The NHL is back after locking out their players for over half the season. With only 48 games available compared to the normal 82, teams have far less time to put together a playoff clinching campaign. Here are the teams off to the best start:
The only team to earn at least one point in every game this season, the Blackhawks have established themselves as the team to beat early in this season. Question marks still remain at the goaltender position, but the depth on offense has many thinking another Stanley Cup run is possible.
San Jose had the Blackhawks on the ropes in the first meeting between the best two teams in the league but faded late, losing 4-3. That being said, this team still has one of the more potent offensive players in the league in Patrick Marleau and should remain near the top of the Western Conference throughout the season.
With Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby at full strength, Pittsburgh once again has the top team in the Eastern Conference. The continued health of their top two stars will likely be priority number one moving forward.
Boston lost Stanley Cup winning goaltender Tim Thomas to retirement in the offseason but has not missed his presence as backup Tukka Rask has taken steady hold of the reigns. The Bruins have given up the second fewest goals in the league and should be a threat in the playoffs.
Ageless wonder Teemu Selanne remains one of the Ducks’ top producers even at the incredible age of 42. Anaheim is top heavy offensively, but the lack of depth is made up by the solid goaltending being put forth by starter Jonas Hiller and backup Viktor Fasth. For one of the oldest teams in the league, the Ducks are putting up a serious fight.
Any team with Steven Stamkos has a chance. The best offensive player in the league carries a team with the highest goal differential in the NHL. Tampa Bay has a tendency to destroy weaker teams only to lose close games against top-level competition. The latter is going to have to change for the Lightning to reach the top.
Winners of six of the last eight division titles, the Canucks’ reign over the top of the Northwest Division has continued this season. But as always, the concerns for this team are not about the regular season but rather the postseason, where the results have only been disappointing. At this point, they have done nothing to change perceptions.
Much like Teemu Selanne in Anaheim, Martin Brodeur has shown no signs of weakness in his later years. Despite rumblings of retirement, Brodeur has helped keep the Devils in the top half of the Eastern Conference, something very few would have thought possible before the season began.