Which NHL teams have surprised us by starting the season badly? Some teams are expected to have a weak start cough-Ottawa-cough, but others should be better. Let’s take a look at some teams that we had higher expectations of by this stage of the season:
New Jersey Devils – Ed
The excitement of the 2019 off-season was short-lived, as New Jersey got off to a slow start to the 2019-20 season, going 0-4-2 in their first six games before back-to-back wins over the Rangers (3-2) and Canucks (1-0 shutout). Though the offensive firepower has been there at times, New Jersey’s defense struggled heavily out of the gates, allowing 27 goals (including surrendering multi-goal third period leads to Winnipeg and Florida) and operating at a dismal 57% on the penalty kill in the opening six games.
Since assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald came down to join the coaching staff, the team’s power play finally converted it’s first two goals (including Jack Hughes‘ first NHL goal), and the penalty kill was a perfect 12-for-12 in the subsequent two victories. The strong goaltending of Mackenzie Blackwood was key in both games for New Jersey.
Chicago Blackhawks – Mike
We knew the Central division would be tough, but only two wins from nine games? That’s twice as bad as the same period last season. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, Erik Gustafsson, Dylan Strome, Brandon Saad were the team’s leading points scorers last season, and it’s pretty much the same now. Unfortunately something isn’t working in the windy city and the team isn’t scoring goals. With just 20 goals tallied, the Blackhawks have scored the fewest number of goals in the league.
It sucks to see a team like the ‘Hawks performing so badly, especially given their relatively recent successes, but the goals aren’t forthcoming. Chicago drafted well, but won’t reap the rewards for a while yet.
New York Rangers – Ed
After looking impressive in their opening victories over Winnipeg (6-4) and Ottawa (4-1), the start of the season for the Broadway Blueshirts took a turn for the worse, losing the next five games (0-4-1) before a confidence-boosting 6-2 victory over a streaking hot Buffalo Sabres team Thursday night.
Head coach David Quinn is still trying to find consistency with his lineup, and despite the offensive additions of Artemi Panarin, Kaapo Kakko this summer, the Rangers’ power play is still sorting itself out, sitting below Friday’s league average efficiency (19.55%) at 19th in the league at 17.86%.
In addition, much like Hughes in New Jersey, 2019 second-overall pick Kaapo Kakko has shown flashes, but is still adapting to the NHL and the defensive responsibilities of the league.
Detroit Red Wings – Mike
Why is it a surprise that the Red Wings are in this list? Nobody thought the team would do well, but after the team’s hot start, there were glimmers of hope for the 11 time Stanley Cup Winners. Those three wins from four games made it look like the Yzerplan was working way ahead of schedule… that was short-lived though. Since the historic win over Montreal, the Wings have lost seven games on the bounce and at time of writing, are losing to St Louis. In five of those games, Detroit gave up five goals.
Our man to watch Anthony Mantha has averaging a point per game, and Tyler Bertuzzi isn’t far behind. The blue line however is hard to hold in the Motor City, 40 goals given up and the worst goal differential in the league. It’s not that Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Bernier aren’t pulling their weight, their .901 and .902 save percentage aren’t the worst in the league, but nobody’s invincible.