Off The Draw: Bruins and Isles seek identity; tonight's top games
What you missed last night:
• The Penguins and Flyers honored the fallen in Wednesday's horrific shooting incident in Ottawa with a moving rendition of "O Canada" before their game in Pittsburgh last night.
• Despite a vote of confidence from Pens GM Jim Rutherford, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury couldn't stave off the sputtering Flyers.
• Goalie Ben Scrivens starred as the Oilers continued to show signs of life, edging the Capitals for their second win in a row and second of the season.
• The Islanders introduced their new minority (and later to be majority) owners.
• The beloved Biebs displayed his hockey prowess.
The numbers game
• The Flyers are now 10-1-1 at Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center since the arena opened in 2010.
• Elite company: Corey Perry of the Ducks has become the sixth player since 1985 to post multiple hat tricks in a team's first seven games of a season: The others: Charlie Simmer (1985), Glenn Anderson (1987), Mario Lemieux (1988), Brian Savage (1999), and Ilya Kovalchuk (2003). Perry now shares the league lead in goals (8) and points (10).
• By beating the Sabres on Wednesday night, Perry's teammate Frederik Andersen became the first goalie in NHL history to win 26 of his first 31 career decisions.
What to watch tonight:
The homecoming of red-hot blueliner Johnny Boychuk will be the centerpiece of this contest, but once the niceties are out of the way, the game will really come down to two teams that are striving to find out what they're going to be this season. The Isles have been one of the best surprises of October but they're trying to get back on track after dropping two straight. A lousy effort against the Maple Leafs on Tuesday highlighted an emerging issue—some softness on the back end. It was easy to mask coughing up at least three goals per game when the offense was going good, but now that it's gone quiet the Isles' own-zone follies are coming back to haunt them. Jaroslav Halak in particular has to be better after giving up five goals on 23 shots against Toronto, and Boston might be the team to help him find his game. He's 8-3-0 with a 1.85 GAA lifetime against the Bruins. Boston, meanwhile, is finally moving in the right direction after winning two straight. The B's have been guilty of some loose play in their own zone too, and they've yet to see the best from Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask, but there's a bit more cohesion in their game than there was early on as they finally get used to playing without Boychuk. Keep an eye on Milan Lucic. The struggling winger went pointless in his first five games but has five assists in his last three.
Each team comes into this one looking at the other as the perfect tonic for what ails it. Arizona goaltender Mike Smith can't seem to locate the puck in the early going. He's allowed a league-worst 16 goals in his three starts, including six to the Blues last Friday. Part of that falls on a team that hasn't played particularly well in front of him, but Smith is clearly not making all the stops he has to make, either. "He's got to play better," coach Dave Tippett said of his decision to go with his No. 1 tonight, "but he can't play better if he's sitting in the stands."
Smart move. Whatever hopes the Coyotes have of pulling out of their sluggish start rest squarely on Smith's shoulders. Their highest-paid player deserves the chance to prove that he can be their best player as well. That means accepting the chance of a bit more short term pain with an eye on hastening his return to top form for the long run. He's played decently against the Wild in the past (2.13 GAA, .912 save percentage in 11 appearances), but he'll have to be even better than that in this one. Minnesota has been wildly stingy in its own end (four goals allowed in four games), and that leaves Smith with little margin for error, but at least the Wild have several key forwards who are still stuck in neutral. Captain Mikko Koivu and key free agent signing Thomas Vanek have yet to score their first points of the season and Mikael Granlund is still looking for his first goal. After five days between games, they'll be itching to shoot on a goalie other than their own Darcy Kuemper (0.67 GAA, .972 save percentage) in practice.
Backup goalie Antti Raanta made a strong impression in his first start of the season, pitching a 32-save shutout in Chicago's 4-0 win over the Flyers on Tuesday. With Corey Crawford battling an upper-body injury, Raanta is back in net tonight against the Predators, looking to prove that he's really the guy who shared Rookie of the Month honors last December and not the one who finished the season on a 1-4-2 skid. A scout told SI.com last season that Raanta's problems at the time were mental, and that he needed to play often to stay in the zone. He could get that chance here with Crawford out for both games on this short road trip. Nashville, like Chicago, has yet to lose a game in regulation this season but has got some issues to address, starting with a power play that's just 2-for-21. A team that clicked at 21.6% last year was expected to be at least as good, if not better, under offense-minded coach Peter Laviolette, and while it's too early to press the panic button it's not too early to start tinkering with a unit that can't quite find the rhythm.
Rest of the schedule: Penguins at Red Wings (7:30 p.m. EDT; SN360, TVA2, ROOT, FS-D); Canucks at Blues (8 p.m. EDT; NHLN-US, SNV, FS-MW); Hurricanes at Flames (9 p.m. EDT; SPSO, SNF); Sabres at Kings (10:30 p.m. EDT; MSG-B, BELL TV, FS-W); Blue Jackets at Sharks (10:30 p.m. EDT; FS-O, CSN-CA)
• Zdeno Chara says the Senators can help the city of Ottawa heal in the wake of yesterday's tragic events. The man knows of what he speaks.
• The early-season play of the Colorado Avalanche is striking fear in the hearts of ... their own fans. Adrian Dater is on the mark when he notes their biggest problem is turnovers. This group is way too casual with the puck.
• Former NHL goalkeeper Jamie McLennan breaks down the state of goaltending in California.