Monday, October 9, 2017

Weekend wrap: This is offensive

Welcome to another season of the Weekend Wrap. Every Monday morning, we’ll take a look at some of the trends and stories emerging from the last few days of NHL action. And we’ll feature top-five and bottom-five power rankings of the league’s best and worst teams, which is always popular except for when your favourite team isn’t in exactly the right place, which is to say that it’s never popular.

Opening weekend certainly gave us plenty of goals to talk about. The Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers shot the lights out in an 8-5 Toronto win, and we got at least nine goals in four other games. In all, 10 teams scored at least five times in a weekend game, and overall scoring rates are about a goal per game higher than they were last season.

It’s not unusual for scoring rates to be up early in the year, as players shake off the rust and learn new systems. We went down this same road last season, when scoring was up early before settling back to normal rates within a few weeks. That will almost certainly happen again here, so we may as well enjoy all the goals while we can.

With apologies to the Chicago Blackhawks and Leafs, nobody’s enjoying the early offence more than Alex Ovechkin. He lit up the Ottawa Senators for a season-opening hat trick on Thursday, then followed that with four more against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. Back-to-back hat tricks to start a season is a feat the league hasn’t seen in a century, ever since it was done back in 1917 by … well, by pretty much everyone. The league was weird back then.

It’s going to be weird now too, if Ovechkin keeps this up. He’s obviously not going to finish the season with 280 goals, and we’re only a few quiet games away from a week’s worth of “What’s gone wrong with Ovechkin?” think pieces. But it’s hard to deny that he looks like a player on a mission this year, and a big rebound from last year’s dip to 33 goals seems likely. If he puts up another week or two like this first one, the “Rocket” Richard race might even be over early.

But was it enough to get the Capitals into top spot in our first power rankings? Let’s head to the next section to find out.

Road to the Cup

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

5. Edmonton Oilers (1-1-0, +2 true goal differential*) – Turns out you can stop Connor McDavid after all. Or at least the lowly Vancouver Canucks can. Still, we’ll leave the Oilers teetering on the edge of the top five based on their impressive opening-night win over the Calgary Flames (and the lack of other clear-cut candidates).

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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