The first week of the NHL season is in the books. While it is too early to tell where some of these teams go, there are notable trends that could impact the rest of the season.
Take eastern Canada, for example. The Toronto Maple Leafs went all the way up to second in the NHL Power Rankings because they just keep scoring. Perhaps the Auston Matthews effect is in full force. The Ottawa Senators keep finding themselves in a shootout, which could make their season a coin flip unless Erik Karlsson returns from injury and “resurrects” the Sens in regulation or overtime.
Then there are the Montreal Canadiens. The same team that was a wreck offensively during the preseason is having trouble when it counts. That certainly does not make Carey Price happy, and they now look like one of the worst teams in the NHL.
Bold Predictions are back at the end of the article!
1. Pittsburgh Penguins: 5 points
It was not a good start for the Penguins (they gave up 15 goals in their first two games, after all), but they looked like their dominant selves to finish the week. They shut out the Predators in a Stanley Cup rematch before hanging on in Washington. Matt Murray was a main culprit in Pittsburgh early struggles, but he redeemed himself with a shutout against Nashville and allowing just two goals on 22 shots against the Capitals.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs: 6 points
The offense was somewhat extinguished against the Devils, but Toronto has been unconscious in the scoring department. They put up 15 goals in their first two games before doing just enough against a stingy Blackhawks defense to remain undefeated for one more game. Thirteen different Leafs have scored in the first four games, and James van Riemsdyk and Auston Matthews have led the balanced attack with three apiece.
3. Washington Capitals: 5 points
Washington has done the opposite of what the Penguins did. They got off to a hot start and made Carey Price look like Swiss cheese. Then they fell short against both Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. The difference? Alex Ovechkin, obviously. He had seven goals and two hat tricks in the wins and just one goal in the two losses. He still has a commanding three-goal lead over the next best scorer through week one.
4. Chicago Blackhawks: 7 points
They were not perfect, but the Blackhawks were an Auston Matthews away for doing just that. They got points in all four games, including an amazing 10 goals against Pittsburgh on Thursday. It is hard to figure out what was more impressive this week: Brandon Saad‘s four goals (including a hat trick on Thursday), Ryan Hartman‘s five points in the Thursday blowout, or Corey Crawford allowing just one goal in each of his first three starts. Or perhaps it was the Hawks going 0-6 on the power play in their 10-goal rout.
5. St. Louis Blues: 8 points
They might not score seven or more goal per game, but the Blues do know how to win. Despite playing three of their first four games on the road against the Metropolitan Division, the Blues stepped up in late-game situations. As impressive as wins in Pittsburgh and Manhattan are, they will have to keep the momentum going on the road. Their third home game is not until October 25. Alex Pietrangelo willed the Blues to an overtime victory over the Penguins, and he has four assists in his last three games.
6. Anaheim Ducks: 5 points
Anaheim’s home-heavy schedule has been mixed. Their only regulation loss was a 2-0 shutout from familiar foe Mike Smith, but John Gibson has remained steady through the first four games. He has had a save percentage of over 92% in his last three games, and he capped it off with 39 saves on 41 shots against the Islanders.
7. Columbus Blue Jackets: 4 points
I guess Raleigh never got the memo about Sonny Milano. The sparse crowd got to see the 2014 first round pick double his career goal total on one night. Before Columbus’s home opener, Milano had just one assist in seven NHL games, but he has since added at least one goal in each game in 2017-2018. He appears to be an early candidate for the Calder Trophy, and is the only Blue Jacket to score on the road so far.
8. Carolina Hurricanes: 3 points
You would think that two highly competitive home games would draw interest, right? WRONG! The home opener had plenty of fans, in which the Hurricanes won in a shootout despite a buzzer-beating goal from Mikko Koivu, but PNC Arena was incredibly empty in Tuesday’s overtime loss to Columbus. If you cannot get 8,000 fans in your arena (with an apparent “frozen” chicken salad to boot), then the Quebec rumors are going to exist. Scott Darling could not stop Sonny Milano on Tuesday despite saving 25 of 27 shots, but he did stop all 24 shots from other Jackets players.
9. Edmonton Oilers: 2 points
The Oilers made it seem like they were the new rulers of Alberta when Connor McDavid‘s hat trick was the difference in their shutout victory over the Flames. Since then, the two teams have gone in opposite directions. Edmonton came up short in Vancouver’s home opener, and Cam Talbot would struggle for the second straight game when Winnipeg got its offense and defense together. While Talbot should have no problems keeping his starting job, Laurent Brossoit shined in his season debut. He stopped all of Vancouver’s 19 shots in nearly 38 minutes of action to give the Oilers a chance at a comeback.
10. Calgary Flames: 6 points
At least for now, the Flames may have found their goaltender. Mike Smith has bent, but not broke, in his four starts, not allowing more than three goals in any of his starts. Monday was the team’s highlight of the week, as Smith shut out the Ducks in a game that was nearly postponed because of the wildfires in California. A defense that had high hopes is living up to the hype so far.
11. Los Angeles Kings: 5 points
After two outstanding nights from Jonathan Quick to begin the season, the Kings have looked like a contender again. Even after the Flames got off to a quick start on Wednesday, the offense, most notably Dustin Brown, picked Quick up and got a lead before the Flames sealed the game in overtime. Still, it has been a great start for a team that is on the fence in the playoff predictions, and not many things are better than coasting by the Sharks in front of the opposing crowd.
12. Tampa Bay Lightning: 4 points
J.T. Brown made plenty of headlines before the Lightning’s first road game, but Tampa Bay’s home-heavy start of the schedule has looked promising with plenty of scoring in the Sunshine State. After splitting their home-and-home with Florida, the Lightning pulled off a huge comeback against Washington with a Brayden Point tip-in in overtime. That win is especially important because the Lightning still have to play Pittsburgh and St. Louis before hitting the road. Point has at least a goal and an assist in each of the first three games, and he may find passing his 40 points from his rookie season quite easy.
13. Dallas Stars: 2 points
The Golden Knights made the Stars their first victims in franchise history, and it would lead to a disappointing first week for Dallas. Those losses had a lot to do with Ben Bishop getting a cut to the head while he was shutting out Vegas, and Kari Lehtonen struggled in his two appearances. Bishop came back against Detroit and held the Wings to two goals on 25 shots for the win. John Klingberg and Tyler Seguin each scored in the first period to give the Stars permanent breathing room in their first victory of the season.
14. New York Islanders: 3 points
Despite just one win in four tries, the Islanders at least improved from their 5-0 loss to Columbus on Friday. They got points in both of their home games, including one against the suddenly dangerous Blues, before falling just short in the first game of their California swing. Brock Nelson scored twice in the loss to Anaheim.
15. Ottawa Senators: 4 points
The Senators are the first team to attack the Western Canada road trip this season, and that could mean a change of the tide. Amazingly, Ottawa was in a shootout in all three games, but it took a Mark Stone goal in round five in Vancouver to get that first win. The win was especially big considering the lack of reliable options on the blue line. Johnny Oduya and Erik Karlsson both missed Tuesday’s game with lower body injuries.
16. Vegas Golden Knights: 6 points
What in the world? The expansion franchise has broken out early and made history in the process. It became the first expansion team to begin 3-0-0, and only St. Louis and Chicago have more points through week one. It should come as no surprise that the two biggest signings, James Neal and Marc-Andre Fleury, have been two of the biggest stars in the NHL. Neal has five of the team’s nine goals, and Fleury has only allowed four goals in three games. Vegas should be thankful the two Stanley Cup Finalists had a luxury at their respective positions before the expansion draft.
17. Nashville Predators: 2 points
Nashville was less than 90 seconds away from getting zero points in week one. Then they made a huge third period comeback on the Flyers at the home opener. Scott Hartnell and Filip Forsberg have carried the offense the begin the season, and they each scored twice in the their win on Tuesday.
18. New York Rangers: 2 points
Not the kind of start the Blueshirts were looking for. Henrik Lundqvist shut out the Canadiens on Sunday, but that was his lone win in a week that was went from bad (Colorado) to much worse (Toronto). His respectable loss to St. Louis is a positive, and it will be very important for him to step up with a six-game home stand beginning on Saturday. With a heavy schedule at Madison Square Garden early, the Rangers can ill-afford to play catch-up in the Metropolitan Division while relying on hefty road success.
19. New Jersey Devils: 6 points
Another team that has somehow won their first three games, the Devils may have been less likely to pull such a feat off. While beating Colorado and Buffalo is not a huge success, scoring six on Toronto while holding them to three may be one of the bigger upsets of the short season. The offense has looked unstoppable, even though Nico Hischier has just one goal for a team that drafted him in the hopes of helping one of the worst offenses last season. Jesper Bratt, whom New Jersey drafted in the sixth round of 2016, has stolen some of the rookie spotlight. The 19-year-old has points in all of his first three games, including two goals and an assist in a beatdown of Buffalo.
20. Boston Bruins: 2 points
What was supposed to be a light start to the season has turned into a disappointment. Perhaps the Avalanche are better than we realized, but as of now, the Bruins just took two awful losses to a potential bottom-dweller. Both Jake DeBrusk and Charlie McAvoy scored their first NHL goal in Thursday’s win, and David Krejci assisted on both of them to cap off a three-assist night in the first game of the season.
21. Minnesota Wild: 1 point
Minnesota starts its season with five of their first six games on the road, but the first two games were supposed to be manageable. Instead, the Wild got just one point, and that was because Mikko Koivu scored just in front of the regulation buzzer. It gets no easier, as Minnesota must visit Chicago, Winnipeg, and Calgary in the next 10 days. Former Hurricane captain Eric Staal scored in his only return to Raleigh this season.
22. Florida Panthers: 2 points
Florida’s abbreviated first week featured a split against Tampa Bay, with each team getting a win at home. The Panthers are in for a difficult October, with St. Louis, Pittsburgh (twice), Washington, Montreal, and Anaheim before concluding the month against the Lightning. A respectable October could spell good news for Florida moving forward. Evgeni Dadonov needed just one period to grab his first NHL goal in five years at the BB&T Center.
23. Philadelphia Flyers: 4 points
The problem with grabbing average goaltenders is that the defense will not be great every night. After looking good in California, the Flyers melted in Smashville. Philadelphia scored five unanswered goals in the second and third periods, but the Predators came back and turned a 5-4 deficit with under two minutes remaining into a 6-5 win in regulation. Safe to say Brian Elliott could have asked for a better Tuesday. Wayne Simmonds carried the Flyers to their two road wins, netting the hat trick in San Jose and scoring against the Ducks in overtime.
24. Winnipeg Jets: 2 points
After two awful starts from Steve Mason and quickly falling to the bottom of the defensive rankings, Paul Maurice smartly turned to Connor Hellebuyck for Monday’s visit to Edmonton. It worked out beautifully, as Hellebuyck held the Oilers to two quick goals in the second period to give the Jets their first points of the season. The Jets have been patient with Hellebuyck’s development, and his first start could point things in the right direction for the 24-year-old’s career. Nikolaj Ehlers helped Hellebuyck pick up the win with a hat trick after the Oilers tied the game at two.
25. Colorado Avalanche: 6 points
The Matt Duchene rumors have returned with the Senators expressing interest. On the ice, however, the Avalanche have surprisingly put together a string of wins. They defeated the Rangers on opening night before sweeping the season series with the Boston Bruins. It has been a Russian invasion in Colorado, as Nail Yakupov scored three times against Boston. Meanwhile, fellow Russian Semyon Varlamov has won all three of his starts, including a 29-save shutout in the TD Garden.
26. Buffalo Sabres: 1 point
Despite not allowing a power play goal on 11 chances, the Sabres have not been able to avoid the big period on defense. Having already given up six goals in Brooklyn, they imploded when they gave up four goals to New Jersey in the second period on Monday to seal a winless first week. Another season looks bleak in Buffalo. Evander Kane scored four times in his last two games, including two shorthanded goals against the Islanders, but the Sabres could not capitalize in the points column.
27. Detroit Red Wings: 4 points
Vegas is shocking everyone, but the Red Wings surprisingly won their first two games against legitimate playoff contenders. The rebuilding squad had no such fortune in Dallas, however, and Jimmy Howard, who had impressive victories against Minnesota and Ottawa, figures to see time in the desert. He stopped 37 of Ottawa’s 38 shots on Saturday, and that was a big reason why Detroit killed all seven of their power plays.
28. Arizona Coyotes: 1 point
The Coyotes started last season horribly slow, and they appear to be going in a similar direction this year. After coughing up leads to Anaheim and Vegas, the desert rivals took full advantage of their first ever home game. Antti Raanta, who was exceptional on 42 shots at home, lasted just six minutes in T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday. Perhaps the Yotes will blindly try for the first overall pick, again?
29. Montreal Canadiens: 2 points
The frustration in Montreal is already boiling over. Carey Price had a bad night in DC, but he has since been victimized with poor offensive production. The team has just five goals in their first four games, and they will surely need to beat someone other than the Sabres to make any sort of noise this season. The preseason woes might mean something after all.
30. Vancouver Canucks: 3 points
Vancouver’s offense has been better than most have feared, but the most notable player to watch has been Jacob Markstrom. With Anders Nilsson replacing Ryan Miller in the goalie roster, it is apparent that the Canucks want more playing time from Markstrom. So far, the 27-year-old Swede has fit the bill. After holding the Oilers to two goals in a surprising home-opening win, he did the same to Ottawa before falling in a shootout. He was incredible before Ryan Dzingel scored another clutch goal for the Senators.
31. San Jose Sharks: 0 points
I do not expect this to hold up all season, but the Sharks look bad. A five-game home stand against borderline playoff teams should be a confidence booster to begin the season, but the Flyers and Kings let them have it on their home ice. Now visits from the Sabres, Islanders, and Canadiens could mean trouble for a defense that desperately needs Brent Burns and Martin Jones to step up. Kevin Labanc was the lone bright spot in the home opener, scoring the first two goals of the San Jose season.
Nico Hischier picks up the hat trick at MSG on Saturday.
Rickard Rakell scores two goals in overtime.
San Jose defeats Montreal by at least four goals.