Oilers in crisis; Islanders get boost; Weekend games to watch; more
What you missed last night:
GALLERY: Weirdest Hockey Mascots
Games to watch this weekend:
Don't think of it as a game. Think of it as a truck stalled helplessly on the railroad tracks as the evening express comes screaming around the curve at 95 mph.
That has to be what it feels like right now for Edmonton, right? The Oilers have become disaster-tainment. They're the Washington Generals of the NHL, standing around while the opposition blows past them and mercilessly runs up the score. It takes some special kind of incompetence to allow 22 goals in just four games, but incompetence seems to be what Edmonton specializes in.
That's why it's not too soon to say that the Oilers are at a make-or-break juncture of their season. If Edmonton doesn't play well during its upcoming seven-game home stand—which starts against Vancouver on Friday night—then the Oilers that hit the road on Nov. 4 could look significantly different than they do now. Maybe the coach will get cashiered. Maybe the team will make a franchise-altering trade (Jordan Eberle, finally?). Maybe there will be a smarter deployment of assets (Jeff Petry and Martin Marincin in, Brad Hunt out).
Anything, really. As long as it isn't more of the same.
Is it still too early to call New York a good team? Maybe, but Thursday's win over the Sharks and red-hot goalie Alex Stalock showed a lot of character. It would have been easy for the Islanders to get frustrated when it looked like Stalock would single-handedly deny them a victory in spite of their dominant effort. But New York stuck to its plan, fought back from a couple of deficits and finished things off in the shootout. A solid effort.
The game also marked the season debut for top-four defenseman Calvin de Haan. He's not someone who gets a lot of attention, but the 23-year-old blueliner is a solid player—high-end skater, terrific composure with the puck, always seems to be in the right place. Add him to the mix and the Isles become much more effective in their own zone. That will be critical on Saturday against a Pittsburgh team that should be fired up after melting down late against the Stars on Thursday. The Penguins looked sloppy after they took a 2–0 lead in the first period, but their power play was a bright spot. You can't say enough positive things about their addition of Patric Hornqvist, who spent the night getting up close and personal with Dallas keeper Kari Lehtonen. Should be a nice battle between Hornqvist and New York defenseman Travis Hamonic for that high-value net-front property.
St. Louis was flat-out lousy in California last season—losing eight-of-nine to Anaheim, San Jose and the Kings—so no one should be all that surprised to see they dropped another game on Thursday night in Los Angeles. To be fair, though, the Blues were outstanding in that game. They out-Kinged the Kings, keeping the puck on a string and launching 43 shots at Jonathan Quick before finally being knocked off in the shootout 1–0.
Even though the St. Louis offense couldn't finish, it is showing signs of greatness. Center Paul Stastny has been a nice fit, driving play and making things happen with his creativity. Vladimir Tarasenko is capable of doing something special every time he touches the puck, and Jaden Schwartz is quickly becoming the most consistent and effective weapon on the team. Coach Ken Hitchcock is still in the mix-and-match phase, trying to find the right fit for everybody, but the depth that was missing last season looks to be in place this time around.
That depth could be the difference against the loaded Ducks. Hitchcock has said repeatedly that he's not looking to the elite clubs in the West as measuring sticks, but that's coach-speak. The Blues passed their first test of the season against Los Angeles, but now they need the points from Anaheim. Should be a good one.
• The steady decline of the Canadian dollar could have a dangerous impact on NHL finances.
• Selfish hockey is paying off for the Coyotes' Mikkel Boedker. This kid has always had a terrific shot, but there's been too much deference in his game since he arrived in the NHL. Shooting first is going to make him a more effective weapon.