The field is tight, however, save for the San Jose Sharks decisively ranking last.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Vegas Golden Knights
San Jose Sharks
The Predators, of course, are the defending Western Conference champions, and the Lightning have been thought to be on the verge of winning for a few years now, save for last year's non-playoff campaign.
At any rate, the second round is shaping up to be a doozy.
It's one of the most talked about storylines in hockey, and yet it still seems surprising.
Stop us if you've heard this before: Alex Ovechkin has never advanced past the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in his 13-year NHL career.
We can debate the reasons why until the cows come home, but the fact remains that despite producing at nearly a point-per-game clip in the postseason, the superstar's Washington Capitals teams haven't ever gone on a deep run.
Standing in his - and their - way yet again are the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have knocked Ovechkin's squad out of the second round in both of the two previous campaigns. The Penguins have actually done it three times in the last nine years, and in every case, went on to win the Stanley Cup (2009, 2016, and 2017).
In these playoffs, Ovechkin willed his club to a six-game first-round win over the Columbus Blue Jackets after the Capitals fell into a 2-0 series deficit in their own building. He guaranteed they'd return to Washington tied after four games (which they ultimately did), and helped Washington become the first team ever to win a series after dropping the first two at home in overtime.
Is this the year he finally gets into the third round?
Doctors determined that the 19-year-old will not require surgery, but he does need to immobilize the affected area for three-to-four weeks.
Despite the injury, Hischier still played all 82 regular-season games - tallying 20 goals and 52 points - and all five playoff games, in which he scored one goal.
In other injury news, the team also announced that forward Pavel Zacha suffered a ligament injury in his right hand toward the end of the season. Like Hischier, Zacha doesn't need surgery, but does require two-to-four weeks of immobilization.
The injuries mean neither player will be available for the upcoming World Championship.
There's still a long way to go in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but several players have begun to state their respective cases in the hunt for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
From veteran household names to a budding young star, here are the players who've been most valuable to their teams in the postseason so far:
5. Nikita Kucherov
Like some of his Conn Smythe competition, Kucherov averaged a goal per game (and two points per contest) in his first-round series as the Tampa Bay Lightning dispatched the New Jersey Devils in five.
Kucherov's contributions have been clutch, as three of his five goals were eventual game-winners, including the go-ahead marker in Game 4 that came after he set up the tying goal, and which was then followed by a Kucherov insurance marker.
The dynamic forward was in the Hart Trophy conversation for much of the regular season, and he's continued to thrive in the playoffs, helping the Lightning make quick work of the Devils.
4. Martin Jones
If not for the goaltender he's about to face (more on him later), Jones might be a Conn Smythe front-runner, but he certainly deserves to be in the discussion.
The San Jose Sharks netminder has been stellar so far in the postseason, allowing only four goals combined in the club's first-round sweep of the Anaheim Ducks.
Jones was ranked fifth in our first edition of these rankings last week, and then he went out and stopped 30-of-31 shots in the Sharks' series-clinching victory in Game 4.
3. David Pastrnak
Sure, the 21-year-old Boston Bruins forward cooled off after his hat trick and six-point performance in Game 2 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, notching a pair of assists in Game 4 but being held pointless in three of the next four games.
It was a timely goal that all but put away the Leafs, and it punctuated what was a tremendous series on the whole for the immensely talented young winger.
2. Sidney Crosby
Crosby is tied with Pastrnak and Jake Guentzel for the points lead so far this postseason, but unlike his Pittsburgh Penguins teammate, the captain's 2018 playoff prowess hasn't been essentially limited to one incredible game.
Yes, they both racked up six goals and 13 points in the Penguins' six-game series against the Philadelphia Flyers, and while Guentzel's four-goal, five-point eruption in Game 6 was impressive, Crosby was productive all series long with goals in four of the six games, a hat trick in Game 1, and four multi-point efforts.
Here's a look at Sid's series:
The two-time reigning Conn Smythe winner is off to a roaring start in his quest for a third - and in pursuit of a fourth Stanley Cup championship.
1. Marc-Andre Fleury
The Vegas Golden Knights haven't played a game since our first edition of the rankings, but the face of the franchise still has the best save percentage and goals-against average of any goalie in the playoffs.
In the weeks leading up to the 2018 NHL Draft, theScore NHL prospect writer Hannah Stuart breaks down 10 of the most notable draft-eligible players. The second edition focuses on Filip Zadina.
The Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL have an excellent track record when it comes to producing top-quality NHL prospects. Filip Zadina is the latest in a line that includes 2017 first overall pick and current New Jersey Devils forward Nico Hischier, and Colorado Avalanche star, 2013 No. 1 pick, and potential Hart Trophy nominee Nathan MacKinnon.
To most draft pundits, Zadina is a solid No. 3 behind Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov (though a few rank Boston University’s Brady Tkachuk ahead of him). Yet, no matter his ranking, or where he goes in June, his performance across this season shows he will be a valuable addition to any team’s prospect pool and will make an impact in the NHL sooner rather than later.
Year in review
Taken 11th overall in the 2017 CHL Import Draft out of the senior Czech league where he played with HC Dynamo Pardubice, Zadina made an immediate impact with the Mooseheads. His 82 points in 57 games, including 44 goals, were the most of all QMJHL rookies, and he was named to the league’s All-Rookie Team and First All-Star Team.
It was the 2018 World Junior Championships, however, that served as his breakthrough. With seven goals in seven games and a spot on the tournament All-Star Team, he had scouts raving and moved up from seventh among North American prospects on NHL Central Scouting’s list at midterms to second on their final list.
It’s not usually a good idea to fully form an opinion of a player based on one tournament. In this case, though, Zadina was able to use the WJC to showcase how he’s grown as a player and his offensive prowess, holding his own against not only his peers but players one and two years out from their own NHL drafts.
Areas of strength
Zadina drives play when he’s on the ice. He averaged 1.12 primary points per game (goals and primary assists) and isn’t padding that total with power-play points as much as you might expect - his even-strength points per game total is 0.82. He’s a dangerous goal-scorer with a full arsenal of shots, able to beat the opposing goaltender from seemingly anywhere on the ice. You name it, and he can probably score it.
He’s a good, but not amazing, skater with good straight-line speed and strong lateral movement and agility. While his top-end speed isn’t elite, he can evade defenders well. He’s probably the best stick-handler in this year’s draft and a strong playmaker. What's more, he’s sneaky and smart - that playmaking is driven by high-end hockey sense.
Zadina protects the puck well, sometimes holding his stick with one hand and using his body to shield the puck from opponents. He’s also a tireless worker, which is a good thing given he does have a few aspects of his game to improve at the next level.
Areas of improvement
Zadina has seen time on the Mooseheads’ penalty kill this season and is effective in breaking up shooting lanes, but his defensive positioning could use refining. The only real red flag when it comes to his play is his decision-making.
While he is an incredibly skilled puck-handler, Zadina sometimes holds onto the puck for too long, which can lead to him missing a good scoring opportunity, or can allow his opponent to force a turnover. He’ll need to improve his decision-making, rather than hemming and hawing, in order to be successful in the NHL.
“The power winger has been destroying CHL competition and saved his best performances for the Czech national team this holiday season. He uses his size and strength to create space and then delivers electric moves and finishing ability. Can beat you from anywhere on the ice. A tireless worker.” -Cam Robinson, DobberProspects.com
“Rangy skilled winger with soft sands who mixes his game-breaking skills with a tremendous appetite for success. Zadina arguably is the best forward prospect to come out of the Czech Republic in the last few seasons, and since he was (a) 16-year-old has been hand-picked to lead his country at the biggest international tournaments. He has exceptional vision and hockey sense that makes every teammate a threat to score when he is on the ice.” - Steve Kournianos, TheDraftAnalyst.com
Did you know?
Zadina won this year’s QMJHL award for Best Professional Prospect, also known as the Mike Bossy Trophy.
He was on the Czech team that won a Hlinka Tournament gold medal during the 2016-17 season.
He fired 234 shots on goal this season, averaging more than four per game.
The first installment of theScore's NHL Playoffs Power Rankings was put together by NHL editor Craig Hagerman.
1. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks did it all in the first round en route to their series sweep of the Anaheim Ducks. The club averaged four goals per game, highlighted by a crushing 8-1 win in Game 3.
San Jose has five players averaging a point per game in the playoffs, while Martin Jones has put up a save percentage of .970, second in the postseason only to Marc-Andre Fleury.
2. Winnipeg Jets
Excepting a 6-2 smackdown in Game 3 to the Minnesota Wild, the Jets cruised to their first series win in franchise history. In fact, it was after this game that Connor Hellebuyck took his play to another level, turning in two consecutive shutouts to close out the series.
The Jets are also averaging the best shot differential in the playoffs, while Adam Lowry was the only series regular who failed to record at least a point. Facing a potent offense and an elite goalie, the Nashville Predators have their hands full in Round 2.
3. Vegas Golden Knights
Fleury didn't need to prove anything more to the people of Las Vegas regarding his value to the team, but he made sure to anyway. The 33-year-old put up two shutouts in four games and allowed just three goals in the four-game sweep of the Kings.
The rest of the team could use a few more goals than they put up in Round 1, but that likely has more to do with the Kings' goaltending than it does the Golden Knights' offense.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins certainly look up to the task of competing for a third straight Stanley Cup.
The club finished the first round having registered just shy of five goals per game. Sidney Crosby looks to be in Conn Smythe Trophy form with 13 points in six games while Jake Guentzel, on the back of a four-goal output in Game 6, has equaled that tally.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning didn't steamroll the Devils in the first round, but they did make short work of them, needing just five games.
Nikita Kucherov continues to do his thing offensively, with five goals and 10 points in Round 1, and Andrei Vasilevskiy, who admitted to feeling fatigued toward the end of the season, appears no worse for wear, posting a 2.01 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage.
6. Nashville Predators
The Avalanche gave Nashville a bit of a scare in the opening round, but when it came down to it, the Predators flexed their muscles and hammered Colorado in Game 6.
Pekka Rinne proved to be human through the first five games, but with a shutout in the sixth, he's helped calm the nerves. The hope now is it's that version of Rinne we see in Round 2.
7. Washington Capitals
After dropping the first two games of their opening series to the Blue Jackets at home, the Capitals reeled off four straight wins to advance to the second round for the fourth consecutive year.
Of course, they are now poised to take on their playoff nemesis in the Penguins, but perhaps the desire to finally exercise their playoff demons will propel them past the reigning Cup champs. If John Carlson, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Nicklas Backstrom can continue their blistering pace - the quartet combined for 33 points in Round 1 - that's a distinct possibility.
8. Boston Bruins
When the Bruins lost a game to the Maple Leafs in the first round, it was tight, but when they won, it was generally in commanding fashion.
It wasn't 4-1-in-the-third-period painful, but the Maple Leafs' third-period unraveling in Game 7 that saw them give up a 4-3 lead en route to a 7-4 defeat to the Bruins certainly sunk Toronto fans.
That being said, Toronto put some doubt into a strong Boston team by coming back from a 3-1 deficit to force Game 7.
10. Colorado Avalanche
It didn't end the way the Avalanche wanted, but they took the Presidents' Trophy winners to six games after needing the penultimate night of the regular season to nail down a playoff spot.
Considering the club finished with the worst full-season record in the salary cap era just one year ago, this season was most definitely a success for the Avs.
11. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets appeared destined for a different playoff fate after finally drawing an opponent other than the Penguins.
Unfortunately, after taking the first two games on the road, the same old problem arose: Sergei Bobrovsky struggled in the playoffs. He finished the series with a 3.18 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage. The fact those are better marks than his career playoff averages says it all.
12. Philadelphia Flyers
When the Flyers won against the Penguins, they looked great. When they lost, they looked pitiful.
They gave up nearly five goals a game (28 in six contests) and managed a success rate of just 9.5 percent on the power play. That's not a winning formula.
13. New Jersey Devils
The Devils didn't make things easy for the Lightning, which is an achievement in itself.
However, the fact was unless Taylor Hall scored 12 goals in the series, New Jersey didn't stand much of a chance against the top club in the Eastern Conference.
14. Minnesota Wild
The Wild are ranked ahead of a couple teams here because they actually managed to win a game, and did so in commanding fashion.
They defeated the Jets in Game 3 by a 6-2 margin, but that was all the life they had. They laid a massive egg in the first period of Game 5, and that about says it all.
15. Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks averaged one goal per game and four against, and you just can't do that.
Of course, taking an average of seven penalties a game doesn't help your chances either.
16. Los Angeles Kings
It's surprising Jonathan Quick was able to skate off the ice of his own accord night in and night out after carrying the Kingsthroughout the entire playoffs.
He did all he could, but in the end, it's physically impossible to win a playoff series when you only score three goals.
The NHL is going to make fans wait to find out which teams land the three highest picks in the upcoming draft.
Saturday's lottery will be a little different than previous years, as the top three picks won't be revealed until the second intermission of Game 2 between the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights, according to Sportsnet.
Picks No. 15 through No. 4 will be announced earlier in the evening, during the network's pregame show beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Game 2 is scheduled to begin after 8 p.m. ET.
The Buffalo Sabres have the highest odds (18.5 percent) of securing the first overall pick by virtue of having the league's worst record this season. The Ottawa Senators and Arizona Coyotes finished with the second- and third-worst marks in the NHL, respectively.
Wayne Gretzky has reclaimed the 12,000-square-foot Thousand Oaks home he sold to former New York Mets star Lenny Dykstra over a decade ago.
"The Great One" recently bought back the property for a cool $13.5 million - $5 million less than Dysktra paid for it in 2007, according to Jack Flemming of the Los Angeles Times. Dykstra lost the house to foreclosure after declaring bankruptcy.
The property boasts six bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a theater room, gym, fenced tennis court, two guest houses, and views of the Santa Monica Mountains.