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Lightning Round: Checking in on the early season NHL storylines

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Stamkos is tied for the league lead in points

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NHL: JAN 15 Blackhawks at Lightning Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the first weekend of the season in the books most teams around the NHL have played at least two games (Dallas - 0, Florida and Winnipeg - 1). That’s more than enough time to make some snap judgement on how the season is going to play out, right? Maybe not, but let’s at least see if anything notable took place.

  • The official teams of NBC, Chicago and Pittsburgh, are off to a combined 1-5 start, with the lone win coming in a shootout for the Penguins on Sunday. Both teams have to figure out some things on defense as Pittsburgh has been outscored 14-9 while Chicago is on the wrong end of a 15-5 goal differential.
  • Five players have amassed five points to share the league league. The Lightning’s very own Steven Stamkos is among a group that includes Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, John Tavares, and Travis Konecny. Despite having two of the top scorers in the league so far, Edmonton has somehow been outscored 12-9 in three games.
  • The Calder Race is wide open this year but Minnesota rookie Kirill Kaprizov has staked a claim to the early lead with four points in two games. Devils defenseman Ty Smith has been impressive as well, recording two points in two games while averaging over 17 minutes a game.
  • Somewhat unsurprisingly, Buffalo is one of three teams that has yet to record a point (not including Dallas who has yet to play a game). The other two teams are Chicago and Columbus. We already touched on Chicago’s problem, for Columbus it’s been a lack of offense. They have only scored three goals in their two games.
  • The goaltender waiver wire go-round. Let’s see if I have this straight. Over the last week several back-ups to back-ups were claimed. First it was New Jersey claiming Eric Comrie from Winnipeg. Then it was Anton Forsberg from Edmonton getting claimed by Carolina. Why? Because they thought a goaltender they had put on waivers, Alex Nedelkovic, would be claimed. When he wasn’t, they put Forsberg on waivers who was claimed by Winnipeg to be their number three goaltender.

Edmonton was left out of the game of musical goaltender chairs and it’s proved a little troublesome for them. They added Stuart Skinner to the taxi squad to be their third goalie behind Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen. Of course Smith was injured and had to go on LTIR, leaving Koskinen to make back-to-back starts and Skinner, a 22-year-old with zero NHL experience, as the emergency back-up. On Saturday they claimed Troy Grosenick off of waivers from the Kings. Will they also make a claim for Aaron Dell, who Toronto placed on waivers on Sunday? Stay tuned to As The Waiver Wire Turns to find out.

Lightning News:

Steven Stamkos, Buccaneer fan and Twitter chirper:

Not only is he excelling on Twitter, Stamkos is off to a pretty good start on the ice as well. Joe Smith takes a look at The Captain’s five-point effort over the first two games as well as other news and notes from the Lightning. [The Athletic]

Well, if the first two games are a sign of things to come, Stamkos could be in for a special season. Stamkos said this is “the best I’ve felt in a long time,” and it looks like it on the ice. He’s flying around, making plays, throwing his body into traffic areas. Stamkos has a team-high five points in the first two games.

With Curtis McElhinney on the Covid list, the Tampa Bay Times dives a little deeper into what it all means. [Tampa Bay Times]

Any player who exhibits coronavirus symptoms must see a team physician and the club’s infectious disease consultant to determine the next steps, but further testing isn’t necessarily mandatory. If a player is a close contact of someone who received a confirmed positive test, he must enter the protocol.

To exit the protocol, a player must exhibit no symptoms and produce two negative tests over 48 hours.

The Lightning. The Rays. Maybe the Bucs. It’s been a solid run for Tampa area sports. Normally, sports bars in the area would be bustling with business. Alas, things aren’t that great, but some local institutions are adapting. [Bloomberg]

About half of Ferg’s 84 TVs are positioned outside, where Ferguson also offers a dog park and in good times, ax-throwing competitions. With Covid, he situated tables so small groups could sit together. While business was down about 4% last year, it would have been much worse were it not for the performance of the local teams.

Hockey News

The NHL has checked in on the Jakkob Voracek/Mike Sielski exchange. Going to assume they gave Voracek the “don’t use the naughty words next time” speech.

It’s been a rocky start for the Penguins as they start the season 1-2. Things aren’t going to get any easier with defenseman Mike Matheson is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury.[Pensburgh]

Matheson was injured during the second game of the season, played against the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night.

Matheson, who was acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers during the offseason, played in both Penguins games against the Flyers, and took two penalties during the two games.

Jason Spezza was placed on waivers by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday. His agent let it be known that if any other team claims him, the veteran (who picked up his 600th career assist earlier this season) would simply retire. The guy likes the Leafs that much. [Sportsnet]

The Leafs’ decision to place Spezza on waivers was tied directly to the knee injury Robertson suffered in Ottawa, the extent of which will be known following an MRI on Sunday. It temporarily left Toronto with only 17 healthy skaters on the active roster, forcing the team to make additional moves in order to bring up reinforcements from the taxi squad.

While the season has just started the Department of Player “Safety” is rolling along in midseason form. [St. Louis Post Dispatch]

Asked about the hit after Friday’s game, coach Craig Berube said: “There should be (a hearing). It’s a hit from behind to the head.”

The league thought otherwise.

Meanwhile, Sammy Blais will serve the second game of a two-game suspension for what the NHL deemed an illegal check to the head of Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews in Wednesday’s contest. The hit on Bortuzzo looked more violent than Blais’ hit.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson is going to miss some time following a collision with the boards after getting tangled up with Evander Kane. [Five for Howling]

It’s such a shame because the Coyotes and Oliver Ekman-Larsson both started off so well. Ekman-Larsson had three assists in the game against the Scottsdale Sharks, and the Coyotes had three out of a possible four points.

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