Roundtable: NHL early season surprises and disappointments


Through four weeks of the season, what has been your biggest surprise and biggest disappointment so far?

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: The biggest surprise has been the play of Kevin Lankinen. Lankinen started off the season as the Blackhawks third goaltender and when Collin Delia and Malcolm Subban couldn’t get the job done, Lankinen received his opportunity and has the crease to himself. He is 4-1-3 on an injury-riddled Chicago team with a 2.32 goals-against-average and a .928 save percentage. His save percentage is fifth best and GAA 10th best for goalies who have played at least three games. That is quite the start to an NHL career for Lankinen.

The biggest disappointment is the Rangers with the Islanders a close second. The Rangers have stumbled out of the gate and the recent saga involving Tony DeAngelo may have brought the team closer together (and hopefully not further apart), but I thought that they would be a playoff team and currently they are in the East Division basement with the Islanders.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Chris Driedger is currently the best goalie on the Panthers. They have played only seven games, but the 26-year-old, who has only 18 career NHL appearances, has been nothing but great in two seasons in Florida. In 15 games played, he has a .945 even strength save percentage and helped the Cats to nine wins.

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As for disappointment, the expectations were low, but did we think the Senators would be this bad? With their young players getting ice time and the veteran additions of Evgenii Dadonov, Derek Stepan, and Braydon Coburn, you’d think there would be baby steps forward this season.


The Senators are 2-8-1 through Thursday, own the NHL’s worst goal differential (-23), have allowed the most 5-on-5 goals (33), and are sporting an .872 ESSV%, which is 31st overall. That last one is also a reminder that Matt Murray is signed through 2023-24 with a $6.25M cap hit.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: The awe-inspiring fury of the Canadiens’ offense has been a thing to behold. While their shooting luck won’t last (12.8% as a team, far above league average (9.9%) and last season’s rate (8.6%), this is a team that can play with pace. Facing generally weak Canadian/North Division opponents could keep them flying high, too.

Through his first 10 NHL games, Alexis Lafreniere doesn’t exactly seem like the ready-made NHL product many expected. While his one and only point was a thriller (scoring it as an overtime-winner), even that came in a 3-on-3 situation, where spacing probably feels more like he’s used to. After Kaapo Kakko didn’t look ready-for-primetime as the No. 2 pick of the 2019 NHL Draft, the top pick of the 2020 draft is also off to a slow start for the Rangers. It’s way too early to give up on either player, honestly, but it’s also disappointing. If I’m the Rangers, I’d at least ponder some soul-searching about how they’re developing top prospects. (It’s already too late to debate trying to salvage the first year of Lafreniere’s entry-level contract.)

To be clear, it’s not all Lafreniere’s fault; the Rangers are kind of a structural disaster. It’s possible that David Quinn’s methods are the most not-ready-for-the-NHL element of all of this.

So, no, don’t panic, Rangers fans. But I’ll still stew here, considering the slow start from my Calder Trophy prediction (d’oh!).

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Adam Gretz, NHL writer: I think my biggest surprise so far has been how dynamic the Stars offense has been so far, especially without Tyler Seguin. You had to expect them to be a pretty good team given how far they have gone in the playoffs the past two seasons, but this was a team that could not buy a goal in the regular season a year ago. Or the year before. Granted, a lot of their success this season has been power play driven but even that is a bit of a surprise at how dominant it has been.

As far as disappointments, I would go with pretty much anything regarding the Penguins power play, which has simply been a Picasso of incompetence this season and the fact it really does look like the Predators may have reached their ceiling with this team. It is early, but I expected a bounce back season from them and they have simply not looked good. At all.

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: I’m going to be really honest and say the Bruins just in general. I thought the transition for the young defensemen would be bumpier, I didn’t think Nick Ritchie could score at this pace — or like, at all — or they’d get through a few weeks without David Pastrnak as well as they did.

Ottawa: Yeah, I know, it’s Ottawa. Still, a seven-game losing streak and sitting at a -23 is really bad. I thought with some of their young players a condensed season would give them at least a little bit of room to have a temporary burst.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: My biggest surprise is the play of Capitals rookie goalie Vitek Vanecek. We knew there would be a changing of the guard following the departure of Braden Holtby, but the expectation was that last year’s backup – and 2015 first rounder – Ilya Samsonov would seize the No. 1 role. But Samsonov has been sidelined on the COVID list, so the 25-year-old Vanecek, a 2014 second rounder who’d never played an NHL game before this season, has started 9 of 11 games to jumpstart the Caps’ hot start.

In terms of disappointments, Ottawa’s start has been exceptionally poor. Before last night’s win, the Sens had lost nine straight games, getting outscored 45-19 in that span. Given the personnel improvements that were made in the offseason, I’m not sure anyone saw this coming.

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Going back to our preseason predictions, which one do you wish you could go back and change?

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: I had the Flyers fourth in the East thinking they would be in a battle for the final playoff spot with the Islanders and Rangers. They have 16 points in 11 games and are only behind the Bruins for the division lead due to points percentage. Philly is scoring well at even strength (26 goals) but failing to drive possession (44.2%). If that can level out they can make a run at the crown and lead the East heading into the playoffs.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: To some extent, being wrong is almost the point when it comes to predictions. It’s part of why you want to sprinkle in some “hot takes” with the no-duh stuff like Connor McDavid winning the Hart Trophy. That said, while I contemplated Kirill Kaprizov as Calder winner, I didn’t pull the trigger. Kaprizov rules.

[NHL Power Rankings: Vanecek helps drive Capitals’ impressive start]

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: I wanted to pick Montreal higher in the North. I thought they were better than their record indicated a year ago, and with a couple of minor fixes knew they could be a really good team this season. Then they had their offseason, and playing in a division that did not really have any great teams I thought the door was open for them. But I chickened out. I still picked them in the top-four, but my initial instinct was first or second. I wish I had done that now that they were just crushing everybody in that division.

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: I didn’t have a solid feel for the West and still do not but I don’t vibe with the Kings and thinking they might make some sort of playoff push was wrong. Same for the Sharks and the Wild look a lot more fun and cool than I anticipated.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: I would like a mulligan on my North Division predictions. Specifically on where I slotted Vancouver (No. 2) and Montreal (No. 6). Maybe I put too much stock in the Canucks’ postseason run, and maybe I put too little stock in the Tyler Toffoli revenge factor (8 of his league-leading 9 goals this season have come against Vancouver), but either way, the Habs look like a surefire playoff team. I definitely missed the mark there.

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: The one pre-season prediction I would like to take back is Rasmus Dahlin winning the Norris Trophy. I still think that he is the best overall young defenseman in the NHL but his poor start looks to have knocked him out of any consideration unless he has a tremendous finish to his season.

Teravainen scores late, Hurricanes rally to beat Rangers 3-2

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NEW YORK – Teuvo Teravainen scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period, Frederik Andersen stopped 29 shots and the Carolina Hurricanes rallied to beat the New York Rangers 3-2 on Tuesday night.

Jalen Chatfield and Stefan Noesen also scored for the Metropolitan Division-leading Hurricanes, who won for the third time in four games.

With the comeback win, the Hurricanes became the second team – following Boston – to reach the 100-point mark this season as Carolina increased its Metropolitan Division-lead over second-place New Jersey to two points and the third-place Rangers to eight.

“That was a great effort. All 20 guys contributed and we got what we deserved,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “If we play like that, we’ll be in good shape. This time of year it gets tougher and tougher.”

Tyler Motte and Kaapo Kakko scored for the Rangers, who had won four straight were 6-0-1 in their last seven. Igor Shesterkin finished with 36 saves as the Rangers played their third game in four nights – the previous two shutout wins at home.

“Igor kept us in there as long as he could and we just didn’t have enough in the tank,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said. ”They won more battles and played a hard game.”

Teravainen scored his 11th goal with 2:33 left on a pass from defenseman Brent Burns, redirecting the puck past Shesterkin. The Hurricanes, who trailed 1-0 and 2-1.

“Somehow they left me open in the back side, great pass by him,” Teravainen said of the winning-goal pass to him in the slot. “We knew this would be a tough night. They have a good team. We knew we had to battle to win this game.”

The Rangers led 1-0 entering the third and were vying for their third-straight shutout before Chatfield tied the score at 9:49 – the first goal the Rangers allowed in more than eight periods. New York was coming off a 6-0 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday night with Shesterkin in goal and a 7-0 triumph over Nashville behind Jaroslav Halak on Sunday.

Kakko then put New York back ahead 31 seconds later with his 13th goal, only to have Noesen answer right back 18 seconds later to tie it 2-2.

Motte opened the scoring at the 17-minute mark of the first, knocking the puck past Andersen for his third goal in four games and sixth of the season overall.

The Rangers hadn’t lost in regulation since a 4-2 defeat on March 4 at Boston.

“Tonight we didn’t play near well enough to beat that team,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. ”Honestly, the whole game they outplayed us. They were a lot quicker. They managed the puck real well … We didn’t play our game.”


Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal played his 729th game with Carolina on Tuesday, tying defenseman Glen Wesley for the second-most games played in franchise history since relocation from Hartford in 1997. Staal, 34, trails only his brother Eric, who played 909 games for the Hurricanes from 2003-16.


Hurricanes: Host the Rangers on Thursday night to finish the home-and-home set in the opener of a four-game homestand.

Rangers: At Carolina on Thursday night to open a two-game trip.

Ullmark’s 40 saves carries Bruins past Senators, 2-1

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BOSTON – Linus Ullmark made 40 saves, Jake DeBrusk had the go-ahead goal and the NHL-best Boston Bruins continued their pursuit of the league’s record for regular-season victories with a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.

“I thought he was outstanding and he needed to be,” Boston coach Jim Montgomery said of Ullmark. “Unfortunately we gave up a lot of good looks, a lot of odd-man rushes because of our puck management and he bailed us out like he has all year.”

David Krejci added a power-play goal for Boston, which won its fourth straight.

Dylan Gambrell scored for the Senators and Mads Sogaard made 33 stops.

“We had a shooters’ mentality for two periods,” Ottawa coach D.J. Smith said. “The third period, they’ve won 54 games now, they’re not going to give you an odd-man rush, they’re not going to give you anything. You’re going to have to earn it.”

The Bruins posted their 54th win and with 12 games left are on pace to break the mark of 62, set by the Detroit Red Wings in 1995-96 and matched by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018-19.

Chasing the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot, Ottawa has lost six of seven following a season-high, five-game winning streak.

Coming off a 3-2 road trip where they won the last three games by a combined score of 15-2 that included two shutouts by backup Jeremy Swayman, the Bruins converted on a two-man, power-play advantage to tie the game at 1 midway into the opening period when Krejci poked in a rebound from the edge of the crease.

DeBrusk completed a nifty play with Brad Marchand when he collected a pass cutting down the slot at full speed, shifted and tucked a rebound past Sogaard at 15:52 of the first period for his 23rd goal.

“It was ‘all world.’ I saw him and he fed it through a lot of guys for a breakaway,” DeBrusk said of the pass. “It was one of those passes where I didn’t know what to do. I was going to point at him (after) but I was going too fast.”

Gambrell’s wraparound score gave Ottawa a 1-0 edge.

“I thought I played a good game today,” Sogaard said. “I just battled and stayed with it the entire way. … These ones are tough because we were so close.”


Ullmark stopped 22 shots in the second period with at least a dozen of them high-quality chances. During an Ottawa PP, he jumped from a crouch to make a right-shoulder stop on Alex DeBrincat’s bid from in close.

“We talked about it,” defenseman Hampus Lindholm said of the second period. “We know we’re a good team in the third and wanted to tighten it up for him. … They got a lot of chances that were our own fault in the second.”


The Bruins highlighted women who work and compete in the sports community, having Olympic gold medalist and Boston Pride defender Kali Flanagan accompany Bruins players during pregame walk-ins along with local high school scholastic award winners. In addition, in-arena host Michaela Johnson handled the PA for the night and they also left yellow roses at the seats of female reporters.

NOTES: The Senators entered the game as the only team holding an advantage in their series against the Bruins this season, winning twice in three games. … Montgomery said after the morning skate that defenseman Derek Forbort would likely be sidelined with a lower-body injury at least through the rest of the regular season. … DeBrusk, playing on the top line most of the season, is four off his career-high goal total, set in 2018-19.


Senators: Host Tampa Bay on Thursday.

Bruins: Host longtime rival Montreal in an Original Six matchup Thursday.

Boldy’s goal with 1.3 left in OT lifts Wild over Devils

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NEWARK, N.J. – Matt Boldy scored with 1.3 seconds left in overtime and Filip Gustavsson made a career-high 47 saves to give the Minnesota Wild a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.

The game was a chippy, defensive struggle. After two scoreless periods, the Devils were outshooting the Wild 22-19.

Minnesota finally broke through 6:41 into the third when Mason Shaw scored his seventh goal of the season on a wraparound.

Timo Meier answered for the Devils five minutes later with his 35th goal of the season on a wraparound of his own.

New Jersey was unable to convert on a late power play, and the teams went to overtime.

It was a back-and-forth five minutes of extra hockey, with both goaltenders making good saves. After Jack Hughes hit the post for the Devils, the puck caromed off a post to Boldy and he beat the buzzer with his 23rd goal of the season.

Vitek Vanecek stopped 27 shots for New Jersey.

NOTES: The Devils are 10-4 in overtime, while the Wild improved to 4-5.


Wild: Play at Philadelphia on Thursday night.

Devils: Play at Buffalo on Friday night.

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar signs extension through ’26-27

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DENVER – Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar has signed a three-year extension that will keep him in charge of the reigning Stanley Cup champions through the 2026-27 season.

The new deal for the winningest head coach in club history kicks in once the current contract runs out after the 2023-24 season.

Bednar, 51, is the only person to win championships in the ECHL, AHL and NHL as head coach. He directed the Avalanche to their third Stanley Cup title in team history last season by beating Tampa Bay, the two-time defending champions.

This season, the Avalanche have dealt with an array of injuries, which include missing captain Gabriel Landeskog all year after he underwent knee surgery in October. But they’re starting to creep closer to being healthy – and working their way up the standings. Colorado is riding a six-game winning streak to remain in a tight race with Dallas and Minnesota for the Central Division crown. The top spot in the Western Conference is in play, too.

“Jared has done a tremendous job behind the bench and certainly deserves this extension and to continue as the leader of our team,” Joe Sakic, the team’s president of hockey operations, said in a statement.

It wasn’t the prettiest of starts for Bednar in his inaugural season for Colorado. In 2016-17, his team amassed only 48 points (22-56-4) to finish last in the league. Since then, it’s been full steam ahead for Bednar and the Avalanche. They became the first NHL squad to go from worst to first in a span of four seasons or less since the 1970-71 Bruins, according to research by the team.

In addition, Bednar has led the Avalanche to five straight playoff appearances – and is closing in on a sixth – to become the first Avalanche coach to accomplish the feat. His 40 postseason wins are the second-most in team history, trailing only Bob Hartley (49).

“His strength as a communicator, his relationship with the players, the way he prepares each and every day is a huge reason our team has been so successful,” general manager Chris MacFarland said. “He is an exceptional leader.”

Bednar is currently the third-longest tenured coach in the league, behind only Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Pittsburgh’s Mike Sullivan (December 2015).

“Being able to lead this team over the last seven years has been a privilege,” said Bednar, whose team faces the Penguins on Wednesday. “I am grateful and excited to have the opportunity to continue building on what we’ve accomplished so far.”

Bednar captured a Kelly Cup (ECHL) with the South Carolina Stingrays in 2009, along with a Calder Cup (AHL) with the Lake Erie Monsters in 2016.