Hockey is back. Finally! After a week of play, all we know is that there will definitely be a full 82-game season. And that there will be six outdoor games. And that there will be an Olympic break in February. When it comes to the teams, things are a little more up in the air. The Penguins and Blues are looking good early, the Avalanche could make a serious turnaround, and the Blackhawks have a tough road ahead to repeat as Cup champs.
Every Monday throughout the 2013-14 NHL season, check out SIKids.com for the latest NHL Power Rankings. Then tell us what we got right, what we got wrong, and your predictions for the season in the comments section!
1. Pittsburgh Penguins (2-0-0)
After getting shut down by Boston in last season's Eastern Conference Finals, the Pens seem to have regained their offensive edge. But the real surprise through the first week is goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. He opened the season by shutting out the Devils and has only allowed one goal through the first two games. If he's back to form, the Pens could dominate this season.
2. St. Louis Blues (2-0-0)
The Blues have been picking up steam the last couple seasons, and this year they exploded out of the gate, beating the Predators then crushing the Panthers. They're outscoring opponents 11-2 through two games, and with a relatively soft schedule through October St. Louis should be at the top of the Central Division. But two games with defending Cup champion Chicago loom — a big test for a hot team on the rise.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs (3-0-0)
The Leafs have something to prove this season. Toronto made the playoffs for the first time in a long time last season, but then collapsed in the first round after being up 3-1 on the Bruins. Through three games this season, the Leafs are allowing teams to keep it close, needing a shootout to defeat the Senators. Is allowing less talented teams to hang around a sign of things to come? Toronto fans hope not — it could result in a very long season.
4. Boston Bruins (2-0-0)
The defending Eastern Conference champs are picking up where they left off: Shutting down opposing clubs. The wins aren't pretty, but the Bruins and goalie Tuuka Rask are keeping pucks out of the net. In a relatively weak Atlantic Division, the Bruins should have the inside track. But they'll need to keep an eye on the Leafs, Canadiens, and new division rival Red Wings.
5. San Jose Sharks (2-0-0)
Regular season success has been a Sharks staple for years (it's when they get to the playoffs where things go wrong). And so far, San Jose is keeping the trend going. But October looks tough with games against St. Louis, Boston, and Montreal to go with division games against the Canucks and Kings. We'll know a lot more about this team come November 1.
6. Detroit Red Wings (2-1-0)
The Wings moved to the Eastern Conference this season, and so far they look like the team that almost missed the playoffs for the first time in decades last season. Detroit has beaten Buffalo and Carolina, but barely, while losing to the Bruins. If Detroit hopes to make it back to the postseason, the Wings will have to go through Boston and learn how to swat away less talented clubs like the Sabres. Welcome to the East!
7. Chicago Blackhawks (1-0-1)
The defending champs were never going to repeat the epic run they went on last season, opening the campaign by going 24 games without a regulation loss. But after dropping a shootout to the Lightning, and playing in a super competitive Central Division, the Hawks will need to go hard to have a shot at back-to-back Cups.
8. Anaheim Ducks (2-1-0)
It's usually difficult to peg what kind of team the Ducks will be in the opening weeks of the season. They normally take a while to find their footing and identity, and this season could be more of the same. After a loss to Colorado, an overtime win against Minnesota, and close 3-2 victor over Winnipeg — all teams they should own — the Ducks are near the top of the Pacific, but it could be a short stay if they play down to their opponents.
9. Montreal Canadiens (1-1-0)
Montreal lost a close one to Toronto to open the season, then took care of business against the Flyers. It could be that kind of season in the new Atlantic Division. But if the Canadiens hope to skate into the postseason as division champs they'll have to consistently beat the Leafs and Bruins, not just the lowly Flyers of the league.
10. Vancouver Canucks (2-1-0)
Like the Sharks, Vancouver is a dominant regular season club. But with new coach John Tortorella, the Canucks might have the missing piece to make it back to the Stanley Cup Finals. Or maybe not. The club lost to San Jose and needed overtime to defeat the rebuilding Flames. Championship teams win the tough ones — and dominate teams at the lower rung of the standings.
11. Colorado Avalanche (2-0-0)
New coach Patrick Roy has his team fired up. But it's still too early to know if this team is for real.
12. New York Islanders (1-0-1)
After its surprising playoff stand last year, the Isles are looking to make a statement this season.
13. Winnipeg Jets (2-1-1)
The Jets moved East to West this season, which could be the difference between looking out and playing in the playoffs.
14. Ottawa Senators (1-0-1)
The Sens are rebuilding this season after longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson left for Detroit.
15. Columbus Blue Jackets (1-1-0)
Columbus got this close to the playoffs last year. But now the Jackets are in the Metropolitan Division with the Pens and Caps. How will they respond?
16. Los Angeles Kings (1-1-0)
A loss to the Jets and shootout win over the Wild could be a preview of a tough season for the perennial Stanley Cup favorites.
17. Phoenix Coyotes (1-1-0)
Expectations are low in Phoenix after a tug of war over the team and where it would play. But keep an eye on this team: The Coyotes could surprise.
18. Carolina Hurricanes (1-0-1)
The Canes are stocked with talent, but so are a lot of other teams in the Metropolitan Division. Like the Blue Jackets, they might not be able to keep up.
19. Washington Capitals (1-2-0)
After the weird season the Caps had last year, this could be a long season for Ovechkin and company. But it should be fun to watch — especially now that their rivals the Pens are in the same division!
20. New York Rangers (0-1-0)
We haven't seen enough of the Rangers yet, but new coach Alain Vigneault could uncork the offensive skill previous coach John Tortorella could never tap into.
21. Dallas Stars (1-1-0)
Likely to be a team team in the middle of the pack all season, though the Stars could give some teams the fits.
22. Calgary Flames (1-0-2)
This is generous positioning for a team in full-on rebuilding mode, even if the Flames are hanging with teams. But how long will that last?
23. Tampa Bay Lightning (1-1-0)
Like Dallas, the Lightning will hang around but never make a serious run at the Cup. They're still a couple years away from being a scary team again.
24. New Jersey Devils (0-1-1)
For the first time in forever, the Devils opened the season without goalie Martin Brodeur in net. Kovalchuk bolted for Russia. There are new owners. And the team looked bad in its first two games. Buckle up, Devils fans. It's going to be a bumpy ride.
25. Minnesota Wild (0-0-2)
The Wild can play with the best of them, but don't have the ability to finish. Still, if they get hot, Minnesota could surprise some people.
26. Nashville Predators (0-2-0)
It will be a while before top prospect Seth Jones can turn the Predators into a legit contender.
27. Florida Panthers (1-1-0)
The Panthers weren't very good last season, and odds are they won't be very good this season, either.
28. Edmonton Oilers (0-2-0)
The Oilers are another team in hardcore rebuild mode. But they seem to missing any kind of direction — which is never a good sign.
29. Philadelphia Flyers (0-3-0)
It's going to be a long, long season on Broad Street this year. The Flyers are a team in disarray. They fired coach Peter Laviolette today, and things will only get worse before it gets better.
30. Buffalo Sabres (0-3-0)
After firing longtime coach Lindy Ruff, the Sabres are looking to find a new identity. Goalie Ryan Miller will keep them in games, but that's probably the only good news Buffalo fans will find this season.
Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images