Five biggest surprises of NHL’s opening week
We’re already through the first week of the 2019-20 season and there have been plenty of interesting storylines and surprises. There’s never been a greater amount of parity in the NHL and that makes for some fun nights. Even though it’s incredibly early, we’re going to run down some of the biggest surprises so far.
There’s an excellent chance that a lot of these trends won’t hold up, but they’re still significant enough for the hockey world to take notice.
Here we go:
• Mika Zibanejad is lighting it up:
How good has Zibanejad been for the Rangers through one week of action? Well, he’s already picked up four goals and four assists in just two games. That puts him on pace for 328 points, which we’re pretty sure he won’t hit. He posted a goal and three assists in the opener against the Winnipeg Jets and he shredded his old team, the Ottawa Senators, with three goals and an assist on Saturday night.
The 26-year-old was fantastic for New York last year too, as he posted a career-high 30 goals and 74 points in 82 contests. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to see that the Rangers won that Zibanejad for Derrick Brassard swap that happened in July of 2016.
His start to the season puts him in some pretty good company:
• Stamkos isn’t impressed with Lightning’s play:
The Tampa Bay Lightning ran away with the President’s Trophy last season only to get bounced by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Through three games, the Bolts have a 1-1-1 record which isn’t catastrophic by any means. If you look back to last season, they didn’t hit their third loss until the 10-game mark, so they have work to do if they’re going to match that.
After blowing a 3-1 lead against the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday, Steven Stamkos made sure to send a message to his teammates and the entire organization.
“Today was a [terrible] game for us,” Stamkos said, per NHL.com. “Unless we change things, it’s going to be a really, really long year. We rely so much on our goaltending and our power play and the passing. It’s three games into the season, that’s the good news. There’s lots of times to correct these things. I don’t want to get too down, but it’s frustrating knowing the group we have in here and we keep continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results.”
No one expected Stamkos to utter those words this early.
[NHL Fantasy Hockey: Olofsson, Haula highlight this week’s best adds]
• The Stars and Sharks have no victories:
A pair of teams that made the playoffs last season have failed to come up with a win in their first three games of the year. The Sharks have dropped decisions to the Vegas Golden Knights (twice) and the Anaheim Ducks. To make matters worse, San Jose has only found the back of the net three times in three games. That’s clearly not good enough.
The good news, is that Evander Kane has finished serving his suspension for making contact with an official, so he should give his team a boost in their next game which is Tuesday night in Nashville. Again, there’s no reason to panic yet, but the Sharks need to get their act together soon.
The Stars are in the same boat. Dallas was an overtime goal away from making it to the Western Conference Final last year, but that hasn’t translated into success this year. There’s good news, as all three of their losses have been by a single goal.
Dallas’ top guys have to get going in a hurry if they’re going to get back on track. Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov have no points in three games, while Tyler Seguin and Joe Pavelski each have a point.
• The Detroit Red Wings are...fun?
Not many experts picked the Red Wings to make the playoffs this season, but some of their young veterans have sent a clear message to the rest of the league during opening week.
The Wings are off to a 2-0-0 start thanks to two wins over Nashville and Dallas. Tyler Bertuzzi had a four-point night against the Predators and followed that up with an assist against the Stars, while Anthony Mantha had three points against Nashville and four goals against Dallas.
Mantha currently has a share of the lead in goals scored with Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews.
"[Mantha] gets exponentially better when he’s playing with confidence, and that’s what you are seeing now,” head coach Jeff Blashill said after Sunday’s win. “When he’s moving his feet and going like this, you are looking at a guy who is 6-foot-5 with speed and great hands and he’s showing that whole package.”
The 25-year-old had a career-high 25 goals in just 67 games with the Wings last season. Is this the year he hits 30?
• The Buffalo Sabres aren’t bleeding goals:
Yes, most teams are two games into their season, but what fun would it be if we didn’t read too much into some of these trends. The Sabres, who entered the season with question marks on defense and in goal, have only allowed three goals in their first two games.
Goalie Carter Hutton has stopped 46 of 49 shots he’s faced against the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils and that’s been good enough to earn two wins. Hutton deserves a lot of credit, but his teammates do too.
The Sabres have been really good!
Before we get all excited about the prospect of Buffalo finally being good, we have to remember that they got off to a strong start last year, too. They eventually fell apart and never recovered. Is this the year they get over the hump? Is this the year they shock the NHL? Well, we only have to wait another 80 games before we find out for sure.
What’s coming up this week?
• Jack Hughes vs. Connor McDavid, Tues. Oct. 8, 7 p.m. ET
• Sharks vs. Predators, Tues. Oct 8, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
• Phil Kessel plays game No. 1,000 on Sat., Oct. 12, 9 p.m. ET vs. Avalanche
WEDNESDAY NIGHT HOCKEY
Devils vs. Flyers, Weds., Oct. 9, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
NHL on NBCSN
Kings vs. Canucks, Weds. Oct. 9, 10 p.m. ET (NBCSN)