The Stanley Cup visits The Hockey News
Mike Brophy, senior writer
The Stanley Cup visits The Hockey News
Mike Brophy, senior writer
The Canadiens lost Carey Price to a severe case of the flu, but they didn't miss a beat with newly signed backup Al Montoya.
They have the best winning percentage, the best goals differential and are the only team in the NHL that has yet to endure a loss in regulation. And they have the league’s best goalie in
Al Montoya Carey Price. So it’s no wonder the Montreal Canadiens are at the top of thn.com’s first Power Rankings of this season.
Remember, folks, these are Power Rankings, not NHL standings. They reflect how the team has performed most recently and are measured in order of the team that an opponent would least like to face if it played that night. So if you’re team is low in our rankings, remember it’s because we hate your team, and probably you and your family as well.
THE CREAM OF THE CROP
1. Montreal Canadiens
2. Edmonton Oilers
3. Detroit Red Wings
4. New York Rangers
5. St. Louis Blues
6. Tampa Bay Lightning
7. Florida Panthers
8. New York Islanders
9. Pittsburgh Penguins
10. Washington Capitals
Shea Weber was supposed to represent the panacea for Montreal’s power play, but it sits 20th in the league going into tonight’s game against Philadelphia, where they’ll try Alexander Radulov alongside Weber on the point…Since Cam Talbot’s wife gave birth to twins last Wednesday, Talbot is 3-0-0 with just three goals against on 99 shots…After posting a career-low 43 points last season, Gustav Nyquist has 3-4-7 totals in his first five games…After all the talk of resting Henrik Lundqvist more this season, The Rangers played him in back-to-back games over the weekend, the second one against the worst team in the NHL…The way Nail Yakupov has thrived on the Blues’ third line, his trade from Edmonton could develop into a major steal…Not sure how many noticed, but ESPN ranked the Lightning as the No. 1…The 4-1 win over Ottawa Saturday night kicked off a six-game, 11-day road trip for the Lightning…Tough not to cheer for 27-year-old rookie Shane Harper, who had never played an NHL game before this season, but made the Panthers’ fourth-line and scored twice in Florida’s 5-2 win over Colorado Saturday…Islanders captain John Tavares said he thinks it wears him and his teammates out more talking about the bad ice at Barclays Center than playing on it. Pretty sure that’s not the case…After taking part in his first full-contact practice since suffering a pre-season concussion, Sidney Crosby has not been ruled out yet for Tuesday night’s game against Florida…Going into a four-game road trip through western Canada, Capitals coach Barry Trotz shuffled his top two lines, moving Andre Burakovsky to the top line and T.J. Oshie down to the second.
THE MUSHY MIDDLE
11. Anaheim Ducks
12. Los Angeles Kings
13. Vancouver Canucks
14. Minnesota Wild
15. Boston Bruins
16. Colorado Avalanche
17. Chicago Blackhawks
18. Columbus Blue Jackets
19. Ottawa Senators
20. Nashville Predators
Simon Despres and his concussion have been placed on long-term injury reserve, which could give the Ducks the room they need to sign Hampus Lindholm…Thank goodness for 34-year-old Peter Budaj. He’s the only healthy goalie in the Kings organization at the moment with NHL experience…As much as people seem to want to pigeonhole Bo Horvat as a third-line center, his all-round game and offensive production this year suggest otherwise…Zach Parise scored his 300th and 301st NHL goals on Saturday and needs only 40 more to pass Dave Christian for first on the all-time list among Minnesota-born players…The Bruins have yet to score the first goal of the game in any of their five games this season…The Avalanche are in the midst of a six-day break. John Mitchell is expected to be in the lineup for the first time this season Friday night against Winnipeg…Speaking of season debuts, veteran defenseman Michal Rozsival will play his first game of the season tonight against Calgary after sitting out the first six games as a healthy scratch…The Blue Jackets rallied with big wins over NHL powers after losing their first two games. A big reason for that has been the penalty kill unit, which has allowed only one goal on 11 shorthanded situations, and that was an empty-net goal…The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Senators can score plenty, but have allowed at least four goals in four of their first five games this season...Despite an attack of food poisoning, the Predators managed to beat Pittsburgh 5-1 on the weekend. Their power play is by far the best in the league.
VYING FOR THE PARTICIPATION BADGE
21. San Jose Sharks
22. Philadelphia Flyers
23. Dallas Stars
24. New Jersey Devils
25. Toronto Maple Leafs
26. Buffalo Sabres
27. Winnipeg Jets
28. Carolina Hurricanes
29. Calgary Flames
30. Arizona Coyotes
The Sharks went 2-for-18 on the power play on their recent five-game road trip, but they still managed to pick up two wins…League menace Radko Gudas will be eligible to return from his six-game suspension Tuesday night against Buffalo…Ales Hemsky reinjured his groin Saturday and will miss Tuesday night’s game against Winnipeg, as will Jason Spezza, who tweaked something in practice Monday…Same old Devils? New Jersey hasn’t scored more than two goals in any of its first five games this season. And that includes two overtimes...The Maple Leafs 5-4 shootout loss to Chicago Saturday marked the fourth time in five games the young Leafs have gagged up a lead late in the third period…Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen doesn’t appear to have been hurt by missing training camp with a contract dispute. He has an assist on each of Buffalo’s four power-play goals this season…This could be a lot worse. The Jets’ only two wins this season have come back when they roared back from three-goal deficits in the third period…The Hurricanes may have to finish their season-opening six-game road trip Tuesday night in Detroit without Jeff Skinner, who wasn’t on the ice for practice Monday…The Flames are porous. They’ve given up at least four goals in four of their first six games and at least five in three of them…The Coyotes are 0-4-0 on their eastern road trip, which still has stops in New Jersey and Philadelphia.
The Ottawa Senators will have to go with a goaltending duo of Andrew Hammond and Chris Driedger as Craig Anderson left the team with no timeline for his return.
Craig Anderson is two days removed from his best performance of the season, but the Ottawa Senators have no idea when the 35-year-old veteran keeper will be suiting up next.
The Senators unexpectedly announced Thursday that Anderson has taken a leave of absence from the team “to attend to a personal matter at home,” and has been given the “support of the entire organization” to do so.
“While we are uncertain of how long Craig may be away, he will continue to have our support for as much time as is needed," Senators GM Pierre Dorion said in a release. "We will respect his privacy and will have no further comment at this time.”
Anderson has been solid yet unspectacular in his work this season and boasts a 4-1-0 record, 2.95 goals-against average and .903 save percentage through the first six games of the season. And while he early season numbers may leave something to be desired, he had a solid outing in his most recent appearance for the club. When he took the net against the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night, Anderson posted a 22-save shutout for his first clean slate of the campaign.
With Anderson out of the lineup, starting duties will fall to 28-year-old Andrew Hammond, he of remarkable rookie season fame. However, since Hammond’s remarkable 2014-15 run, he has been unable to find the same form.
During that 24-game stretch — over which time Hammond lost only three times and just once in regulation — Hammond posted a 1.79 GAA and .941 SP, but he stumbled with a 2.65 GAA and .914 SP in 24 outings during the 2015-16 season. He has only appeared in one game so far this season, a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings, and currently has a 5.00 GAA and ugly .800 SP.
With Hammond moving up the lineup due to Anderson’s unfortunate leave, the Senators announced that Chris Driedger has been called up from the AHL’s Binghamton Senators. Driedger, 22, has seen 55 total minutes of NHL action over the course of the past two seasons, making 21 saves without allowing a single goal over that span. However, he has never started, nor been the goaltender of record, in an NHL game.
Driedger had his first full taste of AHL action in 2015-16 and managed a 18-15-5 record, 2.83 GAA and .912 SP to go along with one shutout. Through two games in the AHL this season, Driedger has a 0.96 GAA, .961 SP and one shutout.
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Anders Lindback is headed to the AHL, and the KIngs' two NHL goalies are still on the shelf so they may try to acquire a proven starter.
The Los Angeles Kings made a short-term move to boost their injury-plagued goaltending, signing Anders Lindback to a professional tryout offer. The 28-year-old Lindback has some NHL experience, but for now, he joins their AHL affiliate.
Backup Jeff Zatkoff is expected to be sidelined for only a week with a lower-body injury. Starter Jonathan Quick, however, could be out for up to three months. Meanwhile, some pundits continue to speculate over who the Kings could bring in via trade as a short-term replacement for Quick.
Prior to the Kings signing Lindback, Sportsnet's Luke Fox listed Winnipeg's Ondrej Pavelec, Anaheim's Jonathan Bernier, Florida's Reto Berra, Pittsburgh's Mike Condon, the New York Islanders' Thomas Greiss and Philadelphia's Steve Mason or Michal Neuvirth as possible trade targets.
Other pundits previously linked Pavelec, Bernier, Berra, Condon and Greiss to the Kings. The cap hits of Bernier ($4.15 million) and Pavelec ($3.9 million) means the cap-strapped Kings are unlikely to pursue them. Berra ($1.45 million), Condon ($575,000) and Greiss ($1.5 million) are more affordable options.
Mason and Neuvirth, however, are new additions to this guessing game. Fox believes Mason's name appears in trade chatter owing to his $4.1-million cap hit. Like Bernier and Pavelec, his salary isn't a good fit for the Kings. Neuvirth ($1.6 million) is more affordable, but like Mason, he's not off to a good start.
When asked by a reader which goalie the Flyers could trade, Philly.com's Sam Carchidi replied Neuvirth for the right price. However, he also points out Flyers GM Ron Hextall prefers carrying two strong goalies on his roster. If Neuvirth and Mason fail to snap out of their collective early-season funk, Hextall might consider moving one of them.
NO SIGN OF END TO JETS-TROUBA STANDOFF
With November fast approaching, there's no sign of an end to the standoff between the Winnipeg Jets and restricted free agent defenseman Jacob Trouba. The 22-year-old remains at home in Michigan hoping Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff honors his trade request.
Trouba could be cooling his heels for a while. TSN's Bob McKenzie last week said there's no indication the young rearguard is close to being dealt. His colleague Pierre LeBrun reports Cheveldayoff's asking price is a young, top-four defenseman with a left-handed shot. He claims the Jets GM can afford to be patient, as he's got the full backing of team ownership.
The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins were linked to Trouba in the rumor mill. However, ESPN.com's Craig Custance doubts the Wings can land him, suggesting Anaheim's Cam Fowler as a better target. CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty doesn't see Trouba as a fit with the Bruins.
Trouba and the Jets can afford to engage in a staredown for now. But as the Dec. 1 deadline for re-signing restricted free agents nears, one of them could blink. Expect the conjecture over Trouba's future to increase by mid-November.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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The Flyers celebrate a goal.
Enjoy the plethora of goals now because it's very likely goaltending improves, rookie stars slow down, and referees put their whistles away.
Much has been made of the plethora of goals that have been scored in the NHL so far this season. Dynamic players and suspect goaltending have combined to give goal judges a case of repetitive stress injuries from pressing the goal-light button so often during the league’s first 93 games.
And the numbers are there to back it up. So far this season, teams have combined to produce an average of 5.91 goals per game, which doesn’t take into account the goal awarded to teams that win shootouts. In addition, there are 54 players who have played at least four games so far who are averaging a point per game, and that includes nine defensemen and six rookies. One of those players – Zach Werenski – is both a defenseman and a rookie and, going into Wednesday night’s games, freshman Auston Matthews leads the league in scoring and is on a 137-point pace.
It’s impressive to be sure, but is it going to continue? Almost certainly not. Even though this season is a little more productive out of the gate than most, the reality is that scoring is usually higher during the first part of the season before levelling off. It has been speculated that it’s so much more dramatic this season because the offensive players have already found their groove after having participated in the World Cup, but defensemen and goaltenders were part of that tournament, too.
And it’s not as though this is unprecedented. In fact, not long ago, scoring was at the same pace as it is now after roughly the same period of time. After 92 games in 2009-10, teams were actually scoring more than they are this season, averaging 5.97 non-shootout goals per game. The season before, the average was just slightly lower, at 5.86 goals per game after 91 games. And what ultimately happened? Well, in 2009-10, things evened out and the league finished the season at 5.46 non-shootout goals per game, which is pretty much average for this era. The league had four 100-point scorers and a total of 23 full-time players who averaged at least a point per game. In 2008-09, the league had three 100-point men and 20 regulars who averaged a point per game.
It will be interesting to see where this season goes. You’d have to think that there are a number of goaltenders who will find their games before long. Having sleeker pants can’t possibly be making that much of a difference. But what will bear more scrutiny is how the rookies and young players continue to produce as the season goes on.
Remember, these rookies who are filling the net are going through the league for the first time at the moment. Once opponents get a book on them, it’s probably going to be that much more difficult to make the same kinds of eye-popping plays they’re making right now. And none of them has experienced the rigors of the NHL on a long-term basis. Even Connor McDavid played only 45 games last season, so nobody’s sure how good he’s going to be after 60 games of going against the top shutdown lines in the league.
But more than anything, NHL coaches are notorious for finding ways of shutting down offensive players. They will have their teams adapt defensively and as the season moves on, will be clamping down on star players a lot more closely. And that doesn’t even take into account the inevitable erosion in the standard of officiating that seems to happen every year. As the season goes on, the hooking and holding that occurs early often degenerates into tackling and full nelsons by the end of the season.
Perhaps none of that will happen, but recent history tells us that it almost always does. There’s a chance the quick feet, hands and minds of the young players who have dazzled us for the first eight percent of the season will continue to do so, undeterred by checking and officiating. But that being said, it’s far easy to destroy a masterpiece than to create one. By the same token, it’s easier to stop star players from scoring, particularly when you’re abetted by a league that seems to love parity as much as the NHL does, than it is to continue to create offense. This is a league that goes to great pains to point out how close its games always are, conveniently forgetting the fact that it’s impossible to have large margins of victory when nobody is scoring.
It would be wonderful to see this level of scoring continue or, shocker of shockers, even rise a little. Enjoy it now, but it would be unwise to count on it continuing in the long term.