Jason Brough

GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 07:  Goaltender Carey Price #31 of the Montreal Canadiens is congratulated by Brendan Gallagher #11 after defeating the Arizona Coyotes 2-0 in the NHL game at Gila River Arena on March 7, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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A lesson learned: Habs vow to ignore the hype

The Montreal Canadiens set a franchise record a year ago, starting the season with nine straight wins. They lost their 10th in Vancouver, which was no big deal. But the game after that, Carey Price got hurt, which was a huge deal. He got hurt again a month later, and that was it for the season.

The Habs would eventually collapse, finishing 38-38-6 and out of the playoffs.

Which is to say, a great start is good, but it’s all about how you finish.

“I think everything that we learned last year, everything that we went through, it’s given us a good understanding,” forward Brendan Gallagher said, per NHL.com. “I think last year everyone was saying so many good things about us, I think we started to believe it a little bit too much.”

The Canadiens, of course, are off to another torrid start, and it seems like nothing can go wrong. They’re 8-0-1 heading into tonight’s home game against Vancouver, the very same side that stopped their streak last year.

Though adversity may not come tonight against the Canucks, who’ve dropped five straight and have the NHL’s worst offense, it will come at some point this season, and the Habs will be tested in their pressure-packed market.

How they handle that adversity may very well determine the future of both head coach Michel Therrien and GM Marc Bergevin, the latter of whom acquired Shea Weber to not only play great hockey but also for “his attitude, his behavior, the little details that show he’s a real leader.”

So far, so good. But the season is still very young, just ask the Habs.

Related: In talking about Weber, Bergevin said plenty about Subban

In other news, the Canadiens sent 18-year-old defenseman Mikhail Sergachev back to his junior team yesterday. With Zach Redmond already sidelined with a broken foot, the club has been left with just six healthy defensemen on the roster, i.e. the bare minimum.

That’s led to speculation that Bergevin may be looking to add a top-4 d-man. Which sounds like a tough task at this point in the season, when all 30 teams are still technically in the playoff race. But perhaps Bergevin has had something in his back pocket all along, just in case Sergachev wasn’t NHL-ready.

We’ll have to wait and see on that.

Related: Habs send Sergachev back to junior

 

Nobody’s riding in ‘on a white horse’ to rescue the Kings

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 22:  Peter Budaj #31 of the Los Angeles Kings reacts after his save during the overtiime shootout against the Vancouver Canucks at Staples Center on October 22, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Kings won 4-3.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Kings are in a very tough spot. They haven’t scored a goal in their last three games, and their backup-to-the-backup goalie, Peter Budaj, started to show cracks Tuesday night in a 4-0 loss to Anaheim.

While there’s some reason to believe the scoring will come around (the Kings registered 89 shots in their last three games combined, and they still have Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty), there really isn’t an obvious solution to the goaltending problem.

Already up against the cap, the Kings simply can’t afford to take on a big contract, because Jonathan Quick is expected to return later this season.

So to all those fans screaming about Jaroslav Halak, perhaps GM Dean Lombardi can find a way, but don’t count on it, because Halak is signed through next season for a cap hit of $4.5 million.

“There’s nobody coming in on a white horse to play goal for us or score goals or to come up from [the AHL],” head coach Darryl Sutter said last night, per LA Kings Insider. “This is our team. I’ve said it early, meaning two or three games ago, and I’ll say it again. Our responsibility is not to use the injuries as an excuse. The responsibility is to try and stay in the race.”

Budaj was replaced last night by the once highly touted Jack Campbell. The Kings got Campbell in June, sending defenseman Nick Ebert to Dallas in return. Campbell, 24, split last season between the AHL and ECHL, and now he could be in line for an NHL start Thursday when the defending champs from Pittsburgh pay a visit.

Sutter didn’t say who would get the nod against the Penguins, but he clearly wasn’t very happy with Budaj’s performance.

“He wasn’t very good,” he said. “I mean, did you look at the shots and scoring chances? He wasn’t very good. That’s clear. I don’t pull goalies very often, but they’re expected to make some saves.”

Campbell has only made one NHL start in his career, all the way back on Oct. 20, 2013, when he allowed six goals on 47 shots in a 6-3 Dallas loss to Anaheim.

‘Hawks were winners too, on ‘a good day for the city of Chicago’

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 15: Fans celebrate the Chicago Blackhawks winning the 2015 Stanley Cup outside of Wrigley Field on June 15, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO (AP) Patrick Kane was terrific, and Corey Crawford had another solid performance for the Blackhawks.

Oh, and the Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians in Game 6 of the World Series.

“Sure is a good day for the city of Chicago,” Blackhawks forward Tyler Motte said.

Indeed.

Kane had a goal and two assists, and the Blackhawks beat the Calgary Flames 5-1 on Tuesday night for their third straight win. Then there was another loud cheer in the nearly empty United Center as fans in the private boxes and bars celebrated the final out of the Cubs’ 9-3 victory in Cleveland.

The Blackhawks know a little something about success, winning the Stanley Cup three times since 2010, and they seem to be enjoying the Cubs’ run. Moments after the Blackhawks’ victory, coach Joel Quenneville was already looking forward to Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday night.

“It’s going to be a fun day for Chicago tomorrow,” he said. “Biggest game maybe in the whole history of Chicago sports.”

Kane scored his third of the season on a dazzling play in the first, and then set up Artem Anisimov‘s tiebreaking power-play goal at 7:44 of the third. Anisimov extended his career-best point streak to eight games with his team-best seventh goal of the season.

With Sam Bennett in the penalty box for tripping, Kane made a perfect pass to Anisimov in front for the redirect. Motte added his third of the season on an impressive rush, making it 3-1 at 12:44, and Kane assisted on Artemi Panarin‘s sliding empty-netter with 3:01 left.

“For us, it’s probably as ugly a 5-1 win is gonna get for our team,” Kane said. “Still can be better.”

Crawford finished with 33 saves after posting his first shutout of the season in a 3-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.

“I’m feeling better and better every game, feeling quicker out there,” Crawford said.

Michael Frolik scored a short-handed goal for Calgary, which beat Chicago 3-2 on Kris Versteeg‘s goal in the seventh round of a shootout on Oct. 24. Brian Elliott finished with 17 stops in the opener of a four-game road trip.

“I think those first two were two of the best periods we played this year,” Frolik said. “It’s just that second goal kind of, they get the momentum and we opened the game and they finished us.”

The crowd of 21,166 seemed to go back and forth from the action in Cleveland to the Blackhawks’ fourth win in five games. About 20 minutes before the puck dropped, there was a roar in the concourse when Kris Bryant homered to give the Cubs an early lead.

There were more cheers and high-fives with about 4:15 left in the first, celebrating Addison Russell’s grand slam.

Then Kane gave the crowd something to cheer about on the ice. The reigning NHL MVP skated around Calgary defenseman TJ Brodie, and then away from Deryk Engelland and Mikael Backlund before beating Elliott low on the glove side for a 1-0 lead at 18:58.

“It was a big turn of events after one, and we got better as the game progressed,” Quenneville said.

Chicago had a chance to add to its advantage when Calgary was whistled for too many men on the ice in the second, but Backlund made a great pass to Frolik for a tying tap-in goal at 7:06.

It was still tied before the Blackhawks scored four times in the third, helped by another solid performance by Anisimov. The Russian center, off to a fast start, also got an assist on Niklas Hjalmarsson‘s second of the season at 18:16.

“We were playing a great game. We really were,” Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano said. “We had control. We did a lot of good things, then it seemed like the last 10 minutes it all fell apart.”

The new-look Rangers are dangerous on every line

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 19: Mika Zibanejad #93 of the New York Rangers celebrates his first period goal against the Detroit Red Wings and is joined by Chris Kreider #20 at Madison Square Garden on October 19, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Nine games down and it’s hard to imagine a better start for the New York Rangers. Not only are the Blueshirts 6-3-0 and boasting the NHL’s top offense, it seems like every new player that GM Jeff Gorton brought in has been a contributor.

At the top of the list is Mika Zibanejad, the 23-year-old the Rangers got from Ottawa for Derrick Brassard.

Zibanejad, a center, has two goals and six assists so far with his new team. Tonight against the Blues, he’ll be on a line with injury returnee Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello. Kreider had three goals and four assists before he was sidelined after five games. All five of his even-strength points came with Zibanejad on the ice with him.

“I didn’t know a lot about Mika Zibanejad,” winger Rick Nash told Sportsnet, “but he’s got everything to be a first-line center.”

Nash himself is feeling pretty good these days, with four goals already. He’ll skate tonight with rookie Jimmy Vesey, who has five goals, and veteran center Derek Stepan, who has five assists. No wonder Nash is glad he wasn’t traded over the summer..

So that’s the top two lines, now let’s talk about the third, which was fantastic in Sunday’s 6-1 destruction of the Lightning. Michael Grabner had a hat trick, Kevin Hayes had three assists, and J.T. Miller ended up with a goal and two assists. You have to figure head coach Alain Vigneault will want to try that trio some more.

Even the fourth line has a danger factor. Brandon Pirri has four goals this season, two of them at even strength. And don’t forget young Pavel Buchnevich, who’s missed time with back spasms. Pirri and Buchnevich are expected to play tonight with Jesper Fast. Not your typical, grinding fourth line, that’s for sure.

“Right now, I look at our four lines and I see balance,” said Vigneault. “I see a good skill level. I see on every line guys who can make plays and use their speed. And to use their speed, the D have got to get the puck up, and our defensemen have done a good job of that so far.”

As for the defense, it remains the biggest concern, if only because the forwards have been so good and Henrik Lundqvist is in goal.

But at least they have Ryan McDonagh back there.

“He’s without a doubt our best skating defenseman,” said Vigneault. “He can skate away from the forecheck, he can support the attack, jump up and beat a lot of their forwards down the ice and make a 2-on-2 a 3-on-2 or a 3-on-3 a 4-on-3 … He’s played extremely well and we need him to play well, he’s our best defenseman.”

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Related: Alain Vigneault got an interesting call from Patrick Roy this past summer

The Oilers are now at 10/1 to win the Stanley Cup

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 13:  Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates his first career NHL goal against the Dallas Stars in the second period at American Airlines Center on October 13, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The Edmonton Oilers are Stanley Cup contenders!

That’s not coming from us, mind you, but a bunch of bettors clearly feel that way. Since the start of the NHL regular season, online bookmaker Bovada has dropped its Stanley Cup odds on the Oilers from 33/1 all the way to 10/1.

At 10/1, it puts the Oilers (7-2-0) just a tick below the favored Pittsburgh Penguins (9/1). It also means that Connor McDavid and company have the same Stanley Cup odds as the Chicago Blackhawks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, and Montreal Canadiens, the latter of whom were at 25/1 prior to going 8-0-1 in their first nine games.

The excitement surrounding the Oilers is understandable, and it’s likely some (or many) of their long-suffering fans have been betting more with their hearts than their heads. After all, Cam Talbot‘s save percentage is unlikely to remain .936 all season long, and Edmonton’s defense, though improved by the addition of Adam Larsson, remains a work in progress. The team is improving, though, there’s no question about that. And with a player like McDavid, anything can seem possible.

Following is the full list of odds. Numbers in blue means the odds have grown shorter since the start of the season; in red, they’re longer.

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Related: The odds say Torts will be fired first