Devils, Leafs and Blues are the league's most exciting teams to watch

ByESPN via ESPN logo
Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Which team is the most entertaining to watch?

Greg Wyshynski: Please allow me a homer pick: The New Jersey Devils are the most entertaining team in the NHL this season.

They play with such speed and tempo, resulting in 3.25 goals per game. This is the first Devils team since Ilya Kovalchuk was on the roster that never feels out of a game: To wit, they lead the NHL this season with three wins when trailing entering the third period. (And they've trailed going into the third in only seven of their 20 games.)

They also have players that demand your attention: Taylor Hall, better than a point per game, which is something his former team could certainly use now; rookies Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt, blazing fast and offensively creative; rookie Will Butcher, with 16 points from the blue line; and Miles Wood, a delightful crease-crashing pest.

Here's the reason they're more entertaining than other offensive powers such as the Tampa Bay Lightning:They're not really solid on that whole "defense" thing. They give up 35 shots per game. They are the NHL's worst possession team (45.95 percent Corsi at 5-on-5). For every briskly paced offensive chance they create, they also surrender one.

Such is a symptom of being a young team finding success ahead of schedule; such are the 2017-18 New Jersey Devils.

Emily Kaplan: I promise this isn't recency bias because they erupted for eight (!!) goals on Tuesday night, but I have the most fun watching the Blues. It has been consistent fun all season. St. Louis has all the ingredients you look for when it comes to entertainment. A legitimate superstar who you can't keep your eyes off? That's Vladimir Tarasenko. Heck, he's even able to surprise: Last season's runner-up for the Lady Byng Trophy, who tallied all of 12 penalty minutes last season, stunned me by recording a Gordie Howe hat trick on Tuesday. Want to watch a Norris Trophy front-runner? Check out captain Alex Pietrangelo. Looking for a team with more than one scoring threat? Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz are top-five goal scorers -- in the entire league. Need a feel-good story? That's Schwartz, a breakout star who is honoring his late sister, Mandi, a fellow hockey player who died in 2011 after a battle with leukemia.

It's also fun to watch the Blues because there's a sense they could become even better. They weren't supposed to perform this well early, and they're starting to welcome back some of their injured players. One of the few weak spots for the Blues has been the penalty-kill, and let's just say the addition of Jay Bouwmeester (who made his season debut Tuesday) won't make matters worse.

The Blues have been burdened by early-season hype before, and although they've been a pesky threat the last few seasons, they have been stunted in the playoffs. But with a more free-wheeling style under coach Mike Yeo, it's entertaining to watch these Blues surpass expectations. I'm excited to see where their season goes.

Chris Peters: For me, it's the Toronto Maple Leafs. They're exciting for some of the obvious reasons, like Auston Matthews and their high-scoring offense. They're also exciting because they're not necessarily the strongest defensive team, which has led to quite a few high-scoring games. Through 22 games, the Maple Leafs already have scored four or more goals nine times, and four when they've scored at least six. Meanwhile, Toronto has allowed four or more goals eight times and five goals six times.

The games are often wide open and fast paced, which brings plenty of twists and turns and high drama. There are also those nights, not unlike Monday night's loss to the Arizona Coyotes, when they suddenly flip a switch and the entire game goes crazy. They ended up losing 4-1 in a game in which they had two golden chances to tie the score late only to have one goal disallowed and another Matthews shot go off the crossbar. The last five minutes of that game were like an action movie, even though Toronto ended up on the wrong side of it with a pair of empty-netters icing it for Arizona. You just never know what to expect with this team.

Matthews is the main attraction, however, and probably the biggest reason I find myself eagerly watching what Toronto does. Everyone loves goals and Matthews scores a lot of them, but what makes him seemingly different is the way he scores them. I don't think there is a player in the league who shoots the puck like him. I don't think his wrist shot is the hardest or the release is the quickest, but it seems to be the most deceptive. Seeing something different is fun. Additionally, scoring 52 goals through one's first 100 NHL games is a super-rare occurrence for a player of Matthews' age. Alex Ovechkin is the only other player with more goals through his first 100 games in the last 20-plus years. Witnessing such a rare scoring talent certainly raises the entertainment value in a big way.

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