USA Today's Kevin Allen and Jimmy Hascup issue "early overreactions" to the NHL season thus far:
Nikita Kucherov could be the MVP: True. His seven-game goal scoring streak to start the season reflects a star entering his prime, not a player experiencing a hot streak. He netted 30 goals in 2015-16 and 40 goals last season. His wicked shot, experience and elusiveness give him 50-goal ability. He meshes well with Lightning linemates Steven Stamkos and Vladislav Namestnikov. He has a career 54.6% Corsi, which is an indication of puck possession. Kucherov could end up with monstrous statistics. If the Lightning continue to be among the NHL’s best teams, Kucherov will be in Hart conversation.
New York Rangers (1-5-1) are done: False. Regardless if the struggles cost coach Alain Vigneault his job, the Rangers still possess enough talent to be a playoff team. With Kevin Shattenkirk, the defense has been molded to transition the puck better, and it doesn’t seem likely the defense will be this bad all year. The forward group — even without a true star — has the pieces to be effective. Even if they don’t match the scoring rate of 9.3% at five-on-five from last season, they won’t shoot 5.2% all year. At 35, Henrik Lundqvist is still very good.
NHL’s increased crackdown on slashing will create a significant scoring increase: False. Teams are averaging 3.10 goals per game. If that would hold for an entire season, it would be the first time in 13 years teams have averaged three goals per game. But we’ve seen this before: The NHL changes how it officiates the game, and goals go up. We know it’s only temporary. Right now, the number of power play opportunities have increased and shots on goal are up by two shots per game (30.1 to 32.1). But history tells us NHL players will adapt quickly. Before long, we will be back below three goals per game.