A Month in Review (October 2009)

To mark the end of the first month of NHL hockey, I’d like to take this time and write a little something about each team, and my general thoughts heading into November. October has proven to be an eventful month full of shocks, surprises, excitement, and disappointment. I’m sorry that all teams won’t get equal treatment, but I tend to know more about certain teams…I’ll work on that, I promise.  I’ve also tried very hard to be un-biased, and I think I did a good job. We’ll progress alphabetically.

Anaheim Ducks- For a team that was so hot in the playoffs last year, the Quackers have really cooled down heading into 2009. They’re currently 4-6-2 and last in the Pacific Division. How much did the loss of Chris Pronger hurt Anaheim?

Atlanta Thrashers- Netminder Pavelec has been stellar so far. Very impressive 50-save effort to beat the Senators in their last game. Kovulchuk is also doing well so far, and Atlanta is simply just chugging along. 5-4-1, 3rd in the Southeast Division.

Boston Bruins- Some are worried that the Bruins aren’t doing as well as last year, but one has to remember that the Bruins are also injury-stricken right now. Right now they’re hurting, but they’ll be stronger once Savard and Lucic come back. They are also getting stiff competition within their division from both Ottawa and Buffalo. 6-6-1, 3rd in the Northeast Division.

Buffalo Sabres- Currently the owners of the best record in the NHL (in terms of W/L/T, not points or GP), the Sabres have stunned some critics and pleased others, with an 8-2-1 record. Goalie Ryan Miller holds a Top-5 spot in all stat-aspects of goaltending, and rookie Tyler Myers has just been locked up for 3 years. Currently 1st in the Northeast Division, and 3rd in the Eastern Conference. It should be noted that they have only played 11 games.

Calgary Flames- Have already been labeled as Canada’s best bet for winning a Stanley Cup. Currently with a 7-4-1 record and 2nd in the Northwest.

Carolina Hurricanes- No team has been as big a disappointment as the Hurricanes, save for maybe the Maple Leafs. I’m hurting for these fans in Raleigh. What happened? How can the team that challenged the Penguins in the 2009 ECF fall so far? Carolina currently has a 2-8-3 record, a whopping 7 points, and are 1 point away from being the worst in the league. Some say that Paul Maurice’s days behind the Hurricanes bench are numbered. I might agree.

Chicago Blackhawks- Starting off the season as win a few, lose one or two, the Blackhawks are still looking to hit their stride and really take charge of their division and conference. I’ve seen several blogs and articles that have predicted Chicago to make a deep run to the Stanley Cup. They’re currently 8-4-1 and on top of the Central Division.

Colorado Avalanche- Currently the most surprising team in the league…I mean, honestly- who expected them to have a 10-2-2 record? I’ll be honest, I sure didn’t. Hockey fans in Denver are loving it, and at the same time hoping that this is the status quo and that the roof won’t cave in. Memories of last year’s cellar-dweller finish still remain. Currently first in their Northwest Division and the Western Conference.

Columbus Blue Jackets- Heading into this season following their first-ever postseason appearance, the Jackets are looking to keep Ohio on the hockey map. Mason needs a repeat performance of last year to help this squad along. They’re 7-5-1, good for 2nd place in the Central Division and 2 points behind Chicago.

Dallas Stars- Okay, this is where this blog starts to get boring. I don’t know much about the Stars. All I can say is that they are 6-3-5, and are tied with NYI for the most games pushed to OT. Those 5 points are the reason they’re 6th in the Western Conference. The team is looking at Marty Turco to lead them, but they’re currently 4th in the Pacific Division.

Detroit Red Wings- On the bubble, either on their way to another Stanley Cup postseason or ready to fall from prominence. The loss of Marian Hossa is hurting them, along with several other key injuries, like Flippula. 5-4-3,  3rd in the Central Division and 11th in the Conference. Fans in the Motor City are hoping they turn it around, pronto.

Edmonton Oilers- Another team that I haven’t been following that much…but from what I can surmise by looking at the stats, it seems like the Oil are another team that is just chugging along and doing just fine, thank you very much. A 7-6-1 record is good for 3rd in the Northwest Division, and 9th in the Western Conference.

Florida Panthers- I still believe that there is a huge gap in their roster following the departure of Jay Bouwmeester. After threatening to make the postseason last year, the squad from Sunrise is sitting low with a 4-7-1 record, and 4th in the Southeast Division.

Los Angeles Kings- Another surprise team, although I cannot say that I am shocked to see them where they are. The management has been investing in young talent for years, and now they’re reaping the rewards. Veterans like Smyth and Scuderi have helped steer the youngsters, and it seems that successful hockey is back in the City and Angels. They are 8-4-2, 3rd in the (all of a sudden) competitive Pacific Division and 5th in the Western Conference.

Minnesota Wild- They failed to make the playoffs last year, and are hoping to change that this year. However, they are currently last in the Western Conference and have a 5-9-0 record, their most recent win a 2-1 victory at Pittsburgh (I was in attendance, it was a great game). It’s another team that I don’t know much about, but it doesn’t take an expert to see that something is awry in St. Paul.

Montreal Canadiens- The big chemistry experiment is still underway in Montreal, and so far has yielded so-so results. The Habs just came off a 5-4 SO win over rival Toronto, and have not lost in an OT/SO yet. They’re playing .500 hockey with a 7-7-0 record, and every fan is waiting for the day the team comes together. 3rd in the Northeast,  and 7th in the Conference. They have the talent, so what’s keeping them behind?

Nashville Predators- I only watched one game of the Preds’ this year, against Buffalo. It was a 1-0 game, in Buffalo’s favor, but it also was a goalie duel. The two teams seemed very evenly matched, but aside from that I am inexperienced with Nashville hockey. They’re 6-6-1, and 4th in the Central Division.

New Jersey Devils- Currently 8-4-0, and picking up where they left off last year. After being eliminated by Carolina in Game 7 last year, New Jersey is playing hockey with a vengeance, and were the 2nd team to beat division-foe Pittsburgh this season. I am still unsure about Marty Brodeur- some say he’s at his best, some say he’s past his prime. In either case, goaltending is clearly the Devils’ strong point with Brodeur and Clemmensen. They’re 3rd in the highly-competitive Atlantic Division.

New York Islanders- Financial struggles, a bleak future, a crumbling arena…and a #1 draft pick that is tearing it up. Sometimes I feel as if the league is watching the Isles, and secretly hoping they rebound. Me? I absolutely do. They have one of the best histories in the league, loyal fans, and it would be a shame for them to move…but aside from that, they’re currently on the rebound and climbing out of the cellar with 4-4-5 record and a current 3-game winning streak. They’re still last in the Atlantic Division, but 10th in the Conference.

New York Rangers- After one of the hottest starts in the league, the Blueshirts have cooled down recently. Fans are enjoying Tortorella behind the bench and it seems as if the Rangers have things back in order. Lundqvist can steal games, and he just did by blanking the Bruins 1-0 in their lastest game. They’re 9-5-1 and 2nd in the Atlantic Division, 4th in the Eastern.

Ottawa Senators- Another team that I do not follow…at all…despite the fact that they’re in the same division as my Sabres. I do know that some people still believe that they’re hurting without Dany Heatley, but Alex Kovalev has added some spark to the Sens. They are currently sitting 2nd in the Northeast, 6th in the Eastern Conference, and have a 6-4-2 record thus far.

Philadelphia Flyers- Have the Broad Street Bullies returned? Philly fans like to think so. Adding Chris Pronger from Anaheim seemed to be a blockbuster move for the Flyers, but their current 6-4-1 record is disproportionate to what fans were expecting. Personally, I don’t think Philadelphia has anything to worry about, and I have seen several predictions that place the Stanley Cup in the City of Brotherly Love. They’re 4th in the Atlantic, 8th in the East.

Phoenix Coyotes- This is a team that I am so glad is doing well. If any team needs to win and in a hurry, it’s the Coyotes. Shane Doan continues to be the heart and soul of the team, and the ‘Yotes boasts one of the best netminders currently in the league- Ilya Bryzgalov. I sincerely hope the Coyotes keep their winnings ways alive- they are 9-4-0, 2nd in the Pacific and 4th in the West.

Pittsburgh Penguins- The reigning Stanley Cup Champions completed one of the hottest starts in NHL history, and currently sit on top of their division, conference, and the league with an 11-3-0 record. The Penguins’ Goligoski has the best +/- rating in the league with a +12. The Penguins are looking to return to the Stanley Cup Final, and are on pace to do just that.

San Jose Sharks- After a winning the President’s Cup in 2009 and being eliminated in the first round by the rival Ducks, San Jose is another team that is playing hockey with a vendetta. After a slow start, they have won 5 in a row and currently boast a 10-4-1 record, good for 2nd in the Western Conference and the top spot in the Pacific Division. Was acquiring Dany Heatley the final piece in the puzzle?

St. Louis Blues- Off to a rough start in October, they’re sitting 5-6-1 and last in the Central Division. They’re hoping to make it back to the playoffs, but won’t do so if they continue the un-inspired play that’s been plaguing the Blues bench. Another team that I have to watch more of.

Tampa Bay Lightning- A painful season last year has made some Bolts faithful weary, but Tampa Bay is banking on rookie Hedman to inspire the team and fanbase. Tampa Bay is a confusing team, because they have top-notch talent in St. Louis and Lecavalier, but nothing to show for it.  They have a very mediocre 4-3-4 record, and sit 2nd in the Southeast Division, 8 pts behind leader Washington. So the big question is, what is wrong in Hockey Bay, USA?

Toronto Maple Leafs- Now, this is where it gets embarrassing. I predicted that the Leafs would be the team to watch in 2009-2010, and while there is still a chance that might happen, right now things are not looking good. I thought the additions of Komisarek and Gustavsson would have sparked this team. Off to one of the worst starts in team history (and let’s not forget, they’re original 6 so that’s a crap-ton of history), the fans are finally getting sick and tired of sky-high prices and cellar-dweller performance. GM Brian Burke better think on his toes, because the Leafs’ 1-7-4 record is downright embarrassing, and ticket sales are starting to show it. They’re currently last in their division, conference, and the league.

Vancouver Canucks- Also believed to be Canada’s second chance at winning the Stanley Cup. They’re in a tight spot right know with Luongo injured, but their offensive prowess makes up for the loss. Right now they are playing .500 hockey, a 7-7-0 record- the same as the Canadiens. I personally believe that the Canucks will eventually hit their stride at start winning at GM Place- the only question is, when?

Washington Capitals- Looking at another return to the postseason, and their October has proved to be successful. They are banking on Ovechkin to be the rally point for this team and currently are 8-2-4, good for first place in the weak Southeast division and 2nd in the Eastern Conference.

The current standings for the Conferences, and if the Playoffs started today, who would go:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Pittsburgh, 2. Washington, 3. Buffalo, 4. New York Rangers, 5. New Jersey, 6. Ottawa, 7. Montreal, 8. Philadelphia

9.Boston, 10. New York Islanders, 11. Tampa Bay, 12. Atlanta, 13. Florida, 14. Carolina, 15. Toronto

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1. Colorado, 2. San Jose, 3. Chicago, 4. Phoenix, 5. Los Angeles, 6. Dallas, 7. Calgary, 8. Columbus

9. Edmonton, 10. Vancouver, 11. Detroit, 12. Nashville, 13. St. Louis, 14. Anaheim, 15. Minnesota

That’s October in a nutshell. I tried to not insult any team (although in some cases, it cannot be helped), in an effort to avoid any anger towards me. If anyone has comments or questions, please leave them. Here’s to another exciting month of NHL hockey!

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About the Author: Currently a college sophomore in Erie, Pennsylvania. Born and raised in Buffalo, New York and a passionate sports fan- raised on Sabres hockey, Bills football, and Yankees baseball. Studying to be a high-school history teacher, where he plans on wearing a hockey jersey every casual Friday.

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