Good Sunday morning one and all. As you sip on your coffee and get the day going, let’s already take a peak back at the first week of the NHL season.
Here’s a quick trip through the division:
Pittsburgh: Arizona was no challenge at all on opening night, and then the Penguins had the benefit of playing Tampa (and backup Brian Elliott) on their third game in four days but left no doubt either win another big win. The schedule started favorable for Pittsburgh, which is always nice while it lasts. It’s no surprise that Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel are delivering, but even for their standards it’s been a great start. Perhaps more importantly the other top lines (Evgeni Malkin, Jason Zucker, Danton Heinen, Jeff Carter) are playing incredibly well too.
Carolina: New year, same Hurricanes as far as them going out and quietly but neatly taking care of their business so far with two wins to open the season. They’re off to a great start as they look to defend last year’s division championship.
Philadelphia: Hey, look at the Flyers! For all the negativity and doubt swirling around them, the train isn’t immediately coming off the tracks. Their opening night win against New Jersey on Thursday showed off what the best case is for the Flyers, and if 23-year old Morgan Frost (two goals in the season opener) can finally break out as a key player after seemingly being on the verge of doing so for many, many years — perhaps expectations of inevitable doom need to be reconsidered.
NY Rangers: NY picked up where they left off last season in the first two games: power play, still good; Igor Shesterkin, still great — leading to two quality wins over TB and Minnesota. Then the Rangers got bit with a third game in four days and fell to Winnipeg, but all in all, it has gone about as expected for NYR.
NY Islanders: Last year got away from the Islanders quickly with a slow start, so after losing their opening game of the year it feels like last night’s bounce-back win against Anaheim (and a blowout 7-1 win at that) is a big deal. This team probably can’t and doesn’t want to “play from behind” on the standings and dig a big hole again, that’s not where the Islanders are going to be the most effective. With that in mind, starting the year .500 in two games isn’t the worst place for NYI to be and move forward feeling good about Saturday’s empathetic victory.
Washington: The Caps seemed to acknowledge that they might need to be in “hold on” mode early in the year as they adapt to major losses and other changes. That’s been the case to start the season when they dropped their first two games before gutting out a win last night against Montreal. It’s still a long year and plenty of time to get it in gear, but this team has stumbled out of the starting block probably more than they wanted to.
New Jersey: A player calling the second game of the season a “must win” usually isn’t a good sign. (Especially when the team comes out in that second game and also...loses by a lot). And a quote like this from the coach after the very first game isn’t encouraging either: “We have high expectations. I think there should be frustration, there should be disappointment. We should be mad; we should be mad at each other.” That train wreck that was expected in Philly this year? It might just go off the rails in Jersey first at this rate, the Devils look like a very emotional and frustrated and fragile team. They don’t need to be so shaky this early at the beginning of a very long season, but many years worth of struggling are adding up and creating pressure.
Columbus: It was supposed to be a season of renewed hope and optimism in Ohio. It didn’t last very long, with Patrik Laine suffering a 3-4 week injury on opening night and the team still looking for their first victory after dropping all three contests this week. It looks like it’s going to be an uphill battle for a while now for the Blue Jackets this season.
And here is the week ahead for the Metropolitan teams:
There are a number of Western teams on the east coast for this early in the season. Anaheim, Nashville, Vancouver, San Jose and Los Angeles will visit multiple Metropolitan teams in the week ahead.
And, then on the flip side of the equation, Carolina is already on the West coast and making a similar swing that the Pens will be going through later in the month.
For it being early in the season, there are only two divisional games on tap in the immediate future. The Devils make the short trip over to Long Island on Friday and Pittsburgh also makes a short road trip of their own over to Columbus on Saturday.
Every team in the division has three games this week, except the Rangers, who get a reprieve after playing three games and taking some travel this past week.