NHL At The Quarter Pole: 10 Thoughts About The Season

We are already 20 games in for most teams and at this point, we can see who is making the playoffs and who likely won’t be. This NHL season has brought many surprises and has already seen three head coach firings after having none last season. So let’s get right into it shall we.

  1. Out with the old in with the new…

If I were to have told you three years ago the Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins would all be sitting at or near the bottom of each of their divisions you’d call me crazy. Well that is where we sit today with the Blackhawks being 6th in the central, Penguins last in the Metro and the Kings sitting last in not only the Pacific, but last in the NHL too.

In addition, the Hawks and Kings are first two teams to fire their head coaches. The fall from grace has been quick and painful. The one thing I would like to point out that I think directly correlates to the success and failure of all NHL teams is age.

With the NHL being a young man’s league this next statement may answer why each team is struggling. The Hawks, Pens and Kings have the three oldest rosters in the NHL, and they sit at the bottom of each conference. With that being said, they say father time is undefeated and looks to be taking his next victims.  

  1. Buffalo is good??

Remember when the Buffalo Sabres were bad? Like bad enough to be the worst team in NHL history bad?

The answer is we all do. You can literally go back to last season to find any article saying the Sabres suck and will never get better.

Let’s skip to one year later and those pundits seem to have gone silent. The Sabres are back and are taking on all of the teams that have feasted upon their mediocrity the last couple years.

Buffalo has now put together 6 straight wins, including successes over the Tampa Bay Lightning, Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild. In addition, the Sabres were able to come back from a three goal deficit to defeat the Penguins 5-4 in overtime. All-in-all, no teams should be taking these guys for granted.  (A collective cheer is heard from western New York)

  1. The Toronto Maple Leafs are first in the East! Without Matthews and Nylander!

John Tavares is a Leaf, Mitch Marner is a Leaf, Morgan Rielly is a Leaf and Kasperi Kapanen is a Leaf? Kappy has 8 Goals and 7 assists on the first line. Nylander who?

So, now, three years later, the Leafs have won the Kessel trade right? RIGHT? (Laughs nervously and goes into fetal position)

After 22 games played, the Leafs sit atop of the Eastern Conference with a 15-7-0 record and a 7-4-0 record in their last ten. Why do I mention that last ten you may ask?

The Leafs have been without franchise center Auston Matthews, who has been out with a shoulder injury for the last ten games. Yet, they are still winning. They’ve also been without top right winger William Nylander, who has been doing his best Le’Veon Bell impression. Bell is in a similar situation to Nylander as the Pittsburgh Steelers running back is holding out for salary reasons.

All in all, this is easily the best Leafs team I have ever witnessed. Even if you aren’t a fan of the Leafs, you should watch a few Leaf games just to see some of the most skilled hockey being played now.

  1. The Red Wings are the best-worst team in the NHL

You start off the season 1-7-2. You already lost your captain, and best player, to retirement. Teams are rattling off 8-0 wins against you ever other night and you can’t score to save your life. That is what life was looking like for the Red Wings just 10 games ago.

Fast forward 10 games later and I am pretty sure Happy by Pharrell Williams is being played non stop throughout the pizza palace in Detroit. It’s safe to say that an 8-2-0 run will do that for you.

Since that dreadful start of the season, the top 6 forward lines for the Wings have been strong. Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha have combined for 14 goals in their last ten, after only scoring 5 to begin the season.

After an 8-2 run, things are looking pretty solid for Red Wings. Unfortunately for Red Wings fans, they still own a 9-9-2 record and sit second to last in the Eastern Conference.

  1. Nashville Predators best team in the NHL. Again.

Stop me if you heard this before. The Predators have one of the most balanced attacks that start from their back end out. Last season, the Predators won the President Trophy with a 53-18-11 record and didn’t have any top 50 scorers.

This season doesn’t seem to be any different as the Preds have nobody in the top 40 of scoring and sit atop of the NHL with a 15-5-1 record. The balanced attack and stellar defense with the help of pretty good goaltending seem to be doing the job yet again for the Predators.

I would not be surprised to see them win the Presidents trophy again. Perhaps, this time around, they will surprise everyone and put up a banner for not needing a top scorer.

  1. Erik Karlsson not producing for Sharks. Not a big deal.

The San Jose Sharks traded for Karlsson with the idea that him and Brent Burns would be fighting for the top scoring D man in the league. After 22 games played, one of those players is on par to do that while the other just scored his first goal a couple games ago.

With just 1 goal and 11 assists for 12 points and a -6, Karlsson has not found his groove yet with the Sharks. It is a bit concerning, but Karlsson’s rough start doesn’t seem to be affecting the Sharks at all.

At this moment, the Sharks sit atop the Pacific division with a 11-7-4 record and sit sixth in the league with 26 points. Teal Town hopes that Karlsson will produce more, but the need for it isn’t there especially when you have Burns scoring 23 points in 22 games.

  1. Colorado and that line that still does not have a name.

Mikko Rantanen: 32 points(1st in the League)

Nathan Mackinnon: 29 points(3rd in the League)

Gabriel Landeskog: 22 points(He tries REALLY hard)

With a combined 83 points, they are the top scoring line in hockey. All right enough stats. You already know that the Colorado Avalanche are an outstanding top forward line.

The real question is, what do we name them? I have come up with 3 solid names that I think could stick. The Rocky Mountain Line, the Big Foot Line and my personal favorite, the Mile High Line. I’m very creative! You are welcome, Colorado. I just ask that you please mail me the check when you choose one of those names.

  1. Don’t you forget Henrik Lundqvist

At this point in the season, he has 8 wins, 2.61 GAA and a solid .920 Sv%. It’s fair to say that the “The King” is turning back the clock and quietly putting up great season.

Unfortunately, he was only able to grab 1 win in his first 8 games. Since then, he has won 7 straight and has helped the Rangers to a 8-1-1 record in their last ten games played. Even though he is 36 years old, hockey fans should not be sleeping on him. He’s been nothing but outstanding for the Rangers. It’s safe to say that through 21 games, the veteran net-minder has definitely been their MVP.

  1. GRITTY

Gritty is the almighty overlord of the NHL. He gets whatever he needs and will get whatever wants.

  1.  Calder Trophy race: Who is the favorite?

Through 20 games of the season really one rookie has risen above the rest. His name is John Cena Elias Pettersson. Per Mike Morreale of NHL.com:

Petterson leads all rookies in goals (12), points (19) and shooting percentage (27.3 percent) among those having played at least 10 games. He is the fifth player after the NHL’s inaugural season in 1917-18 and the first since 1992-93 to score at least 10 goals in his first 10 NHL games.

So, as you can see, he is pretty good. He’s being compared to the likes of Pavel Datsyuk and even former Vancouver Canucks forward, Alexander Mogilny. The comparisons will naturally raise the hype of any player, but in this case, Petterson fits the bill.

If the Canucks are to make the playoffs this year, they are going to need Petterson to keep up the record setting campaign he is currently on.

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Author: Nikos Michals