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Super 16: Canadiens' impressive start has them at top

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

Take your finger off the panic button and remember two important words:

Sample size.

The early-season challenges have been obvious for four teams with high expectations: the Anaheim Ducks (0-2-1), Los Angeles Kings (0-3-0), Pittsburgh Penguins (0-3-0 going into their game Thursday) and Columbus Blue Jackets (0-4-0).

All four were ranked in the preseason Super 16, including the Ducks at No. 2 and the Penguins at No. 6. Eight of the nine people tabbed as NHL.com prognosticators predicted the Ducks to win the Pacific Division; five had them representing the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final; and two had them winning the Cup.

It can still happen; the Ducks, Penguins, Blue Jackets and Kings can have good seasons and make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Three or four games do not make a season, even if these teams have looked dreadful in those three or four games.

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Again, remember, sample size.

When it comes to sample size, we have enough examples to prove that teams with high expectations going into the season have a way of climbing out of the type of early hole that Anaheim, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Columbus have dug.

A glaring example is the New York Rangers from the 2013-14 season. Alain Vigneault was new, Henrik Lundqvist was struggling, the defensemen could barely get out of their own way, and New York started the season 3-7-0.

The Rangers finished with 96 points and advanced to the Stanley Cup Final.

Similarly, the Kings started the 2012-13 season with three wins in their first 10 games (3-5-2), but they rebounded enough to finish second in the Pacific Division and wound up three wins shy from advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for a second straight season.

The Vancouver Canucks won the Presidents' Trophy and advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in the 2010-11 season after starting with two wins in their first seven games (2-3-2).

How could anyone forget the Philadelphia Flyers at the start of the 2013-14 season? They started with seven regulation losses in their first eight games, getting outscored 24-11, and even changed coaches from Peter Laviolette to Craig Berube. Philadelphia proved it had enough time to rebound, making the playoffs with 94 points, good enough for third place in the Metropolitan Division.

In addition, the New Jersey Devils and Arizona Coyotes in 2011-12 had average starts before making deep playoff runs. The Devils (4-5-1 in their first 10 games) went to the Stanley Cup Final. The Coyotes (3-3-2 in their first eight games) went to the Western Conference Final.

The point is that there is so much time, so much hockey to be played, and it's way too soon to panic even if the early returns are abysmal.

Sample size matters, but it won't be small forever, so if the Ducks, Kings, Blue Jackets and Penguins don't start scoring and keeping the puck out of the net soon, the storyline here will change from give it time to time to panic.

DISCLAIMER: While the Super 16 is NHL.com's weekly power rankings, the focus will be more on the "power" than the "rankings" when determining the order. It's not always going to look like the League standings and the "hot" team won't always make a big jump in the rankings. If two teams are close the tiebreaker almost always is this: If the two teams started a seven-game series right now, who would prevail?

All rankings, records and statistics are through the games played Wednesday night. Don't ignore the scattered links to good stories either:

1. Montreal Canadiens (4-0-0)

Preseason rank: No. 8

What's good: They won four road games to start the season and never trailed in any of them.

What's not so good: Nothing.

Best stat: Montreal entered Thursday ninth in the NHL with a 54.34 shot attempts percentage at 5-on-5 through four games.

Read this from LNH managing editor Arpon Basu.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning (3-1-0)

Preseason rank: No. 1

What's good: Jonathan Drouin had four points through four games.

What's not so good: The penalty kill struggled in the first four games, allowing five goals on 12 chances.

Best stat: Tampa Bay scored 14 goals through four games.

3. San Jose Sharks (3-0-0)

Preseason rank: NR

What's good: Martin Jones looks every bit the part of a No. 1 goalie.

What's not so good: Center Logan Couture injured his right foot in practice Thursday. He was seen wearing a protective boot, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

Jones allowed one goal on 78 shots (0.33 GAA, .987 save percentage).

4. Nashville Predators (3-0-0)

Preseason rank: No. 10

What's good: The defense and goaltending looked in midseason form through the first three games.

What's not so good: The Predators averaged 23.7 shots on goal per game with a 46.38 SAT% entering play Thursday.

Best stat: Nashville allowed two goals through its first three games.

5. New York Rangers (3-1-0)

Preseason rank: No. 5

What's good: Kevin Hayes looks comfortable at right wing, and Oscar Lindberg is scoring.

What's not so good: Rick Nash had no goals through four games. He scored 42 last season.

Best stat: Lindberg is the first rookie in Rangers history to score a goal in each of his first three games of a season.

6. Minnesota Wild (2-0-0)

Preseason rank: No. 7

What's good: Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were the Wild's best players in their first two games.

What's not so good: The PK was 2-for-5 in the first two games.

Best stat: Suter averaged 24:58 of ice time the first two games; he averaged 29:03 last season.

Good read on Wild.com by former NHL.com staff writer Evan Sporer.

7. Chicago Blackhawks (2-2-0)

Preseason rank: No. 4

What's good: The line of Artem Anisimov, Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin was impressive in each of the first four games.

What's not so good: Forward Andrew Shaw had a 36.25 SAT% through four games.

Best stat: Panarin had four points through four games.

Read this on Teuvo Teravainen from Chicago correspondent Brian Hedger.

8. Detroit Red Wings (3-0-0)

Preseason rank: No. 13

What's good: Rookie Dylan Larkin looks like he's fitting in fine with four points in three games.

What's not so good: The Red Wings were averaging a League-low 21.7 shots on goal per game.

Best stat: Henrik Zetterberg had seven points in the first three games; he needs seven more to reach 800 for his NHL career.

Read about Justin Abdelkader from Detroit correspondent Paul Harris.

9. Washington Capitals (1-1-0)

Preseason rank: No. 3

What's good: Nicklas Backstrom (hip) has been cleared for contact and could play Saturday.

What's not so good: Backstrom had to miss any time at all this season.

Best stat: For the first time in their history, the Capitals' first goal of the season came in a shorthanded situation (Jason Chimera).

10. St. Louis Blues (2-1-0)

Preseason rank: No. 12

What's good: Rookie defenseman Colton Parayko (two goals) looks like he belongs.

What's not so good: Rookie forward Robby Fabbri has a concussion and is out indefinitely.

Best stat: The Blues were leading the NHL in shots against per game (20.3) entering Thursday.

Read what Blues coach Ken Hitchcock had to say about penalty killing.

11. Winnipeg Jets (3-1-0)

Preseason rank: NR

What's good: They picked up six out of eight points on a season-opening four-game road trip.

What's not so good: Penalties are a problem for the Jets, who have been shorthanded 17 times in four games after being shorthanded 308 times last season, most in the League.

Best stat: Goalies Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson have combined for a .949 save percentage (129 saves on 136 shots).

12. Arizona Coyotes (3-0-0)

Preseason rank: NR

What's good: They look like one of the fastest teams in the League.

What's not so good: The power play was 1-for-13 with a shorthanded goal against.

Best stat: Goalie Mike Smith had allowed two goals on 106 shots in three games (.981 save percentage).

Read this on how the Coyotes have rebranded themselves.

13. Vancouver Canucks (3-0-1)

Preseason rank: NR

What's good: They've allowed five goals in four games and start a five-game homestand Friday.

What's not so good: Radim Vrbata, who led the Canucks with 31 goals last season, doesn't have a point yet.

Best stat: Fourth-line center Adam Cracknell has two goals in four games. He had no goals in his previous 47 games dating back to the 2012-13 season.

14. Ottawa Senators (3-1-0)

Preseason rank: NR

What's good: Center Kyle Turris had three multipoint games entering Thursday after having six in the final 13 games last season.

What's not so good: Clarke MacArthur missed the game Thursday because of an upper-body injury (possible concussion) that he sustained Wednesday against Columbus.

Best stat: Ottawa entered the game Thursday 14-0-3 in its past 17 road games dating to last season.

15. Dallas Stars (2-1-0)

Preseason rank: No. 11

What's good: Rookie forward Mattias Janmark has made a strong first impression and had two goals in the first three games.

What's not so good: They surrendered two-goal leads against the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers.

Best stat: The Stars' 52 shots Tuesday against Edmonton were the second-most shots they've had in one game since the franchise moved to Dallas from Minnesota in 1993-94. The most is 55, on Nov. 8, 1995, against the Kings.

16. Anaheim Ducks (0-2-1)

Preseason rank: No. 2

What's good: Goalie Frederik Andersen has a .956 save percentage and 1.40 GAA.

What's not so good: Everything besides Andersen's play has been disappointing.

Best stat: Anaheim is 8-for-9 on the penalty kill.

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