So, here we are 1 week into the NHL season (give or take) and some early observations are in order.
1) Edmonton Oiler fans are already near a revolt. The team, as expected, has done a face plant right out of the blocks. Remember I called them to finish 13th in the WC although, based on early returns, that may have been optimistic. There was optimism among the rabble that the Oilers had solidified their D and sorted out their goaltending in the offseason but both have been nothing short of dreadful and Viktor Fasth is already on IR.
Remember I mentioned the Oilers were a Nugent-Hopkins injury away from a disaster? Well, guess what? As expected, opposition players have been targeting Hopkins, Hall and Eberle with huge, clean hits and already the Oiler kids are back and blue.
As of this writing, I imagine Daniel Winnik is just licking his chops.
There are some observers, particularity at Lowetide’s blog, that the Oilers are “better” this season and point to small sample size Corsi ratios to back up their argument but as long time poster Woodguy has pointed out repeatedly, the Oilers “improvement” has been based on score effects rather than reality.
So far this season, the Oilers are giving up 31.7 shots per game while last year they gave up 32.9
When your goaltending and D are sub par and the opposition is getting unimpeded shots from the prime scoring areas, giving up 5+ goals per game is not surprising.
In the game against the Kings, the Oilers were outshot 13-7 in the 1st period and the Kings went on cruise control after taking a 3-0 lead. They then spent the last 2 periods capitalizing on Oiler defensive mistakes and, in the 3rd period, were obviously playing to get Jonathan Quick a shutout.
The Oilers are getting more shots this season but, as Woodguy has pointed out, the reality is they are getting those shots while playing from behind. That has no sustain.
2) The Colorado Avalanche have started very slowly with a 1-2-0 record after losing their first two games by shutout to the Minnesota Wild. Like the Oilers, the Av’s are giving up way too many shots and, at least against the very impressive Wild, also had trouble generating offence. From the viewing I’ve had, it appears that the Av’s offseason additions, Jarome Iginla and Daniel Briere along with Alex Tanguay are having trouble keeping up with the speed of MacKinnon, Duchene and O’Reilly. It’ll be interesting to see how Colorado responds to the issue.
3) 2 teams, the Minnesota Wild and the Vancouver Canucks, won’t play their 3rd game of the season until Friday night while some other teams will already have played 4 or 5.
That may give both teams a bit of an early season boost since they’ve had time to practice, rest and heal any nagging injuries but, later, they’ll be playing a compressed schedule that may take a toll.
Given their lack of playing time, it’s hard to get an early read on either team but the Wild have been dominant and the Canucks seem to be having fun again. If the Canucks can get their PP back to near the top of the league as they were just a couple of season ago, watch out. So far, they’re at 30% and it appears Radim Vrbata, a RH shot, may be just what the doctor ordered. Sweet Georgia Brown may be back in the house.
4) The Dallas Stars wobbled out of the gate but their victory over a very good Columbus team was just dominant. Jamie Benn showed again why he is the best LW in hockey notching a Gordie Howe hat trick with 1G and 3A. Oh, and Tyler Seguin scored 3 goals with 6 shots and was +4. Take that Taylor!
5) Every season there is a Cinderella team that rises from the ashes to compete with the Big Boys. This season, I think it’ll be the New York Islanders. Garth Snow (I KNOW!) killed it in the offseason adding Grabovski, Kulemin, Boychuk and Leddy and already his moves are paying dividends. Snow has managed to acquire so much centre depth that the Isles are actually playing 3 bonafide NHL centres on one line and, folks, we know the key to winning in the NHL is depth down the middle.
6) The Florida Panthers played a game against the Ottawa Senators earlier this week. Or did they? The announced attendance was 7,211 and I can tell you that I watched the game and if there were actually 3,000 in attendance, I would be shocked. Apparently, Broward County is considering whether or not they would be better off without the Panthers and, unless they are ingesting some of those illegal substances that are so prevalent in Florida, they will just tell the team to GTFO. Quebec City is beckoning.