Assorted thoughts on all things NHL this fine Sunday morning, 24 October 2010:
The Chicago Blackhawks are the first team in the league to reach Game 10. They are In The Curve...OGA's Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC), that is. While the 'Hawks 5-4-1 start may seem a bit rocky for a defending Stanley Cup Champion, it's really not bad, considering the tremendous influx of new players this season and the time needed to establish chemistry with new linemates, not to mention Brian Campbell's injury, Nik Hjalmarsson's two-game suspension...does it sound like I'm making excuses for the Blackhawks here? I'm not - they're doing just fine, all things considered.
The Columbus Blue Jackets played a desperately-needed bounceback game in Chicago last night. After going down, 2-0, the Jackets rallied to win, 3-2. I like Coach Arniel's decision to start Steve Mason again after Friday night's debacle (a 6-2 home loss to Calgary). Though only a couple of the Flames' goals can be pinned on Mase, it was best for him to "get back on that pony and ride", so to speak, rather than stewing over it until Tuesday night. Mason turned in a solid 30-save effort against the 'Hawks, and the team in front of him was much improved. Note of concern: Nikita Filatov opened the game on the fourth line and didn't touch the ice in the third period. New coach, same old doghouse. At this point, I have to question Filatov's maturity and desire to compete. So far this season, he's shown brief flashes of brilliance (mostly on the PP), and has looked the rest of the time like he doesn't want to get dirty. If he could find a little grit to go with those hands, Filatov could be great. If not, he could be Patrik Stefan.
After last night's 1-0 win over Dallas, the Nashville Predators are still the only team in the NHL without a regulation loss (4-0-3). As a Stars fan, I say, "Well done...ya jerks!" Seriously, I'm impressed by the Predators' ability to find ways to win. This team doesn't get the respect it deserves from the rest of the league.
I know it's very early, but I can't help myself: Looking at the standings this morning, I see that IF THE PLAYOFFS BEGAN TODAY, the entire Central Division would be in...and St. Louis would have the good fortune to face Calgary in the first round. It's far too early to draw any conclusions from this, of course, but it's interesting.
Back East, the News O'The Day is Ilya Kovalchuk's healthy scratchiness last night. Seeing as how Kovy has a No Movement Clause in effect until July, 2016, methinks John MacLean's days as the Devils' head coach are numbered...After allowing 13 goals in their first three games, the New York Rangers have allowed just six goals in their last three. Interestingly, the Blueshirts also scored 13 in their first three and six in their last three. They went 1-1-1, followed by 2-1-0. The difference? Better team defense/team play in general, as everyone seems to have stepped up their efforts following the injury to Marian Gaborik...Last, but not least, I'm high on the Florida Panthers right now. Aside from their stinker against Dallas last Thursday, the Panthers have outworked their opponents nightly. One bright spot in particular is the play of Rusty Olesz (6GP, 2-3-5, +4), who seems determined to live up to his cap hit.
At 6:00pm Eastern tonight, I'm planning on catching at least the first period of the Predators-Lightning game. I'd like to watch the whole thing, but the New Jersey October Trainwrecks roll into Madison Square Garden at 7:00, and I've gotta see Avery vs. Brodeur and Kovy (assuming he's not scratched again). In conclusion, let me say...Let's Go, Rangers!
Take me back to On Goal Analysis.