The first week of the NHL season, like a glass of room-temperature tap water, always goes down so smooth after you’ve been deprived. You know it’s not going to taste the best but you really don’t care because you’re so damn thirsty. That’s what the start of October usually brings — slightly slower, less crisp, lower-quality of hockey that draws you in simply because you’ve been without it for so long.
It’s not that pristinely-filtered reverse osmosis delicacy, but it will do.
Not this year, though. The start of the 2019-20 campaign has been exciting, unpredictable and frankly strange as hell. Let’s take a shallow dive into some of the straight-up weirdness we’ve been exposed to over the past week without making even the slightest attempt to try and understand any of it.
Devils’ abrupt shift from elite to terrible
For 34 minutes, the Devils looked LEGIT. The rookies and newly-hired guns were flying as New Jersey came out and hammered the Jets early to take a 4-0 lead. Then Winnipeg scored the next four goals in regulation, plus the shootout winner and left the Prudential Center ice before anyone in the building knew what the hell happened.
The Devils followed that up by getting absolutely crushed by the, uhh, first-place Sabres — also very weird — and getting blanked by the Flyers on Wednesday night, meaning the Devils were outscored 16-2 in their last seven-ish periods. This is an all-time swing.
Did our well-intended second-period tweet during their opening game curse the Devils? Hard to say.
the Devils are going to be fun as hell this year aren't they— Yahoo Sports NHL (@YahooSportsNHL) October 5, 2019
Tampa’s strange shot drought
The Lightning have carried a bit of that sluggish form they displayed in their sweeping first-round exit at the hands of the Blue Jackets last spring into the start of this season. The 1-1-1 start is whatever, but a 45-minute stint versus the Hurricanes where the Bolts only recorded TWO shots is mind-blowing.
A potent lineup featuring the reigning MVP and a former 60-goal scorer — among a plethora of other weapons — had less shots on net (two) in in the final 44 minutes of the game than the Canes had in overtime alone (3). The Canes finished the contest with 44 shots on Curtis McElhinney, while Tampa Bay had 29 total shot... attempts. Wut.
Carolina is looking like a juggernaut early on but I can’t remember a time when a team this jacked with talent laid an egg like this. WEIRD.
Oilers and Ducks are ... undefeated
The best part about extremely small sample sizes in which you can’t draw any logical conclusions is that we got to wake up to this the last couple mornings:
Why, yes those are your co-leaders of the Pacific Division, the projected-powerhouse Ducks and Oilers. Anaheim can pin literally any success it has this season on goaltender John Gibson, who may be the best netminder in the NHL and who’s put up a .970 save percentage through his first three games. Edmonton, uhh, can thank the guy they traded Milan Lucic for? Sweet Jesus.
Rocket Richard Trophy candidate James Neal
Your NHL’s leading goal scorer (as of this writing) is James Neal, who was already being hailed as a hero after playing the return-piece role in allowing the Oilers to get out of that vomit-inducing Lucic contract. AS WE ALL EXPECTED the real effin’ deal has six tallies through his first three contests with the Oilers and set a bunch of obscure franchise marks in the process.
He posted a goddamn four-goal game the other night and his shot looks to be a serious weapon again. It seems our preseason questions were misguided — we should have been asking ourselves this the whole time:
All along it should have been "Are McDavid and Draisaitl good enough to play with Neal and Kassian?"— Yahoo Sports NHL (@YahooSportsNHL) October 9, 2019
The Sharks kind of stink
Obviously every take I have is bad and the Sharks could very well end up making another deep playoff run with that talent-laden roster, but man San Jose has been big trash so far. Through four games the team has been outscored 17-5 and has failed to pick up a single point after dropping all four in regulation. The goaltending hasn’t been great but they also haven’t been able to score — a suboptimal combination when trying to win hockey games, me thinks.
And I love this man with all my heart but the Sharks just signed 40-year-old Patrick Marleau, who had 21 points in 81 games last season and shoved him on their first line right out of the gate. So yeah things are getting WEIRD in the Bay Area at the moment.
The Jets’ ghosting blue line
All of Winnipeg’s defencemen just vanished into thin air and all of a sudden the Jets had to rock a blue line against the Penguins this week consisting of not one defenceman who logged top-EIGHT minutes for the team last season. Ben Chiarot, Tyler Myers and Jacob Trouba all departed this summer via free agency or trade, Dustin Byfuglien kinda-sorta retired and Josh Morrissey and Dmitri Kulikov were both out of the lineup for precautionary and personal reasons, respectively.
So the Jets had to trot out essentially an AHL-plus defence corps and proceeded to dominate the Pens, with that depleted blue line scoring three of the Jets’ four goals in the contest — because of course they did.
Honorable mention: The Vancouver Canucks won a game 8-2 on Wednesday. Very odd.
More NHL coverage from Yahoo Sports