It's Friday, and that can only mean that it's time for me to ramble on, about the goings on, in the NHL.
The Sabres offense hasn't exactly taken off early in the year which has resulted in Lindy Ruff juggling his lines. The top line of Luke Adam, Tomas Vanek and Jason Pominville remained together, but after that it was a seeming free for all. For more on all the moves I'll just point you to the article in the Buffalo News. Adam, no "S" needed, who recorded only four points in 19 games as a rookie last year, has already posted six points in six games and is loving life with his high scoring line mates.
The Wild's first line has had a tough start to the year. The center on the line, Mikko Koivu, has only three helpers through seven games. He also took a skate to the chin/neck area on Thursday night. He should be fine, he was lucky to only need some stitches, but obviously he might be limited a bit, at least in the short term. The other two-thirds of the top line was imported from San Jose, Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. Heatley has recorded two goals and two helpers in the seven games while Setoguchi has posted two goals and an assist. In 21 player games if your top line has 10 points your team is in danger of falling into a black hole. Sensing that it's nearly time to punch the panic button, the Wild are going to realign their top line. Setoguchi had always played the right wing, Heatley the left, but the duo switched around at the start of the preseason and had played that way for 12 games. So much for that. "Heater wanted to play right, so I figured I could play left. It's nice at times and sometimes it's not," said Setoguchi. The team would also like to see Setoguchi take a little more of the ice for himself, versus always deferring to his veteran line mates. It's understandable that Devin would defer to Heatley and Koivu, but he should look at the back of his hockey card and realize that he's scored 20-goals in 3-straight years and has a 31 goal campaign on his ledger.
YOU GOTSTA KNOW
Has Martin Brodeur finally reached the end of his rope? Brodeur's shoulder is still giving him some trouble, so he's likely at least a few days away from being back between the pipes for the Devils. Last season was only the second time since 1995 that Martin failed to appear in at least 67 games, as injuries limited him to 56 contests. His GAA of 2.45 was still strong, but that save percentage of his dipped to .903, the lowest it had been since he posted a .902 mark during the strike shortened year of 1994. This season, in only two games mind you, he's been saddled with a 3.00 GAA and .900 save percentage. Of course basing anything off two outings would be ludicrous, but if we extend things back to last season, you can see the troubling trend with little effort. In addition to performance and health woes with Brodeur, he should be a bit concerned about the play of Johan Hedberg who has gone 13-2-1 over his last 16 regular season games. I know almost everyone assumes that as soon as he's healthy it will be the Marin Brodeur show all over again, but I'm not so sure.
Michael Cammalleri has returned from a deep laceration in his thigh and he skated nearly 20 minutes worth of ice-time on Thursday night for the Habs. Cammalleri is quite the offensive weapon, and a force on the power-play, but like others in this section he's had issues staying on the ice. Cammalleri had his most productive season in his lone year in Calgary in 2008 when he recorded career bests in goals (39), points (82) and power-play goals (19). In 2009, his first year with the Canadiens, he recorded 26 goals, partly because he was only able to take the ice for 65 contests. He fell even further last season with 19 goals as injuries once again limited him to less than 70 games (he appeared in 67). If he can stay healthy he should be a strong source of offensive production since age is not an issue (he isn't even 30 years old yet).
Milan Michalek has long been an injury waiting to happen, and despite the fact that those injuries always seemingly occur to his knees, he's still an exceedingly fleet skater who uses that speed to drive to the net. Though in and out of the lineup the last two years, he skated 66 games in each campaign, he averaged 20 goals a season (this after recording 26, 24 and 23 goals the previous three years). If he could just stay healthy for 80 games, perhaps he could finally live up to the expectations that led to him being drafted sixth overall by the Sharks in 2003. He might just get that chance this year. Milan is off to a blazing start with five goals and three helpers through seven games. Given the lack of talent up front for the Senators, Milan is likely to get all the ice-time he can handle, and specific atthhention should be paid to his power-play time (he's already recorded three goals and two assists with the man advantage). Even when slumping it will be hard to envision him not at least being on the second power-play unit, and that fact alone could help him to push that 30-goal mark for the time. Of course, he'll have to stay healthy to get there.
Sheldon Souray is off to a rather incredible start after spending all of last season out of the NHL spotlight; through six games he has recorded five points, is a +6, and has K19 PIMs. It's like nothing ever changed. Unfortunately, nothing has changed. Did you see the most recent news emanating out of Dallas about what's going on with Souray? That's right, he's hurt again, sort of. He missed practice on Thursday so that he could get an injection in his wrist. Now the Stars are saying he should be back in the lineup Friday, but given his history of injury do you believe that? He's still extremely talented and could be a difference maker from the blue line, but he's also a massive risk to stay on the ice all season long.
THE NUMBERS GAME
2: The number of blue liners that recorded three points for the Bruins on Thursday night. Zdeno Chara had a goal and two assists while Andrew Ference had three assists. It was just the second time over the past decade that the Bruins had two blue liners record three or more points in a contest.
3: The number of multi-goal games that Alexander Ovechkin has recorded in his last 74 regular season outings after he scored twice on Thursday night. If you add in the playoffs, he failed to record more than one goal in a game for 83-straight contests. That's simply an amazing run for a guy who has averaged 0.63 goals a game during the regular season. Apparently the tonic he needed was a battle against the Flyers. In 23 regular season games against the Broad Street Bullies Ovechkin has recorded an amazing total of 22 goals.
4:05: That's the additional ice-time that Tyler Seguin has been receiving this year (16:18) compared to last (12:13). It's really not that surprising that his point production has increased as a result. Seguin currently leads the Bruins with eight points in seven games, but don't go thinking he's a lock for a point-per-game effort. One day he certainly will be, but that day almost certainly going to come to fruition this season.
6: The number of games that Tomas Vanek has recorded a point to open up the season. He's been much better than a point-per-game scorer though as he has six goals in the six games (he's tossed in four helpers for good measure). That six game stretch to start the year is the longest stretch to open the season for a Sabres skater since Chris Drury pulled off the same trick in 2006. No other skater for the club has bettered that mark if we go back 17 years.
9: The number of points that Marc-Andre Bergeron has recorded in seven games this season, the highest total of points of any blue liner in the game. Bergeron has two goals and another NHL leading total of seven assists for a blue liner (that assist total is actually tied for the NHL lead amongst all skaters). MAB is now up to 17 points in 30 games with the Lightning, though oddly, the power-play specialist has recorded only six of those points with the man advantage.
1000: That's the number of games that Joe Thornton will have participated in during his NHL career when he takes the ice Friday night against the Devils. After starting his career slowly in Boston, the monumental numbers that he has posted during games 1-999 need to be recognized.
306 goals, 696 assists, 1002 points
When a fella appears in 1,000 NHL games and records a point-per-game, he should be given a lot of love. Of course, Thornton gets much less love from the media than he should, largely because some view him as soft and a playoff failure. First, Thornton has 29 points in his last 33 playoff games, and that's pretty damn good. Second, he also played the Sharks final playoff round last season with a separated shoulder showing his grit. I got news for you, and by "you" I mean everyone who puts Thornton down for never winning the Stanley Cup, last time I checked hockey wasn't tennis or golf. It takes a TEAM to win in the playoffs, not one man.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account. To email Ray a question for next week's piece, drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.