Monday, October 18, 2010
Parity, Parity, and Parity.
That's what sums up the first two weeks of the 2010-11 NHL season thus far. For instance, the Toronto Maple Leafs are hosting the NY Islanders tonight and both teams are in first place. Go figure. The Dallas Stars, the predicted weak link in the Pacific division, are 4-0 heading into tonight's tilt at Tampa Bay. The offensively challenged Minnesota Wild are the NHL's top team on the power play. Martin Brodeur is ranked 39th among goalies with a 3.18 GAA, and his Devils are 1-4-1 through six games.
Those are examples of how close the difference is between teams that were predicted to finish near the bottom of the league and the elite teams in the NHL. We don't want to come across as if we think the Stanley Cup finals will be Toronto-Dallas, but it does prove that games in October are vital, and that if a more talented team takes a night off, they will be beaten no matter whom the opponent is. Some hockey experts feel that it may take 100 points just to MAKE the playoffs in the Western Conference. The East is not any easier, as the struggling Devils and Sabres, need to start collecting points soon, or they will have difficulty jumping the teams in front of them.
Which brings us to the two most disappointing teams so far in the New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres. As mentioned, Martin Brodeur is struggling and it is costing the Devils dearly. He has allowed numerous bad goals and at his age may not be able to handle the heavy workload as in years past. The Devils are paying backup, Johan Hedberg $1.5 million, which is a lot for them since they're so strapped with the salary cap. Hedberg needs to play more to validate the contract and to give Marty a break, which is something that is easier said than done.
What's hurting Brodeur also is the fact that the Devils defense is not the same. Anton Volchenkov is injured, and young players such as Matt Taormina and Alexander Urbom are being forced to play way too many minutes. Everyone wants to blame Kovalchuk, and his contract is a factor with the Devils being unable to dress enough players, but it's not the sole reason for New Jersey's struggles. Rookie coach John MacLean, has a lot of work to do, but thankfully for them its only mid-October.
The Buffalo Sabres haven't exactly gotten off to the start they hoped for either. The defending Northeast Division champs once again are having difficulty scoring goals. They have played six games and have mustered only 12 goals. Five of those 12 goals have been scored by Derek Roy. The HSBC Arena, which has been so kind to the Sabres in years past, has not been this year as the Sabres are 0-3-1 at home. Losing Jason Pominville to injury really hurts the Sabres because he can kill penalties, play on the power play, and score goals. Thomas Vanek needs to get going offensively and one would expect Ryan Miller to improve as the season goes on. Not ready to hit the panic button in Buffalo, but if they lose a few more games in a row Lindy Ruff is in serious trouble.
Monday Pick: Tampa Bay -130 over Dallas
Very impressed by the 4-0 start so far by Dallas, but tonight they face an angry Tampa Bay Lightning team who were blown out 6-0 by Florida on Saturday night. Still not sold on the Dallas Stars defense, as Tampa can score with anyone in the league. In what should be an entertaining hockey game, expect Tampa to rebound even without Vinny LeCavalier