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Revisiting our 2017-18 NHL season predictions at the 1st quarter pole

How have we done at predicting a nearly unpredictable sport?

Vegas Golden Knights v Anaheim Ducks Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

American Thanksgiving has come and gone, bringing with it the end of the NHL’s grace period. We’re now more than a quarter of the way through the 2017-18 NHL season, giving us more than enough time to look at how the chips have fallen so far.

As we’ve turned the corner into the middle stages of a long NHL season, now is probably the best time to take a look at how our preseason predictions have held up. Now may be the time to worry a bit if your team hasn’t performed up to expectations, as while it’s still too early to call teams playoff locks yet, teams can most certainly pace themselves out of one at this point in the season.

Considering we made such a to-do about our preseason predictions that made up the bulk of our 2017-18 season preview, we’d be remiss if we didn’t revisit them at the quarter pole of the season.

Atlantic Division

SB Nation's preseason prediction Atlantic Division standings as of 11/27 Points
SB Nation's preseason prediction Atlantic Division standings as of 11/27 Points
Tampa Bay Lightning Tampa Bay Lightning* 34
Toronto Maple Leafs Toronto Maple Leafs* 31
Boston Bruins Detroit Red Wings* 25
Montreal Canadiens Boston Bruins 24
Buffalo Sabres Ottawa Senators 22
Ottawa Senators Montreal Canadiens 21
Florida Panthers Florida Panthers 18
Detroit Red Wings Buffalo Sabres 16
* Indicates a playoff position

To be fair, predicting the Lightning and Maple Leafs would sit atop the Atlantic Division is almost too easy given the talent both teams possess. Where we really faltered is in not giving the Detroit Red Wings the credit they deserve in amassing a 10-9-5 record so far this year.

In goal, Jimmy Howard has been excellent for the Red Wings with a .923 save percentage in 19 games played. Dylan Larkin has overcome his sophomore slump to help lead Detroit to, at least for now, a playoff spot.

The Bruins, to their credit, are only one point out of third place in the Atlantic despite Tuukka Rask’s struggles and a nagging injury bug.

Where the real mess in the Atlantic lies is at the bottom. We had the Canadiens missing the playoffs just barely in our preseason predictions, but even we couldn’t foresee the drama with Carey Price unfolding in the manner it has. While I wasn’t high on the Senators in the preseason, they’ve done better this season than I thought despite the Matt Duchene trade having yet to pay off.

Unfortunately, not much has been able to save the Sabres this season despite Jack Eichel and Evander Kane’s attempts to do so on offense. Much like we theorized, the tandem of Chad Johnson and Robin Lehner in net has been an incredible disappointment, but more-so than we thought as the pair have put up the NHL’s second-worst combined .891 save percentage. A fifth place finish may not be off the board yet, but the team has won just three games in the month of November.

Metropolitan Division

SB Nation's preseason prediction Metropolitan Division standings as of 11/27 Points
SB Nation's preseason prediction Metropolitan Division standings as of 11/27 Points
Pittsburgh Penguins New Jersey Devils* 32
Washington Capitals Columbus Blue Jackets* 31
Columbus Blue Jackets New York Islanders* 30
Carolina Hurricanes Washington Capitals* 29
Philadelphia Flyers New York Rangers* 28
New York Rangers Pittsburgh Penguins 27
New York Islanders Carolina Hurricanes 24
New Jersey Devils Philadelphia Flyers 22
* Indicates a playoff position

Most of the Metropolitan Division heavyweights have stumbled a bit to start the new season, but given the point spread from first and sixth in the division is five points, the standings may look totally different next week.

The biggest surprise is clearly the Devils, who have ridden incredible rookie performances from defenseman Will Butcher and forward Nico Hischier, alongside the resurgence of Taylor Hall as the team’s top scorer. In goal, Cory Schneider has been extremely stable for the team as he’s helped the Devils rocket out to a hot start.

While teams like the Capitals and Rangers have been climbing as of late, the Islanders are also another surprise in the Metro’s top three. While their goaltending needs work, their offensive core with Josh Bailey, John Tavares, and rookie Mathew Barzal have helped them to a 7-2-1 record in their last 10 games.

Also doing well are the Blue Jackets, who have quietly won six games in a row to capture the Metro’s second spot. While they are in the middle of the pack in terms of scoring, Sergei Bobrovsky has done excellent once again in goal.

The final two spots in the Metropolitan Division belong to the Hurricanes and Flyers, who have both struggled in certain regards. Philadelphia has lost their offensive touch once again, and have lost a league-leading six times in overtime. The Hurricanes, meanwhile, are dealing with so-so goaltending and a young defensive core that is still working through the early season struggles.

Central Division

SB Nation's preseason prediction Central Division standings as of 11/27 Points
SB Nation's preseason prediction Central Division standings as of 11/27 Points
Minnesota Wild St. Louis Blues* 35
Dallas Stars Winnipeg Jets* 31
Nashville Predators Nashville Predators* 31
Chicago Blackhawks Chicago Blackhawks 25
Winnipeg Jets Dallas Stars 25
St. Louis Blues Minnesota Wild 25
Colorado Avalanche Colorado Avalanche 24
* Indicates a playoff position

First, sorry to the St. Louis Blues for doubting you. The injuries the team sustained early in the season haven’t slowed them down one bit, as the trio of Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz, and Vladimir Tarasenko have shot the lights out so far. Even though there are still questions with Jake Allen in net, the Blues offense has been too overpowering.

Also deserving of an apology are the Winnipeg Jets, who have seemingly found their goaltender in Connor Hellebuyck. While Patrik Laine is still figuring a way out of his sophomore slump, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler have kept the team rolling through the early stages.

We pegged the Predators and Blackhawks quite well, though Chicago is on the outside looking in on the playoffs right now thanks to defensive miscues that even Corey Crawford can’t stop.

The two big pieces that have tumbled this year have been the Wild and Stars. Minnesota traded away offense in the offseason and their younger stars haven’t stepped up like many thought they would. Devan Dubnyk has also been average in net, and not like the star that started the first half of last season. The Stars are also getting subpar goaltending, as Ben Bishop has yet to stand out like he once did with Tampa Bay. The big stars are producing for Dallas, but the depth isn’t there so far.

And bringing up the rear is, unsurprisingly, the Avalanche, though even they aren’t out of it as the bottom four teams in the Central are all within a point of one another.

Pacific Division

SB Nation's preseason prediction Pacific Division standings as of 11/27 Points
SB Nation's preseason prediction Pacific Division standings as of 11/27 Points
Edmonton Oilers Vegas Golden Knights* 31
Anaheim Ducks Los Angeles Kings* 29
Calgary Flames Calgary Flames* 27
San Jose Sharks San Jose Sharks* 26
Arizona Coyotes Vancouver Canucks* 26
Los Angeles Kings Anaheim Ducks 24
Vegas Golden Knights Edmonton Oilers 20
Vancouver Canucks Arizona Coyotes 15
* Indicates a playoff position

In our worst predicted division, which is likely this way for many, the Vegas Golden Knights have been the surprise of the league with their 15-6-1 start. Not only that, the Golden Knights are doing so having played five goaltenders as the injury carousel has taken them to extremes. No one thought a ragtag bunch of players would put together such a start, but here they are.

Also outperforming our expectations have been the Los Angeles Kings, who have found ways to score after changing systems and getting an offensive resurgence from players like Dustin Brown.

Much like the Central Division, we placed the Flames and Sharks well so far this year. The Canucks, on the other hand, have done better than expected with their young core of Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, and Sven Baertschi doing the offensive heavy lifting. Vancouver has also gotten incredible backup goaltending from Anders Nilsson this year alongside an average Jacob Markstrom.

In the Pacific’s final three spots, we have the Ducks, Oilers, and Coyotes who were all expected to be better this season. Anaheim has been dealing with untimely injuries and are only five points out of second place in the division.

On the other hand, the Oilers and Coyotes have been experiencing disappointing seasons across the board. While Edmonton has the NHL’s best player in Connor McDavid, the rest has yet to click offensively for the team. Cam Talbot has also been human in net, and his superhuman antics from last season are well in the rearview mirror.

Arizona, meanwhile, has had some misfortune and bad luck along the way. On paper, the Coyotes should be better, but goaltending injuries and bad play have kept them from achieving more in a division they could have made improvements in.