October is in the books and some definite storylines for the season are beginning to emerge.
- As I predicted before the season started…the Dallas Stars are the best team in the NHL. They’re off to their best start (9-2-0) in team history and seem to be able to outscore any lingering issues they have on the defensive side of the game.
Jamie Benn leads the league in scoring at a torrid 1.54 PPG and lineman Tyler Seguin is right behind him at 1.45 PPG. Benn’s pro-rated points total for a full season is an eye popping 126 points and Seguin projects at 119 points.
Flying somewhat under the radar for the Stars is sophomore defenseman John Klingberg with 11 points in 11 games. And now that Patrick Sharp is finding the range (4G 4A) the high octane offence should perform at an even higher level.
2. Some would argue the Canadiens should be deemed the best team in hockey but once again the Habs have been riding Carey Price goaltending so far this season so their record masks a few issues with the team. And now, there is this:
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien told reporters that Price suffered the injury in Montreal’s 4-3 loss in Edmonton on Thursday.
Rookie Mike Condon will make a second consecutive start in the Canadiens’ home game tonight against Winnipeg.
The Habs have three more home games coming up. Ottawa is at Montreal Tuesday, followed by the New York Rangers on Thursday and archrival Boston on Saturday.
Price is 7-2 with a 2.01 goals-against average this season for Montreal.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Habs fare without their best player.
3. Of course the biggest surprise of the season’s first month is the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks are amongst the most talented and deepest teams in the league so it’s not inconceivable they could soon go on winning streak but some are already questions why GM Bob Murray made so many changes to last season’s powerful roster.
from Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun,
… The Ducks made six or seven significant changes to the roster, they fired assistant coach Brad Lauer and brought in former Ottawa coach Paul MacLean, presumeably to take over from Boudreau if the club didn’t get off to the kind of start Murray expected this season.
If Boudreau voiced concerns about the roster changes, and nobody is sure how much say he has, then it must have fallen on deaf ears. Remember, it took awhile before Murray even confirmed that Boudreau was going to be back behind the bench in the first place. Not all is well there.
The word is Murray is trying desperately to make a roster move before somebody gets fired. We’ve been told he’s listening to offers for defenceman Cam Fowler but will only consider a move to an Eastern Conference team and will want a boatload in return to make that deal happen.
4. As bad as the Ducks have been, a couple of wins would get them right back into the Pacific Division race since both Calgary and Edmonton are pretty mediocre and I doubt Arizona can hang out in the top 3 for much longer. They will, however have to leapfrog San Jose if they want a chance at a playoff berth.
5. Speaking of Calgary and Edmonton, the Oilers should be thoroughly embarrassed by losing to the Flames last night. The Flames were playing their 5th game in 7 nights but out hustled and outplayed the Oilers for much of the game.
The song remains the same for the Oilers…an over rated offence, putrid defense and spotty goaltending. The Oilers once again went to war with two goaltenders who had not established themselves as NHL starters and the results have been predictable with Cam Talbot (.897) and Anders Nilsson (.902) finding out what it’s like to play behind such and atrocious defence.
Once again were getting affirmation that the Oilers don’t have even one passable top pairing D and until they realize they’re going to have to move at least one of their prized top draft picks to get one, they will remain in the crapper.
6. The Flames have also been abysmal this season for many of the same reasons the Oilers have done a faceplant. Shoddy defensive play and spotty goaltending have sunk the Flames so far, but the return of their best defenseman, TJ Brodie, from injury should help immensely with the former but all 3 of their goaltenders have a save percentage under .870 so, unless that changes, the Flames are sunk.
Amid all the doom and gloom in Calgary, Johnny Gaudreau is still scoring at a PPG pace and I expect he’ll exceed that this season as he is riding a 4.3 shooting percentage so far. You know that won’t last.
7. The rookie scoring race isn’t too surprising with Connor McDavid leading the way (but not by much).
What is interesting, though, is some of the underlying numbers since not all teams have their rookies playing as much or given as much rope as the Oilers always do with their youngsters.
Artemi Panarinin – Chicago 4.07
Oscar Lindberg – NYR 3.77
Jared McCann – Vancouver 3.24
Connor McDavid – Edmonton 3.07
Max Domi – Arizona 2.56
Anthony Duclair – Arizona 2.55
Dylan Larkin – Detroit 2.35
Nikolaj Ehlers – Winnipeg 1.99
Jack Eichel – Buffalo 0.73
It must also be noted that McDavid is running a shooting percentage of 22.7% and that isn’t going to last so the Calder Trophy race is much closer than it appears.
Also of note, Jack Eichel has generated the most shots by any rookie (40) but they just haven’t been going in. By way of contrast, McDavid has generated only 22 shots.