[Every weekend, Canucks Hockey Blog goes out of town as Tom Wakefield (@tomwakefield88) posts his thoughts on what's happening around the NHL.]
In honour of Katy Perry’s recent “cleavage-gate” on Sesame Street, let’s play a game of “One of These Things Just Doesn’t Belong Here.”
The Chicago Blackhawks. The New York Islanders. The Dallas Stars. The Pittsburgh Penguins.
Behold the top four teams in NHL standings.
Which one doesn’t belong?
If you guessed the New York Islanders, you’d be wrong.
Sure they’re probably not a playoff team, but their youngsters have taken a step forward and coach Scott Gordon has them executing a fast, aggressive, puck-pursuit style.
Also, let’s not forget that the Eastern Conference is kinda like the Solange Knowles to the Western Conference’s Beyonce.
No, the team that doesn’t belong is the Dallas Stars.
Sure, the Stars have started the season at 5-1.
Yet they’re 23rd on the powerplay, and 30th on the penalty kill.
They’re also 30th in the league in shots-on-goal per game (averaging roughly 23), and 28th in the league in shots-on-goal against (averaging roughly 36).
So how are they winning games?
First, Kari Lehtonen has been nothing short of incredible, starting all six games and sporting a .927 save percentage. He’s single-handedly keeping the team in games.
Second, the Stars are having ridiculous success playing 5-on-5.
Historically, the ratio of goals-for to goals-against when playing 5-on-5 is usually around 1:1. The best teams score at a rate of 1.5:1, the worst at a rate of 0.5:1.
The Dallas Stars are outscoring their opposition at close to a 3-to-1 rate.
This just isn’t sustainable.
Unless Kari Lehtonen is this year’s Ilya Bryzgalov, the Dallas Stars are probably enjoying the only success they’ll know this year.
THOUGHTS ON THE FLY
- Speaking of the Stars, The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell wrote this week that their ownership situation is starting to look a lot like that of the Coyotes.
- They say Tampa coach Guy Boucher is an innovator. One thing he’s brought to the NHL: hard game day skates for his players. It’ll be interesting to see if this continues over the course of an entire season. The team looked gassed against Florida earlier this week.
- They’re sitting at 4-3 but there are concerns in Denver. Kyle Quincey has seemingly regressed, they’re having trouble finding wingers for Matt Duchene and Milan Hejduk looks like he’s skating with a piano on his back.
- Three pieces of free advice to the NHL to prevent another Rick Rypien situation. First, mandate that home teams have to provide tunneling over access to the visiting team’s bench. Second, implement the “eye-in-the-sky”, 3rd referee system they tested at the Molson Hockey Summit, and have that ref call violent act-related penalties (i.e. no tripping, icing or offside calls). Third, current NHL suspensions and fines hardly act as a deterrent. It’s time to work with the NHLPA to increase their severity.
- Ken Holland’s “3-on-3” overtime idea is an intriguing one, but it reinforces the notion that games are decided by a team’s best players. Does a fourth line really matter anymore? Which fan pays to watch a 4th line play anyways? If you got rid of fourth liners all together, how much of the game’s worst violence would be eliminated?
- Tyler Myers has been Buffalo’s worst defenseman so far. Coach Lindy Ruff thinks teams have scouted Myers offensively, and it’s up to him to mix his game up a bit.
- They’re raving about Willie Mitchell in Los Angeles, especially the communication between him and Drew Doughty. Doughty’s also been more physical this year than in previous years.
- Coach John Maclean is still trying to find the right fit with Ilya Kovalchuk. Zack Parise isn’t working out, as both he and Kovalchuk like to carry the puck. The latest player to get a chance to centre Kovalchuk is youngster Jacob Josefson.
- If a lack of toughness on the Sens’ blueline is their biggest issue (it isn’t, but that’s a topic for another day), how long before the Sheldon Souray rumours start picking up steam?