Maybe it’s just me, but it’s felt like the NHL has been in the Twilight Zone. Granted it’s only been a few days, it seems to me that many players (and therefore teams) have taken “new season, new me” to heart. Here’s just a quick recap on some of the oddities we’ve seen so far.
This team has been a Cup contender for the last few seasons and it was looking like this year might be the year. The first two games have not exemplified that caliber of play. Their first game against Carolina was rough. Carolina objectively has a good team this year, so that wasn’t a surprise. What was a surprise was the thorough 6-3 defeat.
Florida also has a good team this year. But for them to steamroll the Islanders 5-1 yesterday is pretty crazy. Again, it’s early. I hope for their core fans that they turn the ship around quickly.
On the exact opposite side of the spectrum, the Blue Jackets have come out swinging for the fences. Arizona is not an overly competitive team, once again, but Columbus wasn’t slated to be a top contender either. Opening night, the Jackets absolutely slaughtered the Coyotes 8-2. And to further prove that they intend to play their hardest, they beat the Kraken 2-1 in OT last night.
They may put up more of a fight this year than I thought.
The Penguins are somewhere in the middle. Without their two superstars, they are performing quite a deal better than I expected. They currently sit at the top of the Eastern Conference at 2-0-1. It seems that their squad has stepped up to the plate in their absence. This could make them more of a threat than previously anticipated.
After last year’s performance, maybe it should be such a surprise, but the Panthers are another team that has come out swinging. Their first game, they forced the Penguins into OT before finishing them off 5-4. It was not an easy win. What was easy was the Islanders game, or so they made it seem. They walked all over the Isles, 5-1. Their roster has been dividing the work well, as more than half already have a point. It should be interesting to see where they take this immediate success.
Okay, so 1-0-1 isn’t the most impressive, but hear me out. What we’ve seen from the Wings in their opening games is that they have fight back in them. They’re not pushovers, even without a true fighter among them. Newest captain Larkin was more than willing to stand up for himself against Mathieu Joseph after a hard hit from behind. The same game, they also went up as high as 6-3 against Tampa before eventually falling in OT.
They then went on to face the formidable Canuck squad. Despite all their heavy hitters, the Red Wings were able to take them down 3-1. It’s not going to be an easy year for Detroit, it never is, but if they maintain this fighting spirit, they’ll have more success than in years past.
This may be the last opportunity to say this for a very long time: the Buffalo Sabres are undefeated. I know, I’m just as shocked as you are. They gave Montreal a brutal beating on Thursday, 5-1. Montreal was a good team 4 months ago and they haven’t changed that dramatically. Last night almost seems like a layup in comparison, but it still took them to a shootout to take down the Coyotes 2-1.
This is the weirdest so far. I don’t expect it to last for much longer. They have a long road ahead of them, especially without a captain to take their lead from.
For all the moves made in the offseason, the Blackhawks have yet to win a game. Their first loss on Wednesday was almost expected, as they faced Colorado. Their second loss in OT to New Jersey was a little more surprising. The Devils aren’t the joke they were a few years ago, but in my eyes, they’re not at the same level as the Hawks. Their loss last night to the Penguins isn’t out of nowhere, but 5-2 seems disproportionate to what Chicago is capable of.
If they want to make one last run at the Cup with Kane and Toews in their ranks, they better hope they figure this out.
The Avalanche is, objectively, stacked. Their Cup odds are the highest in the entire League. That’s what makes their loss to St. Louis last night out of character. They fought hard to come back from a 3-0 deficit, but it wasn’t enough. It’s a tiny sample size, but Kuemper’s .852 save percentage wasn’t impressive at all.
Vegas & Los Angeles
These two go hand in hand. They faced off Thursday night in LA, where the home team whooped the visitors 6-2. The Kings are one of the bottom teams in the League, while Vegas is one of the strongest. This score is wild, to me. Kopitar spearheaded the charge with a hat trick and two assists. The whole team contributed, though, as evidenced by outshooting Vegas 47-25. That is insane.
I don’t remember another season starting in such… interesting fashion. Everything seems upside down. I’m sure it’s only temporary, things tend to even out in the long run. It’s kind of enjoyable for the moment, like an experiment to see how crazy it can get until it goes back to normal. I’m ready to continue the ride as long as it lasts, but I hope just for my predictions’ sake, that things go back soon.
-Heidi Thomas (@DamselOnDrums)
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