Posted on: November 1, 2011 2:32 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The first month of the NHL season is in the books and we're still trying to figure out which teams are good, which teams are bad and which hot start is for real and which one is simply an early season mirage. Let's check in with a progress report on some notable players and teams for the month of October.
Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs: Let's pretend, just hypothetically, that Phil Kessel is able stay near the top of the NHL's scoring list all.
Now, you shouldn't expect him to maintain his current pace (his shooting percentage is currently 26 percent -- that's probably not sustainable for a full season), but what if he were to do something completely unexpected like, say, win the NHL's scoring title and help lead the Maple Leafs to the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. Would that do anything to change your opinion of the the trade that brought him to Toronto? Should it? Brian Burke has already said Boston won the trade because it has a Stanley Cup, but that trade -- which landed the Bruins two first-round draft picks, including a No. 2 overall selection used on Tyler Seguin, and a second-round pick -- had little to do with that championship. Seguin played about 12 minutes a game and scored 11 goals during the regular season, and only appeared in two postseason series. It's not like he was the driving force behind that cup run. The steep price Toronto paid still overshadow the fact that Kessel is a pretty darn good (three straight years of 30-plus goals) player and still only 24 years of age.
Even if he doesn't maintain this current pace he's been the most dangerous offensive player in the NHL this season and one of the biggest reasons the Maple Leafs are off to their best start in a decade, and that's worthy of a top-grade for the first month.
Other players and teams earning A's for the month of October
Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings) -- had one of the best months of any goaltender in the NHL, including three consecutive shutouts; James Neal (Pittsburgh Penguins) -- for a Penguins team that continues to deal with injuries, Neal has been their best overall player and looks to be the young goal-scoring winger they've been searching for for years; Nikolai Khabibulin (Edmonton Oilers) -- He leads the NHL in save percentage and goals against average for what has been, so far, the toughest team in the NHL to score against; and the Dallas Stars -- winners of eight of their first 11 games, thanks in large part to the play of Kari Lehtonen.
Ottawa Senators: For the first two weeks of the season the Ottawa Senators looked to be every bit as awful as they were expected to be.
Over the next two weeks? They won six games in a row and end the month two game over .500. Even through the awful stretch to start the season the Senators were impressive with their determination to never quit in a game, regardless of the score, resulting in acouple of late come-from-behind victories (against Minnesota and the Rangers).
They've been outscored 27-15 over the first two periods but have outscored their opponents 21-18 in the third period. It's not likely they'll be able to continue to rely on huge third period comebacks to get wins, and they're going to have to start getting some better starts in games so they're not constantly trying to play catch up, but a 7-5 record at this point is more than could have (or should have) been expected.
Other players and teams earning B's for the month of October
Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators) -- He's been the best player on a Nashville team that is losing the possession battle just about every single night and is facing more shots than any other goaltender in the league. He's keeping the Predators in it while they search for some offense; Jaromir Jagr (Philadelphia Flyers) -- Three years away from the NHL and at 39 years of age Jagr opened the season and showed everybody that he can still play at the highest level with a point-per-game pace for the Flyers.
Detroit Red Wings: The A-plus honor student that brings home the rare and unexpected C. You know they can do better, and you expect them to do better. (And they will do better.) But after starting the season 5-0 the Red Wings dropped four in a row by a combined margin of 16-4. That streak includes a 7-1 thrashing at the hands of the Washington Capitals, a game that was followed by a 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets for their first victory of the season. Their defense definitely took a hit when Brian Rafalski retired over the summer, and they're not the defensive stalwart they were a few years ago, but they should be better than they've looked over the first month.
Other players and teams earning C's for the month of October
Montreal Canadiens -- Injuries to their defense, as well as top forward Michael Cammalleri, didn't help, but a rather uninspiring start for the Canadiens that only started to turn around when an assistant coach was forced to take the fall.
Ville Leino, Buffalo Sabres: Terry Pegula spent a ton of money this summer in an effort to make the Sabres a Stanley Cup contender, and one of his biggest investments, Ville Leino, has been a complete non-factor through the first month of the season. In 10 games the 28-year-old Leino has scored just one goal to go with one assist and has recorded just five shots on goal, or one every other game. He's definitely talented, but based on what he's actually produced at the NHL level the six-year, $27 million contract was, at the very least, one hell of a gamble. And so far it's a losing one.
Other plays and teams earning D's for the month of October
Jaroslav Halak (St. Louis Blues) -- And he's probably right on the line between D and F. Let's just say this: the only goaltender in the NHL that has a worse save percentage entering November is Ottawa's backup, Alex Auld.
Columbus Blue Jackets: An offseason with such excitement and a season that seemed to have so much promise was opened with … the worst start in franchise history and the worst record in the NHL. There is obviously time to turn it around -- and I still believe the Jackets can -- and the two big offseason acquisitions have been limited so far, which isn't helping things. James Wisniewski was suspended for the first eight games of the regular season, while Jeff Carter, acquired from the Flyers, was limited to just five games in October due to a foot injury, scoring zero goals. Still … the worst start in franchise history?
Other players and teams earning F's for the month of October
The Boston Bruins -- Defending champs with the second-worst record in the league.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Adam Gretz, Boston Bruins, Brian Burke, Brian Rafalski, Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Edmonton Oilers, James Neal, James Wisniewski, Jaromir Jagr, Jaroslav Halak, Jeff Carter, Jonathan Quick, Kari Lehtonen, Los Angeles Kings, Michael Cammalleri, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, Nikolai Khabibulin, Ottawa Senators, Pekka Rinne, Phil Kessel, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tyler Seguin, Ville Leino
Posted on: October 24, 2011 8:58 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 9:33 pm
Jaromir Jagr looked so good during the preseason, people were wondering if he could score 30-plus goals for the Philadelphia Flyers. Then the 39-year-old's season went seven games without a goal. It won't be eight.
With the Flyers on a power play, Jagr took a pass straight up the gut from Claude Giroux (who deserves a lot of credit for this pass) to give himself a breakaway. He then schooled Maple Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson and put the puck top shelf for the score.
And yes, Jagr did his traditional salute after scoring, something people wondered if he'd do.
Then, as fate would have it, Jagr was off on another breakaway in the second period, but Gustavsson returned the favor by stoning Jagr cold to even the ledger. Naturally, Jagr ended up on ANOTHER breakaway in the third period to settle the score and Jagr beat The Monster again. Jagr 2, Gustavsson 1.
On a separate note, has anybody seen the Maple Leafs defensemen?
Posted on: October 20, 2011 6:01 pm
Edited on: October 20, 2011 6:08 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Entering play on Thursday Toronto's Phil Kessel is your leading goal-scorer in the NHL, currently setting the pace with seven tallies for the Maple Leafs, including the game-tying goal he scored in their 4-3 shootout win against the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday. While Kessel is leading the way for the still unbeaten (in regulation, anyway) Maple Leafs, some other notable players around the league are still searching for their first goal of the 2011-12 season.
1) Jaromir Jagr, Philadelphia Flyers: It's not that Jagr is playing poorly for the Flyers following his three-year absence from the NHL, because he and Claude Giroux have been an excellent top-line duo for the Flyers in their first five games, he just hasn't managed to find the back of the net yet. Earlier this week he joked (we think he was joking, anyway) that he doesn't consider himself to be a good goal-scorer. Which is crazy, seeing as how in the history of the league only 11 players have scored more. He has a chance to break into the goal column for this season on Thursday night against one of his former teams (the one that he's probably least known for playing with), the Washington Capitals, in a matchup of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. Throughout his career he's scored 29 career goals against the Capitals.
2) Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks: Getzlaf's style of play is built more around playmaking and setting up his teammates as opposed to filling the net for himself, and it's not uncommon to see him start a season with a lengthy goal drought. Three times in the previous six years he's had to wait until at least the seventh game of the season before scoring his first goal. He's currently been held scoreless through five games to start this season. It hasn't stopped the Ducks from winning as they currently sit with a 4-1 record, having won four in a row since losing their season opener to Buffalo. Getzlaf and the Ducks take on Dallas on friday, a team that he's managed to score just six goals against in 39 career games.
3) Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks: You have to go all the way back to the 2002-03 season to find the last time Marleau went longer than four games to start the season without a goal (he had to wait until game No. 13 that season). He's generating shots on goal, currently third on the team with 14, and sooner or later he's going to start scoring. He's scored at least 32 goals in five of the past six seasons. The Sharks start a difficult six-game road trip on Friday that takes them through a couple of tough defensive teams, including three straight against Boston, Nashville, New Jersey and Detroit.
Posted on: October 14, 2011 2:37 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 4:05 pm
RUN, MARK, RUN!: Rangers (and Oilers, of course) icon Mark Messier announced on Thursday that he will be running in the next New York City marathon on Nov. 6. He's doing it to benefit two charities, the New York Police & Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund as well as the Tomorrows Children's Fund. Messier says he has no goals -- that's a first! -- and would just like to finish. (NHL.com)
WE DON'T NEED NO STINKIN' DIVISIONS: This might be the most interesting realignment prosposal I have seen to date. This idea calls for the banishment of divisions from hockey, that way you don't have teams being forced to play so ofen in other time zones, a la Dallas, Detroit and Nashville. (Hockey News)
MINI PAVEL: The Red Wings had a classic giveaway for Thursday night's game against the Canucks, handing out Pavel Datsyuk bobbleheads. "Awesome," Datsyuk said about his appearance. "Lots of tan. Looks like me in summertime." Nice keepsake for Red Wings fans. (Detroit Free Press)
HOMETOWN HERO: While Jaromir Jagr didn't return to his original team in Kladno, Czech Republic to play this summer, he is making a very big impression on his old club. To help save the struggling team, Jagr purchased a 70 percent ownership stake in the team, leaving the locals a happy group. (J.J.'s Knights)
TORONTO TROUBLE: Cody Franson was openly sharing his frustration last week that he is the seventh defenseman for the Maple Leafs after they acquired him from Nashville in the offseason. Coach Ron Wilson's response? “He plays the next game and the rest is up to him,” Wilson said of Franson’s status with the team. “He put a lot of pressure on himself talking this week. Now he’s got to perform.” (Globe and Mail)
TOUGH SPOT: The St. Louis Cardinals are currently doing battle with the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS, leaving Blues tough guy Barret Jackman in a tough spot. He played a little with Brewers outfielder Nyjer Morgan when Morgan was still giving hockey a shot. "He was one of those guys you loved to hate because he had so much energy," (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
OVER THE HILL: Chicago Blackhawks veteran Sean O'Donnell just turned 40 on Thursday and for a short while was on the roster the same time as 18-year-old Brandon Saad. Here's a look at the differences in generations from each of their favorite TV shows to hockey heroes. (ESPN Chicago)
NEW TRADITION: The Islanders are putting a new twist on an old hockey tradition. The idea launched by captain Mark Streit, the Isles are now lining up to create a human tunnel for the announcement of the Three Stars of the game. Here's the rendition after Thursday's rout of the Lightning, including a John Tavares imposter.
Photo: Detroit Red Wings Twitpic
Tags: Barret Jackman, Brandon Saad, Brian Stubits, Chicago Blackhawks, Cody Franson, Daily Skate, Detroit Red Wings, Jaromir Jagr, John Tavares, Mark Messier, Mark Streit, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Pavel Datsyuk, Philadelphia Flyers, Realignment, Ron WIlson, Seaon O'Donnel, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs
Posted on: October 6, 2011 9:08 pm
Edited on: October 6, 2011 11:11 pm
By: Adam Gretz
We were a bit worried about the Philadelphia Flyers offense following the loss of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Ville Leino over the summer, but perhaps this Jaromir Jagr and Claude Giroux connection will be a suitable replacement. They seemed to quickly develop some chemistry in the preseason and their playmaking ability was on display in the first period of Thursday's season opening 2-1 win against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins.
With the Flyers trailing, 1-0, late in the first period, Jagr set up Giroux for the 1,600th point of his NHL career, becoming just the ninth player in NHL history to reach that mark, joining Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Gordie Howe, Ron Francis, Marcel Dionne, Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and Joe Sakic.
The goal itself was a beauty from Giroux, a player that's developed a flare for highlight reel goals throughout his young career, as he blew past Boston's best defender, Zdeno Chara, and then made a nice backhand-to-forehead move to dangle around the best goalie in the NHL, Tim Thomas, and slide the puck into the net.
Just minutes later Jakub Voracek beat Thomas seconds before the period came to a close to score what proved to be the game-winning goal. Just as important for the Flyers is that their big-money pickup from over summer, Ilya Bryzgalov, stopped 22 of the 23 shots he faced to earn his first win for Philadelphia.
Posted on: October 5, 2011 12:20 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 12:43 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The biggest thing we're watching as the NHL gets ready to drop the puck on the 2011-12 season is when will Penguins captain Sidney Crosby be able return to the lineup?
The only answer to that question, of course, is simply "when he's ready," and not a moment sooner.
But when will that be? That's the question we've been asking since January, and even though it appears to be getting closer, and optimism about his return is higher than it's ever been since he was knocked out of the lineup on Jan. 6, he's not going to be on the ice when the Penguins open up in Vancouver on Thursday night, and he isn't likely to be cleared for contact until Pittsburgh returns from its season-opening trek through western Canada.
Perhaps just as important as when he returns, is whether or not he'll be the same player he was before he left. Prior to the injury Crosby's game had evolved over the previous two seasons to the point where he went from being a great set-up man to the Penguins' go-to goal-scorer, as well as their No. 1 option in the face-off circle. When he left the Penguins' lineup last season he was in the middle of the best year of his career and was on a pace to shatter just about all of his previous career highs.
Not only due to the length of his absence from the game and from contact, but also because of the nature of the injury, there has to be a question of how quickly he'll be able to be that player again.
So that's the big story we're watching this year, and here the other 49 of our 50 things to know, ask and watch for during the 2010-11 season…
2. CBA Talks: This likely won't be settled during the season, but it's still going to loom large and is the giant elephant sitting in the living room ready to make a huge stinking mess all over the couch and floor if you don't feed him on time. The NFL had its lockout come and go, missing only a couple of weeks of training camp and a meaningless preseason game, and the NBA lockout continues to roll on. And soon it will be the NHL's turn. The last time the league was in this situation we lost an entire season, so there's that to keep in mind. Meanwhile, Major League Baseball continues to have labor peace. What a strange world we live in.
3. Brendan Shanahan: The first question we have is whether or not Brendan Shanahan will get tired of making those videos? (We hope the answer is no; because they're great). The second question is whether or not the suspensions will continue at the same torrid pace we saw in the preseason, or if that was simply the "message sending" phase? And if so, will the players get the message?
4. Player safety debates: After a disturbingly dreadful summer that saw the untimely deaths of three young players, all of whom were fighters, the fighting debate reached an entirely new level, even though we don't know how -- or if -- the two were connected. Should all hits to the head be banned? Is no-touch icing long overdue? Crosby's concussion is the one everybody is talking about, but there's also Matthew Lombardi in Toronto and his recovery. Marc Staal, the top defenseman for the New York Rangers, is still having problems following the concussion he suffered late last season, and there's concern as to whether or not Marc Savard of the Boston Bruins will ever play in an NHL game again.
5. Winter Classic: The highlight of the NHL's regular season schedule takes place in Philadelphia between two bitter rivals, the Flyers and Rangers, on Jan. 2. It's the first time a New York team has appeared in the game, and the Flyers host it for the first time after losing to Boston in overtime back in 2010. Last year's game in Pittsburgh featured unseasonable warmth and rain, forcing a delay and some miserable ice conditions. Here's hoping Eastern Pennsylvania gives us better weather.
6. Winnipeg Jets return: The playoffs would be great for no other reason than to see a return of the Winnipeg Whiteout, but even though that seems like a long shot at this point their first taste of the NHL since 1996 should make every game at the MTS Centre have the feel of a Stanley Cup Final game.
7. Bruins repeat attempt: Over the past 20 years we've only seen two teams repeat as Stanley Cup Champions -- the 1991 and 1992 Pittsburgh Penguins and the 1996 and 1997 Detroit Red Wings. The Bruins seem to have what it takes to return to the top of the NHL mountain.
8. Realignment decision: The NHL hasnt gone through a divisional realignment in over a decade but it appears to be coming. Detroit wants to go to the East and claims that it's been promised that it will happen, and Winnipeg should be headed to the west. What other changes -- if any -- will we see?
9. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: The No. 1 overall pick in the June draft is starting the season with the Edmonton Oilers after a strong preseason effort. Is it simply a nine-game look before he gets sent back to his Junior team, or does he make it through the entire season with the big club? Recent history is on his side for making a full-season stay with the Oilers.
10. The NBA lockout: No, this isn't specifically an NHL issue, but if the NBA lockout rolls into the regular season will the NHL gain more exposure because of it, and, perhaps more importantly, will the league be able to take advantage of that opportunity?
11. Life in Philly without Richards and Carter and with Bryzgalov: After a revolving door of mediocre goaltending and an endless list of questions about the position over the years, the Philadelphia Flyers went all in on Ilya Bryzgalov. And now there are some questions about how they'll be able to score after trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
12. Capitals' offensive/defensive balance: Last season the Washington Capitals went from a run-and-gun offensive juggernaut to a defensive-minded team that went from 15th in goals allowed per game the previous season all the way up to fourth. Can they find the happy medium this season and finally get over the playoff hump?
13. Nashville negotiations: It took the arbitration process to get Shea Weber signed to a one-year deal, and he's up for restricted free agency again this offseason. Even worse for the Predators is the upcoming unrestricted free agency of Ryan Suter. And don't forget starting goaltender, and last year's runner-up in the Vezina voting, Pekka Rinne. Two big-time defensemen, a top goalie and three massive contract questions for one of the NHL's most efficient franchises.
14. Doughty's new dough: Drew Doughty is now the third highest paid defensemen in the NHL on a yearly basis, and that means he's going to be expected to play like one of the top defensemen in the NHL. He's shown he's capable of it in the past, but his production regressed a bit last season. When you're making over $7 million a year that can no longer happen.
15. Sales of Dallas, Phoenix and St. Louis: We're still waiting for some sort of resolution to the three ownership sales that have dragged on for quite a while.
16. Year two of Boucher in Tampa Bay: In his debut season Guy Boucher took the Tampa Bay Lightning to within one game of the Stanley Cup Finals, and that surely has expectations high for his second year on the job.
17. New-look Sharks: Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi are gone. Martin Havlat and Brent Burns are in. Either San Jose and Minnesota are swapping rosters one trade at a time, or the Sharks feel these are the moves that can finally get them to kick through the door that has been the Western Conference Finals.
18. Perry's encore: OK, let's be honest, nobody had Corey Perry scoring 50 goals and leading the NHL last season, right? He's always been an excellent player -- and a frustrating one to play against, and an easy player to, let's say ... dislike, when he's not on your team-- but prior to last year he only topped the 30-goal mark once in his career. Logic says he returns closer to the 30-goal player he's always been. But logic also said he wouldn't score 50 goals last year.
19. Thomas, the Vezina and the Hart Trophy: Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas has won the Vezina Trophy two of the past three years, and would have to be the early season favorite to win it again. He's also set his sights on another major NHL award: The Hart Trophy. That one is going to be tough simply because goalies don't typically win that award. It's only happened seven times in the history of the league, and only three times since the league expanded beyond six teams -- Jose Theodore in 2002, and back-to-back wins for Dominik Hasek in 1997 and 1998.
20. First-year coaches: Is there a Guy Boucher rookie success story among the NHL's new head coaches, including first-year guys like Minnesota's Mike Yeo, Florida's Kevin Dineen, Winnipeg's Claude Noel and Ottawa's Paul MacLean?
21. Pegula-ville: Buffalo has always been a great hockey town, but these people are absolutely stoked about their new owner, and he went on a summer spending spree that topped just about every other team in the league. But will it pay off?
22. NHL starts in Europe: The Ducks, Sabres, Rangers and Kings are all opening their season in Europe. Will one of these teams lift Lord Stanley's Cup at the end of the season? Fun fact: In each of the past three seasons a team that started its season overseas ended up winning the Stanley Cup -- Pittsburgh in 2008, Chicago in 2009 and Boston in 2010.
23. Brodeur's last hurrah? Martin Brodeur has accomplished just about everything a goaltender can accomplish as a hockey player, but will this be his final year in the NHL? Back in April he hinted that it could be.
24. Rangers have a new star: Hello, Brad Richards. You're the latest free agent savior of the New York Rangers! Actually, after so many free agency failures over the years this might be one signing that really does pay off for blue shirts in a big way.
25. Islanders arena situation: What will come of the Islanders quest for a new -- and needed -- home? Is Brooklyn the answer?
26. Sophomore slumps: Do you believe in the Sophomore jinx? Personally, I don't, but I am curious to see what Carolina's Jeff Skinner and San Jose's Logan Couture have to offer in year two.
27. New Panthers ... new results? No team was busier this summer than the Florida Panthers, completely overhauling their roster, in part because they had to spend an obscene amount of money just to reach the NHL's salary cap floor. It's definitely a new team, but is it a better team? I guess that depends on how much faith you have in Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky and Scott Upshall.
28. How bad are the Senators? On paper, it looks like it's going to be a long season for Ottawa as it celebrates its 20th year in the NHL, but how bad are we talking here? Simply on the outside of the playoff picture, or are we looking at a team that's competing for the worst mark in the NHL?
29. Breakthrough year for Kings: After acquiring Mike Richards the Kings went from being a playoff team in the Western Conference to a legitimate Stanley Cup contender with the type of depth down the middle (Richards, Anze Kopitar and Jarett Stoll) a team needs to win it all.
30. Hiller's recovery from vertigo: Jonas Hiller says the vertigo symptoms that robbed him of a good portion of his season -- and the playoffs -- a year ago are gone, and the Ducks need that to be the case if they're going to make a push in the Western Conference. Hiller is one of the best goalies in the league and if he's 100 percent healthy can be a difference maker for Anaheim.
31. Heatley back on a top line: Coming off one of the worst goal-scoring seasons of his career Dany Heatley gets a fresh start in Minnesota, and he's going to be relied on to be a top goal-scoring option for the Wild. Was last year the start of a decline in Heatley's career, or does he return to the 40-goal form we're used to seeing?
32. Will Detroit's defense be good enough? The Red Wings defense has declined a bit in recent years, and this year they're looking to replace Brian Rafalski following his retirement. Nicklas Lidstrom still scores like a champ, but he's not getting any younger back there.
33. Is Matt Cooke a changed man? Penguins agitator Matt Cooke claims he's a changed man following a season that saw him earn two suspensions, including a 17-game ban following a hit on Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. It's one thing to say it, but we have to see it.
34. Varlamov gets another shot: The Avalanche need the Semyon Varlamov gamble to work out, not just because they desperately need an upgrade in net, owning the worst save percentage in the league last season, but also because their first-round pick in 2012 -- perhaps a very, very high selection -- now belongs to the Washington Capitals as a result of the trade that brought him to Colorado.
35. Benn will star for the Stars: The Dallas Stars have done a nice job developing forwards in recent years, and Jamie Benn looks like he's ready to become a 30-goal scorer.
36. Bryzgalov will be missed in Phoenix: The Coyotes will struggle to return to the playoffs for a third consecutive year as they try to replace Ilya Bryzgalov with Mike Smith and Jason LaBarbera. Smith is familiar with coach Dave Tippett, but Bryzgalov was a big part of their success the past two years and he won't be easy to replace.
37. The Blue Jackets will be more entertaining: Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski fill huge needs and Ryan Johansen can be a contender for the Calder Trophy. The playoffs are a real possibility in Columbus, and even if the Jackets fail to qualify, they will at least be a more interesting team to watch this year.
38. Patrick Kane at center: Simply put, how long will this experiment last?
39. Vokoun/Neuvirth/Holtby trio of goaltenders in Washington: An experienced veteran signed for way below his market value and two extremely talented youngsters. Michal Neuvirth still thinks the job is his, and when combined with his talent that level of determination has to be an exciting prospect for the Capitals. Vokoun, though, is no slouch and has been one of the best goaltenders in the league the past few years playing on one of the league's worst teams.
40. Malkin's return to the top of the scoring race: For most players, simply averaging a point-per-game is a success. For a player with Malkin's ability it's considered a disappointment. This season he looks poised to return to the top of the NHL's scoring race and contend for the Art Ross Trophy. Speaking of which...
41. Will somebody other than the Sedin's win the scoring title? The past two years two different players from the same family have won the NHL's scoring title. Is it a three-peat for the Sedin twins?
42. Jaromir Jagr: Does he have anything left? The summer of Jagr was certainly interesting, especially if you were following the #jagrwatch on Twitter, but how much does the 39-year-old forward have left in the tank? Philadelphia might need a lot.
43. How big of an issue is Markov's knee? Andrei Markov is still Montreal's best defenseman and he's still fighting through some problems with the knee injuries that have plagued him over the past two years. After losing Wisniewski and Roman Hamrlik the Canadiens need him to be healthy.
44. Will Detroit need an upgrade on Jimmy Howard? The Red Wings say they're happy with their goaltending situation, but twice in the past seven months they've tried to add a veteran goaltender, signing Evgeni Nabokov last season only to lose him on waivers before he could report to the team, and making a run at Tomas Vokoun this summer. That's not a coincidence.
45. Center of attention in Toronto: The Maple Leafs have been searching for a true No. 1 center for quite some time, and after missing out on Brad Richards over the summer went with Tim Connolly on a two-year deal. The good news is he's not a bad player, but the bad news is he's constantly injured. Matthew Lombardi is in the mix if he can overcome his concussion problem, but after that it's a relatively thin group. Heck, even with them it's a thin group.
46. Edmonton's defense: The Oilers have loads of potential at the forward positions but their defense is a mess after Ryan Whitney. Who will step up on their blue line?
47. How many games for DiPietro? Like the Oilers the Islanders hope rests with their collection of forwards while serious questions about their defense and goaltending will haunt them all year. For the Islanders the yearly question (as it will be through 2020) is how many games will the oft-injured Rick DiPietro be in the lineup?
48. Bouwmeester: big money, little offense in Calgary: When the Flames gave Jay Bouwmeester over $6 million per year three years ago they were probably expecting way more offense than this. He's averaged just around 27 points per season since signing with Calgary after averaging over 40 during his finals three seasons with Florida, primarily because his goal-scoring ability has suddenly disappeared. Sixty-eight defenseman recorded more points than his 24 last season.
49. Parise's return: Not only his return to the lineup for the full-season, but also his return to being one of the top left wings in the NHL, will go a long way toward helping the Devils in their effort return to the playoffs after a disappointing season a year ago. In a contract year, Parise needs a big season on a personal level to strike it rich next summer.
50. How many 50-goal scorers will we see? During the 2010-11 season we saw one 50-goal scorer (Perry), down from the three we had the previous season. The preseason favorites have to be Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos, and Crosby might be able to get into that mix if he returns to action early enough.
Photos: Getty Images
Tags: 2011-12 Season Preview, Adam Gretz, Andrei Markov, Boston Bruins, Brendan Shanahan, Brent Burns, Corey Perry, Corey Perry, Daniel Sedin, Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Drew Doughty, Evgeni Malkin, Henrik Sedin, Ilya Bryzgalov, James Wisniewski, Jamie Benn, Jaromir Jagr, Jay Bouwmeester, Jeff Carter, Jeff Skinner, Jimmy Howard, Jonas Hiller, Marc Savard, Martin Brodeur, Martin Havlat, Michal Neuvirth, Mike Richards, NHL Discipline, Nicklas Lidstrom, Patrick Kane, Pittsburgh Penguins, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ryan Suter, Semyon Varlamov, Shanaban, Shea Weber, Sidney Crosby, Tim Thomas, Tomas Vokoun, Zach Parise
Posted on: September 29, 2011 10:35 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 12:04 am
By: Adam Gretz
Jaromir Jagr hasn't appeared in a regular season NHL game in three years, and based on the way he's played so far in the preseason it's almost as if he never left.
He scored the game-winning goal in Philadelphia's 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night when he finished a perfect pass from Claude Giroux (the player Jagr referred to as a "mini-Mario" -- as in Mario Lemieux -- earlier this week) as the 39-year-old forward was left wide open just to the left of Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur.
(Video by clicking here: And look how open Jagr is ... it's almost as if everybody on the ice forgot about him.)
For Jagr, it's his fourth goal of the preseason, and they've all come over the past three games while he's also recorded a pair of assists. Along with his goal on Thursday, Jagr had another outstanding scoring chance late in the first period during a two-on-one rush with Braydon Coburn only to have Brodeur make a fantastic stop while sliding across the crease to his left to get his pad on the puck after Jagr snapped off a quick one-timer.
We've talked quite a bit this offseason about how much offense the Flyers have to replace after losing Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Ville Leino, and Jagr is going to have to be one of the focal points of the new-look Flyers. So far, in games that don't count, he looks like he's still capable of being a top offensive player. How he's able to hold up over the course of an 82-game regular season (and the playoffs) will be a big factor in how much success the Flyers have (or don't have).
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: September 29, 2011 10:02 am
Edited on: September 29, 2011 10:09 am
CENTER STAGE: Patrick Kane played his first game of the preseason last night, and the Blackhawks went throught with their plan to try him out at center. The reviews are in and they aren't bad. When asked if there was anything about the experiement that wasn't good, coach Joel Quenneville said “No, we liked it." COuld get interesting. (ESPN Chicago) Bonus note: Kane joined the Twitterverse on Wednesday, he can be found @88PKane and has over 14,000 followers after just two tweets.
RIPPING AVERY: Boy, this year's 24/7 will be good. The animosity continues to grow in the Broad Street vs. Broadway rivalry. Things got very ugly on the ice in Philly on Monday between Sean Avery and Wayne Simmonds. At one point, Avery was overheard on TV saying he didn't want to have to f***** kill (Claude) Giroux. So the Flyers' Danny Briere took Avery to task for being hypocritical and just seeking attention. (Philly.com)
AV APOLOGY: The Colorado Avalanche were whipped up and down the ice by the Kings on Wednesday, including a hat trick for Anze Kopitar. After last year's second-worst record in the NHL, it caused some bad flashbacks in Denver. Soon after, Matt Duchene took to Twitter to apologize: “Sorry to all the fans that paid their hard earned money tonight to watch that terrible performance of ours. We WILL be better” (Denver Post)
SLOW START: Speaking of not being pleased with preseason results, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau was upset at Washington's 4-1 loss in Nashville on Wednesday. “It’s time we started to get our act in gear and start playing better.” If they don't, Boudreau's seat could be awfully warm come Thanksgiving. (Capitals Insider)
MOVING ON: James Wisniewski of the Blue Jackets received the toughest punishment from new chief Brendan Shanahan this preseason, but he's not dwelling on it. “I’m going to be around here, but I’m not going to be down about anything. No pouty face from me. It’s over. It’s done. That’s how it has to be.” (Columbus Dispatch)
SANTORELLI SETBACK: The Panthers will be missing one of their few holdovers for the first month of the season. Mike Santorelli, who had somewhat of a breakout season last year with 20 goals and 21 assists, will sit out with a shoulder injury until Halloween. (Miami Herald) Speaking of Halloween, the Panthers will give free tickets to kids who are willing to trade in candy for hockey. (Miami Herald)
GETTING TO KNOW YOU: Alex Ovechkin took time before returning to the States for the season to have a lengthy sit-down interview with Elena Khanian at Sobesednik in Russia. Here's the entire transcript in English. Among the interesting parts is this bit about his taste in women: "I think I will only marry a Russian, well, I mean, a girl from Russia. Russians are sincere, understanding and cook well." I imagine an influx of Russian women to the D.C. area soon. (Alex Ovetjkin)
IS HE READ-Y? One of the big revelations from Flyers camp -- outside of the fact that Jaromir Jagr can still play -- has been Matt Read. He leads the NHL preseason list in points and is still sticking with the big club. The unsigned free agent out of Bemidji State is doing all he can to make the roster, and it's looking good. (Philly.com)
Photo: US Presswire
Tags: Alex Ovechkin, Brian Stubits, Bruce Boudreau, Chicago Blackhawks, Claude Giroux, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Daily Skate, Danny Briere, Florida Panthers, James WIsniewski, Jaromir Jagr, Matt Duchene, Matt Read, Mike Santorelli, New York Rangers, Patrick Kane, Philadelphia Flyers, Sean Avery, Shanaban, Washington Capitals, Wayne Simmonds