Prev game : @Ducks, Sunday, October 23rd
Cold : Alexandre Burrows - 0P in 5 GP
Injured : Anton Rodin (IR), Tom Nilsson (IR)
The Vancouver Canucks are a tough read so far this season. They were expected to be bad, often coming at or near the bottom of the list in season prediction pieces.
Then they got off to a hot start. Their first two games weren’t just wins, they also carried the play in them, and a closer win in game three against a strong Blues team. Then things started to go the other way - they won their fourth game as well, but the ice was decidedly tilted towards their own zone. A partial California trip wasn’t so good either, with only one point in two games and being completely shelled. They went from first in the league in possession after two games, to last after 6. Things swing wildly early on.
So which is closer to the real Canucks? Three games of good and three of bad isn’t near enough to say for sure, but I’m inclined to say the latter since they weren’t expected to be very good.
Prev game : @Blues, Tuesday, October 25th
Cold : Brian Elliott - .839 SV%
Injured : Ladislav Smid (IR)
The Calgary Flames probably aren’t quite as bad as their record so far indicates. Now I don’t think they’re exactly very good either, but not 1-4-1 bad.
The scoring isn’t bad, they’re middle of the pack on goals per game. Possession isn’t a black hole either - they’re under 50%, but relatively in the middle of the pack again. What’s been killing them is special teams.
The penalty kill has been a problem, allowing eight goals so far in six games. That’s not the worst in the league, but it’s up there by both per-game and per-times-shorthanded. The power play has been terrible as well, only converting once in over 45 minutes of play with the man advantage. Sure, Ottawa only has one PP goal so far this season as well, but in about half the opportunities. Weak special teams can really drag a team, especially when you lead the league in both PK time per game and PP time per game. Nobody spends more time with their special teams on the ice than Calgary.
Prev game : @Canucks, Friday, October 28th
Cold : Kris Russel - 0P in last 4 GP
Injured : Iiro Pakarinen (IR), Drake Caggiula (IR), Matt Hendricks (IR), Andrew Ference (IR), Brandon Davidson (IR), Mark Fayne (IR)
For years, Edmonton has been the team that seemed like they had all of the pieces they needed to break out if they could only get their act together. At 5-1-0 and a league leading 10 points so far, is this the year they manage “step 2”?
They’re a goal short of a four goals per game pace so far, though 12 goals in their season opening home and home with Calgary helps pad that number a bit. 16 goals against in six games isn’t terrible at the other end either, and keeping the puck out has been the larger part of the Oilers problems in the past few seasons.
Individually, Connor McDavid leads the league in points so far with nine, which isn’t really a huge surprise. We all knew the kid was going to be great, and the Oilers looked significantly better last year with him than they did when he was out injured.
One cause for concern may be the possession stats again, though it’s not an immediate red flag. They’re below 50% overall, but their path to that has been up and down with no signs of a trend starting to emerge. Like Vancouver, they’ve had some very good possession games, and some very bad ones. And of course, it’s early. We’re below the number of games it takes to really be a sign of things to come, and it wouldn’t take too many games to push them into positive territory or down to the basement.