Stanley Cup hangover? Who came up with that nonsense? Despite being without Marian Hossa and two top defensemen – Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar are sidelined with long-term injuries – the Pittsburgh Penguins have stormed out to an 11-4-2 record through mid-November. And the Detroit Red Wings – with Marian Hossa – are doing even better, at 12-2-3. The last time the same two teams appeared in back-to-back Cup finals was in 1983 and ’84, when the Islanders passed the dynasty torch to the Oilers.
The Penguins are doing it at home (6-2-1) in the early going, while the Red Wings are most impressive on the road (8-1-1).
With 16 victories in their first 20 games (16-3-1), the San Jose Sharks are on pace for an NHL-record 66 wins. But they’ll settle for a mere 50 wins, plus 16 more in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the worst team in the NHL isn’t doing that badly. The Florida Panthers are down in 30th place, dead last, but with a semi-respectable 6-9-1 record. Inter-state rival Tampa Bay has the fewest wins in the league; the Lightning is 5-7-5 in 17 games. Unfortunately for Tampa, the new ownership’s goal of engaging the local fans got off to a rocky start as the Bolts won just two of their first eight home games (2-3-3).
The NHL’s top six goal-scorers: Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek and Washington’s Alexander Semin (13 goals); New Jersey’s Zach Parise (12); and Philadelphia’s Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter and San Jose’s Devin Setoguchi (11). Calgary’s Jarome Iginla, Ottawa’s Dany Heatley and Detroit’s Hossa (and Henrik Zetterberg) are among a group of players with 10 goals, but perennial snipers Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk have taken longer than usual to get on track.
However, the NHL’s hottest goal-scorer, going back to last season, is Detroit mule/winger Johan Franzen. The big lug with the great hands and Tomas Holmstrom-esque positioning has 37 goals in his past 44 games, including 13 in 16 playoff games last spring. Franzen has nine goals in 12 games this season; he missed five games with an injury.
As bad as the Ottawa Senators are doing – 28th overall with a 6-9-3 mark – you can’t blame the goaltending. At least, don’t blame Alex Auld. Thanks to the purported backup’s 2.14 goals-against average, the Sens were sixth in goals-against average (2.50). Supposed starter Martin Gerber wasn’t really helping matters, though; his 3.17 GAA was more than a goal per game higher than Auld’s and the Swiss national had just one win in six starts.
Marty Turco’s save percentage is .870, Vesa Toskala’s is .878 and Miikka Kiprusoff’s is .885.
Evgeni Malkin is riding a 13-game assist streak. And, hey, the Penguins star has a 13-game point streak going, too. (From the good people at NHL Public Relations: “Malkin’s assist streak is the longest by an NHL player since 2000-01, when Jaromir Jagr had assists in 16 consecutive games for the Penguins. Over the past 15 years the only other player with an assist streak of at least 13 games was the Bruins’ Adam Oates in 1996-97 [14 games].”
Malkin’s productivity has been assisted (bad pun intended) by the fact the Penguins already have played a league-high eight games that went beyond regulation. The Pens are black-and-white the best NHL team in extra time, too, with a 6-2 mark. Wayne Gretzky’s Phoenix Coyotes, meanwhile, get it done in regulation: The Dogs’ next overtime/shootout game will be their first of the season.
Dating back to late October – Oct. 27, to be precise – there have been 12 games decided in overtime. And in seven of those games, a defenseman scored the OT game-winner. OK, granted, this is an obscure observation. But still…weird, eh? Something a little more mainstream: Philadelphia’s Jeff Carter is the only NHLer with multiple OT goals this season. He has scored twice in the five-minute mini-frame.
Sam McCaig’s From The Point column appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Have a point to make with Sam McCaig? You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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