We had a trio of early-afternoon games thanks to Columbus Day so there are is some NHL action to discuss, even for the first Monday of the season.
Ottawa went into Boston and were trounced by the Boston top line. Patrice Bergeron had a hat trick and added an assist, David Pastrnak had two of each, and Brad Marchand had three helpers as Boston doubled Ottawa 6-3. Charlie McAvoy also had three assists.
On the Ottawa side, Ryan Dzingel had a pair of goals while Dylan DeMelo had a pair of assists. Mike Condon was in net for five of the six goals.
One thing to note here: five of the six Boston defencemen played between 18:51 and 21:56 with no one surpassing 22 minutes. That is a balanced approach which they didn’t employ in the first game of the season.
The Islanders shut out San Jose 4-0 in Brooklyn. It was Robin Lehner’s first start of the season and he made the most of it, making 35 saves on 35 shots.
It was a lot of depth scoring for the Islanders so not much aside from Lehner was important. One thing I did notice was that with the Sharks down 3-0 and a little over four minutes left, they pulled Martin Jones for the extra attacked. New York would score an empty-net goal after about three minutes of 6v5, but in those three-ish minutes, the only top-6 Islander forward to see ice time was Brock Nelson. No Barzal, no Bailey, no Lee. If that sustains itself this year, it could mean a lot of lost points for the top of the lineup, and that matters for fantasy.
Kyle Okposo managed a pair of assists, his first points of the season.
By the way, Conor Sheary remained on the top PP unit.
In response to the injury, it appears that the line of Giroux-Couturier-Voracek will be reunited with Travis Konecny moving down in Voracek’s spot with Jordan Weal taking JvR’s spot on the third line.
This is a pretty significant blow to the fantasy value of Konecny. Whether he skates with Nolan Patrick or Mikhail Vorobyov, it’ll undoubtedly mean a decline in minutes and he still won’t get to the top PP unit.
Brandon Dubinsky will be out at least four weeks with a strained oblique. While he’s not the producer he was a few years ago, he could still rack up hits, PIMs, and face-off wins for fantasy owners. Riley Nash will take over the third-line duties while Anthony Duclair was moved to the second line alongside Alex Wennberg and Oliver Bjorkstrand was moved to the fourth.
Ryan Getzlaf missed Monday night's game with an injury. Update on the game and his condition in the morning.
Anaheim won their third game of the season, taking their home game against Detroit 3-2 in a shootout. Despite no Getzlaf, Perry, Kesler, Kase, or Eaves, the Ducks still managed to win Monday night. That's kind of incredible, even if it's Detroit on a back to back.
With Getzlaf out, Sam Steel took a spot on the team's top PP unit. In fact, Steel played 20:54 in total on Monday night; the next-highest Ducks forward was Rakell at 17:49. Even when Getzlaf and Kesler are back, it seems Steel is in the good graces of the coaching staff.
Speaking of good graces: Dennis Cholowski trailed only Danny DeKeyser in EVTOI among Red Wings blue liners.
Roberto Luongo is out for 2-4 weeks. He left Florida’s game on Saturday night and apparently it is a knee issue that popped up. James Reimer will be getting all the starts for the near-term so grab him off the wire if you need a third or fourth goalie.
Maybe it’s nothing, maybe it’s something: JT Miller was moved to the fourth line in yesterday’s practice while Tyler Johnson was moved to the second line for Tampa with Ondrej Palat moving up to join Stamkos and Kucherov. It’ll be interesting to see how long this lasts. My bet: not long.
We are nearly a week into the season and it is still far too early to draw any conclusions about anything. Outside of injuries or major line changes, tinkering with a fantasy roster before Halloween is not advised. Whatever you or I thought about a given player or given team 10 days ago should still be accurate today.
Except that’s not quite true. There are things that always stand out once the games get going. We watch the games, check the post-game stats, and there players or teams that catch our attention. I want to go through some things that have stood out to me through the (nearly) first week of the season.
Dobber had his own proper early-season notes yesterday.
Let’s get to it.
Carolina should scare every other team in the East, however…
The Hurricanes have played three games and two of them were at home to the Rangers and Islanders. They crushed the Islanders in the 5v5 expected goals battle (60%) despite the 2-1 overtime loss; Thomas Greiss being nearly unbeatable was the only reason for the Carolina loss. They similarly ran over the Rangers in the wild 8-5 win on Sunday. Neither of those two outcomes should be surprising.
The third game, a 3-1 win in Columbus where they exceeded the Blue Jackets at 5v5 in both CF% (56.4%) and xGF% (52.2%) is a better indicator here. They were much better than two teams they are supposed to reign over, but they were also as good (or better) than a team some people think could contend for a Stanley Cup. Columbus was without Seth Jones, but Carolina is still missing Victor Rask (not nearly as important, I know) and is littered with young players and rookies. Despite that, they went on the road and soundly defeated this Cup darkhorse.
Carolina has looked great offensively in every game. Everything from puck movement to shot generation looks very fluid. For years, the team had trouble scoring, but it doesn’t look like the issue will persist this season. The only thing holding this team back, as usual, is goaltending.
Calgary should contend, however…
It occurred to me, watching Carolina’s game on Sunday night, that the Hurricanes and Flames aren’t very different. They have an elite-level talent at the top of the lineup (Aho/Gaudreau), an underappreciated-yet-excellent centre (Backlund/Staal), emerging young stars (Tkachuk, Bennett, Svechnikov, Necas), and a solid blue line. Carolina’s back-end is better from top to bottom but they both have very good top-4 pairs, assuming Travis Hamonic is healthy.
There are minor differences between the two rosters but it’s just something that popped in my head.
Their respective seasons will come down to their goaltending.
It’s been a terrible start to the year for Mike Smith but they need him to turn things around. The Pacific Division looks to be wide open. A solid year from the netminder and health from the skaters should mean the team can contend for a division title. A down start to the year from Smith will have the team looking for a goaltender by Christmas.
Ilya Kovalchuk looks better than expected
After leaving the NHL for several years and returning in his mid-30s, there were a lot of questions as to how good Kovalchuk still was and could be in the new NHL. The chemistry between he and Anze Kopitar is apparent.
There are still a lot of problems with the Kings though. With Dustin Brown injured, Alex Iafallo is skating on the top line and he looks more out place than last year. Kopitar and Kovalchuk can seemingly find each other all over the ice but Iafallo is essentially being dragged all over the ice. As Dobber noted in his Ramblings, he has picked up a couple points but the Kings need another impact left winger and need one badly. I suppose that could be Kovalchuk once Brown returns but that doesn’t leave much on the third line.
Among the other issues plaguing the Kings:
— dellowhockey (@dellowhockey) October 6, 2018
Yes, that’s Jake Muzzin playing the bumper on the power play. They have changed the PP but it still looks very bad. More alterations are needed.
Arizona needs patience
So, this might be a tough pill to swallow, given how poorly the Coyotes started last season. Things aren’t going much better this year with back-to-back losses to start the season, having been shutout in both contests.
They don’t look bad, though. I watched about half the first game (at Dallas) and the entire second game (vs. Anaheim). They are getting their chances. They won’t keep shooting 0%. They will get Alex Galchenyuk back, hopefully in the next couple weeks. This isn’t Anaheim getting throttled every night and yet somehow winning. Arizona looked pretty even with Dallas and ran over the Ducks. They just went a couple games without scoring.
The team isn’t deep with scoring talent, and have little true top-end talent, but guys like Stepan and Panik are 20-goal threats while Keller and Galchenyuk can flirt with 30. If they want to win games, there’ll be a lot of 3-2 and 2-1 contests. But they don’t look ‘bad,’ they look a bit unlucky. They won’t be a top-scoring team but they need to have patience until Galchenyuk returns.
Detroit’s young blue liners deserve more rope
Libor Sulak. Dennis Cholowski. Filip Hronek. Were it not for the injuries, it’s a wonder if any of these guys are on the opening night roster. As it is, Mike Green is expected to miss a month with his illness, Jonathan Ericsson isn’t back yet, Niklas Kronwall is still out but close to returning, and Trevor Daley was injured on Sunday night. That forced both Sulak and Cholowski to play over 22 minutes against Los Angeles and the Red Wings looked… fine?
It’s been years now that the Wings haven’t had a bevy of players on the blue line who can move the puck. Other than Mike Green, the defence corps has been, more or less, a horror show when it comes to moving the puck and starting the offence. Each of those players, Sulak and Cholowski specifically, bring a dimension to the defence that the team needs badly.
Detroit has lost their first two games, but the first loss was in overtime to Columbus and the second loss was a 4-2 game including an empty netter where they thoroughly outplayed the Kings. The rebuild is on for the Wings and they should keep giving the kids the ice time. Kronwall has one year left and if they want him to mentor the young players, he can do so playing 15 minutes a night. Ericsson has two years left and he can do the same. A big reason why Detroit has looked fine early in the season is because of the young defencemen. Don’t take away their ice time, Blashill.