November 5, 2014

Thomas Drance

2014-11-05

Thoughts on Claude Julien’s newfound aggression, Bonino, and Toews and Kane’s reunion.

 

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With points in eight of their 10 games so far, including one from an overtime loss to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday, the Florida Panthers are hanging tough in the early going. Though they’ve been unable to score goals (as a team they’ve managed just 15 in 10 contests), they’re at least a tough out – which is more than you can say for most of the teams this franchise has iced in their existence.

 

In particular, Roberto Luongo has been unconcious in October – which is extremely unusual for him. Generally a slow starter, Luongo leads all starters in even-strength save percentage in the early, as he’s posted an insane .968 save percentage at five-on-five. Obviously that’s unsustainable, but aside from Pekka Rinne (and actually even counting Rinne), there’s no hotter goalie in hockey right now.

 

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Interesting to note that when Brad Marchand scored the overtime winner for the Bruins on Tuesday night, he was on the ice with Carl Soderberg, Loui Eriksson and Dougie Hamilton. It’s not the first time the Bruins have gone with this three forwards and one defender look at four-on-four this year (they similarly did so when they beat the Buffalo Sabres in overtime about a week ago), and man, I really like the aggression Claude Julien is showing.

 

It’s not just the three forwards in overtime thing, Julien’s also been pulling his goaltender very early (particularly when Boston has a power play). I really admire the balls to go for it and push in overtime to avoid having an additional point handed out as a result of a pure coin flip (rather than a weighted one). Good fun from the veteran Bruins bench boss.

 

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Bad news for the Bruins on the injury front (and for fantasy GMs too): it was revealed on Tuesday that there’s still no timeline on Zdeno Chara’s probable return to action, and he hasn’t ruled out surgery yet. That’s tough news for The 37-year-old defender who has been, really, the elite shutdown defender of the past five years. 

 

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The Edmonton Oilers got throttled by the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on Tuesday night, as embattled Flyers netminder Steve Mason finally got his first win of the season. 

 

Mason has struggled enormously in the early going this season, but played pretty solid hockey stopping 35 of 36 shots against an Oilers team that looks like they’re going to miss Taylor Hall enormously. Masons counterpart Viktor Fasth, on the other hand, was not good – managing an anemic .840 save percentage in the losing effort. 

 

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With Hall out of the lineup the Oilers have bumped Benoit Pouliot on to a top-line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle. Pouliot didn’t record a point in his first game alongside Eberle and RNH (though he managed one shot on goal and four hits), but that line did come out even – which is more than you can say for Edmonton’s other forward groups. 

 

So while Pouliot did appear to punch up Edmonton’s first group, perhaps his presence in that slot made their lineup too top-heavy. 

 

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The Flames are not good, even if they continue to roll along and rack up victories in the early going. The