While Alex Ovechkin touts the merits of the KHL, the NHL player and prospect-loaded American Hockey League kicked off its regular season this weekend.
Let’s take a look at some of the players who’ve gotten off to hot starts so far, beginning with skaters (you can find more stats here and even more detailed ones here).
Cory Conacher – five points (2 G, 3A) in two games
Sven Baertschi – four points (2 G, 2A) in two games
Nino Niederreiter – four points (2 G, 2A) in two games
Thomas Pock – four points (1G, 3A) in three games
Conacher also had six penalty minutes, so he was all-around busy. In case you’re wondering, Conacher is an undersized, undrafted prospect in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization.
Brayden Schenn (highlight-reel goal included), Brock Nelson and James Sheppard are some of the most interesting skaters weighing in at three points. T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic and Jake Muzzin are among the blueliner points leaders tied at three points (all assists) in two contests.
Plenty of goalies are putting up nice numbers so far, but let’s focus on some of the bigger-name prospects.
- Eddie Lack hopes to back up Corey Schneider if Roberto Luongo ever actually gets traded. He’s among four netminders who pitched a shutout this weekend.
- Calvin Pickard had a busy two games, stopping 69 out of 72 shots to lead the weekend in saves. His one win was a shutout.
- Kevin Poulin went 2-0, but his numbers (3.01 GAA, .903 save percentage) leave something to be desired.
- OK, he’s not a prospect, but Curtis McElhinney might remain NHL-relevant if he can stay hot. He went 2-0 with a .964 save percentage, one shutout and a 1.00 GAA in two games.
Anyway, that’s a quick look at what’s going on in what is likely the most competitive active North American hockey league.
The Nashville Predators have been on a roll lately, and keeping Peter Laviolette around seems like it keeps things going in a positive direction.
The team announced a two-year contract extension for Laviolette during Saturday’s State of the Union event.
During his first two seasons behind the bench in Nashville, the Predators have managed two playoff berths, beating the Anaheim Ducks in the first round during this last postseason trip. The Predators have managed to stay competitive in the Central Division, which is no small task.
With P.K. Subban added to the mix, it makes great sense to retain Laviolette’s surfaces. You never know how a situation will work until it plays out, yet on paper, his system seems like a seamless fit for the star defender.
Nashville’s shown some promise already under Laviolette’s watch, particularly in quietly putting up some promising possession stats. At this moment in time, the future looks even brighter.
It can’t hurt that the guy has a Stanley Cup on his resume, either.
As difficult as it is to believe, it’s October already. You know what that means*; hockey season is rapidly approaching.
Along with stories about guys who might still be a little injured claiming they’re “100 percent” and teams carrying in optimism that will eventually look foolish, we also get fun stuff like new goalie masks.
We’d already seen Petr Mrazek pay tribute to Joe Louis Arena a month ago, but with the preseason in high gear, we’re seeing more masks.
While there will likely be some other fun entries before the games start to count in 2016-17, PHT is kindly saving your delicate fingers a few extra clicks by collecting a few choice masks in one post.
To start things off, Michal Neuvirth paid tribute to late Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider:
This Miami Herald video shares Roberto Luongo‘s very-cool concept: the old Panthers cat on one side, the new one on the other. Here’s a shot from George Richards:
(Anyone else get a little John Vanbiesbrouck nostalgia from that lid?)
Thankfully, no birds were harmed in the making of Louis Domingue‘s mask, which features Arizona sports figures from Randy Johnson to more obvious Coyotes choices:
Nitpick: Steve Nash’s hair could have been floppier. Just saying.
Finally, hockey and Seinfeld once again mix better than a black-and-white cookie in Scott Wedgewood’s mask, which features a Puddy reference:
If you want more goalie masks, DaveArt.com’s list should keep you entertained for some time.
* – Barring all-too-frequent lockouts.
Evgeni Malkin is back in Penguins training camp after a stint with Team Russia at the World Cup.
Malkin and his team reached the tournament’s semifinal before being knocked out by the eventual champions, Team Canada.
The Pens forward collected three points in four games, but he wasn’t satisfied by his overall performance.
“I need to start now,” Malkin said on Saturday, per the Tribune. “I’m not playing great. I’m not happy with my game at the World Cup. I will play better here and now.”
When he’s at his best, Malkin is fully capable of taking over games. That’s easier said than done in a best-on-best tournament, but those are the standards he’s set for himself.
So, what does he have to do to get back to that elite level?
“Play more with the puck. That’s my game always, if I have the puck and I spend more time with the puck. The last four, five games in the World Cup, I tried to use my partners, but my confidence when I play with the puck.”
The 30-year-old dealt with some injuries last year, but still managed to produce 58 points in 57 games during the regular season and 18 points in 23 games during Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cup playoff run.
KHL hockey is still relatively new in China and it showed prior to Kunlun Red Star’s game against Lada Togliatti earlier this week.
Prior to the game, the team organized a ceremonial puck drop, which ended up being a little awkward to say the least.
You can watch the entire thing by clicking the video at the top of the page.
That’s pretty funny!
The awkward look the two captains gave each other was priceless too.