Winners and Losers from the NHL's Opening Week

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Winners and Losers from the NHL's Opening Week
Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

After an eventful first week of the 2013 NHL season, we now have a good idea of which teams and players were well prepared for the intensity of a 48-game schedule.

While some teams came out of the gates already looking like they are in midseason form, a lot of teams and players have struggled to get back into the flow of a normal in-season schedule.

Let's look at the winners and losers from the NHL's opening week.

 

Winners

Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and the Chicago Blackhawks

Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Blackhawks are off to their best start since the 1972-73 season as the only 4-0 team in the NHL, and they have beaten some quality teams over the first week of the season.

Three of Chicago's four wins have come against playoff teams from last season (Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, St. Louis Blues) and a good Dallas Stars team.

The team's offense is firing on all cylinders with 4.3 goals scored per game, and goaltender Corey Crawford is anchoring the defense with three impressive wins between the pipes.

Special teams have also been a key part in the Blackhawks' success early in the season. They have the seventh-best power-play and the third-best penalty kill.

Star forwards Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa are both playing like Hart Trophy candidates, and have 13 combined points through four games.

The Blackhawks are playing like a team with something to prove, and that's bad news for the rest of the NHL because this team has a ton of talent and Stanley Cup experience.

 

Erik Karlsson and the Ottawa Senators

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Ottawa Senators are proving that last year's surprising success wasn't a fluke, and that they will be legitimate contenders in the Eastern Conference again this season.

Ottawa is the only Eastern Conference team with three wins, and one of two teams in the East that is still undefeated.

The Senators have scored 11 goals with just two goals against, which gives them the best goal differential in the conference.

A quick look at four key stats helps show how well Ottawa has played thus far:

Stat Goals For Goals Against Power-Play Penalty Kill
NHL Rank 7th 2nd 6th 10th

Reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson has four points (two goals, two assists) in three games, and he is giving the Senators the offensive production needed with defenseman Jared Cowen injured.

As long as this team keeps scoring goals and starting goaltender Craig Anderson plays well, the Senators are fully capable of not only making the playoffs, but also winning at least one round.

 

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and the San Jose Sharks

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
People who predicted the decline of the San Jose Sharks and their veteran superstars, such as Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, have been disappointed this season.

The Sharks have benefited from the shortened schedule because they didn't make a lot of changes in the offseason, and most of their team has been together for a couple years.

Thornton leads the league in scoring with nine points, while Marleau (eight points) and Logan Couture (seven points) rank second and tied for fourth, respectively.

The Sharks haven't scored fewer than four goals in any of their three games to start the year, and they have the second-best power-play in the league.

If starting goaltender Antti Niemi keeps playing well, this team will be very tough to beat because their offense isn't going to have many off-nights.

San Jose knows that this may be its final opportunity to win a championship with the team's current group of players, and since very few people picked them to win the Stanley Cup this season, the entire team has plenty of motivation in 2013.

 

Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville

The Buffalo Sabres' strong start to the season can be largely attributed to the impressive performances of their two best offensive players, Thomas Vanek and captain Jason Pominville.

Both players are among the league leaders in scoring. Vanek is tied for second with eight points (two goals, six assists) and Pominville is tied for fourth with seven points (three goals, four assists).

The Sabres didn't score enough goals (17th in NHL) to compete for a playoff spot last year, and Pominville and Vanek are making sure that doesn't happen again.

These stars have given the Sabres one of the top scoring duos in the league, and they will help the team earn a playoff spot for the third time in the last four seasons.

 

Vladimir Tarasenko

No rookie in the NHL has made a bigger impact on his team's success during the NHL's opening week than St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko.

The 21-year-old Russian has four goals (third most in the league) in four games, and has already established himself as one of the most dangerous one-on-one forwards in the league.

He's also played an important role on the Blues power play, which leads the league with seven goals in 13 opportunities.

After watching Tarasenko dominate opponents in the first four games of his NHL career, it would be surprising if he failed to lead all rookies in scoring this season.

 

Martin Brodeur

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
The New Jersey Devils lost superstar forward Zach Parise to free agency last summer, but they did manage to re-sign their most important player, starting goaltender Martin Brodeur.

The 40-year-old veteran has stopped 42 of 43 shots that he has faced in two games, and has proven that he still has plenty of good performances left in him.

Brodeur is capable of helping the Devils earn a playoff spot almost by himself this season, and he might even be a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, which is an award that he's already won four times in his Hall of Fame career.

 

Losers

Philadelphia Flyers

USA TODAY Sports
Despite earning their first win of the season on Thursday night against the New York Rangers, the Philadelphia Flyers have not had a very good opening week.

Injuries and lackluster defensive performances have highlighted the team's start to the season. Philadelphia has allowed three goals per game, and starting goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has not played well. The Flyers offense has also played poorly with a league-worst 1.3 goals-per-game average.

Young forwards such as Matt Read and Brayden Schenn, who have a combined zero points through four games, must play better to give Philadelphia the scoring depth it needs to overcome the team's poor defense and goaltending.

Also contributing to the Flyers' scoring woes is the team's power play, which ranks 25th in the league with just two goals in 18 opportunities.

Head coach Peter Laviolette will have to reshuffle his lines now that top goal scorer Scott Hartnell is unable to play for at least a month with a foot injury. Second-line center Danny Briere is also nursing an injury and has yet to play a game this season.

The Flyers couldn't catch a break in the first week of the season, but they still have plenty of time to improve and climb up the standings.

 

Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Washington Capitals are 0-3 and at the bottom of the Southeast Division standings. Veteran forward Troy Brouwer shared his feelings on the team's awful start to the season with CSN Washington's Chuck Gormley.

Washington ranks 21st in terms of goals scored and 30th in goals against. Superstar forward Alexander Ovechkin has just one assist through three games with no goals scored.

Nearly all of the team's best offensive players, including Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Ribeiro, Jason Chimera, Mike Green, John Carlson and Ovechkin have not scored scored a single goal.

Starting goaltender Braden Holtby, who was the team's playoff hero last season, has looked awful in his first two games. He's 0-2 with a 5.03 GAA and an .863 save percentage.

The Capitals offense is struggling, and it has failed to keep opponents from scoring, so it's not hard to understand why it was an awful first week of the season in Washington.

 

Mike Richards, Dustin Brown and the Los Angeles Kings

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Just like the Boston Bruins last season, the Los Angeles Kings have started the season poorly as the defending Stanley Cup champions.

The Kings are 0-2-1 through three games, and the offensive struggles that highlighted the team's first half of the 2011-12 season are once again a real concern.

Los Angeles has scored only four goals despite playing against just one top goaltender (Phoenix's Mike Smith) thus far. The team's power play also ranks 29th in the league.

Star goaltender Jonathan Quick has also failed to impress this season. He has a 3.33 GAA and an .891 save percentage after winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the 2012 NHL playoffs.

Quick will turn his season around and play at a high level, but the chances of the Kings scoring enough goals to win games consistently are not as high.

Mike Richards and Dustin Brown have failed to score a point this season, and despite being two of the best defensive forwards in the NHL, they have a combined plus/minus rating of minus-eight. The Kings need to improve quickly because the Pacific Division isn't going to be easy to win this year.

 

Phoenix Coyotes

The Coyotes are 1-3 and might have to win games without starting goaltender Mike Smith after he suffered an injury (via AZCentral.com's Sarah McLellan) earlier this week.

Phoenix ranks 28th in goals against, and the team's only win was against the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are arguably the worst franchise in the NHL.

The Coyotes' attendance has also been abysmal thus far. The team ranks dead last in average attendance, according to ESPN, which is not good news for the league's least-profitable franchise during the 2011-12 season (via Forbes).

 

Phil Kessel

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Toronto Maple Leafs winger Phil Kessel is one of the most gifted offensive players in the league, but he has been a major disappointment through four games.

He has scored zero goals with two assists, and did not play well in the Leafs' 7-4 loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday night. After scoring 82 points last season, Kessel's struggles in 2013 are a real surprise.

He has to play better now that top-line teammate Joffrey Lupul will miss over a month with an arm injury (via Renaud Lavoie of RDS).

Luckily for the Leafs, forwards such as Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk, Mikhail Grabovski and Tyler Bozak have all played well in the early part of the season, but the team needs Kessel to live up to expectations in order to have a successful season.

 

Nicholas Goss is an NHL Columnist at Bleacher Report, follow him on Twitter.

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