Partially inspired by one of my favorite TV skits ever, I thought it would be interesting to track some NHL trends and see if they still held true a month later. As I’m sure you can guess, not all of them did. While the ups and downs of NHL teams keep the blog machine rolling, it can sometimes be unfair to label a team either a lock or a bust, especially in the early going. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to look back at what the temperature was around certain teams just one month ago, so let’s look through some of the October headlines (in November).
Minnesota terrible, Jason Zucker calls out coach Bruce Boudreau
The Wild got off to a rough 1-6-0 start while new GM Bill Guerin was finding his footing, but it wasn’t him in the crosshairs. Instead, it was Boudreau taking flak from his own soldier in the speedy Zucker. One month later, the team is still bad, but not the worst in the league: Detroit and Los Angeles are behind them, for example. Zucker apologized to Boudreau soon after the incident and both men are still in town – so that’s something. Minnesota has points in seven of the past 10 games.
Edmonton really good, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl playing big minutes
Buoyed by new coach Dave Tippett, McDavid put up 17 points in his first seven games while averaging 22:30 of ice time per night. Not to be outdone, Draisaitl had 15 points through seven outings while playing an incredible 24:23 per night.
One month later, the two Oilers superstars are still running the NHL as both have posted a league-leading 44 points through 24 games. In terms of ice time, McDavid is down 21 seconds per night, while Draisaitl is playing almost two minutes less, at 22:40. That’s still a ton of responsibility for both forwards, but clearly the Oilers want them to have some gas in the tank for the playoffs and bringing their averages down a little bit makes a lot of sense. As for the rest of the team, Oscar Klefbom has been a monster on the blueline, while Mikko Koskinen is red-hot in net with a .921 save percentage and eight wins through 11 starts. Edmonton is in first place in the Pacific Division.
Buffalo on fire thanks to a deadly power play and stellar goaltending from Carter Hutton
Buffalo kicked off the year with a 6-1-1 record and a power play clicking at 35.5 percent. That has not continued. The Sabres have won just one game in their past 10 and would miss the post-season if it began today. The power play is down to 20.8 percent, which is basically middle-of-the-pack in the NHL. In net, Carter Hutton started out 5-0 with a .953 save percentage. Now, the starter is 6-4-2 with a .909 save percentage. It would be easy to blame the team’s sojourn to Sweden as the accelerant here, but Buffalo had already begun losing before the Sverige sweep at the hands of Tampa Bay. Now first-year coach Ralph Krueger needs to get the team back on track.
Jack Hughes struggles with one point in first seven games, New Jersey wins only one of those
Wouldn’t ya know it? After getting blanked in his first six games, Hughes got an assist in his seventh NHL contest, his first goal in Game No. 8, then his first multi-point contest in Game No. 9, hanging three on the Coyotes. Hughes, who looks eminently more comfortable now, has 10 points through 20 games. That’s not Calder material just yet, but it’s better than where he stood in October. As for the Devils themselves, they’re still the worst team in the Atlantic Division and currently 30th in the NHL. Adding assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald behind the bench to help coach John Hynes has helped, but it’s a long road the Devils need to walk already.
Anaheim not terrible, Ducks off to 5-2-0 start
I’d say it was fair to expect Anaheim to at least be in the Alexis Lafreniere conversation this year and perhaps they still will be, but they burst out of the gates this season. After a quick start, the plucky Ducks are still hanging in there, though they have won just three of their past 10 games. They’re on the playoff bubble thanks to leading veteran scorers Jakub Silfverberg, Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell, but not much of a threat right now due to team defense and so-so goaltending from starter John Gibson. So, I suppose the Ducks are still “not terrible,” but we’ll see what the next month brings.
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