There are not many franchises in the NHL where a 10-7-1 start to the season would elicit varying degrees of panic amongst the fan base, but the Chicago Blackhawks live in that space in 2014.
The Blackhawks have been one of the best teams in the NHL for seven seasons now, winning the Stanley Cup twice and reaching the Western Conference Final twice in the past six campaigns. There is an expectation to be playing in June 2015, or this season will be considered a failure.
So 21 points in 18 games, which as of Thursday morning was only good enough for ninth place in the West, has set off warning alarms in some homes in the greater Chicagoland area. One person who is not concerned? That would be Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman.
The Nashville Predators have lacked dynamism at the forward position for years, but they appear to have bolstered the group significantly in that department this offseason.
One move was obvious, adding James Neal in a trade for Patric Hornqvist. Maybe Neal won't score 40 times without Evgeni Malkin feeding him the puck, but he's still scoring plenty on Nashville's top line.
The other "addition" came from within. Filip Forsberg had a goal and five points in 13 games last season with Nashville, at times looking like a tantalizing prospect and others looking like a guy not ready for the NHL. If it weren't for Vladimir Tarasenko, Forsberg might be the breakout star of the 2014-15 season to date.
While Stastny was the headliner among the offseason additions, with forward Jori Lehtera and a full-time roster spot for goaltender Jake Allen probably next in line, one of the best reasons to think St. Louis could improve in 2014-15 was the maturation of Tarasenko and forward Jaden Schwartz. Tarasenko is off to a great start with eight goals and 14 points in 12 games, including the best goal of the season to date Monday at Madison Square Garden and then the lone goal of the game one day later across the Hudson River at Prudential Center.
Tarasenko is already one of the top Russian players in the NHL (in the NHL is an important distinction, because he was not happy with his role on the national team in February). Where does he stack up among the top Russians in the League? Here's a look at the most productive players from his homeland since Tarasenko joined the Blues at the start of the 2012-13 season:
The Minnesota Wild began the 2013-14 season with a spike in their possession statistics, as a team long considered one of the most passive in the NHL tried to change its identity.
As the season wore on, the Wild slipped back to the middle of the pack in puck possession, but a dominating performance against the Colorado Avalanche and a strong showing against the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs was a nice way to finish with the arrow pointing upward.
The Wild appear to have consolidated those postseason gains and built from the success. Minnesota has arguably been the most impressive team of the 2014-15 season, and are a late goal at Honda Center and a crazy third-period collapse at Madison Square Garden from probably being considered the best team in the League to this point.
All three teams remain among the League's elite in the early part of the 2014-15 season, but an intriguing aspect of the Ducks and Sharks is both teams are going to give a lot of starts to goaltenders who are inexperienced at this level.
As more people embrace the idea of analytics in hockey, one of the things they find out is it's more about ideas than statistics.
It's not all about a player's Corsi numbers; it is about his puck possession numbers and the principle of keeping the puck as a fundamental part of the way the game should be played. There are lots of principles in hockey analytics. Most started as an idea, and then someone or someones sought out a way to prove them.
One such idea is teams should never play the same goalie when faced with games on back-to-back nights. The premise of this is pretty simple: Goalies tax their body a great deal in any given NHL game, and when they do so on back-to-back nights it decreases their ability to perform at an optimal level.
After a dominant season by the Western Conference in 2013-14, the reaction was swift and not subtle.
The West added more great players.
Though every team in the NHL that doesn't play home games at Staples Center or United Center spent the offseason searching for ways to inch closer to the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks at the top of the League, teams in the West in particular have created a pretty amazing arms race.
The four best players to change conferences, and seven of the best 10 or 11, traveled west. Here's a look at the disparity in players who switched conferences during the offseason, either via trades or free agency:
The 2013-14 NHL season may well be remembered as an important one years from now, in part because the use of analytics, or advanced statistics, has taken a significant step forward in media coverage of the sport.
There have been plenty of people using #fancystats for several years, but this season the volume of writers has increased and the "mainstream" nature of the publications for which they work has also increased. This website in particular has begun to employ analytics on a more regular basis, and these weekly power rankings have intentionally been part of that.
The goal was to help show how these new ideas and statistics can be helpful in analyzing the sport. Just as there was in the baseball journalism community when analytics started cropping up, there has been resistance and debate about the validity of these new metrics.
While the Chicago Blackhawks are idling into the Stanley Cup Playoffs and dealing with injuries to cornerstone players, the team they beat in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final has been steamrolling toward the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Boston Bruins are going to be a popular pick to win the Stanley Cup for the second time in four seasons, but another recent winner might be the best bet for someone who doesn't want to trust the banged-up defending champs. The Los Angeles Kings aren't going to finish with as many points as the other titans in a brutal Western Conference, but there will be seven other playoff teams that wouldn't mind seeing someone else have to deal with Darryl Sutter's club.
Los Angeles has been a strong team all season, but the goals just weren't coming. Nearly every other indicator of quality play pointed to contender status. In recent weeks, the Kings' offense is progressing to the mean and they now look like a team primed for a deep playoff run.
The Bruins, who have built a reputation as an elite goal-prevention club, wobbled for a few games as they adjusted to not having one of the NHL's best defensive defensemen. Now they are back to their stifling ways and back in the hunt for the Presidents' Trophy.
While Chara may not possess the traditional offensive numbers of some of his closest competitors, the mountainous Boston defenseman should be the frontrunner for the Norris Trophy.
Yeah, it was a pretty special moment for me. Today was my Dad's [55th] birthday. I have a lot of family in town, so it was a special moment for me to score my first one today. A win definitely would have capped it off, but you can't have everything.
— Sabres rookie Jack Eichel after scoring a goal in his National Hockey League debut
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