New Jersey Devils: 12 Points (6-1-0)
With it being so early in the season its hard to tell who’s the real deal and who isn’t. Every season there are teams that start out hot and everyone starts talking about whether or not they’re here to stay. The Devils currently find themselves at the top of the Metropolitan Division with only a single loss in seven games.
The Devils had a very impressive come from behind overtime win last night against the Ottawa Senators to improve to 6-1-0. The bad news for the New Jersey is that goaltender Cory Schneider did not play in the third period with a lower-body injury. There is no word on how serious the injury is, but this could be bad for the Devils who may lose their top goalie.
Columbus Blue Jackets: 10 Points (5-2-0)
Good goaltending and strong possession numbers have propelled the Columbus Blue Jackets to 10 points in just seven games. The Jackets possess the puck 55% of the time at even strength and have outshot their opponents on average 36.7 to 28.9. If you can get through the team and get shots off...well, good luck because you face the reigning Vezina winner.
Sergei Bobrovsky should be promoted to chief of the force because he has picked up right where he left off last season. Through the first seven games of the season, he has a .946 sv% and a 1.58 GAA. The Hurricanes got first-hand experience with the Jackets in the first game of the road trip when he all but dominated the game.
Pittsburgh Penguins: 9 Points (4-2-1)
The Penguins current -4 goal differential is largely due to the nine-goal loss to the Chicago Blackhawks that came during the first week of the season. The Penguins have started out of the gates with a strong offense that averages 3.57 GF/game.
The main issue with the Pens has been back up goaltending. While starter Matt Murray has a record of 4-0-1, backup Antti Niemi is 0-2-0. With the most back to back sets of any team in the league, Niemi is going to have a significant workload. The Pens are averaging over four goals against per game, and are going to have to work on that if they want to finish atop the Metro this season.
Philadelphia Flyers: 8 Points (4-3-0)
This season is shaping up to be the exactly the same as last season. The Flyers are coming out of the gate strong with eight points in seven games. At the beginning of the season, it can be tough to evaluate a team with so few games played. However, when you dig further into their numbers they don’t look sustainable for the season.
The Flyers 105.0 PDO is third in the league ,with a shooting percentage over 10% and a save percentage of .947. Combined with abnormally high PDO, the Flyers are a negative possession team with a 47.4% Corsi. Looking at the full picture, the Flyers are likely to come down to Earth, which we’ve started to see in their last two games, which were both losses.
Carolina Hurricanes: 7 Points (3-1-1)
The Hurricanes have played the fewest number of games of any team in the league at just five games. The good news is that they are tied with the Caps and Islanders and only two points behind the Penguins with two fewer games played. The Canes are in the middle of the State Fair Road Trip and they’ve won two straight with only one game remaining at Dallas, sweeping the province of Alberta for the first time since 1997.
The Hurricanes won back to back games with both Cam Ward and Scott Darling getting wins. On top of this the defense, mainly Jaccob Slavin, has been playing out of their minds. Slavin held Connor McDavid to only one assist and matched his speed all night. Then last night Slavin did the same against Johnny Gaudreau of the Flames.
The forwards have also done their part. Against the Oilers, the Canes scored five goals including two power-play goals and a shorthanded goal. With the addition of those two power-play goals, the Canes now rank 13th in the league with a 22% success rate. The Carolina Hurricanes have had 10 different players have already registered a goal, which does not include Sebastian Aho. So just think about what this team will look like when he's dialed in too.
Washington Capitals: 7 Points (3-3-1)
Some bad news for the Caps: Matt Niskanen was placed on LTIR meaning that he cannot play until November 7th at the earliest. Niskanen anchors the Caps blue line and plays 23 minutes per game against opponents’ top lines. The already thin Caps defense will now have to rely on Brooks Orpik, John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov to pick up the slack, while Christian Djoos and new call-up Madison Bowey will join the team in the bottom pairing.
If Niskanen’s injury keeps him out longer, say into late November, the Caps could look to a trade. The Golden Knights still have nine defensemen and look like a viable partner for the Caps. The largest obstacle, though, will be cap space. Before Niskanen’s injury the Capitals had no space, but with the injury relief, they could have around $1,000,000 to spend. Looking at the Golden Knights’ roster it leaves only one realistic target: Griffin Reinhart. It will be interesting to see how many more losses they can endure before pulling the trigger.
New York Islanders: 7 Points (3-3-1)
As much as it’s annoying for Canes fans to hear about attendance issues, at least the Canes have a long-term lease. The Islanders and their fans, on the other hand, don’t know where their team will be playing after next season. On top of this, it comes at the worst possible time as they are also trying to court their best player, John Tavares, to re-sign before hitting free agency.
The Isles would have a better pitch to Tavares this season if they end up finishing in a playoff position, but at the moment that also seems unlikely. The Islanders’ underlying stats are better than their record, but a 0% success rate on the power play is a big reason why the Islanders are averaging just a point per game.
New York Rangers: 4 Points (1-5-2)
It might be time for the New York Rangers to make some kind of change. I speculated last week that Alain Vigneault may be on the hot seat. There could be one other way that the Rangers could make a change: they could trade for a center (cough Matt Duchene cough). The Rangers do have a fair amount of defensemen depth.
The Rangers are very thin up the middle. How thin? At the moment, David Desharnais is playing second line center. On top of this, they are 25th in the NHL in scoring. With both Steven Kampfer and Nick Holden as extra players currently, and could trade one of their many left-handed D men in a package for Duchene including picks. It most likely won’t happen, but it’s fun to think about.