NHL Off to a Hot Start

Rookie Goalie Kevin Lankinen has been a surprising star this season for the Blackhawks. Photo Credit: AP Photos

Kevin Gallagher – Sports Writer

The 2020-21 NHL season is currently a month in and has seen its ups and downs since the start.  Covid-19 has affected many teams already as they have to postpone games because of the protocols the NHL has set.  This season had fans excited though because of the temporary division realignments.  Since Canada it is hard to get into from the United States, the NHL had to create an all-Canadian division. This has set for plenty of rivalry games such as Edmonton against Calgary and Ottawa against Toronto.  In the United States, the divisions are aligned so to limit travel.  The NHL has stated that teams will only play other teams in their division to keep the contact among these teams. 

            Many of the teams that were successful last season have continued to win.  Toronto is dominating the Canadian teams while out west, Vegas and Colorado both have good odds to make the Stanley Cup Final.  Boston continues to dominate the Atlantic division, which is named the East division for this year.  Tampa continues to find success after winning the Stanley Cup last year.  Some teams that made the playoffs last year have started to struggle this season.  Pittsburgh is starting to see age affect their play as star players such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang struggle to find any offensive success.  The Rangers have also struggled as well as Mika Zibanejad has struggled to produce offensively as well as the first overall pick from this past draft Alexis Lafreniere. 

            Some teams have risen through the cracks though.  Chicago, even without captain Jonathan Toews, has surprised many this season as they have been on a point streak recently.  After giving away Corey Crawford, many thought Chicago would be hurting goaltender wise.  With rookie goalie Kevin Lankinen dominating in the crease and Patrick Kane off to an explosive offensive season, Chicago has been able to win games against some tough teams.  Edmonton has also found success recently with veteran goaltender Mike Smith.  Starting goalie Miko Koskinen had been struggling in net through the first month in the season, so Edmonton needed to make changes has they have two of the best scorers in the league in Connor Mcdavid and Leon Draisaitl.  Montreal has been a surprise to everyone, as they struggled to make the playoffs last year.  With the additions of Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson leading the way for offense for the Canadiens, they should expect to make it past the first round of the playoffs if they continue to play like this. 

            This season is still up in the air as Covid-19 continues to hurt teams causing them to postpone games.  Some teams are finding success this season that have struggled in the past, so will we see new teams in the playoffs? We likely will when the playoffs begin in May.