The season begins with unbridled optimism. Of course your team can win; any franchise can go on a run! But since sports fans are skeptics, early-season woes can accentuate pessimism. Even initial success can instigate paranoia. In this week’s Power Rankings, we offer a reason that each team’s fan base should panic. Some arguments are more legitimate than others.
How we rank: We use a panel of voters, and these rankings reflect who voters think would win head-to-head matchups. Higher-ranked teams would be favored against lower-ranked teams. A run of wins doesn’t guarantee a jump, and a couple of losses doesn’t guarantee a fall.
No need to worry about a sophomore slump for Auston Matthews. But the Leafs were so young last season, someone was bound to regress. Right now it’s Mitch Marner, who was demoted to the fourth line after posting a minus-6 through his first five games.
Week 1 ranking: No. 2
Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are eating a ton of ice time (25:01 and 22:37 minutes per game, respectively). But outside of the top pairing, the ‘Hawks’ defense is thin. Newcomer Jan Rutta has been a pleasant surprise, but it’s dangerous to rely too heavily on the top guys.
Week 1 ranking: No. 9
Nikita Kucherov has scored at least one goal in each of Tampa’s first seven games, but that streak can’t last forever … can it? Mario Lemieux — who scored in his first 12 games in 1992-93 — holds the record.
Week 1 ranking: No. 15
This team is young and plucky, but the Devils are taking too many penalties. New Jersey is third in the league with 96 PIM so far. And the penalty kill hasn’t been stellar: 8 goals allowed on 26 opportunities, for a 77.4 percentage, which is 25th.
Week 1 ranking: No. 6
Defenseman Zach Werenski scored 21 seconds into the team’s first power play of the season. The Blue Jackets have gone 0-14 with the man advantage since.
Week 1 ranking: No. 7
Marc-Andre Fleury is on injured reserve after sustaining yet another concussion — and he might have stayed in too long after getting injured. Newcomer Malcolm Subban (aka brother of P.K.) has been terrific, but let’s be honest: Flower is the face of this team.
Week 1 ranking: No. 5
Pittsburgh has allowed a league-high 29 goals through seven games. The New York Rangers had scored only 13 goals in their first six games before pouring four in on Matt Murray on Tuesday. Oh, and the team with the best goalie depth last season might have a liability in backup Antti Niemi, who has an early but ugly 7.94 goals-against average.
Week 1 ranking: No. 3
Top D-man Matt Niskanen (hand) is on long-term injured reserve, signaling trouble for an already light blue line. GM Brian MacLellan told The Washington Post that he’d consider everything from a trade to promoting prospects, meaning maybe Washington really is backing off its all-in approach this season.
Week 1 ranking: No. 4
The Blues scored five goals in their season-opening win at Pittsburgh. Since then, they have seen diminishing returns, scoring four against Dallas, three each in the two games after that, two against Florida and just one against Tampa Bay …
Week 1 ranking: No. 20
Fans in Nashville had better hope that their team gets it done in regulation. The Predators have lost 21 of their past 27 games decided in the 3-on-3 overtime period.
Week 1 ranking: No. 7
The Kings are an old team with big contracts that promised they would look brand new this season. And they have, thanks to a faster, more open brand of hockey. That free-wheeling style, however, brings with it turnovers: Los Angeles had 48 giveaways in its first four games.
Week 1 ranking: No. 17
Erik Karlsson is back, but the Senators have to play better at the Canadian Tire Centre. They are 0-1-2 at home, and have been shut out on the power play in those games.
Week 1 ranking: No. 23
The Stars have not been outshot in a game this season, averaging an impressive 36.7 shots per game. But they don’t have enough goals to show for it. Dallas has just 14 in six games.
Week 1 ranking: No. 18
The Flyers have been an early surprise, and their offense looks fantastic. But why does goaltending always seem to be an issue in Philly?
Week 1 ranking: No. 12
We’re glad Jaromir Jagr finally found a new home, but maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing if he had signed earlier in the offseason. It’s taking some time for the 45-year-old’s conditioning to catch up to NHL speed.
Week 1 ranking: No. 24
The Jets have one of the league’s worst penalty kills, allowing six goals in 24 shorthanded opportunities. It also appears that goalie Steve Mason has already lost his job to youngster Connor Hellebuyck.
Week 1 ranking: No. 21
The Wild are so banged up, they dressed 45-year-old assistant coach Darby Hendrickson for practice this week. The mounting injuries include Charlie Coyle, Marcus Foligno, Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter — and another potential setback for Zach Parise.
Week 1 ranking: No. 16
The plucky Red Wings began the season 4-1, but a tough three-game stretch — which began with a 3-2 loss to the Lightning on Monday, and includes showdowns with the Maple Leafs and Capitals — will help gauge whether this team is for real.
Week 1 ranking: No. 11
Yes, the Ducks are dealing with injuries, but they’re also enduring scoring woes. Anaheim is averaging only two goals a game. No matter how good goalie John Gibson is, that’s not going to win them enough games.
Week 1 ranking: No. 14
The ‘Canes have played the league’s fewest games (four) but already there’s concern about the fact that they went two straight without an even-strength goal.
Week 1 ranking: No. 13
Colorado’s surprising early-season surge came to a crashing halt over the past two games, which were both against division foes. The Avs were outscored 7-1 by the Stars and Predators and looked especially sloppy against Nashville, giving up multiple odd-man rushes.
Week 1 ranking: No. 27
We knew the Sharks would miss Patrick Marleau, but why haven’t San Jose’s other big names stepped up? Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski have one goal each through five games. Brent Burns is last on the team with a minus-5.
Week 1 ranking: No. 19
Mika Zibanejad‘s shoulders must be getting sore after carrying the scoring load. The center has five of the team’s 17 goals, and J.T. Miller is the only other forward with more than one goal.
Week 1 ranking: No. 18
There’s plenty plaguing the Oilers, but what’s going on with Cam Talbot? The goalie has been yanked in two starts already with a 5.92 goals-against average and .836 save percentage in his past three starts.
Week 1 ranking: No. 22
Nobody is scoring for Montreal. Newcomer Jonathan Drouin is the only Canadien with more than one goal. The Habs have been outscored 22-9 through six games.
Week 1 ranking: No. 26
The Islanders are 0-for-20 on the power play. What’s worse: they’ve also given up three shorthanded goals. New assistant coaches Kelly Buchberger and Scott Gomez were supposed to help a unit that ranked 28th last season.
Week 1 ranking: No. 25
Patrice Bergeron hasn’t played this season (lower body injury), but the rest of Boston’s centers haven’t shown up either. In Bergeron’s absence, centers David Krejci, Riley Nash and Ryan Spooner have combined for … zero goals.
Week 1 ranking: No. 28
The Panthers have yet to win on the road. They have good possession numbers, but need to start scoring sooner — Florida has allowed the first goal in five consecutive games.
Week 1 ranking: No. 29
Loui Eriksson is out four to six weeks with a knee sprain. That’s not ideal, but he also only posted one assist through four games for a team that has had some bad puck luck.
Week 1 ranking: No. 30
We’re only two weeks into the season and the Sabres’ newly minted $80 million man Jack Eichel is already voicing his displeasure, telling The Buffalo News that he’s “sick of losing.”
Week 1 ranking: No. 31
The Coyotes are already onto their third goaltender: 21-year-old rookie Adin Hill. It’s looking like another long winter in the desert.