Sharks, Lightning off to great starts while Islanders and Kings surprise

It’s easy to say that the season is still young, but with most teams having played seven or eight games, it’s also easy to forget how rapidly this season is progressing. With roughly 40 games left of the regular season, teams need to take advantage of the schedule by securing points early. And looking at the standings, there are plenty of surprises.

hi-res-138547795_crop_650x440In the West, the Sharks have dominated the competition thus far as the team remains undefeated. Perhaps more impressive is how well the team’s offense is clicking. The team’s big scorers – Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and Logan Couture – are all producing at a top pace. In fact, Marleau leads the league in goals with nine in seven games, while Thornton leads the league in assists with 11. Pavelski and Couture aren’t far behind with 12 points and 10 points respectively. These are the guys that San Jose needs to be performing at a high level in order for the team to succeed.

However, while the team’s regular season success has been well-documented in recent years, it’s their post season failures that have been more widely covered. It’s still too soon to see if the impressive pace displayed by San Jose’s top talent will continue, but one thing is for sure: The regular season means nothing if San Jose’s offensive leaders fail to show up in the playoffs.

While Chicago has been impressive early and the Vancouver Canucks also find themselves atop the standings again, another interesting story is the Los Angeles Kings, who currently find themselves in 11th place in the Western Conference. At this juncture, the team’s six points only puts them three points out of a playoff spot, but the team has struggled mightily to earn points. Their offense is one of the worst in the league, averaging 1.83 goals per game. Only Columbus and Nashville have worse goals-per-game averages right now.

The team isn’t getting production from the players who are looked upon as the offensive leaders. Kyle Clifford currently leads LA with five points in six games, while players  like Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter, who have three points apiece, Dustin Brown and Mike Richards (two points apiece) are struggling.

Again, the team isn’t far out of contention—yet. But with the rapid pace of games this season, and with how competitive each team is now, there won’t be a lot of room to make up points later on if they fall too far out.

In the East, the Tampa Bay Lightning are certainly taking advantage of a hot start. Not only does the team top the Eastern Conference right now, but they currently lead the league in goals per game with a whopping 5.29 average. Just for reference, the Sharks are second in the league with a 3.86 average. And much like the Sharks, the Lightning are seeing solid production from their top players.

Evidently time playing beer league hockey during the lockout was time well spent for Steven Stamkos, who leads the team with 14 points. Martin St. Louis isn’t far behind with 13, and the Lightning have got to love the fact that Vincent Lecavelier is looking like his old 90-point scoring self with 11 points in seven games. The real surprise has got to be rookie Cory Conachar, though, who has posted five goals and seven assists for 12 points this season.

The team also appears to be benefitting from better defense. The Lightning are currently 12th in the league with a 2.57 goals against average. This is a huge improvement from last season where they finished last in the league with an average of 3.39 goals against per game.

While Boston’s success early in the season comes as no surprise, the fifth place ranking of the New York Islanders certainly does. Largely led by forward John Tavares and his 11 points on the season, the team is also seeing some solid production from Brad Boyes, who currently has two goals and four assists. At this pace, Boyes should have no problem surpassing the eight goals and 15 assists he posted last season with the Buffalo Sabres.

Unfortunately for Islanders fans, it’s probably only a matter of time before the team falls out of contention. After all, they currently rank 27th in the league with a goals against per game average of 3.16, and rank 28th in goals scored with a 2.39 average. Sooner or later, the fact that they are letting in more goals than they are scoring will catch up with them. But for now, Islanders fans can enjoy some early success from their team.

The NHL season is still young, but the mid-way point will be here before you know it and that will leave a slim margin of time for teams to rack up points and move into playoff contention. If nothing else, expect to see some exciting hockey this season because it’s shaping up to be a season where every game is turning into a must-win.


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