The Ottawa onslaught
OK, Ottawa, OK. The rest of the league gets it. You're good. You can skate. You can score. Man, can you score.
The Ottawa Senators (11-2-0) are doing their best impression of the Edmonton Oilers of the mid-1980s, scoring 64 goals through 13 contests.
How? With the most explosive line in hockey, featuring center Jason Spezza, displaying Gretzky-esque vision and hockey sense, between snipers Dany Heatley and, since last week, Daniel Alfredsson (he replaced rookie Brandon Bochenski, since dispatched to the AHL).
The three stars-on-the-rise are in the top five in league scoring, and are a dominant force every time they step on the ice.
Despite a 5-3 loss in Philadelphia last week, Ottawa has won four of its past five games by a combined score of 31-11. That includes an 8-0 whitewashing of the Maple Leafs (in Toronto), a 10-4 hammering of the Sabres (in Buffalo) and Saturday's 6-0 blanking of the Islanders (on Long Island).
The Sens already have had three players score four goals in a game Â– Heatley against Toronto, and Alfredsson and Martin Havlat against Buffalo. Alfredsson had six points in that game, while Havlat has six goals in three games since returning from a five-game suspension for kicking.
Oh yeahÂ…Ottawa also has Wade Redden, Zdeno Chara and Chris Phillips on defense, and Dominik Hasek (three shutouts, 1.88 goals-against average) in net.
Happy to be back
It took Florida winger Gary Roberts all of 26 seconds to celebrate his return to Toronto, where he spent the past four seasons. With no goals in first six games as a Panther, Roberts stepped onto the ice at Air Canada Centre, collected a Bryan McCabe turnover in the slot, and chipped the puck over Ed Belfour's shoulder. (It was the only shot to beat Belfour, who shut out Florida for the remaining 59:34.)
Look up Â“backup goalieÂ” in the dictionary and you'll surely see a photo of Detroit's Manny Legace. He has spent his entire career as a No. 2, the second fiddle in a one-man band.
Finally, this season, thanks to the salary cap, Detroit is going with Legace and Chris Osgood as their netminders. When Osgood got hurt in the pre-season, Legace stepped in and went 10-1-0 in October, setting an NHL record for goalie wins in that month. Then, on Nov. 1, Chicago winger Matthew Barnaby fell on Legace (with a more-than-gentle nudge from Wings defender Jiri Fischer), spraining the goalie's left knee. The good news, though, is Legace won't be out long.
Magnificent on power play, butÂ…
Mario Lemieux leads the NHL with 13 power play points in 15 games. The flip side is, Lemieux only has five points at even strength in 15 games.
It's nothing new for Lemieux to pile up points on the man advantage, but it must be disconcerting for the team that he has managed just three goals and five points at even strength.
That Sidney Crosby kid, meanwhile, seems to have it figured out: his 19 points are almost evenly split, nine on the power play and 10 at even strength.
Pierre Â“Can you hear me NOW?!Â” McGuire, TSN's love-him-or-hate-him color commentator, made a good point last week when he said that all knee-on-knee hits should automatically be given a four-minute (double-minor) penalty. And then he said the NHL should crack down on head-cracking cheap shots, too.
And then the room started to spin, because we so wholeheartedly agreed with McGuire's logic.