With Halloween fast approaching, here’s a look at several scary late-October NHL stories.
The Columbus Blue Jackets set a dubious NHL record, becoming the first club in league history to lose its first eight games in a season. They didn’t even get a pity point by dropping a game in overtime or a shootout. Eight consecutive regulation losses.
And if that wasn’t frightening enough for the Blue Jackets, management hired John Tortorella as their new head coach. Granted, “Torts” has over 440 NHL victories plus a Stanley Cup championship on his resume. He’s also infamous for his short temper and demanding style.
Tortorella preaches an aggressive two-way system, with emphasis on back checking and shot blocking. Jackets management and fans won’t mind his ways if he produces positive results. His style of coaching, however, could prove chilling to those Jackets players who fail to toe the Torts line.
Seven games into this season, with the Pittsburgh Penguins sporting a 3-4-0 record, the Sidney Crosby-Phil Kessel experiment ended in failure, at least for the time being. It seemed like a great idea at the time. Acquire one of the best scoring wingers in the league in Kessel, put him with the world’s best play-making center in Crosby, and watch their dazzling offense lift the Penguins back into Stanley Cup contention. It seemed a match made in hockey heaven.
Instead, it became a hellishly painful thing to watch. The duo managed only three points each in seven games, with Crosby getting all of his in one game. Rather than chemistry, they were an awkward pairing, with Crosby forever looking to set up Kessel, who seemed unprepared to receive those passes.
Kessel was subsequently moved to the second line with center Evgeni Malkin. He tallied in overtime in a 2-1 win over the Predators. Crosby, however, was held without a point.
For nearly a decade, the Anaheim Ducks could count on superstar forward Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry to carry the offensive load. The rest of the lineup can have its struggles, but Getzlaf and Perry could be counted on to light the lamp.
So it’s shocking to see the Ducks are currently the lowest-scoring team in the league, with only six goals in seven games. It certainly explains why their record is 1-5-1 during that stretch. Compounding the horror is Getzlaf and Perry only had an assist each throughout that period.
Given how talented this duo is, they’re unlikely to remain cold for much longer. It is worth noting that Getzlaf and Perry are now in the early-30s. That could explain why it’s taking them longer to get going this season.
This NHL season is only in its third week, but already a number of star players are sidelined by injuries. The notables include Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith (knee surgery), Detroit Red Wings forwards Pavel Datsyuk (ankle surgery) and Johan Franzen (concussion symptoms), Edmonton Oilers right wing Jordan Eberle (shoulder) and San Jose Sharks winger Logan Couture (fractured fibula).
The team taking the biggest hit, however, is the St. Louis Blues. Four regulars – Paul Stastny (broken foot), Kevin Shattenkirk (lower-body), Jaden Schwartz (fractured ankle) and Patrik Berglund (shoulder) – are on the shelf, along with rookie Robby Fabbri (concussion). That’s a significant chunk of talent on the sidelines, presenting a significant challenge for the rest of the roster to overcome.
Any fantasy hockey GMs carrying goaltenders like Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins, Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche or Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets as their starters are likely having fits over their poor play in October.The GMs of their respective NHL clubs are probably having a few restless nights themselves.
Considered among the league’s top netminders (Rask and Bobrovsky are former Vezina Trophy winners, Varlamov a finalist in 2014), their stats are currently among the worst for starters this season. Rask, Bobrovsky and Varlamov aren’t entirely to blame for their poor numbers, as their respective defenses were guilty of costly turnovers and sloppy play in their own zones.
Should the play of their respective bluelines improve, so should their numbers. Until then, Rask, Bobrovsky and Varlamov might have to anticipate more scoring chances in close, more quality shots against and reducing their rebounds.
After confounding the experts last season by reaching the 2015 playoffs and advancing to the second round, the Calgary Flames had to be a confident bunch entering this season. One reason was a deep defense corps, led by Mark Giordano and T.J Brodie, that was bolstered by the offseason addition of promising blueliner Dougie Hamilton.
However, their defense bore part of the blame for their 2-5-0 record after seven games. Brodie’s been out since preseason with a broken bone in his hand, captain Mark Giordano struggled through most of the first two weeks and the highly touted Hamilton is still trying to adjust to his new teammates.
Brodie’s eventual return within the next couple of weeks will certainly help. Hamilton was demoted to the third defense pairing while Dennis Wideman took over alongside Giordano. That led to a two-goal, three-point effort from Giordano in a 3-2 win over Detroit.