As we approach Thanksgiving, a time where we gather with our families and think of all that we have to be thankful for. The NHL season is almost 2 months over and plenty of developments have taken place and lots for fans to be thankful for as well. So as we come to Thanksgiving, let’s highlight some of those happenings in The NHL through 2 months.
We start in Las Vegas, where yesterday The NHL announced the newest member of the league for the 1st time since 2000 when the Blue Jackets were introduced into the NHL. The Las Vegas Golden Knight will be the 31st NHL Franchise and begin play next season in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference. A hardy welcome to the NHL for Las Vegas, may the Golden Knights bring plenty of exciting play and moments for that city and new fanbase.
Also, yesterday, the San Jose Sharks announced a new 8-year extension of the contract of Defenseman Brent Burns. Burns, the 20th pick in the 2003 NHL Draft, started his career with 7 years in Minnesota with the Wild. He then became a Shark before the start of the 2011-12 season, a career year last year with 75 points (27 goals & and 48 assists). This year, Burns is the team‘s 2nd leading scoring 7/9 = 16 in 19 games in this year #6 in San Jose. Only, the captain Joe Pavelski has more points 17 than does Burns.
In Canada, after a season last year that saw no Canadian team make the Playoffs, 3 teams have had very solid starts. We start of course in Montreal, The Home of the top record in the league belonging to The Montreal Canadiens. 14-4-2 = 30 points, 5 clear in the Atlantic Division, 1 ahead of the Rangers in the East. They are led by a balanced attack headed by Alex Galchenyuk’s 17 points (8 & 13), Shea Weber in year 1 having a fantastic season defensively with +16 and tied for 2nd in scoring on the team with Alexander Radulov and Andrei Markov. Of course when you talk about The Canadiens it start in goal with Carey Price. 11-1-1, 1.77 GAA and a .943 Save%, again showing what his value to the Habs is. As the motto in Montreal goes; “Nos bras meurtris vous tendent le flambeau, à vous toujours de le porter bien haut.
Down the Queen’s Highway in Toronto, the Maple Leafs are showing great signs of progress in year 2 under the Shanahan, Lamoriello and Babcock regime. 8-8-3 = 19 points and all the young players starting to gain a footing. The youth of the Leafs led by Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Morgan Reilly, Connor Brown, Nikita Soshnikov, Connor Carrick and a host of others have given Leafs fans so much to look forward to for years to come. Plus throw in the play of veterans; James van Reimsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner, & Leo Komarov, the future in Toronto is shining brightly.
We go to Ottawa next, where the Senators in year 1 under Guy Boucher, find themselves at 11-7-1 good for 3rd in the Atlantic Division. Erik Karlsson lead them with 16 points (4 and 12), widely known as 1 of the top scoring defenseman in the game. Along with Karlsson are the likes of Turris, Stone, Hoffman & Dzingel, add Craig Anderson in goal and you can see what has anchored Ottawa’s season to this point.
Last on our trip through Canada, The Edmonton Oilers, the leader in the Pacific Division entering tonight. Like the Maple Leafs they too are showing great signs of progress in year 2 under the Peter Charielli/Todd McLellan regime. 11-8-1 = 23 points, 1 point lead on Anaheim in the division. They are led by Conor McDavid, 1 of the top scorer in the league with 24 points on the season. It’s not just him, he has the help from Leon Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle and a host of young talent of their own as well. Good to see the Oilers back among the contenders in the league whether they are serious ones will only be told by time.
In the Metropolitan Division, we have a 4 team race, The Rangers in lead at 14-5-1, in 2nd are The Defending Stanley Cup Champion Penguins at 11-5-3, 3rd you have The 11-5-2 Washington Capitals and the 4th team in that race and the pleasant surprise so far, The Columbus Blue Jackets at 10-4-3 in their 1st full year under John Tortorella, The early Jack Adams favorite in my opinion. When you watch the Jackets it starts with the defense which is #2 in the NHL allowing only 40 goals this season (that’s 2.35 GA/G) and offensive scoring almost 3.5 Goals/G (In fairness that 10-0 win over Montreal is skewing the numbers a tad). None the less, Tortorella is doing a wonderful job with that team and they look for real to me.
Finally, we stop in Chicago, where once again the Blackhawks winning way continue and have them at the top of the Western Conference. It’s the usual suspects keying their success, Patrick Kane – The MVP of a year ago, leads them in scoring, Artem Anisimov having a career start to this season, Artemi Panarin tied with Anisimov for 2nd on the team in points, Marion Hossa, who earlier this season netted Career Goal #500, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Richard Panik – a fine surprise, Corey Crawford in goal and Captain Jonathan Toews. Coming into the season they had questions about scoring depth and depth on the back end, The scoring depth seems to be addressed now for the back end behind Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook & Niklas Hjalmarsson.
Of course, there are disappointment, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Minnesota (To an extent), Boston, Detroit, The Islanders and Dallas all team that we though were gonna be in the hunt this season have fallen short so far of early season expectations, Some due to injuries, some due to inconsistency. If these team done get their act together some very unhappy fanbases are gonna have a case of sadness.
Well, There you have it, The NHL after 2 months in a nutshell, Still lots of season to still play, moments to be witnessed and excitement to anticipate.