Stanley Cup Playoff Power Rankings: How the semifinalists stack up
Now that we've reached the final four of these Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's time to re-evaluate the remaining clubs.
4. Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens' unexpected run has been a terrific story, and they deserve recognition. Vanquishing the North Division champion Toronto Maple Leafs in Round 1 before sweeping the Winnipeg Jets was impressive work. The Jets couldn't pin their defeat on being without Mark Scheifele for the series' final three games, and he deserved his suspension anyway. Likewise, the Leafs couldn't - and didn't - use injuries to John Tavares and Jake Muzzin as excuses.
Montreal was the better team in both matchups. However, the Canadiens' semifinal opponent - the No. 1 team on this list - will be a much greater challenge than either of their previous foes, and it enters this stage without any significant roster concerns. Montreal is rightfully a heavy underdog, and despite Carey Price's heroics, the team that's averaging only 2.55 goals for this postseason remains the worst of the four squads still standing.
3. New York Islanders
The Islanders have looked like Bizarro World versions of themselves in these playoffs, but it's working. New York is scoring at a high rate this postseason while allowing more goals per game than any remaining team.
That's the opposite of a squad that typically locks it down defensively and doesn't produce much offense. But the playoffs are a different beast, and all that matters to the Islanders is that they're winning. They have their hands full in a final-four rematch with the No. 2 team on this list, but this is a well-coached club with skill and experience.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning looked like a well-oiled machine as they dispatched the talented Carolina Hurricanes in five games. Tampa Bay is a true juggernaut with Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos back in the fold and Andrei Vasilevskiy playing at a Vezina Trophy level.
However, there are a couple of reasons why the Lightning aren't the top squad here. For one, they've done a large portion of their damage (35% of their goals for in the playoffs entering Round 3) on the power play. Before the start of the semis, they led the NHL with a ridiculous 41.7% success rate on the man advantage this postseason. Also, the club had a subpar expected goals for percentage at five-on-five (48.75) despite its 54.29 goals for percentage in those situations during this postseason.
Tampa Bay is a powerhouse, but there's another team that's been better this spring.
1. Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights outplayed the Colorado Avalanche for most of their second-round series, a trend that wasn't too surprising considering the teams posted the same number of regular-season points.
The Golden Knights never seemed intimidated by the Avalanche, and Vegas warrants plenty of praise for knocking out the Presidents' Trophy winners, despite how close that race was down the stretch. This team looks as dangerous as ever with the likes of Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and even depth players like Mattias Janmark stepping up at key moments.
Unlike the Lightning, the Golden Knights have driven possession at five-on-five. Vegas' impressive 56.78 xGF% is the best among the quartet of remaining clubs, as is the team's 58.49 GF% and 52.95 scoring chances for percentage in those situations. Five-on-five prowess is the best indicator of future success, and the Golden Knights had to beat a tougher opponent to get where they are than the Lightning did. As such, Vegas has now proven it's the team to beat.
(Analytics source: Natural Stat Trick)