Pretty slow night with only three games. The first game of the night was a battle between the Central Division juggernauts the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks. It was a tight back-and-forth affair. Each time St. Louis pulled ahead, the Blackhawks responded with minutes with a tally of their own. Ultimately the Blues pulled the game out with a goal from Alex Steen with just 22 seconds remaining giving the Blackhawks little time to respond.
I hope we get to see this unfold as a seven-game series come playoff time.
Jaroslav Halak posted another gem stopping all 25 shots he faced at even strength with the two goals he allowed coming against the Blackhawks’ power play. That power play is one that struggled last season but with all that talent they should be unreal and so far they have been ranking sixth in the league at 36.7% (although the sample size this early in the season is too small to make any conclusions).
Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews combined for all six points for the Blackhawks. They also led the team in power play time with 22 seconds apiece – that’s efficiency right there! Bryan Bickell and Duncan Keith were the other two who received power play time for the Blackhawks.
Keith and defense partner Brent Seabrook were each minus-two on the night, which puts them among the worst in the league in plus/minus to begin the season. I wouldn’t fret that too much. By the end of the year they will do just fine.
On the other side, Alex Pietrangelo continued his hot start to the season registering another two assists last night. He and Jay Bouwmeester who also notched an assist led the Blues in ice time yet again. Interestingly, the pair was used for just second unit power play duties, which figures to be the biggest snag in Pietrangelo’s Norris Trophy potential this season.
The Blues have preferred to go with Kevin Shattenkirk and forward Alex Steen on the blue line of their top power play unit to start this season, which is something they have done in the past although with Ken Hitchcock it is rare to see him stick with any combination too long. It’s hard to argue with the results however as the Blues are currently second in the league in power play efficiency (again sample size issues abound) after finishing a very solid 12th last season.
Steen has been reaping the rewards so far with three goals and four points through three games while skating just shy of 18 minutes per game. Of course, he isn’t going to shoot 27.3% for the rest of the season so that goal rate will go down but his assists will pick up. I like Steen’s chances at a 60-point season if he can keep up the power play time and especially if he can stick with David Backes and TJ Oshie on the Blues’ top line.
Shattenkirk, meanwhile, has just one assist to start the season but if his minutes stay up the production will come and he’s a talent so there is no reason to think it won’t.
Vladimir Tarasenko, Chris Stewart and Derek Roy round out the top power play unit in St. Louis. They are all seeing less than 15 minutes per game but so long as that power play time continues they will be fantasy relevant.
How about Flames rookie Sean Monahan? The kid is doing everything he has to do to stay in the lineup and at this rate he’ll remain in the NHL all year. With a goal and an assist against the Habs last night, Monahan is up to five points through four games and hasn’t been held off the score-sheet yet.
If you click on Monahan’s name you’ll note a link to his Frozenpool Player Profile(one of Frozenpool’s many free tools), which will show you that Monahan has seen his ice time go up in each successive game he has played this season, yet another positive in his quest to stay in the NHL.
Monahan skated 15:41 last night with just over a minute on the power play. The next step for him is to earn a regular power play shift and to start tallying points in that role as well. Of course, he’s never going to be a “first line” player on this team because like basically all rookie centermen he is terrible at faceoffs but he’ll improve down the line and more importantly he’s been put in a great situation with quality wingers Sven Baertschi and Lee Stempniak flanking him for the great many offensive zone starts Monahan is receiving.
I am still not bullish on Monahan’s chances of being a strong scorer this season but it’s looking more and more like he will be in the league to stay.
By the way, Stempniak recorded an assist on Wednesday bringing him up to four points through four games with 20 SOG.
Joe Colborne was in the lineup for the Flames last night and skated a whopping 3:58. If he can’t even crack the Flames’ roster it is time to start talking bust.
On the other side of the ice Lars Eller keeps on humming scoring his fourth goal of the season. Linemate Alex Galchenyuk got in on the fun with his fifth assist of the season. I don’t know how long they can keep this up but that line with Eller, Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher is quickly turning into the Habs’ top offensive unit – just don’t call them the “Egg Line.”
That line was the featured one on the Habs’ top power play unit last night. It remains to be seen if it will stick. I could see the Canadiens just rolling any of their three lines out there depending on which one is clicking that night because they seemingly do the same thing at even strength (although there is no doubt some line matching going on). The only dependable players for power play time this season will be Andrei Markov (if he stays healthy) and PK Subban, which pretty much goes without saying because those two are offensive geniuses.
Jake Muzzin was a healthy scratch on Wednesday due to his poor play to start the season. Coach Darryl Sutter on Muzzin, “He’s struggling a lot.” Muzzin does lead all Kings defensemen with two points but that’s a result of some premium power play time that he’s been getting. The rest of his game is clearly leaving something to be desired and that’s reflected in his miserable minus-five rating through three games.
With Muzzin out of the lineup Drew Doughty gobbled up power play ice time skating 6:24 with the man advantage against the Senators. Doughty was held scoreless but managed five shots and the Kings’ power play was successful on three of seven attempts, including the overtime winner. I maintain that if Doughty keeps seeing these big power play minutes he will be in for a bounce back season so if you can get in there while the price is still low I highly recommend it.
Interestingly enough Slava Voynov skated just 16:49 with only 10 seconds of power play time. Voynov is averaging over 20 minutes per game with over two minutes on the power play this season and was expected to contend with Doughty for power play minutes should the Kings go with a four-forward top power play unit, which they are doing with Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Dustin Brown.
Voynov wasn’t even on the second unit, however, with Alec Martinez drawing in for the first time this season and even Willie Mitchell getting some minutes. I haven’t been able to dig up anything about Voynov getting hurt so let me know if you catch some.
I mentioned Brown earlier, I would like to welcome him back to the land of the living. Brown finally got on the board with his first two goals (and points) of the season. It was only a matter of time – he sees way too many minutes with too many talented players not to score – but he is also going to be the sort of guy who will slump on occasion. By the end of the year he’ll have his 50-60 points and excellent peripherals. Speaking of which, Brown also got on the board with four PIM, six SOG and one hit to round out an excellent rotisserie performance.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau finally got on the board with his first goal of the season. He beat out Mika Zibanejad for a roster spot and probably needs to keep scoring to justify his presence. Pageau only skated 13:14 on the night with no power play time so it isn’t like the Senators are expecting a ton but a goal every few nights will go a long way to keeping him in the NHL.
Pageau has some nice sleeper potential but not if he isn’t in the Senators’ top six. And that Pageau didn’t draw top-six minutes with Jason Spezza out is a bit disconcerting.
Stephane Da Costa, replace Spezza on the Senators’ top line but was scoreless in 14:17. It was instead Kyle Turris and Cory Conacher drawing in on the Senators’ top power play unit, with each skating over three minutes on the man advantage.
For whatever reason Bobby Ryan skated just 1:13 with the man advantage last night but did manage to score a power play marker, which only further points to the lunacy of not having him out there at all times. It baffles me entirely that Ryan could somehow be eighth on the team in average power play time this season. No wonder the Sens’ power play is one of the worst in the league to start the season – and, yes, I know sample size issues abound but this is inexcusable. Dobber talks about Ferraris being used to plough, how about Ferraris sitting in the garage under a tarp when it’s bikini weather outside?
Joe Corvo drew back into the lineup and registered two assists in just 13:29 of ice time. Not bad at all. Corvo is going to be in and out of the lineup all year because he is a bottom pairing defenseman who cannot be relied upon for 82-games but if he can get more than the 25 seconds of power play time he got last night he is a threat for 30 points in the 60-or-so games he does get into this year. And all it takes is one injury to make him a lineup mainstay.
Check out Elliotte Friedman’s latest 30 Thoughts, a weekly must-read column:
7. MacKinnon's biggest adjustment? "Not rushing... teams are tough to break out against, especially if the defencemen pinch. There's not a lot of time to make a play, but if you take a split second, you can still make them. Good things happen when you are patient, not rushing it." The day after MacKinnon had two assists in the opener against Anaheim, Colorado coaches were going through video with him about this. Curtis Joseph used to say a young player was ready if they could make the brief hesitation to set up the right play.
And here’s Friedman scolding Glenn Healy:
Sean McIndoe’s latest for Grantland counts down the 10 best players to play for a single franchise:
Lidstrom was always good (he was named to the all-rookie team in 1992), but it wasn’t until his late 20s that he really established himself as one of the league’s best defensemen. In 1998 he was named to the All-Star first team, a spot he’d hold for 10 of the next 11 years. He won the Norris seven times, one short of Bobby Orr’s record. In fact, by the time Lidstrom finally retired, he’d nudged aside Doug Harvey and Ray Bourque as the consensus pick for “all-time greatest NHL defenseman who wasn’t Bobby Orr."
Foligno made his presence felt early when he crushed Valtteri Filppula with a clean hit on his second shift, which then led straight to a fight between Foligno and the wonderfully-named Radko Gudas. Foligno continued to make his physical presence felt on the ice all game, leading both teams with seven hits.
An interesting look at how Lindy Ruff is managing the lines in Dallas and how they have improved from an advanced stats perspective:
I think it's too simplistic to say Ruff isn't doing anything to manage the game though. He isn't focusing on matchups, but he is focusing on where certain players are starting their shifts. Ruff is getting Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin into the offensive zone with regularity. The Ray Whitney and Alex Chiasson net crashing experience gets a fair dosage of offensive starts, but the Seguin/Benn combo is the clear emphasis. They have been used against almost equivalent competition like Ruff suggested would happen.
Cal Clutterbuck is set to make his return for the Islanders. We shall see if he really does have any chemistry with John Tavares after all. With Clutterbuck’s return Griffin Reinhart was sent back to junior. Reinhart isn’t really close to ready and saw no game action.
Joey MacDonald stacking the pads last night:
Wednesdays are typically quiet in the NHL so this will be the night when I will most often link to other articles. If you read anything you feel is worth passing along please give me a shout in the forums or on Twitter. Hell, you can even fire the link down in the comments section below this post. I’m always looking for new material.
You can find me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.