Sunday, November 29, 2009

Around the league


So, what's going on in the NHL? Let's take a glance.

--It's looking like Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere might be over the struggles that have plagued him basically since the start of the 2008-09 season. Giguere has started Anaheim's last three games, all wins, giving up just four goals in that time. He made 41 saves against Calgary and blanked the high-powered Blackhawks offense. It'll be interesting to see who starts for the Ducks tonight, Giguere or Jonas Hiller.

--There are so many injuries in the NHL today that no one is safe. Not only did Penguins president David Morehouse suffer a heart attack as the team was set to leave San Jose earlier this season, but referee Dave Jackson tore his ACL and MCL after a collision in the Columbus-Montreal game last week and will miss the rest of the season.

--Speaking of injuries, former Penguins prospect Angelo Esposito, a one-time consensus No. 1 pick that Pittsburgh drafted at No. 20, can rehab with Jackson after tearing his ACL. Esposito was the centerpiece of Pittsburgh's trade for Atlanta's Marian Hossa at the 2008 trade deadline and will miss the rest of the season. Esposito tore the ACL in the same knee last season as well.

--Speaking of Atlanta, how happy is Maxim Afinogenov to be away from Buffalo and Lindy Ruff? Not that I'm bashing either of those latter two entities, but the speedy Russian, who always butted heads with Ruff, has found new life with the Thrashers and countrymen Nik Antropov and some guy named Kovalchuk.

After scoring 16 goals and 48 points in 104 games over the past two seasons with the Sabres, when Afinogenov was often injured or a healthy scratch, he already has 10 goals and 24 points in 23 games this season. He's surpassed his 2008-09 totals (6-14-20).

--What's gone wrong in Columbus? After being so staunch defensively a year ago, the Blue Jackets can't hang onto leads. In 2008-09, they were ninth-best in team goals against average and third-best in shots against. This season? Third-worst in GAA (3.44) and 24th in shots against.

--I poked my head into a Colorado blog recently to try to learn of the extent of Milan Hejduk's injury and was somewhat surprised by so many comments I was seeing about how third-overall pick Matt Duchene is a bust and won't amount to anything in the NHL. Little early to give up on him, isn't it?

(Hejduk is day-to-day, for the record. Which is significantly better than David Jones.)

--Not to heap more misery on Minnesota fans, but Martin Skoula (3-4-7) has more goals and almost as many points as Martin Havlat (2-6-8).

--The Penguins are starting to get healthy. In recent games, they welcomed back to the lineup Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar, and three more regulars returned Saturday. Spark-plug right winger Tyler Kennedy and defensemen Alex Goligoski and Kris Letang played against the Rangers after missing several weeks each, and they combined for five points in the 8-3 rout.

Defenseman Jay McKee, who ranked among the league's leading shot-blockers prior to his injury, could return Monday.

--Coaches who may be feeling some heat: Randy Carlysle (Anaheim), Paul Maurice (Carolina), Andy Murray (St. Louis), and there are rumblings that Philadelphia's John Stevens should loosen his collar a bit.

--Marian Gaborik's been phenomenal for the Rangers, but that just makes them a one-dimensional offense instead of no-dimensional. He needs to get more support.

(Maybe I should've waited to say that until after Monday's Rangers-Penguins rematch. New York might score five goals from five different players, none who wear #10.)

--Who says the best players are in the East? Five of the top six scoring leaders, including No. 1, and seven of the top 10 are in the West. In order: Thornton, Gaborik, Kopitar, Brad Richards, Marleau, Heatley, Crosby, Penner, Parise, Perry.

--Kevin Lowe is somewhere saying, "Great, Dustin Penner. NOW you start playing well."

--I wasn't sure where Christian Ehrhoff would fit in on Vancouver's blue line, but he leads the Canucks D in scoring with 17 points, including six goals, which is fifth-best on the team.

--Lastly (about time, right?), is Phil Kessel missing Marc Savard or is Savard missing Kessel? Savard has four goals and six assists in 11 games (on pace for roughly 74 points over an 82-game season) while Kessel has eight goals (three assists) in 12 games, on pace for roughly 54 goals over an 82-game season.

It helps that Kessel is averaging more than five shots per game. Over an 82-game season, Kessel would register an Ovechkin-like 458 shots for the year, nearly double his total from last year of 232. Once again, I question why Boston wanted to pay Milan Lucic (hurt again) $4 million but not pay Kessel $5 million.

Farewell for now, and Happy Square Dance Day to all.


Dampland said...

Isn't Gaborik in the east with the Rangers?

KiPA - Kevin in PA said...

Yes. If you're referring to the note on the top scorers, the seven from the West are: Thornton, Kopitar, Richards, Marleau, Heatley, Penner and Perry. Only Gaborik (#2), Crosby (#7) and Parise (#9) are in the East.