We are approximately 10% of the way through the NHL season, so that means it is officially time to make judgments about how some teams have started. Some teams have come out hot and have exceeded pre-season expectations; other teams have been quite disappointing to their fan bases so far. Whether positive or negative, here are 3 teams off to a surprising start to the NHL season.
(All statistics are as of the time of this writing)
3 Teams Off to a Surprising Start This NHL Season
The Good: Boston Bruins
Every year the pundits say the same thing: “The Boston Bruins have to fall off sometime, and this is probably the year.” Admittedly, there were good reasons to believe that this was the year it would actually happen. It was announced early in the off-season that Charlie McAvoy (the team’s top defensemen) and Brad Marchand (arguably their top forward) would not be ready to start the season. There was a lot of debate as to whether captain Patrice Bergeron would retire or not. David Krejci was returning, but it was unknown how well he would perform after a year in Europe.
Because of these reasons, many experts had the Bruins finishing, at best, fourth in the Atlantic and grabbing a wild card sport or, potentially, missing the playoffs altogether for the first time since the 2015-16 season. Well, it doesn’t seem like any of the obstacles has slowed Boston down at all. Not only are the Bruins first in the Atlantic, but they are also currently first place in the whole NHL. They have a league-best +14 goal differential, and their penalty kill is second-best in the league.
🎥 Jake DeBrusk on the #NHLBruins success early in the season: "Everyone is buying in. That’s the biggest thing. Obviously getting production throughout the lineup. I think it was an early start for all of us and feeling fairly good about their game." pic.twitter.com/wtxlrnysl4
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) October 29, 2022
The Bad: Nashville Predators
The Nashville Predators have made the playoffs eight seasons in a row, which is quietly the second-longest active playoff streak in the NHL. They rolled through the pre-season this year, receiving 7 points in 4 games and having the second-highest goals per game and the lowest goals against per game in the league. The Predators also had Roman Josi (who was the Norris Trophy runner-up last season) and Juuse Saros (who was nominated for the Vezina), so pre-season predictors were fairly high on Nashville.
Most had the team placing third or fourth in the Central Division. But things haven’t gone exactly to plan so far this NHL season. The Preds have a record of 3-4-1 so far this season with a -4 goals differential. The goaltending tandem of Saros and Lankinen has been good, but not great. Josi has been pretty quiet, despite playing over 25 minutes a night. Matt Duchene, last year’s 43-goal scorer, is only on pace for 21 this year. There is still plenty of time for things to pick up, but, so far this year, it’s been a bit disappointing in Nashville.
The Nashville Predators haven't had the best start to the season.
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) October 27, 2022
The Ugly: Vancouver Canucks
After narrowly missing out on the playoffs last spring, there were some reasons for optimism for the Vancouver Canucks as the 2022-23 season approached. JT Miller just had a break-out year and has now signed a long-term extension. Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes had made large strides forward and were posed to have a monster season. Thatcher Demko had proved himself to be a beast in goal, and Spencer Martin was looking like a very capable backup. Bruce Boudreau had come in part-way through last season and seemed to really settle down a dressing room that had been known to have a bit of chaos.
But all that chaos seems to have returned. Not only are the Canucks not currently close to a playoff spot, but they are second-last in the league. The closest thing they have to a bright spot is that they have the 18th-ranked power play, but their penalty kill is dead last. Their defense has been decimated with four players currently on IR or LTIR, meaning that either Tyler Myers or Luke Schenn has had to play first-pairing minutes. Their goaltending, thought to be a strength of the team, has been abysmal, with their GSAx being a combined -7.2. If things don’t change in a hurry, big changes are about to take place in Vancouver.
"We have a pretty resilient group. We've stayed positive, although we were disappointed in the start, we knew that we had to stay the course to get it turned around."
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) October 29, 2022