As we’re a few weeks into the season, many teams are off to starts that no one could have predicted. There was a general consensus that some teams would still be in the rebuilding phase, others were no longer contenders, and that some would be at the top of the standings. But nine or so games in, things aren’t looking like how we expected them to.
The Vegas Golden Knights were expected to end their inaugural season 31st in the league, which could still be likely given that both their starting and backup goaltenders are injured indefinitely, but it’s shocking to see how well they’re doing so far. Similarly, the New Jersey Devils have won six out of eight games played and have a perfect 4-0-0 away record. Going into the season many thought that, while they’d be better than last year, they’d still be below average in the league given their weak blue line. Their goalie, Cory Schneider, is also injured, it’s day-to-day for him, so we’ll see how that impacts the team.
The Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers, Cup contenders for many years, were predicted to be on a steady decline this season. No longer contenders or even predicted playoff teams, they were to be average. So far, the Kings lead the Western Conference with 17 points in 10 games played and the Rangers are second to last in the Eastern Conference. These are two teams that many pegged to finish the season in a similar spot to one another, but right now they’re on completely different paths.
Alternatively, teams who were and still are predicted to be contenders are starting off poorly. The Montreal Canadiens, Washington Capitals, and Edmonton Oilers finished towards the top of their divisions last year. Canadiens have five points in 10 games played and the Oilers have seven in nine played, placing both teams last and second to last in their respective conferences. While the Capitals aren’t doing as bad as the other two teams, they are still preforming less than they were expected to with nine points in 10 games. There’s no real reason as to why these teams are performing poorly this year. All three have tremendous goalies, great defense, and powerhouse forwards (alright, maybe not the Canadiens, but they still have a solid group of forwards who usually get the job done). All three teams made adjustments in the offseason, but there was nothing too drastic that would explain why they’re under-performing the way they are.
Again, it’s only a few weeks into the season and in another few weeks, the entire league could be shifted. All it takes is an injury or two or a hot streak to change the standings. If there’s anything we’ve learned from the Canadiens’ season that started with a nine-game win streak and ended without a playoff appearance, it’s that how you play in October rarely reflects how or even if you play in May.