The NHL regular season is finally underway, and several teams are off to surprisingly good start. However, not every team has been so fortunate, as some teams have opened the 2015-16 season with a lackluster, and even embarrassing effort. However, which of these teams are only in a quick slump, and will be okay in the long run?
Check out our short list of teams that will bounce back from their poor starts.
While most people probably didn’t pick the Boston Bruins as their Stanley Cup prediction, the start to their 2015-16 campaign began very poorly. The bad news for Bruins fans is this: the Bruins only gained four out of the possible ten points in their first five games. The good news? Those four points have come in their past two games, during which Boston earned its first two wins.
Boston’s early struggles resulted from a couple of issues. For one, the Bruins locker room has an extremely new face to it this season, and in its first three games, it’s obvious that players are still getting used to one another.
On top of that, Boston’s early schedule was pretty brutal, especially for a team that is still figuring out what its identity is. Boston’s first game was against the Winnipeg Jets, a team that is now off to a 4-2-0 start with a plus-seven goal differential. In a game that Boston looked extremely solid in the first period, the team collapsed in the second, and fell to the Jets.
From there, the Bruins took on two of the Eastern Conference’s strongest teams: The Montreal Canadiens (who are a perfect 6-0-0 with a plus-13 goal differential), and the reigning Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning, who are sitting at second in the conference at 4-2-0).
To make matters worse, Boston’s rock, Tuukka Rask, has had a sub-par start to the season. He currently has a .851 save percentage, accompanied by a 4.29 goals against average – numbers that are extremely pedestrian for the previous Vezina Trophy winner.
However, despite Boston’s early issues, the team is poised to make a comeback, which may already be underway. Boston’s trip West was a tremendous success, as the team strung together two big wins, proving that they can at least be competent this season. The Bruins had a breakout 6-2 win against Colorado on Wednesday, accompanied by a 5-3 victory against the Coyotes, in a game in which the Bruins blew a lead, but recovered to get the “W.”
Boston has the tools to be a successful team this season. Their offensive is arguably deeper than it was last season, and early injuries have plagued a young blue-line, which is the team’s biggest issue. If Tuukka Rask can return to his true ways, the team can push for a playoff spot this season.
The Anaheim Ducks have no business being the second-worst team in the Western Conference. After reaching the Western Conference Finals last season, many hockey experts believed that this was the year that the Ducks could take home Lord Stanley’s Cup. This season’s start has not shown signs of that.
Don’t fret, Ducks fans – the slump should be over soon.
Anaheim has shown several misleading signs this season. The Ducks started out by dropping two relatively close games, one in regulation, and one in overtime, to begin with an 0-1-1 record. However, their next two games were pretty brutal, as the Ducks were shutout twice in a row, 4-0 against the Coyotes, and 3-0 against the Avalanche. They picked up their first win on Sunday, with a 4-1 victory against a solid Minnesota Wild team.
A little more depressing is Anaheim’s numbers this season. The team is averaging a lackluster 1.0 goals per game – a number that is downright embarrassing for any NHL team. On top of that, the Ducks powerplay is scoreless in 13 chances thus far, a statistic that has played a large role in the team’s 1-3-1 start.
However, the look for the future is still optimistic for the Ducks, a team with plenty of tools to be successful.
“The first win is always the hardest,” said Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau said following Sunday’s victory, per dailynews.com.“Hopefully, we’ll learn from the mistakes we’ve made. We can understand now that we can score and play well at times.
“Hopefully, it’s like a snowball and builds and continues.”
Despite Anaheim’s troubles, starting goaltender Frederik Andersen is off to a great start. His 0-2-1 record does not reflect his abilities, which have earned him a .947 save percentage and 1.57 goals against average to start the season.
On top of that, the Ducks have a solid core in Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler, all of whom will be expected to produce offensively for the Ducks this season.
While Anaheim’s start to the season has been nothing short of a let-down, the team’s woes should be over soon.
The Pittsburgh Penguins made several huge moves this season, including the addition of Phil Kessel, that had many people calling them one of the beasts of the East coming into the season. However, the team’s start hasn’t exactly struck fear into the hearts of their opponents.
The Penguins lost their first three games, despite a solid effort by goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury has a .937 save percentage and a 1.82 goals against average so far this season, and has yet to give up more than three goals in a game (including one shutout).
Meanwhile, the Pens have a dangerous set of offensive weapons, capped off by Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel.
The Penguins will need their newest additions, such as Kessel and Bonino, to amp things up a bit before they can become a true Eastern Conference powerhouse. However, they possess the tools to be an extremely successful team this season, especially if Marc-Andre Fleury can continue to be successful in between the pipes for the Pens.
Cam is a Broadcast Journalism student at the University of Maryland. He’s the Boston Bruins Beat Writer at The Hockey Writers, and is an avid college hockey fan. Find him on Twitter @CamHasbrouck!