A few weeks into this weird NHL season and I’m already prepared to say that the North division (aka the all-Canadian division) should stay. I know it’s highly unlikely, considering the burden of travel, but watching these Canadian teams reignite rivalries (and start to form new ones) has been thrilling so far.
Not surprisingly, Toronto and Montreal appear to be the cream of that crop. Those two clubs have looked great out of the gate and it wouldn’t be shocking if they spent the entire abbreviated season jockeying for position at the top. Such a battle would be great for the NHL. Two Original Six teams with arguably the biggest and most passionate hockey markets going head-to-head in a fierce battle all season long? That’s entertainment.
While the rest of the North has been dealing with various early season issues, there’s the potential for lots of entertainment there as well. The Battle of Alberta is almost guaranteed to get the blood flowing. The Canucks tend to be a high-event team, for better or for worse. Same could be said for the Jets, who just made a blockbuster trade two weeks into the season. The Senators? Well, they stink, but every family has that child they just choose to ignore.
Even as someone who likes to take shots at Canadian hockey markets whenever I get the chance, it’s impossible to pretend like the North isn’t fun as hell. Even if it’s only a novelty, it may be the most redeeming part of this mutant season.
On to the Power Rankings to see what our early impressions look like.
Not many teams could lose their leading scorer over the past handful of seasons and still be considered the cream of the crop. The Lightning are deep enough to overcome Kucherov’s loss, especially when Steven Stamkos is healthy and productive.
Mark Stone should be an early favorite for Hart. He’s stacking points on one of the league’s best teams and he’s as complete a player as there is.
If you’re looking for a fun, young team that’s on the brink of breaking through and establishing themselves as a true contender, these guys are for you. They’re finding success, the underlying numbers are great and they’ve got the best goal differential in the league. They’ve also got five shorthanded goals in seven games.
Toronto’s top talent is tearing it up and the offense/power play looks absolutely lethal. They’ve still got work to do defensively but they’re at least getting the saves they need.
They’re capable of destroying teams on any given night, but they’re still struggling with consistency so far. If they hit full stride consistently, they’re as good — if not better — than anyone else in the league.
Jury is still out on what this team is capable of. They’ve got at least a point in every game so far, but they’ve looked shaky at points and have only really faced one tough opponent.
The lack of 5v5 scoring and depth contributions may not be as much of an issue as they appeared to be in the first few games of the season. They’re still looking like a pretty good (if not overly exciting) hockey team.
No surprise here, but the possession numbers are great and there’s not a lot of reason to doubt that this team can hang around the top of the Central. They just haven’t played a ton of hockey yet.
They look pretty solid in the standings, but they’ve yet to beat a team that I’d be comfortable classifying as “good.” They’ve also looked pretty ugly in some of those wins against bad teams. They’ve got to clean up the breakouts and play in their own end if they want to stay in good standing.
The defense has been leakier than anticipated, but there’s also been a decent amount of turnover on the back end so might not be worth panicking just yet.
Well, they’re playing hockey again so that’s a step in the right direction! They’ve also scored 19 goals in their first four games, which is quite unexpected. But 10 of those goals have come on the power play (10-for-19) so I probably wouldn’t get used to this level of offensive production.
The defense has looked good for the most part (no shock there), but the offense has struggled (also no shock there). They had a full meltdown against Washington and they can’t afford to give away points during an abbreviated season.
They had a strong start, but the depth (or at least depth unfamiliarity) is starting to be exposed and they’re not looking quite as good against quality competition.
They haven’t played a good team yet, but they’re beating the teams they should beat and playing rather well defensively, which is nice to see. If they can keep that up (and get some saves from Sergei Bobrovsky) then they could make some noise.
A 5-2 start is nice, but it’s a little less impressive when you remember three of those wins came against the Senators. Still, Winnipeg’s offense looks good and the addition of Pierre-Luc Dubois should be fun. The defense and penalty kill remains their Achilles Heel.
Well, they don’t look great. The back end looks shaky and they aren’t getting saves. And they can’t score on 3-on-0s. And their general manager unexpectedly resigned out of nowhere in the middle of the season. Other than that? All good.
Is it too early to fire up the Kirill Kaprizov Calder train? I say no.
They’re not getting enough production from top players and special teams are a complete mess. That being said, they look like a fringe team and that’s basically what we expected.
This might be a “buy low” situation but the Canucks have largely been a mess through the first few weeks. Elias Pettersson has been too quiet, the defense has allowed way too many opportunities (and in rapid succession) in high-danger areas and special teams have been anything but special.
We knew they’d have some of the same issues that they’ve struggled with in years past (depth, defense, goaltending), but they look worse than expected despite strong play from Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. A good portion of these struggles are self-inflicted mistakes that can be corrected, though.
They’ve earned a point in six straight games despite dealing with half-hearted play from — and then trading — the best forward in an unimpressive offense. Seems like they might be pesky again this year.
It doesn’t look like this is going to be Erik Karlsson’s bounce-back year, huh?
Anze Kopitar is tearing it up and they’re finally starting to win some games, but I wouldn’t set your hopes too high.
Undisciplined play and a horrible penalty kill could be a problem here.
They look competitive and the top of the lineup can be dominant at times but they’re just not complete enough. They make too many mistakes and are too inconsistent.
I’ll be honest … this team is just thoroughly uninteresting from pretty much all angles.
They haven’t been good, but they also haven’t been terrible. It’s a young team that needs to figure it out but they may be able to get there if the leadership paves the way. They simply need more production from the top.
They’re going to ruin another incredible season from John Gibson, aren’t they?
They’ve won two games this season and both have come against the Red Wings. See below.
Well, at least they had a decent opening week.
One win in eight games and the worst goal differential in hockey. They were outscored 16-3 in three games against the Canucks, a team that has been pretty terrible defensively. That’s extremely concerning.
Published: 2021-01-29 18:07:20
Tags: #NHL #Power #Rankings #Maple #Leafs #Canadians #rule #fun #North #division