The 2021-22 NHL regular season is approaching the one-month mark (November 12th). What have we learned in this opening four weeks?
Answer – lots of stuff.
Here's our top 3 shockers, wows, and we-told-you-so's through hockey's first month:
SHOCKER #1 – If you had Florida, Carolina, Minnesota, and Edmonton on your BINGO card as the four division leaders, you're either a fortune teller or an NHL guru. All of these teams were expected to be better than average, but most predictions had/have Tampa Bay, Colorado, Las Vegas, and maybe Washington or NY Islanders or Boston as the teams to beat. Perhaps we're seeing a shift in the NHL hierarchy, but it's probably too early to tell.
SHOCKER #2 – Off the ice, we have to bring up some of the controversies that have swirled around coaches and management. Note what's going on with the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks (and perhaps other teams, too). We knew it was just a matter of time before dirty laundry aired someplace and given the NHL is probably similar in culture to other pro sports, some powerful people are going to go down and lose jobs. We expect the fallout to continue, hopefully with no major disruption with what happens on the ice.
SHOCKER #3 – We all knew the Arizona Coyotes would likely be the worst team in the Western Conference. However, nobody saw the Montreal Canadiens falling back to earth this fast and hard after a "Cinderella Story" Stanley Cup appearance last season. The Habs are a woeful 3-10 through 13 games, have a minus-19 goal differential, and could be out of the playoff race by end of the year if this dreadful level of play continues. Losing Price in the goal really hurt this team.
WOW #1 – What's wrong with the Chicago Blackhawks? They were supposed to be significantly improved from last year's disappointment and were aggressive in acquiring new talent in the offseason. However, everything so far has gone south for the 'Hawks. At 3-9 with a minus-20 goal differential, Chicago is the NHL's dead cat bounce. Now team has surrendered more goals this season (50). That's 4.6 goals per game allowed.
WOW #2 – Credit Frederik Andersen for being the standout goaltender, so far in 2021. He sports a 9-1 W-L record, and is coming off a 2-1 overtime win against Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay, last night. Andersen (1.73 goals allowed per game) is a huge reason Carolina is in first place at the moment.
WOW #3 – Toss out the lousy Canadiens and Senators--the rest of Canada's NHL club is playing well above average. Aside from Toronto (7-5), all play in the Western Conference. Edmonton (9-2), Calgary (7-2), Winnipeg (6-3), and Vancouver (5-6) will all likely to remain in playoff contention.
We-Told-You-So #1 – The expansion Seattle Kraken aren't going to repeat the Las Vegas Golden Knights' spectacular debut season. They're 4-8, so far. But the Kraken have been a fun team to watch and will certainly improve. Seattle is exactly who we thought they were – an exciting team in a market that will support hockey with a bright future.
We-Told-You-So #2 – Speaking of the Golden Knights, it was just a matter of time before the surprise team of the last four seasons (all playoff runs, including a Stanley Cup appearance) fell back to earth. Las Vegas looks to be a .500 team. They've surrendered more goals than have been scored and have looked uncharacteristically soft. It was just a matter of time before the luster wore off the Golden Knights, and now it appears to be happening.
We-Told-You-So #3 – Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl share the NHL lead in total points (23 each) and have propelled the Oilers into first place with the best 1-2 punch on the ice. It seems impossible for two players on the same team to dominate an offensive category, but that's been the case, so far. Alex Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals scored (12), which is no surprise either.