The NHL season only started a week and a half ago, but some teams are already separating from the pack while others stumble out of the gate.
Some of the teams pegged as preseason contenders for the Stanley Cup haven’t disappointed early, including the Washington Capitals (4-0-0), Detroit Red Wings (4-0-0) and the Philadelphia Flyers (3-0-1). All three are off to strong starts offensively, but are also getting help between the pipes.
Both Washington and Philadelphia shored up their goaltending through free agency with the Capitals signing Tomas Vokoun and Philadelphia signing Ilya Bryzgalov, and both moves appear to be paying dividends early.
Detroit has also received fantastic goaltending so far, with Jimmy Howard and Ty Conklin combining to allow just five goals through Detroit’s first four games, including two shutouts.
Some of the more surprising early standouts include the Toronto Maple Leafs (3-0-0), the Colorado Avalanche (4-1-0) and the Dallas Stars (4-1-0). Toronto’s Phil Kessel is off to an explosive start, scoring five goalAvss and three assists through Toronto’s first three games. Colorado’s hot start is made even more surprising and impressive by the fact that all four wins have come on the road.
On the other side of the spectrum, three teams are still looking for their first win of the season in the New York Rangers (0-1-2), the Columbus Blue Jackets (0-4-1) and the Winnipeg Jets (0-3-0).
The Jets, who were the Atlanta Thrashers last season, relocated to Winnipeg and are the only team in the NHL without a point so far. New York started the season in Europe, where the Rangers lost in overtime to the Los Angeles Kings and in a shootout to the Anaheim Ducks.
The Boston Bruins (2-3-0) and the San Jose Sharks (1-2-0) are a pair of Stanley Cup contenders off to slow starts. Boston has struggled offensively this season, averaging just two goals per game. The Sharks should get a boost from the return of goaltender Antti Niemi and forward Martin Havlat, who have both missed the first three games due to injury.
Looking ahead to this week’s action, two of the season’s surprise teams face off Monday night at 7:00 p.m. (ET) when Colorado visits Toronto. With both offenses clicking, there should be plenty of fireworks in this one as both teams try to keep their hot starts going. The game will be televised nationally on Versus.
Tuesday night at 10:30 p.m. (ET), the Los Angeles Kings (2-1-1) return from a long road trip for their home opener against another up-and-coming team, the St. Louis Blues (2-3-0). Los Angeles lost star defenseman Drew Doughty for 7-10 days with an upper body injury in their win over Philadelphia Saturday, so he won’t be in action Tuesday.
Thursday night, two of the Eastern Conference’s best take the ice when the Philadelphia Flyers host the Washington Capitals. Neither team has lost in regulation yet, and both will be looking for early dominance over the rest of the conference. The puck is set to drop at 7:00 p.m. (ET) and the game will be televised nationally on the NHL Network.