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NHL review: Pittsburgh Penguins and Vancouver Canucks impress

Another week of NHL action is in the books and a glance at the table reveals more than a few surprises.

The defending Stanley Cup champions Vegas Golden Knights lead the way, little surprise there, but their closest challengers in the west are Vancouver, who enjoyed another strong week.

Meanwhile in the Eastern Conference, Pittsburgh began to show some spark after a difficult start to the campaign.

Here we look at the talking points from last week's games.

Vegas retain top spot despite setbacks

The Golden Knights made very few summer moves and began this season as they ended last, as the team to beat.

They entered the week having just suffered their first regulation loss of the campaign, a 4-2 reverse in Anaheim last Sunday night, but still with a league-leading 11-1-1 record.

Vegas lost again when the red-hot LA Kings visited T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday night, but got back in the win column with a straightforward victory over the struggling San Jose Sharks on Friday. Adin Hill picked up his second shutout of the season in a 5-0 victory.

The Golden Knights have the shortest odds in the market at +800 to retain the Stanley Cup, while they are +450 to win the Presidents' Trophy for ending the campaign with the most regular-season points.

Sharks finally earn first wins

It was always going to be a tough season for the San Jose Sharks, who are in full rebuild mode, but even the most pessimistic fan would surely not have thought they would pick up a single point from their first 11 games.

Morale must have been low when they took the ice at the Shark Tank on Tuesday night following 10-1 and 10-2 losses in their previous two games.

But things can change quickly in hockey and San Jose ended their skid with a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers despite putting only 19 shots on the Flyers' net.

San Jose goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood was the hero of the night, stopping 38 of the 39 shots he faced.

Blackwood was again largely responsible as the Sharks followed up against Edmonton on Thursday night, nicking a 3-2 win despite being outshot 41-18.

It was back to normal when they visited Vegas on Friday night, losing 5-0, and the Sharks are -200 to end up with the worst regular-season record. At least the fans had something to cheer last week.

PIttsburgh and Panthers post perfect week

Two teams enjoyed three wins from three outings last week and while Florida and Pittsburgh will both be delighted with their efforts, the points were particularly welcomed by the Penguins.

The Pens suffered a miserable start to the campaign, sitting at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division on Monday morning.

Having crushed the Sharks 10-2 last Saturday, Pittsburgh began the week by rounding off a perfect sweep of the California teams. They needed overtime to see off Los Angeles on Thursday night, but they blanked Anaheim 2-0 on Tuesday. 

That game saw goaltenders Tristan Jarry and Magnus Hellberg share the shutout, as Jarry was injured midway through the second period, causing him to miss the LA game. However, first-choice goalie Jarry was back on Saturday, picking up another shutout as the Pens returned home to beat Buffalo 4-0.

Pittsburgh's four-game win streak is the longest active one in the NHL and they are -125 to reach the playoffs.

Florida picked up overtime wins against Columbus and Washington before a 5-2 victory over Carolina on Friday night. The Panthers sit fourth in a fiercely competitive Atlantic Division.

Canucks continue hot start

Arguably the surprise of the season so far has been Vancouver's stellar start, and the Canucks kept it up with two more wins this week.

The western Canadians have been in the doldrums for years and not a great deal of improvement was anticipated this season. But they have looked really impressive so far, picking up 21 points in 14 games to sit second to Vegas in the Eastern Conference.

They put together a run of eight wins and an OT loss in nine games, and were disappointed to see a five-game win streak come to an end against Toronto on Saturday night.

Quinn Hughes has flown somewhat under the radar in discussions of the best attack-minded defencemen, but he's forcing his way into the conversation, adding a goal and four assists to his tally in this week's three games. 

The 24-year-old is now +200 favourite to win the James Norris Memorial Trophy for the league's best D-man at the end of the season.

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