Canadian NHL teams up and down through 1st month
Price, Weber lead Habs to hot start; Canucks, Flames struggling
Just over a month into the NHL season, Canada's teams are experiencing a wide range of fortunes. Some are in top form, a few look mediocre, and others are scraping the bottom of the standings.
Here's a look at the peaks and valleys so far for each of the country's seven clubs, listed in descending order by record.
1. Montreal Canadiens
Record: 13-2-1 (27 points), +19 goal differential
Highs: Carey Price is healthy and leading the league with a .957 save percentage, 1.40 goals-against average and 10-0-0 record. Shea Weber is exceeding expectations with seven goals, six assists and a league-leading plus-16 rating. Six of his goals have come with the man advantage, boosting the power play from 25th in the league the last two seasons to seventh.
Lows: The holes in Montreal's defence (and offence) were exploited in a 10-0 loss in Columbus on Nov. 4. Unfortunately, Price can't start every game, and although Al Montoya is a dependable back-up, he can't steal games the same way Price does.
Bottom line: Montreal had arguably its most well-rounded performance this past weekend, but the team has been outshot in six of seven games in November — a worrying trend. They need Price to stay healthy.
2. Ottawa Senators
Record: 9-5-1 (19 points), even
Highs: Craig Anderson (7-3-1, .934 save percentage) and trade acquisition Mike Condon (a small sample size, but his save percentage is .983 in two starts for Ottawa) have been strong enough in net to compensate for the team's lack of firepower.
Lows: The Senators have only 35 goals this season, and only one player, Erik Karlsson, has double-digit points (three goals, 10 assists).
Bottom line: You have to go back to Oct. 25 to find a game in which Ottawa scored more than two goals, which may become a problem if the goaltending falters.
3. Edmonton Oilers
Record: 9-6-1 (19 points), +5
Highs: The Oilers got off to a surprising 7-2-0 start, and it appears they're finally on the right track in what has felt like a perpetual rebuild. Connor McDavid is flourishing as captain, leading the team with 19 points (five goals, 14 assists). Patrick Maroon leads Edmonton with six goals, which is already half as many as he had in 72 games last season with the Ducks and Oilers.
Lows: Edmonton hasn't carried its early momentum into November, going 2-4-1 this month. Big-ticket free agent signing Milan Lucic has just one goal and an assist in that stretch.
Bottom line: It's still a young team that will take time to develop into a true contender, but October showed the Oilers may finally have the framework of a playoff contender.
4. Winnipeg Jets
Record: 8-7-2 (18 points), even
Highs: Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele are blowing up. The rookie Laine leads the league with 11 goals, while Scheifele is tied for the most points at 20. Blake Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers are also in double digits in scoring, and the Jacob Trouba contract saga has been solved (for now).
Low: The goaltending tandem of Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson needs work. Although Hellebuyck has a winning record of 6-4-0, his save percentage is just .908. Hutchinson (2-3-0) is even worse at .896. That could catch up to the Jets: 10 of their 17 games have been decided by a single goal, including five that ended in either overtime or a shootout.
Bottom line: It's fun to watch the goals pile up, but you need a dependable goalie to steal a few games. The current tandem isn't cutting it.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs
Record: 6-6-3 (15 points), -11
High: The youth movement is in full effect, with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander locked in a three-way tie for the team lead with 12 points. Matthews made a big splash with his historic four-goal debut, while Nazem Kadri is Toronto's top goal-scorer with seven.
Lows: Matthews has cooled, scoring only two goals in 14 games since opening night. Toronto has just one win in eight road games, and the Leafs are allowing a league-worst 34.3 shots against. Goalie Frederik Andersen has hit career lows with a 3.42 GAA and .901 save percentage.
Bottom line: As another team that's deep in a rebuild, it doesn't look like this will be the year that Toronto makes it back to the playoffs, especially given their struggles away from the Air Canada Centre.
6. Vancouver Canucks
Record: 6-9-1 (13 points), -15
High: They showed a lot of promise early on, starting the season 4-0, though each of those games was decided by a single goal and three went to overtime or a shootout
Lows: Vancouver followed up by going winless in nine. Free-agent acquisition Loui Eriksson hasn't been working out with the Sedin twins, and only recently rejoined the Canucks' top line. At $6 million US per season, Vancouver needs the Eriksson that put up 63 points last year with Boston. So far, he has only six.
Bottom line: The Eriksson signing suggested that Vancouver was making a run at the playoffs, but immediate results indicate that's unlikely.
7. Calgary Flames
Record: 5-10-1 (11 points), -20
High: Calgary locked up young star Johnny Gaudreau for six more years at $6.75 million US annually.
Low: Only two Flames have a point total in double digits — Gaudreau and Michael Frolik each have 10. Sean Monahan has been under-performing with just six. Captain Mark Giordano has only five, which means last year's top three scorers haven't been producing. Goalie Brian Elliot is probably missing St. Louis, as he has dropped from a .930 save percentage last season to .882.
Bottom line: It's a forgettable start, but the Flames have a good young core and there's plenty of hockey still to be played.