11 games into the season, the New Jersey Devils are 6-4-1, which few would have predicted. Considering that the Devils were expected to be bottom feeders, they look good. General Manager Ray Shero made some quiet moves at the end of the offseason that have been very beneficial to the team, like the signings of Lee Stempniak and David Schlemko. Stempniak has 2 goals and 8 points in his 11 games so far, good for 3rd on the team. Schlemko seems to be a good fit on d, despite his even plus/minus and 1 goal so far. Other offseason pickups like Sergey Kalinin and Jiri Tlusty have been okay, scoring a combined 4 points. Draft-day pickup Kyle Palmieri has been exceptional so far, scoring 3 goals and 7 points in the young season. Veteran Mike Cammalleri has not showed his age, and is leading the team with 11 points thus far. Adam Henrique has also been really good, scoring 6 goals and 9 points. New captain Andy Greene has done well, with 3 points despite a -1 rating. Cory Schneider is enjoying a very nice start to the season, with 6 wins in 9 games, a 2.17 GAA and a .919 save percentage, putting him high in the league leaders in wins. The Devils look pretty good so far. They had a rough first few games but have since bounced back and are among the Wild Card contenders. I can’t predict the future, but the Devils look like they might not do as bad as people expected.
Derek MacKenzie may not be a household name, he may not represent his country in National competition, he may never suit up in an All Star game, but Derek MacKenzie is a star every night he puts a Florida Panthers uniform on. Mack doesn’t put up crazy point totals, actually he doesn’t put up many points at all only having 11 in the 82 games he played last year for the Cats. Mack is the Panthers featured penalty killer, getting the most penalty kill minutes last year and looking like he will again this year. The effort he puts into every shift is insane, you will never see him gliding into the defensive zone or failing to win a battle in the corner. Mack takes his role as the 4th line center not as a challenge to prove that he should be a 1st liner, but what he does is go out and prove that they are not the fourth line, but that they are the energy line. The heart of the Vet MacKenzie is some of the most daring passion i have ever seen, weather its diving for a lose puck, blocking a shot, or even volunteering to play goalie when Loungo and Montoya go down you wont find a more passionate player on the ice. Mack also puts a lot of effort in off the ice often being called a gym rat, only standing at 5’11 and 180 pounds he is not the biggest guy on the ice but his physical conditioning is outstanding, and hey it has to be to play 82 games with the way he plays. Another thing about Mack that makes him special to the Panthers is his outstanding leadership, Mack is the locker room energy and the guy the players rally around on the ice. If you have never heard of Derek MacKenzie, it’s time to watch the art of old school hockey again.
The Florida Panthers are 3-2-1 after the first 6 games of their 82 game road to the Stanley Cup Finals, they have had some very good things to take away from these games and of course some negatives.
Strengths: Well Jagr still looks…. Like Jagr. The oldest player in the league is still going very strong on the Cats number one line with young guns Barkov and Huberdueau. Even though it is still early, Jagr leads the Panthers in points with 7. Roberto Loungo looks like he dropped 10 years, hes been on fire looking down right unstoppable in the early season. Lou has a .942 save percentage which is 5th among starting goalies, and honestly the Panthers defense has not looked very good, often having the luxury of Loungo saving the day. The dare i even call them the 4th line has been playing with so much grit, speed, heart, and determination. The Mackenzie line features under valued center Derek Mackenzie, a loud voice in the locker room often wearing the “A”, Mack always is going 100% on the ice and is the teams best penalty killer. New comer Connor Brickley plays one of the wings on this line. Brickley just made the team with a great performance in training camp, rookie mini camp, and the preseason and is now earning a spot on the every day roster. Quinton Howden is a big body on this line, he may also be the quickest player on the team with his smooth skating and hard work.
Weaknesses: Because of some of Lous heroics the Cats defense looks a little better than they are playing. To many defensive lapses from Kulikov, turnovers by Campbell, and penalties by Mitchell all need to be fixed as soon as possible. Speaking of penalties the Cats have been taking WAY to many ranking in the top 10 in minor penalties. A lot of really bad offensive zone penalties have been hurting the teams offense. Offensive consistency has also been something that has worried me, we just don’t seem to be able to keep any rhythm due to the penalties. The number one problem i have witnessed with this young team is getting pushed around. Last nights overtime loss had a crazy amount of bad calls and it was great the players kept calm and kept playing there game, but the hit on new winger Reilly Smith needed to be answered. It was a very dirty hit by Kris Letang and one of our tough guys like Petrovic, Guddbranson, or captain Willie Mitchell cant let that happen to their team. Goaltender Loungo has been rammed way to many times without any consequence. Allowing other teams to rush your goaltender causes him to have to focus on another thing and can take him out of his game and can lead to goals the Cats all need to stand up and get more physical to take the next step.
This list is my opinion on the top 10 players in the NHL debate in the comments is welcome
- Sidney Crosby- Sid the Kid is easily the best player in my books. He is an amazing skater has a great shot and can pass the puck anywhere even with his eyes closed. Sid also goes 100% on all shifts, and can play both ends of the ice, his balance makes him my number one player.
- Alexander Ovechkin- The Great 8 is often bashed for his laziness, but last season he really picked up the pace in the defensive zone no longer being a liability on defense. Ovi is easily the best goal scorer in the NHL with his incredible hands and rocket shot. Not only can Ovi put the puck in the net but he’s also very physical, and quick.
- John Tavares- JT had an amazing season last year becoming a finalist for the MVP award. JT, like Crosby, is a great player at both ends of the ice and gives 100% each shift. He also is a great finisher, and that has been proven with his crazy shootout goals over the years.
- Jonathan Toews- Toews is the best leader we have seen in a while; the team is always first to him. Toews is probably the best 2 way player we have in the game right now proven by his Selke trophies. Toews has captained the Chicago Blackhawks out of the trenches of the NHL and into a dynasty. He can put the puck in the net and pass the puck making him a great offensive player along with his outstanding defense.
- Erik Karlsson- The 2 time Norris Trophy winner is the best offensive d-man in the game. He has insane agility carrying the puck, he makes picture perfect passes, and can finish his chances. An overlooked aspect of Karlsson’s game is his defense; often called a bad defender. This is far from the truth; Erik is always matched against the other teams number one line and does a great job stopping them.
- Steven Stamkos- Like every other player on this list so far Stammer is the captain of his team. Stamkos is in my opinion the second best sniper in the league behind Ovi. Stamkos has a crazy one time shot that is often used on the power play by the Lightning. He is also an under appreciated defensive forward and hitter.
- The Sedin Twins- How could i put these two apart? The Sedins have changed the whole scene for the Nucks as they have been one of the best teams the last decade. Daniel and Henrik may be identical twins but they have a nice compliment of different skills that help each be great. Henrik captains the Nucks, he is a great leader, passer, and two way forward. Daniel is the finisher, he has a very nice hands and a crazy accurate shot. But unlike most snipers Daniel also focus much of his game on the defensive side.
- Evgeni Malkin- Along side Sid the Penguins have become one of the best teams of this decade. Geno is one of the most skilled players in the league with his great hands, skating ability, and shot. He uses his large strong frame to keep defenders off of him and that gives him the space he needs to make plays. Geno has put up eye catching numbers every year and this has been done with very average line mates.
- Rick Nash- Probably the biggest surprise on this list but before you scream at me let me explain. Rick Nash is always near the top of the league in points and goals, he is a very strong forward that is great at protecting the puck and netting goals. The biggest reason i put Nash at 9 is because of his defensive ability, People dont look at Nash as a great 2 way forward but in reality he is one of the best. Rick led the New York Rangers amazing penalty kill from the wing position, he blocked shots and he also led the league in short handed goals.
- Drew Doughty- Drew could also make a case for the nickname the great 8. He is an unbeatable d-man on offense and defense. He makes great passes, has a great shot, and is a rock on defense. The LA Kings have a lot to be thankful for knowing they have him on the Blue Line
Just Missed: Shea Weber, Cladue Giroux, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin, and Jamie Benn.
Hey readers, looking to give an assortment of updates and opinions on the Sabres here.
- Evander Kane and Jack Eichel attend WWE Monday Night Raw together, sitting front row. Nothing big here, but it may be of interest to some that they are friends. I happened to be there too.
- Jack Eichel runs away with his opportunity. Ever since the preseason commenced for the Sabres with a win over the Minnesota Wild, Eichel has truly impressed Sabres fans. Night in and night out, he’s found his way onto the scoresheet, making it seem as if he isn’t the 18 year old kid without experience that he is.
- Evan Rodrigues is looking to be a pretty nice signing by the Sabres. He potted two goals against the Leafs on Tuesday and may very well find himself in blue and gold full time in the future.
- Ryan O’Reilly missing the first five games of the season due to court is frustrating. After the buzz of his crime finally is silenced, it comes back to haunt the Sabres faithful. How much will it hurt the team? Likely not that badly as Eichel’s aforementioned performance can hold up the top line slot. I think this guarantees Reinhart a start in the NHL. Either Reinhart, Girgensons or possibly Johan Larsson could fill in the gaping hole in their top six.
- I’m going to put my faith in Lehner that he is at least the level of a goalie such as Corey Crawford. In my opinion, Crawford is not a bad goalie by any means, but is undeniably at least partially a product of his defense. Anyways, Lehner looked shaky against the Senators, but improved quickly.
- Brendan Guhle has been terrific. If he can keep up his impressive performances, there could be a chance he lands on the top pairing with Ristolainen in the future! Looks like Murray hit on this pick.
Well, that’s about it. Thanks for reading!