A quarter into the season, how does each team stack up?

Posted: November 22, 2013 in NHL
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We’ve reached the season’s first quarter-mark, and as quick as it may have seemed, plenty has happened. We’ve seen controversy, trades, injuries, and huge moments that have shaken the league up and making this year another interesting one to write in the books. Let’s see how each team stacks up to where they were projected this season.

Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks: They started out this season showing us that they are a powerhouse to be reckoned with, flirting with the lead of the President’s Trophy race for best record in the league. It took until this, game number 24 for them, to lose at home on the Pond. Led by top scorers Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, and goalie trio Jonas Hiller, Viktor Fasth, and Frederik Andersen, the Ducks have been exceptional this year, and even pulled the Mighty out of the closet for one game. Grade: A

Boston Bruins: Widely viewed as the best team in the Atlantic entering the season, the B’s haven’t disappointed. They lead the league in fewest goals against, and have overtaken the Lightning in first, in large part to Tuukaa Rask and his defense, led by Zdeno Chara. Grade: A-

Buffalo Sabres: They’ve already shown the door to their GM, rookie head coach, and team’s top scorer Thomas Vanek. The return for Vanek was good, despite Moulson taking time to fit into the anarchistic system. Ryan Miller is likely going to leave the team this season, being a free agent, but until then remains the only player left with any value as of right now. Grade: F

Calgary Flames: Following the retirement of Miikka Kipprusoff, the Flames have been left with a massive void in net, and it’s been challenging for guys like Kari Ramo and Reto Berra (who made an amazing bicycle kick save the other night) to fill that hole. The team’s bright spot is Sean Monahan, who’s second on the team in points, and has plenty of time to grow, along with fellow rook Sven Baertschi, because the Flames aren’t going anywhere. Grade: C-

Carolina Hurricanes: Carrying over a similar team to last season, the Canes weren’t too high on anyone’s radar. But injuries to top forward Jeff Skinner and goalie Cam Ward (again) have made it tough for them to win games. Their offense has been pretty bad lately, but still somehow stay in games. It remains to be seen if they can keep repelling the bottom of the Metro. Grade: D+

Chicago Blackhawks: Most points in the league? Check. Most goals scored in the league? Check. The defending Cup champs are showing just what they are made of, not much else to say. Grade: A

Colorado Avalanche: I don’t know if Patrick Roy gave them a shot in the arm, or their young players are playing to potential, but this team was unconscious to begin the year, despite a recent slide, this team is dangerous, with 6 forwards with 13+ points. If they continue to score, they can further ignore their less than ideal goalie situation. Still, I like this team going forward. Grade: A

Columbus Blue Jackets: I originally thought this team would be a playoff contender once Nathan Horton returns. But they continue to disappoint. Their leading scorer is D-man James Wisniewski, and their defense hasn’t been spectacular. Tied currently for last in the Metro is no place for a projected playoff contender. Grade: D

Dallas Stars: Guess who’s winning the trade between Boston and Dallas? Tyler Seguin is having a monster season, co-leading the team in points with Jamie Benn. Maybe he did need a change of scenery. The Stars have been quietly turning it on, but the competition in the division may be too tough for them to overcome. They’ve shown great effort, though. Grade: B-

Detroit Red Wings: Of course, Henrik Zetterberg is the top goal scorer. Of course Pavel Datsyuk has the best hands in the game. Nothing much ever changes in Mo-town. But, they haven’t been keeping in shape defensively, and Jimmy Howard hasn’t been his normal game-stealing self this year. It has hurt them recently, and it may come back to bite them again later. They should try and tighten up the back end if they want to chuck some octopus in May: Grade: B-

Edmonton Oilers: If I were grading them on pure offense, they’d get a very good mark. But since this is a team game, it’s time to lower the boom. With their talented offense, they shouldn’t be anywhere near the bottom of the Western conference. They signed Ilya Bryzgalov…to help their defense. Let that sink in for a moment. That’s how bad their back end is. Grade: G…?

Florida Panthers: So, they stink. We know it. You know it. The Sabres know it, and feel ashamed that they are behind the Panthers. The leading scorer(s) on this team have 12 points each. There are a few players who have more goals than that alone. At least the Panthers aren’t disappointing anyone. Grade: D

Los Angeles Kings: Their defense has been helping out their offense, which is something that many teams don’t have. It’s valuable to have guys like Drew Doughty helping out the top guys on the forward corps. Also, the team is right there in the airtight Pacific, despite top keeper Jonathan Quick out with an injury for a while. Ben Scrivens has shown he can play as well (provided he has a defense in front of him). Grade: A-

Minnesota Wild: Could this be the year they put it all together? Seems like it. Zach Parise leads the way in a talented offense, and Josh Harding continues to impress and inspire everyone. Their division is daunting, but they’ve stuck with it so far, and are playing impressive hockey. Grade: A-

Montreal Canadiens: This team is full of young blossoming stars, like top D-man P.K. Subban, and wingers Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. While the team is playing well, they aren’t superstars yet. I wouldn’t overlook them, despite their place in the standings, but it makes sense that they are where they are. They won’t kill anyone, but they can be dangerous. Grade: B

Nashville Predators: They are without goalie Pekka Rinne for a while, so more people can concentrate on rookie stud-to-be Seth Jones. He has a while to go before he becomes a true star in the league, but it’s only a matter of time. They likely won’t go far this year, but it gives them time to build up for a run soon. Grade: C

New Jersey Devils: Not sure why so many people were giving them negative feedback. Since the emergence of rookie defenseman Eric Gelinas, the offense and power play have been coming around, in front of a goalie tandem comparable to a Now-and-Later candy from the late 90’s, in Martin Brodeur and Cory Schneider. Jaromir Jagr has plenty left in the tank too, and this team can be a factor later in the year, despite all the bad hearsay. Grade: B

New York Islanders: They currently have 3 top point-getters on their team who have proven their worth, John Tavares, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo. But disappointment throughout, as Thomas Vanek has been hurt, and when he’s played he hasn’t been much a factor. Evgeni Nabakov has played well, but was hit by injury lately, and for an older goalie, that could prove deadly. Grade: D

New York Rangers: They’ve been playing better since their season-opening 9 game road trip ended, but they haven’t impressed anyone yet. Their offense needs to get going, despite injuries to Ryan Callahan and Rick Nash (both have returned). Henrik Lundqvist and Cam Talbot can’t stand on their heads every game. Grade: B-

Ottawa Senators: Don’t blame Daniel Alfredsson for leaving. Their offense, led by Erik Karlsson and Bobby Ryan, with the emergence of Kyle Turris and ever-present Jason Spezza, is fine. Their defense in front of Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner has been dramatically worse than last year. The team probably won’t be able to contend like they did last year if their defense doesn’t pick it up. Grade: C-

Philadelphia Flyers: It took captain Claude Giroux 15 games to find the back of the net. Combine that with 6 points for Scott Hartnell and 5 goals by defensemen, and shaky goaltending, it’s no wonder the team has had a gaping hole to climb out of. Vincent Lecavalier is proving a good pickup, but he can’t do it alone. Grade: D

Phoenix Coyotes: Sporting one of the deepest offenses in the league, and Mike Smith playing well, this team has been a pleasant surprise for the league, right in the race in the Pacific. Martin Hanzal, Shane Doan, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson and crew have shown that they are for real, and this team is hard to beat now. Grade: A-

Pittsburgh Penguins: This group is as streaky as I’ve seen a team get. They win in bunches, and when they hit a slide, it lasts a few games. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the gang have the talent to blow away the Metro, but they haven’t. This trend of win a few lose a few can’t continue if they want to make it far this year. Grade: B+

San Jose Sharks: We can talk about guys like Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, and Logan Couture all day. But they aren’t the story. Tomas Hertl and Tommy Wingels have emerged as mainstays in San Jose, and have been playing for keeps. With a deep team like this, playing in front of a capable Antti Niemi, this group is not one you want to play against in a tough spot. Grade: A

St. Louis Blues: Alexander Steen has 17 goals this season, to lead the league. Combine that with T.J. Oshie and David Backes and you have a great offense. They have 3 defensemen (Jay Bouwmeester, Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo) over 15 points. They have a goalie duo among the more underrated in the league, in Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak. They have one of the best records in the league, and a top team to back it up. This looks like a championship caliber team going forward. Grade: A

Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos still leads the team in scoring. Trouble is, he broke his leg 2 weeks ago, and will continue to miss significant time. Guys like Martin St. Louis and goalie Ben Bishop have been playing well in his stead, but it’s impossible to replace that kind of talent. It’s hard to quantify a team that just lost their best player for a while, but they’ve been sticking around so far, and I don’t see why that shouldn’t continue. Grade: B+

Toronto Maple Leafs: They have a good, deep offense led by Phil Kessel, 5 guys over 15 points so far. Goalie Jonathan Bernier has been playing well to try and wrestle the top job from incumbent James Reimer. The team has been playing consistently well the whole season, and deserve some positive recognition for a change. Grade: B+

Vancouver Canucks: The Sedin twins can shoulder a load, but they can’t do it alone. Roberto Luongo can win games on his own, but not every game. The Canucks have a good team with high expectations, but sitting 5th in the Pacific (granted it’s challenging) is a let-down. They must step their game up if they want to see a spot in the playoffs, because it looks like they will be the odd ones out at this point. Grade: C+

Washington Capitals: Alexander Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom are returning to form, and Marcus Johansson and Mikhail Grabovski have helped the cause. The main issue is that goalie Braden Holtby seems like he’s holding up his end of the ice on his own. If that continues, he will look more like a sieve than the solid netminder that he is. Grade: B

Winnipeg Jets: Brian Little leads the way, as one of the more underrated players in the league. The only reason right now, that this team isn’t in a better spot, is the level of competition. Every division game has been a hill to climb, playing against the best of the West. Goalie Ondrej Pavelec has to be better, in order to let his offense give him a lead to play with. Grade: C-

We look ahead to the rest of the season, the Olympic break, and more as the season continues. Till next time, puck-heads!

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