The first few weeks of the NHL regular season have been pretty exciting. Not every game has been tight, but it appears as though the schedule has been filled with one-goal games and teams trailing by a goal or two seem to be able to come back more than ever before. This is what the NHL wanted. It’s all about parity and excitement.
Here are the PHT Face-off storylines for this week:
• Tight finishes:
As we mentioned above, a lot of games seem to be coming down to the wire. This is clearly the dream scenario for the NHL. According to NHL Public Relations, 53.1 percent of games have been decided by one goal or a two-goal margin following an empty-netter from the team with the lead. If you look at the boxscore from each of Sunday’s five contests, you’ll notice that all of them fell into that category.
The fact that the losing team isn’t really out of the game until the end more than half the time is pretty impressive. We may not all be fans of the salary cap because it dismantles talented teams, but the parity level in the NHL is at an all-time high as we speak.
• John Carlson is racking up points:
If you check the list of scoring leaders in the NHL, you may be a little surprise to find a defenseman at the top of the list. The Capitals blue liner is currently ahead of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, David Pastrnak, Mark Stone and everybody else in the league when it comes to points scored.
Heading into this week, the 29-year-old has picked up three goals and 18 points in just 10 games. He’s registered at least one point in nine of his team’s 10 contests. The only team that has managed to keep him off the board is the Carolina Hurricanes.
It’s no coincidence that the Capitals have won three games in a row. Their success isn’t just because of Carlson, but he’s certainly a bit part of it.
“I’m just getting lucky,” Carlson said when asked how he’s leading the league in points and assists. “Guys are making some good plays to me. The guys I’m passing to are scoring right now. Especially as a D, it’s pretty streaky. You take it when you can. A lot of guys making a lot of plays out there.”
• J.T. Miller trade paying off for Canucks
Eyebrows were raised when the Canucks traded a future first-round draft pick to the Lightning for forward J.T. Miller. After all, Miller was coming off a 47-point season, which is good, but that first-rounder had the potential to be a lottery pick down the road. To be clear, if the Canucks 2020 pick falls into the lottery, they will send their 2021 pick to Tampa, but that’s still a risky proposition for a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs in a while.
How has Miller fit in? Well, he’s been doing just fine on the Canucks’ top line with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser.
Through eight games, the 26-year-old has racked up four goals and four assists. He leads the team in goals and is tied with Pettersson for first in points.
“Our games are different, but I’ve played with some elite players before,” said Miller, per CBC.ca. “There are some things that I try to instill on them and help them out.
“I can retrieve pucks for them. I think I have enough skill to make plays at their level. They are two really elite players. I just try to get the puck to them when they are open and get to the net.”
So far so good.
• Sidney Crosby is still good at hockey
After being swept by the New York Islanders in last year’s playoffs, many wondered whether or not the Pittsburgh Penguins would still be able to compete in the Metropolitan Division. To make matters worse, they’ve been hit by the injury bug pretty badly since the start of the year, as Evgeni Malkin, Alex Galchenyuk and Nick Bjugstad have all been out.
But somehow, some way, Sidney Crosby has found a way to keep the Penguins afloat. Sure, he’s had plenty of help, but the captain has also racked up four goals and 12 points in nine games, which puts him tied for fifth in NHL scoring.
Included in those four goals is this beauty which happened during last week’s nationally televised game against the Colorado Avalanche:
That’s just not fair.
It’s still WAY too early to be talking about Hart Trophy candidates, but if there was an MVP award for the first month of the season, Crosby would definitely be in the mix.
• Are the Bolts dull?
Speaking of the Penguins, they’ll be on NBCSN again this week, as they’ll take on the Lightning on Wednesday night (8 p.m. ET).
Many (including myself) expected the Bolts to finish at the top of the Atlantic Division standings this season, and even though that still might happen, they haven’t looked like themselves just yet.
According to Sean Tierney’s awesome shot rate charts, the Lightning are right on the border of bad and dull. Who would’ve thought?
Nobody’s pushing the panic button. It’s still very early and they’re still an incredibly talented team, but it looks like they’re going to go through more adversity than they did last year. In the end, that might not be such a bad thing.
Tampa Bay currently owns a 4-3-1 record. After losing to Ottawa two weeks ago, they managed to beat Montreal and Boston before dropping a 6-2 home decision the Avs.
“Sometimes it turns into a game of mistakes, and the team that makes the most usually pays the price,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after the blowout loss to Colorado, per NHL.com. “I can’t sit here and say we made the most mistakes, but the ones we did make, it seemed like they put in the back of the net.”
What’s coming up this week?
• Bruins look to avenge Saturday’s loss to the Maple Leafs, Tue. Oct. 22, 7 p.m. ET.
• Alex Ovechkin vs. Connor McDavid, Thu. Oct. 24, 9 p.m. ET.
• Patrick Marleau and the San Jose Sharks return to Toronto, Fri. Oct. 25, 7 p.m. ET
WEDNESDAY NIGHT HOCKEY ON NBCSN
Penguins vs. Lightning, Wed. Oct. 23, 8 p.m. ET
NHL on NBCSN
Stanley Cup rematch alert: Blues vs. Bruins, Sat. Oct. 26, 7 p.m. ET.
Heritage Classic: Jets vs. Flames, Sat. Oct. 26, 10 p.m. ET.
Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.