The dash to the end of the 48 game season has begun. There have been different stories to express the start of the season from surprises, to disappointment. The Western Conference has some of the most explosive hockey in the league, but no matter where you look this is not a goaltenders year. Players are finding a way to put the puck in the net easier than most years. Will the goaltending catch up to the explosive offensive firepower? San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau leading the league with 9 goals through 5 games tends to find the net when out on the power play . The Chicago Blackhawks are off to their best start in franchise history starting 6-0. The Nashville Predators, and Phoenix Coyotes are off to slow starts, with the Coyotes winning 2 games, and Nashville only winning 1. The trend around the league is not getting off to a slow start, let’s see if we find dramatic changes in the way the season will play out.
15. Calgary Flames. (1-2-1)
The Flames are off to a slow start despite only playing 4 games. Goaltender Mikka Kiprusoff has seen the high offense this season with a 3.44 GAA (goals against average) . The offense has scored 11 goals this year, but the defense has given Kiprusoff no help giving up 11 goals. The Flames next game is against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.
14. Colorado Avalanche (2-3-0)
Colorado has had a tough schedule this far facing the Wild, Kings, and Sharks. They are not getting enough production out of their star players this season, with center Paul Stastny only having an assist in 5 games, and a brutal -3 in the plus/minus rating. The Avalanche take on the Vancouver Canucks Wednesday.
13. Phoenix Coyotes (2-4-0)
The Coyotes were conference finalist last season falling to the Los Angeles Kings. The play of Mike Smith has been much less than stellar, but the offense has been among the top in the league in scoring. Without Smith playing well the Coyotes are a much less than average team. Phoenix takes on Edmonton Wednesday.
12. Nashville Predators (1-2-3)
Nashville has had some bad luck to start the season with only 1 win this far, but losing 3 times outside of regulation. They lost a few key players in the offseason in Ryan Suter, and Jordan Tootoo, both to teams in the central division. They look to reverse their luck Thursday in Los Angeles.
11. Dallas Stars (2-3-1)
Dallas had an interesting offseason acquiring veterans Jaromir Jag, and Ray Whitney. They have showed they can keep up with some of the leagues best, taking the Chicago Blackhawks to overtime. The Stars take on Phoneix this Friday.
10. Columbus Blue Jackets (2-3-1)
Columbus has started their season off strong compared to the past, after a complete renovation of the organization in the offseason. Steve Mason is still the goaltender for the Jackets playing solid this season. The major loss this season was not having leader Rick Nash in the locker room, but added former New York Ranger Brandon Dubinsky to help in the locker room. Columbus takes on St. Louis Thursday.
9. Detroit Red Wings (2-2-1)
The story of Detroit this season is between 2 things, age, and lack of defense. The wings lost key players in the offseason including Niklas Lindstrom, and Thomas Holmstrom. The age of the team keeps rising as the usual starters Pavel Datsyuk, and Tod Bertuzzi return. Detroit takes on St. Louis Friday.
8. Los Angeles Kings (2-2-1)
The Kings raised the banner this year after an extended period with the cup, but still appear to enter the year with a hangover. The lost key defenseman Matt Greene for the year, and were without Anze Kopitar for the first few games. They look to get back on the right track Thursday against Nashville.
7. Edmonton Oilers (3-2-0)
Despite Edmonton leading the Northwest division their young talent is still questioned, and their lack of physical bodies appears to be an issue for the Oilers. Young talent Taylor Hall is off to a good start with 1 goal and 6 assist, but the question still remains if Devan Dubnyk can hold up in net this season. He has a 3.18 GAA and a .907 save percentage. Edmonton plays Phoenix Wednesday
6. Minnesota Wild (2-2-1)
The Minnesota Wild hit the lottery this offseason picking up the most of all the teams in Ryan Suter, and Zach Parise. They are not quite in sync yet, but are beginning to come around. The star yet this season is Captain Mikko Koivu with a goal and 5 assist, although Parise has 5 goals. The Backstom, and Harding combo in net this season will benifit the Wild in the long run. The Wild face off against the Blackhawas Wednesday.
5. Vancouver Canucks (2-2-2)
Vancouver has had a rocky couple of years with the playoff curse called Roberto Luongo, yet still are labeled as an elite NHL team. The Sedin twins, as well as Ryan Kessler pose to still be an issue for teams in the league. Despite Corey Schnider starting, it helps to have experience in Luongo as a backup. Vamcouver takes on Colorado Wednesday.
4. Anaheim Ducks (3-1-0)
Anaheim has been a surprise team in this shortened season, as they take off to a fast start behind goaltender Jonas Hiller, and off the stick of Daniel Winnik, and Saku Koivu. The addition of head coach Bruce Boudreau last season, opens a new door odor Anaheim with the playoff experience he brings to the team. The Ducks face the Wild Friday.
3. St. Louis Blues (5-1-0)
St. Louis is an elite team in the West this year, the addition of Vladimir Tarasenko, and the goaltending duo of Halak, and Elliot, the Blues have a lot of success ahead of them. The traditional players of David Backes, and Barrett Jackman, open a light of veteran presence that the Blues need to be successful in the future. The Blues take on Columbus Thursday.
2. San Jose Sharks (5-0-0)
The Sharks are off to an undefeated start this season and bagging goals like they are no problem. They are getting their main source of production from forward Patrick Marleau who has 9 goals on the season. They have a strong presence in net with Niemi, but looked surprised by the shutout performance of Thomas Greiss. The Sharks take on Edmonton Thursday.
1. Chicago Blackhawks (6-0-0)
The Blackhawks are off to their best start in franchise history with the stellar play on all phases of the game. The unexpected play of Corey Crawford has been pleasantly surprising, with his 5 wins, and 1.78 GAA he has been solid this season. The quick start from Hossa, and Kane have been a key contribution this far. The Hawks have seen pressing defense from Leddy, and Hjalmarsson this season. As long as the play keeps up, the Hawks will be tough to beat this year. Chicago takes on Minnesota Wednesday.