Central Succes and Other NHL Tidbits


Written on 10/28/2010 by Jim Cerny

So much going on in the world of hockey, so here are a few quick hits and random thoughts:

Central Success

Quick, name the only division in the NHL where currently all of its teams are playing above .500, so far. And I mean not only .500, but legit .500, not the NHL's bogus break-even point where a team can be, say, 4-4-3, and be considered a .500 team.

Stumped? Try the Central Division, where it's no surprise that Detroit and Chicago are winning, but so, too, are St. Louis and Columbus, and where Nashville sits atop the division.

The Preds are the only team in the league not to have a lost a game in regulation (5-0-3), and they are still perfect on the road (3-0-0). Also, perfect on the road are the surprising Columbus Blue Jackets, 5-3-0 overall and 3-0-0 away from the empty Nationwide Arena.

The Blues, behind the terrific play of goalie Jaroslav Halak, are 4-1-2, and a clean 4-0-0 on home ice. And the Red Wings (5-1-1) and Blackhawks (6-4-1) are also legitimately above .500.

Though I don't see Columbus as a playoff team when all is said and done, the Central easily could---and likely will---send four representatives into the Western Conference post-season tourny, which is pretty impressive considering this division usually is thought of as Chicago/Detroit and "the other teams".

More Ranger Injuries

John Tortorella or Glen Sather must have pissed off someone important upstairs because the rash of injuries decimating the Rangers continues to grow by the day. Already without their superstar sniper Marian Gaborik, their captain Chris Drury, and their second leading scorer from last season Vinny Prospal, the Rangers saw two more players felled by injuries during last night's 6-4 defeat at the hands of the Thrashers.

Second-year center Artem Anisimov, off to a stellar start with 6 points in 8 games, blocked a shot with the outside of his right ankle during the second period and did not see the light of day in the third. Limping badly after the game, Anisimov said he will undergo an MRI today. Tortorella expressed much concern over Anisimov's long-term status, though he---like everyone else---must wait on the MRI results.

Then with five minutes to play in the game veteran defenseman Michal Rozsival---playing perhaps his best hockey as a Ranger at both ends of the ice---hyper-extended his knee. He, too, will be further evaluated today.

Already shorthanded, the Rangers could be crippled if they lose two more of their most consistent players in Anisimov and Rozsival.

The talk throughout training camp was how much deeper the Rangers roster is this year, and that is true. However they are not nearly deep enough to lose five of their regulars and continue to be successful.

Evander Kane is the Real Deal

I know I raved about him in Rink Rap last year when he was just an 18 year-old rookie, but watching Evander Kane last night I saw a player that is going to be a star in this league. He is a great skater, with good size, and excellent hands. He creates offensively, and is willing to go to the ugly areas to score goals, too.

Last night he scored his 6th goal in 9 games for Atlanta, and it's not out of the equation that he could break out in his second year in similar fashion to how Steven Stamkos did a year ago with Tampa Bay. Kane is THAT good.

My hunch is a 30-goal campaign this season for Kane, but down the line 40 is a distinct possibility.

And he just turned 19 years old in August.

Atlanta has their player to build around, their new Kovalchuk, if you will. And hopefully with better team results to follow.

Be-Deviled Again

Lou Lamoriello is saying all the right things about rookie head coach John Maclean, but Johnny Mac has got to be sweating somewhat, what with his team off to a horrendous 2-7-1 start and Lamoriello not exactly known for patience with his coaches.

The latest example of the Devils not looking ready to play took place last night when they opened their road trip by surrendering three first period goals to the Sharks en-route to a 5-2 defeat. New Jersey has now allowed an NHL-high 35 goals already this season, a statistic that is so un-Devil like for a team built with a defense-first mindset for the past 15 years or so.

The Ilya Kovalchuk benching three games ago only adds to the uneasy feel around this team, one that had better turn it around soon or else one of the the most revered people in franchise history---Maclean---will be looking elsewhere for employment.

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