NHL: Week 1 Who's Hot and Who's Not
The first week of the NHL season is in the books. There are some around the league that are off to hot starts and some that are still back in training camp.
With four undefeated teams left and seven squads with one win or less, the abbreviated season scrutinizes every streak. Most teams have played at least four games at this point but some are hotter than others.
Take a look through those teams and players off to great starts, those that would like to forget the first week of the season and those ready to heat up or cool off.
Hot: Chicago Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks have won their first five games of the season against some difficult competition. The season started with a bang when they knocked off the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings 5-2.
Wins over Phoenix, St. Louis, Dallas and Columbus have the Blackhawks atop the standings in the early part of the season.
Patrick Kane leads the team with nine points and seven assists, and Marian Hossa’s five goals ties him for second in the league.
Hot: Boston Bruins
The B’s faced off against Eastern Conference favorite, the New York Rangers, twice in the first four games and fared well. The Bruins won the season opener 3-1 and nearly snagged the second game but a hat trick from Marian Gaborik ended that in overtime.
Boston starts a stretch of three games in four days against tough teams in Carolina and against New Jersey and Buffalo. A 5-1-1 start in the month of January would be a great foundation for Tuukka Rask’s team.
The Bruins have 15 different players to record points, and Rask has a 1.96 goals-against average through four games. It’s not a fancy start, but it is effective.
Hot: San Jose Sharks
The Sharks are on top of their division and they are one of the hottest teams in the NHL. At 4-0-0, the Sharks are plus-12 in goal differential and have the second-highest scoring offense in the Western Conference.
It’s been a storybook start for a San Jose team that may have benefited greatly from the extended offseason. Can the Sharks veteran studs keep up this pace?
Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have 11 points each. Marleau leads the league in goals with eight. Antti Niemi has started with a respectable 2.34 GAA and a 3-0 record.
Not: Washington Capitals
The Capitals are the only winless team left in the NHL. Expectations were high with new head coach Adam Oates, but he hasn’t been as successful in the early part of the season as Washington hoped.
Not to discredit Joel Ward, but he should not be leading this team in goals (2). Alex Ovechkin has just one point. John Carlson has one point and a minus-1 rating.
The goaltending duo of Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby has a combined 4.18 GAA.
It has been a rough start for the Caps and it doesn’t get easier in the next couple weeks with contests against Toronto, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Ottawa.
Not: Florida Panthers
The Southeast Division was thought to be one of the deeper divisions the league heading into the season, but it wasn’t supposed to be so deep in the conference standings.
Defending division champion Florida is 1-4-0. They dominated Carolina in the season opener but forgot how to keep the puck out of the net since. The Panthers have given up 18 goals in the last four games including a seven-goal effort against Philadelphia.
How long until Jacob Markstrom joins the big club?
Not: Phoenix Coyotes
A remarkable postseason run brought high expectations into this season for the Coyotes, but little momentum. Ownership issues and relocation rumors have plagued Phoenix all offseason and they look a bit weary in the early going.
The only win in Phoenix’s 1-4-0 record is over Columbus. With goaltender Mike Smith out with a lower-body injury, the goaltending situation has become a concern. Injury issues have plagued Smith in the past. Coyote fans hope he will get through this quickly.
Warming Up: Philadelphia Flyers
An 0-3 start brought a great amount of criticism to Philadelphia. They have calmed that down by winning the last two—including a 7-1 drubbing of Florida and a close win over the Rangers.
The Flyers have some injury issues to deal with, but if they can survive this stretch without losing too much ground, things could be looking up. Philadelphia plays against Southeast Division opponents in seven of its next nine games.
Matt Read, Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux lead the team with four points each. Ilya Bryzgalov is performing well (2.22 GAA, .923 save percentage) despite a 2-3 record.
Cooling Off: Minnesota Wild
As the headliners of the offseason, the Minnesota Wild lived up to the hype with back-to-back wins to start off the season. Central Division foes Nashville and Detroit weren’t buying into the hype and knocked the Wild back down to reality.
Chicago, Anaheim, Vancouver and Nashville are all on the schedule in the next couple weeks. That stretch of games should make things interesting.
Zach Parise’s signing appears to be worth it as he leads the team with six points. Ryan Suter has just one assist and a minus-4 rating.
Hot Forwards: Joe Thornton/Patrick Marleau/Vladimir Tarasenko
San Jose has the top two scorers in the league in Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Both have 11 points, but in different forms. Thornton has two goals and nine assists. Marleau adds a league-best eight goals and three assists.
Special teams have played a great role in the San Jose success. The duo has a combined 15 power play points and San Jose is 10-24 with the man advantage.
Rookie sensation Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues has garnered some attention with his hot start. He is tied with the rookie lead with seven points (Tampa Bay’s Cory Conacher). Four goals, three assists, eight hits and a plus-4 rating have Tarasenko earning his spot quickly.
Cold Forwards: Gabriel Landeskog/Alex Ovechkin
Named captain of the Colorado Avalanche in the offseason, Gabriel Landeskog was looking to carry over an outstanding rookie season. That hasn’t happened so far.
He has just one point in four games including games against Columbus and a slow-starting Los Angeles. With Ryan O’Reilly still not in the lineup, Landeskog needs to produce more for the Avs.
Alex Ovechkin is another star who has underperformed. With Adam Oates and his offensive mind behind the bench in Washington, Ovechkin could have been poised for a return to his superstar production, but not yet.
Hot Defenseman: Justin Schultz
Looks like Edmonton picked a good one in Justin Schultz this offseason. The rookie has six points—tied with Kevin Shattenkirk (STL) for most points by a defenseman.
He is even outscoring the league’s best defenseman—Erik Karlsson—by a point. It’s been a great start for Schultz that has helped Edmonton to a 2-2-0 start.
Cold Defenseman: Ryan Suter
Ryan Suter signed a gigantic contract this offseason to be the staple of the Minnesota defense. He has one point and a minus-4 rating. Even more unfortunate, he has four penalty minutes and just one hit.
Things will need to turn around for the $98 million man. He has the worst plus/minus rating on the team, but logging over 27 minutes per game should provide Suter enough opportunity to break out of the slump.
Hot Goaltender: Craig Anderson
Craig Anderson is quietly off to a great start. He is 3-0 and has given up just two goals on 85 shots. He leads the league in GAA (0.67), save percentage (.976) and is one of seven goaltenders with a shutout.
Don’t sleep on this goaltender leading Ottawa to a playoff appearance again.
Cold Goaltender: Cam Ward
There isn’t a lot of good news out of the Carolina clubhouse. The team is struggling. Alexander Semin is starting slow and the team just can’t seem to find a way to beat anyone but the Buffalo Sabres.
Florida scored five on the 'Canes and Tampa Bay scored four. We will see if Ward can snap out of this streak now that Carolina has a couple wins under its belt.