Early Season NHL Thoughts & Observations…

Marc Elliott

TOWER-SOUDAN… The National Hockey League season is just barely a couple of weeks old, but as always there are chills and spills galore. The competition has been brisk thus far and here are some of my early thoughts on the year unfolding before us. The Wild went 3-0 before dropping a tilt out in Los Angeles to the Kings in Overtime. I have seen a few games go to the new 3 on 3 OT format and it does have some appeal to me. I thought before the Pre-season that I wouldn’t care for it, but after seeing it utilized in several Pre-season games I have changed my opinion on it. It has been interesting so far, but there have also been some predictable occurrences while in the extra period.
I had thought prior to the season that one of the things coaches would have to attempt to guard against was with so much more open ice out there that there were going to be a lot of chances on missed shots and rebounds on one end creating man superior situations going the other way for the team that was defending. Sure enough in the NY Rangers-New Jersey Devil game this afternoon in the OT frame, the Rangers Derek Stepan blasted a shot off of the crossbar behind Dev’s net minder Corey Schneider with the rebound setting up Adam Henrique and Lee Stempniak on a 2 on 1 break where Stempniak fired a shot in past Henrik “The King” Lundqvist for the OT winner. The goal gave the Dev’s their first victory of the young season.
With the 3 on 3 being relatively new to the league I predict that it will only be a matter of time before NHL coaches figure out the structures and schemes that will be necessary to play the OT period with a high degree of success. It will be a goalie nightmare for a bit and then some enterprising coach will figure out how to lock it down. Count on it, in fact if Jacques Lemaire was still a Head Coach in the league, he would probably already have a 3 on 3 trap figured out….
IT IS 2-1 IN FAVOR OF THE Anaheim Ducks right now going into the 2nd period out at The Pond. I still don’t feel as if the Wild are totally on top of their game yet but I see small improvements every game for the most part. The team defense is coming around and up until only getting one goal against the Kings Friday eve, the team has been getting good chances and finishing on them. Nino Neiderreiter got a nice goal in the 1st, but then his mistake allowed the Duck to regain the lead later in the period. They are facing former Wild goalie Anton Khudobin tonight. He signed with the Duck over the summer as a free agent. I was surprised the Carolina Hurricanes didn’t re-sign “Khudobie” after some admirable fill-ins for Canes net minder Cam Ward, but it may have simply been a financial decision for the Canes’….
I DON’T LIKE TO HEAR IT, but on Sat radio SXM NHL Network there has been talk of who the first NHL Coach to be fired this season would be. Their top three had the Columbus Blue Jackets (0-6-0, -17 goal diff) Todd Richards on top followed by the Boston Bruins (2-3-0, -3 goal diff) Claude Julien, and the final chap in the triumvirate was the Anaheim Ducks (0-3-1, -10 goal diff) Bruce Boudreau. I guess stuff like this can be entertaining, unless you are the Coach on the hot seat, but here is my take on this; last season in spite of having one of the most injured teams in the league, Richards, when he finally got the better part of his real roster back had one of the best records in the league over the last third of the season. Their problem is a lack of line chemistry and that goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is off to a miserable start. The coach is always the one to pay though.
Out in Chowder-land after the Bruin fired former GM Pete Chiarelli and replaced him with an in-house guy in Don Sweeney, they started to do something I can only describe as a roster dump of sorts. Of course they aren’t calling it that but hey, right before last season they suddenly traded an excellent D-man in Johnny Boychuk. This year it was F-Milan Lucic and D-man Dougie Hamilton. These moves followed the post-Cup dump trade of a fairly good scorer in Tyler Seguin who is lighting it up in Dallas now. Throw in a huge and aging Zdeno Chara, who has definitely slowed a step and has been susceptible to injury as of late and you are going to make Julien walk the plank with this roster? Sorry Sweeney, not his fault.
On top of it all, it was believed that the club was going to can Claude after last season only to make him sit through an extended timeframe while the front office attempted to get their stuff together. Julien is a good coach and he doesn’t deserve this outfit. For Double BB, after some quick playoff exits with the Duck it was believed that he too would be dismissed last summer but wasn’t. There were reports of some tension between he and team GM Bob Murray, but Murray opted to bring him back. I believe Bruce is a good coach as well, but I can see in his style that he could be a guy with a specific expiration date. However, there are many that have picked the Ducks to be the Western Conference Champ this year and Cup winner too.
I don’t see that myself. I have questions about the ability of their goaltending tandem to take them on that long of a ride and of their defensive depth. They also began the season by splitting up longtime linemates Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and the team responded by scoring one goal in their first four games. I saw them play Arizona last week and the youth and speed of the Yotays made Getzlaf and Perry look like a couple of old battleships out there, doing probably one to two knots top speed while Yotay players whizzed all around them. Personally…. I think the club has had it with Brucie and they are playing to see him bid adieu. Not by choice of course…. PEACE