NHL Flame-o-Meter: No one is hotter than Alex Ovechkin and the Golden Knights
Ovi and the NHL's newest expansion team make up the hottest stories of the NHL's new season
As the NHL embarks on its second full week of the 2017-18 season, a handful of teams -- and one specific player -- have lit up the headlines.
In honor of their efforts, which will inevitably either be forgotten by season's end or precede a descent into mediocrity the following week, here's a look at our NHL Flame-o-Meter, your one-stop shop for hot and not-so-hot faces of the league:
White hot: Alex Ovechkin
Somebody get the oven mitts. Did he finally help the Capitals beat the Pittsburgh Penguins this week? No. But that doesn't matter. If you're looking for the hottest thing -- team or player -- in the NHL right now, it is most definitely our beloved Olympics enthusiast Ovi.
His production is astounding because of how so-so he looked at times in 2016-17, but it's also astounding because, well, eight goals in four games is darn near historic -- no, it is historic. Back-to-back hat tricks to start the year were a wakeup call for Ovechkin critics, and with his score against the Pens on Wednesday, he became just the third player in the past three decades to light the lamp that many times in four games. Think about this: Ovi needs 25 goals over the final 78 games to match his total from a season ago. Who said he was slowing down?
Piping hot: Vegas Golden Knights
Yeah, they're sizzlers. It's kind of a league-wide cliché already that Vegas is exceeding expectations. But really, this team has looked, you know, like a real NHL team. And this is coming from someone who has already said on multiple occasions that the Golden Knights could be primed for a much better debut than past expansion clubs. We understand that beating up on the Arizona Coyotes isn't exactly something that'll hold up as a real accomplishment over time, but then again, a week ago, Vegas had still played zero -- repeat: zero -- regular-season NHL games. So no matter how you slice it, shutting down the Dallas Stars 2-1 and then stomping Arizona in convincing fashion, including with a 4-0 first-period lead in front of the new home crowd Tuesday, was great stuff.
Deceptively hot: St. Louis Blues
St. Louis fans will tell you they are just plain hot. Here's a team that beefed up on talent over the summer, cementing its status as a sleeper contender after years and years of playoff appearances, then opened the year with a severely banged-up lineup and lowered expectations. And yet, four games in, here the Blues sit as the NHL's lone 4-0 team, with a top-five offense driving their early wins over big names like the Penguins, Stars, New York Islanders and New York Rangers.
Jake Allen has shown his stuff once again, Vladimir Tarasenko remains a beast and Brayden Schenn has already made his presence felt, plus the unit fought off some adversity on the road against the Rangers. Upcoming games against the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning will be key.
Warming up: Pittsburgh Penguins
The burner is on, if ever so faintly. No one honestly believed the defending champions were dead after they got edged by the Blues and shellacked by the Blackhawks, but there are still at least remnants of a funk to overcome here. Matt Murray has rebounded nicely from a rough start and he should be just fine in net after facing the brightest of spotlights during the team's Stanley Cup runs. Speaking of Cup runs, the Pens were awfully quiet at and after their recent White House visit, and depending on how you look at it, that might be a good thing for an organization that needs to find its consistent footing on the ice rather than fend off political disputes, even if it might have invited one by in the first place. Topping the Caps was a start.
Absolutely, unequivocally lukewarm: Montreal Canadiens
These Canadiens are borderline cold. How else do you describe a minus-eight goal differential for a team that employs Carey Price? We knew entering the campaign that Montreal was going to have to figure out how to score in the wake of Alexander Radulov's departure, and Jonathan Drouin made a nice debut with a shootout winner, but since then, Claude Julien has been left to oversee a disconcerting kickoff to the new season.
Maybe they were unlucky victims of Ovechkin's tear, but maybe they're also just ... not great? An overpaid Karl Alzner's has already been demoted, Price hasn't been his normal self and the entire unit, in transition post-Andrei Markov, hasn't finished. They're right there with the struggling Buffalo Sabres in the standings through four games, and they have upcoming matchups with the Toronto Maple Leafs (yikes) and Los Angeles Kings.
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