The Oilers, a trendy pick to contend for the Stanley Cup, are 14 points behind the West-leading Blues after the first month of the season.
Meanwhile, the two-time defending champions have sputtered out of the gate, but the Penguins (and Blue Jackets) are a mere point back of the Metropolitan Division lead after a cool-off from the Devils.
It just goes to show: everything that’s surprised you might not stay that way for long.
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The NHL standings are, for the most part, condensing quickly and what a coincidence with the Thanksgiving holiday approaching in the United States. Everyone wants to be in a playoff spot at the end of November and every coach is going to do his part to squeeze juice out of a rock and rack up points.
Get ready for the fun to fade away for a little while. Exciting!
Sergei Bobrovsky made what might be the save of the year Saturday night in Detroit.
The Blue Jackets, completely out of gas and at the end of a long shift in 3-on-3 overtime, turned the puck over and sent Andreas Athanasiou off to the races. Athanasiou waited for Anthony Mantha to join him, making it a 2-on-0 rush, and just about everyone at Little Caesars Arena thought the game was in the bag.
Everyone, that is, except Bobrovsky.
He somehow stayed with the play, and though he appeared dead to rights, got enough of his right skate in the way of Athanasiou’s one-touch attempt and kept the game alive. The Blue Jackets went on to win the game in the ninth shootout round, with Jack Johnson finally beating Jimmy Howard.
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Ship-ing off to Russia
The Golden Knights decided, after three games and limited ice time, that Vadim Shipachyov wasn’t good enough to play in the NHL. George McPhee declared this much when speaking to the media after the player’s return to Russia, telling reporters that Shipachyov was the worst center on the team and didn’t want to work on his game during an AHL assignment.
All of that makes sense, I guess, but didn’t McPhee sign this guy to a two-year, $9 million deal without seeing him play an NHL game?
Shipachyov didn’t get an opportunity. Not even close. But if the Golden Knights simply don’t like the player and feel there’s not a fit, it’s in their best interest to cut ties. However, the player told his new team’s website (SKA in the KHL) a different story.
“There weren’t any problems with training, I was told that they count on me,” he said. “Before the season’s start, I was told by the general manager that they need to send a player to the AHL, and I am that man. He said for me to help them in order to trade defensemen, and then I will make my debut. On game day, they called me to say that they didn’t have time to get the business done, and that I had to play in the AHL. Face to face I was told one thing, but when it came to hockey, the story changed.”
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The Coyotes … the poor Coyotes.
Through the first 18 games, they didn’t have a regulation win.
Two wins — both of the overtime/shootout variety — are their only points, along with three OT losses. Seven points in 19 games all but seals their fate for the balance of the season and it’s Nov. 13. They were handed a 4-1 loss at home by the Jets Saturday night and now must travel to Winnipeg to face them again Tuesday.
After that, the Coyotes go to Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto before coming home to face San Jose, Los Angeles and Vegas. It’s quite bleak.
At least they have Clayton Keller, who looks like the odds-on favorite for the Calder Trophy. He’s a total treat to watch.
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Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby is one of the league’s best at his position, but sometimes gets lost in the conversation with Carey Price, Sergei Bobrovsky and Corey Crawford (who’s having a terrific start to his season for the Blackhawks).
On Friday, Holtby beat the Penguins 4-1 at Capital One Arena, registering his 200th career win. He’s the fastest goaltender to 200 wins — he turned 28 on Sept. 16 — since Hall of Famer Ken Dryden. Dryden needed 309 games to reach 200 wins, while Holtby needed 319. That’s mighty impressive.
“I think we just take it for granted sometimes and say, ‘Yeah, [Holtby] played great tonight’ and move on, but I think he deserves a little more time to be talked about when he does stuff like that and it’s well-deserved,” Capitals defenseman John Carlson said, via NHL.com. “It’s no surprise on our end. We see him every day in his approach and work ethic and it’s awesome for him.”
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It’s slightly ridiculous that Sidney Crosby hasn’t scored a goal in 11 games.
Actually, it’s unthinkable.
The Penguins have had their issues — they own the NHL’s third-worst goal differential at minus-18 and have cycled through backup goaltenders after the Antti Niemi experiment failed miserably — but they’re tied with the Blue Jackets on points (21) for second in the Metropolitan Division.
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The Metro tightens
A week ago, the Blue Jackets were sitting comfortably in playoff position in the Metropolitan Division. Since then, the Rangers have won six straight, the Penguins have racked up points, the Hurricanes have come alive and everyone’s closer to one another.
Six points separated eighth-place Carolina (16) from first-place New Jersey (22) heading into Sunday’s slate of NHL games. One look at the “Last 10” column of the standings shows exactly what’s going on: the Rangers have won eight of 10, Washington is keeping pace with points in six of 10, and the worst pace belongs to Carolina, which has points in three straight but is 3-4-3 in its last 10.
It’s going to be an 82-game war in the Metro.
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Ottawa’s new arena
The Ottawa Senators are involved in ongoing negotiations for a potential new arena in the LeBreton Flats area — and it’s apparently been close to completion at different points, but here we are in November 2017 and the Senators still don’t have a long-term solution.
Canadian Tire Centre is in Kanata, not close to Ottawa’s downtown, and the Senators trimmed its capacity by 1,500 seats this offseason in the face of attendance problems that have amplified the new arena conversation. According to the Ottawa Sun, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke on the topic during the NHL’s Global Series in Stockholm, where the Senators swept a two-game set from the Avalanche.
“A new downtown arena is vitally important to the long-term future, stability and competitiveness of the Senators,” Bettman said.
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Leafs hanging in despite Matthews injury
The Maple Leafs haven’t had star center Auston Matthews since Monday night, when they beat the Golden Knights in a shootout at Air Canada Centre. Matthews, considered a game-time decision by head coach Mike Babcock before the game against Vegas, played over 21 minutes that night but has missed three games since.
Matthews is sidelined by an undisclosed upper-body injury, marking the first time he’s been out of the Maple Leafs’ lineup. But Toronto beat the Wild on Wednesday, then swept a two-game weekend series with the Bruins to improve to 12-7-0, moving the Leafs within four points of the Lightning and three points ahead of third-place Ottawa.
They’re 3-0-0 without Matthews, an encouraging sign, but the Leafs are hopeful that four days off will be meaningful for their No. 1 center’s recovery.
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Connor McDavid: Good
This goal is just insane.
The acceleration once the puck hits McDavid’s stick, the cut to the net, the pull-up … and finally, the deft pass to Leon Draisaitl for a lay-up.
FTW Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl take the Devils to school in OT #McJesus #LetsGoOilers pic.twitter.com/UmkDLtEmi0
— House League Hockey (@HLHkyAllStar) November 10, 2017
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Good for you, Brian Boyle
The Devils are going along well to start the season, but the leukemia diagnosis of center Brian Boyle is far beyond hockey. Boyle joined the Devils this summer and was diagnosed shortly before the season. He made his Devils debut last week against the Oilers, and scored the opening goal of the game — the reaction was unforgettable.
There are no words to describe how that must feel.@BriBrows22 is on the board. #BoyleStrong #HockeyFightsCancer pic.twitter.com/9UCBAcGKr7
— NHL (@NHL) November 10, 2017
Boyle missed the Devils’ first 10 games of the season and hadn’t scored in 29 games before that goal. Safe to say: this one meant a lot more than the others.