So, here we are at the point where most teams have now played their 10th game of the season.
At this point, most teams have a pretty good idea what they have in the lineup and some start contemplating changes.
We can also start to get a pretty good read on how off season moves are paying off…or not.
Forthwith, 10 thoughts on the season thus far:
1) The Minnesota Wild could be the best team in the league. Here’s why:
- Despite a decent record, 6-3-0, The Wild are actually playing better than their record would otherwise indicate.
- They have the best 5V5 record in the league at 2.08
- They are 2nd in the league in Shots For/Game at 35.6 and they lead the league in Shots Against/Game at 23.2. Their shot differential of 12.3 is off the charts good.
- The Wild are 5th in the league in GF per 60 at 3.33 and they are 4th in the league in GA/60. They are tied for 1st in the league with the Penguins with a goal differential of +14.
- BUT…the Wild have managed that differential while scoring ZERO PP goals through 9 games while the Penguins are sporting an unworldly 39.5% PP percentage. It would seem incredibly likely that the Penguins will come down to earth and the Wild will start getting some PP production.
- Last night, with 3 of their starting 6 defensemen on the shelf (Jason Pominville played some D) and with additional injuries to Matt Cooke and Erik Haula, the Wild outshot possession monster San Jose to the tune of 46-28. More on the Wild dominance here.
Watch out for this team.
2) The Nashville Predators are proving once again that a team built the right way, from the back out and up the middle, will be successful. Nashville is almost $10M under the salary cap (only 4 teams spend less) but with Pekka Rinne in goal and perhaps the best D corp in the league, the Predators were able to assemble a patchwork forward group from the free agent pile although it should be pointed out they have NINE legitimate NHL calibre centres on the roster and will only improve in that area once Mike Fisher returns from injury. Peter Laviolette seems like the perfect choice as head coach for this group since he has been able to correctly make use of his big, talented defensive corp to create a quick transition game that is killing opponents. That Nashville has 5-0-2 record against the WC pretty much tells you how good they are.
3) The Dallas Stars are playing with fire. The Stars’ 1st line has been all but unstoppable this season but the Stars are actually -1 in goal differential thanks to a leaky D and lack of an adequate back up goaltender. You’d have to think Jim Nill will be among the first GM’s to make a move this season although the Stars are pretty close to the cap. With a very tough schedule coming up, Anaheim, Minnesota, Los Angeles, Nashville, San Jose, the Stars could be in tough to hang on to a playoff spot unless the Stars can continue to outscore their opponents with their Benn-Spezza-Seguin top line.
4) Before the season started, I predicted Tyler Seguin would flirt with 50 goals and 100 points and be in the running for the Hart Trophy. So far so good. Seguin is on pace for 63 goals and 136 points.
5) Those pundits who suggested the Sedin twins are a spent force might just be eating a little crow early this season. Now that they’ve been unshackled from John Tortorella, the twins are producing at a very high level…they are on pace for 98 point seasons while line mate Radim Vrbata is on pace for 41 goals.
6) The Columbus Blue Jackets are hanging in there (4-5-0) despite the worst run of injuries I’ve ever witnessed.
The star-crossed team has been on an unparalleled run of bad luck. In the last week alone, it has seen forward Nick Foligno stretchered off the ice after a freak collision with a linesman, franchise goalie Sergei Bobrovsky suffer a fractured finger during practice and defenceman James Wisniewski suffer the exact same injury in a game.
If that was the extent of the issues, a team could cope.
But then you remember that there are serious questions about Nathan Horton even playing this season because of back issues and that Boone Jenner, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Mark Letestu and Matt Calvert are also on the shelf.
All nine of those guys would be in the lineup, if healthy. Of course, that’s a big “if” right now.
7) The Russians are Coming
The performance of Russian born players this season is worth keeping an eye on. Here’s the run down.
Malkin – 4G 8A 12P
Tarasenko 4G 5A 9P
Kucherov 4G 5A 9P (looks like a rising star)
Ovechkin 5G 1A 6P (struggling with defensive responsibilities?)
Kulemin 1G 5A 6P
Emelin 0G 6A 6P
Datsyuk 2G 3A 5P (in only 4GP)
Namestnikov 3G 1A 4P
Anisimov 2G 2A 4P
Yakupov 2G 2A 4P (not close to 1st overall pick production)
Markov 1G 3A 4P
Kuznetsov 1G 3A 4P
Nikitin 1G 2A 3P
Semin 0G 2A 2P (what a waste of $7M per year)
Voynov 0G 2A 2P (suspended)
Volchenkov 0G 2A 2P
Kulikov 0G 1A 1P (the Panthers don’t score much at all)
Tyutin 0G 1A 1P
Nichushkin 0G 0A 0P (only 2GP due to injury, due back soon)
8) The Edmonton Oilers are living on borrowed time. They may have 4 victories on the season but all 4 have come against EC teams while their record against WC teams is 0-5-1.After a Saturday night matchup agains the Canucks, who have already beaten the Oilers twice this season, they embark on their annual Rodeo Road Trip which sees them play 4 more EC teams and Nashville. They will return home to face the music in the WC. They will close out November with games against the Canucks, Devils, Blackhawks, Stars, Predators and Blues. Good luck with that. The American Thanksgiving Day cutoff for being in the playoffs or not is only a month away.
10) The Buffalo Sabres are on pace to be an historically bad team. They’re averaging just over ONE GF per game. The record for the least number of GF in a season is 133 held by the 1953/54 Chicago Blackhawks. That record may be in jeopardy.
The amazing thing is the Sabres have actually won 2 games while the Carolina Hurricanes remain winless after 8GP. By the way, the record for fewest wins in a season is 8, held by the 1974/75 Washington Capitals.