Tuesday, October 23, 2007
NHL 2007-08: Game Day Previews October 23rd
Colorado Avalanche at Edmonton Oilers
Prodigal son returns with a fistful of dollars and burning desire to massage his lagging reputation in his hometown. Loads of post-playing appearances, endorsements and perhaps even a future with the Oilers organization to be considered.
The Mulleted One, Ryan Smyth, spurned Edmonton for a shot to perhaps win a Cup with Colorado and at least slurp up another four and a half million dollars over the course of his contract as opposed to what he would have earned with the Oilers.
In his attempts to assuage the feelings of fans in the Alberta capital, he mentions that his heart is still in the city and he will bring the Cup back if he ever wins it with the Avalanche.
How soon do those kinds of comments start to grate on Colorado team-mates and fans?
With the Oilers continuing to struggle to score goals and the injuries mounting, the fans could have a lot to boo about in tonight's game.
Atlanta Thrashers at Toronto Maple Leafs
With a 1-1 record after former head coach Bob Hartley was sacked, Atlanta will be playing against another team in Toronto whose coach is starting to feel the heat. Look for the Leafs to ratchet up their effort a few notches in hopes of reversing the early season 3rd period disintegrations. Or not.
As the abuse rains down on the team while the "Maybe it's the coach?" narrative also starts to pick up steam, perhaps the players begin subconsciously latching on to that easy out and let up even more in hopes of a fresh beginning.
New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins
Relatively slow starts for both of these clubs. Especially the Rangers, who were widely touted in the pre-season as the most improved team in the NHL. It's far too early to label their free agent signings as busts but there has been little scoring from Scott Gomez or Chris Drury so far. Only three goals between them and a combined total of nine points.
The Ranger's Marc Staal in his rookie season in the league and his brother Jordan of the Penguins will get their first chance to play against each other in the NHL.
Overall, it's a game of potential breakouts, with Jaromir Jagr of the Rangers and Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins all looking to get back to a scoring pace they have been accustomed to in previous seasons (with Crosby and Malkin only in their 3rd and 2nd years in the league respectively.)
Columbus Blue Jackets at Chicago Blackhawks
One of the most exciting stories of the season so far is the play of Chicago rookies Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Kane at 18 and Toews at 19 are rare examples of teen-aged players entering the league and being able to immediately adapt to the pace and style of NHL games. It may not continue all season but they're helping the Blackhawks get off to a good start in the the post-Wirtz era.
Columbus have been up and down this season. They have blanked the opposing team in all three of their wins, been close in two others and dropped two lopsided contests. By many accounts they seem to be putting in a solid efforts on most nights and have benefited from the return of Mike Peca after he started the season injured.
Anaheim Ducks at St. Louis Blues
A bit of an early season reversal of fortunes for these two teams as compared to last year. The Ducks have been struggling while the Blues have been showing improvement. Anaheim have played four more games than St. Louis but only have one more point in the standings.
The Ducks are having problems putting the puck in the net and only have one player in the top 50 for scoring league wide with Ryan Getzlaf at 18th place with ten points.
Remember also that the Ducks have played more games than any other team in the NHL.
Nashville Predators at Los Angeles Kings
Two teams that have started poorly. Both have experienced five game losing streaks with Nashville still in the midst of theirs. Los Angeles started the season in London against Anaheim and like the Ducks have played more games than other teams in the league.
They are not nearly as disappointing as Anaheim have been this season but perhaps there is some credence to the claim that the overseas traveling and early schedule have somewhat accounted for the poor start.
The Kings at least rebounded with a win against Vancouver on Saturday while the Predators are continuing to let in boatloads of goals. It doesn't look as though that trend will change any time soon.