Two certainties about this season:
The Calder Trophy race between the early front-runners -- Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets and Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs -- will rage on for the entire season if both rookies remain healthy.
The start of the regular season has revealed unlikely developments, including the San Jose Sharks' Brent Burns vying for the league lead in scoring. Between the pipes, Montreal Canadiens backup Al Montoya is second among all goaltenders with a .962 save percentage, and Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot has five wins.
There's plenty of hockey left to be played, and the faces of those statistical categories will change soon. But here are five early predictions that will hold up:
Carey Price will lead the Canadiens back to the postseason. He suffered a season-ending knee injury last November, but Montreal's No. 1 netminder returned to health and led Team Canada to a World Cup of Hockey championship last month in Toronto. Once the regular season began, however, he was sidelined again with what was diagnosed as a severe case of the flu. He missed the first three games and the Canadiens went 2-0-1 with Montoya in net.
Price made his season debut Thursday and posted a 27-save performance to help Montreal win 5-2 over the Arizona Coyotes at Bell Centre. If Price can stay healthy, the Canadiens could compete for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. Montoya has been solid, but it says here that Price will have a productive season and lead his team into the Stanley Cup playoffs in the spring.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are not in trouble. It's too early to claim a team is inconsistent, but after starting 3-0-0, the Lightning were ravaged in a 4-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche (3-1-0) on Thursday at home. That loss will serve as the early-season wakeup call the Lightning need. The Avalanche look like a team that will contend for a playoff spot in the Central Division, but Tampa, the team many experts predicted would win the Stanley Cup in 2017, should not be shut out by Colorado.
Expect the Lightning to enjoy more consistent play, and they will be rewarded with reaching the century mark in points after finishing with 97 in 2015-16.
The Ducks will heat up, the Canucks will cool off. The Anaheim Ducks are 1-3-1 in the first five games, which is a little bit concerning since they won the Pacific Division last season with 103 points. Take a deep breath and recall how the Ducks began the 2015-16 season: losing nine of 10 before turning it around. The Ducks are too good to falter much longer. Plus, the team's first five games were on the road.
The Ducks opened at home on Sunday against the Vancouver Canucks, who happen to be 4-0-0. This category is twofold: The Ducks will start winning games consistently, and the Canucks will cool off. After all, the addition of forward Loui Eriksson is a massive help for the Canucks, but Vancouver can't sustain this type of success for the entire season, right? Maybe the Canucks will prove everyone wrong.
Brad Marchand will score 40 or more for the Bruins. The ink on his new eight-year, $49 million contract extension with the Boston Bruins isn't even dry yet, but the top-line winger has carried his World Cup of Hockey momentum into the regular season.
After his short-handed goal with 43.1 seconds remaining in regulation led Team Canada to a 2-1 championship victory over Team Europe last month at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Marchand leads the league with three goals and six assists for nine points in five games. Even though he has a fat new deal, he's not the type of player to relax and go through the motions. He scored 38 goals last season and you can bet he'll surpass that mark this season.
The Oilers will keep scoring, as will the Senators (sort of). In the early going, Edmonton was tied for the NHL in team scoring, with 23 goals in six games. With a strong pool of talent, led by captain Connor McDavid, the Oilers should remain near the top of that category for the remainder of the regular season.
The Ottawa Senators have 18 goals each in five games. They are starting to cool off, but will likely still finish in the top 10 in the league in scoring thanks to the offensive production from defenseman Erik Karlsson, who already has two goals and five assists for seven points in five games.
The Senators have missed the playoffs twice in the past three seasons, but they will compete for a postseason berth this spring.