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With No. 1 Montreal shooting for a record start to a season, Washington has unleashed firepower that will keep the Caps in the hunt.

By Allan Muir
October 27, 2015

While the Canadiens look to be the class of the league, the Capitals are quietly putting together a start that suggests they won’t stray far from the pace. While centers Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov are driving the attack (more on them below), they're getting solid production from wingers T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams as well. The newcomers have brought balance to Washington’s offense, helping it generate more possession time (and shots) across each of the four lines.

• Rising star Kuznetsov is one seriously funny guy

Biggest jump: Los Angeles Kings (23 to 9)

Biggest drop: Vancouver Canucks (8 to 22)

1Montreal Canadiens
last week: 1
record: 9-0-0

The Habs made it a record nine straight regulation wins since Opening Night the hard way on Saturday night, coughing up 52 shots to the Maple Leafs in a 5–3 win. It marked the first time all season they’d allowed more than two goals-against, but they maintained their streak of not allowing a first-period tally, a stat that speaks volumes about their preparation. They'll look to tie the league record for the longest winning streak to start a season with a victory in Vancouver on Tuesday night. Last week: 3-0-0

2Washington Capitals
last week: 6
record: 6-1-0

A sweep of their Western Canada swing ran Washington’s winning streak to five games during which they’ve outscored their opposition 24-10. Evgeni Kuznetsov staged his coming out party on the trip, tallying nine points including a career-high five in a 7–4 win over the Oilers on Friday. Meanwhile, Nicklas Backstrom has posted multiple points in three of four games since returning from hip surgery. Been a long time since the Caps had a 1-2 punch at center like this. Last week: 3-0-0

3Nashville Predators
last week: 3
record: 6-1-1

The Preds are quietly piling up wins on the ice but they’re making plenty of noise off it. GM David Poile proved himself a master of the black arts (again) with the Mattias Ekholm extension. That six-year, $22.5 million deal with the defenseman might end up being the best value contract signed this season. Last week: 2-0-1

4Dallas Stars
last week: 4
record: 6-2-0

After sweeping their four-game tour of the Eastern Conference, it isn’t surprising that the Stars came out flat in the first of four straight at home. Although their 6–2 loss to the Panthers stung, Dallas managed to maintain its excellent special teams play. The Stars have killed off 15 consecutive chances over their past six games and they scored their eighth goal on the power play, tying them for the league lead. Last week: 2-1-0

5New York Islanders
last week: 7
record: 6-2-1

The Isles have won six of seven, including four of their past five at home. They’re averaging 3.44 goals per game, up nearly half a tally on last season’s pace. Nice to see Josh Bailey chipping in. The often maligned forward has five points in his past five games and is playing some of the best hockey of his career. Last week: 3-1-0

6Minnesota Wild
last week: 5
record: 5-2-1

The word is that goalie Devan Dubnyk can’t do any more damage to his injured knee by playing on it, but man, did he look uncomfortable at times during the Wild’s 5–4 loss to Winnipeg over the weekend. It sounds like he’s planning on battling through it. Whoever’s backing him up better stay loose. Last week: 2-1-0

7St. Louis Blues
last week: 2
record: 5-2-1

With three of their top-six forwards—Paul Stastny (broken foot), Jaden Schwartz (broken ankle) and Robby Fabbri (concussion)—as well as No. 1 defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (lower body) sidelined by injuries, the Blues were destined to run into trouble last week. Full marks, though, for putting up 40 shots, and erasing a two-goal deficit in the third period against the Isles before falling in overtime. Last week: 0-1-1

8Winnipeg Jets
last week: 10
record: 5-2-1

If the Jets are going to make noise in the Central they need to pile up wins against their divisional rivals. Grabbing two points from a hard-fought game against the Wild was huge. Blake Wheeler is off to a franchise-record start with points in each of his team’s first eight games. Last week: 1-0-1

9Los Angeles Kings
last week: 23
record: 5-3-0

After spotting the rest of the division a three-game head start, the Kings have stormed toward the top of the Pacific standings with five straight wins. Nice move by Darryl Sutter to shift Milan Lucic off the top line and onto a new unit alongside Tyler Toffoli (six goals) and Jeff Carter. Looks like that trio might have some chemistry. Last week: 3-0-0

10Chicago Blackhawks
last week: 16
record: 6-3-0

Maybe losing Duncan Keith wasn’t such a big deal, after all. The Hawks allowed just two goals last week while shutting out both the Lightning and the Ducks. They’re now second in the league with a 1.78 team goals-against average. Last week: 3-0-0

11Florida Panthers
last week: 11
record: 4-3-1

Their big win in Dallas proved what this team is capable of when it brings its A game. The Cats will need a few more of those over the next month to compensate for the absence of first-liner Sasha Barkov (2-to-4 weeks, broken hand). Last week: 1-1-1

12New York Rangers
last week: 12
record: 6-2-2

This team never quite seems to be firing on all cylinders, but somehow it has salted away 14 of 20 possible points. The Blueshirts might make some noise if they ever get it together. Last week: 2-0-1

13San Jose Sharks
last week: 9
record: 5-3-0

Joel Ward’s hat trick helped them snap a three-game losing skid on Saturday, but the Sharks were soundly outworked and outplayed by the Hurricanes. They have a couple of tough tests ahead this week with games against the Preds and Stars. Last week: 1-1-0

14Tampa Bay Lightning
last week: 15
record: 5-2-2

The Lightning rode the goalie-go-round last week, waiving Kevin Poulin, resting Ben Bishop and recalling Kristers Gudlevskis, who made 31 stops in his first NHL start in 19 months, a 1–0 OT loss to the Blackhawks. With Andrei Vasilevskiy returning to practice this week after missing time with blood clots, the Bolts have some decisions to make between the pipes. Last week: 1-0-2

15Detroit Red Wings
last week: 13
record: 4-3-1

With Brad Richards (back/lower body), Mike Green (upper body) and Kyle Quincey (concussion) out of the lineup, the Wings finally got some good news on the injury front: Pavel Datsyuk skated with the team on Monday and remains on target for a mid-November return from his ankle injury. Keep an eye on Dylan Larkin this week. If he plays on Friday night in Ottawa it will be his 10th game of the season, the trigger that burns a year of his contract. He’s earned it. Last week: 1-1-1

arizona Coyotes
last week: 14
record: 5-3-1

With two wins (and a loser point) in hand, the 'Yotes are guaranteed to at least break even on their five-game swing through the Eastern Conference with one game left to play. For a team that went just 10-19-3 against the East last season, that’s the sort of improvement it can take to the bank. Last week: 2-1-1

17Ottawa Senators
last week: 17
record: 3-3-2

The injuries are mounting in Ottawa and so are the losses. Mike Hoffman (lower body), Curtis Lazar (upper body) and Marc Methot (concussion) have missed time and that's led the Sens to drop three straight at home and four in a row in total. Last week: 1-1-1

18Pittsburgh Penguins
last week: 20
record: 4-4-0

Two overtime wins might have granted coach Mike Johnston a few extra days on the job, but no one who is looking objectively at this team believes it is all it could be. The Pens rank 29th in goal scoring and Sidney Crosby has been reduced to a spectator by Johnston’s scheme. How much longer can management stomach the passivity without making a change? Last week: 2-1-0

19New Jersey Devils
last week: 26
record: 4-3-1

The Devils settled for the loser point a league-high 21 times last season and it cost them a spot in the playoffs. They’re addressing that problem early now, going 3-1 in extra time after a pair of wins last week. Lee Stempniak has been key, factoring on all three game winners. Last week: 3-0-0

20Philadelphia Flyers
last week: 21
record: 4-2-1

New bench boss Dave Hakstol has the Flyers off to a strong start, which is great news for college coaches who dream of following in his footsteps to the NHL. As a group, Philly is playing with more energy and more consistency and getting more pucks to the net. The Flyers lead the league with an average of 35.1 shots per game. Last week: 2-1-0

21Boston Bruins
last week: 19
record: 3-3-1

The Bruins finally get their power play on track—they’ve scored eight goals and lead the league with a 33.3% success rate—and just as suddenly their goaltending goes off the rails. Tuukka Rask has just one win in five appearances and some awful boxcar numbers (4.40 GAA and .854 save percentage). With backup Jonas Gustavsson going well, it’ll be interesting to see who coach Claude Julien taps on the shoulder for key divisional matchups against the Panthers and Lightning later this week. Last week: 1-0-1

22Vancouver Canucks
last week: 8
record: 3-2-3

Theyve dropped four in a row at home to start the season for the first time since 1994, but they’re keeping it close. Each of those losses was by a single goal, with two of the games going to OT. The compete is there, but the finish is missing ... and that’s kinda important. Last week: 0-1-1

23Edmonton Oilers
last week: 22
record: 3-6-0

With Connor McDavid hitting his stride (points in five straight), it’s time for another rookie to show what he can do. The Oilers called up defenseman Darnell Nurse on Monday, clearly hoping that the skilled puck mover can jumpstart their ineffective transition game. If he happens to mix in a few hits along the way, so much the better. Last week: 1-2-0

24Buffalo Sabres
last week: 27
record: 2-6-0

As if dropping four of five wasn’t bad enough for the Sabres, they’ve now lost top winger Evander Kane for 4-to-6 weeks. Kane, who scored his first of the season last week, hurt his knee in the third period of Saturday’s game against New Jersey. That’ll mean extra time for some younger players, including Nicholas Deslauriers, who’ll get a chance to skate on the top line. Last week: 1-2-0

25Toronto Maple Leafs
last week: 25
record: 1-5-2

Everyone knew going into this season that this would be the start of a long process for the Leafs. No surprise then that they’re losing a lot more often than they’re winning. That said, there are definite signs of progress. After launching 52 shots against the Habs, Toronto is now averaging 33 per game, third most in the league, and they’re dominating possession in the third period. It's a start. Last week: 0-2-1

26Carolina Hurricanes
last week: 28
record: 2-6-0

Scoring an average of one goal over their past four games paves a tough road to victory, but don’t blame their offensive failings on a lack of effort. The Canes are throwing everything at the net, but the skill needed to finish isn’t there. It’s gonna be a long season in Raleigh. Last week: 1-2-0

27Colorado Avalanche
last week: 24
record: 2-4-1

Losses to a pair of bottom-feeders like Carolina and Columbus doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in this operation. When you see the same forwards (hello, Nathan MacKinnon) making the same coverage errors over and over you have to wonder when something will change ... or if coach Patrick Roy is the man who can change it. Last week: 0-1-1

28Calgary Flames
last week: 29
record: 2-7-0

Nine games into the season and the Flames still haven’t won a game in regulation. Who saw that coming? They’re a disaster in their own end, allowing at least four goals-against in four of their past five games. Guess Karri Ramo, who was waived last week, wasn’t entirely to blame for that mess. Last week: 1-3-0

29Columbus Blue Jackets
last week: 30
record: 1-8-0

Todd Richards is history and so is their eight-game losing streak, but the Jackets aren’t out of the woods just yet. New coach John Tortorella called out No. 1 center Ryan Johansen for his lack of fitness (he’s currently undergoing testing) leaving us to wonder how these two combustible personalities will get along. Last week: 1-2-0

30Anaheim Ducks
last week: 18
record: 1-5-2

Coach Bruce Boudreau is feeling the heat with Anaheim off to a lousy start, and no one will be surprised if it costs him his job. But he’s not the one who is paid to score goals, and after the Ducks were shut out for the fifth time on Monday night, it’s fair to question the leadership in the room. Anaheim has scored a total of six goals this season and not one of them has come from Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry or Ryan Kesler. If there is a change behind the bench, it might not be the only one. Last week: 0-2-1

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