Eric Stephens’ NHL power rankings

Gary Bettman is finding what he wanted. People, get ready for any Nashville-Tampa Bay collision course in the Stanley Cup Final. Original Six, be damned. Let 1990s-era expansion rule.

Fine, let’s pump the brakes on that for now. A lot can and can happen before we get to June and we’ve discovered precious tiny in the NHL is assured. It is not as if Nashville and Tampa Bay have lapped the rest in the league.

We’ve already observed winning the regular-season title doesn’t imply hoisting the Cup will follow. Chicago did it in 2013 but that was inside the confines of a 48-game lockout season (Once again, Gary Bettman got what he wanted).

But Nashville has taken off since sage basic manager David Poile pulled off the perfect-fit Kyle Turris heist from Ottawa and Tampa Bay has been cruising along at a high altitude because Steven Stamkos came back healthful. By the way, can teammates share league MVP honors? (Hi, Nikita Kucherov).

At the moment, these two could be head and shoulders above the competitors. Will it keep that way? (Records in parentheses are as of Sunday’s games).

1. Lightning (24-6-2). Mikhail Sergachev is amongst the major scoring defensemen with eight objectives and 23 points. He’s 19 and, nicely, GM Steve Yzerman essentially stole him from Montreal.

2. Predators (21-7-4). If Tampa Bay hadn’t stretched its win streak to seven, the Stanley Cup finalist could be on top rated. Just blew via Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary to a 13-1 count.

three. Golden Knights (21-9-2). Hold questioning their staying power, when you dare. Marc-Andre Fleury is 2-0-1 due to the fact coming back from a concussion, having a win more than Pittsburgh in his 1st game against his old group.

4. Capitals (21-12-1). Not true bullish on their long-term prospects, but they’re 7-1-0 over previous eight and 10-2-0 more than 12. Matt Niskanen’s return towards the blue line has been essential.

5. Blues (22-11-2). Have dropped three of four and scored only 3 goals more than that span. Is it a coincidence the dip comes soon after losing Jaden Schwartz to a long-term ankle injury?