Tag:Matt Duchene
Posted on: March 8, 2012 11:04 am
Edited on: March 8, 2012 1:17 pm
 

Avs' Duchene out 3-4 weeks with ankle injury

By Brian Stubits

Right back in the thick of things out West, the Colorado Avalanche shared some bad news on Thursday when they announced that Matt Duchene is going to miss the next 3-4 weeks after suffering an ankle injury. The good news? At least it doesn't require surgery.

Have a look at the play that caused the injury as the puck slipped between his feet and a pokecheck came. The best word to describe it is awkward.

The No. 3 overall draft pick a couple summers ago, Duchene has fallen into the junior slump. Yes, I just made that up but after impressive rookie and sophomore campaigns, his numbers have dipped some this season, partly due to the injuries he's battled through. But at this point he has just 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) in 48 games played.

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When he is on his game, though, Duchene is one of the flashier young players in the league. And for a team like Colorado that is in a three-way tie for the last playoff spot and doesn't have a tremendous amount of scoring, his absence isn't good. Although since coming back from a knee injury that sidelined him for nearly two months he has just one goal and one assist in nine games. But the team has won six of the last eight with him in.

Does this cripple the Avs' postseason hopes? I don't think so. The odds are already against them with so many teams in the mix right now out West and the fact that the point totals are slightly misleading at the moment considering how many games the Avs have played. But they have hung around without a tremendous amount of production from him directly.

However this doesn't help them much, that much I'll say.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Posted on: March 7, 2012 9:39 am
Edited on: March 7, 2012 10:09 am
 

Pregame Skate: Sabres, Leafs continue push

Lindy Ruff and Buffalo return home. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The Pregame Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.

7 ET, Carolina at Buffalo

The first of only two games on an even quieter than usual Wednesday, all eyes will be on the Sabres after a good road trip. They went 3-1-1 on a trip that included stops in Madison Square Garden, Vancouver and Winnipeg. It resurrected their previously dead season.

However the question remains if it was more of an anomaly or the Sabres have turned the corner and shown flashes of the team many thought they would be. They can start to find that out with Wednesday's game against the Hurricanes.

Buffalo starts the night four points back of the Jets for eighth place in the East and tonight will play its one game in hand on Winnipeg. So not only would a win bring them to within just two points of the Jets, it would also pull the Sabres even in points with the Capitals in ninth.

The small bit of irony there is they would have to thank the Hurricanes for helping them achieve that as the 'Canes head to Buffalo just 24 hours after taking down the Caps in Washington with a bonus-hockey goal.

Obviously Carolina isn't going to roll over and the idea of an easy win in the NHL is almost non-existent, but this is a game the Sabres should and almost need to win. They can't make that road trip feel like it was for naught by laying an egg in their return home if they want to keep belief in a playoff berth.

7:30 ET, Toronto at Pittsburgh

The Maple Leafs are still trying to regain any semblance of their season. One way they were hoping to do that was with the hiring of Randy Carlyle. The good news? In the two games he has coached, the Leafs are outscoring their opponents by a goal. There's a plus.

The bad news is that they have still lost 12 of their last 13 games and only one of those losses came beyond 60 minutes. That's five out of the last 26 points up for grabs that they have taken. Is it any wonder then that they are almost as close to the bottom of the East as they are to Winnipeg in the playoff push?

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Now the good news is that it isn't too late to salvage their hopes even if the prospect is dire. But going into Pittsburgh and taking two points from the Penguins could potentially move them back over a pair of teams and just three points out. That's life at the bottom of the East this season, you have to fail really hard to make the playoffs out of reach.

It's pretty tough to go through a stretch of Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in five days but that's where the Leafs are. Then it's on the road for five straight. It's safe to say you'll see a very desperate team playing the Penguins tonight, but the Pens have been handling that a lot lately and are doing just fine.

Don't forget, the Penguins will be unveiling the much-anticipated Mario Lemieux statue outside of the arena.

Others were watching

There's nothing else. That's all we've got.

Your promised miscellany

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Posted on: February 27, 2012 11:55 pm
Edited on: February 28, 2012 12:31 am
 

Winners & Losers: Avs get big win, others miss

By Brian Stubits

There's always a winner and a loser in the NHL, and this is a new nightly look at some of the winners and losers in the biggest games and biggest situations across the league.

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This isn't the trade deadline winners & losers (those are right here!) but from the winners & losers from the actual games that were played.

Winners

1. Colorado Avalanche

They are the one and only team that gets to land on the winner's side tonight. They were the only team who really needed it that scored a big win, taking down the Ducks in Colorado. And just in case there were any hopes left, probably ending Anaheim's playoff hopes in the process.

That deal that the Avs swung for Steve Downie has paid some nice dividends early. In the now four games he's played with his new team, Downie has himself two goals and five assists after notching two helpers on Monday night. Not so bad for a guy not exactly known for his scoring prowess.

With the win the Avs are back on the streaking side as they moved into a tie with the Dallas Stars for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They hold the ninth spot based on playing one more game than Dallas thus far, but with the rest of the West contenders for that last spot falling on Monday night, it's a very big two points.

[Related: Avalanche 4, Ducks 1]

Arnott's head dress. (Jeremy Rutherford)

2. Jason Arnott

The veteran Blues center had two goals to help the Blues take care of the the Flames in Calgary on Monday, arguably the top performer of the night.

With the win the Blues actually climbed back to .500 on the road this season. They've been very good at home and not near as much on the road, but they just rattled off their third road win in a row, perhaps taking care of one of the remaining questions about their ability to win in the postseason.

Perhaps more importantly is the fact that Arnott donned the Weenie Hat for his postgame interview with the media.

Like a lot of teams, the Blues have a postgame award that they hand out to the player of the game. The Rangers have the Broadway Hat, the Blackhawks have the championship belt, etc. The Blues did have a hard hat in exchange for the Weenie Hat.

NHL locker rooms really are fun places after wins.

3. Matt Duchene

The Avs already made the list on the winner side, but I had to include Duchene here.

Duchene gets the award for goal of the night by swatting in the bouncing puck saucered his way by Paul Stastny to give the Avs the insurance goal.

I'm going to take a guess and say Duchene played some baseball growing up. Great hand-eye coordination to finish that one off.

Losers

1. Viewers of Rangers and Devils

Oh sure, Henrik Lundqvist had another shutout and Martin Brodeur only gave up one goal. We could be lauding them for their fine performances. We would, if either had broken a sweat.

Lundqvist pitched a shutout, but the Devils only managed a measly 13 shots. In the entire game. The Rangers meanwhile only had 15. And one of those came on Ryan Callahan's empty-net goal.

Not even the hatred between the two teams could really make up for the general lack of excitement with the game itself being played. Things were just a little clogged up. Not that I blame either team for the way they play, it's just when their two styles come together it doesn't make for incredibly exciting hockey. This game had twice as many goals as their previous meeting.

[Related: Rangers 2, Devils 0 | Video: Clarkson's charge on Dubinsky]

2. Winnipeg Jets

The Jets are in the middle of a long homestand that has allowed them to get back in the Southeast Division race. They've been great on home ice all season in front of their rabid fan base.

That's why it hurts so much to lose to the Edmonton Oilers at home. Having played more games than anybody in the NHL, that's a perfect example of the game they have to win if they want to make the playoffs. Instead, they gave up four consecutive goals to Edmonton in the third period, the second worst team in the NHL record wise.

As a result, they remain two points back of Florida in the Southeast despite having played four more games than the Panthers. They do hold on to the eighth spot in the East but that too is very tenuous.

[Related: Oilers 5, Jets 3]

3. Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames

Each team is on the outside looking in for the last playoff spot in the West and both came up empty on Monday night.

Granted, each was playing one of the monsters of the Central Division, but the end result is the failure to get points out of the games.

It's particularly painful for Calgary, which lost another game at home, falling to the Blues. General manager Jay Feaster guaranteed to TSN earlier this week that his team will make the playoffs. Well if they're going to do that they need to win these games at home, of which they have a lot down the stretch run.

The Kings meanwhile were only able to muster one goal, and it came in the closing minutes. It's been the story for them all season, one which the acquisition of Jeff Carter is supposed to take care of, or at least help. But again, we'll grant them the stiff competition in the Predators and particularly Pekka Rinne. He's been pretty good lately.

[Related: Predators 2, Kings 1 | Blues 3, Flames 1]

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 4, 2012 5:55 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2012 6:10 pm
 

Taking a look at Colorado's shootout success

DucheneBy: Adam Gretz

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the shootout success of the Colorado Avalanche and what it might mean for them going forward.

Thanks to a recent hot streak that's seen the team win nine of its past 11 games the Colorado Avalanche entered Wednesday in what would be the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Three of those recent wins have come by way of the shootout, and for the season, Colorado has been the best team in the league in the tie-breaking skills competition, posting a perfect 7-0 record, after an impressive 6-1 performance a season ago.

They're relying heavily on the shootout, and that may not be a good thing for the team going forward.

Their 2010-11 performance in the shootout earned them absolutely nothing as they failed to qualify for the playoffs and finished with one of the worst records in the NHL. This season, for the short-term anyway, it's at least helping to keep them competitive for a while, and as one of only two teams in the league to still be perfect in the shootout (the other is Detroit -- which has only been involved in one shootout this season) those seven extra points have certainly helped.

For Colorado, its shootout success this season has a lot to do with goaltender Semyon Varlamov. During actual game play he's been terrible and currently owns a .900 save percentage, well below the league average. In shootouts, however, he's actually been one of the best goalies in the league and has stopped 17 of the 19 shots he's faced, winning every shootout he's been involved in. His individual performance in this area has improved in each of the past three seasons, and for his career owns one of the best all-time shootout save percentages in league shootout history (brief as it may be).

Meanwhile, forwards like Milan Hejduk, the currently injured Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly have been their most called upon skaters and have managed to convert on 10 of their 17 chances, including five of the seven game-deciding goals.

Of course, the shootout still has its share of critics around the league, mainly among hockey purists, and the NHL has even taken steps to minimize the impact it has at the end of the season, as those wins no longer count when it comes to breaking ties for playoff spots. 

It's also worth pointing out that teams that rely heavily on the shootout during the regular season don't have much success in the postseason, for obvious reasons.

First, if your team is taking part in a lot of shootouts it probably means they're not pulling away from the opposition and find themselves in a lot of close games that can be decided with one bounce. And, even more importantly, there's no shootout in the playoffs, which means those teams will then have to rely on actual 5-on-5 hockey to win, and if they were successful in that area, they wouldn't have had to rely on so many shootouts over the course of the regular season.

Since the NHL added the shootout coming out of the lockout for the 2005-06 season, the average NHL team takes part in 10-12 shootouts per year, usually winning somewhere around five or six of them per season. Only once did the NHL average number of shootout wins drop below five in a season (4.76 per team in '05-06) and only once did it go above 6 (6.1 during the '09-10 season).

The Avalanche already have seven this season, and with half of the season still to go, it's a good bet they're probably going to win a few more.

How have teams that relied on shootout success done in the playoffs? Not well. Not well at all. Over the past six seasons 13 teams have won at least 10 shootouts in a single season, and here's what they did in the playoffs, assuming they qualified:

Teams with 10-or-more shootout wins in a season
Team Year Shootout Wins Playoff Success
Edmonton Oilers 2007-08 15 Did Not Qualify
Phoenix Coyotes 2009-10 14 Lost In First Round
Dallas Stars 2005-06 12 Lost In First Round
Los Angeles Kings 2010-11 10 Lost In First Round
Pittsburgh Penguins 2010-11 10 Lost In First Round
Los Angeles Kings 2009-10 10 Did Not Qualify
Boston Bruins 2009-10 10 Lost In Second Round
New York Rangers 2008-09 10 Lost In Second Round
New Jersey Devils 2006-07 10 Lost In Second Round
Pittsburgh Penguins 2006-07 10 Lost In First Round
Buffalo Sabres 2006-07 10 Lost In Conference Finals
Minnesota Wild 2006-07 10 Lost In First Round
New York Rangers 2006-07 10 Lost In Second Round

Only five made it past the first round of the playoffs, while only Buffalo during the 2006-07 season went as far as the Conference Finals.

Whether or not the Avalanche have to worry about that at the end of the season remains to be seen at this point. As a team they've been getting crushed during 5-on-5 play, mainly due to the struggles of Varlamov when he's not taking part in a shootout.

Right now they're relying almost exclusively on their power play (which is quite good) and their ability to scratch out extra points in a skills competition. How long can that reasonably be expected to continue?

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: December 30, 2011 8:13 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2011 8:14 pm
 

Matt Duchene to miss a month with knee injury



By: Adam Gretz

Matt Duchene played just a little over two minutes during the Avalanche's 3-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night, leaving the game following the innocent looking play shown in the above video. That play, which was nothing more than Duchene attempting to finish his check on Coyotes defenseman Rostivlas Klesla, resulted in a knee injury that's going to sideline him for about a month, as announced by the team on Friday evening.

The No. 3 overall pick in the 2009 draft, Duchene has scored 12 goals to go with 12 assists in 39 games for the Avalanche this season, but had been going through a bit of an offensive drought the past couple of weeks, recording just one goal and one assist and 14 shot on goal over his previous eight games. Still, he's Colorado's second leading scorer, trailing only the 26 points that belong to Ryan O'Reilly and is one of the most talented forwards on the team, so it's obviously going to be a bit of a blow to the Avs.

Colorado travels to Anaheim on Saturday and currently owns a 20-18-1 record, good enough for 41 points which puts the team just one point behind Los Angeles for what would be the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Prior to this season Duchene had missed just three goals over his first two years in the NHL.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: November 16, 2011 3:42 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 3:56 pm
 

Avs goaltending, defense still struggling

sy1

By: Adam Gretz


PITTSBURGH -- Milan Hejduk has spent his entire career with the Colorado Avalanche organization, playing over 920 games (and still counting). He's scored over 360 goals and been a member of a Stanley Cup winning team, and on Tuesday night he played his first game as the team's captain, just the third different one the franchise has had since 1992-93, when it was still based in Quebec.

After a strong first period that included Hejduk registering an assist on Matt Duchene's highlight reel goal, everything unraveled over the final 30 minutes of regulation as the Avs dropped a 6-3 decision to the Penguins, spoiling what should have been an exciting night for the 13-year veteran.

"It's a great honor," said Hejduk after the game. "I'm very proud to have the 'C' on my jersey, but I wish tonight could have been a different result."

The result, unfortunately, has been a common one for the Avs over the past month, as the loss is their ninth in their past 12 games, and follows what had been a promising start that saw the team win six of its first eight games, with all of the wins coming on the road. Whether it's been at home or on the road, finding the win column has been an issue lately for a team that has won just three games in regulation all season, and only one since Oct. 13.

Still, for all of their struggles lately you have to say this for the Avalanche: their games are definitely not boring.

Their forwards are young, fast and exciting, especially Duchene, who was one of the best players on the ice for either team on Tuesday night. When that all meets at the confluence of poor defense and goaltending, well, you're going to see a lot of goals. Last season Avalanche games were the highest scoring games in the league, and they're not far off that pace this season averaging over six goals per game. The NHL average is just 5.56.

Though, a lot of that has been -- and still is being -- driven by the aforementioned issues on the blue line and in the crease. That has to be a concern given the emphasis that was placed on both areas over the summer to improve a team that allowed the ninth most shots in the NHL and owned, by a pretty large margin, the worst save percentage.

In an effort to fix those weaknesses the Avalanche assembled one of the biggest defenses in the NHL (seriously, these guys are huge ... four of their regulars are each listed over 6-feet-3, 230-pounds) by signing Jan Hejda and Shane O'Brien to go with Erik Johnson and Ryan O'Byrne, two players that were acquired in mid-season trades during the 2010-11 season. Those additions on the blue line were accompanied by what was perhaps the most controversial move of the summer, by any team, when the club sent its 2012 first-round pick to the Washington Capitals in exchange for goaltender Semyon Varlamov. At the time of the trade it was thought that pick could turn out to be a lottery pick, and it still very well could be.

Varlamov did his part to silence the critics of the move early in the season, basically standing on his head during his first three starts. But to say he's struggled since would be an understatement. While the Avs have managed to cut down the number of shots they allow, the goaltending has still been an issue with Varlamov posting a save percentage below .900 in eight of his past 11 apperances, including Tuesday, while their team mark is still in the bottom-three of the NHL.

"When you're going through a stretch like this, you rely on your goaltender," said coach Joe Sacco following Tuesday's game, which saw Varlamov allow six goals on 33 shots. "He (Varlamov) made some big saves, but I'm sure there's a few he'd like to have back. Everybody has to be better including him."

Of course, there are still plenty of question marks as to whether or not they will -- or can -- be much better.

Their defense is massive, but how well does that size translate to success in the current NHL? And outside of Johnson, a former No. 1 overall pick by the St. Louis Blues, how much long-term upside is there with the current group? In the crease, Varlamov is still a major Wild card. He's definitely a gifted athlete with impressive quickness, but his career has been plagued by injuries and bouts of inconsistent play.

If their play on the back side doesn't improve it could be another long season in Denver, and this time there will not even be the prospect of a top draft pick there to help salvage it.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: November 15, 2011 11:13 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2011 10:47 am
 

Duchene vs. Malkin: Which goal is better?

By: Adam Gretz

PITTSBURGH -- After racing out to a two-goal lead in the first period the Colorado Avalanche had a bit of a meltdown on Tuesday, allowing five consecutive goals in Pittsburgh to fall by a 6-3 margin, losing for the ninth time in their past 12 games. The game had a great flow at times as the two teams exchanged chances, and it also featured two of the nicest goals we've seen across the NHL this year.

First, Colorado's third-year standout, Matt Duchene, made a ridiculous move between the circles to drag the puck between his legs and dangle around Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to deposit the puck into an empty net for his seventh goal of the season. Duchene was one of the best players on the ice for much of the game, especially through the first two periods, recording seven shots on goal -- including the one he scored on -- in just over 17 minutes of ice-time.

Not to be outdone, Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin scored what proved to be the game-winner early in the third period when he forced a turnover behind the net, and then proceeded to turn Gabriel Landeskog and Semyon Varlamov inside-out on his way to his fifth goal of the season.

Two outstanding plays, but which one tops your highlight reel for the night?


I know it came in the losing effort, and the goal itself is probably no consolation on a night where his team surrendered five unanswered goals (and it wasn't), but I'm tempted to go with Duchene's as the better play. But it's close. To be able to pull that move off at that speed is incredible.

Said Duchene after the game, "I kinda forgot about it, but it was a great play by Pauly (Stastny). He made a great pass to me and I was just able to free myself up for an open net. I think we're a little but disappointed as a line because we felt like we played a good enough game to score two or three more and just weren't able to do it. Had some bad bounces, a post, some chances that just didn't go in. We could have put the game away early with any luck."

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: October 18, 2011 12:29 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2011 10:57 am
 

Early season surprises: Avalanche take the cake

By Brian Stubits

The Colorado Avalanche have shown a little pattern in recet years, so maybe we should have seen this start coming.

Three seasons ago they came off a conference semifinal loss by finishing with 69 points, bad enough to get the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, which they used to select Matt Duchene (good call). The following season they were in the playoffs behind Craig Anderson in goal. That was followed by another miserable season to give the Avs the No. 2 pick, which is where they grabbed Gabriel Landeskog.

It is still incredibly early, but if there were a surprise from the first two weeks of the season, it is without a doubt the Avalanche. Colorado lost its home opener before embarking on a five-game road trip to the East, including the Eastern Canada swing, and lo and behold, the Avs took all 10 available points. It was the first time in franchise history they won five consecutive road games. Not bad for a team with only three players over the age of 30 -- Jean Sebastien-Giguere, Milan Hejduk and Jan Hejda.

"Now what we have to do is take this kind of game we played on the road -- keeping it simple, doing little things -- and translating it to our home ice," Giguere said Monday night after beating his former Maple Leafs team. "This was obviously a great trip for us. It should give us confidence going forward."

Obviously winning at this rate won't last. That goes without saying. Considering their youth and inexperience, they are more susceptible than most to higher highs and lower lows. But the prospects of not finishing near or at the bottom of the Western Conference like many foresaw? Those seem pretty good right now.

A good chunk of the team's success has come from the goaltending duo of Giguere and Semyon Varlamov. Desperate to get a goaltender to take the reins this offseason, the Avs signed the veteran Giguere, but it was their move for Varlamov that took the attention.

Colorado was the heavy favorite to court and then sign free agent Tomas Vokoun. It seemed to be a perfect match. But a funny thing happened; the Avs didn't seem to want to go down that road. Instead, they spoke with the Capitals -- Vokoun's eventual landing spot, oddly enough -- and worked out a trade to acquire Varlamov, who said he was done playing in Washington. The price of a first-round pick in return seemed like a quality deal for the Capitals. After all, Colorado was the second worst team in the league a season ago. Talk to people around Washington and they are all aware of how talented Varlamov is. That was never the issue. If he can stay healthy -- now we have our issue -- it could be a coup for the Avalanche

However they are more than the goaltending, obviously. What really jumped out of the screen watching them play the Leafs on Monday -- and again, this was the fifth of five games on the road in another time zone, so the excuses to be sluggish where there -- was their speed and energy. I guess you can call that youthful exuberance. Whatever words you use to describe it, I call it impressive.

A lot of people might have been sleeping on the Avs before this season began, but Joe Sacco's crew has opened some eyes in a hurry.

Surprises

Toronto Maple Leafs: Despite losing to the Avalanche in overtime on Monday -- their first missed point of the season -- Toronto is out of the gate strong. Now this isn't something entirely new this time of year. Remember the Maple Leafs started 4-0-0 last season, then they won only one of the next 12 games.

One difference this time around, however, is James Reimer -- or his Twitter world nickname Optimus Reim, if you prefer. The young goalie is giving fans hope that they have finally solved the riddle in the cage. That and the so-far spectacular play of Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf gives you reason to believe the Maple Leafs just could end their six-year playoff drought this season.

Tampa Bay Lightning: They are surprising, but not in a good way. The Eastern Conference runnerups from a season ago have looked, well, awful. They have picked up only four points from their first six games and given up four goals or more four different times already. Dwayne Roloson looks his age, which is now 42.

"Obviously, we're not happy," Steven Stamkos said Monday. "I wouldn't say we're in a panic mode, but we're worried. This isn't the start we wanted. We're taking way too many penalties."

They better figure it out soon because with some improved teams in the East this year, they don't want to fall too far behind.

Dallas Stars: So Brad Richards is winless with his new team while his old team, the Stars, are 4-1? That qualifies as a surprise to many.

Everybody wondered how Dallas would replace the loss of Richards. Signing Michael Ryder in the offseason didn't seem to be a void-filler. Maybe all they needed was another year for Jamie Benn, Mike Ribeiro, Brendan Morrow, Steve Ott and Loui Eriksson together. Oh, and a healthy Kari Lehtonen. Dallas is 4-0 when Lehtonen starts this season.

Then there is Sheldon Souray, who Edmonton couldn't get out of town fast enough. Dallas took a shot on the bought-out Oilers defenseman and so far it's looking like a good gamble. He has a goal and three assists as well as a plus-4 rating while averaging more than 20 minutes on ice per game.

Florida Panthers power play: Is this real life or is this just fantasy?

The Panthers had 35 power-play goals in 82 games last season. Let that sink in for a minute. As you would probably guess, that was the lowest in the NHL. Maybe it's the addition of Kevin Dineen and assistant Craig Ramsey, maybe it's the influx of new forwards, or, perhaps most likely, it's the arrival of Brian Campbell to run the show. Whatever the result, the Panthers have scored on eight of their 25 power-play attempts this season, including five in one game against the Lightning on Monday.

Heck, they even have a short-handed goal already, making them an even squad on the penalty kill.

No suspensions for hits: With how busy Brendan Shanahan was during the preseason, I was getting ready to request Shanny TV 24/7. It was like Hannukah, waking up every day for eight straight days to see the newest gift, or in this case video. But since the first puck was dropped in Toronto, the only suspension handed down was for the Wild's Marc-Pierre Bouchard and his high stick on the Blue Jackets' Matt Calvert.

But a funny thing happened when the season began, the suspensions stopped coming. That's because the head hits have stopped coming, which is exactly what everybody hoped to see in the first place, even the anti-Shanny crowd. I view it like Republicans and Democrats; everybody wants to get to the same prosperous place, they just don't agree on how to get there. This is the same. I have yet to hear one person say they want head shots to remain in hockey, just that they feel like Shanahan was going too far, or as Don Cherry and Mike Milbury put it, setting the bar too high.

The preseason over/under on the number of suspensions laid down by Shanahan was 40.5. That under is starting to look awfully tasty now.

But this could change later Tuesday after Kris Letang of the Penguins has his meeting with Shanahan.

Not surprising but still noteworthy

The Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings both remain perfect. But we wouldn't expect anything else from those two franchises these days. To the other hot starters like the Flyers and Ducks, consider it a compliment that your team isn't on here. They have rosters people thought were capable of doing just this.

Photos: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com