Maple Leafs Back Atop Latest Five Alive Rankings

Jimmy Murphy

Friday, December 7, 2018 2:07 PM UTC

Friday, Dec. 7, 2018 2:07 PM UTC

With the return of Auston Matthews, the Leafs have jumped back into the top slot in the latest Five Alive NHL power rankings.

It’s time for another ‘Five Alive’ poll ranking the Top 5 NHL teams for you. This Top 5 poll isn’t necessarily going to match your typical rankings around the hockey media circles. We of course will have the best playing teams in there but also maybe teams that can get you more value for your money on the NHL odds. We’re just over the quarter mark into the 2018-19 season and while some of the usual or expected suspects are off to a great start, there have been some big surprises early on in the NHL, so let’s get into our second ‘Five Alive’ poll!

1. Toronto Maple Leafs

Truth be told, you could just as easily put the Tampa Bay Lightning in this top slot, considering as I write this, they and the Anaheim Ducks were the hottest teams in hockey and the Bolts were ahead of the Leafs in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference standings. However, this poll needs to be somewhat evergreen and considering the fact that this Leafs squad was able to go 9-5-0 without superstar forward Auston Matthews and still have 17 wins after 14 games without him, they get the slight edge over the Lightning because he is now back and already having an instant impact. There’s a very solid chance that if he stays healthy, Matthews hits the 50-goal plateau and the crazy thing is, he may not be the biggest point producer or ultimate reason the Leafs finally get over the hump and contend for the Stanley Cup. Mitch Marner has emerged as another rising superstar and has to be an early Hart Trophy candidate at this point. Oh by the way, Toronto also has John Tavares being John Tavares, Morgan Rielly producing offense from the blue line, just got William Nylander back and has the underrated but very valuable Freddie Andersen between the pipes. The sky’s the limit with the Maple Leafs and you need to jump on any action you can get with them!

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Mitch Marner is the third @MapleLeafs since 1967-68 to record 40 points in 30 or fewer GP w/ the franchise.

The others: Doug Gilmour (28 GP in 1992-93 and 30 GP in 1993-94) and Darryl Sittler (28 GP in 1977-78 and 29 GP in 1976-77). #NHLStats #DETvsTOR pic.twitter.com/4YS2CFYTIQ

— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) 7 de dezembro de 2018
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2. Tampa Bay Lightning

Much like the Maple Leafs, the Lightning have overcome an injury to a key cog in their team as they have gone 10-3-0 since 2018 Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy went down with a foot injury on November 10. Nikita Kucherov has been en fuego and like Marner has to be considered an early Hart Trophy candidate, and Brayden Point is having a breakout season and seemingly lighting the lamp almost every game. This for a team that also has their captain Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, the emerging Yanni Gourde and arguably the best blue line in the game with the likes of Ryan McDonough, Victor Hedman and Mikhail Sergachev. One thing too that sometimes goes unnoticed is the preparation and in game coaching of Jon Cooper who in this humble hockey scribe’s opinion should be in the early running for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year. One also shouldn’t forget that while his stats may not be like Vasilevskiy’s, backup Louis Domingue has filled in admirably, at one point starting 11 games straight.

3. Nashville Predators

The Predators have frequently flip-flopped with the Lightning for the top spot in the NHL and have come as advertised this season. The preseason en vogue pick to come out of the Western Conference and play for the Stanley Cup for the 2nd time in the last three seasons, Nashville, like the Lightning, also had to play without their starting goaltender when Pekka Rinne missed five games in late October. Backup Juuse Saros went 3-2 in his absence and until a recent rash of injuries to the likes of Viktor Arvidsson, Kyle Turris, P.K. Subban and Filip Forsberg, the Predators were rolling towards another President’s Trophy. One should monitor the MASH list for Nashville going forward for the next two weeks, but this team has plenty of depth and thankfully still has top center Ryan Johansen and Rinne between the pipes.

4. Buffalo Sabres

We all knew the Sabres were going to be better, because let’s face it, they couldn’t get much worse than they’ve been for years now, but did anyone see a ten-game win streak coming? From November 8-29, the Sabres captivated the NHL and ripped off ten straight wins, with nine of those ten games being won by a goal. They then lost four straight, but again, all one-goal games. Buffalo is back and man, they’re exciting to watch. If you can bet a generous prop on any Sabres game being decided by a goal, I’d highly suggest doing so! This Sabres team is not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure, but they will reel you in every time you watch, as their recent 4-3 overtime loss to the Leafs did, in what was an instant classic. The future of the franchise, Jack Eichel may not be lighting the lamp as much as expected, but he’s been doing just fine setting up new linemate Jeff Skinner who is off to a roaring start with his new team and seemingly lighting the lamp at will. The big stories out of Buffalo though have been A.) the way Eichel and other youth like Sam Reinhart and Rasmus Dahlin have taken huge steps and become integral parts of their team and B.) 32-year old Carter Hutton finally getting his shot and delivering as a No.1 goalie. The Lightning and Leafs are the top guns in the Atlantic and the East right now, but the Sabres are knocking on the door a lot earlier than expected.

5. Colorado Avalanche

Mikko Rantanen-Nathan MacKinnon-Gabriel Landeskog. Ok that’s all I have to say about the Colorado Avalanche! Just kidding! While the Av’s clearly go where arguably the best line in the NHL takes them, they’re still getting contributions elsewhere, specifically on the blue line where Erik Johnson is providing a steady and calming presence and Tyson Barrie and second year player Samuel Girard are creating offense from the blue line. Mix in plenty of depth and role players with Semyon Varlamov having a Vezina worthy season between the pipes and the Av’s, like the Sabres have arrived earlier than expected. The only issue is, are they ready to keep up with and surpass their Central Division rivals, the Winnipeg Jets - whom I wavered between the Av’s and them to put here - and the Predators? Time will tell, but for now, keep riding their early success!

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