October snap judgments: Leafs and Oilers dominate while Bruins are stinko

We’re one month into the season which means we can make all kinds of crazy observations and declarations that will likely look really silly by the time April and the playoffs roll around. What looks really goofy now that we’ll all look back on and laugh about later? Well let’s run down the list.

Boston Bruins in line to “Fail for Nail” or at least “Stinko for Grigorenko”

The Bruins are the worst team in the Eastern Conference and just one point better than the Columbus Blue Jackets in the NHL. The last time a defending Stanley Cup Champion started off this bad? The 1990-1991 Edmonton Oilers. On the upside for Bruins fans, those Oilers lost in the conference finals to the… Minnesota North Stars. Boy, that was a long time ago.

Of course, if the Bruins do stay this bad the rest of th way (they won’t, mind you) they’ll be in line to have another top ten pick in the draft and a shot at Nail Yakupov or Mikhail Grigorenko.

Edmonton-Toronto in the Stanley Cup finals

Your division leaders after October: Pittsburgh, Toronto, Washington, Chicago, Edmonton, Dallas. 50% of the those teams make a lot of sense, the rest of them seem like they were pulled from a hat. Toronto, Edmonton, and Dallas being at the head of their classes makes us think it’s 1999 and not 2011.

Phil Kessel will win every award possible

Having Phil Kessel leading the NHL in goals and points while the Bruins are busy figuring out just what the number of the train was that hit them gives Leafs fans all the more reason to be haughty. With how Kessel is playing, he’s one guy that could stick things out wire-to-wire. He looks inspired and he’s playing great. Of course, once Sidney Crosby returns he’ll show that he was just spotting the rest of the league a nice head start before crushing competition.

Nikolai Khabibulin, Jonathan Quick, and Kari Lehtonen will fight to the death for the Vezina Trophy

We’ve remarked a lot about Khabibulin’s start to the year but Kari Lehtonen’s start in Dallas and Jonathan Quick’s in L.A. are equally as impressive. Of these three, we’d like to think that at least one of them can last in the discussion for the Vezina all season long (I’m betting on Quick being the guy) but if both Lehtonen and Khabibulin can stay healthy all year long and play strong in goal, we might have a really great playoff race in the West.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

Getty
Leave a comment

Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.

Video: An early taste of the Tkachuk-inspired violence in Kings vs. Flames

6 Comments

BREAKING: the Los Angeles Kings really don’t appreciate Calgary Flames rookie-pest-forward Matthew Tkachuk thanks to that elbow on Drew Doughty (and the fallout from all … that).

Tkachuk responded by critiquing Doughty for “complaining to the media,” so there was testiness from the start.

There was jawing before the game. Then Jake Muzzin rebuked Tkachuk’s kind offer for a fight. Finally, Keith’s son dropped the gloves with Brayden McNabb:

It wasn’t the only bout of the opening frame, and there could be more blood to come beyond this Jarome IginlaDeryk Engelland feud:

Players from both teams better keep their heads up (and on a swivel) tonight. The Flames have to hope that this doesn’t result in injuries, judging from what happened to Johnny Gaudreau.

Avalanche sign Toews-like first-rounder Tyson Jost

Leave a comment

Things have been pretty bleak for the Colorado Avalanche this season, but at least they can look to a high pick in the next draft … and maybe dream about how their top pick from 2016 may pan out.

The Avs signed Tyson Jost, the 10th pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, to an entry-level contract on Wednesday. Colorado notes that he’ll jump right into some NHL action to close out this season.

It’s a nice sneak preview, as NHL insider Bob McKenzie noted on an NBCSN appearance (see above) that doing so will not burn the first year of Jost’s entry-level contract. Nice.

Even nicer? McKenzie also compares Jost favorably to … (drum-roll, though the headline spoiled it) Jonathan Toews.

Most obviously, the two both starred at the University of North Dakota. For the sake of fun, here are their numbers in their final years in the NCAA:

Jost: 16 goals, 35 points in 33 games, +17 rating (2016-17)
Toews: 18 goals, 46 points in 34 games (2006-07)

Naturally, Toews enthusiasts in particular will tell you that points aren’t everything … but maybe there are some shades of the two-way Blackhawks center there?

The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy raved that Jost has “man-strength already” back around the 2016 NHL Draft, as you can see in this profile.

“Jost oozes confidence and already looks like NHL captain material for the future.”

Hey, that does sound at least somewhat Toews-like, doesn’t it?

***

In other signing news, the Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington reports that the Buffalo Sabres signed UMass-Lowell’s CJ Smith. More on that below.

Video: This Kane-to-Panarin goal is all sorts of ridiculous

7 Comments

When people were arguing against Artemi Panarin‘s Calder case, they often discounted his work because of Patrick Kane‘s brilliance (at least when they weren’t focusing on age questions).

It always felt a little unfair to Panarin.

Do we blame a great wide receiver playing with an adept quarterback? Sure, it’s an interesting discussion to have, but it seems fairly clear that there’s a symbiotic relationship between Panarin and Kane.

One could see that plainly in a 1-0 goal for the Chicago Blackhawks against the Pittsburgh Penguins that … admittedly was driven by Kane’s almost audacious creativity and skill.

But still, Panarin has 26 goals this season because he’s really good, too. This season has been a nice showcase for such thoughts, and a reminder that – like most great combinations – they make each other better.

(Seriously though, Kane was out of his mind there.)