The NHL season is only a week old and there are already teams who have set their pace for the shortened season. Both hot and sloppy starts will bring many overreactions in the coming week as teams are still trying to find their identity. With all these overreactions comes one constant, the NHL is as entertaining and unpredictable as ever.
- Tampa Bay Lightning
Previous Rank – 1
Tampa came out of the gate looking as sharp as they did at the end of 2020. The Lightning dismantled a weak Chicago Blackhawks team to pick up all four points in their opening games. Tampa still looks like a Cup-winning team.
- Vegas Golden Knights
Previous Rank – 3
The Golden Knights are 4-0-0 this season defeating the Ducks and Coyotes twice by a combined nine goals. The four dominant home performances show that Vegas is what they appear to be: a true Cup contender.
- Colorado Avalanche
Previous Rank – 2
Colorado responded to their opening night loss to St. Louis with an 8-0 thrashing of the Blues two nights later. The only aspect of the Avalanche anyone should be concerned about is their awful blue shorts and gloves with their road, white uniforms.
- Philadelphia Flyers
Previous Rank – 12
The Flyers came out on fire as they won their first three of four. They have showed an impressive offensive side to their game in their three wins this season by beating their opponents by an average of three goals in each of their wins. There are still questions about this team in my opinion, but this is an almost dream start for Philly.
- Washington Capitals
Previous Rank – 9
Washington has not lost in regulation yet this season, but lost their last two in overtime. The Capitals look like they are starting a trend that many other teams in the East will follow: playing in tight, playoff-type games all season long. Washington is still a playoff team in the tough division.
- Montreal Canadiens
Previous Rank – 18
The Canadiens have had a dream start as they have picked up a point in every game so far. Their 2-0-2 record is good enough to be first in the North. It will be interesting to see how long Montreal can keep up their winning ways. I am not yet sold on the Canadiens, but they are looking promising after the first four games.
- Calgary Flames
Previous Rank – 11
Calgary has flexed their muscles early by picking up five of six points in their first three contests. The Flames also have a goal differential of +5 which is good for best in the North. Calgary will face Toronto and Montreal in their next four games which will tell us a lot about all three teams.
- Toronto Maple Leafs
Previous Rank – 10
The Leafs have played all five games tight this season, going 3-2-0 which is good enough for six points and a tie atop the North division. Toronto’s 15 goals allowed still could cause issues in the future but the offense should carry them to a playoff berth.
- St. Louis Blues
Previous Rank – 5
St. Louis is off to a 2-1-1 start, but their performances have been shaky at best. The Blues inconsistency should be contained to the first few weeks of the season but if it continues, then St. Louis could be in trouble come playoff time.
- New York Islanders
Previous Rank – 6
The Islanders split their opening series with their rival Rangers, then shutout Boston in a defensive 1-0 game to earn their second win of 2021. New York will be fine in the long run but needs to find offensive consistency to make it all the way.
- Pittsburgh Penguins
Previous Rank – 8
Pittsburgh started out rough with two bad losses in Philadelphia but rebounded with two OT wins against Washington. The Penguins are going to need to clean up the sloppy play on the blueline if they are going to want to make it out of the competitive East Division.
- Carolina Hurricanes
Previous Rank – 13
Carolina split with the young Red Wings before defeating Nashville 4-2 on Monday. The Canes are now in the middle of a COVID outbreak and their next game is scheduled for Tuesday against Tampa Bay. Carolina is still in a great playoff position.
- Nashville Predators
Previous Rank – 17
Nashville opened the year with a sweep of Columbus to assert themselves as a serious contender for the final playoff spot in the South. The Predators should be concerned about their veteran team’s decline as the year goes on.
- Boston Bruins
Previous Rank – 7
The Bruins closed an under-whelming road trip with a 1-0 loss to the Islanders. Boston has only scored four goals in three games this season and need to find their offense soon to compete in the East.
- Dallas Stars
Previous Rank – 4
The only reason Dallas is so far down is because they have not played a game yet due to COVID within the Stars organization.
- Florida Panthers
Previous Rank – 24
The Panthers beat the lowly Blackhawks twice in their first two games. Florida has been unlucky with their scheduling as they have already had four games cancelled due to other team’s COVID issues.
- New Jersey Devils
Previous Rank – 25
No one expected the Devils to take any points against Boston but they started 2-0-1. I do not expect New Jersey to keep this up but if Jack Hughes is able to keep his production where it is, then the second year forward will finally live up to his first overall pick status.
- Minnesota Wild
Previous Rank – 23
Minnesota is another team off to a great start with two comeback victories in Los Angeles and a split with Anaheim. The Wild definitely are a contender for the final playoff spot in the West.
- Edmonton Oilers
Previous Rank – 16
The Oilers are off to a slow start and underperformed in their first four games before impressing last night in Toronto. Edmonton needs to find secondary scoring if they are going to be a serious threat out of the North.
- Winnipeg Jets
Previous Rank – 20
The Jets have not given fans a good enough look at their game to properly evaluate them yet this season. One thing that can be taken away from their first three games is that they will play in a lot of close games.
- Columbus Blue Jackets
Previous Rank – 14
The Jackets have had an abysmal start only picking up three points in their first four games. The Jackets are too talented and well-coached to miss the playoff in a weak South.
- San Jose Sharks
Previous Rank – 27
The Sharks have held tight in each of their first four games giving them a 2-2-0 record. San Jose still has the ability to compete for the final playoff spot out west.
- Vancouver Canucks
Previous Rank – 15
The Canucks have been a bit disappointing to start the year going 2-3-0 in their first five games. Vancouver plays their next five games at home and needs to take advantage of the homestand and get some points.
- Arizona Coyotes
Previous Rank – 22
Arizona has started 1-2-1 which is about where they were expected to be through four games. The Coyotes dropped the first two to Vegas who they will host for the next two games.
- Detroit Red Wings
Previous Rank – 31
The Red Wings surprised some people going 2-2-0 by splitting with the Hurricanes and Blue Jackets. The young Wings’ future is looking promising, but not for this year.
- New York Rangers
Previous Rank – 19
The Rangers are the definition of underperformance. Although they split with the Islanders, the 4-3 loss to New Jersey is not going to get them into the playoffs in the elite East division.
- Los Angeles Kings
Previous Rank – 28
The Kings blew two multi-goal leads to Minnesota in their first two games and could easily be 2-1-0 instead of the 0-1-2 that they really are. The Kings are young and like Detroit have a bright future, but this year is not theirs.
- Buffalo Sabres
Previous Rank – 21
Buffalo played Washington tough and split with the Flyers, but they needed a hot start to contend in the toughest division in hockey. They simply did not get that hot start.
- Ottawa Senators
Previous Rank – 29
The 1-1-1 Senators have hung around in their three games so far, but they are in the same boat as Detroit and Los Angeles. This is not their year, but the future is promising.
- Anaheim Ducks
Previous Rank – 30
The Ducks are also who we thought they would be. The 1-2-1 Ducks should already be looking to next year’s draft.
- Chicago Blackhawks
Previous Rank – 26
Chicago is much, much worse than expected and might just be the worst team in the entire league. Their 0-3-1 start on their Florida road trip is extremely concerning for a franchise that is staring a rebuild in the face.