Off the Draw: Lifeless Avalanche need jump-start; today's top games
What you missed Sunday night:
• The Stanley Cup finalist Rangers hosted the Maple Leafs in their home opener and were handed a rather unsightly loss by previously winless Toronto. Not the best night for New York netminder Henrik Lundqvist.
• Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer also left early, but for a much less positive reason.
What to watch today:
Colorado needs more than just its first win after falling twice to the Wild (by the combined score of 8–0) to start the season. At this point, the Avalanche might settle for their first goal. It's been an inauspicious start for a team that averaged 2.99 goals per game last season, fourth-most in the league ... or maybe, the continuation of something that began a few weeks ago. Colorado scored only 11 goals while stumbling through a 1-5-2 preseason, so its problems might be more than just an early-season bump in the road.
Coach Patrick Roy seems to think his boys spent too much time reading their press clippings over the summer—or, at least that they spent too much time reading those clippings that didn't focus on the regression that was projected for them by the analytics crowd. To break out of this skid, the Avs will need to start getting pucks to the net. Colorado has averaged only 23 shots through its first two games, nearly seven shy of last year's mark. Expect them to fire away during this Columbus Day matinee.
Boston, meanwhile, will ice a very different lineup coming off a 4–0 loss to the Capitals on Saturday. Top scorer David Krejci will make his debut after missing the first three games with an undisclosed injury, but he'll be playing with a pair of ice-cold linemates. Milan Lucic, still limited by the effects of off-season wrist surgery, has been a phantom so far. Rookie Matt Fraser hasn't seen the puck enough to take advantage of his one real gift—a nasty shot that made him one of the most consistent snipers in the AHL the past two years. The B's also chose to demote fourth-line center Craig Cunningham in favor of Seth Griffith, an undersized fifth-rounder who had 80-plus points in each of his final two junior seasons with London (OHL), in 2011–12 and ’12–13. Maybe a little offensive sizzle is what Boston needs.
Another early start—this one timed to lure the Canadian Thanksgiving dinner crowd—isn't what concerns Buffalo. It's an unsettling propensity for clocking out early. So far the Sabres have looked every bit the favorite to win the Connor McDavid sweepstakes, going 0-2-0 while getting outshot 87–45. Like last year they are being swamped in third period, getting outshot 35–12 and allowing six goals in back-to-back losses to the Blue Jackets and the Blackhawks. Another sour performance, especially from Buffalo's embattled blue line, would make the trade buzz that's already surrounding this club even louder. Tyler Myers is rumored to be up for grabs and the Red Wings are said to be very interested. It might seem early for the Sabres to make a move that significant, but a quick change paid dividends last season for the Flyers, who won 42 games and made the playoffs after dumping coach Peter Laviolette on the heels of an 0-3-0 start. A Myers swap wouldn't move Buffalo back into playoff contention, but that's not what this season is about. If the Sabres can get the right mix of assets in exchange for the former Calder Trophy winner, why wait? Also: Keep an eye on Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf. The Ducks' captain lit up Buffalo in two games last season, scoring four goals, with three assists.
The sweeping renovation of Tampa Bay's lineup can be traced directly to the first-round sweep they suffered at the hands of Montreal last spring, making tonight's contest an early referendum on GM Steve Yzerman's busy summer. It also sets up as a battle of power plays going in two different directions. Four of the Lightning's five goals this season have come with the extra man, while the Canadiens are 0 for 10. That hasn't stopped them from getting off to a 3–0 start, though. Tomas Plekanec has gotten off to a fast start, just as he has in each of the past four seasons, scoring four goals while centering a revamped line that features Alex Galchenyuk and rookie Jiri Sekac. Might be a little tough to expect Plekanec to maintain his 44.4% shooting average, but when the puck's going in like this you can expect him to see a lot of touches tonight. And with his line seeing more offensive zone starts than in the past, he might keep his streak going for a bit yet. No Jonathan Drouin for Tampa Bay in this one, although Bolts coach Jon Cooper says that Tuesday night's contest against the Devils is a possibility.
Rest of the schedule: Senators at Panthers (7:30 p.m. EDT; RDS1, TSN5, FS-F)
• Don Cherry was in fine form for the season debut of Hockey Night In Canada, blasting his new employers and ripping the Maple Leafs for refusing to draft Canadians.
• Great video piece here from Sportsnet on Ian Jenkins, a young Michigan-born player whose life was cut tragically short.