- Things seem to be going mostly according to plan around the league, but there are a few surprises in the young season—some good, some not so good.
Roughly four weeks in, what do we make of a season barely underway? Well, not much, to be frank. Teams off to hot starts will fade. Teams struggling will find their groove. What is clear, though, is that most of the teams we thought would be good have, thus far, been good. And most of the teams we thought would be bad have, thus far, been bad.
As rookies continue to find their grooves, and injuries play themselves out, expect this list to take a more concrete shape in the near future. For now, let’s get to the rankings.
1. Nashville Predators
There’s no need to put too much stock in the loss to San Jose. Juuse Saros has played pretty well in Pekka Rinne's absence, scoring is aplenty and the defense is good. The Predators are still the best team.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa's offense is fantastic, but the defense is probably giving up a few more goals that we would've expected. However, let’s wait until Steven Stamkos gets going before truly judging.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs had a very bad loss to St. Louis, but responded with two victories in the home-and-home against Winnipeg. Auston Matthews is the clear Hart leader right now, but his shoulder injury will cause him to miss at least a month. That's a killer. Luckily, there is plenty of depth to make up for his loss. How good has Morgan Rielly been? The Maple Leafs lost to the Flames on Monday, but Toronto should be just fine.
4. Winnipeg Jets
Perhaps the Jets need a reality check of sorts after two losses against the Leafs, their first real test of the season. The offense, as a whole, has taken a bit to warm up, but it's safe to expect that to change quickly.
5. Colorado Avalanche
We spent most of last season hailing Boston's first line as the league's best. It's time to update that to Colorado. Through Sunday, the trio of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen has combined for 55 points. Yes, you read that right.
6. Calgary Flames
You don't expect a loss to Montreal from the Flames, but they followed it up with a bad no-show against Pittsburgh and a shootout loss against Washington. Luckily the response was a win over the Matthews-less Leafs. With 14 points in 12 games Johnny Gaudreau has been great—but Matthew Tkachuk is right behind him with 13 points.
7. Boston Bruins
The Bruins endured a brutal Western swing that saw four losses before rebounding back home with wins over the Flyers and the Canadiens. Like last year, though, Boston is still a bit too top-heavy. We haven't quite seen as much as expected from youngster Ryan Donato, but that could change.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins
News flash: Sidney Crosby is good. But you may have forgotten: So is Matt Murray, who returned from a concussion with and blanked the Maple Leafs. The Penguins notched four wins on the road in four-game swing of their own.
9. Washington Capitals
The defense isn't where it needs to be at all, but the offense is. This is a good time to remember that Braden Holtby, who has a .888 save percentage with a 3.41 GAA, spent most of last season struggling before finally turning it on in the playoffs.
10. Minnesota Wild
The Wild had a really nice stretch of games of five straight wins—even beating Tampa with backup Alex Stalock in net. Zach Parise has turned back the clock; so has Ryan Suter. But that streak was snapped by the Canucks on Monday night as the Wild started a seven-game road trip.
11. San Jose Sharks
A big of an odd start, but the Sharks are turning it on as of late, going 4–0–1 in their last five games. A prediction: San Jose’s slow 2–3–1 start will be a distant memory come April.
12. Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights have feasted against poor competition, and struggled against the good teams. To wit: The 3–2 loss against Tampa.
13. Carolina Hurricanes
You can call them the most surprising team, or perhaps look at this stretch: Three straight losses against Winnipeg, Tampa Bay and Colorado. They're better, but not quite there yet.
14. Montreal Canadiens
It certainly helps to have Carey Price playing well for the Canadiens. With eight points in a five-game stretch, this was the Tomas Tatar Vegas thought it was getting.
15. Edmonton Oilers
With Connor McDavid, anything is possible. The star forward has 17 points to start the season, and has scored at least one point in nine of the Oilers’ first 10 games. But it would help if there were some defensive structure behind him.
16. New Jersey Devils
The Devils had a hot start out of the gate, but followed it up with two clunkers. An overtime loss against Nashville revealed things aren't awful—but the Devs aren't elite just yet. But goaltender Cory Schneider has been activated from the IR, which could be a possible spark for the team—though it's been just fine with Keith Kinkaid in Schneider's absence.
17. Anaheim Ducks
Anaheim is inconsistent, to say the least, which is why the Ducks are in the middle of the pack here. Generally, goalie John Gibson has played pretty well. It's the rest of the team that needs some work.
18. Ottawa Senators
Lose Erik Karlsson, gain Thomas Chabot. Okay, not quite even but Chabot has been ridiculously good, boasting 13 points in 10 games. It's a promising trend for the future.
19. Chicago Blackhawks
All the stars are playing well, as is goalie Corey Crawford. So why are the Hawks so middling? Might not be enough around them. Chicago had its first five games go to overtime, and it won’t three of them, but since then have been a bit underwhelming.
20. Columbus Blue Jackets
It’s great to have Seth Jones back for the Blue Jackets. Let's see if that ignites the rest of the team, which sits third in the Metropolitan Division.
21. Vancouver Canucks
The post-Sedin era is certainly going better than expected. A future with Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi is a fun one. Pettersson returned to the lineup Saturday after suffering a concussion, and added two goals on Monday to score seven goals in seven games.
22. Dallas Stars
Certainly too top-heavy in Dallas, though it's been nice to see Jason Spezza come alive with five points in his last four games. Like last year, the Stars will be just fine.
23. Buffalo Sabres
There have been some really good moments for the Sabres. Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner make a winning pair and Rasmus Dahlin has already looked comfortable on the blue line. This is a team looking up.
24. New York Islanders
Mat Barzal with one goal is not going to be enough, not with the lack of depth around him. The Islanders had a good weekend, with a 6–1 win over the Flyers and a 2–1 win against the Hurricanes that saw an impressive performance from goalie Thomas Greiss. They will need more of this going forward.
25. Florida Panthers
Slightly surprised it's been so rough. Yes, there have been three overtime losses, but no one has really gotten going offensively and the defense has been a struggle. The Panthers haven’t really recovered since losing star goalie Roberto Luongo on opening night.
26. St. Louis Blues
Is Jake Allen ready for primetime? Seems like a yearly question now. And we still don't have the answer.
27. Philadelphia Flyers
The decision to not upgrade in net continues to bite Philly. The offense is ok, but that doesn't mean much as the Flyers have lost three straight.
28. New York Rangers
New York has had a fighting spirit in Dave Quinn’s first year coaching in the NHL, but there clearly just is not enough talent to get it done.
29. Los Angeles Kings
Yikes. Has anyone been good on this team? Don't think so. Repeated injuries to Jonathan Quick don’t help, but the goaltenders have gotten no support as this team is dead last in goals scored.
30. Arizona Coyotes
So much for that jump forward for the Coyotes. Arizona had three straight wins last week, capped with a 7–1 rout of the Lightning, but no one seems to be taking the lead scoring-wise.
31. Detroit Red Wings
Ummm…It's going to be a long season.