The Buffalo Sabres are off to a great start in the Eastern Conference with 4 wins and an OT loss in their first 5 games. The big story for the Sabres is their offensive output with 21 goals. They haven't relied on one line but have shown good scoring depth with Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner, Sam Reinhart, Marcus Johansson, Victor Olofsson and Conor Sheary all contributing and Rasmus Dahlin 3rd in the league in scoring for defensemen. The Sabres power play is hot out of the gate leading the NHL in power play conversions and goaltenders Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton are both off to solid starts. The Sabres started quickly last year but faded badly at the end of the season so we will see if this start is fools gold or if this is a more mature team who can take the next step and compete for a playoff spot.
The NHL didn't do the defending Eastern Conference Champion Boston Bruins any favors sending them on a tough 4 game road trip to start the season but finished the trip 3-1 and won their home opener to start the season with 4 wins in 5 starts. Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak have proven out of the gate why they might be the best goaltending duo in the league combining for 4 wins, a shutout apiece, and a combined 1.60 GAA and .952 save percentage. Brad Marchand has 4 goals to lead the Bruins and they have been winning despite slow starts for Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci, and Charlie Coyle who have yet to register a goal.
The Tampa Bay Lightning who dominated the regular season last year are not off to the high flying start everyone expected including a shocking 4-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators. Steven Stamkos gave the following quote after a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. "“We just continue to be the freewheeling team that thinks we can just come into games and win because we’re skilled,” Stamkos said. “We keep falling back into the same old bad habits that we’ve been doing, that cost us the season we had last year. “Unless we change things, it’s going to be a really, really, really long year.” A wake up call from a veteran who knows that you can't just rely on talent and have to work hard night in and night out to win consistently in the NHL.
There were high expectations for the New Jersey Devils this year with the addition of P.K. Subban, a healthy Taylor Hall, and the 1st overall draft pick in Jack Hughes. However the Devils are winless out of the gate and have struggled both offensively and defensively being outscored in 5 games 23-9. Hall is yet to score a goal, Subban only has a single assist and Hughes has yet to register his first NHL point. Goaltenders Cory Schneider & Mackenzie Blackwood have struggled badly out of the gate combining for a 4.20 GAA and .864 save percentage. And the big question hanging over the franchise is Hall's impending free agency and if things keep going South will they need to eventually trade him or risk losing him for nothing.
The Philadelphia Flyers could be a sleeper team to watch especially if young goaltender Carter Hart continues to progress. He is off to a hot start with 2 wins in 3 starts including a shutout of the New Jersey Devils. I like the coaching change to Alain Vigneault and if Claude Giroux, Travis Kocecny, Sean Couturier and the big free agent addition Kevin Hayes come through scoring wise this will be a playoff team.
The Carolina Hurricanes are showing everyone that their run to the Eastern Conference finals was no fluke with 5 wins in their first 6 games. They have scored 23 goals in 6 games with 9 of those goals coming from defensemen including 4 already from Dougie Hamilton. Most importantly for the Hurricanes is their goaltending tandem of Peter Mrazek and James Reimer have played well combining for a 2.67 GAA and .914 save percentage. Eric Haula has been a nice addition from the Vegas Golden Knights as he has already scored 5 goals and the Hurricanes have been winning despite slow starts from Sebastian Aho and Jordan Staal who have combined for only 2 goals.