As the first month of the NHL season comes to a close, there are three teams running away with the top spots in the standings. The Vegas Golden Knights, New Jersey Devils, and Boston Bruins. The Golden Knights have a five-point cushion on the Pacific Divison, the Bruins have a seven-point lead in the Atlantic, while the Devils have four points clearance in the Metro. These three teams have started to separate themselves from the competition and the longer this gap stays, the more difficult it will be for anyone else to catch up.
Despite some glimmers of hope here and there, the Ottawa Senators are generally disappointing, currently sitting last in the Atlantic Division. They made some big moves in the offseason to try and start competing, but they might still be a year or two out. A team on a similar path, but seeing the opposite result, is the Detroit Red Wings. They saw significant turnover from last season but are staying competitive in the division.
The picture in the Central Division is shaping up to be more competitive than once thought, as the second through seventh-place teams are all within four points of each other. Two of those teams are the Arizona Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks, holders of two of the worst on-paper rosters anyone has ever seen.
Some teams this week that have really caught my eye in the NHL Power Rankings are the aforementioned Coyotes, the Seattle Kraken sitting in a playoff spot in the Pacific Division, and is it the end of a competitive window, or are the Washington Capitals’ injuries holding them back?
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Arizona’s Mediocrely Good Start
Going into the season, the Coyotes had no expectations other than being expected to be in the running for the first overall pick. But much to the surprise of the hockey world, the Coyotes have been okay. A 6-7-1 record isn’t impressive to most but it is respectable considering the predictions.
Winners in four of their last six games through November 12th, Arizona has been competitive and staying in games. They are currently the only team in the NHL that has scored two goals in each game.
So far, they’ve been led by impressive performances from Clayton Keller, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Karel Vejmelka. As well as a surprise breakout from J.J. Moser, who seems to have taken over as the team’s number-one defender out of nowhere.
Keller, with 16 points, and Gostisbehere, with 10 points, have been the driving forces on offense. Vejmelka is a bit of a casualty of being on a bad team, but his 3.16 GAA and .910 SV% show how good he has been
This little streak may just be a blip in the radar before the team falls back to what would be their expected performance, as their possession numbers are awful (a 42.9 CF%) and a 101.9 PDO indicates some luck and bounces going their way.
Who will win the Rocket Richard trophy this year?
Have the Kraken found their Saviour in Net?
The Seattle Kraken had two significant issues holding them back last season. First was a lack of offense. The second was atrocious goaltending. To address the former, the Kraken added forwards Oliver Bjorkstrand and Matthew Beniers, with them and some early season success they find themselves top 10 in the league in goals scored. To address the latter, the Kraken added Martin Jones.
This seems to be a trend for Jones the last couple of years where a team with goaltending struggles adds him in the offseason to try and fix it. This did not work last season with the Philadelphia Flyers, but so far with the Kraken, it has.
Jones has a .910 SV% and 2.32 GAA, by far the best numbers the Kraken have seen from a goalie in their short history. But with Philipp Grubauer injured, giving the former the starting role early on, he has found a way to give Seattle some consistency and the players some confidence in the position that reflects positively on the team’s overall performance.
Through 15 games, the Kraken sit in a playoff spot, above the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, with an 8-5-2 record. It is definitely exciting to see this team click better and show improvement on its shortcomings from a disappointing inaugural season. Especially with head coach Dave Hakstol on the hot seat coming into the year.
Washington Capitals Injuries Holding them Back?
Over the past 15 seasons, the Washington Capitals have only missed the playoffs once, in a contentious 2013-14 season that led to Adam Oates’ firing as head coach. But 16 games into 2022-23, the Capitals sit very slightly out of a playoff spot, one point shy of a wild card spot and three points out of a divisional spot.
As it was only a matter of time before this slide down the standings happened, it begs the question, is it the team aging out of their competitive window or are they being held back by various injuries to key players this season?
Right now, the Capitals have Nicklas Backstrom, Carl Hagelin, and Connor Brown on long-term injured reserve. That’s their number one center and key playmaker for Alex Ovechkin, as well as two crucial middle-six forwards. Also injured at forward are Tom Wilson, T.J. Oshie, and Beck Malenstyn. Basically, the team is down half of their regular forwards.
Dmitry Orlov is currently injured, and John Carlson only recently came back from injury after missing six games. And, Alexander Alexeyev missed the first month of the season. So again, the Capitals have been down two of their top defenders at times and a third who is likely a regular, especially with the other injuries.
Is this the turning point for the Capitals as the competitive window shuts behind them? Or are the Washington Capitals’ injuries limiting their performance thus far?
That wraps up another week of NHL action. Who is ranked too high in the NHL Power Rankings? Drop a comment down below!