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. There are some things to like about this Flames team, namely their taletned young forwards, and quick defense corps, but they remain a very limited team up front, even when they’re healthier down the middle. 

 

Basically their early season success has been all about Marc Gioradno, T.J. Brodie, and smoke and mirrors. It will not last. 

 

On Tuesday night, for example, they were throttled by a Capitals team that spend much of the night leading – outshot significantly, including by a 27-20 margin at even-srength. Still, they managed the comeback win. 

 

Yes, Giordano’s backhand goal was filthy and, yes, the Flames bring their lunchpails and give an honest effort every night which is great. They’re also the 3rd worst team by Corsi For percentage at five-on-five, and the third luckiest team by combined even-strength shot percentage and save percentage. Thats generally a toxic indicator that a team is playing way over their heads and is likely to regress soon.

 

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The Capitals are kind of the opposite. This club could be really good, and will start racking up victories once Braden Holtby gets his head on straight (if Holtby ever gets his head on straight…).

 

One interesting wrinkle is that, on Tuesday night in a losing effort, the Capitals bumped physical winger Tom Wilson onto their first-line where he played with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. He delivered a pretty impressive fantasy stat line too, with an assist, five shots on goal and three hits thrown. 

 

If Wilson can continue to hold down that prime gig, he could have serious fantasy value as a waiver wire pick up…

 

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The banged up Columbus Blue Jackets got more bad news on Tuesday, as it was revealed that defenseman Ryan Murray has suffered a setback and is back out of the lineup. Then they lost 4-2 to a suddenly hot Carolina Hurricanes side, and man, this team could be in a lot of trouble. 

 

The Blue Jackets are now 4-8 and have lost six games in a row. At least until Sergei Bobrovsky gets back into action (and he seems to be at least a week away yet) this team is going to be in tough. They may even dig themselves too signifcant a hole to crawl back from…

 

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The Blues prevailed over the New Jersey Devils thanks to a goal from red hot winger Vladimir Tarasenko, who now has seven tallies (and nine points) in his last five games. Tarasenko is second in the league in even-strength shot rate (behind only Patric Hornqvist) so while this pace isn’t likely sustainable, he’s generating looks at an elite rate. Tarasenko won’t turn 23 until December, so this is his scoring prime. Is he about to take that next step, and seriously establish himself as an elite goal producer in this league?

 

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I drafted Tarasenko with the ninth pick of the ninth round in my only fantasy league this season, if you’ll permit me to high-five myself.

 

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The Chicago Blackhawks have had no shooting luck in the early going, but finally went off offensively on Tuesday night in Montreal. One lineup change to note is that Joel Quenneville has united Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in an effort to get his best forwards – who have really been struggling to produce at even-strength, relative to what we’re used to – going. It worked on Tuesday, as that line manufactured an even-strength goal and Toews was in on the first goal (a power play marker). 

 

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The Blackhawks got some bad news on Tuesday, however, when Patrick Sharp was rubbed out along the boards, left the contest, and didn’t return. Joel Quenneville suggested post game that Sharp was likely out for at least the medium term, which is a tough blow for fantasy owners…

 

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The Ottawa Senators got back on track on Tuesday, defeating the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 in a very entertaining game that was something of a goaltending duel between Jimmy Howard and Craig Anderson until the Senators broke the game wide open late. It was like they said to each other “winner gets to be the third string goalie for the U.S.A. at the 2018 Olympics” in advance of the game!

 

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In a game between the two most imposing clubs in the league so far on Tuesday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins cracked open the heads of the Minnesota Wild and feasted on the delicious goo contained therein. 

 

Evgeni Malkin managed an assist and now has a point in every game he’s played in this season (which is pretty ridiculous), while Patric Hornqvist stayed hot with a goal and four shots on net. 

 

When Rob Scuderi has two assists, you know it’s your night.

 

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The Nashville Predators lost to the Winnipeg Jets, and were outshot by them in a game in which they trailed by two goals early. Just bringing it up in case you were on the verge of believing that they’re a legitimate threat in the West.