The first five days of the NHL season are in the books.
The condensed season this time around will make every point important this early on. While it’s too early to label some teams as legitimate contenders or point out any lost seasons, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things for each team to take away from their first games. Without a preseason to get back to game speed and a shorter training camp than usual, surprises shouldn’t come as unexpected.
With the first few games for most teams cleared, let’s take a look at how they all stack up, as well as where they are compared to last week.
Disclaimer: These rankings are reflective of games played and statistics recorded on or prior to January 17
1. Colorado Avalanche (Even): An 8-0 blasting of the Blues on Saturday should make the other teams in the West nervous. If the Avs can put up that type of offensive effort most nights, they’ll be difficult to beat.
2. Vegas Golden Knights (Even): Mark Stone’s captaincy got off to a good start with the Knights sweeping Anaheim and an opportunity to take advantage of a Coyotes team that will be without its captain for the first two of their four games this week. Winning streaks are always a tough ask in the NHL, but the Knights will take every point they can get for security.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning (Even): Convincing victories against the Blackhawks were a great way to get the Cup defense rolling. Steven Stamkos’s five points in the first two games are promising results for a Nikitia Kucherov-less Lightning squad.
4. Philadelphia Flyers (+3): Two strong performances against in-state rival Pittsburgh kept last season’s momentum alive, at least for the moment. Sean Couturier’s injury will sting a little, but they have the depth, firepower, and Carter Hart to make it through.
5. Washington Capitals (-1): There are definitely some things to clean up here, but five points out of six is far from a bad way to start the season. The drop is less about the Capitals’ performance more than it is the Flyers looking more impressive.
6. St. Louis Blues (-1): The 8-0 loss being fresh in people’s memories might take away from how strong they looked in the season opener. Series against the Sharks and Kings this week should provide prime bounce-back opportunities.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs (+3): Far from a perfect start, with the defense still having some holes and Frederik Andersen posting poor numbers to start the season. That said, there’s more than enough talent to keep them at the top of the North Division, and I’m all for a Joe Thornton resurgence.
8. Carolina Hurricanes (-2): The Hurricanes’ split of the opening series against Detroit is indicative of their status. Andrei Svechnikov’s rise to superstardom should help take the Hurricanes far, but inconsistent goaltending will dampen any Cup expectations.
9. Nashville Predators (+6): The Predators showed the special teams and goaltending in their opening series that they sorely lacked last season. If they can get those results consistently, the Predators will justify this early rise.
10. Boston Bruins (-2): 3 points out of 4 is nothing to complain about, but the series against the Devils showed signs of concern regarding the offense. David Pastrnak can’t come back soon enough.
11. Dallas Stars (-2): Can’t judge a team that hasn’t played a game yet due to their training camp COVID-19 outbreak. Ask about these guys next week.
12. Montreal Canadiens (+5): Victories like Saturday’s against Edmonton exemplify why some experts are high on the Canadiens. A continuation of strong play could push the Habs from analytics darling to dark horse to come out of the North in the postseason.
13. Calgary Flames (+3): They blew a two-goal lead in the season opener before Jacob Markstrom got revenge against his former team by blanking the Canucks on Saturday. Will the real Flames please stand up?
14. New York Islanders (-2): A shutout in their first game before getting shut out the next. Too early to panic about Ilya Sorokin.
15. Edmonton Oilers (-4): Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl might have to fill the scoreboard often to cover up for Edmonton’s shaky defense and goaltending. Too early to call it a disappointing season, but how many of those types of years can the two superstars be expected to endure?
16. Pittsburgh Penguins (-3): The ultimate wild card at this point of the season. Sidney Crosby can still be trusted to lead the team, but can the Penguins fix the issues that have popped up this early on?
17. Minnesota Wild (+6): Another early riser after two gutsy victories to sweep Los Angeles. If Kirill Karpizov continues to be as advertised, the Wild may be on to more than I initially thought.
18. Vancouver Canucks (-4): Elias Pettersson has gotten off to a slow start this season, and the bottom part of the lineup simply can’t be trusted to pick up the slack. J.T. Miller coming back from COVID-19 protocol could be somewhat of a remedy.
19. New York Rangers (Even): Alexis Lafreniere is still looking for his first point, and Igor Shesterkin had a rough showing to start the season. Both will have to regroup and improve if the Rangers want to have any chance at being competitive this season.
20. Winnipeg Jets (Even): Patrik Laine’s injury came at a bad time early in the season, especially after his three-point night in Winnipeg’s only game so far. If the union between the Jets and Laine is destined to end, the team will need him to be healthy in order to get the right value for him.
21. Florida Panthers (+1): The Panthers didn’t look like a team that started its season late against the Blackhawks. Just don’t get caught playing a dangerous game too often with Keith Yandle, ok?
22. Arizona Coyotes (+4): Maybe it was the fact Arizona is one of three teams to allow fans to start the season or San Jose’s porous back end, but the Coyotes will need more offensive showcases like the ones they got in their first two games to have a chance. Vegas week without Oliver Ekman-Larsson will be a true test of how real this team is.
23. Columbus Blue Jackets (-5): Columbus should be better than this, but getting outscored 8-3 by Nashville at the start of the season isn’t a recipe for success. The Pierre-Luc Dubois trade rumors might be a noisier distraction than I expected.
24. Ottawa Senators (+5): Tim Stutzle has been off to a solid start to his NHL career, while the Senators have shown more than expected in their opening series against Toronto. On a side note, it’s time to seriously consider Thomas Chabot as the next captain of the Senators.
25. New Jersey Devils (Even): A Mackenzie Blackwood breakout is just what the Devils needed to bolster their roster, as are early contributions from Jack Hughes and rookie defenseman Ty Smith. I’d be alright with the Devils being better than anticipated.
26. Buffalo Sabres (-5): Going winless in the opening series will be tough to bounce back from, especially in the cutthroat East Division. Jeff Skinner is a confusing choice for a fourth-line grinder, and the goaltending duo of Ullmark and Hutton doesn’t strike anybody as the answer in net.
27. San Jose Sharks (-3): The Sharks will need Tomas Hertl to keep up the goal-scoring if the defense is going to continue giving up premium chances regularly. How many sweeteners would San Jose have to provide just to rid themselves of Martin Jones?
28. Los Angeles Kings (-1): Two straight collapses at home are indicative of the growing pains the Kings will be facing throughout the year. The future is bright, but this season should be a forgettable one overall.
29. Anaheim Ducks (+1): Good news: Max Comtois has three goals to start the season. Bad news: those are the only goals the Ducks managed to score in their series against Vegas.
30. Detroit Red Wings (+1): Credit the Red Wings for splitting their opening series with Carolina on the back of new captain Dylan Larkin. That said, being outshot 2 to 1 isn’t something teams can get away with for long.
31. Chicago Blackhawks (-3): Collin Delia and Malcolm Subban are the only goaltending duo in the league where both are sub-.850 in save percentage and over 5 in goals against average. The already-shorthanded Blackhawks might enter their names in the Owen Power sweepstakes early.
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