NHL News

Grades for all 32 NHL teams at the quarter mark: Avs, Knights, Rangers lead the way

There is no official “quarter mark” of the NHL season because of the quirks of the schedule. While most teams have now passed the 20-game threshold, the Ottawa Senators have played only 17 games and the Washington Capitals 18.

Nevertheless, it’s time to grade all 32 teams based on their performance to this point. There have been some pleasant surprises — the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks — and some unpleasant ones too — like the Minnesota Wild and Edmonton Oilers. Who gets a passing grade, compared to their preseason expectations? Who is falling behind? Read on for the report cards for every club.

Note: Teams are arrayed alphabetically by letter grade. Ryan S. Clark graded the Pacific and Central Division teams, while Kristen Shilton graded the Metropolitan and Atlantic Division teams. Stats are through the games of Nov. 26. Preseason over/unders are courtesy of ESPN BET.

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A grades

Preseason over/under: 99.5
Current points pace: 127

What’s gone right: Boston picked up this regular season where it left off the last — among the NHL’s best teams. That’s right, the Bruins have silenced their critics (the ones who predicted they’d be old/slow/beaten down, etc.) with a dominant start in all phases of the game. Boston is fourth in goals against (allowing just 2.50 per game) with a terrific tandem in net in Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman. The Bruins’ offensive attack — led by a white-hot David Pastrnak — is balanced and productive, and they boast the third-ranked penalty kill (88.2%).

What’s gone wrong: Bruins coach Jim Montgomery recently lamented a lack of poise from his group when it comes to closing out tight contests. And he’s not wrong. Boston can get in its own way blowing leads and taking too many ill-timed penalties (just because the Bruins’ kill is fantastic doesn’t mean it can’t be overtaxed). The Bruins’ recent sloppy performance in a loss to the New York Rangers highlighted areas where they can still improve. Off the ice, forward Milan Lucic pleaded not guilty earlier this month to a charge of assaulting his wife. The Bruins have said he is on an indefinite leave of absence from the team.

Grade: A. There’s not much to nitpick with the Bruins. They’re a strong team from top to bottom that also still has room to grow. That’s a good place to be. When Boston was gliding its way to a Presidents’ Trophy title in 2022-23, there weren’t many speed bumps along the way — and maybe that lack of adversity hurt it come playoffs. The Bruins are on a similarly successful trajectory now, but they can benefit from making mistakes and learning a few lessons too.

Preseason over/under: 107.5
Current points pace: 115

What’s gone right: They’ve been healthy. Consistently fielding a healthy roster was arguably the biggest challenge facing the Avalanche last season. So far, the Avs have used the first quarter to show that a healthy roster with depth can create the sort of combination that could help them win a second Stanley Cup in three seasons. Having secondary scoring options beyond their top line and top defensive pairing helps too, as does having a top-five penalty kill.

What’s gone wrong: They’ve been a bit extreme. When the Avs win, they’re emphatic. It’s the same when they lose. Their first three losses saw them get outscored 15-0, which included giving up seven to the defending Stanley Cup champion Golden Knights. There was the 8-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues, and even in their one-goal defeats, those were both games that saw them give up a late, third-period goal.

Grade: A. The Avalanche remain in a championship window. Being healthy has allowed them to have dominant performances; 10 of their 14 wins have been by a margin of three or more goals. Their defeats have also been definitive, a bit of a surprise since they are in the top three in terms of allowing the fewest shots, and among the top 10 in allowing the fewest scoring chances and high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes.

Preseason over/under: 105.5
Current points pace: 112

What’s gone right: The Stars have not slowed down from last season. They have the NHL’s No. 4 penalty kill along with the league’s No. 14 power play. They’re in the top 10 in goals per game, scoring chances per 60 minutes and high-danger chances per 60. They’re 12th in fewest goals allowed per game, and are top 10 in fewest scoring chances per 60 and high-danger scoring chances per 60. Plus, they have nine players with more than 10 points.

What’s gone wrong: Jason Robertson. While Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski are projected to set new career highs in points, their linemate has not had as smooth a start. Robertson is on pace to score 26 goals and 78 points — a strong season for most, but Robertson is a two-time 40-goal scorer who finished with 109 points last season. His 15 points through his first 17 games is a contrast to the 23 points he had through 17 games in 2022-23.

Grade: A. Even with Robertson’s slow start, the Stars have been one of the most consistent teams in the NHL through the first quarter. They’ve found ways to generate chances, limit opponents’ scoring chances, find success on either special teams unit, win on the road and be among the least penalized teams in the NHL.

Preseason over/under: 100
Current points pace: 125

What’s gone right: The decision to sign Cam Talbot. It was around this time last season when the inconsistencies in net were costing the Kings games. That set off a series of changes over the next several months that led them to signing Talbot in free agency on a one-year contract worth $1 million. Talbot has given the Kings the consistency they’ve sought, as he has a .931 save percentage and an 8.2 game score value added (GSVA), which ranks third among goalies.

What’s gone wrong: The absence of Viktor Arvidsson. Although several things have worked out well for the Kings, they’re without one of their best forwards in Arvidsson. He’s been on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) after requiring back surgery in October. Arvidsson has averaged 0.76 points per game since he joined the Kings at the start of the 2021-22 season.

Grade: A. They’re among the best teams in the league. They’re among the strongest defensive teams in the league. They have a penalty kill with an 89.4% success rate. They have a No. 1 goaltender who has provided consistency, and one of the central figures of their youth movement in Quinton Byfield is on pace to score 70 points. Could this be the season that the Kings win the division? And is it also the season they get out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time in a decade?

Preseason over/under: 103.5
Current points pace: 134

What’s gone right: New York is doing everything right. Under new coach Peter Laviolette, the Rangers are stronger defensively (leading the league in goals against per game, at 2.32), their special teams are terrific (fourth-ranked power play and eighth-best penalty kill) and their goaltending tandem of Igor Shesterkin and Jonathan Quick (in a resurgent campaign) is a strong backbone. And we haven’t even gotten to the Rangers’ skilled forwards, led by a resplendent Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider and Vincent Trocheck. If there’s a box worth checking thus far, consider the Rangers to have made their mark on it.

What’s gone wrong: The Rangers have benefitted from several high-caliber performers, but are still waiting for Mika Zibanejad to catch up. The forward produced just two goals in his first 17 games, and had registered just one assist at 5-on-5. It’s on par with Zibanejad’s worst start since joining the Rangers in 2016 — but could easily be corrected given Zibanejad’s strong scoring history. Kaapo Kakko has also seen a diminished role this season to match his struggling output. The Rangers’ young star began in a top-six slot but wasn’t challenging enough in front of the net, and has been dumped down after failing to tally more than two goals in his first 17 outings.

Grade: A. The Rangers started the season with 12 wins in their first 16 games and haven’t looked back since. Their special teams success has been an obvious individual driver — particularly in Kreider’s case — but New York is not all smoke and mirrors. Whatever reset the Rangers were looking for after another disappointing playoff ouster last spring, they seem to have found it.

Preseason over/under: 89.5
Current points pace: 108

What’s gone right: Practically everything. Quinn Hughes is a Hart Trophy and Norris Trophy contender who is tied for second in league scoring, while J.T. Miller is also tied for second and Elias Pettersson is not far behind. Brock Boeser is three goals away from matching what he did in 74 games last season, and he’s on pace for 56 of them. Thatcher Demko has arguably been the best goalie in the NHL, as he has a league-best 12.1 GSVA. The Canucks lead the NHL in goals and are allowing the fifth fewest per game.

What’s gone wrong: Not much. They do have a penalty kill that — compared to everything else — has struggled. The Canucks have 76.8% success rate, which is 22nd. Plus, they could generate more shots — they’re averaging 29.6 per game, which is 23rd. Of course, despite that, they’re either leading or among the league leaders in several other offensive categories.

Grade: A. When Rick Tocchet took over last season, he guided the Canucks to 20 wins over his 36-game tenure. Tocchet and his staff found a way to improve on that success, helping the Canucks transform into one of the NHL’s biggest surprises; there have been weeks when this has been the league’s best team. How sustainable is it all? That’s the big question in the months ahead, for a team that has seemingly been stuck for the past few seasons.

Preseason over/under: 103.5
Current points pace: 117

What’s gone right: Their formula from last season; the overall balance that led the Knights to their first Stanley Cup. They have four lines that can generate scoring chances and capitalize on them. The same goes for their defense pairings, who can also contribute while being trusted to play in every game situation. They also have a goaltending tandem that includes 2023 All-Star Logan Thompson, whose injury resulted in Adin Hill backstopping them to a title. In sum, it’s why they remain in the discussion as being the NHL’s best team.

What’s gone wrong: Lately, there have been a few questions. They had a recent stretch of losing six of nine games. Five of the regulation defeats were decided by a margin of two or more goals. Of course, due to the sizable lead they established prior to that, they remain in first place in the Pacific Division and a point behind first overall in the NHL.

Grade: A. The reality facing the Golden Knights is the same one they encountered before they won the Stanley Cup. What they do in the regular season matters, but this is a team that will be judged on how it does in the playoffs. Now that the Knights are the defending champions, they have used the first quarter of the season to show the rest of the league that anyone with eyes on their throne needs to either come correct or not come at all.

Preseason over/under: 99
Current points pace: 103

What’s gone right: Florida isn’t wasting time. Last season, the Panthers bullied their way into the playoffs with a late-season run that took them all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. This season, Florida is putting in work early with strong outcomes — and has done so mostly without top blueliners Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour. That alone makes it more impressive that Florida is seventh in goals against per game (Sergei Bobrovsky has been on point in net), sixth in shots allowed and third in shots on goal. Sam Reinhart has leveled up, pumping in 25 points in 20 games, while Aleksander Barkov isn’t far behind. Florida is potent, resilient and balanced in every crucial category.

What’s gone wrong: The Panthers’ special teams haven’t been up to par, ranking Florida toward the league’s bottom on both the power play (25th, at 15.6%) and penalty kill (19th, 77.4%). Florida might also have expected more from Matthew Tkachuk given his dominant run last season, but where Tkachuk hasn’t shown up as much on the scoresheet, he’s done well crafting an all-around 200-foot game. The Panthers have also dealt with multiple injury-related absences for Sam Bennett. Florida has had to weather its share of adversity in the past and will keep tapping into that fortitude as the season rolls on.

Grade: A-. Florida had every excuse for a bad start. There was the short offseason, the Montour/Ekblad injuries and the general malaise after losing a Cup Final. But the Panthers returned with a spring in their step and are having fun. That free-wheeling attitude and mindset is part of what drove them to the Cup pinnacle in June, and it’s where they’ve chosen to start. Florida has the underlying numbers to show its success is for real. If the Panthers can get — and stay — healthy, there’s no question they’ll be a Cup contender again this spring.

Preseason over/under: 92
Current points pace: 107

What’s gone right: Their top-nine forward corps. Kyle Connor is on pace to score what would be a career-high 68 goals. He’s not alone. Seven of the Jets’ top-nine forwards hit double figures in points before Thanksgiving. Perhaps the strongest example of that balance is the third line of Mason Appleton, Adam Lowry and Nino Niederreiter each having more than 11 points.

What’s gone wrong: It’s … Connor Hellebuyck? The perennial Vezina Trophy finalist, who won the award in 2020, has had months when his save percentage was below .900. It’s just that Hellebuyck was in danger of having two straight months with a save percentage below .900 for the first time in his career before he righted the ship in his past four outings. Despite his early struggles, the Jets are in the early playoff discussion. Hellebuyck should find the consistency that has made him one of the game’s premier goalies.

Grade: A-. Will this season be different? At this time last season, the Jets were operating well above expectations as their preseason over/under was 88.5 but they were on pace to finish with 111 points. Inconsistencies eventually became part of their narrative, and it played a part in why the Jets finished with 95 points and were knocked out in the first round. Could this season see the Jets reach their preferred destination, or will they face another layover?

B grades

Preseason over/under: 86.5
Current points pace: 103

What’s gone right: If there were any doubts Alex DeBrincat would fit right in with the Red Wings, he answered the bell with a point-per-game pace to start the season that ignited Detroit’s offense. Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond haven’t been far behind with strong starts, offering the Red Wings a solid foundation to build on — even when times get rocky. Detroit is fifth in goals per game (3.70), and its power play has been consistent, currently sitting tenth at 22.4%. Shayne Gostisbehere has been a welcome addition to the blue line, while also popping in some impressive offensive totals.

What’s gone wrong: Detroit started the season on a 5-1-0 run. Then it hit a bit of a skid, culminating in a pair of losses in the Global Series, before winning three straight over teams that made the 2023 playoffs. Overall, the Red Wings are lacking in consistency, which makes wins hard to come by, with increasingly poor starts. Detroit fails to score first more often than not (it has the second-fewest first-period goals in the league), and that trend immediately puts it in a poor position. Being behind the eight ball leads to defensive breakdowns and putting pressure on Ville Husso or James Reimer in net.

Grade: B+. Detroit earns an extra bump here for how well DeBrincat and the club’s other top-line skaters have performed. But the Red Wings won’t get by as a one-line wonder. It’s all about chemistry, something the team has been focused on building since training camp. What Detroit must do is sort out the defensive issues and get some real buy-in there. That should lead to better performances from its goaltenders and allow Detroit to come away with victories in those games in which it’s blowing leads and leaving coveted extra points on the board.

Preseason over/under: 74
Current points pace: 90

What’s gone right: Philadelphia has been a surprise of the season. The Flyers are basking in standout performances from Travis Sanheim (the team’s leading scorer and most consistent defender), Travis Konecny (who tallied 11 goals in 19 games) and a healthy Cam Atkinson. There has also been the emergence of Joel Farabee to add some much-needed depth to the Flyers, which they’ve used to craft a surprisingly efficient offense that’s supported by tight defensive efforts (Philly is eighth in the NHL with 2.76 goals against per game). Carter Hart‘s excellent start in net has also provided a strong foundation for the Flyers as they best early expectations.

What’s gone wrong: The power play, for one thing. Philadelphia is 29th with the extra man (10.1%), and that’s often the difference between winning and losing close contests. The Flyers are also lacking a real backup for Hart, who has been burned before down the stretch after carrying too heavy a load in the first months of a season. While Philadelphia has been solid defensively overall, it could improve even further with more buy-in from its forwards too.

Grade: B+. Philadelphia is still in rebuild mode, making it hard to poke many holes in what it has done so far. The Flyers have outpaced early expectations and could easily continue to do that depending on how general manager Danny Briere decides to approach the trade market. Philadelphia has remained healthy, and the team’s confidence is obvious. The Flyers’ future looks brighter all the time.

Preseason over/under: 83.5
Current points pace: 94

What’s gone right: A more consistent start. Something this season’s team has in common with last season’s is it arrived at 11 wins on Nov. 27. The difference lies in how it reached that point. The Blues went through an eight-game losing streak in October and early November last season that preceded a seven-game winning streak. Other than a pair of back-to-back defeats, the Blues have found more stability this time around. They’re also around league average in goals allowed — a far cry from last season when they allowed the sixth-most goals per game.

What’s gone wrong: The Blues are in a playoff spot, but consistently scoring goals has been a problem. The Blues have scored the fewest goals of Western Conference playoff teams while having the fifth-fewest goals of any team in the conference. The fact that they are bottom 10 in scoring chances per 60 minutes and 21st in shots per game also adds to another trouble spot: a power play that’s the third worst in the NHL at 9.8%.

Grade: B+. Seeing as they’re still in the playoff mix, the Blues must seek answers to their scoring woes along with the defensive structure around Binnington. While they allow the 11th-fewest shots per game and have a penalty kill that went from 30th last season to 16th right now, the Blues are allowing the third-most high-danger chances per 60 and the sixth-most scoring chances allowed per 60.

Preseason over/under: 66.5
Current points pace: 70

What’s gone right: Their rookie class. Leo Carlsson, Jackson LaCombe and Pavel Mintyukov have been among the NHL’s best rookies through the first quarter of the season. Lukas Dostal won four of his five starts in October, while November has proven a bit more troublesome given his .823 save percentage in four games. Still, it has amounted to a group of first-year players who’ve operated in instrumental roles. LaCombe and Mintyukov have become top-four defensemen, while Carlsson has given the Ducks a top-line center with a development plan that has him on pace to play 55 games.

What’s gone wrong: A lack of secondary production. Frank Vatrano, Mason McTavish, Carlsson and Troy Terry are more than just the Ducks’ four leading goal-scorers. They have also accounted for 58.6% of the Ducks’ goals. It has become even more of a focal point now that Trevor Zegras is on injured reserve.

Grade: B. Every team that has lived in the lottery reaches a point when it turns a corner back to contention. Is it possible the Ducks have arrived at this stage, or do they need more time? Either way, it appears the next several weeks could answer a few more questions about the Ducks and their attempt to keep challenging for a playoff spot.

Preseason over/under: 77.5
Current points pace: 82

What’s gone right: A promising offseason turned into a promising start. That led to curiosity about the Coyotes being a potentially improved team, one point out of the final wild-card spot entering Monday. They’ve done it with a balanced scoring approach that has 10 players in double figures. That includes newcomers Logan Cooley and Sean Durzi, who’ve been crucial to the league’s No. 7 power-play unit.

What’s gone wrong: They still struggle for consistency in other areas. Even with their scoring balance, the Coyotes still average the second-fewest shots per game (27.2). According to Natural Stat Trick, the Coyotes have allowed the fourth-most high-danger chances, fifth-most scoring chances and ninth-most shots per 60 minutes in 5-on-5 play. The goaltending has not been great, as Karel Vejmelka‘s save percentage is .901 and he has a minus-3.1 goals saved above expected, while Connor Ingram has a .911 save percentage and a 1.5 GSVA. They are also among the most penalized teams in the league.

Grade: B. The Coyotes are an improved team from the one that was in the lottery last season. It’s something the Seattle Kraken did last season en route to reaching the playoffs. Could the Coyotes be the next team to pull off such a run?

Preseason over/under: 87
Current points pace: 82

What’s gone right: A five-game winning streak. Opening November with five losses in their first six games presented questions about the Predators and a lack of consistency. But now that they have won five straight games — including three against teams that came into Monday holding down a playoff spot — and the Predators are one point out of the final wild-card spot to start the week. Also, Filip Forsberg is projected to score a career-high 45 goals and could also reach the 100-point mark for the first time.

What’s gone wrong: Despite the winning streak, the Preds are struggling to get consistent scoring throughout their lineup. Tommy Novak, Ryan O’Reilly, Colton Sissons and Forsberg have accounted for 50% of their team’s goals. Another area of concern for the Preds has been Juuse Saros. He has a .898 save percentage and a GSVA that ranks 39th out of the 43 goalies who have played in more than nine games. Yet what could serve as a sign of a turnaround is how he has played during the winning streak, which saw him finish with a .921 save percentage in three games and earn the NHL’s third star of the week honors.

Grade: B. Winning five games in a row has presented another way to look at the Preds, given the way November started. Specifically, the five games they’ve won since Nov. 18 are as many as they had won over the first full month of the season. And they’re just under their predicted preseason pace. What can help keep the Predators in the wild-card race — other than more winning streaks — is finding consistent scoring and believing that Saros could be back on the path that has made him a perennial Vezina Trophy contender.

Preseason over/under: 93
Current points pace: 98

What’s gone right: Tampa Bay’s driver this season has undoubtedly been the red-hot Nikita Kucherov and his blistering scoring pace (the winger averages 1.75 points per game). Alongside Kucherov, there’s Brandon Hagel finding his best as a nearly point-per-game player too, and the Lightning have the No. 4 offense in the league (3.71 goals per game). That talent has translated to special teams, as well, giving Tampa Bay the No. 2 power play in the league (34.7%), which has served it well in tight games. The surprising positive of the season could be goaltender Jonas Johansson. He has been filling in for the injured Andrei Vasilevskiy and done a fine job given the circumstances.

What’s gone wrong: The Lightning losing Vasilevskiy for the opening months following a September back surgery has made these past few weeks a greater challenge. Johansson is giving his best, but the team in front is giving up too much defensively and putting pressure on its offense to score four-plus goals per game just to get by. Vasilevskiy getting back in last week was a decided boost, but the team must improve its defensive habits in order to keep up in a tight Atlantic Division race. And despite how strong the Lightning attack has been so far, there’s always room for more from the likes of Tanner Jeannot and Nick Paul.

Grade: B. The Lightning consistently find a way. They make it through the inevitable ebbs and flows thanks to a stable of superb offensive talents, the leadership of Victor Hedman on their blue line and Jon Cooper’s capable coaching. The question is whether Tampa Bay can maintain that consistency deep into springtime. The seasons since their Stanley Cup wins in 2020 and ’21 have raised concerns about their identity. Sometimes, it seems like they’ve figured it out. Other nights, it’s less obvious. But one thing’s for sure: The Lightning have earned the benefit of the doubt.

Preseason over/under: 106.5
Current points pace: 99

What’s gone right: Toronto is having a star-is-born moment with William Nylander — but don’t let his exceptional start fool you. Nylander has maintained a healthy level of offensive contributions for years. This one just happens to be especially bright. Nylander is not only the Leafs’ leading scorer but the man most likely to come through in the clutch. Game-tying goal? Overtime winner? He’s there. Toronto’s entire group up front has been expectedly good (averaging 3.42 goals per game). Auston Matthews made waves early with back-to-back hat trick performances. And the Leafs’ own a top-five power play (26.8%) that has improved throughout the season. It has added up to marked consistency for the Leafs, who have lost just three games in regulation since the beginning of November.

What’s gone wrong: The Leafs let wins slip away with careless play not befitting their overall talent. It’s a major reason Toronto has just five regulation victories so far — and something coach Sheldon Keefe needs to address. The John Klingberg experiment? Well, that had fallen flat even before Klingberg was moved to injured reserve last week. Then there’s the Leafs’ goaltending. Ilya Samsonov hasn’t matched the breakout 2022-23 season (sitting well below a .900 SV% and having been yanked twice in his first nine starts), and it’s been on Joseph Woll to pick up the slack. Toronto is 22nd in goals against per game (3.42), and allowing over 31.6 shots per game isn’t aiding anyone in the crease, either. The Leafs’ veteran blue line has looked its age, and that has negatively impacted their outcomes on a few occasions. Don’t be surprised if GM Brad Treliving goes looking for help there before long.

Grade: B. Toronto is a deep team offensively, and that has saved it from any prolonged slumps — although it felt possible at times the Leafs could easily slide into one. And the quieter-than-usual early start for Mitch Marner has stood out too. But it’s the Leafs’ goaltending and overall defense that seem likely to determine their future from here. Can Samsonov pull it together and be a top-level difference-maker again? How will the back end adjust now without Klingberg, and are the Leafs’ younger defensemen ready to step up? Toronto will get answers in time. For now, the Leafs’ superstars will keep them on course.

Preseason over/under: 108.5
Current points pace: 98

What’s gone right: Carolina flipped the script on a rocky start to show more potential as an Eastern Conference contender. In typical Hurricanes fashion, it’s been an under-the-radar sort of surge, though. Carolina has quietly improved its offense under leading scorer Sebastian Aho. Jesperi Kotkaniemi is having his best season ever (is that a true, 200-foot center, at last?). Its defensemen are pitching in all over the ice. And the Hurricanes’ power play is benefitting from the club’s depth. The Canes are firing the second-most shots on goal this season (33.6 per game), and that’s a good way to keep racking up the wins.

What’s gone wrong: The Hurricanes’ goaltending has been a primary source of stress. Starter Frederik Andersen is sidelined because of a blood-clotting issue, Antti Raanta hasn’t performed to expectations and young Pyotr Kochetkov likely isn’t ready to be a full-time NHL starter. Oh, and Jaroslav Halak basically sent himself home from a professional tryout contract. It’s the one area that could be a long-term problem for Carolina — which ultimately hurts their postseason chances too. While the Hurricanes are stingier now defensively (after a head-scratching start to the season giving up the most goals in the league for about two weeks), establishing a true one-two tandem in net has to be their priority.

Grade: B-. Carolina’s seven-game swoon (still with a respectable 4-3-0 record) to open the season feels like more of a footnote now. The Hurricanes can challenge for the Metro crown again, now that they’re establishing a stronger foundation up front and on the blue line. It’s the goaltending issue that will determine just how powerful Carolina ultimately proves to be.

Preseason over/under: 93
Current points pace: 90

What’s gone right: New York is getting the best of Noah Dobson, and it’s been one of the brightest spots. The 23-year-old defenseman is not only tied for the team lead in scoring, but has shown the growth and maturation New York had hoped to see from him year-over-year since he was a first-round draft pick in 2018. In other star turns, the Islanders have leaned on Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov‘s top-notch efforts in net that continuously keep New York’s mistakes from costing them too dearly.

What’s gone wrong: The Islanders don’t score much; that’s been true for years. This season though, it’s a swelling problem. Anders Lee had four goals in 20 games. Bo Horvat had five. When New York is averaging only 2.55 goals per game it requires near-perfection in every other area. And that’s not happening, either. The Islanders allow the second most shots per game (35.2) and their penalty kill is second-worst in the league (70.3%). If it weren’t for Sorokin and Varlamov performing so well, then the Islanders would be well short of the .500 mark. As it is, they’re hanging around just enough to stay in the playoff conversation.

Grade: B-. The Islanders can be a hard-nosed, blue-collar type group. But they need more pizazz too. Horvat, Mathew Barzal and Lee should be providing more up front to spark the sleepy New York offense into action. Pierre Engvall — with one goal in 19 games — should be excelling to greater heights given the contract extension he signed last summer. GM Lou Lamoriello hasn’t prioritized targeting outside help, and the Islanders can’t bank on him chasing down anyone this year. The solutions for New York will have to come from within. Can their depth eventually shine through?

Preseason over/under: 93.5
Current points pace: 82

What’s gone right: Ottawa’s offense has sparkled this season and placed the Senators sixth in league scoring (3.69 goals per game) — not to mention made them plenty fun to watch. Tim Stutzle has been a true firecracker from the jump, averaging over a point per game as he continuously finds new (and creative) ways to contribute. Speaking of Stutzle, his linemate Mathieu Joseph is having a renaissance of his own in Ottawa that has helped make the top six increasingly potent. The Senators also have to be happy with the early returns from Joonas Korpisalo, whose fine work has shored up a previously patchy spot for Ottawa in the crease. If that continues — and the Senators positive goal-differential remains — they should make a serious run for a playoff spot.

What’s gone wrong: The Senators’ offense is thriving to about the same level their defense has not. Ottawa’s underlying numbers show a team regularly giving up high-quality scoring chances at 5-on-5, and that’s repeatedly canceled out the enormous efforts being made up front to take and hold a lead. Their mediocre penalty kill has been a problem too, failing too often when Ottawa needs a key special teams performance. Then there’s the inevitable injury bug that seems to wallop the Senators each season — Korpisalo was recently sidelined by injury, Thomas Chabot is out with a fractured hand, Ridly Greig is unavailable and so is Mark Kastelic. Oh, and that Shane Pinto 41-game suspension? Not a great look for the organization, either. That, along with the drama surrounding Ottawa’s forfeited first-round pick following the Evgenii Dadonov trade debacle basically cost former GM Pierre Dorion his job. Rarely a dull moment for the Senators this season.

Grade: B-. Ottawa is a middle-of-the-pack squad that could easily one of two ways from here. The Senators have enough potential offensively to drive their way into playoff contention — if an effort is made to correct the glaring defensive deficiencies. It seems impossible Ottawa will encounter more distractions akin to the Pinto suspension/Dorion firing, so with that out of the way, the Senators’ focus can remain entirely on the ice. Should Ottawa’s health improve and there’s opportunity to maximize their most talented players across the board, the Senators might be a late-season surprise.

Preseason over/under: 85
Current points pace: 106

What’s gone right: Washington is resilient. The Capitals went from struggling to soaring offensively, and it’s been a catalyst in righting the ship on their season. Leading the way has been Dylan Strome — playing some of the best hockey of his career — and up-and-comer Connor McMichael. Yes, Alex Ovechkin has found his touch around the net too, and Washington needs that to rally around (everyone loves a milestone chase). The Capitals have matched their offensive attack with a locked-in defensive showing too, ranking ninth in goals against per game (2.82). Goaltender Charlie Lindgren also deserves ample credit for the Capitals’ climb up the standings.

What’s gone wrong: From a personnel (and personal) standpoint, losing Nicklas Backstrom for the season (and potentially for good) is a tough pill for Washington from an on and off ice perspective. The Capitals are saddled by the league’s worst power play (6.0%). That’s a problem — especially considering Ovechkin is still on the roster. Beyond that, Darcy Kuemper has been below average in net, and there’s certainly more Washington should expect from him. Ditto from forward Evgeny Kuznetsov, who collected just three goals in his first 15 games.

Grade: B-. Washington went from scoring seven total goals in their first five games to truly igniting a spark; they had 19 in a recent five-game winning streak. First-time NHL head coach Spencer Carbery needed time of his own to acclimate in Washington but now the Capitals seem to have found an identity. There’s a solid mix of veteran and young players to flesh out a diverse and multi-dimensional roster. If Washington can figure out its power play issue and get some consistent goaltending, they should find greater success into 2024.

C grades

Preseason over/under: 73
Current points pace: 78

What’s gone right: Montreal is on a development path and to that end, the season has gone alright. Kaiden Guhle — the 21-year-old blueliner Montreal drafted 16th overall in 2020 — has blossomed this season, with strong contributions at both ends of the ice. Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield are continuing to make strides as well (although Caufield’s been snakebit as of late), and veterans Alex Newhook and Sean Monahan have been top contributors offensively. The Canadiens have solid goaltending from Sam Montembeault and Jake Allen and overall, Montreal’s kept itself around the .500 mark through these first two months. That’s basically in line with their plan.

What’s gone wrong: The Canadiens have had their injury issues already, with Jordan Harris and Rafael Harvey-Pinard most recently joining the infirmary. Players sliding in and out of the lineup does disrupt team chemistry, and could be why the Canadiens have struggled for wins since early November. Defensively, Montreal boasts a collection of rising stars but that isn’t translating to all-out success just yet — the Canadiens are allowing the third most shots on goal (34.5 per game) and they’re allowing the eighth most goals per game (3.48). Montreal’s 27th-ranked penalty kill isn’t helping matters either, and while the Montembeault-Allen tandem is turning out decent stats, the error-prone Canadiens aren’t making life easy on them. And then there’s Juraj Slafkovsky. Montreal would love to see more on the scoresheet from the 2022 No. 1 overall pick, but his slow build is forcing the organization (and its fan base) to believe patience is a virtue.

Grade: C+. Montreal came out with a great run in October (5-2-2) and — for myriad reasons — haven’t sustained that success. It’s hardly a surprise, though. The Canadiens are committed to a low-and-slow approach in rebuilding this team; setbacks and growing pains are part of the process. Montreal knows its best course of action is to keep bringing along the younger contingency and boost its confidence so when the time comes to flip that switch into contender mode, they’ll be ready for the challenge.

Preseason over/under: 106
Current points pace: 82

What’s gone right: New Jersey has a ridiculously strong power play that’s carried them through more than a few tough nights this season. The Devils’ top-ranked group (37.5%) is a testament to work done by new assistant coach Travis Green, the addition of rookie Luke Hughes and more than just a little good luck from New Jersey’s depth of scoring talent. To that end, the Devils own the No. 8 offense, averaging 3.53 goals per game, and they’re also eighth in shots per game, with 32.3. Someone who’s well above average for New Jersey? Jack Hughes. The Devils have a veritable Hart Trophy contender on their hands in Hughes, who’s found the cliched next level to take his game over the top — and hasn’t seemed slowed at all by a recent injury.

What’s gone wrong: The devil is in the details, and those have hurt the 2023-24 Devils. New Jersey’s goaltending — between Vitek Vanecek and Akira Schmid — has been mediocre, and that’s despite the Devils’ doing a decent job in front limiting shots on goal. New Jersey is allowing the fifth most goals per game (3.63), and that’s a tough rate to outscore consistently. New Jersey is lacking some of the physicality that put them over the top last season. Miles Wood and Ryan Graves signed elsewhere in free agency and Damon Severson was traded; those absences have had an impact on New Jersey’s play in its own end, specifically with keeping opponents out of the slot area where high-danger opportunities abound. No team can outscore its defensive woes on a regular basis — not even one with a Jack Hughes-caliber scorer ready to light the lamp every night.

Grade: C+. New Jersey shouldn’t be a .500 team. There is so much promise in the Devils and yet it’s being snuffed out by their goaltending and defensive problems. New Jersey can’t address one without the other, and that’s got to be what GM Tom Fitzgerald is thinking too. Could the Devils use more out of Timo Meier (once healthy) and Ondrej Palat, as well? Absolutely. And Nico Hischier missing a block of games with injury was a blow as well. A healthier Devils’ lineup will help maximize their potential. But by how much, without some potential personnel changes too?

Preseason over/under: 97
Current points pace: 82

What’s gone right: Pittsburgh has put itself (mostly) back on track thanks to the usual suspects — Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel. Those three forwards have combined for most of the Penguins’ sustained early production up front and steered them from an early-season skid that could have derailed their entire year before it truly started. Tristan Jarry — coming back off an injury — has also settled in with better results. And Kris Letang is having a moment as well, patrolling Pittsburgh’s blue line with a renewed energy behind top trade acquisition Erik Karlsson.

What’s gone wrong: About Karlsson. He was supposed to make Pittsburgh’s power play a (dare we say) juggernaut; instead the Penguins sit 26th overall on the man advantage (12.5%), and that’s obviously less than ideal. Pittsburgh is giving up too many shots per game (31.2) and that’s taxing on its goaltending; the Penguins have been fortunate they’re not worse off overall there (they are allowing the sixth fewest goals per game, 2.60). Pittsburgh started the season poorly and hasn’t really found a sustained rhythm since then but the results at least have been more positive than negative in November to pull them back to the .500 threshold.

Grade: C+. Pittsburgh hasn’t exactly turned the corner just yet. In October, it looked like the Penguins might be dead on arrival but they pivoted enough to suggest there’s hope of a return to the postseason — a place the Penguins didn’t see last season. Pittsburgh’s lack of consistency has been an issue, and so has their top-heavy scoring. Tapping into more of their depth and stringing more win streaks together (they’ve had only one over three games this season) will help foster confidence too.

Preseason over/under: 94
Current points pace: 78

What’s gone right: Buffalo has witnessed solid growth from a few of its key young players, most notably JJ Peterka, Casey Mittelstadt and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Peterka has stood out particularly, with consistent output that’s earned him a role on the Sabres’ top power play. And Luukkonen is emerging as Buffalo’s best option in net (and the only one of its three netminders with an above-.900 SV%). The Sabres are also benefiting from an active and productive defense corps — helmed by the excellent Rasmus Dahlin — that contributes on the scoresheet and adds some dimension to the club’s overall game.

What’s gone wrong: That big step Buffalo was meant to make towards being a playoff contender? It hasn’t happened. The Sabres have slid steadily down the standings while losses piled up. And the prospect of gaining ground became immeasurably more difficult when Tage Thompson was sidelined indefinitely this month by an upper-body injury. Buffalo struggled to score with Thompson available (being 29th overall in shots on net will do that), and skaters expected to step up — like Dylan Cozens — have yet to show they can truly help fill the void. Speaking of young would-be stars, the Sabres may have been too hasty rushing Devon Levi into a starter’s job; the 21-year-old has had a mediocre (at best) start amid injuries. Buffalo held high hopes for what it could deliver this season, without the results (yet) to match.

Grade: C-. The Sabres can’t seem to get over the hump. Buffalo is brimming with talent that for one reason or another isn’t taking their team where it wants to go. It’s clear to see the Sabres’ confidence starting to slip and that’s the worst place Buffalo can find itself, especially when there are bright spots to focus on. It might take just getting on a role for the Sabres to pump from real belief back into the group. Losing Thompson certainly hurts, but there’s enough juice left on Buffalo’s bench to at least give them a shot at improving from here.

Preseason over/under: 95
Current points pace: 74

What’s gone right: The offense produced by their defensemen. Scoring has been an issue at times for the Flames, evidenced by the fact they’re hovering near the bottom 10 in goals scored and goals per game. It’s what has made the contributions from Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin, MacKenzie Weegar and Nikita Zadorov even more vital. Andersson, Hanifin and Weegar are on pace to finish with more than 40 points while Zadorov has a chance for what could be his first 30-point campaign.

What’s gone wrong: Another early-season skid. Despite opening the season with a win, the Flames proceeded to lose seven of their next eight games. While November has seen them look more stable by comparison, it’s still a reminder of how a seven-game losing streak last November would eventually prove costly, with the Flames missing the 2023 playoffs by two points.

Grade: C-. At the moment, it appears there are more questions than answers when it comes to the Flames, despite the fact that they are within striking distance of the final wild-card slot. They’re trying to find more ways to generate goals. They’re also trying to regain the defensive consistency they showed last season when they were among the best in the league at limiting scoring chances and high-danger scoring chances. That’s especially vital now that Jacob Markstrom appears to be past his elite days, with a GSVA of 2.7, which ranks 14th among goaltenders with more than nine games played.

Preseason over/under: 92
Current points pace: 78

What’s gone right: The first year of the Vince Dunn contract extension. Dunn was one of the reasons behind why the Kraken were among the NHL’s biggest surprises last season. He scored 14 goals and 64 points — both career highs — while playing on the Kraken’s top pairing. Was it a leveling up, or just a contract year boost? So far this season, Dunn is tied for the team lead in scoring, projected to finish with 71 points, and is logging 23:36 in ice time per game, second most on the team.

What’s gone wrong: The lack of even-strength goals. They’re a bottom 10 team when it comes to goals scored per 60 minutes in 5-on-5 play. They’re in the bottom three of high-danger chances per 60, while being a place above the bottom 10 in scoring chances per 60 in 5-on-5 play. Another issue is their shooting percentage. Last season, the Kraken were second in the NHL with a 11.6% success rate; that figure has dipped to 9.4% this season, tied for the 10th lowest percentage in the NHL. It also reinforces how much they miss Andre Burakovsky, who remains on LTIR and has played only six games.

Grade: C-. Finding ways to jumpstart what was one of the more prolific offenses from last season is one area of concern. The Kraken also have the NHL’s No. 26 penalty kill, and have struggled to win games when they are tied or trailing after the second period, evidenced by their 2-8-2 mark in those scenarios. Those appear to be the sort of details that could help or hinder the Kraken in their bid for a consecutive playoff berth.

D grades

Preseason over/under: 71
Current points pace: 52

What’s gone right: Aside from Connor Bedard, who has been as great as expected? The Blackhawks have also seen growth from a few more players who are part of their future plans in Kevin Korchinski, Philipp Kurashev and Alex Vlasic. Korchinski is second among Blackhawks defensemen in average ice time, while Vlasic is third at just under 19 minutes per game. As for Kurashev, he’s second on the team in points behind Bedard, and was averaging a point per game through his first 10 games. They’ve also seen veterans such as Nick Foligno and Petr Mrazek be among their most consistent contributors.

What’s gone wrong: A number of things. They struggle to score, evidenced by the fact they have the fifth fewest scoring chances per 60, the second fewest high-danger chances per 60, the fourth fewest goals per game and a bottom five power-play that converts less than 12% of the time. Then there are the defensive issues, underlined by the fact they are in the bottom three of most scoring chances allowed per 60 and most high-danger scoring chances allowed per 60.

Grade: D. A promising collection of young talent juxtaposed against a roster that struggles to consistently score goals, generate scoring chances while having a defensive structure that also has its issues. This is what it means to be in a rebuild, which could see the Blackhawks return to the lottery with the belief their current challenges can be parlayed into future successes.

Preseason over/under: 75
Current points pace: 60

What’s gone right: Columbus starts well. They’ve scored first more often than not this season and when they do, the Blue Jackets can find ways to win. Columbus is also generally holding leads even in games they ultimately lose. Offensively, the Blue Jackets have Boone Jenner (with 11 goals in his first 22 games), Kirill Marchenko, Sean Kuraly and Justin Danforth generating decent numbers, and it’s been a serious advantage having a healthy Zach Werenski back running the blue line and supporting their special teams.

What’s gone wrong: The bad news began early for Columbus when Mike Babcock’s behavior forced him to be replaced behind the bench by Pascal Vincent. It was not a good omen. The Blue Jackets have stumbled in every phase of the game. Johnny Gaudreau has three goals in 22 games. Patrik Laine was injured and then made a healthy scratch for the first time in his career — and did not keep his feelings about that “embarrassing” slight private. Elvis Merzlikins has been fine in net, but not the stalwart Columbus requires given its poor defensive efforts. Damon Severson hitting IR last week with an oblique injury that will sideline him for over a month will make those issues even harder to overcome. The Blue Jackets can’t consistently hold onto leads, and lack that game-changing star who can pull out a victory for them. The frustration that continues to set in around the team won’t manifest that any more quickly, either.

Grade: D. Columbus expected better. GM Jarmo Kekalainen brought in Ivan Provorov and Severson this offseason to improve the Blue Jackets’ back end, and yet it’s been their defense letting the team down. A lack of production from Gaudreau and Laine is equally puzzling — not to mention damaging. Vincent is a first-time head coach who might be in over his head with a team that has lately been free-falling from one bad loss into another. Columbus may be in for a long five months from here.

Preseason over/under: 97
Current points pace: 60

What’s gone right: Brock Faber and Marco Rossi. Faber has parlayed the promise he showed late last season and has become a top-pairing defenseman for the Wild who can be trusted in several scenarios. Rossi has overcome injuries and inconsistencies to start emerging into the top-line center the Wild believed they were getting when they drafted him ninth overall back in 2020.

What’s gone wrong: Quite a bit. Their bid for a fifth straight playoff berth has been challenging for a few reasons. If it wasn’t for the San Jose Sharks, they would allow the most goals per game of any team. They have the worst penalty kill in the league (66.7%), and the No. 24 power play (16.2%). Their goaltenders rank 41st and 42nd in GSVA among the 43 goalies with more than nine games played, per Money Puck. And on Monday, the Wild fired coach Dean Evason and assistant Bob Woods with former Predators coach John Hynes slated to be his replacement.

Grade: D. Evason’s dismissal raises questions about if his replacement can answer many of the questions that have proved difficult. Perhaps the two most notable questions facing the Wild are: Can they overcome the issues that plagued them in the first quarter, now that a new voice is behind the bench? And can they turn it around to get back in the playoff hunt, or are they too far gone? They are seven points out of the second wild-card spot, with the Ducks, Coyotes, Flames, Oilers, Predators and Kraken (the current wild-card holder) in their way.

Preseason over/under: 106.5
Current points pace: 62

What’s gone right: Kris Knoblauch. It’s been two weeks since Knoblach took over following Jay Woodcroft’s firing, but the Oilers have won five games since he’s been in charge. That is more than they had in the first full month of the regular season. The Oilers are second in total goals, second in goals per game, eighth on the penalty kill, eighth on the power play and have the eight most points in the NHL since his arrival.

What’s gone wrong: Everything before Knoblauch’s arrival. The Oilers were a preseason Stanley Cup favorite … with five wins before Thanksgiving. They already had two four-game losing streaks. They sent Jack Campbell to the AHL. They fired the head coach. They’re among the most penalized teams in the league, with a PK that struggled before Knoblauch was hired. They’re allowing the third most goals per game, and their team save percentage is .877.

Grade: D-. They are six points out of a wild-card spot but are also five points clear of having the worst total in the NHL. What Knoblauch has done to this point is further the idea that the Oilers could change their fortunes and climb back into the playoff race. If so, it appears they will need to receive contributions from beyond their top six, and find consistency in net.

F grade

Preseason over/under: 64.5
Current points pace: 39

What’s gone right: The development of William Eklund. He’s been in Sweden. He’s been with the other hockey team that occupies SAP Arena. He’s also had to recover from shoulder surgery. But after all that, the Sharks are getting their most extended look at how Eklund is faring in the NHL. A first-round pick in 2021, Eklund has been on the top line and on the second-team power-play unit in a season that has seen him score four goals and eight points to be tied for second on the team in points.

What’s gone wrong: The 11-game losing streak to start the season. They have the fewest wins in the NHL. They have the most losses in the NHL. They have the fewest goals in the NHL and have the lowest goals per game in the NHL. They have allowed the most goals in the NHL and have the most goals allowed per game in the NHL. They have a minus-49 goal differential which is the widest gulf in the NHL. They have a power play that’s just outside the bottom 10 while their penalty kill ranks inside the bottom 10.

Grade: F. The Sharks were believed to be a lottery team that could be in the running for the No. 1 pick. But if the Sharks remain at their current pace of 39 points, they would tie the 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings for the fewest points for a full season in the salary cap era; this would also tie that Wings team for 16th fewest points in a season of 70 games or more. And if the Sharks continue averaging 1.62 goals per game, they will set an NHL record for the lowest goals-per-game average in a season, a mark that belongs to the 2013-14 Sabres (1.83).

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