The only thing that’s saving the Ducks from being the worst in the league is their one win (4-0 vs. SJ). Some teams have traditionally been off to bad starts (Dallas), but the hockey the Ducks have been playing have been horrendous. In six games, the Ducks’ top offensive weapons in Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne, and Chris Kunitz have only combined for a measly 3 points and -18. Instead, it’s the third liners that have done most of the scoring, led by veteran linemates Rob Niedermayer and Travis Moen, both with 4 points. I find it a little surprising that the usually vocal Brian Burke and Randy Carlyle have remained mum on their star players’ disappearing acts, but they probably know something we don’t know. The Ducks will continue to fall if their players refuse to show up for games. Some of the lack of scoring can be attributed to the penalties the Ducks have taken (Getzlaf, Perry, and Selanne aren’t regular penalty killers), but it’s no excuse for 4.2% powerplay. When will they start showing up? How long before Burke makes some noise?
The Pacific Division will be no contest this year if the Sharks continue to play they are – with something to prove. Asides from the loss to the Ducks, the Sharks are 5-0 with a goal differential of +10 (18-8). That is the best ratio in the West, and it shouldn’t be surprising. Jonathan Cheechoo is off to a great start with 4 goals and Patrick Marleau has been pretty good with 4 points. The powerplay is only clicking at 12.5%, but with Todd McLellan behind the bench (he managed Detroit’s powerplay in years past), that number should increase substantially by December. The question is though, how long can the Sharks keep this up? It’s early in the season and the Cup is months away – will the Sharks burn out? The toughest thing in pro hockey is to stay motivated, and will Cheechoo and Marleau be able to keep that pace?
Drew Doughty has been great for the Kings. He has yet to register a point, but is a healthy +2 and logs just under 20 minutes of ice-time per game (19:59). He’s making a strong case for himself to stick around full-time, especially now with Jack Johnson out for an extended period of time. The Kings are a surprising 2-2 to start, with a emphatic win over the cross-town rival Ducks while managing to keep the Sharks on their toes with their home-and-home series at the start of the season. The Kings have only scored 1 more goal than their opponents, and that will be a problem as the season goes on. Jason LaBarbera is playing just fine for now, but he’s no NHL starter. The Kings are only one of three teams (Minnesota and Buffalo) that have had perfect PK so far. Can the Kings play spoiler this year?
The Stars are off to a terrible start and so is Marty Turco, especially after a 6-1 drubbing by the Blues. As stated previously the Stars are slow starters, but they’ve allowed 13 goals in their 3 losses, and with such a defensively tight team it’s unacceptable. The Stars are really feeling the effects of not having Sergei Zubov. Captain Brenden Morrow has been frustrated and he’s starting to take some bad penalties, and along with linemate Mike Ribeiro (they were separated briefly against the Avs), own the team’s worst +/- at -4 and -6, respectively. Fabian Brunnstrom made noise with a hat trick in his debut, and the Stars will look to him to provide some scoring after letting Nik Hagman and Miettinen walk. When will the Stars turn it around?
The Coyotes’ 2-3 start is rather pedestrian, but with a 12-17 GF-GA ratio it’s a little alarming, considering that adding Kurt Sauer and having Ilya Bryzgalov on board for a full season should help defensively. Olli Jokinen has not disappointed, with 6 points in 5 games, while Kyle Turris has pitched in nicely with a goal and 3 helpers, making an early case for a Calder nomination. Trading away Nick Boynton and Keith Ballard took a lot of Phoenix’s depth away, and it’s showing, with the third pairing of David Hale and Keith Yandle both an awful -5. The desert dogs have some cap room to play with and may opt to bring in a veteran presence to their blueline – perhaps either Rhett Warrener, Anders Eriksson, or Kyle McLaren?