The second full week of the NHL season is nearly complete. With action on a nightly basis, the red-hot Florida Panthers and the always stingy Carolina Hurricanes remain the only two unbeaten clubs. Led by their top forward duo of center Aleksander Barkov and winger Jonathan Huberdeau, the Panthers have also enjoyed a resurgence in goal from netminder Sergei Bobrovsky.
Once again, Carolina is one of the most complete teams in the league. The ‘Canes lead the league in goals-against with 1.33 allowed per game. Furthermore, with Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho off to hot starts to their seasons, no one has been able to solve Rod Brind’Amour‘s team. Back with our weekly stock up, stock down article, here are this week’s picks.
Stock Up: Florida Panthers
Florida is beginning to take a bigger leap in the early parts of the season. This is after being touted as a potential Stanley Cup contender by hockey fans everywhere. Continuing to be one of the most dynamic offensive clubs across the league, the team racked up wins over the Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins, and Arizona Coyotes over this past week. They have relied heavily on their elite talent in Barkov and Huberdeau. However, the group has also gotten production from all areas of the lineup.
Sam Reinhart has added seven points in seven games. Anthony Duclair is also off to a hot start with five goals. More importantly, after a shaky 2020 campaign, Bobrovsky has finally started to look like the Vezina caliber candidate that the team inked a few years ago. Undefeated in five starts this season, he has allowed just nine goals against. The franchise is one of the most dangerous groups in the league. They have enough talent to be the only ones left standing in the end.
Stock Down: Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs have been slow starting out of the gate after disappointingly losing to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the North Division playoffs last year. With just three wins on the season, they currently sit in fifth place in the ultra-competitive Atlantic Division. Fresh off losses to the San Jose Sharks and the Pittsburgh Penguins last weekend, the team was able to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime on Wednesday night.
The group has seen superstar forwards Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner fail to get going offensively. Racking up just four points combined so far, they have had to look to other areas to provide production. With a leaky bottom half of the roster and problems on the blue line, Toronto is dangerously close to falling behind the pace early.
Stock Up: Washington Capitals
After recording 24 tallies during the NHL’s Covid-19 shortened season a year ago, Alex Ovechkin has been on a mission. Currently leading the league in goals with eight, the 36-year-old sniper is in a tie for second in points with 13 through seven games. Along with this, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie have also enjoyed strong starts to their 2021 campaigns.
Most impressively, the Capitals have allowed just 27.1 shots on goal per night, leading to just 2.71 goals against. Needing to clean up their power play after hitting on just 20 percent of their opportunities, look for the group to benefit from the return of Nicklas Backstrom down the road. With a solid goaltending tandem between Illya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek, Washington is one of the most complete teams in the game.
Stock Down: Vegas Golden Knights
This has been perhaps the biggest shock of the season so far. The Vegas Golden Knights high-powered offense has gone missing. Limping to a 3-4 record through seven games, the team disappointingly lost back-to-back games to the Edmonton Oilers and the New York Islanders last weekend. Currently ranked 26th in the league in goals per game and face-off percentage. Even worse is that the Golden Knights also rank dead last in power-play percentage.
William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith have all struggled mightily. Vegas will be even more hard-pressed after losing both Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone to injuries. Even more concerning for head coach Pete DeBoer has been the play of goaltender Robin Lehner. He became the number one goalie following the offseason trade of Marc-Andre Fleury. The 30-year-old netminder has racked up just a 2.87 goals-against average in six starts for the team.
Stock Up: Calgary Flames
Unlike the Golden Knights, the Flames offense has been on a tear in 2021. Both Andrew Mangiapane and Elias Lindholm are tied for second in the league in goals with seven. Along with this, after a down year in 2020, star forward Johnny Gaudreau is leading the team with ten points while playing over 18 minutes per night. Winners of five straight games, Calgary is fresh off wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New Jersey Devils.
Currently sitting in first place in the Pacific Division, they have yet to trail in a game since their season opener. The team is one of the best special teams groups in the league. Calgary ranks inside the top 15 in the NHL in both penalty kill and power-play percentage. They are looking to get back to the playoffs for the third time in four seasons.
Stock Down: Los Angeles Kings
Expected to be near the bottom of the pack as they wait for their young prospects to develop, the Kings have already begun to falter. Racking up an opening night victory over the Golden Knights, the team has then lost six games in a row. Making matters worse, they also lost defenseman Drew Doughty after he suffered a knee strain. Furthermore, his partner Sean Walker was also placed on the season-ending injured reserve list after he tore his ACL and his MCL.
Ranked near the bottom of the pack in almost every major offensive category, the lone bright spot for the group remains the play of 34-year-old Anze Kopitar. With nine points already early on, the captain has five more points than the next forward on Los Angeles. Off to a slow start in goal, the franchise has too many issues plaguing them. More so in what was supposed to be a step-up year to compete even in the top-heavy Pacific Division.
Follow Chris Gallagher on Twitter @ChrisGally06
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