The season is in full swing and some teams have started off the season with a bang. Other teams have already begun their search for the panic button. Here is this week’s 5 Hot and 5 Not.
1. Montreal Canadiens- There must be something in the water in Montreal, because the Canadiens have started the season red-hot. Most recently defeating the New York Rangers 3-0 to move to 5-0 on the season. Newly anointed Captain Max Pacioretty leads the team in goals and points with (4,6). Carey Price has continued his reign as top goaltender in the NHL. Price leads the league in wins with 4, and is already in the top ten in save percentage, goals against average and saves. A unique stat is that not a single player through 5 games has a negative in +/-.
2. San Jose Sharks- I put the Sharks at #2 for one simple reason, they have outscored opponents 12-1 through the first three games. Martin Jones looks like the best acquisition of the offseason, leading the league in save percentage, goals against average, and shutouts. The former Los Angeles King is fitting in well with his new squad. The Sharks have defeated the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and Washington Capitals, all three being potential playoff teams. However the Logan Couture news has put a slight damper on things with him being declared out 4-6 weeks with a leg injury.
3. Detroit Red Wings- No Babcock, No Problem. No Datsyuk, No Problem. The Red Wings continue to amaze us all, essentially being the St. Louis Cardinals of the NHL. They continue to be good, no matter who is in the line-up. Detroit has started the season 3-0, most recently with a big win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Goaltender Jimmy Howard has been solid with a .977 save percentage. The Wings have also gotten great production from Justin Abdelkader who has tallied 4 goals to start the season. The Wings will be tested when they head to Montreal to face the best team in the league.
4. Minnesota Wild- Zach Parise leads the league in goals with 5 and the Wild find themselves atop the Central Division at 3-0. The Wild have received solid production from all lines, as well as Devin Dubnyk, who has picked up where he left off last season. The Wild have defeated the Avalanche, Blues and Coyotes, and are currently on a West Coast road trip with games against the Kings and Ducks next. Mike Yeo has his team headed in the right direction to start the season.
5. Arizona Coyotes- Yes I know the Jets, Stars, Preds, Blues, Panthers and Canucks could all be in this position. However who would have picked the Coyotes to be 3-1 after 4 games. Especially with the schedule they started with, at Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, then at Anaheim. All of those games were wins. Not just wins, but impressive wins outscoring those teams 10-2. Mike Smith has shown flashes of what Mike Smith used to be, going 3-0 with a .959 save percentage and 1.45 goals against average. The real intrigue is how the young kids have played this season. Max Domi and Anthony Duclair both have 6 points on the season and Duclair just tallied his first career hat trick. The future is bright in Arizona.
Honorable Mentions – Dallas Stars (3-1), Florida Panthers (3-1), Nashville Predators (3-1), Philadelphia Flyers (2-1), St. Louis Blues (3-1), Vancouver Canucks (3-0-1), Winnipeg Jets (3-1)
1. Los Angeles Kings- This was a tough decision. I could have gone with a couple of options. However the Kings are the worst of the worst for me. They have a core group of guys who have won two cups, a coach that has won two cups, and have added pieces in the off-season that many people figured would help return them to the playoffs. They also have freed up cap room through the Voynov and Richards circumstances. Many people believed they would return to form from the team that missed the playoffs last year. However they have only scored 2 goals through three games and have often looked lost offensively. Yes I know he has won two cups, but I feel as though Darryl Sutter’s seat is starting to get a little warm in the City of Angels.
2. Columbus Blue Jackets- A team initially with a load of promise, is now drastically attempting to avoid being a sinking ship. They went out and acquired Brandon Saad from the Blackhawks and wanted to become a force in the Eastern Conference. However they have started 0-5 with a few bad losses. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky once regarded as a top goaltender in the league has been quoted saying, “I have zero confidence right now”. That is not something you want to hear from your starting goalie. This should fix itself, as the Jackets have too much firepower to be this bad. However, if it doesn’t they will find themselves on the outside looking in come playoff time. Todd Richards could be coaching for his job Saturday in Chicago.
3. Anaheim Ducks- With a game 7 loss to the Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals, many people crowned the Ducks as early Cup favorites. However that has not been the case. They have started off 0-2-1 through the first three, losing to the Coyotes, Canucks and Sharks. Getzlaf and company better start figuring it out soon, or Bruce Boudreau’s days might be numbered.
4. Edmonton Oilers- Tabbed the savior by many in Edmonton, Connor McDavid was expected to bring new life and a potential playoff berth to the Oilers. Four losses in their first four games however have caused many people to be nervous in Edmonton. McDavid has scored only one goal so far and is a -5 on the season. Not having Jordan Eberle in the lineup is compounding the problem. The Oilers have losses against the Blues twice, Predators and Stars, all four teams are potential playoff teams. However, if Edmonton wants to be a playoff team, then they have to beat playoff teams. The excitement has started to waver in Oil Country.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins- Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, what could go wrong? Well a lot has gone wrong so far. Crosby hasn’t tallied a point in four games. Malkin and Kessel each have only one goal and one assist, and they are going to need a lot more production from their big 3 to win games. Outside of Kris Letang and Olli Maatta their defense is questionable, and if Fluery wasn’t there, then this season would be off to an even worse start. The Pens have losses to the Stars, Coyotes, and Canadiens, but their schedule doesn’t get any easier. They have the Maple Leafs which is winnable, but then they face the Panthers, Stars, Preds and Caps in their next four games (Combined record of 11-4). Crosby, Malkin and Kessel better get on the scoreboard quickly or this season could be a potential disaster.
Honorable Mentions – Boston Bruins (1-3), Buffalo Sabres (1-3), Calgary Flames (1-2), Carolina Hurricanes (0-3), Colorado Avalanche (1-2), New Jersey Devils (0-3), Toronto Maple Leafs (0-2-1)