Nathan MacKinnon busts out; young Wings wobble; more plusses, minuses
The week's most notable positives and negatives from around the NHL:
• Blackhawks veteran Marian Hossa became the 80th player in NHL history to reach 1000 career points on when he caught a good bounce to beat Senators goalie Craig Anderson on Thursday night. Skating in his old haunt in Ottawa, Hossa also became only the fourth to ever reach the milestone against his original team. The Senators chose Hossa 12th, one place behind Montreal's forgettable selection Jason Ward, in the 1997 draft. “It doesn’t get better than this, doing it where I started," Hossa said. "It took a little longer (17 seasons; 1,100 games) than I expected, but it happened in a special place.”
• Edmonton goaltender Ben Scrivens has had an up and down season, but he's done some good with the messages of hope he had drawn on his masks. Scrivens had four of them painted by four local artists who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. He will wear each one during NHL games and then auction them off to benefit the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta. The first, painted by Richard Boulet, includes the words “empathy” and “hope” on both sides. Scrivens became interested in the affliction and the subject while studying at Cornell.
• Olli Maatta, the 20-year-old Penguins defenseman who has six points in his first nine games, has been playing courageously through the early part of the season despite receiving some scary news. During a preseason physical, Maatta was diagnosed with a potentially cancerous tumor. He'll have thyroid surgery next week and is expected to miss a month after he undergoes the procedure. Doctors have told him that the tumor is likely cancerous, but they do not expect him to need chemotherapy or radiation.
• Stop the presses. New Jersey’s NHL record slump of 18 straight shootout losses that included last year’s entire season finally ended on Thursday night when the Devils topped Winnipeg, 2-1. Jacob Josefson struck in the shootout, beating Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec, and Cory Schneider turned off the Jets as New Jersey triumphed. Joked Devils coach Peter DeBoer after the game: “It was our first shootout win in what seemed like ten years.”
• Nathan MacKinnon's slump couldn’t last forever. The top pick in the 2013 draft scored twice in Colorado’s 5-0 victory against the suddenly wobbly Islanders. They were the first two goals of the season for last year’s Calder-Trophy winner, who scored 24 of them in his first NHL campaign. MacKinnon put an angle shot into the top corner for his first goal and went aggressively to the net to deflect Jarome Iginla’s centering pass for his second. Both were the kinds of tallies that a goal-scorer would find a way to get, so the Avalanche's biggest early-season worry shouldn’t be MacKinnon.
• The Sharks are actually fine for the first two periods. It’s the third one—the one that matters most—that earns them a place on the list. San Jose has now allowed 19 third-period goals, the most in the NHL and one more than the woeful Buffalo Sabres, who give them up in every period and maybe even between periods, too. The Sharks have outscored their foes 14-1 in 12 first periods this season. On Thursday night, San Jose blew a 3-1 lead with another late fold against Minnesota.
• If you had six games in the over-under on how many it would take Sharks winger John Scott before he got suspended for the first time this season, you lost. It was five. Scott received two games for leaving the bench on a legal line change to start a fight against the Ducks last Sunday night. This is nothing new for a guy who has generated three goals, four assists and 452 penalty minutes during his career of mayhem. Throw in his four playoff games—what was he doing in those?—and Scott has seven points and 474 PIMs in 245 games played. That’s a forward with 68 penalty minutes per NHL point. Here's an idea: send Scott out for a shift against Trevor Gillies. No puck is necessary. That should take care of both of them.
• With seven points in his first nine games, Oliver Ekman-Larsson's production numbers are actually pretty good (2-5-7 in 9 games) but the Coyotes’ fifth-year defenseman has been making a ton of mistakes in his own end. Entering this season, Larsson was +2 in 258 games, but so far he is already -11 on a struggling Arizona team that has won just three games. As he and goalie Mike Smith go (Smith's play has been up and down), so go the Yotes and so might coach Dave Tippett if they don't start to play better. The Western Conference is way too competitive for a team to get left in the dust and catch up in time to make the playoffs.
• After a fantastic first 75 games of the 2013-14 regular season, St. Louis had hoped to shake off last spring's disappointing first-round playoff loss to Chicago with another strong and healthy start this season. Instead, although the Blues have won three straight as of this writing, their injury list is growing. The signed the summer’s star free agent in forward Paul Stastny, but he suffered a shoulder injury after just four games, and now two of the club’s top forwards, David Backes and T.J. Oshie, are both out with concussions. On Tuesday night, Backes whacked his head on the ice after getting caught up with Dallas defenseman Trevor Daley, and Oshie ran into a goalpost in the same game.
• Winger Tomas Tatar, 23, was supposed to be one of Detroit’s great weapons this season. But after a respectable 39-point campaign during his first full year in the NHL, he's been held to a goal and no assists through the team’s first nine games. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has switched Tatar's linemates twice this season. Most recently he's been skating with Gustav Nyqvist and Riley Sheehan, who are also battling a kiddie funk along Tomas Jurco (two assists). With all four struggling, it's no wonder the Wings have been scrounging for goals.“Tats and (Riley) Sheahan and Jurco they’re all in that process, and so is (Gustav) Nyquist of understanding how difficult the league is and how hard you’ve got to play and that’s why they call it a pro,” coach Mike Babcock said this week. “A good pro knows that and does it.” Tatar's answer: "I think just keep shooting." Something's bound to go in eventually, right?