FROM THE PRESSBOX
Today, in From the Pressbox:
What's topical in each of the 30 NHL cities...
Boston - How lucky can a rookie get? How about lucky enough to earn a regular shift on defense paired with Zdeno Chara, the extra large and multi-talented captain of the Bruins? That is the good fortune of Dougie Hamilton, who has three assists in 4 games, while averaging 18:04 minutes of ice time.
Buffalo - With a short season, success is likely for those teams whose top players get into top form quickly. Ryan Miller has a 1.54 GAA, while Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville have nine and eight points respectively. The rest of the roster needs only to fall in line here.
Montreal - While the Habs are thrilled with the great start by veteran d-man Andrei Markov, their offense was dealt a tough blow as winger Max Pacioretty was forced to submit to an appendectomy. He'll be out a minimum of four weeks. That's a big pill for a team that is already one of the smallest in the league.
Ottawa - Erik Karlsson, the defending Norris Trophy defenseman already has three goals, two assists and a +6 rating, none of which is very surprising. Kyle Turris leads all Senator forwards with four goals and an assist. Ottawa gave up a promising offensive blueliner (David Rundblad and a 3nd round pick to get him). I think Sens fans should be quite happy looking back at that deal.
Toronto - Injuries will play a larger factor in this shortened season and the Leafs have to contend with a significant one already as winger Joffrey Lupul is out for up to six weeks with a broken forearm. On the other hand, the Buds have to be pleased with the early returns from winger James Van Riemsdyk, who has three goals and an assist in five games, while showing willingness to crowd opposing goal creases.
New Jersey - So the Devils planned to lean heavily on 41-year old goalie Martin Brodeur in this condensed season. Amid concern for that eventuality, many pundits, myself included, didn't give the Devils much of a shot. The response has been impressive early, as he has won his first three starts allowing a total of three goals against. Can it last? (Father) time will tell.
New York Islanders - Michael Grabner, formerly a 1st round draft (2006 by Vancouver) enjoyed a solid rookie season before slumping terribly in his sophomore campaign. The question of which is it for him needs to be a positive to enhance the Islanders chances. Three goals, five points and a (+4) rating are all positive early indicators, as he currently leads the club in scoring.
New York Rangers - The emphasis in hockey is generally in the speed of the game, but when you combine it with size, that combination can be overwhelming. That's what the Rangers looked like on Saturday as Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik and Rick Nash rolled over the Leafs. Oh, and after the game, the Broadway Blueshirts announced the signing of Jason Arnott (6'5”, 220 lbs), pending a physical. This roster is starting to look like the Knicks.
Philadelphia - The Flyers offense counted only five goals in their first four games, before exploding for seven against the Panthers on Saturday. The offense may have gotten a lift by the mere presence of Danny Briere (returning from an injury) and the infusion of veteran power forward, Mike Knuble. The Flyers recipe for success will rely on how prolific and consistent its offense can be.
Pittsburgh - Their top five points-producers through four games played are all the usual suspects. The only mild surprise is that goalies Marc Andre Fleury and veteran Tomas Vokoun have split the workload for the (2-2) Penguins. You get the feeling that this club knows how good it can be and this modest start is only the first step in building to a big finish.
Carolina - A happy Alexander Semin, with 15 shots on goal through four games, is potentially a very good thing for the Hurricanes. He seems like he's more motivated in the early going. On the flip side, Cam Ward, a model of consistency in his career, is struggling with a 4.71 GAA in three appearances. Oddly for the first time in years, the Hurricanes have a capable backup in Dan Ellis (1.20 GAA in two appearances).
Florida - The early story in Miami is the infusion of a rookie (Jonathan Huberdeau) and a veteran sniper likely in his last NHL stop (Alexei Kovalev). They are the two additions to an offense composed mainly of second tier scorers. The Panthers would receive a real shot in the offensive arm if these recruits can score consistently. They both notched three points in their debuts but are both 0-4 since then.
Tampa - Rookie Cory Conacher, at 5'8”, 175 lbs can look veteran teammate Marty St Louis right in the eye and say, “not only are we the same size but we each have seven points in the first four games played this year. No doubt where Conacher's inspiration may come from. The Bolts have to be similarly pleased with the play of veteran blueliner, Sami Salo, a free agent signing who has three assists and a (+8) rating.
Washington - The talented Caps struggled to a winless start in their first four games, before finally breaking into the win column on Sunday night. Now they can point to the impressive play of newly acquired Mike Ribeiro (one goal and five assists to date) and a rejuvenated Mike Green on defense. Burly forward Joel Ward leads the Caps with three goals.
Winnipeg - The early returns here show that the defense shall lead them. Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom pace the Jets attack with five points each and they are getting the expected yeoman work from Goalie Ondrej Pavelec, with his 2.20 GAA and .932 SAVE PCT. Big things were expected of free agent Olli Jokinen but he remains scoreless to date.
Chicago - The Hawks have rolled to a great early season start on the backs of their offensive leaders, particularly Patrick Kane (nine points) and Marian Hossa (seven points). They did lose Daniel Carcillo to a suspected knee injury (expected to miss about a month). He missed significant time due to injury last season as well, but few opponents few bad for one of the league's true bad boys.
Columbus - For the rebuilding Blue Jackets, it's all about identifying the keepers around whom their future will be formed. It looks like the addition of ex-Flyer backup goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is one of those parts. He's got a 1-1-1 mark with a nice .913 SAVE PCT. Up front, Nick Foligno has a couple of points and hopes to raise his profile as a front-line player with his debut season in Columbus.
Detroit - Pavel Datsyuk has shown the benefits of his stint in the KHL during the lockout, with six points in four games, while Niklas Kronwall has stepped up to take a leadership role on defense. The club did suffer a blow on the rearguard, as Ian White will miss 3-4 weeks with a bad cut on his leg. Rookie Damien Brunner has a pair of goals and 18 shots on goal in an impressive debut to date.
Nashville - Through five games, the recipe looks familiar as both the goals for and goals against are very near two per game. They are still one of the league's toughest foes. However, a leg injury to leading scorer, Patrick Hornqvist may be significant to this offensively challenged club.
St Louis - The Blues had no major holes to fill and began the season as one of the favorites in the West. They have to be thrilled, and further bolstered, by the early contribution by rookie sensation Vladimir Tarasenko, who leads them in scoring with seven points. Wade Redden, recently signed after a buyout from the Rangers, has paid early dividends with two goals in three games played.
Calgary - The veterans among the core of this offense have led the scoring for the Flames, but any gains on that side are offset by the ordinary 3.44 GAA posted by goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. It seems as though the Flames are intent on playing an up-tempo game, but they may not have the horses to pull it off. They need to get more out of veteran d-men Mark Giordano and Dennis Wideman.
Colorado - P.A. Parenteau is looking like one of the best free agent signings of the off-season, as he's already tallied three points and an impressive (+4) rating. John Mitchell, a career third or fourth liner has chipped in with two goals to offset the early struggles of Paul Stastny, Milan Hejduk and Gabriel Landeskog.
Edmonton - As expected the young guns are producing offense, with rookies Nail Yakupov (two goals) and Justin Schultz (six points) as key contributors. Unfortunately, they remain suspect defensively, as shown by Devin Dubnyk's inflated 3.82 GAA. Unless they can reduce that mark they will remain a fun non-playoff team to watch.
Minnesota - The early payback from the two big free agent signings show different stories. On offense Zach Parise has produced (six points) and sparked front line teammates, Dany Heatley and Mikko Koivu. However, Ryan Suter, despite logging a team-high average of 27:18 per game has only one assist and a team-worst (-4) rating. There is a severe lack of secondary scoring at the moment.
Vancouver - Zack Kassian must feel like the luckiest guy in Vancouver as he has parlayed riding shotgun with the Sedin twins into three goals and some great on-ice chemistry so far. Alex Burrows, who used to have that role, has only produced one assist. This is a glowing example for poolies to be familiar with line combinations.
Anaheim - The surprising early output of winger Daniel Winnik (five goals and six points in four games) means that the Ducks are currently icing two potent scoring lines. However, this looks like another club that doesn't have the same interest in detail in defending. Starting goalie, Jonas Hiller, with a 4.00 GAA, is also struggling a bit, while his backup, rookie Victor Fasth, has impressed in his two appearances.
Dallas Stars - The greybeards, Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr, are at the top of the Dallas scoring list with five and four points, respectively. Outside of them and Michael Ryder's three goals to date, this offense is in need of some serious help. The good news for the Stars, is that they have resigned big winger Jamie Benn. They have to hope that he can quickly regain his playing form and vault this club into contention.
Los Angeles - It's not usually a good thing when the resident tough guy is the club's leading scorer, but that's the case with Kyle Clifford (five points) and the Kings. He's the only player with more than two points to date. Some may say they are going through a Stanley Cup hangover, but there's too much talent here to worry about the sluggish start.
Phoenix - A 39-year old Steve Sullivan has enjoyed a terrific start, with four goals and one assist to pace the Coyote attack. Six players have already notched a pair of goals as they have 17 goals in five games. This club can clearly skate with anyone. It's not too good at keeping the puck out of their own net, with 20 goals against, that is the most glaring issue.
San Jose - Patrick Marleau has established an NHL record with four straight two-goal games to begin the season. He and linemate, Joe Thornton both have 11 points already. The Sharks are among the most impressive in the league with their 19-7 goal differential to date. There appears to be a real sense of urgency among some of the veteran leaders to strike while they are still together as a productive, though historically underachieving club.
Paul Bruno has been writing about the fantasy sports scene for several years and is an accredited member of the sports media in Toronto for over 20 years. You are invited to send your feedback and you can follow him on Twitter (statsman22).