Happy Halloween, hockey fans!
On the most frightening day of the year, let's take a minute to reflect on the first month of the NHL campaign, which comes to a close Wednesday night with just one game on the slate between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Vancouver Canucks. And in the spirit of Halloween, let's do so with a twist: find below one scary statistic — scary good? Scary bad? Either way, they’re scary — for every team in the NHL:
Anaheim Ducks — 14.3 shots
That’s the average shot differential in Ducks’ games so far this season, and not in favor of Anaheim. In the era of advanced statistics, this run of the mill metric tells you everything you need to know about how things are going for the Ducks. Injury issues aside, Anaheim needs to sort things out — fast.
Arizona Coyotes — .938 SP
As we wrote yesterday, it turns out the Coyotes are as good as their recent record would suggest. Better yet, even when things fall apart or Arizona hits some tough times, they’ve had one of the best goalies in the NHL over the past calendar year. Since Jan. 1, 2018, Antti Raanta has a .938 save percentage, the best of any starting netminder in the league.
Boston Bruins — 6 starts
When the Bruins signed Jaroslav Halak in the summer, he was seen as a great second option, a backup who could offer support to Tuukka Rask. Boston’s netminders have split the starts through 12 games though — six apiece — and Halak has far more impressive numbers. That Halak and Rask are splitting starts is worrisome, and the Bruins have to hope their No. 1 netminder, which should be Rask, finds his form in short order.
Buffalo Sabres — 3 points
If he wasn’t considered the pre-season favorite, Casey Mittelstadt was certainly in the top five when it came to Calder Trophy hopefuls. He was a projected second-line pivot in Buffalo. But a promising performance during his cup of coffee to end last season has been followed up by a slow start. In 12 games, Mittelstadt has one goal and three points and is averaging the second-lowest ice time of players to skate in every game for the Sabres this season. He’ll come around, but it’s been a tough start for the youngster.
Calgary Flames — .878 SP
Admittedly, this entire list could be composed of goaltenders, but was there any doubt Mike Smith would fall into the “scary bad” category? Despite a 24-save showing against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Smith has a ghastly .878 SP in nine appearances so far this season and his inconsistency could become an issue. Don’t be surprised if we see a lot of David Rittich in the coming weeks.
Carolina Hurricanes — 12 games
Sebastian Aho has registered at least one assist in every single game the Hurricanes have played this season and his 12-game assist streak ties him with Ken Linseman and some guy named Wayne Gretzky for the longest season-opening helper streak in NHL history. Aho’s four goals and 17 points put him among the league leaders, and it appears he hasn’t missed a beat from his otherworldly performance for Finland at the World Championships.
Chicago Blackhawks — 11 goals
After winning the Hart, Lindsay and Art Ross Trophies in 2015-16 with a 106-point campaign, Patrick Kane has seen his point and goal totals dip in each of the past two seasons. Last season’s 27 goals and 76 points made for his lowest per-game averages since his early 20s. But lo and behold, Kane looks like he’s going to rectify that this season. In a dozen games, he’s already nearly halfway to last season’s goal total — he has 11, as noted above — and his 18 points put him well on his way to another point per game season, at the very least.
Colorado Avalanche — 55 points
Maybe this falls into both the good and bad categories. Combined, Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog have scored 24 goals and 55 points. They have been, far and away, the most effective trio in the league this season. The bad news? The rest of the Avalanche have combined for 17 goals and 48 points. Usually, it’s depth that wins in the long run. Colorado seems to be lacking in that area.
Columbus Blue Jackets — 118 days
Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen has one of the most important decisions to make of anyone in hockey. Come the trade deadline, which is, you guessed it, 118 days away, Columbus will need to decide the fates of Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin. It seems unlikely both — or even one of the two — signs on to stay in Columbus beyond this season. So, will the Blue Jackets hold on to both and go for it at the risk of losing Panarin and/or Bobrovsky for nothing? Or will Kekalainen trade one or both of his Russian stars?
Dallas Stars — 21:14
Miro Heiskanen isn’t going to win the Calder Trophy. That’s a safe bet. But the Stars may have one of the NHL’s most impactful rookies this season in the young blueliner. He has been leaned on heavily by coach Jim Montgomery, and Heiskanen has stepped up to the challenge. If this is how he plays as a rookie, too, the Stars may have a future Norris Trophy candidate on their hands.
Detroit Red Wings — 16 goals
The Red Wings’ goal differential is an ugly minus-16 and we’re not even through the first month of the campaign. At this rate, Detroit is on pace to end the season with a goal differential of at least minus-100. The Red Wings’ front office may be opposed to going into tank mode, but it might not matter. This team appears destined for top-three odds in the draft lottery.
Edmonton Oilers — 134 points
As a general rule, you shouldn’t put much stock in on-pace numbers before, say, mid-season. It’s too easy for a big game or two to sway things. When it comes to Connor McDavid, though, it’s hard to wave off his current on-pace totals of 67 goals and 134 points, as ridiculous as it may sound. The Oilers’ human highlight reel has been on overdrive this season.
Florida Panthers — .871 SP
There’s no use picking on James Reimer or Michael Hutchinson individually, because neither Panthers netminder has been all that good. In five starts, Reimer has been torched for 18 goals against on 148 shots. Hutchinson, meanwhile, has surrendered 14 goals against on 87 shots. It’s not as though the Panthers are giving up great opportunities all that often, either, which makes the combined .871 SP of the two netminders worrisome at best.
Los Angeles Kings — 22 goals
Patrick Kane and David Pastrnak, the league’s two leading goal scorers through the first month of the campaign, have combined for 22 goals this season. The entire Kings roster — from Ilya Kovalchuk and Jeff Carter to Anze Kopitar and Tyler Toffoli — has combined for 22 goals in 11 games. At their current pace, the Kings would match the 2001-02 Columbus Blue Jackets for the fourth-lowest single-season goal total in a campaign of at least 80 games since the beginning of the post-expansion era.
Minnesota Wild — .955 SP
Last season’s Devan Dubnyk wasn’t the Devan Dubnyk that Wild fans have grown accustomed to seeing. He was quite frankly pedestrian after two top-five Vezina Trophy finishes in his previous three campaigns. But Dubnyk has been at the very top of his game through the early part of this season, and his 5-on-5 SP is something to behold. Of the 29 netminders with at least 300 minutes played at 5-on-5, Dubnyk’s .935 SP is second best in the NHL. His .937 all-strengths is fourth among netminders with five starts.
Montreal Canadiens — 11 points
The knee jerk reaction to the Canadiens’ swap of Alex Galchenyuk and Max Domi this off-season was that Montreal had made a horrible mistake. Well, who’s laughing now? After getting into suspension trouble in the pre-season, Domi has reined it in and is off to a roaring start. He has five goals and 11 points in 11 games, which puts him well on his way to setting new career-best marks. Montreal has also been a surprising success story in the early going.
Nashville Predators — 10 goals
No player in Predators history has scored more than 33 goals in a single season, if you can believe it. It’s a record that has stood since Jason Arnott’s 33-goal campaign in 2008-09, though Filip Forsberg matched the mark during the 2015-16 season. Barring injury, though, Forsberg is in line to smash the Nashville record this season. He already has 10 goals in 12 games, and a 40-goal season seems well within his reach.
New Jersey Devils — 0 points
Here’s a list of the four players picked immediately following the Devils’ selection of Pavel Zacha, who has yet to register a point this season, at the 2015 draft: Ivan Provorov, Zach Werenski, Timo Meier and Mikko Rantanen. You can’t say with a straight face that New Jersey doesn’t wish they had a mulligan. This is a make-or-break year for Zacha, and it isn’t starting well.
New York Islanders — 97 points
Speaking of players the Devils passed on in 2015, there’s this kid in New York you may have heard of named Mat Barzal. Well, he’s five games away from playing his 100th contest in the NHL and only three points shy of his 100th NHL point. The Islanders aren’t going to forget about John Tavares, but his departure might be less of a sore spot if Barzal continues to prove himself to be one of the game’s most talented offensive players.
New York Rangers — 11:54
Vladislav Namestnikov went from a top-tier producer with the Tampa Bay Lightning to a struggling second-liner with the Rangers once he made the move at last season’s deadline, and this season hasn’t gone according to plan for the pivot. He has one goal and three points and has the lowest average ice time of any forward to appear in at least 10 games for New York this season.
Ottawa Senators — .909 SP
Craig Anderson began the season playing out of his mind, giving off the appearance that he was destined for another big year. His past five outings have been ugly, though, with Anderson posting a combined .890 SP as his season-to-date SP dove to .909. Anderson has lost four games in a row, and the Senators appear as though they’re about to start their slide to the bottom of the standings.
Philadelphia Flyers — 4.00
The Flyers average the sixth-best shots against total in the NHL. They are in the top half of the league in possession percentages. Yet, the only team that has allowed as many goals against per game is the Senators. Not a single goaltender the Flyers have used this season has a SP above .900, and Brian Elliott, Calvin Pickard and Michal Neuvirth all have goals-against averages above three. Yikes.
Pittsburgh Penguins — 81 points
Connor McDavid is first in league scoring since the beginning of 2018 with 81 points in 54 games. He’s tied, however, with Evgeni Malkin, who also has 81 points. The difference? Malkin actually has a higher per-game rate than McDavid, scoring his 81 points in two fewer games. The Penguins pivot has 19 points in 10 games this season and looks primed to pick apart the league again.
San Jose Sharks — 0 percent
That’s Erik Karlsson’s shooting percentage. He hasn’t scored once this season. Don’t mistake this for a bad statistic, though, because this is to say that eventually the dam is going to break given that Karlsson ranks third on the Sharks in shots. It’s coming, and when it does, San Jose, which is already ninth in goals per game, is going to be that much more explosive.
St Louis Blues — 14 points
It would be too easy to pick on the Blues’ goaltenders, so let’s give those in St. Louis a reason to be hopeful. Ryan O’Reilly has proven to be arguably the best summer acquisition in the NHL through the early season. In 10 games, O’Reilly has three goals and 14 points and he’s been a bonafide No. 1 center. He is skating nearly 21 minutes per game and winning 62 percent of his faceoffs.
Tampa Bay Lightning — 93.2 percent
Say what you will for a powerful power play, but it’s killing off the penalties you take that makes all the difference. The Lightning are the league leaders through the early part of the season, killing an outstanding 93.2 percent of their penalties. Incredibly, they’ve only surrendered one more goal against (three) than they have goals for (two) on the PK.
Toronto Maple Leafs — 10 points
William Nylander? Who needs him, right? Kasperi Kapanen has slid into the lineup seamlessly and he’s earning his keep with six goals and 10 points in 12 games. The injury to Auston Matthews means Kapanen is without his regular center, but that didn’t stop him from skating a season high 19:11 against the Calgary Flames.
Vancouver Canucks — 7 goals
Nothing in Vancouver has been as exciting as Elias Pettersson’s start. The Swedish sensation has scored seven goals in his first seven big league games, and he’s done so in highlight reel fashion. He’s better than a point per game player so far, and Pettersson is giving Canucks fans great hope for a better future.
Vegas Golden Knights — 6.3 percent
Remember all those times last season we asked when Vegas’ luck would finally run out? The answer was Oct. 3, 2018, because nothing has gone the Golden Knights’ way to start the campaign. Despite having some of the strongest underlying numbers in the league, Vegas’ 6.3 shooting percentage has resulted in a mediocre sophomore season for the NHL’s newest franchise.
Washington Capitals — .888 SP
Last season was supposed to be Braden Holtby’s down year, with his post-season performance being the catalyst for him returning to form. Instead, the playoff run Holtby had is starting to look like an outlier. He has an ugly .888 SP through eight appearances this season, and since the start of the 2017-18 season, Holtby’s .905 SP ranks 29th out of 35 netminders to play at least 41 games.
Winnipeg Jets — 3 goals
Winnipeg is hoping that a trip to Finland will light a fire under Patrik Laine. The Finnish sniper ranks second in goals across the past two seasons, but his slow start has been concerning. He’s shooting 6.8 percent on 44 shots and poor recent performances have found him skating on the fourth line. His current pace would see him end the season with 21 goals and 35 points.