Two weeks into the NHL season, the Western Conference looks like a powerhouse. The Blues, Avalanche, Sharks, and Ducks are rolling thanks to big-time goal scoring, solid goaltending, and gritty toughness. But in the East, things are bleak. The Penguins, Bruins, and Maple Leafs look sharp, but the Sabres, Flyers, Rangers, Capitals, and Devils have two wins — total.
It's still early, but under the new alignment it will be tough for a lot of those teams in the East to make up ground. But this is the NHL. Anything can happen, and there's still tons of games left to play. If the Caps, Rangers, and Devils want to make a run in the super competitive Metropolitan Division, they have to make a move soon.
1. St. Louis Blues (4-0-0, Last Week: 2)
The Blues squeaked by the defending champs Chicago and have put away lower-tier clubs, like they should. The Blues are developing a killer instinct, which will make them a force to be reckoned with all season. And with a pretty easy slate of 10 games ahead of them, this club could be 12-2 or 11-3 before it faces its first big-time challenge, the Penguins, on November 9.
2. Colorado Avalanche (5-0-0, Last Week: 11)
New coach Patrick Roy has the Avs playing with grit and tenacity. But this team is also dangerous on the scoresheet — 18 goals for in the first five games — and between the pipes — only four goals allowed. And they're beating quality teams like Boston and Toronto. It's possible this team is just running on adrenaline right now and will fall back to reality as the season goes on. But right now, Colorado looks like a beast.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs (5-1-0, Last Week: 3)
The Leafs record might be better than the team actually is. Toronto is scoring a lot (23 goals in six games), but it's allowing clubs like Ottawa and Edmonton to hang around. With a relatively easy schedule ahead of them, the Leafs should be in good shape heading into November. But big tests loom agains the Blackhawks, Penguins, and Ducks. Those games will show what this team is made of.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (4-1-0, Last Week: 1)
The Pens are at the top of the Metropolitan Division, and with the Capitals, Flyers, Rangers, and Devils all underachieving, they should stay there all season. Crosby looks sharp with nine goals in five games (including a hat trick), and Fleury is in top form (4-0, 1.75 GAA). But there's a big issue in backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff. With Tomas Vokoun out for at least six months, Pittsburgh will need a reliable second goaltender to remain elite.
5. San Jose Sharks (5-0-0, Last Week: 5)
The Pacific Division has the potential to be the most competitive this season, and right now the Sharks are on top. They're shutting down opponents (four goals allowed in five games) and finding the back of the net often (putting up nine goals on the Rangers last week). But they have a tough schedule ahead, beginning with the Blues on Tuesday. If they're not careful, the Sharks could easily be overtaken by the Ducks or Kings.
6. Boston Bruins (3-1-0, Last Week: 4)
The Bruins haven't played much yet, but their playing like they did in last season's playoffs: Consistent. And boring. They've only scored 10 goals in four games, while allowing five. It's a solid start, but getting shut out by the Avalanche should worry this team. Rask is an unreal goaltender, but they still need to score to keep pace with the best of the East.
7. Anaheim Ducks (4-1-0, Last Week: 8)
After losing to the Avalanche in their first game, the Ducks have rebounded to win four in a row and keep pace with the Sharks in the Pacific Division. Anaheim hasn't gotten tested much, outside of the Avs, and its schedule through mid-November looks favorable. Unless the Ducks just fall apart, they should be able to separate themselves from the rest of the West in the coming weeks.
8. Chicago Blackhawks (3-1-1, Last Week: 7)
The Hawks are beating clubs they should beat (Washington, Buffalo), but losing to ones who are real challengers to their tittle (St. Louis). It's too early to say Chicago has a Cup hangover, but this is a team that has looked a bit inconsistent. It's still early, though, and the Hawks faced real-deal adversity last year. Chicago is still a contender, but it could fall way behind if the West remains so competitive.
9. Detroit Red Wings (3-2-0, Last Week: 6)
Speaking of inconsistent, the Red Wings are winning close games but losing when their opponents score more than three goals. Detroit put up five against a petty bad Flyers team, but before that couldn't muster more than 2 goals a game. The Wings are an aging club, but if they want to keep their postseason streak alive they'll need to keep up with high octane offenses in Pittsburgh and Washington by regaining its scoring touch.
10. Los Angeles Kings (4-2-0, Last Week: 16)
The Kings are in the thick of the Pacific Division, but three of their six games have gone to overtime and shootouts and they gave the Rangers their only win of the season. If LA hopes to have any shot at the top of the division, it will have to put teams away. The Kings are too talented to play down to bad teams — and give away points in the process.
11. New York Islanders (2-2-1, Last Week: 12)
Tavares scored a hat trick, then lost a few teeth after a vicious hit. The NHL is not overlooking this team anymore.
12. Montreal Canadiens (3-2-0, Last Week: 9)
The Canadiens are good and will be near the top of the Atlantic this season. But right now, they need to find a groove.
13. Phoenix Coyotes (4-1-1, Last Week: 17)
The Coyotes have a long way to go, but their building off last season and look like they have enough to sneak into the playoff race.
14. Calgary Flames (3-0-2, Last Week: 22)
Yes, it's early, but the Flames are taking this season seriously. The rebuild might collapse as the year goes on, but right now they have to be happy with how things are going.
15. Vancouver Canucks (3-3-0, Last Week: 10)
This team is underachieving in the worst way. With back-to-back OT games against lesser clubs, its record could very easily be 1-5 right now.
16. Carolina Hurricanes (2-2-2, Last Week: 18)
The 'Canes are second in what is right now a weak Metro Division, but back-to-back losses aren't a good sign.
17. Tampa Bay Lightning (3-2-0, Last Week: 23)
The Lightning are struggling with an identity, and they'll probably be a .500 club this year. But they're keeping games close — and entertaining.
18. Winnipeg Jets (3-3-0, Last Week: 13)
After winning its first two games, Winnipeg dropped three in a row before shutting out the Devils. With the way the West is shaping up, the Jets could be cooled pretty quickly.
19. Columbus Blue Jackets (2-2-0, Last Week: 15)
The Blue Jackets look more and more like a .500 team. But if the Capitals and Rangers don't recover, they could make a run at a low postseason seed.
20. Minnesota Wild (2-1-2, Last Week: 25)
After starting the season with three straight losses (one in a shootout), the Wild have rebounded and won their last two.
21. Dallas Stars (2-2-0, Last Week: 21)
Dallas is another one of those teams in search of an identity. But without big-name talent, it will be a while before it can break out.
22. Ottawa Senators (1-2-2, Last Week: 14)
The Senators are starting to feel what it's like to be without its long-time captain — and what it means to rebuild.
23. Nashville Predators (2-3-0, Last Week: 26)
With losses to divisional rivals the Blues and Avalanche to open the season, the Predators have shown they're not in the same class as the West's elite.
24. Florida Panthers (2-4-0, Last Week: 27)
The Panthers are finding ways to win, including against top teams like Pittsburgh. But it'll be a while before Florida is consistently competitive.
25. Washington Capitals (1-4-0, Last Week: 19)
Here we go again. Another slow start to the season means… What? Ovechkin is too good to be counted out, but can this team rebound from back-to-back seasons behind the eight ball?
26. Edmonton Oilers (1-3-1, Last Week: 28)
The Oilers are currently in last place in the Pacific. And that's where they'll stay all season. The Sharks, Ducks, and Kings are too good for Edmonton to keep up with.
27. New York Rangers (1-4-0, Last Week: 20)
New York can still turn things around, but this is not how the Rangers wanted to start the season.
28. New Jersey Devils (0-3-3, Last Week: 24)
New Jersey is inconsistent and has no rhythm on the ice. Right now, the Devils are just flat out not good.
29. Philadelphia Flyers (1-5-0, Last Week: 29)
New coach Craig Berube got the Flyers a win — and two more losses. Barring a miracle, this team will be terrible all season.
30. Buffalo Sabres (0-5-1, Last Week: 30)
It's going to be a long, cold winter in Buffalo this year.
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