NHL: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?



The NHL is one of the most fickle leagues in sports, and after the 119-day lockout we’re seeing why. Now only about three weeks into this shortened NHL season, teams are already shocking the hockey world with their success while others are causing their fans some serious distress. Here is a breakdown of the teams that are currently excelling and suffering this season. 

Who’s Hot:

San Jose Sharks: There are no surprises here. A perennial President’s Trophy candidate, the Sharks are right back to their dominating ways thanks to a scorching 7-0-1 start. Patrick Marleau has racked up nine goals and five assists in just eight games, Joe Thornton leads the league with 11 assists and Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture are both averaging over a point per game. The power play is once again San Jose’s strength this year, and is currently operating at 29.6 percent. If I had to predict a Stanley Cup champion right now, I would have to go with the more physical Blackhawks, but a shortened season means fresher legs come playoff time, which should be especially beneficial for star veterans Dan Boyle, Marleau and Thornton.

Chicago Blackhawks: The pride of the Midwest is playing some impressive hockey, and through nine games their 7-0-2 record puts them atop the NHL standings. Patrick Kane (four goals, nine assists) and Marian Hossa (six goals, four assists) are both averaging over a point per game to lead a star-studded offense, while Nick Leddy (five points) and Johnny Oduya (+nine rating) are playing tremendously on the defensive side of things. They’ve lost two of their last three games, but have scrounged a point out of each outing and are still

sitting pretty with 16 points.

Tampa Bay Lightning: It seems like the Lightning have never truly been accepted as part of the NHL’s elite, but year after year they put an exciting product on the ice. This year is no different, as the Bolts have scored a league-leading 39 goals through eight games and boast a league-leading 36.1 percent power play efficiency. They’ve lost to both the Rangers and Islanders, but their 12 points put them atop the Southeast Division standings, and if Steven Stamkos (seven goals, nine assists) and Martin St. Louis (three goals, 11 assists) continue to put up gaudy numbers, there’s no way they lose that spot. 

Who’s Not:

Washington Capitals: The Caps are off to their second consecutive slow start to a season, having won just two of nine games. They are averaging just 2.33 goals per game (worst in the Eastern Conference) and neither Braden Holtby nor Michal Neuvirth has looked especially strong in net. With a new system and a new coach in Adam Oates, hiccups are to be expected, but the degree to which the offense has struggled is indeed worrisome. 

Before the season, Oates told the media his goal on offense was to let Alex Ovechkin run loose and push the tempo on the rush, but the former 60-goal scorer has looked lackadaisical, sloppy and wreckless with the puck on his stick. The one bright spot in Washington has been newly acquired center Mike Ribeiro (two goals and eight assists in nine games), but the whole offense needs to shape up if they want to make any noise come April.

Los Angeles Kings: Last year’s Stanley Cup winners are currently last in the Pacific division with just six points, due to losses to Chicago, Colorado, Edmonton, Nashville and Anaheim. Goaltender Jonathan Quick had a sub-2.00 GAA and league-leading 10 shutouts last

season, but so far it’s been a different story. Through seven games he’s allowed 17 goals on just 148 shots, and for a team that was so reliant on goaltending last year that’s spelled trouble so far. L.A. certainly has some firepower on offense, however, and fans can’t be too concerned with a slow start.

Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers have fallen victim to injuries this season as both Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell missed games early, resulting in a disappointing 3-6-0 record. This team is simply too talented for that kind of record, but frankly they haven’t been playing typical Flyers hockey, and their 2.33 goals per game reflects that. Once Hartnell returns though, the offense should be able to crash the net and cause havoc in front of goaltenders again. The Atlantic Division is arguably the best in the league, however, and Philly needs to get some points if they have any chance of keeping up.