We Begin on the West Coast:
The locals are growing restless after the Canucks have stumbled out of the gate over the first few weeks of the season. After a promising performance in the NHL bubble last season which included convincingly knocking out the defending Stanley Cup Champions from St. Louis, the Canucks have looked the part of a rebuilding team that simply overachieved. At times, the team has shown glimpses of their potential, but recently a four game skid that saw them lose games by scores of 6-2, 5-3, 7-3, and 5-1, have really highlighted how much Jacob Markstrom was covering up this team’s flaws last year. Newcomer Braden Holtby has yet to look comfortable in net, even seen yelling at teammates last game after soft defensive coverage. Second year goalie Thatcher Demko hasn’t looked comfortable either, a disappointment after his impressive playoff performances last year against Las Vegas.
Local media were swirling rumors of head coach Travis Green being on the hot seat, especially considering that management has yet to extend Green a new contract. The Canucks have been erratic this year, leading the NHL in both goals for with 49 and goals against with 60. Keep in mind the Canucks have played more games than any other team so far this season. It doesn’t get any easier for Vancouver who face Toronto again on Monday, and then head home to face Markstrom and the bitter rival Calgary Flamers for four straight games next week. Perhaps the advice for fans is to temper expectations and view last year’s unexpected playoff success as the outlier during this current franchise rebuild. The core is still young and fifteen games is an awfully small sample to judge a team’s direction with.
The Rest of the Division
Toronto and Montreal continue to lead the way in the all-Canadian division after each team took turns beating up on the aforementioned Canucks this past week. Toronto’s offense looks to be getting back on track, and after some early season struggles, Frederick Andersen has put together a few strong performances, including winning 3 of his last 4 starts. Montreal on the other hand has slowed down after their red-hot start, struggling against Ottawa in back to back games last week. It’ll be an interesting game to watch when the two clubs tangle later this week. The Senators continue to bring up the rear in the division, having dropped 6 of their last 7 games. Ottawa heads home to take on Edmonton in a back to back series, a team that scored twelve goals against the Sens over two games last week.
Calgary has been a disappointment so far this season, struggling to a 5-5-1 record. Many analysts pegged the Flames to be contending for the division, and to be fair it is still early on in the season. Jacob Markstrom has been as advertised this year, with a 2.55 GAA and .914 SV% through nine games. Markstrom gets to face his ex-teammates from Vancouver next week in four straight games.
The Oilers continue to search for consistency on the back-end and in net, as the high-flying offense has scored 46 goals in 13 games but have allowed 49. The offense should continue to roll this week when they take on the lowly Senators, but definitely need Mikko Koskinen to recapture the form he showed last season.
Finally, Winnipeg has impressed this year starting off 7-3, and rattling off back to back wins against the Flames. The Jets will be well-rested when they take on the Flames again on Tuesday, having last been on the ice on Thursday. Keep an eye on Winnipeg after the recent blockbuster trade that sent Patrick Laine to Columbus for Pierre-Luc Dubois. Laine has already played for his new team, but Dubois should make his debut this week so it will be interesting to see how he fits in on this offense.
~ That’s my opinion now, get out there and keep your stick on the ice.