We’re nearly one month through the NHL season, which means we’ll blink tomorrow and it’ll be April.
The Buffalo Sabres are atop the league standings, the Edmonton Oilers are the best team in the Pacific, and 22 of the 31 teams have at least 10 points. Clearly, the season is going exactly how we all predicted.
There’s plenty of time for all of this to change, but this month has provided a lot of surprises, many disappointments, and all-around mass paranoia. Here are some of the notables through the first month of the season. We’ll try to do more of these each month to see how much has changed.
Check Out More NHL Content Here
Hart Trophy Favorite: David Pastrnak, F, Boston Bruins. The two players I might take over Pastrnak right now are Nathan MacKinnon and Connor McDavid. Pasta is being served in giant portions in Boston right now; he entered Tuesday’s game against San Jose leading the league with 23 points. He’s been outstanding for the reigning Eastern Conference champions and he’s the best player in the league right now.
Norris Trophy Favorite: John Carlson, D, Washington Capitals. It’s not a Karlsson that’s the best defenseman right now. This Carlson has scored a point in 11 of 13 games entering Tuesday’s contest against Toronto. Carlson is three points from becoming the greatest scoring defenseman in team history. The fact that he’s two points (five goals, 16 assists) behind Pastrnak for the league lead is absurd.
Jack Adams Favorite: Ralph Krueger, Buffalo Sabres. I still need to see more from Buffalo against tougher competition, but a 9-2-2 start for the Sabres is still outstanding. Krueger has Buffalo playing extremely well. As long as Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark don’t slip up, Buffalo may be able to keep this going.
Biggest Surprise: Vancouver Canucks. Entering the new year, the only thing holding Vancouver (7-3-1) back from contending for a playoff spot was their goaltending. Thatcher Demko has been on fire (3-1-0, .941 save percentage, 1.73 GAA) and Jacob Markstrom has held his own (4-2-1, .920 save percentage, 2.53 GAA). If that can be sustained, and if Elias Pettersson and company can stay healthy, we may be talking about the Canucks fighting for a playoff spot.
Biggest Disappointment: New Jersey Devils. Trade for P.K. Subban, trade for Nikita Gusev, draft Jack Hughes with the No. 1 pick, and yet New Jersey is cellar-dwellers with six points through nine games. John Hynes’ seat is hotter than, well, hell. The Devils need to get something going or they’ll lose more than games come April. Taylor Hall will be on the first plane out.
No need to panic: Tampa Bay Lightning. The sky isn’t falling yet in Tampa, but the 5-3-2 start heading into a four-game road trip starting Tuesday at New York isn’t great. Whether it’s shell-shock from last season’s playoff failure or just getting off to a slow start, you have to expect the Lightning to strike soon. A home-and-home with Buffalo on Nov. 8-9 should do the trick.
Time to panic: Los Angeles Kings. Someone go say a prayer for Jonathan Quick and get him out of L.A. The Stanley Cup-winning goaltender is 2-5-0 with an ungodly .849 save percentage and horrid 4.48 GAA. The Kings were expected to compete for a playoff spot under new coach Todd McLellan, but a firesale might be a better way to go. Quick and Anze Kopitar deserve better than this.
Here’s more predictions as we head toward November:
Flames at Predators: Nashville leads the league with 4.09 goals per game. Calgary has allowed 12 goals in the past three games. Math does not suit the Flames well, and the Preds are 5-1-1 at home. PREDATORS
Stars at Avalanche: After a letdown Saturday in its first regulation loss at home this season, Colorado should bounce back against a Dallas team that was neck-and-neck with New Jersey for my pick of biggest disappointment. AVALANCHE
Blues at Wild: Vladimir Tarasenko is out for the next five months, which is bad news for the reigning Stanley Cup champs. The good news is, they’re still much better than Minnesota at this juncture. BLUES
Last week: 2-1
WHAT’S IN A GT VIP ACCOUNT? Amazing content, analysis, stats, and a digital paper for only 21 cents a day.