The first week of the National Hockey League season isn’t the largest of sample sizes, but a few teams have already emerged as pleasant surprises or major disappointments.
Here’s how we size up the Western Conference power rankings through the opening week of the campaign, based partly on pre-season projections and partly on how they’ve looked on the ice.
1 Chicago Blackhawks (3-0-1)
It looks like we were all early in writing off the Blackhawks. Chicago's been dominant out of the gate, outscoring its opponents 21-7 through four games. Brandon Saad has been terrific in his return to the Windy City, collecting five goals and two assists in his first four outings.
2 Edmonton Oilers (1-2)
Back-to-back losses versus Vancouver and Winnipeg probably don't sit well with Edmonton fans, but it's still way too early to worry about the Oilers. They're averaging nearly 40 shots per game and their 5.9 shooting percentage won't stay that low for long.
3 Calgary Flames (3-1)
Calgary has shaken off an opening-night 3-0 loss in Edmonton by rattling off three straight victories, including road wins in Anaheim and Los Angeles. Mike Smith might just be the answer in net for the Flames.
4 St. Louis Blues (4-0)
It might seem cold to still rank the Blues just fourth in the West despite their 4-0 start, especially with so many regulars out of the lineup due to injury. St. Louis has been outshot pretty badly so far, however. We must see more from the Blues before elevating them into the top 3 in the West.
5 Anaheim Ducks (2-1-1)
The Ducks deserve a lot of credit for going 2-1-1 in their first four games despite having to deal with so many early season injuries. When guys like Hampus Lindholm, Ryan Kesler and Sami Vatanen return to the lineup, look for Anaheim to move up the conference ladder.
6 Dallas Stars (1-2)
We wrote after the Stars' 0-2 start that things weren't as bad as they appeared, and that remains the case after Dallas' 4-2 win over Detroit on Tuesday. They're doing a much better job defensively, and Ben Bishop is off to a nice start in net.
7 Los Angeles Kings (2-0-1)
With a healthy Jonathan Quick in net, the Kings are back to being one of the league's top defensive teams, allowing just five goals in their first three games. But the more encouraging thing for Los Angeles is the three goals per game it's averaging on offence. If that continues, the Kings could surprise.
8 Minnesota Wild (0-1-1)
Minnesota is off to a disappointing 0-1-1 start, making you wonder if there's still a hangover effect from last year's late-season collapse and subsequent playoff exit. Missing Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund hasn't helped, but Devan Dubnyk needs to regain his form in net for the Wild to be dangerous once again.
9 Nashville Predators (1-2)
So far, the Predators look more like the team that was the eighth seed in the conference last year than the squad that went to the Stanley Cup final. They scored two late goals to beat the Flyers at home Tuesday, but blowing a 3-0 lead in that game and giving up 13 goals in their first three outings should be cause for concern.
10 Winnipeg Jets (1-2)
Just two games into Steve Mason's career in Winnipeg (6.56 goals-against average), it already looks like he's not the goaltending answer for the Jets. Winnipeg can score with the best of them, but it'll be another lost season in Manitoba if Mason or Connor Hellebuyck can't keep the puck out of the net.
11 San Jose Sharks (0-2)
Age may finally catch up with the Sharks, who flamed out down the stretch last year and were first-round prey against the Oilers in the playoffs. Opening the year with back-to-back losses on home ice isn't what we expect from San Jose, and neither is allowing nine goals in those two contests.
12 Colorado Avalanche (3-1)
There are a lot of encouraging signs so far in Denver where the Avalanche has won three of its first four games and outscored its opponents by an average of 1.6 goals per contest. But before you get too excited, Colorado was 9-9 through 18 games last year before going 13-47-4 the rest of the way.
13 Vegas Golden Knights (3-0)
You couldn't have dreamed of a better start for the Golden Knights. They're a feel-good story at 3-0, but they also won't get to play Arizona forever. Now that the excitement of their first-ever game and their first-ever home game is gone, it'll be hard for Vegas to sustain this level of play. That said, a resurgent Marc-Andre Fleury in net at least gives them a chance of being competitive.
14 Vancouver Canucks (1-0-1)
A 1-0-1 start for the Canucks (including a 3-2 win over Edmonton) looks nice on paper, but Vancouver was outshot 78-54 in those two home games. The Canucks don't have the offensive firepower to contend for a playoff spot in the West.
15 Arizona Coyotes (0-2-1)
So far, the most disappointing team of the year award goes to the Coyotes. After blowing a three-goal lead in Anaheim in their season opener, Arizona lost at home to the Golden Knights, then gave up four first-period goals to Vegas two nights later. If the Yotes can't beat Detroit on Thursday night, things can get ugly quickly with games against Boston, Dallas and Chicago up next on Arizona's schedule.
What do you think of the first week power rankings for the Western Conference? Let us know in the comments section below.
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