Let’s poke holes in the NHL’s perfect starts

Let’s poke holes in the NHL’s perfect starts

The NHL season is only two weeks old, and yet four teams — the Boston Bruins, the Dallas Stars, the Vegas Golden Knights, and the Colorado Avalanche — have yet to taste defeat in regulation. Only the Stars aren’t running at a 100 percent points-percentage, having lost to the aforementioned Knights in a shootout. But no one cares about a shootout.

So are these teams just that much better? It seems abnormal that there would be so many teams, even two weeks in, unblemished. At this point last season, every team had lost in regulation at least once. But then again, all four of these teams have been mentioned as possible Cup contenders, and they should be at or near the top of their divisions.

Well, except for the Bruins. After losing their top two centers to the ravages of time — otherwise known as retirement — the Bs were definitely supposed to take a step back. The defense was still one of the better blue lines in the league, they still had the best goaltending tandem in the NHL, but where exactly were the goals going to come from?

One of the answers they’ve come up with is rookie Matthew Poitras, who has three goals in six games, to join in on the fun that David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand are always having. He’s even earned the role of centering Marchand’s line.

Another keen strategy the Bruins have had so far is to only play teams that suck ass. In their six games, they’ve played the Hawks twice, the Preds, the Sharks, and the Ducks — all teams that aren’t really expected to be anywhere near the playoffs come April. Only the Kings have popped up on the schedule that are seen as a real team, though no one can figure out quite yet what it is they’re good at even if they’ve made the playoffs the past two seasons.

The Bruins are still possession-heavy as they’ve been, though maybe not quite as sharp defensively as they’ve been (13th in xGA per 60). But the goalies have made it all OK, with a .957 save percentage at even strength. That will come down, and the Bs might seek a lower level than the penthouse when it does.

As for the Avs and Knights, they were the consensus powers in the Western Conference and nothing seen in the two weeks of the season is going to dissuade anyone from that. The Avalanche are simply doming teams so far, leading the league in both Corsi and expected-goals share and pushing 60 percent in both categories. And Cale Makar is once again coming up with silliness like this:

They’re getting contributions from all over, even the SS Ryan Johansen has five points in seven games playing in Nathan MacKinnon’s wake on the second line. Likely we’ll see the Avs in this very spot all season.

The Knights are a touch more smoke-and-mirrory, which fits their location just fine. They’re only middle of the pack as far as the metrics go, but everything is going in for them. They’re shooting nearly 11 percent at even-strength so far, and outrunning their expected goals pretty heavily for this point in the season. Their goalies have played out of this world, with both Adin Hill and Logan Thompson carrying save percentages over .930. Maybe Hill and Thompson are that good. Or maybe they’re Adin Hill and Logan Thompson. Something is going to go off the boil here, though with the Oilers’ struggles the Knights probably still walk to the division title.

As for the Stars, they’re here even though Jason Robertson only has one goal. They’re getting scoring from up and down the lineup (10 guys have scored at least once), they’ve killed off literally every power play they’ve seen, and Jake Oettinger has a save percentage of .952. He’s also third in goals saved above expected. If the Stars continue to run a 100 percent penalty kill rate, they’ll continue to run with the Avs.

So yeah, not too much smoke in these starts other than the Bruins schedule. But points collected in October count the same as they do in March. Best to get them when everyone’s healthy and they come easy.

Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate and on Bluesky @Felsgate.bsky.social 

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.