The top of the NHL's Western Conference is populated by three teams who missed the playoffs last season, and two who were the worst teams in hockey. Colorado and Edmonton are hoping to make the climb all the way from the dregs to the playoffs, while Dallas missed last year's postseason by only two points and is now at the top of the Western standings.
Dallas is hoping to emulate the success of the city's NBA & MLB franchises and is doing it primarily with offense. Loui Eriksson is the leading scorer on the right wing and he gets fed by center Mike Ribiero and left-winger Steve Ott. A key strength of this attack has been ranking 4th in 5-onf-5 play, showing they aren't dependent on power plays to score.
Edmonton was the NHL's worst team, but has played respectable hockey early on through some outstanding defensive work, as goaltender Devan Dubnyk leads a team that is first in the league at stopping goals. Dyubnyk's save percentage of 92%, while phenomenal, isn't the best overall, which indicates some sound defensive work in front of him in preventing shots. With defenseman Ryan Whitney out the next couple weeks with a knee injury we'll see if the Oilers can sustain their success, especially given the offense is still the league's worst.
Colorado has been road warriors, sweeping all six games they've played away from Denver and in a city that really needs some sports success, a return to the Avalanche's winning ways in the mid-to-late 1990s and early '00s would be more than welcome. Colorado is another team doing it with defense, though their imbalance is not as dramatic as Edmonton's. Goaltender Semyone Vorlamov, along with first-line defenseman Erik Johnson and Jon Heja have led the way for Colorado early on.
There's a long way to go in this interminably long regular season, where 80 games are played to eliminate only 14 of 30 teams, but in Dallas, Edmonton and Colorado, there's some hope popping up early.