1 Tampa Bay Lightning (9-1-1)
The Lightning appear to be a step above the pack right now. Nikita Kucherov’s red-hot start is pacing a dangerous Tampa Bay offense. They have yet to lose a game at home, posting a perfect 6-0-0 record at Amalie Arena so far. Four points clear of the nearest team; First place is Tampa’s to lose.
2 Pittsburgh Penguins (7-3-1)
The Penguins have left their struggles from their opening stretch of the season in the rear-view mirror. Phil Kessel has scored two straight OT winners and he and Sidney Crosby are both producing at a point-per-game pace right now. Their defensive depth is being tested with the recent injury to Justin Schultz, but so far so good for these Penguins.
3 Ottawa Senators (5-1-5)
Yes, you see that record correctly. Ottawa already has five OT losses on the season, by far the most of any team in the entire NHL, let alone the Eastern Conference.
Erik Karlsson had back to back three-assist games against the New Jersey Devils and the Toronto Maple Leafs and mixing the class of Karlsson with the hard-working attitude of this team makes the sky the limit for them. Their amount of OT losses is already big; all missed chances to get two points and if they can get those extra points, it will go a long way over the season.
4 New Jersey Devils (7-2-0)
The young, high-flying Devils are still riding high, scoring the third most goals in the NHL at the time of this list’s writing. Offseason NCAA free agent Will Butcher has been excellent, putting up a team-high ten assists.
The offense has been spread around to begin the year in New Jersey with only one skater who doesn’t have at least a point. The upstart Devils will be sticking around if they continue to get this kind of production across their line-up.
5 Columbus Blue Jackets (7-3-0)
Nick Foligno’s move to center has been a productive one so far this year with eight points in ten games while also sporting a team-high +7. Head coach John Tortorella has expressed concern with some recent performances by his other centers but this team is deep and should be able to overcome that.
What this team needs to improve on is its specialty teams on offense. The Blue Jackets sport the league’s 29th overall power play percentage, which will need to improve to keep them competitive over the season.
6 Toronto Maple Leafs (7-3-0)
A recent 6-3 thumping at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes has slowed down some of the momentum the Maple Leafs had built in their first ten games. Sloppy plays all over the ice leading to goals and sub-par defensive play combined into a “totally unacceptable performance” statement by the Leafs head coach Mike Babcock.
We all know this team can score at will on any given night, but it's defense that helps you hold those leads you create for yourself. Inconsistent defensive play drops the Leafs out of the top five for the first time this season.
7 New York Islanders (5-4-1)
A recent loss in Minnesota slowed down an Islanders' team that was riding a three-game win streak. During that streak we saw the things the Islanders will need do to be successful this year, like John Tavares’ hat trick against the Arizona Coyotes and good offensive production across the board. Still above .500, if the Islanders keep up their recent form they may rise in our rankings.
8 Philadelphia Flyers (5-5-0)
Losers of three of their last four games, the Flyers were picking up big wins early on and showing they have the ability to put the puck in the net sitting ninth overall in goals per game.
Their defensive play and especially goaltending has been inconsistent as of late and with two straight games of 5+ goals allowed, the Flyers need to clean that play up if they want to remain competitive in the Eastern Conference.
9 Boston Bruins (4-3-1)
This is a team that has been alternating between wins and losses through the first bit of this NHL regular season and shown very little consistency. The youth movement is still ongoing in Boston like a few other teams in the NHL and their ability to reel in and teach the young players the ropes of the NHL game will be crucial to their success this year.
10 Carolina Hurricanes (4-4-1)
For a team that many had chosen as a dark horse this season, it has been quite the roller coaster ride in Raleigh. For example, they followed up two straight wins in Western Canada with two straight losses to the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Dallas Stars before beating the Toronto Maple Leafs and then losing to the St. Louis Blues.
The Hurricanes will need much more consistency than that to keep afloat in the Eastern Conference.
11 Washington Capitals (4-5-1)
This is such an odd position for a team of this caliber to be in, but it really has been one of those starts for the Washington Capitals. They are in the lower half of the league in goals per game and a startling 28th in goals against and 29th in penalty kill percentage. There are many things that need fixing in Washington and they better get on it soon before it gets out of hand.
12 Detroit Red Wings (4-6-1)
The memory of the team’s 4-1 start is fading quickly as the team has now lost six in a row and got called out by coach Jeff Blashill after a particularly poor outing against the Vancouver Canucks. This is a young, rebuilding team that will continue to have growing pains as the season continues.
13 Florida Panthers (4-5-0)
A recent 8-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks has Florida feeling good about themselves after what has been a tough start to the season. The good news is that this team can score, sitting at fifth in the NHL in goals-per-game but they also sit 27th in goals against and 30th in penalty kill percentage so you have to take the good with the bad when dealing with these Panthers.
14 New York Rangers (3-6-2)
It’s been a rough start to the year in Midtown Manhattan, but the Rangers picked up a win against the struggling Arizona Coyotes to get things going in the right direction; but when you sit 21st in goals scored and 23rd in goals against, it's going to be a rough go no matter what team you are.
15 Buffalo Sabres (3-6-2)
After back-to-back wins earlier on in the week, things went sideways again for the Buffalo Sabres in a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets. This team has given up 14 more goals than they have scored at this point in the season and unless they tighten things up, expect the struggles of the Sabres to continue.
16 Montreal Canadiens (2-7-1)
Another loss has magnified the poor start to the season in hockey-mad Montreal for a team that sits nearly dead last in every major team offensive and defensive category. Despite the team’s call for patience, if things continue like this something will have to give in Montreal.
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