1) The Clobbering Canadiens
Hockey fans have never been able to doubt the talent of Habs net minder, Carey Price. His resumé speaks for itself, from Hart and Vezina Trophies to Team Canada Gold, Price has been in the conversation as one of the league’s best goalies for nearly his entire career. Last season in particular, many hockey aficionados were under the impression that he was the only reason that his team made it through to the second round of the playoffs, doubting the actual talent in front of him, and attributing their second round exit to it.
This years’ Habs (13-2-1) are silencing those critics, so far. The Canadiens truly seem to have it all early this season, 9 wins in a row out of the gate and a 13-2-1 record are obvious proof of that, and the reason that this team is even on this list! Realistically speaking, nobody expected the Canadiens to be bad, but they are a dominant force that few would have seen coming. They are statistically the best offensive team in the league by a landslide with a plus-30 goal differential (the second place Rangers are at plus-18), and their defence is allowing the second least number of goals per game at 1.81. When Price went down with a lower body injury, there might have been some cause for concern… that is if backup goalie, Mike Condon, didn’t have the best GAA in the league (1.57).
Whether you like the Habs or loathe them, it is rare to watch perfectly executed hockey, and even more unlikely that it will last, so my advice is to watch some Canadiens games, and take in Canada’s game at its finest!
2) The Bleeding Bruins
On the opposite end of the goaltending spectrum is the struggling Tuukka Rask. Perhaps this is not so surprising to some, since the Bruins’ goalie has a tendency to be streaky, but the shock factor here is the fact that Rask’s offence is somehow bailing out his 3.21 GAA with a 3.36 GF/G! Boston has managed to maintain a decent spot in the standings thus far based solely on scoring, just think of where this team could be if the 2014 Vezina Trophy winner were actually playing like one?
The Bruins (7-6-1) did a little bit of house-cleaning after missing the playoffs last season, saying goodbye to Milan Lucic, Dougie Hamilton, Reilly Smith and Carl Soderberg, and welcoming Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes and a bunch of draft picks. A healthy David Krejci is leading the way for Boston with 17 points, but let’s face it, neither he, nor the rest of the Bruins are likely to continue to score goals on 12 percent of their shots. If they want to maintain their position, that inevitable decline in scoring will have to coincide with timely performance improvements by Rask.
3) Amazing in Arizona
As strange as this may sound, things sure are heating up on the ice down in the desert! The Arizona Coyotes are not only giving fans something to watch this season, they are also providing a glimpse into something that for years has been questionable at best for the misfit franchise- a future. And not just any future, a potentially very bright one, filled with shiny twinkling, dare I saw All-Stars?!
Max Domi and Anthony Duclair are dazzling hockey fans around the league with a unique and entertaining style that is not only fun to watch, it is also effective! The numbers that those two have put up are impressive so far, but with Tobias Rieder picking up his 5th goal of the campaign on Friday, and their first round pick (3rd overall) Dylan Strome likely joining them soon, Arizona could really make a case for themselves as the team to watch this season!
4) The Puck Stops Here
I am sure that all of the fantasy players out there were not exactly expecting their first overall picks in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel to be lagging behind as much as they are. Phil Kessel is leading the Penguins in scoring with 10 points, but statistically is tied for 88th in the league overall. Just as a scoring streak is bound to end at some point, for Pittsburgh, their top three along with Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang are just far too talented to continue this goal drought.
The defence surrounding what should eventually get back on track as a lethal offence, is still questionable, but thankfully, the steady goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury is keeping them afloat. If they can fix the holes on the back end and try to put a limit the immense number of shots that Fleury is facing, the Pens could climb the ranks to join Montreal, and potentially Boston, atop the standings.
5) Wounded Ducks
Anaheim is suffering from a hangover they didn’t even truly earn. Historically speaking, the curse lies with the Stanley Cup hangover, but for the Ducks, they were a game 7 win away from vying for the hardware that might warrant such a disappointing start to the season, but didn’t quite make it.
The Ducks started the season 1-7-2, and as insane as talk of a playoff position may sound, they were well out of it! Just ask last years’ Columbus Blue Jackets if wins matter early on. They ended the 2015 campaign with a 16-2-1 record, but still failed to make the playoffs, because they started the season 6-15-2, not unlike this year (4-11-0).
When it comes down to it, every point matters, whether you earn them in October, or in April. However, Anaheim (5-7-2) is already looking to make it a November to remember, starting the month of with 4 consecutive wins, and going for number 5 at home tonight, when they host the Arizona Coyotes (6-6-1). Should be a great game!