Monday, October 17, 2016

Weekend wrap: It's still early. So, so early.

Opening faceoff: Yes, it’s early

Welcome to the NHL Weekend Wrap.

Every Monday, we’ll dive in on some of the key stories that emerged over the past few days of NHL action. We’ll take a look at some of the weekend’s best, worst and strangest plays. And we’ll also include weekly power rankings at both the top and the bottom of the league, focusing in on the five teams who’ve staked out a claim at each end of spectrum.

That last part is going to be a little tricky today, and for the next few weeks at least. With no team having played more than three games, we don't have all that much to work with here. On the one hand, we don't want to completely discount what we've seen happen on the ice. Pre-season predictions are nice, and we've all made ours, but they go out the window once the real action starts.

On the other hand, right now we're talking about two or three games – if we start overreacting based on that, an enraged analytics guy will burst through the wall and start screaming "small sample size" until he hyperventilates. And he'd be right.

So we'll try to walk a line. And we'll probably walk it wrong, at least in a few spots.

Around this time last year, the Canadiens were unbeatable, the Penguins looked awful, and some morons were even wondering where Sidney Crosby had disappeared to. Then again, sometimes the first week or two can tell you a lot about where the pre-season consensus has gone wrong. Last year, a strong start by the Capitals was the first signal that they'd made the leap to the league's top tier, and you can ask any Blue Jackets fan what a rough opening week can reveal.

For now, when in doubt we'll err on the side of the pre-season consensus. That's why we weren't going to see any shockers in the top five, and why we won't be sticking winless teams like the Kings and Ducks in the cellar. But as October creeps towards November, the scales will tip more and more to what the season seems to be trying to say, even if what it's telling us is that we were all dead wrong about a few teams.

So yeah, it's still very early, and some of this will end up looking awful in hindsight. But that's half the fun, so let's give it a shot. Don't forget to bookmark this page so you can call me an idiot in six months. OK, days.

Road to the Cup

The five teams that look like they're headed towards Stanley Cup favourite status.

5. Washington Capitals (1-0-1, +1 true goals differential*) – Last year's top regular season team hasn't looked great yet, but taking three points out of four against division rivals isn't a bad start.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning (2-0-0, +3) – You could make a case for the Panthers to claim this spot; they also went 2-0-0 while facing the same two teams the Lightning played. Luckily, the two teams can sort it out themselves when they face each other tomorrow.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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