas showed it was prepared to play a serious brand of high-tempo hockey with a relentless forecheck as its signature. All players coming into the new franchise were going to be on board.

The Ducks have learned the hard way, losing to Vegas three more times in the regular season. Many others have joined them in falling. Disbelief has long given way to acceptance. Pinning their success on favorable expansion draft rules or visiting teams incurring the “Vegas Flu” disrespects the work General Manager George McPhee and Coach Gerard Gallant have done in creating a real team worth fearing.

The Golden Knights will grab a postseason spot no one expected and Stanley Cup playoff hockey will be on The Strip. You can bet on that. (Records in parentheses are as of Sunday’s games).

T1. Lightning (30-9-3): How good are they? Undrafted rookie Yanni Gourde, who spent six years in the minors, has 14 goals. Louis Domingue, who struggled mightily in the Arizona net, won his Tampa debut. (1)

T1. Golden Knights (29-10-2): Vegas is 14-1-1 over its last 16 games. Sure, there are a lot of road games left, but Marc-Andre Fleury is rolling, playing like the No. 1 he was for […]    

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