Monday, October 17, 2011

Early Trends

It's already Week 3. Even though technically, it's not till later this week, it's never too early to start looking at trends. How are our teams faring? What are the early stories? Is it Toronto's perfect start highlighted by Phil Kessel's explosion? What about the surprising Avs led by new goalie Semyon Varlamov and rookie Gabriel Landeskog? Or perhaps it's the Stars out of the gate fast while Brad Richards' new team on Broadway is one of three teams (Jackets, Jets) that haven't won yet.

There's also been the quick adjustment from No.1 overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who already recorded his first career hat trick in only the Oilers' third game. Even if they lost to the Canucks, it certainly left an impression on his linemate Taylor Hall.

It's his third NHL game, he got a hat trick against his home town team, and Robert Luongo and guys he's watched for a long time, it's great to see.
It's always fun to look at the good. Better than viewing the bad and ugly that has the Rangers as one of two clubs (WPG) that have yet to score a power play goal. And you're thinking, 'Wasn't that supposed to be fixed?' Some old habits die hard. Insert John McClane reference here. Let's take a closer look at some of these early trends that either have you wowing or pulling out your hair.

-As previously noted, the Rangers' power play issues continue. Over three games, they're 0-for-12. Not the kind of baker's dozen John Tortorella had in mind. The lack of a true point that can mesh with Richards still is missing and could be a problem all season unless Mike Del Zotto regains that spot.

-The Blueshirts have been horrific on special teams, also shorthanded 19 times already. Though the PK had done a fine job, it finally got burnt by John Tavares Saturday. In this league, special teams are essential to a club's success.

-Conversely, the Islanders have been pretty solid in that facet, killing off 18 of 19 penalties against to rank second overall. The PP had struggled before connecting twice to boost it to 3-of-18. Good for 15th. With a true PP QB in Mark Streit and the skill of Tavares along with Michael Grabner and gritty types Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo, there's no reason they shouldn't be in the top 10.

-The Devils under Pete DeBoer still are struggling on the man-advantage (2-of-17) but finally got a crucial one on a five-on-three from bomber Ilya Kovalchuk to turn around their game in Music City. With captain Zach Parise back along with defensive types Anton Volchenkov, Henrik Tallinder and underrated sophomore Mark Fayne, the Devs rank fourth on the PK, permitting just one in 17 thus far.

-Off to a 3-1 start, the Sabres have connected three times in 15 chances on the PP to place 12th led by Thomas Vanek's pair. More encouraging is new captain Jason Pominville, who's okay after taking a clean hit from a Candy Cane in which he was in an awkward position. They ran tests and he was good enough to do a postgame interview. Buffalo is middle of the pack in PK permitting two in 15 against. An area they can improve at with physical element Robyn Regehr.

WHO'S HOT?

Sabres- Luke Adam (3-3-6), Thomas Vanek (3-4-7, 2 PPG), Jason Pominville (1-4-5)

Devils- Zach Parise (2-1-3/2 shootout clinchers), Johan Hedberg (3-0, 1.41 GAA, .950 Save Pct.), Mark Fayne (1-1-2, 5 hits, 5 blocked shots)

Islanders- John Tavares (5-3-8- all 8 Pts last 2 GP, 2 PPG, +4), Al Montoya (2-1, 1.35 GAA, .950 Save Pct.), Mark Streit (3 A, 2 PPA, 6 blocks), P.A. Parenteau (1-6-7)

Rangers- Marian Gaborik (2 goals, 14 SOG), Brad Richards (1-2-3, Pt in each game incl. GTG vs Ducks), Henrik Lundqvist (0-1-2, 7 GA in 3 starts, 2.23 GAA, .920 Save Pct.)


WHO'S NOT?

Rangers- Ryan Callahan (1 A, 0 G, 6 PIM incl. 2 minors vs NYI), Brandon Dubinsky (0-1-1, 20 PIM), Brian Boyle (0 Pts, 8 PIM)


Islanders- Kyle Okposo (0 G, A, 7 SOG), Josh Bailey (0 Pts, 3 SOG), Blake Comeau (0 Pts, SOG in 3 GP)
 
Devils- David Clarkson (G, 26 PIM), Adam Larsson (0 Pts, -2), Jacob Josefson (1 A, 4 SOG)
 
Sabres- Brad Boyes (0 G, A, 6 SOG), Tyler Ennis (0 Pts, 7 SOG), Ville Leino (G, 3 SOG)
 
 
HOT STARTS
 
1.Phil Kessel (Tor) 5-3-8
2.John Tavares (NYI) 5-3-8
3.David Legwand (Nsh) 2-6-8
4.James Neal (Pit) 5-1-6
5.P.A. Parenteau (NYI) 1-6-7
6.Anze Kopitar (LAK) 3-4-7
7.The Sedins (Van) 2-5-7 each = 4-10-14
8.Shane Doan (Phx) 3-4-7
9.Kris Letang (Pit) 1-5-6
10.Chris Pronger (Phi) 1-4-5
11.M.A. Bergeron (TB) 2-3-5
12.Jeff Skinner (Car) 2-4-6)
13.Thomas Vanek (Buf) 3-4-7
14.Claude Giroux (Phi) 3-2-5
15.Sheldon Souray (Dal) 1-3-4
16.Kari Lehtonen (Dal) 4-0, 1.48, .955
17.Jonathan Quick (LAK) 2-0-1, 1.57, .948
18.Johan Hedberg (NJD) 3-0, 1.41, .945
19.Semyon Varlamov (Col) 3-1, 2.17, .938, SHO
20.Ilya Bryzgalov (Phi) 3-0-1, 1.99, .927, SHO
21.Jonas Hiller (Ana) 3-1, 1.71, .931, SHO
22.Jose Theodore (Fla) 2-1, 1.97, .930, SHO
23.Al Montoya (NYI) 2-1, 1.35, .953
24.Jimmy Howard (Det) 3-0, 1.63, .930, SHO
25.Tim Thomas (Bos) 2-2, 1.98, .932
 
ICE COLD
 
1.Craig Anderson (Ott) 1-2, 5.07, .853
2.Ondrej Pavelec (Wpg) 0-2, 4.55, .833
3.Dwayne Roloson (TBL) 1-1-1, 4.35, .883
4.Steve Mason (CBJ) 0-4-1, 3.40, .889
5.Carey Price (Mtl) 1-2-1, 2.96, .880
6.Roberto Luongo (Van) 1-1-1, 3.60, .871
7.Jaroslav Halak (Stl) 1-3, 3.05, .850
8.Cam Ward (Car) 2-2, 3.26, .900
9.Jeff Carter (CBJ) 0 G, 3 A, 20 SOG
10.Dustin Byfuglien (Wpg) 0 Pts, -3, 10 SOG
11.Alex Ovechkin (Wsh) G, A, -2, 15 SOG
12.Kevin Bieksa (Van) 1 A, -3, 11 SOG
13.Nikolai Kulemin (Tor) 0 G, A, -2, 2 SOG
14.Vincent Lecavalier (TBL) G, A, 8 PIM, 18 SOG
15.Steven Stamkos (TBL) G in 5 GP, 15 SOG
16.Logan Couture (SJS) 0 G, A, 8 SOG
17.Daniel Alfredsson (Ott) 2-1-3, -6
18.Dubinsky/Anisimov/Callahan (NYR)  G, 2 A, 26 PIM, 20 SOG
19.Okposo/Grabner/Rolston (NYI) G, 2 A, -3, 22 SOG
20.Mattias Tedenby (NJD) 0 G, A, 2 SOG
21.Cal O'Reilly (Nsh) 0 G, A, SOG
22.Scott Gomez (Mtl) 0 G, A
23.P.K. Subban (Mtl) 0 G, A, -3, 12 SOG
24.Erik Cole (Mtl) 0 G, A, 5 SOG
25.Mikko Koivu (Min) 2 A in 5 GP
26.Dustin Brown (LAK) 0 G, A, -2, 10 SOG
27.David Booth (Fla), 0 G, A, -3, 8 SOG
28.Nick Lidstrom/Henrik Zetterberg (Det) 2 G, 0 A, 27 SOG
29.Eric Staal (Car) 2 G, A, -8
30.Ryan Getzlaf (Ana) 0 G, 2 A, 8 SOG
31.Jarome Iginla (Cgy) G, 0 A, -3, 8 SOG
32.Milan Lucic (Bos) 0 G, A, 2 PIM, 12 SOG
 
 
Storybook Return For Ex-Flyer: In case you were asleep Saturday night, the biggest game on a busy schedule was ex-Flyer captain's Mike Richards' return to the City of Brotherly Love with the rest of his King teammates. Thus far, a trade that left many speechless has worked out well for both clubs.
 
However, this one had special meaning for Richards as he and former teammate Jeff Carter were sent packing as part of Paul Holmgren's overhaul that split a passionate fanbase down the middle. Looking good in his new LA threads, Mr. Richards was right smack in the middle of an emotional game that had a bit of everything, including physicality with Drew Doughty knocked out of the game on a big hit by rookie Zac Rinaldo that drew the ire of Dustin Penner. Later on, Richards got into the act with a clean takeout of a Flyer that immediately got the attention of former King Wayne Simmonds.
 
Cooler heads prevailed as the two teams battled to overtime where an undisciplined trip from James van Riemsdyk allowed Richards, who received a fitting tribute prior to the drop of the puck- to burn his ex-club. During a four-on-three, the skilled center who set up Jack Johnson to beat the Rangers in Stockholm made another spectacular read. This time, from the left point, he faked before sending a perfect shot pass to Johnson, who deflected it home for the OT winner. A great conclusion to a well played game. But definitely an exclamation point for Richards.
 
"It took me a second to realize it went in," the ex-Flyer said. He finished his career in orange and black with 133 goals and 349 points along with a Cup Finals appearance with a video tribute thanking him for his contributions to Philly. "It was a broken play and I was tying to find a lane to shoot and saw JJ at the last second."
 
"It was easy once I touched the ice. I felt comfortable out there. I just played hockey."

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