Eastern Conference Round Up
The first week of the season has come and gone, but not without its fair share of news coming out of Montreal, Tampa Bay, Buffalo, New York/ Brooklyn, Detroit, and Columbus.
We begin in Montreal where all aspects of their game are hitting on all cylinders. Montreal is one (at the time of the publishing of this article) of two undefeated teams in the NHL. Carey Price is picking up where he left off in the regular season by posting incredible numbers, and throwing checks. Yes, throwing checks. Just ask the Rangers’ Chris Kreider. Kreider who ran into Price a couple of years ago in the playoffs and injured Price’s knee. Price decided to take matters into his own hands by leveling Kreider this week when Kreider went behind the Montreal net.
Another Montreal player who is helping contribute to their early success is Tomas Plekanec. As a result, Montreal has decided to reward the top-line center to a 2 year, $12 million contract extension. In true Plekanec fashion, he didn’t want to make a big deal of it, however; captain Max Pacioretty wouldn’t allow Plekanec off that easy. When Pacioretty learned of Plekanec’s extension, Pacioretty made it a point to give Plekanec a round of applause. Pacioretty stated, “He’s a sneaky guy. He didn’t tell anyone. So I wanted to make sure he was a little embarrassed. He’s a humble person, that’s the way he is. Everyone’s really excited for him.”
Humble is an appropriate adjective to describe the Tampa Bat Lightening’s Steven Stamkos. Stamkos earlier this week scored the 500th point in his career. Stamkos’ 500th point in his 495th career game puts him in elite company. Only Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, and Jaromir Jagr have scored 500 games in less time than Stamkos.
But all the news coming out of Tampa is positive. Defenseman Nikita Nesterov has been suspended two games for his hit on Dallas Stars winger Curtis McKenzie a few nights ago. This marks the first time Nesterov has been suspended. Meanwhile, the Dallas Stars have placed McKenzie on IR with a lower body injury, with his return unknown at this time.
Buffalo is now grappling with number one goalie Robin Lehner going on the IR as well. Tests revealed that Lehner will be out six to ten weeks with a high ankle sprain. This is already a huge blow for the Sabres, considering they do not have much stability in between the pipes, and is a very young team in a rebuilding phase this year. The injury to Lehner opens the door for GM Tim Murry to make a trade for a veteran goaltender, or perhaps give one of their young goaltenders from their AHL affiliate in Rochester a chance.
A chance is exactly what Buffalo’s Sam Reinhart needed this week. Reinhart, who was Buffalo’s first round pick in 2014, scored his first NHL goal this week. Reinhart may not get all the attention like his teammate and fellow first round pick (2015) Jack Eichel, but since Buffalo is such a young team, we may be hearing more about Reinhart as the season progresses.
Further south in the state of New York, the Islanders are in the news this week. Former Capitals netminder Jaroslav Halak made his season debut against the San Jose Sharks this evening. Halak, who suffered an upper body injury that kept him out of the Islanders’ first four games this season, showed no ill effects in the Islanders’ 6-3 win over the Sharks Saturday night.
Someone who is feeling ill these days is the Detroit Red Wings’ Johan Franzen. Franzen was placed on the IR after experiencing post-concussion symptoms from a hit he took back last January from Edmonton’s Rob Klinkhammer. Franzen worked hard in the off-season to get himself back into playing shape, but then started to feel the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome as of late. It is unknown at this time if he will return this season.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are wondering if their goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky will return to his old form. So far in this early part of the season, Bobrovsky isn’t showing flashes of what he used to be. As a result, he has taken the blame for the woes of the Bluejackets’ lack of success early in this season.
Bobrovsky stated, “I have zero confidence right now”. But, his teammates don’t share that sediment. They have come to his defense by saying that all of their early season struggles aren’t because of him. Ryan Johansen said, “I don’t even know if he’s (Bobrobsky) struggling that much. It’s our whole defensive game right now.”
One thing that isn’t struggling is the shortage of news coming out of the East this week. Even with it being the first week of the season. That has been this week’s Eastern Conference Round-Up.
Western Conference Round Up
There is devastating news out of San Jose Sharks camp. During practice on Thursday, forward Logan Couture sustained a broken fibula. He will miss the next 4-6 weeks with this injury. The Sharks are in the middle of a road trip out East that will make stops around New Jersey and New York through Monday. This injury is a huge blow to the Sharks who are off to a pretty good start to their season.
Calgary Flames forward Lance Bouma also sustained a broken fibula on Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues. He had a successful surgery, but there is no timetable for his return. It is estimated that he will miss at least 3 months.
Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan was named as the North American head coach for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey on Friday. This is a tremendous honor for McLellan who has plenty of hockey accomplishments on his resume. McLellan coached Team Canada in the 2015 World Hockey Championship, leading Team Canada to their first gold medal since 2007. When McLellan coached the San Jose Sharks, he led the Sharks to six total playoff appearances and the Presidents’ Trophy in 2009. McLellan brings a good taste of winning and plenty of experience behind the bench.
Connor McDavid made his highly anticipated Oilers home debut on Thursday night against the St. Louis Blues. McDavid finished with 0 points, a -3 rating, and 20:17 of icetime. The Oilers remain winless in the McDavid era as they have started this season with a 0-4 record.
The Arizona Coyotes are off to a nice start to their season. They have gone 3-1 in their first four games and have played some exciting hockey. Their two young studs, forwards Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, have lit the lamp a lot this week.
Click here to see Max Domi’s sweet backhand goal against Anaheim on Wednesday night.
Click here to see Anthony Duclair’s first career hat trick against Anaheim on Wednesday night.
These two young guys are fun to watch and should give Coyotes fans plenty of optimism for the future. It is safe to say that Max Domi is just a little bit more offensively gifted than his dad Tie was back in his day. Anthony Duclair was acquired from the Rangers in the big deal that sent defenseman Keith Yandle to New York. It is still shocking to me that the Rangers traded away a very promising forward prospect like Duclair.
Heading into Friday’s games, there are still three Western Conference clubs still searching for their first wins of the season: Anaheim, Los Angeles, and Edmonton. Who would have thought before the season began that Anaheim and Los Angeles would be off to such slow starts? It is still early in the season, so there is still time for both clubs to rebound. Anaheim is still a Western Conference favorite this year, while Los Angeles was projected to get back into the playoff picture.
The Vancouver Canucks have begun their mission to get younger and faster as a team. They have three rookies currently playing with the club – forwards Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann, and defenseman Ben Hutton. Hutton is the biggest surprise of the group because Canucks management thought that he needed another year in the AHL. Hutton surprised everyone and came to training camp in good shape and earned a roster spot for the Canucks blueline. Virtanen and McCann are both 2014 1st round draft picks of the Canucks and both are surrounded with high expectations. It has been a while since the Canucks have had this many rookies playing for them at once, but the team speed looks improved.
By Andrea Sobolik and George Foussekis