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Early impressions from the NHL

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Greetings from a very cold Rhode Island (12 F, and -11 C for my friends in Canada reading this blog). I wanted to drop in and do a blog about the early season surprises in both a good and bad way.

First off we should discuss teams that are struggling badly out of the gate. These teams include the Philadelphia Flyers, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, and the most shocking of them all is the New York Rangers (though some might say the Vancouver Canucks are the most shocking, to each his own there).

Let's start with the Flyers, they are struggling badly. Why? Well I think it has a lot to do with the quality of their opponents, consider this, their opponents have been Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and New Jersey. Throw in the injuries and the inconsistent Ilya Brysgalov and you have a heck of a mess. And now with the recent mess with Brayden Schenn getting suspended things are going to be a little tougher when the return to the ice on Thursday in their home opener against the Rangers.

Speaking of the Rangers, they are also in a little trouble going 0-2 in their first two tilts, Saturday at Boston and Sunday in their home opener against the surging Penguins. The Rangers are not getting the goaltending they need from Henrik Lundquist and their offense has only mustered up 4 goals. If Lundquist is going to play like this then the Rangers need their offense to start scoring goals.

The next team to look into is the Calgary Flames, they have started out 0-2 with losses to San Jose and Anaheim on Sunday and Monday. They got thoroughly dominated by the Sharks but they played an close 5-4 game against the Ducks. They have a chance for their first win against the also winless Vancouver Canucks Wednesday night.

That leads me perfectly to the Canucks, they are 0-1-1 this season with losses to Anaheim 7-3, and a shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers. The Canucks seemed sluggish against the Ducks but played well against the Oilers and earned a point. As I stated above their next game is against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday Night.

Now to the Southeast division, both the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals are 0-2 to start the season. Carolina is 0-2 with losses to Florida and Tampa Bay, their next game is a home and home against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday and Friday. Meanwhile Washington has losses to Tampa Bay and Winnipeg and they play Montreal at home on Thursday night and at New Jersey on Friday. I would write more on these teams but I have not seen much of them in action this season limiting me on what I can write for these teams.

The last of the struggling teams is Detroit. The Red Wings got shellacked 6-0 to open their season against the St. Louis Blues. The Red Wings then followed that with a shootout win over Columbus on Monday before falling to Dallas on Tuesday night 2-1. The Red Wings scare me from how bad they look this season. Certainly it is only three games into the season, but their only win came in a nail biter against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Red Wings have a chance to bounce back in their upcoming games against Minnesota on Friday and Chicago at the United Center on Sunday.

(No disrespect to Columbus, they have had a good start to their season and that is great for the fanbase, but no one expected much from them. However I said to coach Guthe a little while ago that Columbus might benefit from a shortened season. It all depends on how the new pieces fit into the system they run.)

Impressive starts come from San Jose, Chicago, Boston, Tampa Bay, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Anaheim, St. Louis and Minnesota; first off let's start in the Northeast Division.

Ottawa has started off 2-0 this season with wins over Winnipeg and Florida outscoring their opponents 8-1 in the process. If you ask me if you score 4 goals per game and allow just 0.50 you will be in good shape. One thing that has impressed me is the play of Craig Anderson who has posted a 0.50 GAA and a .983 Saves% and another player is Kyle Turris who has 3 goals in the Senators first two games. Ottawa has games upcoming against Florida and Tampa Bay on Thursday and Friday before playing another division outside of the Southeast on Sunday when they play Pittsburgh.

Boston has also jumped off to a 2-0 start this year beating the New York Rangers on Saturday 3-1 and winning 2-1 in a shootout on Monday versus Winnipeg. The Bruins have gotten superb goaltending from new starter Tuukka Rask who has posted a 0.96 GAA and a .958 Saves%. The Bruins play the Rangers on Wednesday night and the Islanders on Friday night.

Pittsburgh has impressed with wins over the Flyers and Rangers in back to back days. Neither of those games can or will be considered easy for the Penguins. And they have done it in impressive fashion. Malkin has 4 assists, Neal has 3 goals, and both goalies have 1 win. The Penguins next play on Wednesday against Toronto in their home opener.

The last of the Eastern teams is the somewhat shocking Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning went from playing in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011 to a miserable year in 2012. This year they are 2-1-0 with wins over Washington and Carolina, while having a let down on Monday against the Islanders. The key to their success has been Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Cory Conacher all having 5 points each with Vincent Lecavalier adding 4 points and decent goaltending from Garon and Lindback. Tampa next plays Ottawa on Friday.

Now onto the West, we start with Anaheim because they are a surprising 2-0 with wins over Vancouver and Calgary, Saku Koivu and Daniel Winnik each have 5 points which includes 4 goals for Winnik, with Getzlaf and Selenne with 4 points each. Anaheim dominated Vancouver 7-3 in their opener on Saturday as I mentioned and their next game is their home opener against the Canucks, I know Vancouver will want some revenge.

Another Pacific division team doing great is San Jose, they are 2-0 with wins over Calgary on Sunday and Edmonton on Tuesday. In the game on Tuesday they scored 6 first period goals on Dubynk and the Oilers including 3 on the power play, Edmonton's only first period goal was a power play tally. The leading scorers for San Jose are Marleau, Thornton and Couture with 5 points each. The Sharks home opener is Thursday against the Coyotes.

Onto the Central and you have to look at Chicago, they are 3-0-0 to start the season. They have beat LA, Phoenix, and St. Louis as the Blackhawks are rolling. Lead by offensive leaders of Kane and Hossa who have 5 points each. Corey Crawford has been good was well allowing just four goals in two games.

The next team is the St. Louis Blues, they are 2-1-0, with wins over Detroit and Nashville with their only loss as I mentioned above is to Chicago. The success has come from the newcomer Vladimir Tarasenko who has 5 points including 3 goals including a 2 goal game against the Red Wings. Also of note Kevin Shattenkirk has 5 assists. Their next game is at home against Nashville on Thursday.

And lastly of the teams off to a hot start is Minnesota. After spending almost $200M US dollars on Independence Day in the US on Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. Parise is tied for the team lead for points with 4 including 3 assists, the other player with 4 points is Dany Heatley who has 3 goals himself. The offense has been good and the goaltending duo of Josh Harding and Nick Backstrom is doing a lot of good things allowing just 5 goals. Minnesota has games against Detroit and St. Louis on Friday and Sunday respectively.

That is the end of this list. What do you think will happen with the struggling teams? And can hot teams like Tampa and Anaheim keep things up?
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