Thanks to the one-time salary cap reduction in the NHL, there isn’t much of a talent gap between teams. Fortunes can shift quickly.
Just ask the Philadelphia Flyers, who lost their first three games by a cumulative 9-3 score and shoved coach Peter Laviolette out the emergency exit.
Things can change quickly in this business. Keep that in mind as you check out the league’s pecking order looked after the first full week of play:
GOOD NEWS: Eternal scorer Marian Hossa appears to be managing his chronic back injury well.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Corey Crawford (2.88 goals-against average, .875 save percentage) started sloppily – and he no longer has Ray Emery pushing him.
BOTTOM LINE: The defending champions are still loaded. And they know how to deal what Cup hangovers.
GOOD NEWS: The new forward lines have come together nicely, as the Bruins showed during a 4-1 domination the Red Wings.
BAD NEWS: By playing just two games in the season’s first eight days, they didn’t get to build much momentum.
BOTTOM LINE: Good young, skilled defensemen make this prime Cup contender even better.
ST. LOUIS BLUES
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Jaroslav Halak’s newfound commitment to conditioning paid off with a 1.00 GAA after two starts.
BAD NEWS: None. The Blues outscored their first two opponents 11-2 while generating offense from all four lines.
BOTTOM LINE: The NHL’s best six-man defensive unit will earn this team a LOT of regular season points.
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury put another dreadful postseason behind him, allowing just one goal in his first two games.
BAD NEWS: Winger James Neal, Evgeni Malkin’s right-hand man, is sidelined on a week-to-week basis with an upper body injury. Back-up goaltender Tomas Vokoun could miss much of the regular season with blood clotting.
BOTTOM LINE: If Fleury holds up and Sidney Crosby stay healthy, the Pens will wear people out again this season.
SAN JOSE SHARKS
GOOD NEWS: This team has enough offensive depth to deploy Joe Pavelski as a third-line center at even strength.
BAD NEWS: Their power play has too much talent to convert just 16.7 percent of its chances.
BOTTOM LINE: A couple of 4-1 victories to open the season reaffirmed this team’s elite status.
DETROIT RED WINGS
GOOD NEWS: Destined Hall of Famer Henrik Zetterberg is flying. He put 18 shots on goal in his first three games.
BAD NEWS: Defensemen Kyle Quincey (minus-3) and Brendan Smith (minus-2) need to pick it up.
BOTTOM LINE: Newcomers Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson are still finding their way, but they make this team even more dangerous.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
GOOD NEWS: Goaltenders James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier are trying to one-up each other in goal.
BAD NEWS: Defensive prodigy Morgan Rielly suffered a rough start.
BOTTOM LINE: The return of Joffrey Lupul and the addition of Mason Raymond make this an impressive offensive team.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
GOOD NEWS: The talented power play has clicked at a 30 percent conversion rate so far this season.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Jonathan Quick (3.18 GAA, .893 save percentage) has suffered another terrible season start. Monday night he allowed one of the worst goals in NHL history.
BOTTOM LINE: Coach Darryl Sutter must see tighter defensive play, better goaltending and stronger even-strength play ASAP.
GOOD NEWS: Defenseman Jason Garrison (two goals, two assists) is flourishing under new coach John Tortorella.
BAD NEWS: Torts lost some heft with ruffians Alexandre Burrows (lower body injury) and Zack Kassian (suspension) missing from his top two lines.
BOTTOM LINE: The Sedin Twins appear serious about earning one more big NHL contract, so this team will contend.
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Craig Anderson (1.92 GAA, .948 save percentage) picked up where he left off last season.
BAD NEWS: They allowed 75 shots in their first 125 minutes. Tighter defense is needed.
BOTTOM LINE: Just wait until the top line starts pumping in goals.
NEW YORK RANGERS
GOOD NEWS: Coach Alain Vigneault has brought Brad Richards (two goals in two games) back to life. Perhaps he should give CPR lessons.
BAD NEWS: They featured a one-line offense while splitting their first two games.
BOTTOM LINE: If this team can get its special teams organized, it will compete for a decent Eastern Conference playoff seed.
GOOD NEWS: Young guns Lars Eller, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk combined for 12 points in three games.
BAD NEWS: Top winger Max Pacioretty (arm injury) didn’t make it through the first game in one piece.
BOTTOM LINE: Offensive depth up front, firepower on the blue line and a top goaltender combine to make the Habs dangerous.
GOOD NEWS: Young winger Jakob Silfverberg scored three points in the first three games, adding some much-needed depth to the attack.
BAD NEWS: That horrific 6-1 loss at Colorado raised serious concerns about this team’s defense.
BOTTOM LINE: The Jonas Hiller/Viktor Fasth goaltending duo must perform a lot better to keep this team in the hunt.
GOOD NEWS: Newcomer Mikhail Grabovski debuted with a four-point game.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Braden Holtby (4.47 GAA, .848 save percentage) stumbled early, again.
BOTTOM LINE: The sad sack Southeast Division is no more, so this team must get much better at even strength.
GOOD NEWS: Back-up goaltender Anton Khudobin beat the Flyers 2-1 in his regular season debut. Cam Ward will have to earn his ironman status in goal this season.
BAD NEWS: With Joni Pitaken (broken heel) sidelined for the season, the Hurricanes are prone to defensive collapses like the one they suffered against Detroit at home.
BOTTOM LINE: Blue line inexperience makes coach Kirk Muller’s job much, much tougher.
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Semyon Varlamov stopped 61 of the first 63 shots he faced this season. Is he cured?
BAD NEWS: Winger Gabriel Landeskog suffered a minor leg injury, but the Avs kept attacking without him.
BOTTOM LINE: With the mercurial Patrick Roy on the bench, this team will seldom go quietly into the night. Coach fights are entirely possible this season.
GOOD NEWS: Newcomers Michael Frolik and Devin Setoguchi have scored two goals each to fuel this offense.
BAD NEWS: The Jets rank in the NHL’s bottom third in penalty killer and scoring defense.
BOTTOM LINE: The Jets are sure fun to watch, but can they play enough defense to reach postseason play?
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Kari Lehtonen proved his worth with a 2-1 victory over the Capitals.
BAD NEWS: That season-opening 4-2 loss reminded new coach Lindy Ruff that chemistry takes time to build.
BOTTOM LINE: Once this team begins sustaining offensive pressure, Tyler Seguin and Co. will have some fun.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
GOOD NEWS: Michael Grabner has been the team’s best offensive player.
BAD NEWS: Michael Grabner has been the team’s best offensive player.
BOTTOM LINE: An unproven defense minus Mark Streit will make their playoff bid difficult.
GOOD NEWS: Radim Vrbata scored three times in his first games.
BAD NEWS: Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson is day to day with an upper body injury.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s early, but the ‘Yotes need to get much better on special teams.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
GOOD NEWS: Sniper Marian Gaborik is healthy and gunning for a new contract.
BAD NEWS: Power forward Nathan Horton (shoulder surgery) will miss a big chunk of the season, depleting this offense.
BOTTOM LINE: Hockey czar John Davidson is bringing a competitive team to the Eastern Conference.
GOOD NEWS: Winger Zach Parise earned his big check by scoring two goals in his first two games.
BAD NEWS: Losing No. 2 center Charlie Coyle won’t make life easier. He was playing between Dany Heatley and Nino Niederreiter.
BOTTOM LINE: This team will need more from goaltender Niklas Backstrom (2.77 GAA, .875 save percentage) to hang around.
GOOD NEWS: Rookie defenseman Seth Jones is playing 22 minutes a night and looking as good as advertised.
BAD NEWS: This team needs to generate offense from the back end – and the defensemen didn’t register a point in the first two losses.
BOTTOM LINE: A tough road confronts Barry Trotz, who may lose his Coach for Life designation.
GOOD NEWS: Top center Claude Giroux made a speedy return from his later summer golf injury.
BAD NEWS: Like most of the key Flyers, Giroux did little to prevent the first three losses.
BOTTOM LINE: New coach Craig Berube can only hope this team plays half as hard as he did. Suspect defense and goaltending is a lot to overcome.
GOOD NEWS: Top center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made an early return from shoulder surgery and scored in his first game back.
BAD NEWS: No. 2 center Sam Gagner could miss several more weeks with a broken jaw.
BOTTOM LINE: The Oilers need goaltender Devan Dubynk (0-2, 6.53 GAA, .831 save percentage) to seal those leaks.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
GOOD NEWS: Swiss gunner Damien Brunner may be the free agent steal of the summer. He came to camp on a tryout, earned a deal and scored three goals in his first three games.
BAD NEWS: Iconic goaltender Martin Brodeur has a 3.24 GAA and .868 save percentage. This is why the team acquired Cory Schneider replace him.
BOTTOM LINE: GM Lou Lamoriello has cobbled together an offense in Ilya Kovalchuk’s absence, but that defense is suspect.
GOOD NEWS: The teenage Aleksander Barkov is a beast. What happens when he is 25?
BAD NEWS: That haunting 7-0 loss at St. Louis underscored the team’s defensive vulnerability.
BOTTOM LINE: Goaltender Tim Thomas should be able to steal some victories while Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau develop into major stars.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Ben Bishop was outstanding in his first start.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Anders Lindback was less than outstanding in his first start.
BOTTOM LINE: One of those two must become a solid NHL netminder or the great Steven Stamkos will go to waste.
GOOD NEWS: Led by Jiri Hudler, this team scored 11 goals in the first three games.
BAD NEWS: Top forward Sven Baertschi has made only halting process and goaltenders Kari Ramo and Joey MacDonald are often left on their own.
BOTTOM LINE: Apparently this team can feel Brian Burke’s searing glare all the way from the press box. The undermanned Flames have been competitive so far.
GOOD NEWS: Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen looks like a legitimate building block.
BAD NEWS: Forward Ville Leino’s rib injury makes a bad team worse.
BOTTOM LINE: They lost their first three games by a composite 7-2 score. They are just waiting for the fire sale to begin.