Friday, November 03, 2006

Hockey: One Month In

I know this surprises the majority of inhabitants of Hockeytown, but the NHL season is underway. I kid you not. The NHL has been playing games for weeks. Who knew, right? Well, I have to admit that I have been paying a bit of attention.

I'm sure my interest in pucks is directly related to the fantasy hockey league I was asked to participate in. Although, we all know this isn't exactly my first fantasy hockey league team. I also suspect my NHL viewing habit is about to be overtaken by a basketball habit. (I'm more gym rat than rink rat.) In light of this expected transition, allow me to make a hockey related post. Who knows when the next one might occur?

It's difficult to have any NHL discussion right now without starting in Buffalo. The Sabres are smokin'. They are 11-0-1. Boston had them down last night, but the Sabres came from three behind in the third and beat the B's. According to all the experts I hear and read, this Buffalo team is perfectly suited for "The New NHL". They are the favorites to win the East and have certainly looked the part since opening night.

Speaking of how the Sabres look, the boys in Buffalo have a new uniform. I'm not sure I like it. I'm not sure I don't. I do like the nod back to the team's original color scheme, but that stylized Buffalo noggin? I've heard plenty of negativity about the new logo -- some have wondered aloud when Buffalo became the squirrels-- but, the new design is leading the league in sales. And wins. I do think it's better than its red-eyed predecessor.

I guess Brendan Shanahan was right about moving on. Shanny is third in the NHL in points with 18, twelve of which are goals. That mark leads the NHL.

I've seen the Detroit Red Wings a few times and I can definitely say these are not the Red Wings most fans have grown accustom to. Some of the usual suspects remain in place, but I think the average Wings fan is going to wonder who many of these guys are.

What on Earth has gotten into the New York Islanders? After the Isles front office follies and 15 year contract to keeper Rick DiPietro this off-season, most hockey fans (on Long Island and elsewhere) wrote off yet another season before it began. Surprisingly, the Islanders have winning record and are 6-2-2 in their last ten games.

Even more of a shock, Alexi Yashin is just piling on the points. Three assists in last night's 5-2 win over New Jersey. If Ted Nolan gets effort out of Yashin, he should be coach of the year regardless of where the Isles finish in the standings.

I think it's safe to say that the Sedin Twins have arrived. Vancouver's twins, Henrik and Daniel, are amongst the league's top 25 in points and are making Taylor Pyatt look like an all-star. This comes one season after making Anson Carter a thirty goal scorer and land him a big free agent contract. Yes, the Sedin boys are good.

Another line making waves is Toronto's top unit. Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker and Kyle Wellwood are off to a terrific start. Sundin and Tucker each have fifteen points and are amongst the league leaders in that category. It might be quality television to turn into Hockey Night in Canada tomorrow as the Leafs host the Sabres.

You cannot listen to any hockey related banter for more than about ten minutes without the speaker referring to "The New NHL". I'm not sure if I've actually heard a definition, but it has to do with eliminating obstruction and less fighting. Or, at least, that's what the talking heads have me believing.

There are plenty o' whistles under the new rules. I've seen a few games where even the thought of tripping lands you in the box. And actually using your stick to impede a player? Just tap the guy and head off, because that ain't allowed.

You remember Pittsburgh's championship years. The teams that featured a cast of stars including Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis, Bryan Trottier, Paul Coffey and Jaromir Jagr. Well, here come the Penguins, again. The next wave of superstar talent has arrived in the Steel City. Sidney Crosby leads the charge, but he's getting plenty of help from Marc Andre Fluery, Evgeni Malkin, Ryan Whitney and Jordan Staal. I wonder if the franchise will stay in Pittsburgh or if another North American town is going to enjoy watching this team grow up and win? (Of course, they are winning now. They sit atop the Atlantic.)

That's all the hockey for now. Perhaps, a second hockey post might emerge before the holiday season concludes. Or not.

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