With the first quarter of the season in the books, Scott Burnside (East) and Pierre LeBrun (West) evaluate each team's performance:
Summary: OK, so the hangover is officially over. The Bruins were 11-0-1 in their past 12 at the time of writing this and, with Tyler Seguin emerging as a bona fide star, there is no reason to think the Bruins can't be a force again next spring.
Trending: Can this team get better? Why not? Trending up.
Summary: Even without Marc Staal, the Rangers have been arguably the best team in the conference over the past three weeks or so. Dan Girardi has emerged as a terrific all-around defenseman and leader in Staal's absence as the Rangers are among the league's stingiest teams.
Trending: Up. With Staal looking like he will return in the near future, the Rangers are trending up in a big way.
Summary: With Sidney Crosby returning with a vengeance, the Penguins look very much like a Cup contender. The recent injury to Kris Letang, who was enjoying a Norris-type season, is troubling, but this squad remains one of the best teams in the league on both sides of the puck.
Trending: Up. Crosby, needless to say, changes everything in Pittsburgh.
Summary: Who knew that Dale Tallon's mad summer experiment in team-building would yield such terrific chemistry right off the hop? The team is a bit banged up but still holding on to the top spot in the Southeast Division as Kevin Dineen has done a wonderful job in his first NHL head-coaching gig.
Trending: Sideways. You wonder how the goaltending will hold up and whether there's enough scoring depth.
Summary: What's not to like about this Leafs team that boasts the top point and goal producer in the league in Phil Kessel and a suddenly prolific Joffrey Lupul leading one of the best power plays in the league? A nice bounce-back after a recent skid suggests maybe this isn't the same old Leafs.
Trending: Sideways. OK, we're skeptical that the Leafs can keep this up. So sue us.
Summary: Interesting times once again in Philly vis a vis the goaltending situation with Sergei Bobrovsky getting more starts of late than Ilya Bryzgalov. Then there's the loss of Jaromir Jagr to a groin problem and Chris Pronger who's off for a month or so with knee surgery. All in all, more than a little bit scary.
Trending: Down. Claude Giroux is having an MVP-type season, but injuries to top players and the uncertainty surrounding the goaltending may mean rough waters ahead.
Summary: It's been an up-and-down first quarter for a Sabres team from which much is expected after owner Terry Pegula opened the vault this offseason. Ville Leino has been a disappointment, and Ryan Miller looked surprisingly ordinary before going down with a concussion after being conked by Milan Lucic.
Trending: Down. The Sabres obviously miss Miller and Tyler Myers, who's out with a broken wrist. Still waiting for the leadership to assert itself in that room.
Summary: Hey, most people figured the Senators to be in the vicinity of "F" so kudos to Paul MacLean for keeping his team from sliding off the map after a dreadful start. Ottawa's young defense is learning on the go, but the fact the Senators are hanging around the playoff picture at this stage of the season is a bonus.
Trending: Neutral. Not sure the Sens can keep this up as the season moves along, especially with the worst goals-against average in the NHL, but so far so good.
Summary: On the one hand, the Devils are within a point or two of the playoffs without Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk producing offense at their normal rate. On the other hand, the two stars need to be better if the Devils are going to be a serious player in the playoff derby.
Trending: Neutral. The play of rookies Adam Larsson and Adam Henrique has been terrific.
Summary: Hard to get a handle on this Habs team as it moves forward, backward, forward. Can you say treading water? Perhaps the return of Andrei Markov will provide a needed boost. But his durability remains a huge question mark.
Trending: Neutral. The power play was tied for 25th and the penalty kill ranked second. That pretty much sums it up.
Summary: After a 7-0 start, the Caps have pretty much stunk. The team's lackluster play cost Bruce Boudreau his job, and it's now up to Dale Hunter to turn around this sinking ship. Alex Ovechkin needs to be much better, but he's not alone in that category.
Trending: Down. Lots of question marks from a lineup that's far too talented to be wallowing this far down in the standings.
Summary: Not a particularly stellar start to the season for last season's Eastern Conference finalists. Dwayne Roloson has struggled in goal, and the team is giving up far too much. The Bolts are 4-7-2 on the road as of writing this and that's no way to make the playoffs.
Trending: Neutral. Look for Guy Boucher to get his team playing better team defense as the season progresses.
Summary: Their top-10 offense is trumped by their 29th-ranked defense. Hard to imagine making the playoffs if that continues. Evander Kane is off to a nice start with 12 goals through 23 games. And then there's Dustin Byfuglien, who is a team-worst minus-10.
Trending: Neutral. If only the Jets could play Philadelphia 65 times a year.
But they can't.
Summary: Aimless play through the first quarter of the season cost Paul Maurice his job. Tough task for Kirk Muller in his first NHL head-coaching job to get the Canes back in the hunt. He will need Eric Staal to return to form for that to happen.
Trending: Down. The offseason signing of Tomas Kaberle proved to be ill-conceived, but the second half could provide valuable experience for the young prospects.
Summary: Curious personnel decisions from waiving Blake Comeau to insisting on running three goaltenders through the net contributed to a desultory first quarter for the Isles. Can Al Montoya right the ship now that he appears to have won (inherited?) the starting netminding job?
Trending: Down. It's always something for one of the worst-run franchises in pro sport.
Summary: The Wild have been out of the playoffs three straight years. But, GM Chuck Fletcher was a busy man in the offseason, replacing his head coach and making a pair of huge trades while inserting some youth from the AHL level into his lineup. Fletcher's offseason elixir worked wonders through the opening quarter of the season.
Trending: Perhaps downward? Scoring woes suggest the Wild might come back down to earth unless the offense wakes up.
Summary: Given where most people had them in their preseason predictions, how can you not hand Dave Tippett's crew an A? The Coyotes continue to mystify the experts and a lot of it has to do with the guy behind the bench.
Trending: Neutral. Tippett's system ensures the Coyotes will be in every game, night in and night out. And now Kyle Turris is back.
Summary: Hello Ken Hitchcock, hello victories. The Blues turned around a so-so start with Hitchcock's hiring and have gone 8-1-2 under his helm -- very much playoff-bound after missing out last season.
Summary: OK, I know they've come back down to earth recently, winning only three of 10 games. But after being league doormats the past few seasons, the young guns from Edmonton deserve a high grade for a surprising good start.
Trending: Down. Reality is now checking in, but, long term, this team is on the right track, no question about it.
Summary: A six-game slide earlier this season is a thing of the past as Mike Babcock's crew is yet again playing its normal, Cup-contending hockey. Goalie Jimmy Howard has been outstanding.
Summary: After a slow start in the opening two weeks of the season, the Sharks got it going and once again are among the league's top contenders. Joe Pavelski has bounced back nicely from a disappointing postseason.
Summary: They were headed for an "A" until injuries slowed down their runaway train. Now the test is to see how they handle those injuries with that newfound depth. Still, given the departure of Brad Richards and the low expectations from the outside world, it was quite the opening quarter.
Trending: Down. The injury to Kari Lehtonen will hurt.
Summary: Their recent win streak took place mostly past the quarter cutoff, so we're grading the team that was mostly around the .500 mark in the opening 20 games and the Cup-finals hangover was evident.
Trending: Up. We haven't yet seen the team that will contend again this season.
Summary: The Drew Doughty contract squabble was a distraction no matter what anybody says. The Kings' home record in the opening quarter was also worrisome, as was the lack of overall offense.
Trending: Up. The win over San Jose on Monday could be the turning point.
Summary: We expected this team to be hovering just above the .500 mark through the opening quarter, as did the Preds themselves. The most surprising statistic, though? Middle of the pack in goals against per game.
Summary: Inconsistent with no light at the end of the tunnel. GM Jay Feaster knows he has to blow this thing up.
Summary: After their super start in the opening two weeks of the season, the Avs looked like a young and rising team ready to challenge for a playoff spot. Nope, still a doormat as it turns out.
Summary: The Ducks receive a harsh grade because this was a playoff team last season that had playoff aspirations in 2011-12. No way a team with this kind of talent should be near the basement. And coach Randy Carlyle paid the price late Wednesday night with his dismissal, replaced by Bruce Boudreau.
Trending: Up. Boudreau should inject some enthusiasm on that squad.
Summary: There was so much optimism in camp after the offseason additions of Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski, but it all blew up from the start with the suspension to Wisniewski, the injury to Carter and the continuing struggles of goalie Steve Mason.
Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun cover the NHL for ESPN.com.