My New York Jets are coming off a nice and much-needed win over Miami Monday night, so I’m feeling pretty good and am optimistic at another playoff run. Sure, they’re still just a .500 team with a lot of question marks, but it’s way too early to write them off for the Super Bowl, right?
It’s even earlier in the NHL season, so assuming anomalous trends will continue is a good way to lose a lot of money. I’ll take the lead from my favorite Monday Night Football panel feature to examine the early hiccups and highlights of this hockey season.
SAN JOSE STARTS 1-3-0
The Sharks have scored only four goals in their past three games (all losses) and currently sit third-last in the West. Joe Thornton and Logan Couture have as many points as Douglas Murray and Martin Havlat hasn’t even played a game, while Michal Handzus and Andrew Desjardins are among the team’s leading goal scorers. Is this a sign of bad things to come?
The Sharks didn’t get off to a great start last season, either, and on Jan. 10 sat 11th in the conference, eight points behind the division-leading Dallas Stars. But we all know how that turned out. Thornton, Couture, Patrick Marleau and the all-star bunch will pick it up eventually and San Jose will be at or near the top of the standings come April. You wagered on the battle weary Sharks to fall back to the pack this season? C’mon Man!
PHIL KESSEL’S SIX GOALS IN FOUR GAMES
What a solid start for the Maple Leafs sniper. No one saw this coming and, sure, it means there’s a good chance of it ending up as a career year for the 24-year-old.
Last year we were wondering if Steven Stamkos would hit 50 goals in 50 games before he hit a slump and really didn’t get anywhere near the benchmark. It would be nice to see another player hit that historic figure, but it’s such a difficult feat you can’t read much into what a goal pace means four games into the season. It’s like when a baseball pitcher has a perfect game through three innings; if you mention it that early, you’re just jinxing it. Kessel will not score 123 goals, so hopefully you didn’t put money down on that.
Kessel also leads NHL forwards in plus-minus, but take a look at Sheldon Souray’s plus-4 and you will see how little that means this early. Will Kessel score 50 in 50? Will he win the Art Ross? Hart? Selke? Anything? C’mon Man!
(As an aside: you thought Tim ‘Tin Man’ Connolly was going to be healthy for the Leafs? C’mon Man!)
ALEX OVECHKIN’S ONE GOAL IN FOUR GAMES
Sure, the Capitals superstar is on pace for a 20-goal, 40-point, minus-41 season, but Ovechkin recognizes now that playoff performance is his real focus and he doesn’t want to hit mid-season form in October.
When you score 32 goals and people consider it a down year, a one-goal-in-four-games scoring “drought” isn’t a big (or small) deal. Ovechkin’s center, Nicklas Backstrom, has found his points again and the Caps have won all four of their games to start. And you think Ovechkin will watch his goals and points drop again? C’mon Man!
THE RED WINGS START 4-0-0
First off, if this is a surprise to you, I hope for your sake you’re not involved in any fantasy hockey leagues.
Every year we hear how the Wings are too old or how they have no goaltending. Now, Jimmy Howard didn’t have the best season in 2010-11, but it wasn’t bad, either. In fact, his .923 save percentage in the playoffs was quite remarkable and should have made him impervious to post-season blame. But, it somehow didn’t.
Now, I’m not expecting any Vezina Trophies, .930 save percentages or an 82-win season, but the Wings are better than a lot of teams in net. And if Nicklas Lidstrom can win a Norris Trophy at 40, you better believe the rest of this team has a lot of pop left in the cannon – not to mention some very capable support players. Did you actually fall for the tired and old, tired-old Red Wings prediction? C’mon Man!
Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com’s web editor. His column appears regularly only on THN.com.
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