Monday, October 18, 2010

Kerrzy’s Notebook: NHL Season So Far

Well, we’re eleven days and 68 games into the 2010-11 NHL season – 379 goals have been scored, five goalies have earned shutouts and two teams remain undefeated…

Let’s take a closer look:

As much as I love the start of a new season of hockey, I always find it hard to take anything too seriously in the first couple of weeks of October. For example, how long do you suppose the NY Islanders will lead the Atlantic Division and how long will the Toronto Maple Leafs lead the Eastern Conference, while the NJ Devils sit in a tie for dead-last in the NHL?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

That said, a good start can mean a lot for a team and can translate into solid footing as the season progresses, while a bumpy road at the beginning of the year can be hard to recover from.

A couple of teams that have started well are the Maple Leafs and the Dallas Stars, both with 4-0 records heading into this week. Among the teams with just one win so far are New Jersey and Buffalo (1-4-1), Ottawa (1-3-1) and the San Jose Sharks (1-1-1).

The Devils are a team that should really be concerned by their early-season form – yes, they’ve got salary cap issues, but they’ve also got a solid lineup that should be faring a lot better. In six games, they’ve given up 21 goals and have a goal difference of -11…and Martin Brodeur has been between the pipes for all but three of those goals against!

The only other team in that neighborhood is the Anaheim Ducks, who have allowed 23 goals, with a differential of -10 through the same number of games.

Here’s another example of how quirky these October stats can be though – the 2-2 Florida Panthers are tied with Toronto for the best goal difference (+7), and have allowed the fewest goals (5) in their first four games. Despite giving up three goals on 13 shots against the Edmonton Oilers, goalie Panthers Tomas Vokoun has two shutouts in those four games, giving him the early lead in that category.

Speaking of the Oilers – after a fantastic opening night, the team has settled to a 2-2 record through four games. They spanked the Calgary Flames 4-0 in game one, weathered the storm and beat the Panthers, lost for the 14th straight time in Minnesota and then fell to their provincial rivals on Saturday night.

They’ve looked good overall, especially goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, but it’s expected that they’ll have their ups and downs while they search for a level of consistency this year.

Onto the personal statistics – I’m a big stats guy, which makes the first few weeks of the year the absolute hardest of them all.

I’ll sit and look at stats until my eyes start to burn, but when the season is just getting started the numbers don’t really mean anything. A four-point night can be the difference between the bottom hundred players and the top 10 scorers, for example! Props to guys like Clarke MacArthur and Steve Sullivan for their mesh-finding abilities early on, and I hope they keep it up, but I can’t wait for guys like Alex Ovechkin and Steve Stamkos to pull away from the pack.

Right now it’s Marian Hossa leading the league with five goals and nine points in six games.

Back to the Oilers for a minute – the biggest problem they had last season was injuries and it’s so far, so good on that front…but that’s not the case for some other team’s around the league.

The NY Islanders got us started, losing defenseman Mark Streit and forward Kyle Okposo to injuries back in training camp, while John Tavares missed a week with a concussion.

The NY Rangers are going through a bit of a rough patch right now – after breaking his finger blocking a shot in camp, captain Chris Drury made his debut on Friday and promptly broke his finger again. Marian Gaborik hurt his shoulder in the same game, while the team also learned that forward Vaclav Prospal will need surgery on an injured knee, putting him out indefinitely.

Things aren’t looking great for the Detroit Red Wings injury-wise either, with five players hurting right now. Johan Franzen suffered a concussion last week, Brian Rafalski has knee issues and Kris Draper’s groin is injured, while Jonathan Ericsson and Justin Abdelkader are also on the sidelines.

Much like the problems the Devils have, being so close to the cap, the Wings are being forced to dress less than the league-mandated 18 skaters for the time being.

So overall, it’s been an interesting and eventful opening to the season and there certainly is promise of a lot more excitement!

What do you think so far? Who has impressed you, which teams have you excited and what are your predictions for the rest of the way?

Leave me a comment and let me know!

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