Monday, October 16, 2017

Oilers Place Leon Draisaitl on IR with Concussion Symptoms

The Edmonton Oilers are reeling in more ways than one. Already experiencing a dissapointing 1-3-0 start the Oilers have placed center/winger Leon Draisaitl on injured reserve.

Draisaitl scored 77 points in 82 games last season, then added 16 points in 13 playoff games. He landed an eight-year, $68 million dollar deal from the Oilers this summer.

According to Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Sun, Draisaitl's injury started as an eye injury before becoming a concussion concern. The German was injured during last Monday's 5-2 loss to the Jets. He skated this Monday in Edmonton, but not with teammates.

Forward Drake Caggiula is also on injured reserve for Edmonton. He has been out since Oct. 7.

The Oilers will host the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday at Rogers Place.

Nikita Kucherov Scores a Pair, Making it Seven in Six Games

For the money (excluding entry level contracts), there is not a better player in the NHL than Nikita Kucherov.

Forget the money, he's one of the best at any paygrade.

The 24-year-old became just the fourth player in the last 20 NHL seasons to score in each of his team's first six games, leading the Lightning to a 3-2 triumph over the Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit on Monday night.

Kucherov, who last season signed a three-year bridge deal worth $4.767 million annually, could be headed for a massive raise at the end of next season if he keeps producing at his current clip.

Kucherov has seven goals in six games, placing him only behind red-hot Alexander Ovechkin (9) in the 2017-18 goal race, but if you dial back and measure goals scored since the beginning of last season, Kucherov and Sidney Crosby have outscored everyone else.

If Kucherov can manage another goal when the Lightning travel to New Jersey tomorrow he'll become the first NHL player to score in his first seven games of the season since Mario Lemieux in 1992-93.

"I'm just trying to help my team get a W," Kucherov said after the game. "I don't want to put much in my head--just try and stay loose and play the right way."

Kucherov put the Lightning up 2-0 in the first when he wired a wrister from the left dot that whizzed past defenseman Jonathan Ericsson and goalie Jimmy Howard without either of them having a chance to react. The shot had so much mustard that it's difficult to track the puck even on slo-mo replay.

"It's like a slingshot when he shoots it like that," Steven Stamkos said after the game. "That's why it catches defenders off-guard and it caught the goalie off-guard, because not too many guys can shoot it with that accuracy and velocity from that position."

Kucherov's second of the game was an opportunistic tally. He found a clear lane to the net and swooped right in front of the goal mouth to tip a rolling rebound that came off the stick of his linemate Vladislav Namestikov. Right place, right time, and it put the Lightning (5-1-0) in front of Detroit to stay.

Kucherov's line, with Stamkos and Namestikov, have been dominating possession thus far this season. They are a +31 in the shot attempts category with a CF% at 5-on-5 of 61.48. Only one line (Wennberg, Panarin and Atkinson of Columbus) has a higher 5-on-5 Corsi.

In 2016-17 the Lightning had a disastrous season and were decimated by injuries, missing the playoffs just a season after coming one game from the Stanley Cup Final. But there is a very different vibe in Tampa this season. The team his healthy again. Steven Stamkos is back. Kucherov, who scored 40 goals last year to tie for second in the NHL, is even better. And the confidence is snowballing.

"Definitely you want to have a good start and build the confidence," Kucherov reflected. "That's going to help us in mid-season and at the end of the season."

He's Back: Karlsson Will Make Season Debut on Tuesday

Erik Karlsson will make his long awaited season debut on Tuesday for the Ottawa Senators.

Karlsson missed the Senators first five games of the 2017-18 campaign after undergoing off-season surgery to repair tendons in his left foot. He carried the injury throughout last year's playoff and was still the Senators best player, guiding them all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

The Senators have been solid without Karlsson in the lineup, going 3-0-2 and heading into Tuesday's clash at Canadian Tire Center against the Vancouver Canucks with a three-game winning streak.

"It's exciting," Karlsson said. "I'm going to be a little bit rusty probably. It's better to get back into things as early as possibly and hopefully it will get better as we move on."

Karlsson has still not taken contact, but he does not think it will be a problem.

"I've been taking enough hits throughout the years that I know how to handle them hopefully. It shouldn't have an impact on anything, I'm not really too worried about it."

Karlsson has 71 points and 74 points last season, and added another 18 in 19 playoff games. He came in second place in Norris Trophy voting last season, behind Brent Burns.

The 27-year-old Swede isn't quite sure if he'll be able to produce his usual heavy workload on Tuesday. He averaged 26:50 per game of ice time last season, ranking him fourth in the NHL.

"You play it by ear," he said. "I'm sure there are going to be some struggles tomorrow. We're going to see how it feels tomorrow and it is all going to depend on that. We're not going to have a real gameplan on how much I'm going to play or what I am going to have to do. We're just going to see how it feels tomorrow."

He added: "I probably could have played sooner if I had to, but again, our plan was always for me to take a little bit of extra time to make sure that I was physically and mentally ready to play."

It's all good news today for the Senators and their two-time Norris winning defenseman, but judging from his tone, it might take some time before we see the utterly dominant defenseman that we've become accustomed to. Karlsson knows he has a bit of a road ahead of him.

"It feels different," he said. "It's going to be different for a long time probably and it's something I'm going to have to get used to and again I think playing is going to be the best way to adapt to that and get back to a new normal. Yeah, there is definitely going to be some struggles throughout the process. It's just something I'm going to have to deal with and not something I'm too concerned with either. It is what it is. It's the hand I've been dealt and I just have to deal with it."

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Three Things We Learned from a Rough Weekend for the San Jose Barracuda

After opening the season with a 6-4 road victory over the Stockton Heat, the San Jose Barracuda failed to squeeze a point out of back-to-back games against the Grand Rapids Griffins and San Antonio Rampage this weekend. The 'Cuda were defeated by last year's Calder Cup winning Griffins in their home opener Friday night, 7-3, but the score doesn't even indicate how one-sided the first two periods of the game were.

On Saturday afternoon, in a brutally quick turnaround, San Jose ran out of gas and let a 2-1 third period lead slip away, falling 3-2 to the Rampage.

This week the Barracuda will look to get back to .500 when they meet Stockton on Wednesday at the HP Pavilion.

Here's three things to take away from this weekend:

1. Things will be interesting without Joakim Ryan and Tim Heed on the blue line

New season, new challenges. With the recent callup of Joakim Ryan to the NHL, the Barracuda are relatively inexperienced on the blue line. Heed (who made the Sharks roster out of camp) and Ryan (called up last week) were arguably the best pairing in the AHL last season, producing 105 points combined, and to press on without them will not be easy. Jacob Middleton and Nick DeSimone are the top pairing, and of the eight defensemen on the current roster, four are AHL rookies.

The defense struggled mightily on Friday against a high-flying Grand Rapids team, and they gave up way too much gap in the neutral zone and did not handle the puck with confidence in the defensive zone. It all led to a lot of easy possession for the Griffins, and too many grade-A chances and easy goals.

Head coach Roy Sommer wasn't pleased at all, but he didn't seem surprised, given how big the contributions of Heed and Ryan were to this club last season.

"I thought our own end was sloppy," he said on Friday. "For the most part we got fed."

"You look back there there is one guy that has played a full season in the AHL, Middleton—and Bergman—and this is a hard league to play for defensemen coming in. We're going to see some growing pains, and hopefully we play a little better in our own end than we did tonight."

The conversation continued for a bit and eventually turned back to the D. "I didn't like anybody on the back," Sommer said. "I thought they all stunk."

Asked about how hard it is to play without Heed and Ryan, Sommer said the following: "Hey we have to get used to it. We lost 105 points back there, and we lost some mobile puck-moving defensemen and you saw how important they were tonight because we didn't have it."

2. Jeremy Roy Makes Debut

One player to watch this season is the No.31 pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Jeremy Roy. The Quebec native saw his progression as a prospect take a serious blow when he missed nearly all of last season in the QMJHL due to knee surgery. He made his debut on Friday getting minutes on the third pair with Cavan Fitzgerald and picked up an assist.

"The knee feels good," Roy told reporters on Friday night. "It feels strong, sometimes the timing is a little off still, but it's getting there. It feels strong, I'm not scared to do any movements, so that's good."

Roy seemed a tad tentative, maybe cautious, but overall he was solid and in position.

Sommer gave a positive review: "I thought he was alright," he said. "He didn't really get in trouble, picked up an assist—I thought he did alright."

Roy didn't play on Saturday, and it appears he'll be eased into the lineup. Right now it looks like he's the seventh D, which might be perfect for him given the fact that he's not completely comfortable with his surgically repaired knee yet.

3. Helewka off to a Fast Start

Second-year player Adam Helewka averaged a half-point per game last season (29 points in 58 games) but this year he's off to a fast start while playing with Marcus Sorensen and John McCarthy. Helewka pitched in an assist in both weekend games and now leads the club with four points and a plus-4 in three games. He also leads the Barracuda in shots with eight.

The Burnaby, B.C. native was a fourth-round pick (106 overall) in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the Sharks.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Statisfaction: Avs Riding High, Penalties Galore and More

A look at some numbers from Friday's NHL action.

1. Lo and Behold: AVS!

The Colorado Avalanche are off to a 4-1 start after last night's win over the Ducks at Pepsi Center. Thanks to the good posters at Reddit we learned that Nail Yakupov (5) and Sven Andrighetto (6) have more points than Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby (10) combined. So take that for what it's worth.

Yakupov, playing with Alex Kerfoot and Matt Duchene, has helped that trio post pretty impressive numbers. The line has a 57.75 percent Corsi and has scored five goals and allowed zero at 5-on-5. Duchene also has five points, and that is good for a) the Avs and b) his trade value.

2. Woeful Habs

Heading into tonight's showdown with the Leafs at Bell Centre, the Canadiens have the NHL's lowest PDO of 90.2 percent. They've been snakebitten in the early going but maybe things aren't as bad as they seem? Montreal has the NHL's highest 5-on-5 Corsi For % of 60.41. But there's no explaining away the fact that they have scored two goals at 5-on-5 and allowed 10. It's also hard to explain away the fact that the power play has missed on all 14 of its opportunities.

Here's a read on the Habs PP for those interested:

ALSO OF NOTE TODAY IS THE FACT THAT MONTREAL HAS WON 14 IN A ROW OVER THE LEAFS! Yes, all caps works for that winning streak.

3. Rookie Leaders?

If you guys know me you know that I look at the rookie scoring leaders every day. I don't know what it is--something about the excitement of new blood. Today we find that a pair of Devils are leading all rookies in points. And we're not talking about Nico Hischier.

Will Butcher and Jesper Bratt lead all NHL rookies with six points. Here are the top seven point scorers among rookies.

4. Penalties galore

564 minor penalties have been handed out in the season's first nine days. 159 of them have been slashing calls. I don't know how to make sense of this but I am trying. Clearly, the NHL has been calling slashes like they are going out of style. Anaheim has taken 12 slashing minors and, strange as it may seem, the Kings have taken none.

This has all happened in 64 games. So we are talking about 2.48 slashing minors per game. We'll monitor that and see if it starts to slide down, as many expect we'll be getting less of the nit-picky slashing calls as the season progresses.

The Penguins currently lead the league with 27 minor penalties and the Hurricanes are best at staying out of the box--they've only received six minors.

5. Dustin Brown's Fountain of Youth:

There are so many stories to tell in the first week or two of the NHL season, and nobody can possibly tell them all. And sometimes it's better to wait to see if what we have been witnessing is a mirage. What should we make of Dustin Brown's fast start with the Kings? He's third in points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 (8.59 -- Kings fans will want to click on the table below and make it expand real big and clear), and he's poured in three goals and two assists in five games. Enjoy it while you can, Kings fans.

Below find the top 10 points per 60 mins scorers at 5-on-5.

Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Roberto Luongo Cracks Another Milestone

Roberto Luongo is mingling with the all-time great goaltenders. And slowly but surely, he's left most of them in the dust.

The 38-year-old moved into a tie for fourth-place on the NHL's all-time win list with Thursday night's 5-2 win over the Blues. Luongo stopped 37 of 39 shots to improve to 1-1 on the season.

He will pass Curtis Joseph and take sole possession of the all-time win list with his next victory.

“He was so good early, and we needed him,” Boughner said. “He was challenging the shooters and his rebound control was great. I’m glad we got the offense to help him out a little bit because he was, in my mind, the first star of the game.”

Luongo's save percentage is 10th all-time:

Watch: Samuel Girard Nets His First NHL Goal

Another puck-moving defenseman in Nashville? Yup.

19-year-old Samuel Girard netted his first goal on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena, and ended up as the No.1 star of the game after adding an assist in the Predators 2-1 win over Dallas. The No.47 pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft scored 75 points in 59 games for Shawnigan of the QMJHL last season. He made his NHL debut on October 10th against the Flyers and picked up an assist. The 5'10, 162-pounder now has three points in his first two NHL games.

The absence of Ryan Ellis, who is still recovering from knee surgery, has given Girard an opportunity in Nashville. He'll need to return to juniors after nine games, because at 19 he is not eligible for the AHL, and it seems unlikely that the Predators would want to burn one of Girard's entry-level contract years considering how stacked Nashville is on the blue line (particularly when Ellis returns). What seems more likely is that Girard could be used as trade bait, possibly in a deal for Matt Duchene.

Girard was named the No.1 star of the game, and had his family at the game all the way from Quebec. "In Nashville we have a great group of defenseman and I learn from every guy," he said after the game.

Watch: Stamkos Nets His First Goal Since November 15

Steven Stamkos is officially a goal scorer again. The Lightning sniper pumped in his 321st NHL goal and his Lightning battled past Pittsburgh in an entertaining affair, 5-4.

The goal was Stamkos' first tally since he blew out his right knee against the Red Wings on November 15 of last year.

Tampa improves to 3-1-0 and 3-0-0 at home on the season with the win, while Pittsburgh drops to 2-2-1.