The Hat Trick: What to Watch For In Week 2 of the NHL Season
The NHL is a week old and already we have some big surprises, some suspensions and some big injuries.
Marian Hossa leads the league in points (nine) and tied for the league lead with five goals, as he seems primed to become the number one option in a star-laden lineup.
Who is in panic mode and who should have some patience is the theme of this week’s Pucking Awesome Hat Trick, or the top three stories I am watching this week.
Down On the Devils:
My preseason pick to win the Atlantic Division has not looked anything like a contender in the first week of the season.
The team that spent so much money and effort on signing the offensive talent of Ilya Kovalchuck is last in the league with 1.67 goals per game.
The team that has arguably the best goalie ever to lace them up is giving up 3.50 goals per game, good for 27th in the league.
The 1-4-1 is the worst start for the franchise in the 27 years, and they are yet to win at home.
Their prized offseason acquisition, Anton Volcenkov, broke his nose in his second game in red and black. It got so bad for the cap strapped Devils that they only dressed 15 players in their third game of the season.
Will this continue for the defending Atlantic Division champions? My best guess is not likely.
This is a team with a new coach this season and already some major injuries to the back line. Rookie head coach John MacLean has already held closed door meetings and chew out sessions at practice to let the club know that this is unacceptable.
You have to remember that the season is a long one and ultimately if they start to get healthy and get production out of their top scorers they will be fine.
If not, then the Ilya Kovalchuck sweepstakes was all for naught.
Who Are These Leafs?
The biggest surprise of the first week has been the torrid play of the much improved Toronto Maple Leafs. Much has been made of their 4-0 start and how that is a polar opposite of last year’s 1-7-5 start.
Improved defensive play and clutch scoring has been the key to such a improved start.
At the middle of it all is the man that cost them Seguin, as Phil Kessel has six points and two game winning goals already this season.
Also a big part of the offensive success goes to the development of Clarke MacArthur. The player that was let go of two organizations last season has found a home in Toronto and according to the Elias Sports Bureau, MacArthur became the first Leaf ever to score in his first four games.
Their best non move of the offseason was keeping Tomas Kaberle on the roster. The veteran has shown he still has something left to give with three helpers and a plus-3 while playing over 24 minutes per game and acting as a stabilizing force for his young partner Luke Schenn. All three of his assist have come while playing on the Leafs top power play.
Can this continue? Can the Leafs become the latest team in the NHL parity party to go from playoff obscurity to a Cup contender?
My gut feeling is that this team has some staying power and should stay in the playoff picture the entire season.
Bobby Lou, Where Are You?
So all that talk that relinquishing captaincy will help Roberto Luongo focus on having a career year in his quest for the Cup is now gone.
The 31-year-old is off to another slow start by giving up 10 goals in his first four starts and a 1-2-1 record.
Luongo has saved 115 of the 125 shots he has faced including a horrible 15 saves on 19 shots loss to the Kings on Friday.
This start should not surprise anyone, as in his 11-year NHL career Luongo has notoriously been a slow starter. In 92 career games in October, Bobby Lou has a 38-45-6-3 record with a 2.56 GAA and .917 save percentage; in contrast, look at his March career numbers: 111 games with a 57-40-8-5 record—you would see that he usually saves his best for last.
The team in front of him has not been helping, as they are giving up 31.6 shots per game and they have been shorthanded 25 times.
Some good news for Vancouver is that top prospect Corey Schneider came out with a strong performance in a 32-save win over the Hurricanes Sunday night; the presence of Schneider should allow Luongo not play his 70 games and keep him fresh for his usually hot finish towards the playoffs.
I am not worried about Bobby Lou but good luck trying to tell that to the rabid fans in British Columbia.
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