There’s been a fair share of tasty moments and ghoulishly frightening performances during the first month of the 2017-18 NHL season.
So, in keeping with the Halloween spirit, here’s a sampling of the top tricks and treats, so far, as October comes to a close.
NHL’s October Tricks
Oilers’ well is dry
Ten games into the season, Connor McDavid and Co. scored a grand total of 22 goals!
Expected to be the most exciting offensive show out West, if not in the entire league, the Oilers currently shoot more blanks than every other team (2.20). Maybe it’s a Canadian thing since the Calgary Flames score the second-fewest goals (2.25)? The Canadiens sported an NHL-worst 2.00 mark until their eight-goal outburst Monday bumped it to 2.50.
The Oilers scored three goals — all by McDavid — on opening night. It took two weeks to reach that total again, and they’ve scored three goals or more only three times this season (accounting for two of their three wins). McDavid has two goals since the opener. Ryan Strome — already mentioned in trade rumors — has just one. Leon Draisaitl missed four games due to a concussion and has only one goal in the games he’s played. Only three goals are from the defense. Just four scored on the power play.
The well going dry stands out even more when Cam Talbot allows four goals or more in four of his nine starts to date.
Rangers and Canadiens historically bad
The Canadiens just celebrated their 100th anniversary, while the Rangers are in their 91st season. Yet very few of their respective organizational predecessors started as poorly as the current editions.
Almost a full month into the season, this pair from the NHL’s Original Six reside at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The Rangers with eight points, one less than the Canadiens after the Habs’ 5-4 win over the Blueshirts Saturday at the Bell Centre and Monday’s 8-3 romp of the Senators.
MORE: Canadiens’ poor start is unsustainably bad
**Side Note**: over the summer, Hockey Night in Canada marketing execs must have been thrilled with this early-season Canadiens-Rangers prime-time Saturday match up. Original Six. Rematch of last spring’s first-round playoff series won by New York. Carey Price vs. Henrik Lundqvist. However, the reality of two cellar dwellers playing another inept defensive contest? No so pretty.
Back to the main point. Neither team scores much, especially at even strength; and neither keeps the puck out of their net well enough. The Habs — with a porous, slow defense and a shaky Price, so far — allowed an average of 3.75 goals through the first 12 games, fourth worst in the NHL. Lundqvist and the Rangers surrender bad early goals on a nightly basis, and surrendered the seventh-most goals on average through 12 games (3.50).
Coach Alain Vigneault is on the hot seat in New York. Ditto for GM Marc Bergevin in Montreal.
Coyotes’ desert collapse
General manager John Chayka thought for sure he fixed most of the Coyotes’ issues by acquiring Derek Stepan, Antti Raanta and Niklas Hjalmarsson this summer and hiring Rick Tocchet as head coach.
Not so fast there, John.
The ‘Yotes finally won Monday (1-10-1), ending a stretch of nine straight regulation defeats. They have an ugly-to-watch minus-21 goal differential, and Raanta, the presumed No. 1 in goal, has been injured and sidelined since Oct. 12.
Outside of the top line of Max Domi-Derek Stepan-Clayton Keller, no one scores for this team. Poor Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He’s out on the ice all the time, single handedly trying to limit the damage, and he’s got a minus-12 mark to show for it.
WATCH: Penguins’ Ryan Reaves scares the hot dogs out of teammate Phil Kessel
NHL’s October Treats
Tricks are the real treat
Connor McDavid and Wayne Simmonds recorded hat tricks on opening night. Brandon Saad and Alex Ovechkin followed with hatties the next night. And Ovechkin scored four goals in his next game, making him the first player in 100 years to notch back-to-back hat tricks in the season’s first two games.
In fact, hat tricks are all the rage so far this season. With two days remaining in October, there were 14 hat tricks already this month. John Tavares just earned NHL First Star honors for the past week by recording two hat tricks last week, so it’s not like the trend is slowing down any time soon.
A year ago, when Auston Matthews scored four goals in his NHL debut, there were eight hat tricks in the month of October. The most three-goal games during the 2016-17 season were the 12 recorded in February, two fewer than this October.
Goalies might not like it, but the fans do. Let this be the Season of the Chapeau!
The kids are all right
Two years ago there was Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel leading the rookie class. Last season was among the most-talented group of rookies in recent memory with Auston Matthews, Zach Werenski, Patrik Laine, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and Sebastian Aho leading the way.
This season’s crop pf first-year players is not nearly as sexy at first glimpse, but it impressed in the season’s first month.
Will Butcher, the reigning Hobey Baker Award winner, has 11 assists in New Jersey’s first 10 games, seven on the power play. Arizona’s Clayton Keller rose up above the muck of his team’s terrible start with eight goals in the first 12 games. Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev arrived over the summer from Montreal, claimed a spot on the Lightning blueline and has himself four goals, 11 points, two game-winners and five power-play points in 13 games.
Not many knew of Jesper Bratt nor Adrian Kempe, yet Bratt has four goals and 10 points already for the Devils and Kempe has six goals for the Kings. Both played key roles in their respective teams rise to first place.
There was more hype surrounding Vancouver’s Brock Boeser and Boston’s Charlie McAvoy. Neither has disappointed, each with seven assists already. And top overall pick Nico Hischier has seven points.
In a league skewing younger and younger, this year’s rookie class is holding up its end of the bargain.
MORE: Stories behind creepiest goalie masks in NHL history
Once were down, now are up
The Devils, Lightning and Kings all missed the playoffs last season. As of today, all three reside in first place in their respective divisions.
New Jersey and Tampa Bay are doing it with exciting offensive play. The 8-2-0 Devils scored the fewest goals in the Eastern Conference last season, and this year their young, talented group gets contributions up and down the lineup. The 10-1-1 Lightning have a healthy-again Steven Stamkos leading the league with 24 points and rising superstar Nikita Kucherov tops in the NHL with 13 goals.
Meanwhile, the Kings are the best defensive team in the NHL with a 2.00 team goals-against average. A 5-1-0 road record fuels an overall 9-1-1 start to the season for a team few expected to be in the playoff picture.
Then there is the NHL’s best story to date, the expansion Vegas Golden Knights breaking one record after another on their way to winning eight of their first nine games. They had a five-game win streak snapped Monday to start a six-game road trip, but at 8-2-0 are miles ahead of where everyone thought they would be one month into their existence.
And speaking of the unexpected, how about Travis Green’s Canucks? Owners of a 4-1-0 road mark and 6-3-2 to start the season while scoring three goals a game. How many predicted those numbers?
Now comes the tough part for these teams — especially for the over-achieving Devils, Canucks and Golden Knights: keep it going for the next six months.