Vegas Golden Knights in first place: Can we call them contenders?

Vegas Golden Knights' goalie Marc-André Fleury joined Hockey Central at Noon to talk about the team's success, life in Las Vegas and the perks that come along with it.

What is happening in Vegas?

Sunday night’s resounding 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes vaulted the Vegas Golden Knights (31-11-4) into first overall in the NHL standings with 66 points, one more than the scuffling Tampa Bay Lightning.

We’re at a point in the NHL season where the next NFL game you watch will be the Super Bowl and an expansion team is setting the puck pace.

For the majority of this Vegas run, people around the league have been wondering when the dice will cool and the Knights will fall back to — at the very least — being a playoff bubble team.

But maybe it’s time to stop contemplating a Vegas slide and start wondering what this squad’s playoff ceiling is. With that in mind, we went back to find out which teams topped the league standings on Jan. 22 in the previous 10 full NHL seasons and how those clubs fared come spring.

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A quick preview: All but three advanced to at least the second round and two teams went on to win it all.

2017

First place: Washington Capitals (31-9-6), 68 points
Penthouse cushion: Two points over the Columbus Blue Jackets
Final standing: First overall
Playoff result: Lost a seven-game, second-round series to the Pittsburgh Penguins

The Caps survived a scare from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, but were ousted by their biggest rival and the defending Stanley Cup-champion Penguins, who finished with the league’s second-best mark.

2016

First place: Washington Capitals (35-8-3), 73 points
Penthouse cushion: Five points over the Chicago Blackhawks
Final standing: First overall
Playoff result: Lost a six-game, second-round series to the Pittsburgh Penguins

Wash, rinse, repeat.

2015

First place: Anaheim Ducks (31-10-6), 68 points
Penthouse cushion: Three points over the Nashville Predators
Final standing: Third overall
Playoff result: Lost a seven-game Western Conference Final to the Chicago Blackhawks

This was an excruciating loss for the Ducks, who held a 3-2 series lead on the Blackhawks but failed to get the final victory required for a Stanley Cup berth.

2014

First place: Anaheim Ducks (37-10-5), 79 points
Penthouse cushion: Four points over the Chicago Blackhawks
Final standing: Second overall
Playoff result: Lost a seven-game, second-round series to the Los Angeles Kings

This was a dark preview of the year to come. Anaheim held a 3-2 series lead over their California cousins before losing Games 6 and 7 to the eventual Cup-champion Kings.

2012

First place: Detroit Red Wings (32-15-1), 65 points
Penthouse cushion: One point over the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks
Final standing: Eighth overall
Playoff result: Lost a five-game, first-round series to the Nashville Predators

After cooling off down the stretch, the Wings couldn’t get out of the first round in Nick Lidstrom’s final season with the club.

2011

First place: Philadelphia Flyers (31-11-5), 67 points
Penthouse cushion: One point over the Vancouver Canucks
Final standing: Third overall
Playoff result: Lost a four-game, second-round series to the Boston Bruins

One year after Philly came all the way back from an 0-3 series hole to stun the Bruins, Boston swept the Flyers on the way to winning the Stanley Cup.

2010

First place: San Jose Sharks (34-10-8), 76 points
Penthouse cushion: Two points over the Chicago Blackhawks
Final standing: Second overall
Playoff result: Lost the Western Conference Final in four games to the Chicago Blackhawks

Losing to the Blackhawks hurt, but maybe the Sharks shouldn’t feel too bad given Chicago went on to win the championship that year and two more in the next five seasons.

2009

First place: San Jose Sharks (34-6-5), 73 points
Penthouse cushion: The Boston Bruins also had 73 points, but had played two more games
Final standing: First overall
Playoff result: Lost a six-game, first-round series to the Anaheim Ducks

All that work for nothing; the Sharks were stopped in their tracks during Todd McLellan’s first season behind the bench.

2008

First place: Detroit Red Wings (35-10-4), 74 points
Penthouse cushion: 10 points over the Ottawa Senators
Final standing: First overall
Playoff result: Won the Stanley Cup

Lidstrom became the first European captain of a Cup-winner as the Red Wings downed Sidney Crosby and the Penguins in a six-game final.

2007

First place: Nashville Predators (34-12-3), 71 points
Penthouse cushion: One point over the Buffalo Sabres
Final standing: Third overall
Playoff result: Lost a five-game, first-round series to the San Jose Sharks

The loss made Nashville 0-for-3 in attempts to win the first playoff series in franchise history.

2006

First place: Carolina Hurricanes (35-11-4), 74 points
Penthouse cushion: Two points over the Ottawa Senators
Final Standing: Fourth overall
Playoff result: Won the Stanley Cup

In the first season back after the devastating 2004-05 lockout, Carolina claimed the first title in franchise history by winning seven-game series over the Buffalo Sabres (in the East Final) and Edmonton Oilers (in the Cup Final) to cap a thrilling post-season.

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