The Biggest Takeaways from Week 5 of the 2013-14 NHL Season
As daylight disappears and temperatures start to drop, the 2013-14 NHL season is settling into a groove.
The gap between the top and the bottom of the standings has now stretched to 19 points, with plenty of divisional and conference battles in play. The uncertainty of the new playoff seeding system has every team on its toes.
There's lots of hockey still to be played, but we're starting to identify this year's contenders and pretenders.
In a week filled with blood, sweat and teeth, here are your biggest NHL takeaways from the last seven days.
Pacific Teams Are Unfriendly Hosts
As the 2013-14 season heads toward the quarter pole, three teams in the NHL are undefeated in regulation on home ice. They all play in the Pacific Division.
The Phoenix Coyotes are 6-0-1, the San Jose Sharks are 5-0-1 and the Anaheim Ducks are a perfect 5-0-0. The three have winning road records as well, which places the group just behind the Colorado Avalanche at the top of the league standings.
The Chicago Blackhawks set a new standard of excellence when they went 21-0-3 to start last season, including 11-0-1 at the United Center before their first home loss. The Pacific Three will need to continue treating their visitors inhospitably for awhile longer if any of them hopes to challenge Chicago's record.
The Broad Street Bullies Live on
This year's Philadelphia Flyers are struggling to win hockey games, but they're still the toughest hombres on the block.
As Week 5 wraps up, the Flyers lead the league with 278 penalty minutes, an average of 21.4 minutes per game. That should be no surprise given that their new coach, Craig Berube, is seventh on the all-time penalty list with 3,149 minutes in 1,054 NHL games.
Philadelphia added 99 minutes to its penalty total on Friday during a 7-0 drubbing at the hands of the Washington Capitals. The game included a massive third-period line brawl that even saw Flyers goaltender Ray Emery go after his counterpart Braden Holtby.
Emery received minor penalties for leaving his crease and for instigating, as well as a major for fighting, a 10-minute misconduct and a game misconduct. The league's current rules don't offer an option for suspension despite Holtby's unwillingness to engage in the fisticuffs.
Emery's nauseating attack actually looks like it has provided a spark for his desperate team. The very next night, Emery recorded his first shutout of the year as the Flyers allowed just 14 shots in their 1-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils.
The Avalanche Keep on Coming
Emery wasn't the only goalie in the news for the wrong reasons this week.
On Wednesday, reports surfaced (h/t NHL.com) that Colorado Avalanche starting netminder Semyon Varlamov had been arrested and charged with domestic assault and kidnapping. He spent the night in jail before posting bond on Thursday and receiving permission to travel with the team.
Patrick Roy surprised everyone when he announced that Varlamov would be his starting goaltender just one day later, when the Avs faced the Stars in Dallas. Despite the turmoil, the 25-year-old Russian was solid and the team played well in front of him, earning Colorado a 3-2 overtime win. On Saturday, with backup J.S. Giguere between the pipes, the Avs beat Montreal 4-1 for their sixth straight win and a league-leading 24 points.
Varlamov is innocent until proven guilty and may appreciate staying in his regular routine with such serious issues hanging over him. While it's understandable that the Avs don't want to mess with a good thing, it's not a stretch to question if they're being insensitive to both the victim and the situation by proceeding with this attitude of business-as-usual.
Canucks Now Canada's Best
Saturday's Hockey Night in Canada early game was a broadcaster's dream.
Not only were the Vancouver Canucks retiring the jersey of their all-time most exciting player, Pavel Bure, the matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs brought Canada's two top teams together in a statement game.
The Canucks made that statement with a dominating 4-0 win, as well as announced four-year contract extensions on Friday for their team leaders, Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
The twins are off to a great start under coach John Tortorella, and the new deals are a vote of confidence from both sides for the new regime.
Talk over the summer of Vancouver's Stanley Cup window closing may have been premature. Along with a steady Roberto Luongo, it looks like Vancouver's elite core will be staying together for awhile yet.
Kevlar Socks Don't Prevent Skate Cuts
In addition to losing Canadian bragging rights, the Maple Leafs lost center Dave Bolland on Saturday when he suffered a laceration of his ankle tendon from the skate of Vancouver's Zack Kassian.
The injury was accidental and brings to mind a similar incident between Ottawa's Erik Karlsson and Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke from last season. According to Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star, Bolland was wearing the kevlar socks that were such a talking point after Karlsson's injury. The only problem is, "the socks are cut-resistant, not cut-proof."
Bolland stayed in Vancouver to have surgery on the tendon and it's expected he'll be out for several weeks. Fellow center Tyler Bozak's already sidelined with a injury of his own so after a hot start, and Toronto suddenly finds itself uncomfortably thin down the middle.
Pulling Teeth Ain't No Big Thing
The teeth just keep on coming.
John Tavares and Pascal Dupuis have already played amateur dentist on the bench this season, as you can see in this story from SI.com.
The trend continued this weekend when Krys Barch of the Florida Panthers offered up one of his choppers to a lucky(?) fan.
If this trend continues, are game-worn teeth soon going to replace game-worn jerseys in the collectible market?
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