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NHL skates off to exciting start

Matt Grabianski, Sports Editor

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The new season (and perhaps the new era) of hockey is underway. This infusion of young talent into the league has become more than just a storyline. New faces like Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Toronto’s Auston Matthews (who started the season by scoring four goals in one game) are now ushering in a new age of the NHL. If the first month is any indication, fans are in for a treat for the next few months.
Atlantic Division
Montreal Canadiens – 21 Points (10-1-1)
Tampa Bay Lightning – 15 Points (7-5-1)
Ottawa Senators – 14 Points (7-4-0)
Boston Bruins – 14 Points (7-5-0)
Toronto Maple Leafs – 13 Points (5-4-3)
Florida Panthers – 13 Points (6-6-1)
Detroit Red Wings – 13 Points (6-6-1)
Buffalo Sabres – 12 Points (5-5-2)
It was widely assumed heading into this season that the Tampa Bay Lightning, led by veteran Steven Stamkos, would be the best team in the league. Seventeen of the twenty NHL analysts who predicted the outcome of the season picked Tampa Bay to finish in first place in the division, twelve had them winning the Eastern Conference, and ten, a whopping 50%, predicted the Lightning to win it all. Despite the preseason hype for the Lightning, it has been all Montreal up to this point as they currently lead not only their division but the NHL as a whole in points. The tough decision made this recent offseason to trade fan favorite PK Subban to Nashville for the hard-hitting Shea Weber has paid dividends so far. Carey Price, the Montreal goaltender, has also been fantastic this season. The more surprising thing, however, is the Florida Panthers. Every single analyst predicted them to make the playoffs and two chose the Panthers to win the division, and yet, a month into the season, they sit only one point out of the basement of the Atlantic Division with only six wins.
Metropolitan Division
New York Rangers – 20 Points (10-3-0)
Pittsburgh Penguins – 18 Points (8-2-2)
Washington Capitals – 17 Points (8-2-1)
New Jersey Devils – 13 Points (5-3-3)
Philadelphia Flyers – 13 Points (6-6-1)
Columbus Blue Jackets – 12 Points (5-3-2)
New York Islanders – 12 Points (5-6-2)
Carolina Hurricanes – 9 Points (3-5-3)
Twelve of the twenty analysts picked Washington to place first in their division while the remaining eight chose Pittsburgh to come up victorious. Two took Washington to take home the Stanley Cup while one had Pittsburgh. The two stars have arguably the two most well-known players in the league, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin. These two teams, who seemed clear favorites to run away with the division, sit in second and third behind a surprise New York Rangers team, led by breakout star JT Miller. While nearly all the experts predicted this team to make the playoffs, the majority saw them as merely a wild card team and nobody picked them to win their division, let alone the conference, let alone the entire thing. Depicting the dominance of these three right out the gate is the four point gap already separating the third place Capitals from the fourth place Devils. Despite it being merely November, it certainly seems as though the Rangers, Penguins, and Capitals will be the names heard from the Metropolitan Division for the rest of the season.
Central Division
Chicago Blackhawks – 19 Points (9-3-1)
St. Louis Blues – 16 Points (7-4-2)
Minnesota Wild – 13 Points (6-4-1)
Dallas Stars – 11 Points (4-5-3)
Winnipeg Jets – 11 Points (5-7-1)
Colorado Avalanche – 10 Points (5-6-0)
Nashville Predators – 9 Points (3-5-3)
This division was the most wide open heading into the season, but at this point our hometown Blackhawks are the team to beat despite an extremely slow start. Veterans Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane lead the league in points, and have led their team to an early lead their division with a three point advantage over the second place Blues, despite only five analysts predicting a division championship for Chitown. The biggest surprise is found, similarly to the Atlantic Division, in the bottom of the standings. The Nashville Predators, while not division favorites, were favored by more experts (six) to win the division than the Hawks. One of them even had Nashville going all the way. The aforementioned deal with Montreal to receive Subban for Weber has not gone the Predators’ way. Yet nearly a month later they sit with merely three wins and tied for the second worst amount of points in the NHL.
Pacific Division
Edmonton Oilers – 19 Points (9-3-1)
Anaheim Ducks – 14 Points (6-5-2)
San Jose Sharks – 12 Points (6-6-0)
Los Angeles Kings – 12 Points (6-6-0)
Calgary Flames – 11 Points (5-8-1)
Vancouver Canucks – 9 Points (4-8-1)
Arizona Coyotes – 8 Points (4-7-1)
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the entire league this year is the Edmonton Oilers. Young sensation Connor McDavid has a year under his belt and is leading the underdogs to an early lead in their division despite a recent slump. It has been ten years (nine seasons) since the Oilers have made it to the playoffs, and during that nine year span they finished with one of the worst three point totals in the league six times. Merely three analysts thought that Edmonton would make it to the playoffs and nobody took the Oilers to win their division. And yet, partway through November, they lead their division with a whopping 7 point lead. Could the Oilers be the real deal this year? Only time will tell. The favorite to win the division, with fourteen experts predicting a division title, was the San Jose Sharks. Anaheim and Los Angeles were also popular picks. While still within striking distance in second to fourth place, the gap is widening quickly between the three favorites and the Oilers. With the Cubs winning the World Series this year, who knows? Maybe it’s the season of the underdog.

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NHL skates off to exciting start