Hockey is back and Week 1 did not disappoint. There were plenty of big moments to welcome the 2017-18 season, from the Blackhawks dominating the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions to thrilling hat tricks in multiple season-opening games. Four players scored at least three goals in their respective openers Wednesday or Thursday.
We’re celebrating the start of the season with a look at the teams we’ve ranked in the top 10.
1. Chicago Blackhawks
Blackhawks thrashed the Penguins 10-1 in their season opener. That kind of win against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champ is reason alone to land in the number one spot. But there’s more. Chicago went on to roll over the Blue Jackets 5-1. Patrick Kane’s scoring ability is backed by a strong defense that includes Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and goalie Corey Crawford. This Blackhawks team is on a mission: to get back into Stanley Cup contention after they were swept by Nashville.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
Coming off their second Stanley Cup title and third Stanley Cup Final appearance in nine years, the Pens had a busy offseason. Pittsburgh had several notable departures including G Marc-Andre Fleury (Golden Knights), F Nick Bonino (Predators), and F Chris Kunitz (Lightning). There’s no doubt that Pittsburgh lost depth, but they’re still better stocked from top to bottom than most other teams and the clear favorite in the Eastern Conference. After a rough season opener against Chicago, Pittsburgh’s shutout vs. Nashville was a nice rebound that shows what this team is capable of doing.
3. Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid. Need I say more?
Once again, McDavid made his presence known in Edmonton’s first game Wednesday– scoring every goal in a 3-0 win against Calgary. This team has speed, and is playing with a whole lot of confidence coming off last season’s playoff run. Their offense is a force to be reckoned with.
4. Washington Capitals
Many predict the Capitals are in for a drastic decline. Not so fast. It looks like the defending Presidents’ Trophy winners have the talent and power to contend. Winger Alex Ovechkin is on fire. He became the first player since 1917 to score a hat trick in back-to-back games. At 32 years old, he isn’t showing signs of slowing down and neither are the Caps. Washington’s 6-1 rout of the Montreal Canadiens Saturday show that this team is one to keep an eye on.
5. Anaheim Ducks
Anaheim’s defense is dangerous. This offseason, they held onto their top four on defense and re-signed forward Patrick Eaves. Although it’s early, a healthy John Gibson is already showing his grit and determination. It’ll be difficult to hold off Edmonton, but Anaheim’s defensive core will slow down most offenses.
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6. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning features one of the best offenses in the league led by Steven Stamkos. The combination of Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Vladislav Namestnikov has provided the Lightning with a top line that is a threat to any defense. They’ve already shown their scoring abilities in their first two games, and there’s a lot more where that came from. Bottom line? The Lightning are stacked with plenty of scorers up and down the lineup.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto’s lack of depth on defense gives me reason for pause. However, their offense features an exciting mix of talent that includes Auston Matthews and veteran Patrick Marleau. Matthews, who scored 40 goals as a rookie, doesn’t appear to be in store for a sophomore slump. The Maple Leafs opened the season on Wednesday night in Winnipeg with a dominant 7-2 win on the road. On Saturday night, they played their home opener against the New York Rangers and won 8-5. This team’s offense will be a fun one to watch this season.
8. Nashville Predators
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It hasn’t been the start the defending conference champs had hoped for. But don’t count them out. Remember, the Preds got off to a rough start last season with a 2-5-1 October stretch. Although they lost captain Mike Fisher (retired) and James Neal (expansion draft), who were centerpieces of their team– their solid core remains intact. They also signed Nick Bonino, one of the league’s most talented two-way centers. It may be difficult for Nashville to replicate last season’s rise to the Stanley Cup Final, but this team should be in the mix for the playoffs.
9. Columbus Blue Jackets
John Tortorella’s team is heading in the right direction. The Blue Jackets were one of the league’s most surprising teams last season, and continue to show they’re better offensively and deeper defensively. However, the true star of this team is goalie Sergei Bobrovsky who captured last season’s Vezina Trophy. New addition Artemi Panarin is already off to a productive start for the Blue Jackets– silencing concerns that the transition from Chicago to Columbus would hurt his offensive numbers.
10. St. Louis Blues
It’s a challenging Central Division, but the undefeated Blues are off to a hot start with three wins under their belt. In a thrilling 5-4 overtime win against the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Blues showed they may be in store for a big season.
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