It has been an interesting start to the NHL season to say the least. Perennially bad teams like the Calgary Flames, New York Islanders and Nashville Predators have done well for themselves, while teams that are usually considered Stanley Cup contenders like the Boston Bruins, the Colorado Avalanche and the St. Louis Blues have struggled out of the gate.  Now I know that it is far too early in the season to start overreacting to these figures, but it is still fair to wonder if such bad starts will sink these teams’ championship hopes before the season gets under way.

In terms of local teams, the aforementioned Islanders made some big trades during the offseason, bringing in former Bruins blueliner Johnny Boychuk and former Chicago Blackhawks rearguard Nick Leddy. Spurred on by these fine acquisitions, the Islanders won their first four games in a row before losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins last week. I am not sure if the Islanders can keep pace with the rest of the teams in their division, but if they keep getting stellar play from their star center John Tavares and their new goaltender Jaroslav Halák, look out.

The New York Rangers have struggled somewhat to start the season, though they have done reasonably well despite injuries to top-of-the-line center Derek Stepan and defender Dan Boyle, a free agency acquisition. They are being led by a resurgent Rick Nash, whose conspicuous lack of scoring brought the wrath of Rangers’ fans down upon him during last year’s playoffs. Nash leads the league in scoring, with seven goals in six games (and the lone goal in a shootout last week, though those don’t count on the score sheet).  For the Rangers to get back into the swing of things, it will take a great combined effort from Nash, all-star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and newly appointed captain Ryan McDonagh, but I think they are capable of it.

The New Jersey Devils got off to a hot start this season, winning their first three games on the road. Since that streak ended against the Washington Capitals last week, however, they Devils lost again and are at risk of losing three in a row. At this time that this is being written, the Devils have not yet squared off against the Rangers in a cross-state rivalry game of the utmost importance. But, with another loss, their once-promising start could be crashing down around their ears before they know it.  They will need strong play from goaltender Cory Schneider and veteran winger Jaromír Jágr if they want to make the playoffs this year.

Finally, the aforementioned Bruins got off to a slow start, losing three of their first four games and looking generally sluggish. Most distressing to Bruins fans everywhere is the slump that goaltender Tuukka Rask seems to be in, as he has posted a pedestrian .870 save percentage and a 2.90 goals-against-average, both of which are out of character for a goalie of his caliber. Things are looking up, however, as they walloped the Buffalo Sabres to the tune of 4-0 this past Saturday, and young defender Dougie Hamilton scored his first points of the year.  The Bruins should have no trouble rediscovering themselves and returning to form as long as they continue to get excellent play from centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejčí and if Rask can find his groove again.

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