The first month of the 2019-20 NHL regular season is over, with every team playing at least ten games. As we probably should have expected, what we saw in the preseason did not always translate to the regular season as some teams have started off terribly (New Jersey, San Jose), while others have been surprising (Buffalo, Edmonton, Vancouver). Of course, we’re talking about one-eighth of the schedule and as we’ve seen as recently as last season with the St. Louis Blues, a poor start can be turned around in short order, and the reverse can always happen too.
- Carolina Hurricanes (last month: 3rd)
- Washington Capitals (last month: 2nd)
- Pittsburgh Penguins (last month: 4th)
- New York Islanders (last month: 5th)
- Philadelphia Flyers (last month: 8th)
- Columbus Blue Jackets (last month: 7th)
- New York Rangers (last month: 6th)
- New Jersey Devils (last month: 1st)
The biggest change from the end of the preseason is the plummeting of the Devils (straight to hell, you might say), who were tied with the Ottawa Senators with the worst record in the League. Not exactly a great start for having such a good offseason and preseason, but theirs has been the second-worst offense in the League, which is not going to win you many games. Otherwise, some modest shuffling as the division looks a little more like what I think we’ll expect in March or April.
I wasn’t 100% on bumping the Penguins up to third but, considering that they went through October with a bunch of key players out of the lineup at various points – whether it was for minutes (Crosby), days (Dumoulin), or weeks (Malkin, Bjugstad, Galchenyuk, Rust) – the Penguins managed to actually look pretty good as they scored seven goals in one month for the first time since (I think it was) 1994 or something. As of yesterday morning, they had the third-best goal differential in the League, which is a good place to be despite all those injuries.
November figures to be an intense month for Pittsburgh compared to October, with seven of their fourteen games coming against division foes. November has also been a common month for general manager Jim Rutherford starting to make moves (he already made one to send Eric Gudbranson to Anaheim for effectively cap relief); the positive start may make for better value on potential trades…
- Boston Bruins (last month: 1st)
- Buffalo Sabres (last month: 4th)
- Tampa Bay Lightning (last month: 2nd)
- Toronto Maple Leafs (last month: 3rd)
- Montreal Canadiens (last month: 5th)
- Florida Panthers (last month: 7th)
- Ottawa Senators (last month: 8th)
- Detroit Red Wings (last month: 6th)
The Bruins are following up their Cup Finals appearance with a hot start, allowing the fewest goals against and having blazing hot first line, led by David Pastrnak who is tied with Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl with twelve goals scored. Boston has some company at the top of the division, sharing first place (in points) with the somewhat-surprising Buffalo Sabres. I say somewhat surprising because it seems like the Sabres usually start the season on a good note before slowly fading down and out of the playoff race by the trade deadline.
Otherwise, the Atlantic is a little confused right now. Only three teams have positive goal differentials, and that list does not include the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Panthers have allowed the second-most goals against, but are tied for third place in the standings. It’s too early to make anything of the division, but it’s refreshing to see the usual suspects for the top of the standings having a tough start.
- Colorado Avalanche (last month: 3rd)
- Nashville Predators (last month: 2nd)
- St. Louis Blues (last month: 1st)
- Winnipeg Jets (last month: 6th)
- Chicago Blackhawks (last month: 5th)
- Dallas Stars (last month: 3rd)
- Minnesota Wild (last month: 7th)
Here in the early goings, the Central Division is shaking out in unsurprising fashion, with the top three teams within a point of each other and the other four still trying to figure it out. With the Pacific Division looking particularly competitive thus far, it looks like the Central could have just three representatives in the playoffs…which would be fine.
- Vancouver Canucks (last month: 6th)
- Edmonton Oilers (last month: 8th)
- Vegas Golden Knights (last month: 1st)
- Anaheim Ducks (last month: 5th)
- Arizona Coyotes (last month: 3rd)
- Calgary Flames (last month: 2nd)
- Los Angeles Kings (last month: 7th)
- San Jose Sharks (last month: 4th)
A bit different look from the preseason so far! First, let’s pour one out for the Western Conference Finalists from San Jose, who are in the basement in the League standings and tied for the second-most goals allowed, AND they traded their first-round pick next summer to the Ottawa Senators to acquire Erik Karlsson! Already the top six teams in the Pacific are pulling away from the Sharks and Kings; while we likely expected Los Angeles to be bad, I don’t think it was expected of San Jose.
How about the Vancouver Canucks? They currently have the best goal differential in the League, and their goaltending tandem of Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko is looking pretty good. Right now they are nipping at the heels of the Oilers, who are getting consistent goaltending (finally) and have somehow hit it out of the park in trading out Milan Lucic for James Neal. Even the sixth-place Coyotes are just four points out of first place, but it’s mostly defense as they have allowed the third-fewest goals League-wide and only the Dallas Stars have fewer total goals scored per game.
KesselWatch: 12gp, 2G-5A—7P; it was expected that Phil’s offensive production would tail off in Arizona, but his 6.1% shooting percentage is 5.1% less than it was in his four years in Pittsburgh.