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Surprising San Jose Sharks off to scorching Week 1 start

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Rookie Tomas Hertl hung a four-goal hat on the Rangers as the Sharks capped an unbeaten week.

So maybe this wasn't a good year to predict the inexorable slide into mediocrity for the Sharks. Led by rookie sensation Tomas Hertl, they toyed with their opening-week opponents on their way to a 3-0 start that overshadowed equally auspicious beginnings for the Penguins and the surprising Avalanche, a team that can barely conceal its excitement at having Patrick Roy behind the bench.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Sabres are playing like a team that doesn't have enough experience up front, the Flyers brought so little passion that it cost Peter Laviolette his job, and the piecemeal Devils offense isn't getting it done.

And we've found that returning to play after a year off from hockey in one's late-30s is not quite like riding a bike. Here's what else we learned during the season's opening week of action.

(All records and stats through games of Tues. Oct. 8.)

NHL Power Rankings
1San Jose Sharks
Last Week: NA
Forget, for a moment, that they've scored 17 goals through just three games. The way the Sharks are launching, and preventing, shots at the net paints a vivid picture of how thoroughly they've dominated the puck possession game. San Jose leads the league in shots-for (44.3) and allowed (21.7). The next-best shot differential is Chicago's (plus-12.5).
 
2Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: NA
The Pens are off to a hot start thanks to depth scoring -- Jussi Jokinen with a hat trick against Carolina; Chuck Kobasew already has two goals -- and some stellar goaltending from the much-maligned Marc-Andre Fleury. Through three, he's allowed just three goals and sports a fat .963 save percentage.
 
3St. Louis Blues
Last Week: NA
After lighting up Tim Thomas and Jacob Markstrom in a 7-0 nailbiter, the Blues have scored 11 goals in two games, and have 10 different players on the board. Jaroslav Halak, who's being given every chance to grab the No. 1 job, set a franchise mark with his 17th career shutout in that win over the Panthers.
 
4Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: NA
Who does Semyon Varlamov think he is...Patrick Roy? Playing for one of the greatest goalies of all time might unnerve some young stoppers, but it's brought out the best in Varlamov, who allowed just one goal in each of his first three starts to go along with his .967 save percentage.
 
5Boston Bruins
Last Week: NA
Special teams keyed Boston's first-week success, with the penalty kill chipping in two shorties in an opening win over Tampa Bay before the long dormant power play clicked twice in a 4-1 dismissal of Detroit. Tuukka Rask has looked sharp, allowing only one goal-against in each while posting a .966 save percentage.
 
6Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: NA
The Hawks might be the best team in hockey, but they haven't played like it yet. They needed a few breaks to get past the Caps on opening night, then coughed up two third-period goals on the way to a shootout loss to a Lightning team that was begging to be blown out during the first two frames. But hey, The Drive for 25 straight games with at least a point is still alive...
 
7Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: NA
Well, it's not like they were gonna go 82-0, right? Toronto's three-game winning streak to start the season ended when injuries/suspensions/babies forced them to ice a Marlie-laden lineup against the Avs on Tuesday night, but the solid play and excellent goaltending they've received so far hints at a team that might be better than last year's gutsy crew.
 
8New York Islanders
Last Week: NA
Tuesday's whipping of the lifeless Coyotes left the Isles with their best start since a 3-0-0 beginning to the 2001-02 season. Perhaps the rout is a sign of better things to come at home, where they went 10-11-3 last season, the worst record among the 16 teams that made the playoffs. Michael Grabner (six points) and Frans Nielsen (five) are unlikely top-10 scorers.
 
9Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: NA
They have two wins in their first three games, but haven't looked particularly good in the process. They've scored just six goals, the power play is 0-for-8, and they're getting nothing from their third line. Yeah, that 4-1 thumping they absorbed in Boston was their third game in four nights, but how tired can you be in the first week of October?
 
10Ottawa Senators
Last Week: NA
After a brilliant defensive performance in a 1-0 win over the Sabres in their season opener, the Sens frittered away a point when they blew a lead and lost in a shootout to the hated Leafs. Bobby Ryan's feeling the pressure after going two (two!) games without scoring. And oh geez, Jason Spezza has a sore groin...
 
11Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: NA
They shrugged off a disappointing opening-night loss to San Jose with a big win over the Oilers, a comebacker from a 3-0 deficit against Calgary, a workmanlike 3-2 OT win over former teammate Cory Schneider and the Devils on Tuesday. Still, there are too many waiver-wire quality players up front for anyone to get too worked up about this 3-1 start.
 
12Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: NA
Even if you can ignore Jonathan Quick's epic goaltending gaffe on Monday night against the Rangers, there's not much positive to say about his start to the season. He was pulled from a loss to the Jets and has allowed nine goals on just 86 shots. It hasn't helped that his teammates only seem to find the urge to compete after they've fallen behind.
 
13Washington Capitals
Last Week: NA
Braden Holtby's shaky start (10 goals allowed on just 66 shots) has inspired countless beachball-enhanced Photoshop projects, and the Caps have allowed a league-worst nine even-strength goals, but they are making hay with the power play. They've connected six times on 12 chances for a chart-topping 50 percent success rate.
 
14Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: NA
After dropping their season opener in Boston, they staged third-period comebacks to power overtime wins over Chicago and Buffalo. Ben Bishop looks to have the early edge over Anders Lindback for the starting gig after two solid performances.
 
15Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: NA
They opened with that embarrassing 6-1 loss to the Avs, then allowed Minnesota to twice crawl back from two-goal deficits before finally putting the Wild away in OT. The Ducks looked much better in Teemu Selanne's return to Winnipeg, but Viktor Fasth has allowed eight goals on just 46 shots. That top goaltending job is up for grabs.
 
16Dallas Stars
Last Week: NA
Dallas Stars (1-1-0)
The new look Stars looked pretty much like the old look Stars in a defensively disjointed opening loss to the Panthers, but a stronger defensive effort in Game 2 spurred a nice 2-1 win over the Caps. Rookie Alex Chiasson, a player Dallas wisely refused to include in the Tyler Seguin deal, had a goal in each.
 
17Winnipeg Jets
Last Week: NA
This could have been a 3-0 start if Zach Bogosian's blown tire hadn't led to Corey Perry's late game-winner for the visiting Ducks on Sunday night. But while you can't beat points in the bank, the Jets can't be happy with the way they're playing, averaging 36 shots-against while landing only 26 themselves. It could be a long year for goalie Ondrej Pavelec.
 
18Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: NA
Lars Eller, red hot during last season's final month, picked up exactly where he left off with a pair of thrilling performances that point to a real breakthrough campaign for the big center. Of course, this team will live or die on the performance of Carey Price. The goaltender's play sent blood pressures spiking throughout Quebec during the Habs' 4-3 loss to the Leafs in their opener, but he rebounded nicely against the Flyers in a 4-1 Game 2 win.
 
19Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: NA
The prevailing wisdom holds that as Cam Ward goes, so go the 'Canes. But Wardo has dropped each of his first two starts while new backup Anton Khudobin looked sharp in a 2-1 win over the Flyers. After years of inadequate backup work in Raleigh, this team could really use a goaltending controversy.
 
20Calgary Flames
Last Week: NA
Amazingly, they've pulled points out of each of their first three games. Credit an offense that has lit the lamp 12 times during Calgary's 1-0-2 start. Unfortunately, they're a hot mess in their own zone, allowing 13 goals while twice blowing huge leads on the way to extra-time defeats. But hey, it's all part of the process...
 
21Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: NA
On the plus side, they didn't give up 51 shots like they did in a 4-1 loss to the Sharks, but surrendering six goals to the Islanders on just 28 chances is flat-out ugly. The state of the team's goaltending was a real concern coming into the season, and the uneven play of Mike Smith in the early going isn't soothing anyone's nerves.
 
22New York Rangers
Last Week: NA
It's not that the Rangers are playing like this season is their rumspringa, with all defensive responsibility abandoned in search for wild, hedonistic offense now that they're free of John Tortorella, but they're clearly struggling to make Alain Vigneault's system work. They've looked bad now in two of three starts and are allowing 36 shots per game -- only Buffalo and Ottawa ranked lower.
 
23Florida Panthers
Last Week: NA
They expect to be a work in progress all season long, an uneven mix of kids who are still wet behind the ears and veterans on one-year deals who are just waiting to be cashed in at the trade deadline. It looked like they might have found a stabilizer in Tim Thomas, but after a win at Dallas he failed to finish his next two starts. Now he's on the shelf indefinitely (lower-body injury), putting the reins in the hands of Jacob Markstrom.
 
24Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: NA
They came into the season counting on big things from rookies Boone Jenner and Ryan Murray, but both appeared overwhelmed in the opener. Jenner lasted less than a period on the first line, and Murray made at least one mistake that ended up in his net. Both are terrific prospects, but short-term expectations need to be pulled back.
 
25Minnesota Wild
Last Week: NA
Three games in and the Wild have yet to earn a win. They played well enough to take each of their first two games, but a found a way to drop both in overtime. Those are squandered points that could prove costly at the end of the season. The inability to manufacture a clutch goal is killing them now, but injuries might be a bigger problem. Charlie Coyle and Niklas Backstrom are both out indefinitely.
 
26Nashville Predators
Last Week: NA
The Preds won just twice during the final month last season, so it's no surprise that it took them three games to earn their first victory this year. Offense continues to be a problem with just six goals so far, though two skill players -- Filip Forsberg and Colin Wilson -- finally got on the board in Tuesday night's win over the Wild...and on the power play, no less.
 
27Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: NA
The Oil dug themselves out of an 0-3 start -- and the Power Rankings basement -- with a gritty third-period comeback against the Devils on Monday night. And while the offense is clicking with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins back in the lineup, the defense has allowed a league-leading 15 goals. Devan Dubnyk's 6.52 GAA is by far the worst in the circuit.
 
28Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: NA
The 0-3 start that sent coach Peter Laviolette to the unemployment line came to an end with a 2-1 win over the Panthers on Tuesday night, but it was hardly the kind of spirited turnaround win you expect with a new guy behind the bench. This one was all Steve Mason, whose play suggests that while the Flyers have plenty of problems right now, goaltending is not one of them.
 
29New Jersey Devils
Last Week: NA
It's not just that they're off to their slowest start in more than a decade, the Devils have blown multi-goal leads in consecutive losses to the Oilers and Flames. This was expected to be a tough season, but watching them invent ways to lose has to turn up the heat on coach Pete DeBoer.
 
30Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: NA
It took the Sabres 216 minutes to get their first lead of the season...and just over two minutes to cough up in a controversial loss to Tampa Bay on Tuesday night. The offense is a disaster with just four goals through the first four games, only two of which have come at five-on-five.
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