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Who’s Hot and Who’s Not as the NHL is Underway

Marian Hossa

The Blackhawks' Hossa has four goals in the first three games of the season.

Hockey is indeed back and any thought that the fans would decide to stage a mass protest of both the owners and players was quickly buried as the men on ice garnered huge television ratings on their first night back in action. ‘Huge’ of course is a relative term because what big to some sports is small potatoes to others, but either way the National Hockey League was welcomed back with open arms in most cities.

Each team has played at least two games so far with almost half of them playing a third game as well. With an abbreviated schedule of just 48 regular season games, teams cannot afford slow starts but apparently there are a few who didn’t get that message. The ones that clearly did would have to be Chicago, San Jose, Pittsburgh and Ottawa just name a few.

Off to troubling starts are teams like Philadelphia, Carolina, the Rangers, Los Angeles and Calgary. While it’s hard to really label any team a sure-fire success or unmitigated failure through two or three games, there are certainly things you can point too and where I go first is goal differential.

In the West, Chicago and San Jose each have +6 advantages while 2-1 St. Louis also has a +6 differential. Over in the East, Ottawa is at +7, Pittsburgh is at +5 and 2-1 Tampa Bay is also at +5. For teams looking up in the standings, the goal differential obviously goes in the other direction. Western Conference teams like the Kings are -5, Calgary is -4 and 1-2 Detroit is -6. The bottom-dwellers in the East like Philly, the New York Rangers and Carolina are -8, -5 and -7 respectively.

Look, it’s very easy to have a bad game or two especially right out of the gate, but did anyone see a few of these starts coming? The Rangers are a consensus pick to win the Stanley Cup by many with the addition of Rick Nash. The Kings are the defending champions and had plenty of extra time to avoid the complacency that often falls on Cup winners. Apparently it didn’t work. The Flyers aren’t much better as they are 0-3 and have just three total goals.

Conversely, most pundits were wondering if Chicago would have enough goaltending and defense to be a threat and the Sharks have become a bit of punchline with their playoff failures in recent years but so far so good in those two cities.

Tomas Holmstrom

Holmstrom won four Cups with the Wings during his 15 year career.

Another Detroit Great Moves On

After 1,024 games most of which he spent in front of the opponents’ net getting beat on, the Red Wings’ Tomas Holmstrom retired officially on Tuesday. He leaves the Wings with four Stanley Cup titles and throws in an Olympic gold medal for Sweden to boot. Holmstrom’s retirement comes just months after one of the greatest defensemen in the history of the game, Niklas Lidstrom retired from Detroit as well.

Holmstrom was one of the most physical guys to ever play the game and will be sorely missed by a Red Wings’ team that is struggling already at 1-2 on the season. Their streak of 21 straight years in the playoffs may be in jeopardy without guys like Holmstrom. What a great professional hockey career for the Swede.

Games to Watch this Week

Chicago at Dallas – The unbeaten Blackhawks travel to Big D where the 2-1 Stars are waiting. This should be a really good game with both teams being rested and ready to go. I like Dallas to give Chicago their first loss.

Ottawa at Tampa Bay – A night after playing on South Beach, the Senators head Northwest for a game against the very dangerous Lightning. I love Tampa here because they’ll have had rest while the Sens have back-to-back games early in the season.

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