Too early in the season to draw many more conclusions other than what was learned in training camp but there are some notable opening performances and rising expectations. Early season revelations generally make attractive waiver wire pickups or trade targets – or trade fodder depending on how enthusiastic your competitors are. Experienced poolies are well aware that the first ten games of the season can produce some whacky results and unlikely heroes. Providing good trade opportunities for slow starters in exchange for some early season darlings.
Enjoying the energy to start this season from the over analysis of Nazem Khadri’s ice time to Patrick Roy’s explosive NHL return. Bush league or not it embodied the pent up excitement for a full NHL season after last season’s lockout year. Proceed cautiously in the early going but here are a few intriguing starts:
Alex Tanguay won a Stanley Cup alongside Patrick Roy’s Conn Smythe performance as a 21 year old in Colorado with a heroic seventh game. Roy is now leaning on his former teammate with power play duty on the point and a scoring role alongside Statsny and Landeskog (Mitchell ably filled in for an injured Landeskog last night). There may be much tinkering before anything is finalized in Colorado as a new coach gets to know his team but he is deploying four forwards on two set power play units alternating equally as 1A and 1B this season. Tanguay and off season free agent signing Andre Benoit ($900,000) form one unit while Erik Johnson and P.A. Parenteau man the other. Benoit has yet to register a point but leads the team after two games in total time on ice and is second it total power play time behind Johnson. The 29 year old saw power play time in Ottawa last season in Karlsson’s absence after a career as a stay at home defender. He has caught Roy’s eye with his speed and seems firmly entrenched in the top four in Colorado. Talented Tyson Barrie is the odd man out under the current power play scenarios. He has played well and can still emerge on one of the top units before the season is out.
There is more to Roy tapping his old friend to provide some veteran leadership to a young, talented team. Tanguay is in good shape to start the season and at 33 has some offense left to offer. His genuine enthusiasm for his role suggests a productive season ahead on a team that will be pushing the offensive pace.
Top three forward lines last night for Colorado: Mitchell-Statsny-Tanguay, O’Reilly-Duchene-Downie, McGinn-Mackinnon- Parenteau
Mikhail Grabovski after being unceremoniously bought out by the Leafs and hanging out there for a while as a free agent appears to be another case of falling into perfect circumstances. He has always been an underrated player with strong possession numbers. His role and relationship with Coach Carlyle kept his offensive opportunities limited last season largely starting in the defensive zone. He has meshed beautifully on the power play already with Ovechkin, Backstrom and Green in a unit that looks scary and dominating early in the season. Currently tied for the league lead in scoring with teammate Ovechkin his three goals have come on four shots compared to Ovie’s 20. Keep it all in perspective but looks good for a 50 point season.
Oveckin appears to be starting exactly where he left off last season and the Oates led Caps look like fantasy gold again. A major beneficiary of the resurgence will be Marcus Johansson manning the left wing with Backstrom and Ovechkin having signed a two year contract before the season for $4 million. Keeping pace and looking comfortable in the early going he may be attainable or available in many pools and worth floating an offer.
Evander Kane was dominating last night with a goal and two assists carrying his line and showing the elite level he is capable of. Is it a preview of a breakout season? Too early to tell but he was flying.
Damien Brunner is quickly establishing himself as a central piece of the Devils attack with two goals and an impressive 12 shots on goal in the first two games.
Justin Faulk served notice in the first game contributing points to both Hurricane goals. The 21 year old has been progressing steadily on his way to stardom and finished second on the team in ice time in the opener with 23:12 including 2:29 on the power play. The end to Joni Pitkanen’s season has opened up an opportunity to realize a breakout season in his third NHL campaign. It is a long season for young defensemen but his quickly growing maturity may put him ahead of the curve and worth a pitch before his emergence is a bigger story.