A couple of weeks into the new season, let’s check in on five teams.
On the surface, everything seems fine in Philadelphia, as the Flyers are off to a 2-1-1 start. But due to the luck factor in hockey, things aren’t always as they seem, and the Flyers grade out as one of the worst teams in the league in some important categories. According to hockey stats website Natural Stat Trick, the Flyers are 25th in shots for and against and 29th in scoring chances for and against at five-on-five. If this team is good at anything, it’s playing possum. But I’m not sure that’s intentional. The Flyers don’t control play because they aren’t a good hockey team. The team is on a three-game trip through western Canada and won’t return until November. Don’t be surprised if the Flyers come back with a losing record.
Calgary didn’t get off to a great start at 0-2. But since then, the Flames have looked like a team that’s really finding its rhythm. The Flames have a very strong forward group and good goaltending. They’ve shown a commitment to team defense that I didn’t see last season, and they’ve been great in transition. In other words, it’s been very hard for the opposition to move the puck up the ice against Calgary. It’s still a long shot, but this team could very well win the Pacific Division if injuries continue to impact the Golden Knights and the Oilers slow down enough for them to catch up. The Flames have a light schedule in terms of the quality of competition coming up, so maybe now is the time to buy in on this team at 50-1 at DraftKings. I did.
The Blackhawks were booed off the ice Sunday when they lost 6-3 to the Red Wings and dropped their record to 0-5-1. Most of the offseason hype was unwarranted, but I don’t think anybody thought it would be this bad. Marc-Andre Fleury has been awful, allowing about nine goals above expected, according to Evolving Hockey, and Kevin Lankinen hasn’t been much better. Goaltending was supposed to be an area of strength for the Blackhawks, but that clearly hasn’t been the case. We knew Seth Jones would be bad, but who knew Fleury would fall off a cliff? The Blackhawks have some tough outs coming up on their schedule, and things probably will get a whole lot worse.
San Jose Sharks
Before I give the wrong impression, I don’t think the Sharks are a playoff team. However, I do think the team shows a renewed energy, and the top stars seem to be performing well. Even in their lone loss, the Sharks were in it against the Bruins until the very end. That’s a positive sign. Goaltender Adin Hill gives the Sharks a different look, and that’s also a good thing. I’m extremely skeptical that they can keep winning at a rate anywhere close to this, but I might have been a little overconfident when I predicted the demise of this team before the season. The Sharks have a long homestand coming up against relatively easy competition, so they could be overrated by the market before too long.
If you picked up a copy of the NHL Betting Guide, you’d know I was down on the Hurricanes after they made some significant changes to an already elite team. However, it doesn’t look as if the Hurricanes are any worse off. They’ve gotten outstanding goaltending from Frederik Andersen and solid play from Tony DeAngelo, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi has fit in nicely on the top line. Of course, we’re dealing with a small sample size, and the Hurricanes won’t continue to outscore teams 3.4-1.3 at five-on-five, but it appears as if any worries I had about the future of this team are quickly disappearing.