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The Cal Times student news is a publication of the Student Association Inc. at California University of Pennsylvania

Cal Times

The Cal Times student news is a publication of the Student Association Inc. at California University of Pennsylvania

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NHL Season Underway

Some Things Surprising, and Some Things Expected
NHL+Season+Underway
Sarah Seader
NHL Season Underway

The puck has dropped on the 2023-24 NHL season, with all 32 teams having at least 10 games played so far in the 82-game gauntlet. Let’s have a look at some of the outliers of the league, and how some teams can keep the magic alive, while others squander in hockey darkness. Connor Bedard is not on the way anymore, San Jose. My sincerest apologies. Let’s go.

The sport of hockey is wild and many view it as completely unpredictable. However, there are some great folks that make a career out of doing just that. ESPN’s Ryan Clark and Kristin Shilton took their best crack at it back in early October, unsurprisingly ranking the defending Stanley Cup Champion Vegas Golden Knights as the team to beat. Also unsurprisingly, that Vegas squad is currently the best team in the league with the league’s second best point differential. Not a difficult prediction to make, but a correct one.

Rounding out their Top 3 are the 2021-22 Champion Colorado Avalanche, who continue their dominance despite last year’s disappointing first-round exit, and the Carolina Hurricanes, a team that just cannot seem to put it all together. This season is looking like their best chance in years to do just that.

There was one team that no one could stop talking about during the previous regular season, and Clark/Shilton asserted that this record-breaking team would take a nosedive, at least by their standards. The Boston Bruins set a new NHL record for most points and wins in a season, coming in at an otherworldly 135 points. But the entire city of Boston would have their hearts ripped out in the first round by the Florida Panthers, a fringe playoff team that would go on to lose in the finals.

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So far, about a sixth of the way through the season, the Bruins have silenced many, and have proven they are not a fluke. 10-1-1 through 12 games have kept critics quiet. Despite losing cornerstone Patrice Bergeron to retirement, they have kept the ship sailing in Boston with star players like Pastrnak, Marchand, and McAvoy.

Let’s not pick on ESPN too heavily, though. Most NHL insiders predicted a slump for Beantown.

Now onto the legitimate shocks, both good and bad. As teams continue to rake in games and establish their identities, there are three teams that have entirely jumped the sharks, and there is one team that is the Sharks. Sorry again, San Jose.

The Vancouver Canucks have started 2023 hot after finishing last season with their heads barely above water. The Canadian squad have burst out to a 9-2-1 record through 12 games, firmly setting their sights on Vegas as the second place team in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference.

Elias Petterson and Quinn Hughes have been nothing short of extraordinary, but the true hero is their starting goaltender Thatcher Demko, who is quietly making his early case for the Vezina Trophy. A save percentage above .940 (between .895 and .905 is considered average), and a Goals Against Average of 1.6, which will likely increase as the season goes on (the best of the last 20 years is still over 2.0), but is still undeniably impressive.

Now onto the bad shocks. Sorry Edmonton, you do not get a pass here. Since the Wayne Gretzky days, the Edmonton Oilers have been a perennial underachiever. Franchise savior Connor McDavid has been the only player in the last 30 years to even touch the statistical prowess of the 1980s, with players like Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. However, his efforts have proven all for naught, and the road ahead is a long one.

The Oilers are currently number 31/32 in terms of points, saved only by the lowly divisional opponent, the Sharks. McDavid is averaging over a point per game, but the goaltending has been atrocious, and backup goalie Jack Campbell has just been placed on waivers, a telltale sign that Edmonton’s front office is failing to find any suitable replacement. A long season awaits the Oilers if they cannot turn this thing around, and the last thing that the citizens of Edmonton want is to waste another year of McDavid’s career.

Speaking of generational talents, Connor Bedard’s rookie year is going about as well as everyone expected. Unfortunately though, the Chicago Blackhawks are also performing as well as everyone expected. The Windy City sits at 4-7 through 11 games, and despite Bedard leading the team in goals and points, the team as a whole is averaging just 2.3 goals per game. This ranks 29th in the NHL (the last place Sharks are at 1.09, historically bad. Sorry for a third time, San Jose). This team currently sits at a 3.4% chance to make the playoffs according to MoneyPuck. There is a reason this organization had the number one overall pick.

Bouncing again to another generational talent, let’s finally talk about the local favorite Pittsburgh Penguins and Sidney Crosby. Yet again, the Penguins have struggled early, coming out of the gate with a 4-6 record through 10 games. One can only hope that the team finds another way to turn it around in the new year, as they have been so famous for doing previously. The back-to-back cups are becoming more and more of a distant, but still fond, memory. However, new additions Riley Smith and Erik Karlsson should provide franchise staples Crosby and Evegeni Malkin with some long term breathing room, which we have seen some of already.

Offense has always been the bread and butter of the Pens, and it is showing despite their record. Pittsburgh is currently eighth in the league in goals per game at 3.6. Some shaky goaltending combined with a lack of fourth line consistency is holding this team back, but many believe that this is a top 10 roster in the NHL. We will wait and see, but for a historically successful organization, missing the playoffs for the second year in a row is all but acceptable.

The season is early, and there is a lot of hockey left. Lace up the skates and get to it. I will be back in April for a special playoff edition of NHL wrap-up.

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About the Contributors
Andrew Havens, News/Reviews Editor
Andrew Havens is a staff writer for the CalTimes and a Junior Communications Studies major with a minor in Marketing. Being from right across the river in Brownsville, PA, Andrew knows and loves the local community, trying his hardest to show off the amazing people in his hometown as well as his university. Andrew is just starting to pick up real-world writing and marketing experience, interning for both SteelerNation.com and Heartland Fabrication over the summer, as a staff writer and marketing intern respectively. The research gathering process is his favorite part of the job, because: "if you've researched correctly, the story just falls together!" You can find Andrew all over campus: attending meetings with the Graphic Design Club, writing away furiously on his laptop, working up a sweat at the gym, or simply getting his favorite sushi from Umami. He is entering his second year writing for the CalTimes.
Sarah Seader, Editor-in-Chief

Sarah Seader is the Editor-in-Chief and a Staff Writer for the CalTimes and a Senior Honors Student at PennWest California, pursuing two degrees in Business Administration Management and Management Information Systems with a Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship as well as a Data Science Certificate. Sarah serves as the PennWest California Student Trustee.

Sarah is involved serving on the SAI Board of Directors, President of DECA, President of Alpha Lambda Delta (ALD), Student Government Executive Board serving as Vice President, Vice President of Finance Club, Accounting Club Treasurer, and serves as the Treasurer on the Student Honors Advisory Board (SHAB).

Sarah is also a member of Women United, New Life, STAND, American Sign Language (ASL) Club, Society of Professional Journalists, Student Activities Board (SAB), Vulcan Gaming Club, President's Leadership Academy (PLA), The National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS), and serves as a Peer Mentor and Honors Coach.

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