Welcome to the latest installment of While You Were Away. We’ll be tracking stories you may have missed and players who are trending up and down, as well as offering a few predictions and generally keeping you updated on all things hockey beyond your favorite team.
Today, we’re taking a look at some top-line forward pairings.
• The Ottawa Senators have good reasons to be hopeful this season. They’ve scored a healthy 3.0 goals per game so far and sit third in the Atlantic Division with a record of 3-2-1. They’re scoring in bunches too. Only two players in the NHL have had four multi-point games so far: Ottawa’s Mark Stone (#61) and Kyle Turris (#7).
This top-line duo has become an effective pair, combining for 16 points. And their workhorses. According to Left Wing Lock they’ve been on the ice together for 26.44% of the team’s total ice time among forwards. They’re cost-effective too, as each player has a cap hit of just $3.5 million per season during the next three years, according to General Fanager. Stone got hot towards the end of last season and Turris has hovered around the 60-point mark during his last two campaigns. Playmaking abilities and offensive upside have always been there for the former third pick of the 2007 draft but never in an overt way. That may be changing for the 26-year-old center.
In a league where synergy between linemates is at a premium, these two look primed to have a strong season and Turris could solidify his status as the marquee first-line center of Ottawa’s present and future.
• Is there a more exciting team to watch in the Western Conference right now than the Dallas Stars, led by the elite forwards Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn? Each had a pair of goals in Saturday’s 4–2 win over Florida as they combined for seven points. Seguin (3-5-8 in his first five games) was named the NHL's Second Star of the Week.
You could certainly make the case that there is no better duo in the league. Their 164 combined points (72-92-164) last season were more than any other pair of teammates in the NHL. Sure, in contrast to Stone and Turris, they’re not the cheapest pair as they carry an $11 million cap hit together this season. But if the Stars keep winning (they're on a three-game roll), it's doubtful that anyone will complain.
The knock on the Stars this season is their weak back end but their forwards are helping to cover for it by leading the league in goals per game and ranking tied for third in both power play percentage (33.3%) and points percentage (80.0%).
This is a team that just screams fun, electric hockey. The Stars might not get the most eyeballs in the league but if they keep up their torrid offensive pace it won’t be a surprise to see both Seguin and Benn in the hunt for the Art Ross Trophy.
• This season Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau has split up Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf at times and when he has paired them, he hasn’t given them an abundance of ice time. For good reason too: Perry and Getzlaf finally notched their first points of the season in Sunday night’s 4–1 win over the Minnesota Wild.
It’s early yet but with only three points through five games, Anaheim (1-3-1) is a surprise and not in a good way. With his team widely expected to be a Stanley Cup contender, Boudreau has made the case that splitting up Perry and Getzlaf gives the Ducks a more balanced attack and makes them tougher to defend against but they still have a league-worst 1.00 goals per game average so far. Perhaps concerning himself with how other teams defend against them shouldn’t be Boudreau’s most pressing worry right now.
It’s probably too soon to start putting his job in jeopardy but Anaheim’s offense needs to start clicking pronto. The Ducks are one of only two teams who have yet to convert on the power play. Why they aren’t relying more on their usually potent duo is beyond me and I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering about that.