Around The National Hockey League: Week 2

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Views, Opinions, and Comments on teams in the National Hockey League –

Weekly updates, news, rumours and opinions from around the National Hockey League.

Arizona Coyotes

Expectations by fans are not high for the Coyotes this season but what a start. Their fast start is, in part, due to the goaltending of Mike Smith and the play of two youngsters.  Anthony Duclair and Max Domi both with 6 points in five games are providing the energy and skill for the surprising Coyotes.  Martin Hanzal is leading the team in scoring with 7 points.  Mike Smith and backup goaltender Anders Lindback have only allowed a respectable 11 goals in five games.  Smith was pulled out of the last game against the Minnesota Wild but Arizona fought back to make it a tight game losing 4-3.  

I watched Anders Lindback play last season with the Buffalo Sabres and was surprised to see him turn up in Arizona. I liked the way he battled on a poor team and I wonder if the 6’6″ Swedish goaltender has a future with the Coyotes?  It’s nice to see a team that most have written off have a nice start but can they  keep playing at this level?  Time will tell.

Los Angeles Kings

Things have not gone well for this team on and off the ice.  One win in their last four games and they have given up 13 goals while only scoring 4.  Why did Kings G.M. Dean Lombardi trade backup goaltender Martin Jones?  If goaltender Jonathan Quick gets injured, things could get more difficult.  Milan Lucic has stated he would eventually like to play for the Vancouver Canucks.  If I’m Lombardi, it’s not what I would want to hear from a player I just traded for. Lucic is an unrestricted free agent next season.  Another unrestricted free agent next season is forward Anze Kopitar.  Can Lombardi sign Kopitar and how much will it cost?   This was a team that physically wore other teams down but the NHL is changing to a faster and more skilled style of play.  Will the Kings style of play be enough to get them back to the playoffs or are their best days behind them?

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San Jose Sharks

I must admit I’m quite surprised at how well the Sharks are playing to start the season.  This is not a team I would have picked to make the playoffs and I still have doubts.  They have quickly jumped out of the gate with four straight wins and goaltender Martin Jones has only allowed 2 goals.  Unfortunately for the Sharks, Logan Couture is out for roughly a month and a half with a broken leg which doesn’t help.

On paper, their core group of players on the team are not young.  Captain Joe Pavelski is the youngest at 31 years old, Patrick Marleau is 35, Joe Thornton is 36, and Paul Martin and Joel Ward both are 34 years old.  Time is running out on the Sharks and the pressure is on them to finally win the Stanley Cup.  Can the Sharks finally win it all this season?  I believe if their core group of forwards can stay healthy they have a chance but it will not be easy.  Maybe new coach Peter De Boer is the final piece of the puzzle to take them all the way.

Winnipeg Jets

The Jets returned from their eastern road trip with 6 out of a possible 8 points. Some Jet fans see the way they are playing as a glass half empty while others see it as a glass half full.  I’m in the glass half full camp.  Sure they have started off some games slow out of the gate and sometimes take too many penalties at the wrong times but there are a lot of bright spots on this team.

Their goaltending tandem of Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson has been solid.  The play of the rookies Nikolaj Ehlers, Nic Petan and Andrew Copp has been a spark this team has needed.  Their win over Calgary last Friday night was a big one as they now sit tied for first place in the Central Division.  All in all, a great start for the Jets.  They play the St. Louis Blues today who have the same 4-1-0 record for first place bragging rights.

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Columbus Blue Jackets

There are high expectations in Columbus this season.  Unfortunately so far, the results on the ice haven’t met those expectations.  The team has started the season with six straight losses.  Last season it was injuries that ruined their playoff hopes.  This season they are healthy and have some good players who can score goals but their defensive structure is nowhere to be found.  Average goaltending by Sergei Bobrovsky hasn’t helped either.  I watched them play the Ottawa Senators this past Wednesday and they fell apart losing by a score of 7-3.  Blue Jacket fans were booing them in the third period.

G.M. Jarmo Kekalainen doesn’t seem to have much patience as he publicly stated the team is off the rails. The pressure is on coach Todd Richards to turn this around and quickly.

Detroit Red Wings

Off the ice, things might get interesting as G.M. Ken Holland has 53 players under contract and the National Hockey League states you can only have 50 players signed.  It will be interesting to see what Holland will do.  I believe a few teams will be watching Detroit’s waiver wire closely.  They only have 1.6 million available in cap space so Holland hasn’t got a lot of extra cash to use.  On the ice, rookie Dylan Larkin’s play is being noticed.  With 6 points in five games, the nineteen year old is second in scoring with the Wings.

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Philadelphia Flyers

It’s quite a jump from being a college coach at the University of North Dakota to coaching in the National Hockey League but Dave Hakstol is ready for the challenge.  After an early season 7-1 thumping at the hands of the Florida Panthers, Hakstol had a meeting with his team and assured fans things would be corrected.  With backup goaltender Michael Neuvirth replacing Steve Mason the Flyers bounced back to shutout Florida 1-0 and the next game shutout the Chicago Blackhawks 3-0.  It will be interesting to see if Hakstol can be a difference maker with the Flyers.  Did G.M. Ron Hextall make the right choice?   

Pittsburgh Penguins

Most hockey analysts see this team scoring a ton of goals with the addition of Phil Kessel from the Toronto Maple Leafs.  They are off to a slow start winning just one game to start the season and only scoring five goals in their first four games.  I believe this team will have problems scoring goals due to the fact their defence is questionable at moving the puck up to the forwards.  Unless coach Mike Johnston can solve that problem, results might not be what many expect in Pittsburgh.  I wonder why G.M. Jim Rutherford traded for Kessel in the first place when they need help on defence.  I still can’t figure out why he traded defenceman Simon Despres to the Anaheim Ducks and I don’t think I’m the only one.

I watched Pittsburgh play the Toronto Maple Leafs last night.  The Penguins won the game 2-1 but there seemed to be no energy on the team.  Sidney Crosby has yet to score a point in five games and Phil Kessel does not look dangerous and during the game was noticeably frustrated.  I can’t remember when Crosby had no points in five games.  The players who did look good were Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury.

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Toronto Maple Leafs

It has been just what coach Mike Babcock said it might be, a rough start to the season.  They have had the luxury of roughly five days off to work on improving their game.  Two of his concerns are the defensive play of Morgan Reilly and Jake Gardner.  He has paired the young defencemen with Dion Phaneuf and Matt Hunwick to help with their defensive zone play.  This team is a work in progress.  I give this team a few months and I believe you will start to see results.  In the future, they might be a very tough team to play against once they all get on the same page with Babcock.

I mentioned I caught the Leafs vs Pittsburgh game last night and you can’t fault the Leaf’s work effort but again they can’t seem to score goals.  Struggling goaltender Jonathan Bernier let in two quick goals in the first period and I thought he would be replaced but Babcock called a time out and spoke to him and he played great the rest of the game.  They need goal scoring and some wins to build much-needed confidence on this team.

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