We’ve made it through the first week of the NHL season and there are some surprises. Is there anything we can draw from the early action on the ice? Of course not, but what else is there to do on a Monday morning. Do let’s delve into some of the numbers.
There are six teams that have played two games that are still undefeated. It’s probably not surprising that Florida, Carolina, and Edmonton are among those teams, but the other three are Buffalo, Columbus, and Minnesota. Not exactly three teams pundits have expected much out of this season. Buffalo is perhaps the biggest surprise as they have knocked off Montreal and Arizona by a combined score of 7-2 despite losing their number one center, Casey Mittelstadt, and one of their top bluelines, Henri Jokiharju.
Old friend Dustin Tokarski is sporting a nice 0.92 GAA after he took them to a shootout victory against Arizona on Saturday. Six different skaters have scored goals and nine have points. It’s been offense by committee in the absence of Jack Eichel. Can they keep it up all season long? No. No they can’t.
On the opposite side of the ledger six teams have yet to record a victory despite playing two or more games. Which fan base is freaking out the most? Probably the Montreal Canadiens. They are 0-3 with a -7 goal differential, scoring just three goals (two by old friend Jonathan Drouin) in losses to Toronto, Buffalo, and the New York Rangers. Jake Allen has been solid in net with a 2.04 GAA and .925 SV%, but has received absolutely no offensive support.
Individually, the old guys are running the show. Anze Kopitar (2005 draft), Steven Stamkos (2008), Drew Doughty (2008), and Alex Ovechkin (2004) are four of your five top scorers. Even Tyler Bertuzzi was drafte almost a decade ago (2013). Kopitar and Stamkos both have seven points, credit to Anze for doing it in two games (5 points against Vegas and 2 more against Minnesota).
Our dear Captain Stamkos has taken three games to match that league-leading total, recording multiple points in all three games. He now has 237 career multi-point games, second in franchise history to Marty St. Louis’ 257. It’s not like he’s been relying on the power play either, with just three of those points (2 goals, 1 assist) coming on the man advantage. Is it enough to bump him up to the top line if Nikita Kucherov misses any time? Possibly.
Speaking of the Lightning, they have 11 players that have already recorded points, led by Stamkos’ 7. Victor Hedman is ready to show everybody that he’s back in the conversation for best offensive defenseman in the league as he’s recorded 5 points (all assists) in 3 games. His buddy Mikhail Sergachev has 3 points including 1 goal - he’s already 25% of the way to matching his total from last year!
According to Natural Stat Trick, Hedman has the third-most ice time in all situations with 79:06. He trails only Miro Heiskanen (81:28) and Quinn Hughes (82:57). It’s a good thing Vancouver signed Hughes at the last minute. That’s a lot of minutes to replace. Calgary’s Oliver Kylington is obviously being saved for later in the season as he’s only played 3:27 so far this year. He is rocking a 87.50 CF% in that limited time, though. Fairly impressive.
It’s always fun to read too much into small sample sizes, especially early in the season.
Lightning / NHL News
Overall, the Lightning have gotten off to a bit of a shaky start this season, but one thing that has been solid is their penalty kill. They’re 9-for-10 on the season, including a 4-for-4 performance against Alex Ovechkin and his Capitals on Saturday. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Mathieu Joseph are leading the way up front.
Tampa Bay’s right wing superstar has played through a lot of pain in his career so it must have taken quite an injury to have him hunched over on his way to the ice in the third period against Washington. We’re still short on details as to what happened or how long he will be out.
The Capital One Arena has always been a place where Lightning wins go to die in the regular season. The win on Saturday night was only their 16th all-time in Washington’s newest arena.
There is a familiar name atop the leader board. After six games, Lightning prospect Jack Thompson is leading the OHL with 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists). He’s only been held off of the scoresheet once in those 6 games and has 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists) in his last two games.
There was only one game in the NHL on Sunday and Ottawa won their second of the season as they beat Dallas, 3-2. Chris Tierney had two goals and Filip Gustavsson had 34 saves.
It looks like Colorado forward will not be in action against the Lightning on Saturday as he tested positive for COVID on Saturday. The Avalanche start their road trip in Washington on Tuesday before heading to Miami and then Tampa. There is a chance he could fly out separately and meet the team on the road, but he’ll need a few negative tests before that happens.
On this day in 2018 the Tampa Bay Lightning acquired Mitch Hults for future considerations. He played in 9 games for the Crunch, posting 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists). Hults had a little more success in Orlando that season with 26 points (6 goals, 20 assists) in 46 games.
If today is your birthday, then Happy Birthday to you! You share it with former Lightning defenseman Kjell Samuelsson who ended his career in Tampa skating in 46 games in 1998-99.