Every now and then, PHT will glance at the teams who changed the most during the 2011 off-season in Renovation Watch.
With the NHL’s first huge night of games almost over, the hockey world received introductory glances at some radically altered teams. Naturally, first impressions aren’t everything, but here’s a rundown of how remodeled rosters are shaking out through a game or two.
Sabres dominate in both of their games
So far, the Buffalo Sabres are justifying their substantial hype. They dismantled the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 on Friday and then handled a more balanced Los Angeles Kings team 4-2. The Northeast Division title bout could be a real slug fest.
Breezy allows one goal in two contests
The Philadelphia Flyers underwent dramatic roster surgery in the summer and the early results are promising. Ilya Bryzgalov earned a 3-0 shutout against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday and helped the Flyers ruin the Boston Bruins’ Stanley Cup party 2-1. Newcomers Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek and Jaromir Jagr have already registered a point, but holdover Claude Giroux is embracing his push to the headliner role; he already hast two goals.
Panthers blank Islanders in sleepy match between big dreamers
Depending upon who you ask, the Florida Panthers or New York Islanders could be the “sleepers” of the East. The two teams played a yawner tonight, as Jose Theodore helped the Panthers blank the Isles 2-0. Florida is clearly going to get as much value out of Brian Campbell’s whale-like contract as they can – he assisted on both goals and played a whopping 30 minutes tonight.
Heatley and Setoguchi score in their Wild debuts
The Minnesota Wild beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 in a fight between two renovated teams. The Wild’s off-season additions had a nice debut, as Dany Heatley scored and then assisted on Devin Setoguchi’s goal. Maybe it’s a bit unfair to truly critique Columbus since they’ll play six more games without James Wisniewski, but they’re 0-2-0 so far. The biggest move might be the one they didn’t make; Steve Mason didn’t even make it through the entire game after allowing all four Wild goals in the first two periods.
Philadelphia: 2-0-0 (four points)
Buffalo: 2-0-0 (four pts.)
Florida: 1-0-0 (two pts.)
Minnesota: 1-0-0 (two pts.)
Columbus: 0-2-0 (zero pts.)
You’d think the reaction to taking a skate to the face would be something like “Not coming back to that game, getting some ice and maybe do some soul-searching.”
Nope, not in the NHL, at least.
In this league, the real reaction is almost always to come back to the same game … and barely miss a beat.
Ottawa Senators Mark Stone provides the latest example of hockey toughness, as he bounced back almost immediately from this.
What did he do? He scored a nice goal in the Senators’ 6-1 blowout of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.
As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?
If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.
Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.
Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.
The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.
On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.
Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.
The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.
You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.
At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.
Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.
(Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)
As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.
Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.
Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.
Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.
Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:
That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.
Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.