NHL News

Who passes, who fails? Grading all 32 NHL teams at the quarter mark of 2022-23

There is no official “quarter mark” of the NHL season, but now that 31 out of 32 teams have played 20 or more games, it’s time to grade them all on their starts.

We broke down what has gone right and what has gone wrong for each team, and also compared their current pace in standings points against what the bookmarkers forecast for them in the preseason, before serving up a letter grade.

Who’s at the head of the class? Who’s in danger of failing? Read on for our appraisals.

Note: Ryan S. Clark graded the Pacific and Central Division teams, while Kristen Shilton graded the Metropolitan and Atlantic Division teams. Preseason over/unders are courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.

Jump to:
ANA | ARI | BOS | BUF
CGY | CAR | CHI | COL
CBJ | DAL | DET | EDM
FLA | LA | MIN | MTL
NSH | NJ | NYI | NYR
OTT | PHI | PIT | SJ
SEA | STL | TB | TOR
VAN | VGS | WSH | WPG

PACIFIC DIVISION

Preseason over/under: 80
Current points pace: 48

What’s gone right: Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras. They are both on pace for what would be a pair of 30-goal seasons. Terry scored 37 goals in 2021-22 during his breakout campaign, while Zegras would be in line for his first 30-goal effort. Both of them are players who are central to the Ducks’ long-term goals, and what they are doing comes as they are also pending restricted free agents.

What’s gone wrong: Nearly everything else. They’ve lost Jamie Drysdale to a season-ending injury. They have a lack of consistent secondary scoring. They lead the NHL with the most penalty minutes by a team. Their goalies have a combined goals-against average of more than 4.00 while they allow nearly 16 high-danger chances per 60 minutes, which is among the highest rates in the league. Maybe the most damning detail of all could be that the Ducks were the last team to win in regulation, which did not come until Nov. 24.

Grade: D-

Concentrating on the future appears to be the Ducks’ priority barring a major turnaround. They have pending unrestricted free agents like John Klingberg and Kevin Shattenkirk. It is possible the Ducks could look to move some of those pending UFAs to gain additional draft capital in a season that could see them contend for the No. 1 pick.


Preseason over/under: 103
Current points pace: 82

What’s gone right: Their centers. Elias Lindholm continues to be the sort of player who can log heavy 5-on-5, penalty-kill and power-play minutes. Lindholm also leads the Flames in points. Nazem Kadri is second in points, and has remained one of their more consistent threats. The 87 points he scored last season will remain the barometer, but Kadri is on pace to score a career-high 36 goals. Mikael Backlund presents the Flames with another layer with a third-line anchor who is on pace for what would be his fourth 20-goal season.

What’s gone wrong: That seven-game losing streak. It was a bit bizarre for a few reasons. For one, the Flames started 5-1 only to then go on a seven-game slide. How the Flames looked in one-goal games was also perplexing. Three of the Flames’ first five wins came in those one-goal games. But five of their losses were by a goal. And now that they are winning again, three of the Flames’ four victories going into Thanksgiving were by a goal. Go figure.

Grade: C

Even with such a contrasting first quarter, the Flames are still in a playoff position. Going into Thanksgiving, they were part of a four-team logjam of squads that are level on points. It’s what makes Jonathan Huberdeau, Jacob Markstrom and MacKenzie Weegar even more important. All three have struggled to start the season. Huberdeau had a point in four out of five games prior to Nov. 22. Markstrom won four of his five starts before Nov. 22 but had an .886 save percentage in those victories. Weegar, who had a career-high 44 points last season, is projected to score 23.


Preseason over/under: 103.5
Current points pace: 86

What’s gone right: Scoring goals and lots of them. Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid each had more than 30 points before playing their 20th game. In all, the Oilers have four players who are at minimum averaging a point per game. And until his injury, Evander Kane was averaging 0.93 points per game to give the Oilers another threat. They also have the No. 2 power-play unit with a 31.3% success rate.

What’s gone wrong: Allowing goals and lots of them. Pinpointing the exact cause, however, is where it gets complicated. The Oilers do have collective defensive issues. They have given up the seventh-most shots per 60 minutes while being in the bottom third of scoring chances allowed per 60 and high-danger chances per 60. The Oilers also have the fifth-worst penalty kill in the league with a 72.7% success rate going into Thanksgiving. And then there’s the goaltending.

Grade: C

The difference between Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner has been jarring. Campbell has a minus-6.7 goals saved above expected (GSVA), and that is the third-poorest mark among goaltenders with at least nine games played, per MoneyPuck. He also has a 4.27 goals-against average and a .873 save percentage. Skinner, on the other hand, has a 3.9 GSVA that ranks 12th among goalies with at least nine games. And while Campbell has more wins, Skinner has a 2.78 GAA and a .921 save percentage. It’s another reason finding defensive solutions looks like the greatest challenge facing the Oilers going forward.


Preseason over/under: 94
Current points pace: 92

What’s gone right: Contributions have not been a problem. Nine players had reached the 10-point mark going into Thanksgiving. Defensemen Sean Durzi and Matt Roy could raise that number to 11 as they are each sitting on nine points. It’s the sort of versatility every team covets, and it also places the Kings in a tie with the Vegas Golden Knights for the most double-digit scorers in the Pacific.

What’s gone wrong: Goaltending. It appears the Kings are in a situation in which there could be a disconnect with their defensive structure and their goalies. As of Nov. 22, the Kings allowed the sixth-fewest high-danger chances per 60 minutes, the seventh-fewest shots per 60 and were 10th in high-danger chances allowed per 60. But Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen have a combined 3.37 GAA and a .889 save percentage. Petersen’s minus-5.1 GSVA and Quick’s minus-5.5 GSVA rank 32nd and 33rd out of the 37 goalies with at least eight games this season. Correcting what’s wrong with Quick and Petersen could also help address why the Kings have the sixth-worst penalty kill in the NHL.

Grade: B

Relying on veterans has helped the Kings. So has trusting their young players. Arthur Kaliyev had six goals and 13 points through 20 games. Gabriel Vilardi led the Kings with 10 goals in 20 games while his 15 points were third on the team. Mikey Anderson is second in 5-on-5 ice time while Durzi is seventh. Those are significant contributions from four players younger than 24 and it has created an expectation the Kings should continue to see more progress from that quartet.


Preseason over/under: 73
Current points pace: 62

What’s gone right: Erik Karlsson. As of Nov. 22, Karlsson was tied for third in points and was six points shy of matching McDavid for the league lead. Only six of his 29 points have come on the power play, which further proves Karlsson does not need the extra skater advantage to be effective. He also has scored 18% of the Sharks’ goals, while 10 of his 12 assists in 5-on-5 play have been primary contributions. Say Karlsson had no goals this season. He’d still be tied for the team lead in points on assists alone through 21 games.

What’s gone wrong: The Sharks might not have enough options. Six players had reached the 10-point mark going into Thanksgiving. But their four leading goal scorers have combined to account for 57% of their goals through 21 games. The Sharks also came into Thanksgiving averaging the fewest high-danger goals per 60 minutes in 5-on-5 play along with the fourth-fewest shots per 60 in those sequences.

Grade: D

It looks like the Sharks could go in a number of directions. They came into Thanksgiving week three points shy of the final wild-card berth. But they also had the eighth-fewest points in the NHL while being six points clear of the Ducks for the worst record in the league. It leaves the front office with a number of hypotheticals about determining the best path going forward.


Preseason over/under: 79.5
Current points pace: 113

What’s gone right: Quite a bit, actually. Oliver Bjorkstrand and Andre Burakovsky have given them an extra layer of production. Calder Trophy candidate Matty Beniers led all rookies in points going into Thanksgiving. Will Borgen and Morgan Geekie have transformed from two players in fringe roles last season to daily fixtures. Eight players have more than 10 points, and defensemen Vince Dunn and Justin Schultz are among them. And then there’s what Martin Jones has done to give the Kraken a healthy and consistent option in net.

What’s gone wrong: Philipp Grubauer‘s health. Grubauer returned to the lineup around mid-November after injuries held him to four games. It prompted the Kraken to play Jones so much that his 14 starts are among the highest in the league. Jones had a 7.8 GSVA through those 15 games, which is eighth among goalies with at least 10 games. Getting Grubauer healthy could see the Kraken plausibly return to their original plan of having him work in tandem with Jones while Chris Driedger continues to recover from offseason knee surgery.

Grade: B+

The Kraken have shown they are a better team than they were last season. But the question still remains: How far can they go? Are they a team that is good enough to be above .500 only to fall shy of the playoffs? Or have they positioned themselves to potentially challenge for a playoff berth in just their second campaign?


Preseason over/under: 92.5
Current points pace: 78

What’s gone right: Bo Horvat is second in the NHL in goals and is doing this as a pending UFA in a contract year. Elias Pettersson is averaging more than a point per game, and Quinn Hughes continues to show he can be used in nearly every situation. J.T. Miller is almost near a point-per-game average, and Andrei Kuzmenko has made an early mark. Also, the Canucks’ power play is one of the NHL’s best, at 29.2%.

What’s gone wrong: They can’t hold on to leads. Five of their seven losses to open the season were games in which the Canucks held the lead. They have lost the lead in eight games, with the most recent happening Nov. 21, when they had a 4-2 third-period lead over the Golden Knights only to lose 5-4. They are a minus-10 in goal differential in the second and third periods while being a minus-63 in shot differential across all three frames plus overtime. It also does not help that Thatcher Demko has struggled. He has only two wins in 13 starts, while his minus-8.1 GSVA was the worst in the NHL as of Nov. 22 among goalies with at least 10 games played.

Grade: D

If anything, the blown leads are a microcosm. They prove the Canucks have the talent to get ahead. But they also show their talent is not enough to consistently finish games. The reality is the Canucks have one of the worst records in the league and were four points clear of having the worst record in the league as of Nov. 22. What happens next could be anyone’s guess.


Preseason over/under: 97
Current points pace: 118

What’s gone right: Finding success in many areas. Under Bruce Cassidy, the Golden Knights look like a more complete team. Nine players entered Thanksgiving with at least 10 points. The Golden Knights are in the top 10 in terms of fewest shots allowed per 60 minutes in 5-on-5 play and fewest high-danger chances allowed per 60 in 5-on-5 play. And goaltending, which was the biggest question mark, has been answered to this point with Adin Hill and Logan Thompson combining to have a 2.55 GAA and a .917 save percentage.

What’s gone wrong: Special teams have presented some concerns. They have a power play that ranks 17th, with a 20.7% success rate. They are 15th in high-danger chances and 21st in shots when they are on the advantage. Then there’s the penalty kill, which ranks 20th with a 77.1% success rate. Yet the perplexing part is the Golden Knights allow the fewest scoring chances and high-danger chances in those short-handed sequences.

Grade: A

Vegas has looked like the best team in the Western Conference and one of the best teams in the NHL. The Golden Knights have provided early answers to some of their most pressing questions. Now it is a matter of seeing how they continue to progress throughout the remainder of the regular season. Granted, the playoffs are not promised. Last season was proof. But getting to the postseason and going extremely far, however, still remains the bar for the Golden Knights.

CENTRAL DIVISION

Preseason over/under: 63.5
Current points pace: 70

What’s gone right: Building toward the future is the priority in Arizona. This is what makes Clayton Keller, Matias Maccelli and J.J. Moser so intriguing. Keller has 18 points in 17 games and is on pace for what would be a career-high 87 points. Maccelli has vaulted into the Calder Trophy discussion by being second in the rookie points race with 11 points in 17 games. As for Moser, he has nine points in 16 games. Yet the strongest way to quantify his value is the fact he ranks first or second in 5-on-5, penalty kill and power-play ice time.

What’s gone wrong: Seeing what Keller, Maccelli and Moser are doing does raises even more questions about Barrett Hayton. He’s a former top-five pick who scored 10 goals and 24 points last season but has only three points — all assists — this season. Hayton is only 22, so there is still time for him to get back on track.

Grade: D

The Coyotes continue to remain in contention for the first pick. Normally, that might not be viewed as a sign of positive growth. But the reality is the Coyotes are trying to find long-term success, and a way to do that is building through the draft with top-five picks. At this rate, it appears they could be getting to that destination.


Preseason over/under: 65.5
Current points pace: 62

What’s gone right: A better-than-expected start to the season. The belief is the Blackhawks could still be in contention for the No. 1 pick. But they did win four games in a row before enduring two separate streaks of more than three straight losses. Plus, offseason acquisitions like Andreas Athanasiou, Jason Dickinson, Max Domi and Sam Lafferty have been productive to start the season.

What’s gone wrong: Scoring. They have the fewest scoring chances per 60 minutes in 5-on-5 play and the second-fewest high-danger chances per 60 in 5-on-5 sequences. They were also tied with the Coyotes for the fewest goals in the league going into Thanksgiving. Then there’s Patrick Kane, who despite having 13 points in 17 games, has scored only two goals.

Grade: D

Building toward the future has been the narrative with the Blackhawks this season. What they do at the NHL trade deadline will help shape that future. Jonathan Toews, Athanasiou, Domi and Kane are all pending UFAs who could play a part in that future, either by staying with the team or going elsewhere in return for draft capital in addition to what could happen at the NHL draft lottery.


Preseason over/under: 112.5
Current points pace: 108

What’s gone right: Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar and Mikko Rantanen. MacKinnon and Rantanen are on pace for their first 100-point seasons while Makar, the reigning Norris Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy winner, is on pace for what would be a career-high 96 points. The defending Stanley Cup champions are doing this without captain Gabriel Landeskog, and imagine what the numbers would be like if Valeri Nichushkin hadn’t been injured. Also, they’re converting on a third of their power-play chances.

What’s gone wrong: Staying healthy. Darren Helm has not played this season. Neither has Landeskog, who has four consecutive 20-goal seasons but has not played more than 70 games since the 2018-19 season. Nichushkin was having his strongest start to a season by averaging 1.71 points in seven games while being the physical, two-way presence who has galvanized the Avs beyond the top line. Losing three forwards is essentially like losing an entire line. On the plus side, it has given coach Jared Bednar the chance to have more options with his line combinations.

Grade: A

MacKinnon, Makar and Rantanen are vital to the Avs’ success. But they have also seen others such as Bowen Byram, Artturi Lehkonen, Evan Rodrigues and Devon Toews do their part when it comes to providing secondary offensive production. Those contributions help. So does the stability Alexandar Georgiev has provided to what has been a revolving door in net the past few seasons. It’s possible all of these factors could play a role in the Avs’ bid for a consecutive title.


Preseason over/under: 93.5
Current points pace: 104

What’s gone right: A lot. They have a top-five power play, operating at nearly 30%. Jamie Benn, Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelski and Jason Robertson were averaging more than a point per game going into Thanksgiving. Jake Oettinger was third in GSVA while boasting a 2.18 GAA and a .929 save percentage in 13 games. They also have a top-six penalty-killing unit, which has led to some mixed feelings despite their overall success.

What’s gone wrong: Penalties. Last season, the Stars were among the least penalized teams in the NHL. They finished with the sixth-fewest minutes spent on the penalty kill. This season has been a different story. The Stars lead the NHL with the most minutes spent on the PK by more than 14 minutes. This is why the discussions surrounding their PK are complicated. It’s a group that finds success — but it is also seeing a bit too much time.

Grade: A

Miro Heiskanen, Hintz, Oettinger and Robertson are examples of what happens when the Stars trust young players. It appears they could be following that same path when it comes to Wyatt Johnston and Nils Lundkvist finding a place within the team. Johnston has operated as a third-line center who is third in goals among rookies. Lundqvist is having one of the more subtle rookie campaigns by logging the second-most 5-on-5 ice time of any Stars player.


Preseason over/under: 102.5
Current points pace: 86

What’s gone right: Matt Boldy has been one of the Wild’s more consistent offensive threats, and is on pace for 27 goals. Joel Eriksson Ek is on pace for a second straight season of more than 25 goals. Kirill Kaprizov is averaging more than a point per game, while Mats Zuccarello is projected to finish with a second straight season with more than 70 points. That would be a first for Zuccarello. But …

What’s gone wrong: They need more help. Boldy, Eriksson Ek, Kaprizov and Zuccarello have combined to score 58% of the Wild’s goals. Of course, a lack of secondary scoring was thought to be one of their biggest concerns entering the season. Kevin Fiala is gone. Marcus Foligno, who had his first 20-goal campaign last season, has scored once. Ryan Hartman, who had 34 goals last season, is on IR and had one goal in nine games, while Marco Rossi, their first-round pick from 2020, has one point — an assist — in 16 games.

Grade: C

Something that has worked for the Wild is their defensive structure, which has helped them stay in games when scoring has been an issue. They have surrendered the second-lowest high-danger chances allowed per 60 minutes, the fourth-lowest scoring chances allowed per 60 and the 12th-fewest shots allowed per 60. Still, the point remains that generating more offensive consistency will only help in what’s expected to be a competitive wild-card race.


Preseason over/under: 98.5
Current points pace: 82

What’s gone right: Staying within striking distance of a playoff spot. The Predators came into Thanksgiving week with the same amount of points as the Blues, Flames and Oilers, while being two points ahead of the Wild. Some of this is a byproduct of the West having teams like the Golden Knights, Jets and Kraken — three teams that missed the playoffs last season — change the landscape. One thing that is hurting the Predators compared to the Blues, Flames and Oilers is a minus-9 goal differential.

What’s gone wrong: The narrative around Juuse Saros is that he has struggled compared to last season. Or is it a continuation of how last season ended before his injury? Saros has a 3.06 GAA, a .906 save percentage and a 1.3 GSVA. Last April, Saros went 5-5 with a 3.15 GAA and a .902 save percentage. It’s still early. But any plans the Predators have of returning to the postseason involve Saros, who led the league in starts last season, being a massive part of that setup.

Grade: C

Keep an eye on Juuso Parssinen. He’s the 21-year-old rookie who has three goals and five points in five games. And in two months, he has gone from scoring nine points in 10 games in the AHL to getting first-line opportunities going into late November. Granted, it is still early. But the way Parssinen has started creates the potential the Predators could have another homegrown player who could make an immediate impact.


Preseason over/under: 94.5
Current points pace: 86

What’s gone right: A seven-game winning streak. It has helped change some of the narrative surrounding the Blues. Losing eight straight led to questions about the Blues and if it could be too much for them to overcome. But going on a lengthy winning streak has seen the Blues get back in the wild-card discussion. It’s also seen a change in Jordan Kyrou, who went from three points — all goals — over eight games in October to three goals and 10 points in as many games in November. This streak has also seen Jordan Binnington find consistency and win nine games, which is already halfway to matching his win total from last season.

What’s gone wrong: The eight-game losing streak presented a number of issues. One of them being teams were scoring high-danger goals. In total, the Blues gave up 17 high-danger goals and gave up at least two in all but one game over that time. The Blues have allowed only five high-danger goals during the six-game winning streak, and three of them came in the first win of that streak. But it’s not just high-danger chances. The Blues allow an average of 32.29 scoring chances per 60 minutes in 5-on-5 play, which is the fifth most in the NHL.

Grade: C

Has the seven-game winning streak offered potential solutions to fix the scoring problems that have plagued the Blues all season? The Blues lead the NHL with 29 goals since their seven-game winning streak started, which is a boost considering they scored 23 goals over the first 11 games of the season. Last season, the Blues had nine players finish with more than 20 goals. This season, they have only four players who are projected to hit the 20-goal mark.


Preseason over/under: 88.5
Current points pace: 111

What’s gone right: Few goaltenders have been better than Connor Hellebuyck. An argument can even be made that few players have meant more to their teams than Hellebuyck with all that he has done through the first quarter. He’s tied for the best save percentage in the NHL, while boasting the second-best GAA in the league. His 11.3 GSVA is second in the NHL. It’s one of the major reasons the Jets came into Thanksgiving week two points out of being atop the Central.

What’s gone wrong: Only the Blackhawks and Coyotes have scored fewer goals going into Thanksgiving week. That is further compounded by Nikolaj Ehlers‘s absence for an indefinite period after having hernia surgery. It leaves the Jets without a six-time 20-goal scorer in their fight to return to the playoffs in what is shaping up to be a competitive race.

Grade: B+

Hellebuyck has shown in the past he can be a goaltender who can keep a team in games throughout a season. Pierre-Luc Dubois and Mark Scheifele are each projected to set new career highs in goals. But the Jets could still need more, which is what makes Kyle Connor something of a curious case. He’s averaging 0.88 points in 17 games. But Connor has only five goals this season after scoring 47 goals a season ago. The Jets have shown they can win close games. But giving themselves a bit of breathing room might not hurt either.

METRO DIVISION

Preseason over/under: 103.5
Current points pace: 101

What’s gone right: Carolina rightly remains a top possession team. The Hurricanes have a depth of top-six talent that’s finding its rhythm, led by contributions from Jordan Staal (his line has been especially dominant possession-wise), Andrei Svechnikov (one of the NHL’s hottest first-quarter scorers), Martin Necas and Sebastian Aho. The latter three have made strides in their 200-foot game, which is reflected in Carolina’s strong overall defensive performance. When not controlling play, the Hurricanes have allowed the seventh-fewest goals against (they’re especially stingy at 5-on-5) and second-fewest shots. The Hurricanes have a strong top four on the back end (including successful new addition Brent Burns) and there’s been major growth for Jalen Chatfield on the defensive side as well.

What’s gone wrong: Injuries, for one. It started with Max Pacioretty needing surgery before the season began. Now starting goalie Frederik Andersen is hurt after playing only eight games (with an .891 SV% at that), and forward Teuvo Teravainen has also been shelved. That’s a bigger blow when Jesperi Kotkaniemi can’t put points on the board and Seth Jarvis is mired in a sophomore slump. Carolina’s sluggish power play (ranked 30th in the league) has done nothing for the Canes either, and the penalty kill — something this team was known for in the past — is mediocre. The special teams issues have been admittedly frustrating for the Canes.

Grade: B+

Carolina is a good team that could use more consistency. Bodies going in and out of the lineup don’t help, but there is an enviable depth of options for coach Rod Brind’Amour to work with. It’s on Brind’Amour to address the structural problems, and on those Hurricanes lagging behind in their production to start pumping in the points.


Preseason over/under: 81.5
Current points pace: 62

What’s gone right: Johnny Gaudreau is an excellent hockey player. Columbus has needed every ounce of offensive output provided by its coveted free agent signee, and Gaudreau has not disappointed. Meanwhile, Boone Jenner has been the Blue Jackets’ vocal leader on and off the ice, accepting any assignment and willing Columbus to be at its best. On the back end, Vladislav Gavrikov and Yegor Chinakhov have made solid contributions.

What’s gone wrong: Oh, the injuries. Patrik Laine is out for the second time already. Zach Werenski is lost for the season. Sean Kuraly and Erik Gudbranson came back just as Elvis Merzlikins and Jake Bean went down. No wonder coach Brad Larsen began fearing visits from the team trainer. Even with those missing in action, Jack Roslovic — Columbus’ fourth highest paid player — has been a healthy scratch at times. That’s bad. Worse is the Blue Jackets’ league-worst power play that’s not helping to get them on track. Columbus has just five regulation wins to its credit this season, and it’s only going to be tougher to rack those up from here.

Grade: C-

Would Columbus be better if seemingly half its best players were available? Likely, so we won’t push their grade down too far. But again, every team grapples with an injury bug. The Blue Jackets’ response is what matters. Adversity can bond a team, and that should be Columbus’ aim. Mental fortitude comes in handy once the lineup returns closer to full strength.


Preseason over/under: 89.5
Current points pace: 134

What’s gone right: The red-hot Devils can’t be stopped. Franchise-record 13-game win streak? Check. Surprise scoring stud Jesper Bratt? Brilliant. Nico Hischier breaking out? Beautiful. Jack Hughes? Dominant. Dougie Hamilton? Surging. Goaltending? Fantastic. The Devils rank top five in both goal scoring and goals against, allow the fewest shots against, and boast a top-10 penalty kill. It’s their ability to create chances off the rush and prevent odd-man attacks that’s been a difference-maker. The Devils faced their adversity early on — remember the “fire Lindy” chants? — and responded with the dogged determination now on display game after game.

What’s gone wrong: New Jersey’s power play struggled through the season’s first few weeks but has since rebounded with a string of goals helping to boost those special teams totals. Ondrej Palat — the Devils’ big free agent signee and projected top-nine forward — appeared in only six games before being sidelined by injury. MacKenzie Blackwood’s MCL sprain was a setback, too.

Grade: A

The Devils are this season’s (first-quarter) Cinderella story. But their success doesn’t appear fluky. New Jersey can win in all sorts of ways, against any caliber of opponent. The Devils’ continued health will be paramount. Their past injury battles have derailed entire seasons. Having a (mostly) full complement of players now is a revelation, and staying healthy will make New Jersey increasingly hard to beat.


Preseason over/under: 90.5
Current points pace: 107

What’s gone right: The Islanders have run it back this season with the same general group as last season. That has worked out (so far). The one major change — swapping Barry Trotz for Lane Lambert behind the bench — has New York playing a defense-first structure that has yielded a league-high number of blueliner goals. The Islanders are also tough to score on, sitting top five in goals against. That’s also a testament to Ilya Sorokin‘s play in net, which has been excellent across the board. A stifling penalty kill also has boosted the Islanders to a better start than what transpired a year ago.

What’s gone wrong: Speaking of starts, the Islanders are prone to poor ones. New York gave up the first goal in 12 of its opening 18 games and was outscored 12-9 in that frame. It sets a poor tone and leads to indecision from the Islanders as they’re forced into another comeback attempt. New York has been middle-of-the-road in scoring (12th overall) so seeing Mathew Barzal go nearly 20 games without a goal was concerning (although he has since lit the lamp and leads the team in scoring). It’s the little things that will separate the Islanders, and sometimes the attention to detail falters.

Grade: B+

New York might not be the most explosive or entertaining team. But there’s a completeness to the Islanders’ game that should carry them a long way. Those small improvements New York’s focused on making will have an impact. And when a veteran group like this has played together enough, it offers a certain advantage over clubs with constant turnover.


Preseason over/under: 101
Current points pace: 89

What’s gone right: New York has an elite goaltender in Igor Shesterkin and a top-tier defenseman in Adam Fox. That’s a solid foundation any club would covet. The Rangers have been stars on special teams out of the gate, with a power play and penalty kill both ranking among the league’s top 10. Mika Zibanejad has been especially hot on the man advantage, while Chris Kreider‘s excellent faceoff numbers (over 60%) and dependable offensive contributions have kept the Rangers going up front. Vincent Trocheck — fresh from signing a seven-year free agent contract — has been a nice addition there as well. Defensively, New York does well limiting shots against (sixth overall) and remains a high-volume shooting team (averaging over 30 per game).

What’s gone wrong: The Rangers have work to do at 5-on-5. Zibanejad, Kreider and Artemi Panarin combined for just nine even-strength goals through 18 games, and Fox is the only blueliner with more than three points at 5-on-5. New York loves shooting the puck, but too often it’s not finding twine. Speaking of which, New York’s star forwards are lacking the potency they brought last season. Panarin was firing early before recently going quiet. The Kid Line — Filip Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko — has been up and down, too. New York needs to establish its identity again, particularly on the offensive side.

Grade: B

New York reaching the Eastern Conference finals last season was no fluke. Most of its key parts from that run are intact. The Rangers can’t afford to get frustrated. It was easy before to simply rely on Shesterkin’s dominant play, but New York will be better off in the long run by weathering these bumps and letting it make the team a more multidimensional, cohesive unit down the stretch.


Preseason over/under: 73.5
Current points pace: 71

What’s gone right: Two words: Carter Hart. Philadelphia’s starting goalie has been sensational, holding the Flyers in games and stealing a few wins along the way. He was the impetus behind Philadelphia’s unexpectedly good start with a 5-2-2 record as of Nov. 1. Hart’s contributions, and a solid team effort on defense, have put the Flyers at a respectable 12th overall in goals against (3.06). Coach John Tortorella demands a lot from his players, and both Travis Konecny and Kevin Hayes responded well to Tortorella’s criticism with point-per-game output. Owen Tippett is also making strides, earning a top-line perch and praise from Tortorella for the growth he has shown so far.

What’s gone wrong: The Flyers’ injured list includes some of their best skaters (and scorers), including Sean Couturier, Cam Atkinson, James van Riemsdyk and Wade Allison. That’s hard enough to deal with, never mind that Philadelphia’s defensemen managed to add just six goals through the team’s first 17 games. The Flyers don’t have enough regular contributors to rely on and have netted the fifth-fewest 5-on-5 goals in the league. Their bottom-five power play and penalty kill provide little momentum, and Philadelphia is one of the league’s worst faceoff teams. The devil is in the details, and the Flyers’ aren’t sharp.

Grade: C-

Philadelphia’s start was surprising. It made the Flyers a great story — it just hasn’t been sustainable. Injuries add up, and Philadelphia doesn’t have the star power or depth of other Metropolitan clubs to get by. Tortorella won’t let this group slack, though. The opportunities available for some young players will be beneficial in the long term.


Preseason over/under: 100.5
Current points pace: 93

What’s gone right: Pittsburgh announced itself this season by outscoring opponents 26-11 in the team’s first five games. That “it” factor remains a part of the Penguins’ DNA. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel have all shown flashes of greatness through the quarter mark (as expected) while Jason Zucker and Rickard Rakell are leading the way with solid depth scoring (and, in Zucker’s case, some real punch). That’s all been the catalyst for Pittsburgh’s top-five offensive numbers (the Penguins rank among the league’s best in 5-on-5 goals) and frequently potent attack.

What’s gone wrong: The Penguins’ follow-up to that hot start was a seven-game losing streak and run of winning just three of 12 tilts. Goaltending has been a glaring problem since Tristan Jarry has posted a SV% over .900 just once since October. Pittsburgh has been hurting defensively too from the inconsistency of Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin. The Penguins are seventh worst in goals against, and 10th worst in shots against because of those issues. Given the talent Pittsburgh has to deploy, its power play should be better than 21st and the penalty kill higher than 22nd.

Grade: B

Pittsburgh had to pull out of its funk, fast. The Penguins’ Stanley Cup window won’t be open too much longer. This is the time to seize it. Pittsburgh has the pieces in place and showed early on why it’s a dangerous team. But the goaltending and defense have to come through for Pittsburgh to avoid being an underachiever this season.


Preseason over/under: 96.5
Current points pace: 75

What’s gone right: Alex Ovechkin‘s quest for 800 goals (and beyond) is the most engaging part of this Capitals season. Washington’s captain puts in admirable effort carrying his club toward the win column each night and continues to dazzle along the way. Dylan Strome joining up front has boosted the Capitals’ offense, too, and Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s recently rediscovered scoring touch is a good omen.

What’s gone wrong: Washington is missing too much of its core. Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson, Connor Brown and Carl Hagelin are all sidelined by injury. It’s little wonder the Capitals can’t score, ranking 24th overall in goals (2.89 per game). Their 23rd-ranked power play isn’t helping either. Also underwhelming? Washington’s goaltending. The Capitals reeled in free agent Darcy Kuemper fresh from his Stanley Cup win in Colorado, and Kuemper — after a good few games to start — went 1-5-1 into mid-November. The Capitals’ defense is also giving up over 30 shots per game, and Washington is the league’s third-worst team in third-period goals allowed.

Grade: C+

Washington has had brutal luck with injuries. The best thing this team can do is embrace what it does have — which is a lot of remaining talent in the lineup. Figuring out the power play issue will go a long way. If Strome and other skaters like Anthony Mantha and Conor Sheary can get hot, all the better.

ATLANTIC DIVISION

Preseason over/under: 97
Current points pace: 141

What’s gone right: Better to ask what hasn’t gone right (and we’ll get to that). The Bruins not only survived, but thrived, without Brad Marchand (hip surgery) and Charlie McAvoy (shoulder) to start the season. David Pastrnak is a top-five league scorer on a roster loaded with offensive depth. Hampus Lindholm is a workhorse generating early Norris Trophy buzz. Linus Ullmark paces NHL goaltenders in wins. Jim Montgomery’s transition behind the bench has been seamless. Boston cruised its way atop the Eastern Conference standings with a franchise-best opening to the season. All good, and then some.

What’s gone wrong: Boston’s top six wasn’t clicking as expected, so by mid-November Montgomery had to take it in for repairs. David Krejci and Taylor Hall had great chemistry together two years ago that hasn’t carried over consistently to this season on a unit with Pastrnak. Patrice Bergeron‘s line with Marchand and Jake DeBrusk was stalling, too. Montgomery went back to old faithful — Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak — and moved DeBrusk to kick-start Krejci and Hall. Boston’s depth gives the Bruins wiggle room to experiment, but it’ll be key for Hall especially to start producing more consistently.

Grade: A

Boston looks like a juggernaut. Health will be paramount to its continued success, as will not overworking Ullmark by establishing the right split with Jeremy Swayman. The Bruins seem to have something special, though, that goes beyond one player or position. Theirs is a full team effort that should carry them a long way.


Preseason over/under: 79
Current points pace: 70

What’s gone right: Rasmus Dahlin. Tage Thompson. Alex Tuch. Owen Power. Buffalo was counting on its stars to rise, and they’ve stepped up. Dahlin has been one of the NHL’s best defenders under a backbreaking workload (26-plus minutes per game) that doesn’t seem to bother him. Thompson has manufactured an exhilarating offensive performance, and Tuch is a dependable top-six pillar. The rookie Power doesn’t look out of place, either. And the Sabres don’t quit. Coach Don Granato has his team on the right track.

What’s gone wrong: Losing Eric Comrie to an injury in the middle of a lengthy losing streak hurts (even if his numbers had been slipping). However, Buffalo’s toughest challenge is learning the hard way how to win games. The Sabres are among the league’s worst at allowing first-period goals, and struggle to bring a consistent effort across all three periods. Either they can’t start well, or can’t close a team out. It’s not a matter of effort, but reading the situation and applying the right pressure — something the Sabres have yet to master. Also holding Buffalo back? A penalty kill that’s bottom five in the league (71.4%).

Grade: C

The Sabres have buy-in. The team’s core pieces are in place. Now is the time to keep being patient and allow the seeds to grow. Losing is painful, and Buffalo might be desirous of fast-forwarding through these struggles, but done right, the Sabres will come out better. Maybe not this season, but down the line.


Preseason over/under: 83.5
Current points pace: 107

What’s gone right: The Red Wings’ aggressive offseason moves have (mostly) paid off. And Detroit has benefited from returning players on a mission to see this team back to its playoff days. Captain Dylan Larkin — fueled perhaps by this contract year — has been leading the Red Wings’ top-line attack while free agent pickup Dominik Kubalik has been a stud second-line winger. Ville Husso is the real game-changer in Detroit, though, giving the Wings a true No. 1 goalie to protect the house. The Red Wings aren’t always flashy or scoring in bunches, but Husso’s steadiness so far hasn’t required it.

What’s gone wrong: Detroit’s team defense has been better than a season ago. Top blueliner Moritz Seider‘s season hasn’t followed suit. The reigning Calder Trophy winner hasn’t generated nearly the shots on goal or offensive output he did as a rookie. Detroit could use that production again while the team is averaging fewer than three goals per game and the fourth-fewest shots on goal. And not just from Seider. Andrew Copp — another free agent signee — had just one goal through 16 games. The Red Wings have to expect more out of him to establish dangerous depth scoring.

Grade: B+

Detroit has been one of the Atlantic Division’s top teams because of a few individuals. The Red Wings could stay a top team with more contributions across the board. Being too reliant on Husso or the top six to always step up won’t be a lasting strategy. Detroit has to hope it’s just scratching the surface on what’s to come.


Preseason over/under: 106.5
Current points pace: 90

What’s gone right: Florida has retained qualities that led to its outstanding regular success last season and combined them with an evolved maturity. The difference is in the defense. The Panthers got caught up before in the run-and-gun offense. This season Florida can generate even more high-danger scoring chances while prioritizing a 200-foot game and sound defensive details. Matthew Tkachuk‘s addition has given the Panthers some bite, Carter Verhaeghe has been excellent, and Brandon Montour‘s emergence on the back end saved the day when Aaron Ekblad got hurt. The Panthers feel more complete now than in previous seasons.

What’s gone wrong: Florida has had issues putting pucks in the net. Despite leading the league in shots on net, the Panthers are 32nd overall in shooting percentage (8%). Their special teams have also been inconsistent. The Panthers’ power play failed them in the playoffs last spring and hasn’t been creating momentum this season either. Meanwhile, their penalty kill has rebounded only recently from an awful few weeks. Also potentially precarious? The goaltending tandem. Neither Sergei Bobrovsky nor Spencer Knight has truly stood out. Maybe that’s still to come.

Grade: B+

The Panthers want to get this right. New coach Paul Maurice can make Florida more than one-dimensional, something that led in part to past postseason disappointments. The Panthers might not be as eye-popping to watch, but the hockey on display is — Florida hopes — more conducive to long-term success.


Preseason over/under: 71.5
Current points pace: 90

What’s gone right: Montreal’s rebuild is actually … fun? Credit the Canadiens’ young guns. Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield have been fantastic leading Montreal to respectable — and unexpected — offensive numbers while Kirby Dach and Kaiden Guhle have been ideal complements to the team’s depth up front. The Canadiens have their own brand of swagger, and exert effort to the end of every game (which has led to a few notable comeback victories). Montreal likely isn’t going to make the playoffs this season, but being confident each night that a win is possible goes a long way toward building this team’s foundation.

What’s gone wrong: The Canadiens’ veterans have been outshone by the team’s up-and-coming core. Brendan Gallagher has underperformed, and both Sean Monahan and Mike Hoffman have had fits and starts where they’re contributing. Jonathan Drouin being sidelined for weeks by an upper-body injury was a blow, too. While Montreal can score, it remains among the league’s bottom-tier teams in shots against. That stresses both Jake Allen and Sam Montembeault, who aren’t cut out to stand on their heads each night. The Canadiens’ power play has also been an issue, ranking fourth worst overall.

Grade: B-

Montreal has likely exceeded first-quarter expectations. How long can the Canadiens keep that up? It’s natural there will be regression as teams around them settle in. Montreal wanted slow, steady, lasting progress, though. Anything more is icing on the cake.


Preseason over/under: 84.5
Current points pace: 66

What’s gone right: The Senators’ kids are all right. Shane Pinto and Jake Sanderson have both had breakthrough starts, suggesting big things to come now and in years ahead. Ottawa’s powerhouse shooters Brady Tkachuk and Tim Stutzle have stepped up with timely offense that helped Ottawa land among the league’s top 10 in scoring, averaging 3.44 goals per game. The Senators can play a fast game and produce high shot volume (over 33 per game) to challenge — or wear down — the opposition. Cam Talbot and Anton Forsberg have been reliable in net so far.

What’s gone wrong: Talbot’s injury before the season started was a bad omen. GM Pierre Dorion having to defend coach DJ Smith’s job status less than a month into the season wasn’t great, either. Ottawa lacks consistency and the edge to win key battles when needed. The Senators have lost too many one-goal games and aren’t getting the contributions they should from players like Alex DeBrincat (five goals in 16 games). Ottawa’s infirmary is filling up again, too, with top defenseman Thomas Chabot (concussion) recently joining top forward Josh Norris (shoulder). And the Senators only just got Artem Zub back from an absence.

Grade: D

Ottawa needs some killer instinct. There are flashes of greatness in this group that don’t translate into points because of simple breakdowns that can be easily prevented. The injuries to prominent players haven’t helped the Senators’ chances, but every team deals with that. Ottawa must look inward and determine why it continually falls just short.


Preseason over/under: 103.5
Current points pace: 103

What’s gone right: Some things don’t change for the Lightning. Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point all hit a point-per-game pace in the first month to drive Tampa Bay’s top-10 offense following its slow start. Depth scoring has been on display, too, from Brandon Hagel and Nicholas Paul, and the Lightning’s bottom-six forwards have been contributing. Tampa Bay has done well limiting chances against (allowing fewer than 30 shots per game) and is benefiting from solid special teams. Most encouraging, though, might be how the club has regained its composure and dealt with adversity since early November. What had been a problem early in the season looks to be more resolved.

What’s gone wrong: Tampa Bay’s identity has been under review this season. The Lightning came out looking anxious, and that bred inconsistency. The result was a mediocre start punctuated by narrow losses the old Lightning would have won. Coach Jon Cooper didn’t think his team was totally comfortable, with each other or the systems, and it showed. Tampa has also seen a comparatively lackluster Andrei Vasilevskiy in net. Through 11 starts, Vasilevskiy had a sub-.900 SV% and .500 record. It’s not what the Lightning — or Vasilevskiy — are used to seeing.

Grade: B-

Tampa Bay is capable of more. The Lightning know it better than anyone. They lost key players in Ondrej Palat and Ryan McDonagh; with them went some of that identity piece Tampa has been lacking. Cooper has a way of getting the best out of whatever he has to work with, though. A rebound feels inevitable.


Preseason over/under: 107.5
Current points pace: 111

What’s gone right: The Maple Leafs find a way. They’ve had no choice. Toronto’s core has led the charge through compounding injuries with heroic performances from John Tavares, Mitchell Marner and William Nylander. This team has depth up front, though, too, highlighted by heavy bottom-six contributors like David Kampf and Denis Malgin, as well as Jordie Benn carving out a key role on the back end. Toronto has exhibited strong team defense, sitting top five in shots against (27.8) and top 10 in goals against (2.71). And speaking of depth, third-stringer Erik Kallgren kept the Leafs alive in net with a 2-2-3 record and .893 SV% while Toronto waited on reinforcements. Not bad at all.

What’s gone wrong: Toronto’s defense and goaltending were decimated early by injuries and some confidence issues. Defenders Jake Muzzin (out until at least February), T.J. Brodie (oblique) and Morgan Rielly (MCL sprain) have been huge losses. Rasmus Sandin didn’t respond well to the added responsibility and Justin Holl has been woefully inconsistent all season. So yes, the blue line remains a work in progress. Toronto also saw its top two goaltenders, Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov, injured in rapid succession, leaving Kallgren to admirably fill in. It would be easy to blame the Leafs’ ups and downs on those missing bodies, but Toronto hasn’t always responded admirably to in-game ups and downs, either. The Leafs have left points off the board because of it.

Grade: B+

The Leafs getting healthy is a priority. Their depth has held up relatively well, but there’s no guarantee that continues. Murray being back is big. Auston Matthews producing at a Rocket Richard-like pace again would be even better. Toronto has all the tools and all the right pieces to challenge the league’s best teams.

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