It's tough to draw any deep insights from the first six days of regular season action, but it’s always easier to write off a fast start than a slow one. Keep an eye then on Boston and Pittsburgh, both of which have looked inept in their own zones in the early going. If coach Mike Johnston isn’t already feeling the heat, he will be if his Pens can't correct their problems on their upcoming home stand. And rumors are already swirling that Boston is quietly shopping some veterans.
Biggest jump: San Jose Sharks (21 to 4)
Biggest drop: Columbus Blue Jackets (8 to 29)
1. Montreal Canadiens
The Habs have allowed four goals in three games, which is pretty much what we’ve come to expect from this team. Alex Galchenyuk and Alexander Semin (photo above) seem to have found some chemistry on what’s been a very creative second line. If that until can make a regular dent on the scoresheet, the Canadiens will be a tough out.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
The NHL’s most fearsome offense of 2014-15 hasn't skipped a beat. The Bolts have counted for a league high 13 goals, spread out over nine players, during their first three games. Tough to stop an attack that's so well balanced.
3. New York Rangers
The Blueshirts haven’t always been great while rolling off three wins to start the season but Henrik Lundqvist sure has. The veteran netminder snapped his tradition of slow starts, posting a .943 save percentage through his first three appearances. Compared to his numbers over the past three years (.815, .896 and .876), it’s clear that he showed up ready to make a difference this season.
4. San Jose Sharks
New No. 1 netminder Martin Jones has looked sharp in teal, allowing just one goal in two starts. He’s getting a lot of help, though—the Sharks are allowing just 23.3 shots-against, six fewer than they averaged last season.
5. Chicago Blackhawks
So much for the Stanley Cup hangover. The champs were out of sorts against the Rangers on the night of their banner raising, but rebounded nicely with a home-and-home sweep of the Islanders. The second line has been sharp early on, with Patrick Kane notching a league-best six points and Russian rookie Artemi Panarin making a quick transition to life in the NHL.
6. Detroit Red Wings
The Dylan Larkin experiment is paying off nicely. The teenager is rocking a +6 rating after two games in the NHL and has been so effective that coach Jeff Blashill dropped him to the second line in order to spread out the offense. This kid’s for real.
7. Nashville Predators
No surprise the Preds are struggling to score—they have just four goals through two games—but as long as goalie Pekka Rinne is playing this well, they might not need an explosive offense. He’s stopped 56 of 57 shots so far, and was particularly sharp when Nashville ran into penalty trouble in a 2–0 win over the Oilers. A nice start for Craig Smith, too, with a goal in each game.
8. Arizona Coyotes
Yeah, it’s just two games, but how ’bout them 'Yotes? Mike Smith has stopped 67 of the 69 shots he’s faced and looked world class in the process. Nik Grossman appears to be a nice fit on the blue line. Rookie Max Domi has provided a jolt up front. And those new sweaters? Looking good, boys.
9. Washington Capitals
What can we say after only one game? Well, Alex Ovechkin is still pretty good at scoring goals.
10. Minnesota Wild
The Wild followed up a nice come-from-behind win over the Avs in their season opener with a just-hang-on victory over the Blues. The 2-0 start is nice, but the way they’re winning suggests this team has some work to do in all three zones. Nice to see Zach Parise (four goals) get off to a quick start, though.
11. Vancouver Canucks
Lots of buzz in Vancouver about the strong play of the kids, but how about the old man? Ryan Miller is off to a terrific start, having allowed just five goals in three games. He slayed a personal dragon on Monday night, allowing just one goal to an Anaheim team that owned him last season.
12. St. Louis Blues
Saturday’s loss in Minnesota was frustrating, but more for the concussion suffered by promising rookie Robby Fabbri than coming up short in the 3–2 decision. The Blues outshot the Wild 32-19, including 13-1 in the third, suggesting they deserved a better fate. They’ll miss Fabbri’s speed and creativity if he’s sidelined for long.
13. Winnipeg Jets
Maybe we shouldn’t read too much into one flat performance, especially after two solid road wins, but Winnipeg's parade to the box in Monday’s 4–2 loss to the Isles shouldn’t be ignored, either. The Jets were the NHL’s most penalized team last season and that lack of discipline hurt them time and time again. Coach Paul Maurice needs to get this under control.
14. Calgary Flames
No sign of a sophomore slump for Johnny Gaudreau. The 2014 Calder Trophy runner-up figured into each of Calgary’s four goals in the Flames’ opening split with the Canucks. Now if only they could generate some secondary scoring.
15. Ottawa Senators
Another team that’s taking too many penalties in the early going, the Sens could use a jolt of discipline. They could also use some secondary scoring. Kyle Turris, Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman are doing all the heavy lifting.
16. Florida Panthers
The power play giveth and the power play taketh away. The Cats were explosive with the extra man in their season opener, clicking three times in a 7–1 romp over the Flyers. Then they went 0-for-6 on the way to a 1–0 loss in the rematch.
17. Colorado Avalanche
After a pair of games featuring massive lead changes, the Avs look like they might be the league’s most entertaining—or maddening—team this season. Nathan McKinnon has looked sharp. So has free agent acquisition Francois Beauchemin, who has a league-best five assists in just two games.
18. New York Islanders
Probably should go easier on a team that’s had to play through three games of second and third-string goaltending, particularly in two against the defending Cup champs, but the Isles haven’t shown much in the early going. And their fans haven't either. Opening night at Barclays Center was nearly full but Monday’s game drew only 11,183, well under capacity, on a holiday. There are also grumblings about the ice quality in the new building.
19. Dallas Stars
Maybe Antti Niemi isn’t the answer in net after all. The long-time Sharks starter was brilliant in his Dallas debut, shutting out the Pittsburgh Penguins. Then he allowed six goals on just 28 shots in a loss to the Avs. In other words, he’s Kari Lehtonen in a different sweater.
20. Anaheim Ducks
Two games into the season and coach Bruce Boudreau already has the line blender cranked up to puree. The offense has generated one goal through the first 125 minutes, and that came from defenseman Sami Vatanen. At least Frederik Andersen is off to a solid start, allowing just four goals to keep his team close in both losses.
21. Philadelphia Flyers
Probably not a good sign that captain Claude Giroux felt the need to call a team meeting after just two games, but it seems to have helped. The Flyers earned their first win of the season Monday night, a 1-0 shutout of the Panthers, and looked cohesive in the process. Giroux was a big part of that with his strong play on the penalty kill.
22. Buffalo Sabres
They got their first win Monday night, but they were picking scraps off the bone against the struggling Blue Jackets. Goaltending is an issue after losing Robin Lehner (sprained right ankle) for 10 weeks and the forward lines remain a work in progress. But that Eichel kid? He looks pretty good.
23. Pittsburgh Penguins
It’s not the 0-2 start that should be troubling. It’s how the Pens have looked in the process. Sidney Crosby has gone two games without a shot for the first time since 2010, the power play is a miserable 0-for-7 and the penalty kill can’t seem to clear the zone. On the bright side: they play their next five games at home. That should allow for the practice time needed to work out the obvious kinks.
24. New Jersey Devils
On the plus side, the Devils were more involved in their loss to the Capitals than they were in their opener against the Jets, but that’s not to say this team plays with much jam. To stay competitive with so little skill, the Devils need to become much harder to play against.
25. Carolina Hurricanes
It’s gotten ugly early for the Canes. Top-four defenseman James Wisniewski tore his ACL 47 seconds into the season and is out for six months. Cam Ward probably wishes he could join him. The veteran netminder has an .848 save percentage after two games and could be ready to cede the net to Eddie Lack.
26. Edmonton Oilers
Forget about Connor McDavid’s inauspicious start. Two games into the season and the Oilers have yet to score a goal—the one they picked up against St. Louis in their opener was off an Alex Pietrangelo miscue. On the bright side, though, Cam Talbot has been brilliant in net, giving his teammates a chance to win both nights.
27. Los Angeles Kings
It’s like last season never ended for these Kings ... and that’s not a good thing. The defense is in disarray, they’ve been outscored 9-2 through their first two games and Jonathan Quick has an .833 save percentage.
28. Toronto Maple Leafs
If Mike Babcock wasn’t already certain what he signed up for, he sure is now. While there have been moments of coherence, this team still falls too easily into old habits. It’s going to be a long season.
29. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Jackets are playing like a team that spent too much time reading its preseason hype. There’s been an obvious lack of two-way commitment as they’ve been outscored 13-6, but the biggest problem might be a penalty kill that has allowed a league-high four goals on 11 chances.
30. Boston Bruins
Well, this got nasty in a hurry. The B’s have been a defensive disaster, allowing 16 goals in a trio of season-opening losses. Guess Matt Irwin, who was on the ice for eight of the first 10 but was waived before Monday’s 6–3 loss to Tampa Bay, wasn't the only problem. With their next two on the road, this hole could get deep in a hurry.