The Saturday Slate is a weekly discussion or platform where members of Win Column Sports provide their respective opinions and thoughts on an event that took place in the prior week. Additionally, there is also a running pool amongst the contributors based on our picks for Saturday’s match-ups. This week, the Win Column panel discusses the NHL action on November 17th.
We’re roughly a quarter way through the NHL season and all predictions are out the window. Teams are starting to shape, and playoff races are already starting to form. While there’s still a lot of hockey left to be played, it’s easy to see who the front runners are and who the pretenders are. The Saturday Slate crew gives their opinion on the surprising and disappointing storylines so far through the 2018-2019 NHL season.
As an Oilers fan it pains me to say this, but how can you not feel a little bit good about the Vancouver Canucks? Despite a recent four-game skid, the team sits second in the Pacific Division and with some luck, could be a playoff team come April. Elias Pettersson looks poised to be an elite player for years to come, while Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser and Jake Virtanen speak to the depth of the Canucks forward core. The rebuild is in full effect in Vancouver, but we may be seeing results earlier than expected.
After a fairy-tale run to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, it seems as though reality has finally caught up to the Las Vegas Golden Knights. With an 8-11-1 record, the team sits second-last in the weak Pacific division, trailing such world beaters as the Edmonton Oilers and the Arizona Coyotes. Their once potent offence has completely dried up, with the team only managing to score more than two goals eight times this season. William Karlsson, Eric Haula and Reilly Smith have combined for a total of nine goals, and the team sits 27th overall in goals for league-wide. I shudder to think of what this team would be like without Marc-Andre Fleury; we could be looking at a team in the league’s basement. At least their Twitter account is still great.
My most surprising storyline so far is how well the Vancouver Canucks have played, they currently sit in second place in the Pacific Division and are only one point behind San Jose. Vancouver was a team that was destined to be a bottom feeder due to the retirement of the Sedin’s. Powered by an amazing start to his rookie campaign by Pettersson, who currently has 17 points in 15 games and other young guns leading the way in Horvat and Boeser. The Canucks are a team that is playing with a bunch of confidence and simply having fun playing hockey. They aren’t world beaters with a 10-9-2 record but compared to where they were predicted to finish. They are doing just fine.
I haven’t read their stories yet, but I feel like we might have some duplicate opinions on the most disappointing storyline so far this season. Mine is the Los Angeles Kings, a team that was predicted to do a lot better this year and hopefully challenge for the division championship is currently sitting at 5-11-1. The Kings own a league-worst goal differential at -21 and simply look like they can’t pull anything together. At least one positive for the Kings is their investment in Ilya Kovalchuk is paying off as he is leading the team in points with 14. However, they’re going to need a better performance by Anze Kopitar if they don’t want to be out of the playoff picture by the all-star break.
Fresh off a hard-fought victory on Friday night, The Buffalo Sabres are 3rd in the Atlantic and tied for 3rd in the Eastern Conference with an 11-6-2 record which is mind-blowing, to say the least. Myself, along with basically any hockey fan expected the Sabres to fall flat as they have for the past couple seasons, but that isn’t the case so far. The additions of Pominville, Skinner, Sheary, and Dahlin have all paid dividends in the young season. The Sabres are also getting secondary scoring which is something that eludes many NHL teams. It’s an exciting time to be a Sabres fan, therefore, the Sabres are my selection for the most surprising team thus far.
What has happened to the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins? The Penguins are the lone basement dweller in the East sporting a 7-7-3 record and a +1 goal differential while rostering arguably one of the most potent offences in the East. The Pens have dealt with early season injuries, and goaltender woes but those can’t explain the consistent poor showings. The Penguins are a dangerous team, but until they come around they will continue to be the most disappointing team in my eyes.
The defending Stanley Cup champion is really having a fantastic start to the season. Yes. Barry Trotz has the New York Islanders off to a 10-6-2, led by hot goaltending courtesy of Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner. While this hot start isn’t likely to continue, the Islanders are winning and that cannot be ignored. A team expected to be a laughing stock is now in a playoff spot and we’ll enjoy it while it lasts.
Erik Karlsson has been the best defenseman in the league for the past number of seasons. With him shipped off to San Jose, the best defence corps in the league was now collected and ready to lead the way to the Stanley Cup. Twenty games and zero goals later, Karlsson is still waiting to unleash himself upon the Western Conference. Are the Sharks leading the Pacific? Yes. Does Karlsson still have 58 shots? You bet. Is Karlsson still on pace for 41 points? Absolutely. But with the Sharks sitting with a goal differential of 0, there is much room for improvement. Hold onto your butts, because when things start to line up for the Sharks, they’ll be as unstoppable as we thought they could be.
WinColumnSport’s Saturday Picks
|Lightning @ Flyers||Lightning||Lightning||Flyers||Lightning|
|Red Wings @ Devils||Devils||Devils||Devils||Red Wings|
|Sabres @ Wild||Wild||Wild||Sabres||Sabres|
|Blue Jackets @ Hurricanes||Blue Jackets||Blue Jackets||Hurricanes||Blue Jackets|
|Canadiens @ Canucks||Canucks||Canadiens||Canadiens||Canadiens|
|Panthers @ Rangers||Panthers||Panthers||Panthers||Panthers|
|Penguins @ Senators||Penguins||Penguins||Penguins||Penguins|
|Bruins @ Coyotes||Bruins||Bruins||Coyotes||Bruins|
|Kings @ Predators||Kings||Predators||Predators||Predators|
|Oilers @ Flames||Oilers||Flames||Flames||Oilers|
|Blues @ Sharks||Sharks||Sharks||Sharks||Sharks|
Records Thus Far:
- Carl: (13-10), Last Week: (6-5), Winning Percentage (56%)
- Ben: (33-29), Last Week: (6-5), Winning Percentage: (53%)
- Spencer: (28-34), Last Week: (6-5), Winning Percentage: (45%)
- Arik: (26-36), Last Week: (4-7), Winning Percentage: (42%)