Around the National Hockey League: Week 4

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

Anaheim Ducks

What’s with the Ducks?  They are off to unusual slow start with a 1-7-2 record.

There are rumblings already about coach Bruce Boudreau’s job.  The latest setback is Ryan Getzlaf will be out for a week or two with a non-emergency appendectomy operation.  It’s difficult to say whether G.M. Bob Murray will stay patient or make a change.  One coaching candidate whose name is being mentioned is Travis Green presently coaching the Utica Comets in the American Hockey League.  Tough times in Anaheim!

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Los Angeles Kings

The Kings rolled into Winnipeg last Tuesday to face the Jets and walked away with a 4-1 victory.  Like the Anaheim Ducks, the Kings started off the season slowly with three straight losses but turned it around quickly winning their six straight with the win over the Jets.  The Kings look like the hard skating, physically imposing team of the past.  Newly acquired Milan Lucic seems to be a good fit for them.  Forward Tyler Toffoli is having a great start to the season with 9 goals in his first 10 games.  With no off ice issues to speak of lately they will be a tough team to deal with in the Pacific Division.

Nashville Predators

The Predators have been flying under the radar in the Western Conference but have been playing solid hockey with a 7-1-2 record, good for third place in the Central Division.  G.M. David Poile has drafted a formidable defence core.  Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Seth Jones, Ryan Ellis, and Mathias Ekholm make up a defence that is one of the tops in the National Hockey League.  With Pekka Rinne in goal, this team is very difficult to score against.  Right winger, James Neal is the Preds leading scorer with 9 points in 9 games.

Off the ice, David Poile is the only G.M. the Predators have had and the organization has been very patient with him.  Over time he has built a competitive team.  With coach Peter Laviolette now in his second year, the Predators are one of the top teams in the NHL.  With a bit more scoring to match their great defensive play it just might be the year they make it to the Stanley Cup finals.

Carolina Hurricanes

It has been rough times for the Canes as they have missed the playoffs for six straight seasons.  New G.M. Ron Francis has the task of trying to turn this team around in a winning direction.  It won’t be easy.  Hopefully for Carolina the goaltending of Cam Ward and Eddie Lack will keep them competitive in most games.  They have had some bad breaks along the way with core defenceman James Wisniewski being injured at the start of the season with a torn ACL.  He could be lost for the season.

Off the ice one of the first moves G.M. Ron Francis did was buyout Alexander Semin’s contract.  They will be paying Semin 2.3 million a year for the next 6 years.  After years of frustration they gave up on him.  He is now playing for the Montreal Canadiens on a 1 year contract.  Francis has to decide whether to sign Eric Staal who is a unrestricted free agent next season.  The Hurricanes have roughly 8.2 million dollars in cap space available.  Will it be a rebuild or a retooling situation in Carolina?

Carolina has had a good week winning their last three games.

Montreal Canadiens

Montreal’s chance to tie a franchise record winning streak of 10 straight games to start a season came crashing down to earth last Tuesday with a 5-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.  Montreal traded Brandon Prust to the Canucks for Zack Kassian and Prust came back to hurt the Habs assisting on the first two goals.  The road trip continues and the Canadiens blew a 3 goal lead in the first period and lost 4-3 to the youthful and fast Edmonton Oilers.  Recent call up Leon Draisaitl scored two goals including the game winner.

Montreal finished off their three game western road trip with a convincing 6-2 win over the struggling Calgary Flames.  Now they go back to the friendly confines of the Bell Centre to face the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday.

NHL Notes:  This and That

Backup goaltender, Michael Hutchinson of the Winnipeg Jets put on a show last Thursday night against the visiting Chicago Blackhawks.  He made 45 saves and was a big reason the Jets defeated the Hawks 3-1.  Can you think of a better free agent signing by the Winnipeg Jets?  If his good play continues, he will be due a big raise to his present salary of $575, 000 per year.  Hutchinson is a restricted free agent next season.

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One team that has surprised me early on in the season is the Buffalo Sabres.  With injuries to key players such as Tyler Ennis, Zach Bogosian, and Evander Kane you would think this team would not be competitive.  That is not the case.

Last Tuesday they defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 and they gave the Pittsburgh Penguins all they could handle in losing a close game (4-3) last Thursday.  Penguins backup goaltender, Jack Zatkoff made 50 saves in the winning cause.  The next night they defeated the  Flyers for the second time in the week 3-1.   Is Dan Bylsma making a difference?  It’s early but it appears so.

Rookie Watch

I must say I have had my doubts about how well Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel would do in their first season playing in the NHL. After the first 10 games I must say those doubts have been erased.  Both players are already making an impact with their respective teams.  I’m really surprised because they are both so young.  McDavid has 12 points in 12 games.

They aren’t the only first time NHL players making an impact.  Max Domi in Arizona and Dylan Larkin in Detroit are also turning heads.  Jared McCann is making a name for himself in Vancouver and might just stay with the team this season.  Nikolaj Ehlers’ play in Winnipeg made it a no-brainer to let his ELC (entry-level contract) kick in at the 10-game mark.  All in all these players are changing the face of the NHL.

Top Scorers: Top five

Jamie Benn                       Dallas                             17 points in 11 games.

Tyler Seguin                      Dallas                             16 points in 11 games

David Krejci                      Boston                            15 points in 10 games.

Patrick Kane                     Chicago                          14 points  in 11 games

Henrik Zetterberg            Detroit                           14 points in 11 games

Blake Wheeler                  Winnipeg                       14 points in 11 games

Editors note:

Starting next week, “Around the National Hockey League” by George Bain will be posted on Mondays with Mitch Kasprick’s “Random Notes on our Yotes” being bumped to Tuesdays.

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