The 2022/23 NHL season has begun in exciting style and with plenty of stories already, we take a look at what we have learned from the opening two weeks.
After a fourth consecutive first round defeat in the playoffs, it was expected that the Pittsburgh Penguins core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang would be broken up this summer.
General Manager Ron Hextall had other ideas, though, and signed 36-year-old Malkin and Letang, 35, to new contracts, giving them chance to win a fourth Stanley Cup with Crosby and the Penguins (2009, 2016, 2017). They are to achieve it in 2022/23.
The trio have rewarded Hextall's faith in the early going, helping the Penguins to a 3-0-1 record, and they lead the NHL with a +12 goal-differential. Their 20 goals scored ranks second in the NHL and eight goals conceded fourth best.
Captain Crosby leads the team with seven points (two goals, five assists). Malkin has five points (three goals, two assists) and Letang four assists from the blue-line.
Pittsburgh sit top of the Metropolitan Division, joint on seven points with New York Rangers (to win the Stanley Cup) who after an Eastern Conference Final appearance last season have also begun well (3-1-1).
Rangers forward Artemi Panarin tops all players for points with 11 (three goals, eight assists) and they have also enjoyed significant contribution from several other players. This includes new addition Vincent Trocheck (signed as a free agent from Carolina Hurricanes) who has fitted in seamlessly scoring six points (two goals, four assists) in five games.
Both the Penguins and Rangers have proved difficult to contain in the early going and with their powerhouse offences firing, both are looking like a force to be reckoned with from the Metro.
While there are some signs of a hangover (2-1-1), Colorado's stars have quickly shrugged off any ill-effects and are leading the charge for a back-to-back success.
Mikko Rantanen leads the team with nine points (three goals, six assists), Valeri Nichushkin is the top scorer with five, scoring in each of the four games so far and Nathan MacKinnon has multi-point outings in all games, amassing eight points (two goals, six assists). On defence, Conn Smythe Trophy holder Cale Makar has five assists.
The scoring form of the four stars has helped Colorado register a sensational 53.9 per-cent success rate on their powerplay and alleviate the loss of Captain Gabriel Landeskog, who has been ruled out for three months following knee surgery.
After missing out on the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in their five-year history last season, the Golden Knights fired coach Peter De Boer and replaced him with Bruce Cassidy, who was surprisingly let go by the Boston Bruins.
That move and improved health for the likes of Captain Mark Stone, centre Jack Eichel and defenceman Zach Whitecloud has paid dividends with Vegas re-showing their championship credentials ( to win the Stanley Cup) with a 4-1-0 start.
Number-one goalie Robin Lehner was ruled out for the entirety of the 2022/23 season, begging questions as to whether Vegas would have enough in net.
But, 25-year-old Logan Thompson has answered many of those in the early going, registering three wins in three starts with a .938 save-percentage and 2.03 goals-against-average (GAA). Back-up Aidin Hill, acquired in a trade from San Jose Sharks, has also performed admirably with a .934 save-percentage and 2.00 GAA in two wins.
The aforementioned De Boer was hired by Dallas Stars after being sacked by Vegas, and they along with Boston Bruins, who appointed Jim Montgomery, and Philadelphia Flyers who employed John Tortorella to change their losing culture, have enjoyed a new coach bounce.
Dallas (25/1 to win the Stanley Cup) lead the Central Division (3-0-1) and despite injuries to several key players, the Bruins () have burst out of the gates and top the Atlantic with a 4-1-0 record and lead the NHL for goals (23).
The Flyers 3-1-0 start may be the most surprising of all NHL teams with Tortorella managing to make a team expected to struggle instantly more competitive than their odds suggest to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Captain of the Tampa Bay Lighting Steven Stamkos vowed that his team would bounce back after having their three-peat dream dashed by the Avalanche in last season's Stanley Cup Final.
And while he has lived up to the promise joint-leading the NHL with six goals in four games, the Lightning ( to re-gain the Stanley Cup) generally haven't been able to follow his lead slipping to three defeats (1-3-0).
The Lightning won the Presidents' Trophy in 2018/19 with a joint NHL record of 62 wins, but after they were beaten at the first stage of the playoffs, chose to ease off in the regular season and instead save their best for when it matters most, delivering back-to-back Stanley Cup successes.
Therefore, a slow start isn't cause for concern but coach Jon Cooper will be putting pressure on his team to quickly re-stamp their authority in a much-improved Atlantic Division.Safer Gambling Week (17-23 October) – Let’s talk about safer gambling. Click here for more information on independent resources. Gamble Responsibly.