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The NHL’s First Month: Overreaction or not an Overreaction and the Best 16 Teams to Start

The NHL season is almost three weeks old and it has already lived up to the hype of a shortened, realigned campaign. Geographical rivalries, surprising stars, and breakout performers have all emerged in the first 10 games. Who will stick around into May and who will fade off into irrelevancy by early April?

Overreaction 

The Islanders will not be in the playoff hunt by the end of the year. 

The New York Islanders are off to a terrible start collecting eight points with a 3-5-2 record in their first 10 games. The Islanders have underwhelmed in games against the Devils and Rangers in a tough East division. The schedule will not get any easier moving forward, but the 2020 Eastern Conference runners-up will find a way to be competitive down to the wire.

The Florida Panthers will contend for the last playoff spot in the South.

The Panthers are off to a scorching start going 5-0-1 and collecting 11 points in their first six games. Florida had to deal with four cancelations due to COVID-19 outbreaks in other team’s systems and were able to overcome the adversity to start hot. The Panthers’ real test will be in mid-February when they play a three-game set against the Lightning. 

Calgary’s slow start is an omen for the rest of their season.

The Flames are off to a hot-and-cold start as it appears that a different team shows up each night. This could just be a team with many new free agent acquisitions just learning to mesh with each other early in the year. Flames fans should not be worried about the slow start in the entertaining North division.

The Rangers are the worst team in the East.

The New York Rangers are off to an abysmal 2-4-2, six-point start. After their first two games (a 4-0 loss and 5-0 win to the Islanders), New York has played in six straight one-goal games. The young Rangers are still growing and are much better than the last place slot they are in right now. They probably won’t be a playoff team in 2021, but they should be able to get out of the East’s basement.

Not an Overreaction 

Carolina can compete for first place in the South.

The Hurricanes have come out on fire notching 10 points with a 5-1-0 record. Carolina has been able to win any type of game with a 1-0 win against Tampa Bay and two high-scoring wins against Dallas. The Canes are showing the makeup of a team that can make a deep run into the playoffs this spring.

The Canadiens are a playoff team who can make some noise out of the North.

Montreal surprised everyone by starting with a 5-1-2 record in their first eight games. Their 12 points are good enough for second in the North division. The Canadiens also boast the most underrated free agent signing off the offseason; Tyler Toffoli. Toffoli leads the team in points (9) and goals (6) so far this season.

The West is exactly what it was supposed to be.

Many preseason predictions, including my own, had three teams (Colorado, Vegas, St. Louis) locked into the top three spots in the division and the last spot up for grabs. A popular pick for this final spot was the Minnesota Wild and it appears that is who it will be.

Chicago is a bottom five team in the NHL.

The Blackhawks were supposed to miss the playoffs in 2021, but their extremely slow start is setting an awful, bottom-five pace. Their nine points in ten games does not look as bad as their on-ice performance. Chicago’s performances in both Tampa and Miami reflect the real Blackhawk team in 2021.

Best 16 Power Rankings

  1. Vegas Golden Knights – 5-1-1; 11 points

2. Washington Capitals – 6-0-3; 15 points

3. Colorado Avalanche – 6-3-1; 13 points 

4. Montreal Canadiens – 5-1-2; 12 points

5. St. Louis Blues – 6-2-1; 13 points

6. Tampa Bay Lightning – 4-1-1; 9 points

7. Carolina Hurricanes – 5-1-0; 10 points 

8. Philadelphia Flyers – 7-2-1; 15 points

9. Toronto Maple Leafs – 7-2-1; 15 points

10. Boston Bruins – 5-1-2; 11 points

11. Pittsburgh Penguins – 5-3-1; 11 points

12. Dallas Stars – 4-1-1; 9 points

13. Florida Panthers – 5-0-1; 11 points

14. Minnesota Wild – 6-4-0; 12 points

15. Vancouver Canucks – 6-5-0; 12 points

16. Winnipeg Jets – 5-3-0; 10 points

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