The depth. This team lost its best offensive player and hasn’t missed a beat. They still look like the best the league has to offer.
Their 200-foot game. One of the most fun things about watching the Golden Knights is how hard they play up-and-down the ice. They’re constantly applying pressure in all three zones and playing high energy hockey. If you’re going up against these guys, you’re not going to have much room (or time) to breathe.
The finishing power. Even the most skeptical Leafs haters have to admit that this team has looked good so far this season, and that’s largely because the offensive stars are producing. Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner have been awesome to watch. Toronto is still giving up plenty of high-danger opportunities in their own end, but Freddie Andersen is making saves and they’re finding success.
They’re living up to the hype. The Canadiens took a step forward at the end of last season and had themselves a good offseason. As such, a lot of people (including myself) were high on them coming into this year, and they’ve more than delivered thus far. They’ve been incredible at driving play and their young players/new additions have clicked.
That top line. Yes, the trio of Patrice Bergeron-Brad Marchand-David Pastrnak are still a dominant sight to behold. Who would have thought?
Their top-end talent. The Avs have done a great job building out their roster but the true joy in this team still lies in its star pillars. Nathan MacKinnon is arguably the most exciting player in the league not named Connor McDavid, and Cale Makar is arguably the most skilled blue liner in the game already.
The five-on-five play. Once again, the Hurricanes are looking pretty great in the possession/analytics department. They have a 57.7 percent attempts share and 58.8 percent expected goals rate — both tops in the league. More importantly, they’re finding very good results, too.
The defensive play. Florida was all offense, no defense last year and it didn’t end well for them, especially with how poorly Sergei Bobrovsky played. This year, things have flipped a little bit. They’ve been much better at limiting opportunities in their own end, giving up the second-fewest high danger chances in the league at 5v5. It’s a big reason why they’ve only lost one game in regulation through their first 10 games despite Bobrovsky still playing poorly.
Joe Pavelski’s contributions. Before this season, I wondered how the Stars — a team that doesn’t score a whole lot to begin with — was going to survive losing Tyler Seguin for a huge chunk of the year. A 36-year-old Pavelski still thriving with seven goals and 15 points through 10 games certainly helps the cause.
Their record. To put it simply, the Flyers have played much worse than their record (8-3-2) indicates to this point. They’ve looked really shaky at points (including in games against inferior competition) but have often found ways to squeak out wins, or at least a loser point. Their current standing bodes well for them considering they’re capable of much better.
Their early season cushion. The Blues got off to a good start to the season despite some unexpected struggles. The offense has been middle-of-the road, the defense has been leakier than anticipated and the special teams have been brutal. But despite all of that, the Blues were able to give themselves an early season cushion that should help them as they sort through their problems.
Ability to weather the storm. I’m still not sold on the Capitals as anything more than an above-average team but they’ve done a good job navigating early season obstacles, including injuries and COVID absences to key players. Treading water is better than sinking.
Center depth. Winnipeg has been consistently in the market for center depth for years at this point and they finally got it with the trade for Pierre-Luc Dubois. A top-nine that includes Mark Scheifele, PLD and Paul Stastny down the middle? That’s quite good.
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. What…you were expecting something else?
Jacob Markstrom. A lot of critics didn’t like the deal the Flames gave him last offseason but he’s legitimately been a difference-maker for Calgary already.
They’re not the most boring team in hockey anymore. I’ve consistently dunked on the Wild for being completely uninteresting for years, but they’re starting to trend toward relevance. They still lack major star power but Kirill Kaprizov, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway and Kevin Fiala are all intriguing young(ish) pieces up front. With a good defensive unit behind them, they’re becoming a team that’s worth watching.
Mat Barzal. The Islanders can often dull down games with defensive chokeholds but Barzal is the Ferrari that sometimes gets let loose out of the garage. Not only does he remain a high-octane playmaker with great vision and puck skill, but he’s seemed to add a bit of zip to his shot this year as well.
Conor Garland and Christian Dvorak. As far as underrated duos go, these two might be at the top of the league at this point. Arizona has been in search of offensive talent for a while now and they’ve finally got something to build around in Garland/Dvorak, who have been driving play and producing to a tremendous degree.
New beginnings. The Penguins have seemingly been trending in the wrong direction for a few years and now they’ve got a new front office coming in to shake things up. Now, did they hire the right guys to do the shaking up? Well, that remains to be seen.
They’re not horrible. Almost everyone expected the Blackhawks to be one of the worst teams in hockey this year. The fact that they’re even remotely watchable has been a pleasant surprise.
Adam Fox. Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere who? The Rangers most exciting young player has been Fox, who is becoming something of a revelation on the blue line in his second full season. The 22-year-old is leading all skaters in ice time and thriving on both ends of the ice, even if the rest of the team isn’t following suit.
The drama. No matter where John Tortorella goes, drama seems to follow. It took all of four games for “benching PLD” to turn into “benching Patrik Laine” and Torts still insists that the last thing he wants to do is sit his best players. Now there are reports that Tortorella may not even be interested in coaching anymore? Oh, it’s a non-stop soap opera in Columbus these days.
The development of Jack Hughes. There’s no question that Hughes had a terrible rookie season after going No. 1 overall in the draft but he’s looked great to start this season. He’s driving play and producing on the scoresheet, so a lot of people who were quick to throw around the “bust” label are now being forced to reconsider.
Their games feature a lot of goals. Unfortunately for the Canucks, most of them are scored by the other team.
Their uniforms. Sure, the Sabres have been disappointingly slow out of the gate and look like they might be stuck at the bottom of the standings once again this season but at least they’ve got those sweet royal blues back.
They can expose Matt Duchene to Seattle after this season. Only five more seasons at $8 million per year. What a steal.
The emergence of Mario Ferraro. Things are going poorly for the Sharks again this season (especially in their own end) but the silver lining might be the play of Ferraro, who is making a strong case to lock down a consistent spot on San Jose’s top defensive pairing.
Anze Kopitar has rediscovered a younger version of himself. Unfortunately, the rest of the Kings are still old and/or largely useless.
They still have Trevor Zegras. And yet they still aren’t playing him for some reason?
They’re not as bad as last season! (Please ignore that their point pacing is just BARELY better than last year’s squad, which was one of the worst teams in NHL history.
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Published: 2021-02-12 04:35:29
Tags: #NHL #Power #Rankings #love #team #season