Welcome to another edition of NHL Insights as we look at three teams that are off to surprising starts which include the New Jersey Devils, Dallas Stars, and Seattle Kraken and one group that is struggling in the Pittsburgh Penguins.
A new season means NHL Insights has returned. The new NHL season is underway, and there have been some surprising starts throughout the league. Several teams are doing better than expected from the preseason prognostications. Those include the New Jersey Devils, Dallas Stars, and Seattle Kraken. While some teams are struggling as the season is starting to slip away which include Pittsburgh Penguins and the St. Louis Blues.
Time to dive into some NHL Insights for the past week.
NHL Insights: Devils, Stars, Kraken, Penguins, and Blues
New Jersey Devils
After an uneasy start to the season, the New Jersey Devils have been on fire. As of this writing, the Devils have won eight of their past nine games and look like a team that could contend for a playoff spot this season. The Devils sit in first place in the Metro Division having won seven in a row. A feat nobody thought was possible. For the first time in a long time, New Jersey swept their Western Canada road trip doing it in multiple ways. The Devils were able to extend their winning streak to six games by digging deep and playing with a lot of character.
Last season, down 3-1 or blowing a 3-1 lead, the Devils probably would have lost. Or they would have been happy to take a point. No longer. The Devils are out to prove this start is for real and they are for real. Jesper Bratt‘s point streak came to an end. But Bratt did set the mark of an 11-game point streak to open the season by passing Tim Higgins. Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier continue to take the next steps in their development. Especially Hischier, who has put himself in the conversation for the Selke Trophy.
The Dallas Star rolling right now. It is the first year of Pete DeBoer behind the bench and that usually means good things for a team. Just see what he did in New Jersey, San Jose, and Vegas. It is the second year and beyond teams have to worry about. Now having an all-world goalie like Jake Oettinger helps. However, he is out with an injury and Scott Wedgewood has stepped up in his place.
Dallas is no longer just dependent on one line. Over the past couple of seasons, Dallas’s offence came from three guys Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelski, and Jason Roberston. Those three are still carrying the load for the Stars, but depth scoring has helped Dallas. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn have taken a backseat. This has allowed them to produce more and fit into their roles better. No longer do we have to hear about Benn and Seguin needing to live up to their contracts. Mason Marchment certainly helps Dallas’s second line. Benn turned back the clocks with a hattrick and Pavelski continues to show age is only a number. Look for the Stars to shine bright all season.
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One team not being talked about is the Seattle Kraken. Outside of their handling of Shane Wright. Which is another topic for another day. The Kraken are playing much better in year two of existence. Nobody expected them to be Vegas last year, but they should have been better than what their record was. It was an embarrassment most nights as the Kraken finished with 61 points. Entering the season Dave Hakstol was on the hot seat if this team did not perform to the standards of the roster.
Thus far in this young season, the Kraken are a much-improved hockey team. Sitting in second place in a tough Pacific Division as they have taken advantage of teams that struggled recently like Calgary and Edmonton. The Kraken are getting scoring and balanced scoring. Seattle has 11 players with eight points or more and if you go down the roster they have three players with five or more goals. Talk about balance. And Seattle got its first four-game winning streak in franchise history.
Scoring was an issue for Seattle last year along with goaltending. Martin Jones is having a resurgence as Philipp Grubauer continues to struggle. But if they can keep this up, and have players like Jordan Eberle and Oliver Bjorkstrand pick up their games, the sky is the limit for the Kraken.
Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues
It is ugly if you are a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins or St. Louis Blues. The Penguins are in the middle of a seven-game losing streak, while the Blues had their losing streak ended to eight games. I don’t want to hear about overtime points. Both teams are struggling and need to turn it around quickly. Defensively neither team is great, especially the Penguins who continue to squander third-period leads. This dates back to the playoffs against the Rangers. But just look at the game they have lost over the past week blowing leads to Boston, Buffalo, and Seattle.
The Penguins are a mediocre team that tried to run it back when they would have been better off bringing one of Kris Letang or Evgeni Malkin back and letting the other walk. Outside of their top line, the Penguins are struggling to score. They just don’t have the depth.
Speaking of struggling to score, the Blues just can score. Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly are just snake-bitten right now. Yes, the Blues are dealing with injuries to their backend, but maybe just maybe they gave up what made them good by trying to play a more up-tempo style of game instead of playing a more physical style that has worked in the past.
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