Thomas Vanek

Renovation Watch: First impressions


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.

Renovated Records:

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.)

GM says Blue Jackets are ‘off the rails’ right now

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On Monday, PHT discussed the Columbus Blue Jackets’ troubling start, even if it felt like it may be too early to raise concerns.

Apparently Blue Jackets management is a little shaken by the second 0-3-0 start in franchise history, however.

Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen shared his shock and dismay with the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline on Tuesday.

“I’m surprised how, in just five days, we’ve gone from a very confident group to something that’s the opposite of that,” Kekalainen told The Dispatch on Tuesday. “Our confidence, our game … it’s off the rails right now.

Maybe losing to the Buffalo Sabres stings a little bit extra?

Kekalainen said “there’s no excuse for how we played in Buffalo,” pointing out that every team in the NHL is a “good team.”

Indeed, just about every squad boasts some dangerous weapons if they catch an opponent sleeping.

Portzline goes deeper on Columbus’ recent history of stumbling out of the gate, but consider the foreboding stretch coming up.

Next four games: Three out of four at home
Eight games following that: Seven out of eight on the road.

As you can see, winter is coming for Columbus, so they best get things together. All things considered, this is the right time for a wake-up call.

For bonus chuckles, here’s a photo of Kekalainen on a railing.

via AP

Personal reasons: No Ovechkin for Caps tonight

Alex Ovechkin
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Alex Ovechkin won’t play for the Washington Capitals on Tuesday because of personal reasons, the team confirmed.

He entered the building considerably later than usual, but his presence at least opened the door for the possibility of No. 8 suiting up against the San Jose Sharks.

Instead, the Capitals will face the hot-starting Sharks without Ovechkin (personal reasons) and Nicklas Backstrom (injury).

That’s a tall order, yet it’s also an opportunity for Barry Trotz to prove his system is a difference-maker … and that the Capitals have the young players to take up the mantle when the big stars are out

This is how Washington’s forward lines may look tonight:

No, the Capitals have not shared details regarding what his “personal reasons” might be, by the way.