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The Canadiens are no longer Carey Price and a prayer; awful start in Columbus may bring change to bottom-dwelling Blue Jackets.

By Allan Muir
October 20, 2015

It was another week of wild movement on the charts, or pretty much exactly what you’d expect in the early going as skids were corrected and good fortune ran dry. The Canadiens continued to dominate, but more important, they’re demonstrating that they don’t need Carey Price to play at an MVP level for them to win. It was jarring (but promising) to watch them attacking instead of sitting on a lead late in a 4–1 win over the Red Wings on Saturday. They face a tough test Tuesday, hosting the red-hot Blues

Games to watch this week

Biggest jump: Dallas Stars (16 to 4)

Biggest drop: Calgary Flames (15 to 29)

1
Montreal Canadiens
1
6-0-0
Not only are the Canadiens the league’s only team without a shootout or OT loss blemishing its record, but they're 6-0 for the first time in franchise history. They’ve scored more goals (20), allowed fewer (7) and have a greater differential (+13) than any team in the NHL. And they've trailed for all of three minutes this season. Safe to say they're the class of the field. Last week: 3-0-0
2
St. Louis Blues
12
5-1-0
Make that four consecutive wins on the road for one of the few Cup contenders that is off to a hot start. The Blues are really making hay at five-on-five, scoring a league-high 17 goals. And you can’t say enough about young Colton Parayko. His poise and solid decision making at both ends of the ice have been key to the blueline thriving while Kevin Shattenkirk (lower body) is out of the lineup. Last week: 4-0-0
3
Nashville Predators
7
4-1-0
We figured the Preds wouldn'’t allow many goals this season, and so far—nine in five games—they’ve lived up to their billing as one of the league’s top defensive squads. Pekka Rinne is carrying the mail in net, but Carter Hutton turned in a solid 38-save effort to hold off the Senators on Saturday night. Last week: 2-1-0
4
Dallas Stars
19
4-1-0
As expected, the Stars aren’t having any problems scoring goals—well, other than hard-luck Patrick Sharp, who is ringing the chimes like he's playing in the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The big surprise is the play of Ales Hemsky, who seems more intense in all three zones. The effort is showing up on the scoresheet (six points in five games). Hemsky didn't get his sixth point last season until Game 22. Last week: 3-0-0
5
Minnesota Wild
10
3-1-1
The Wild have dropped two straight against desperate opponents, including a 4-1 decision to Anaheim on Sunday that coach Mike Yeo thought might have been their best game of the season. Plenty of chances, no finish. It happens. They’ll face another desperate team, the Blue Jackets, on Thursday. They need to be ready for that challenge. Last week: 1-1-1
6
Washington Capitals
9
3-1-0
Nicklas Backstrom is back and after a three-point debut it looks like his off-season hip surgery went pretty well. It was a nice return to form for Braden Holtby as well. Leaving his history of slow starts in the past, he was stellar in holding the Hurricanes and the Blackhawks to a single goal apiece. Last week: 2-1-0
7
New York Islanders
18
3-1-1
Apparently Brooklyn agrees with the Islanders. After knocking off the previously unbeaten Sharks on Saturday, they are now 3-0-1 at their new home. That's no small feat considering the changes in their game-day routines and having to familiarize themselves with the nuances of the rink. Last week: 1-1-1
8
Vancouver Canucks
11
3-1-2
So much for their goaltending worries. Ryan Miller is off to a solid start at 3-1-2, with a 1.80 goals-against average and .935 save percentage. They’ve needed him, too, what with Radim Vrbata still looking for his first goal and the Sedins airmailing their best chances. Last week: 1-1-1
9
San Jose Sharks
4
4-2-0
Injuries are a challenge to any team, so perhaps the losses of key players including Logan Couture (leg) and Paul Martin (lower body) should have been expected to cool off the surprising Sharks. Still, it was shocking to see how sharply their play dropped off in road losses to the Islanders and Rangers. Maybe this team hasn’t found all the answers quite yet. Last week: 2-2-0
10
Winnipeg Jets
13
4-2-0
The penalty kill has played a big role in Winnipeg’s early success, clocking in at a solid 84%, but the Jets might want to rely on it less often. They have been shorthanded 25 times this season, fourth-most in the league, continuing a pattern that hurt them last season. A little more discipline would go a long way with this bunch. Last week: 2-1-0
11
Florida Panthers
16
3-2-0
While all eyes are fixed on Florida’s impressive cast of young forwards, it’s actually their young D that will determine their success this season. So far, it}s been a mixed bag, with Erik Gudbranson struggling and Aaron Ekblad playing at a level close to his Calder Trophy campaign. The big surprise has been Dmitri Kulikov, a difference maker with and without the puck. Last week: 2-1-0
12
New York Rangers
3
4-2-1
A switch in net (and a 22-save shutout of the Sharks by Antti Raanta) helped the Rangers break out of an early three-game slump. A fast start was the key. After opening the scoring in this one, New York has now outscored its opposition 10-2 in first periods this season. We're still looking for first goals from Rick Nash and Chris Krieder, though. Last week: 1-2-1
13
Detroit Red Wings
6
3-2-0
It's not that the Wings dropped their past two games that’s troubling. It’s how badly they were outplayed in the process by the Hurricanes and Canadiens. Detroit was outshot 76-42 in those two contests, highlighting its struggles in transition and hesitation to simply get pucks to the net. A little less fancy, a little more grit. That’s the ticket. Last week: 1-2-0
14
arizona Coyotes
8
3-2-0
Has the bubble burst already? The Coyotes allowed nine goals while dropping consecutive games, playing the sort of listless hockey we expected of them coming into the season. Special teams were a real problem, especially in a lopsided 5–3 loss to the Bruins. On the bright side, they’ve outscored their opposition 14-4 at even strength, a rate topped only by Montreal. After the Yotes play three games out East this week, we should have a better idea of where this team is at. Last week: 1-2-0
15
Tampa Bay Lightning
2
4-2-0
The pieces aren’t quite coming together yet for the Bolts, who might look worse if not for the fact they’ve played just one team that qualified for the playoffs last season. The work ethic isn’t quite there yet, something that’s especially obvious on a penalty kill that’s allowed a league-high seven goals on just 18 chances. We should learn a bit about this team during its next four games, all of which will be played on the road against Central Division opponents. Last week: 1-2-0
16
Chicago Blackhawks
5
3-3-0
The Hawks rebounded from a pair of one-goal efforts by lighting up the woeful Blue Jackets for four. Of course, that was considerably fewer than the six and seven that Columbus had allowed in its previous games, so maybe Chicago’s offense isn’t out of the woods just yet. Last week: 1-2-0
17
Ottawa Senators
15
3-2-1
Call them Triplets North. The line of Kyle Turris, Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone has been one of the most dangerous of the new season, combining for nine goals and 23 points through Ottawa’s first six games. Coach Dave Cameron is right to be concerned about the lack of secondary scoring, though. Sooner or later, that’s going to become an issue. Last week: 1-1-1
18
Anaheim Ducks
20
1-3-1
Maybe luck is starting to balance out for the Ducks. After dropping three games in which they’d held their opponents to 19, 21 and 19 shots, respectively, Anaheim finally got a win against a Minnesota team that heavily outplayed them. Funny how that works, eh? Last week: 1-2-0
19
Boston Bruins
30
2-3-0
Can the B’s play the rest of their games on the road? After opening the season by dropping three straight at home, they stabilized their situation with wins in Denver and Glendale. The offense finally came to life, scoring 11 times, including three goals on eight power play opportunities. David Krejci, with four goals and nine points, led the attack. Last week: 2-0-0
20
Pittsburgh Penguins
23
2-3-0
A pair of wins has calmed the torch-and-pitchfork crowd that gathered outside the office of coach Mike Johnston, but he and his staff remain under fire for a power play that still is looking for its first goal of the season. And someone might want to check and see if Sidney Crosby mis-set his alarm clock, too. Last week: 2-1-0
21
Philadelphia Flyers
21
2-1-1
The Flyers opened the home portion of their schedule with back-to-back shutouts of the Panthers and the Blackhawks—a good sign that they can continue their dominance at Wells Fargo Center. Now they have to prove they can win on the road. Boston will provide a good test on Wednesday night. Last week: 1-0-0
22
Edmonton Oilers
26
2-4-0
Call it a preview of coming attractions. Connor McDavid powered the Oilers to their first win of the season with a two-goal, three-point performance against the Flames on Saturday, then followed that up with a spectacular assist in a 2–1 decision over Vancouver on Sunday. Win or lose, that kid is already worth the price of admission. Last week: 2-2-0
23
Los Angeles Kings
27
2-3-0
Nice to see the Kings get back to playing smart defensive hockey, but scoring a total of five goals in regulation over their five games doesn’t afford Jonathan Quick a lot of breathing room. Tyler Toffoli, who clinched Sunday’s 2–1 win over the Avalanche, has accounted for three of those goals. Where’s the support? Last week: 2-1-0
24
Colorado Avalanche
17
2-3-0
Back-to-back appearances by Reto Berra gave the Avs their best goaltending of the season. The Swiss-born backup allowed just two goals on 73 shots and now boasts a .975 save percentage in his three appearances. He’s not bumping Semyon Varlamov to the bench any time soon, but don’t be surprised if he gets another start or two this week. Last week: 1-2-0
25
Toronto Maple Leafs
28
1-3-1
Nearly a week between games gave the Leafs time to bone up on the intricacies of Mike Babcock’s systems. The result: a 6–3 crushing of Columbus that counted as Toronto’s first win of the season, and a solid showing in a 2–1 loss to the Pens. Baby steps, but important ones, just the same. Last week: 1-1-0
26
New Jersey Devils
24
1-3-1
Please send a kind thought to New Jersey’s netminders, who have been “supported” with just one regulation goal in four of their five games. We knew this team would have trouble scoring, but wow ... Last week: 1-1-1
27
Buffalo Sabres
22
1-4-0
With a focus on process over results, there’s no shame for this team in having dropped a pair on the road. In fact, after a sluggish first frame in Florida, the Sabres put together five competitive periods against the Panthers and Lightning. Getting captain Brian Gionta back into their top six certainly helped. Last week: 0-2-0
28
Carolina Hurricanes
25
1-4-0
Their fourth-ranked penalty kill was one of the Hurricanes’ few bright spots last season. Now? Not so much. They’ve been shorthanded a league-low 11 times, but have allowed three goals. That kill rate of 72.7% ranks Carolina 25th. Last week: 1-2-0
29
Calgary Flames
14
1-4-0
A 1-4 start presents coach Bob Hartley with plenty of challenges, but the first thing he needs to address is his team’s five-on-five play. Though they’ve broken even on special teams, the Flames have been outscored 15-6 at even strength. That’s on everyone, but it might be nice if Karri Ramo or Jonas Hiller mixed in a stop every now and then, too. Last week: 0-3-0
30
Columbus Blue Jackets
29
0-6-0
If the six consecutive losses to open the season and the league-worst 30 goals allowed don’t fully illustrate their troubles, there’s this: At the last minute, owner John P. McConnell cancelled a team dinner scheduled for Sunday night. Ain’t nobody happy in Columbus and with another loss or two, change could be coming, particularly behind the bench. Last week: 0-3-0

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