6 NHL playoff hopefuls that have uncharacteristically struggled to start the 2017-18 season – SB Nation

The NHL has found itself with yet another topsy-turvy start to a new hockey season. It usually takes a month or so for teams to figure themselves out, but we’ve seen some real surprises so far this year.

Some struggles we predicted but didn’t quite foresee the damage, like with the Arizona Coyotes. Other teams that we believed would struggle — see the Vegas Golden Knights — have actually become real heartwarming stories to open up the new season.

Yet, with all the predictions of doom and gloom, we don’t always predict the struggles of NHL playoff hopefuls. This season has seen more than a few talented teams stumble out of the starting block, and ones with real postseason aspirations.

Below, we take a look at the six biggest playoff teams that have had a hard time finding footing to open the new NHL season. Can these teams turn it around in time for the postseason? Only time will tell.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Record: 9-7-3, 21 points
Standing: First wild card in the Eastern Conference

What’s gone wrong: While the Penguins are in a playoff spot as of Monday, they do not look like the team that won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. The Penguins have lost a few key faces in Marc-Andre Fleury, Matt Cullen, Nick Bonino, and Chris Kunitz, but their core of stars has not performed up to its usual standards.

Sidney Crosby, through no fault of his own, has 13 points in 19 games with a career-low 8.3 shooting percentage. Matt Murray in net has been having a difficult time of his own, with an uncharacteristic .906 save percentage through 15 games played. The Penguins’ goaltending on the whole, which has included Antti Niemi (who has since left the team), Tristan Jarry, and Casey DeSmith in a rotating backup

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