Well, most people probably don't realize this, but the NHL regular season has begun. Weekend games in Prague, Czech Republic, between the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning, and in Stockholm, Sweden, between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators are in the books.
The Rangers swept two games from the Lightning by identical scores of 2-1. In the other "series," the Penguins won 4-3 in overtime Saturday and Ottawa earned a 3-1 win Sunday.
Quick hit analyses:
**The Penguins' power play is bad. Not to say I told you so (taking a page out of Russo's book), but in my first post I wrote Pittsburgh's "power play will be in serious trouble" without Sergei Gonchar. Well, through two games, they are one for 14. That one goal came with one second remaining in Sunday's game and did nothing more than get Alex Goligoski his first NHL goal and ruin Alex Auld's shutout.
**The Rangers still play good defense and still can't score. Newcomers Wade Redden and Markus Naslund scored their first goals in a Rangers' uniform this weekend. But despite getting a lot of shots (see below) the Rangers only scored four times. New York's play style for several years now has been defensive and things haven't changed much this season. It's usually effective, however, as proven by this weekend's four points.
**Maybe money can't buy goals. For all the money on offense Tampa's new owners spent in the offseason, shelling out big bucks to bring back Vaclav Prospal and bring in Ryan Malone and Radim Vrbata, the Lightning had just two goals - from Martin St. Louis and Adam Hall - and only put 40 shots on Henrik Lundqvist in the two games.
**Dany Heatley? Boy he's good. Three goals to begin the season, including two in Sunday's victory. I was impressed with Ottawa's penalty killing, which was very aggressive against a Pittsburgh power play that's lacking its quarterback. Alex Auld acquitted himself well in place of Martin Gerber in goal on Sunday.
**That money the Lightning spent on forwards and didn't spend on defense? Well it showed this weekend. The Lightning allowed 41 shots Saturday and 39 more Sunday. The only thing(s) that kept them in the games were the play of goaltenders Mike Smith (Saturday) and Olaf Kolzig (Sunday). I think Smith will be and is a very good goaltender but this startling lack of anything resembling defense (again, the Rangers aren't exactly a high octane offense) is the main concern.
**I didn't think Marc-Andre Fleury played all that well this weekend in goal for the Penguins. He made some big saves but I thought he could've done better overall. No need to hit the panic button for Pittsburgh fans, but that power play needs to get in order and they need to do a better job of generating 5-on-5 scoring.
That's it for now. No more regular season games until Thursday, Oct. 9 with most teams beginning Friday or Saturday.