The NHL season is less than 2 weeks old, which means that it’s much too early to jump to conclusions. But that has never stopped anyone. Auston Matthews scoring a hat trick in the first 21:25 of his NHL career meant that he was on pace 695 goals in the entire season. This would put him right ahead of Mark Messier for 8th on the all time goal list. Trust or bust: Auston Matthews will be 8th in career goals after this season. BUST. It’s that easy. What are some of the other early season successes and will they continue?
Vancouver Canucks: BUST
After four games the Canucks are 4-0-0, are first in the league and the last undefeated team. All of this thanks to giving up only 6 goals in 4 games. Now, granted, one of those goals was Loui Eriksson‘s own goal.
Who did the Canucks hold to 6 goals? A Calgary Flames team having a rough time adjusting to a new coach after Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan missed the preseason. A Buffalo Sabres team missing Jack Eichel and Evander Kane with injury, and just getting Kyle Okposo back. A Carolina Hurricanes team on a rough 6 game road trip to start the season. A St. Louis Blues team in overtime. The competition hasn’t been tough, and yet, they have only scored 9 goals in 4 games, with 2 wins in overtime and 1 in a shootout. The Canucks are a few bounces from being 1-0-3 to start the year. Expect that to me more of how their season goes than the 4-0 start.
Richard Panik: BUST
No one would be surprised to hear that a winger on the Chicago Blackhawks top line was leading the league in goals. The fact that the winger doing it is Richard Panik is surprising. Panik is currently tied for the league lead for goals with 5. Panik has Jonathon Toews at centre, so he could be for real, right? His Corsi% of 53.1 sure looks nice, but the number that stands out the most is a shooting percentage of 71.4%. Yes, Panik has 5 goals on 7 shots. Even if you account for his 16 shot attempts, he has scored on 31.3% on those. Panik’s goal scoring is certainly not sustainable, leaving it unlikely that he’ll surpass 20 goals by the end of the season.
Auston Matthews: TRUST
Again, Matthews has been good. Arguably, this is the best first week that a rookie has ever had in NHL history and Leafs fans have much to be excited about. The pace of his start obviously cannot be maintained, but he was picked 1st overall for a reason. Matthews has looked like a veteran in the NHL in his games so far, perhaps a benefit of his playing in Europe last year versus the CHL or college. Matthews and the rest of the young Leafs will continue to learn and improve under Mike Babcock’s coaching. This is one start that you can trust in.
Montreal Canadiens: TRUST
The Montreal Canadiens almost ended up as both a trust and a bust. The Habs are leading the Atlantic division thus far and it’s almost like the fans have forgotten how sad they were about P.K. Subban leaving. Now, they almost were labelled as a bust because Al Montoya has started 3 of the 4 games with Carey Price having the flu, and has led the league with a 0.962 save percentage. He won’t keep that up, but if the Canadiens have a competent backup for Price, they can go through the rest of this season allowing Price to not push himself too much after missing most of last year.
High Scoring: BUST
Ahead of Saturday night’s game teams have scored an average of 3.02 goals per game, a total that has only been achieved once since 1995. To start this year, team defense has taken longer to get going than offense (just ask the Leafs’ 3rd periods and the Blackhawks’ 42.1 penalty kill percentage). With no rule changes or significant adjustment to the style of play, it can be assumed that the goals per game rate will go back to the 2.6-2.7 range from the last few years.