Los Angeles Kings off to best start in franchise history

As the NHL entered its third week of the season on October 23rd, the Los Angeles Kings remained the only unbeaten team in the league in regulation time. The Kings had racked up 13 points on six wins and a 4-3 overtime loss to Calgary for points in each of their first seven games. It represents the best start in the franchise’s history since entering the league in the 1967/68 campaign. The Kings also had the best goal difference in the league as well as the stingiest goals-against average. It’s just the start the club needed after missing the playoffs last year.
The failure to make the postseason cost former coach Darryl Sutter and general manager Dean Lombardi their jobs last April even though they both won a pair of Stanley Cups with the club. John Stevens was then hired to take over behind the bench while former Kings’ defenceman Rob Blake took over the reins as GM. The team’s veteran players have been at their best even though forwards Jeff Carter and Kyle Clifford are now out of the lineup for approximately six weeks due to injuries. The Kings then signed 34-year-old veteran Brooks Laich for the rest of the campaign after he attended training camp on a  professional tryout contract.
After missing a good chunk of the 2016/17 season, Jonathan Quick is playing as well as he ever has in net while current captain Anze Kopitar and former captain Dustin Brown are leading the way offensively. Kopitar, Brown, and 23-year-old rookie forward Alex Iafallo, who form the Kings’ top line, also led the team and league with their plus/minus ratings. Centre Kopitar and Brown were each a plus-11 while Iafallo was plus-nine. Kopitar and Brown also each had 11 points in their first seven games while Iafallo had three assists. To help things out, veteran defencemen Jake Muzzin and Drew Doughty had chipped in with eight and six points respectively with Doughty being a plus-six.
The 30-year-old Kopitar had six goals and five assists while the 32-year-old Brown had five goals and six assists. Neither player scored their 11th points until December 1st last season. It took Kopitar 19 games to hit the mark last year while it took Brown 24 contests. Kopitar had his worst full-season output ever last year with just 52 points on 12 goals and 40 assists and Brown scored just 36 points on 14 goals and 22 assists. In fact, Brown hasn’t scored more than 36 points since 2011/12 and he’s currently on pace for over 100 this season. Of course, he won’t be able to keep that pace up, but there’s a good chance he’ll reach the 20-goal plateau for the first time as since 2011/12.

In addition, Brown’s plus/minus stats haven’t been on the plus side since 2013/14. As far as the Kings’ goaltending goes, the 31-year-old Quick had a 1.99 goals-against average after the team’s first seven games with a 93.8 save percentage. He played just 17 games last season due to an injury in the opening week and posted a 2.26 GAA and a 91.7 save percentage. With the NHL being such a well-balanced league at the moment, the Kings will need every point they can get to make the playoffs and their best-ever start will certainly help them out down the road. 

Vegas Golden Knights off to quick start as NHL’s newest team

Several NHL teams have gotten off to quick starts in the 2017/18 NHL season, but the most surprising of all is the Las Vegas Golden Knights. This is the club’s inaugural campaign and the roster was filled earlier this year via an expansion draft. The squad basically contains numerous unknown young players with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and forward James Neal being the only ones who could be considered NHL stars. However, the Golden Knights have jumped right out of the gate with a 4-1 record after their first five games.
But as luck would have it, they’ll now be severely tested as Fleury has been placed on the team’s injured list with a concussion along with forward Jonathan Marchessault and it’s unclear how long the pair will be out of the lineup. This meant 23-year-old rookie Malcolm Subban faced the Boston Bruins at home in the Knights’ fifth game of the season on October 15tyh and promptly beat his old team 3-1. Subban had been placed on waivers by the Bruins just a week earlier and Vegas snatched him up.
With Subban joining the Golden Knights, Vegas then traded goaltender Calvin Pickard to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Swedish forward Tobias Lindberg and a sixth-round draft pick in 2018. The quick start saw the golden Knights sitting in second place in the Pacific Division on October 16th, just one point behind the Los Angeles Kings. Vegas’s only loss of the season was a 6-3 setback at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings on October 13thwith their wins coming against the Dallas Stars (2-1), the Arizona Coyotes (2-1 and 5-2) and the 3-1 triumph over the Bruins.
The 30-year-old Neal has definitely been the offensive spark plug for the Golden Knights with six of the team’s goals in his first five games, including three game winners. Nate Schmidt, Brendan Leipsic, David Perron and Luca Sbisa had also been helping out with three points each. It’s doubtful that the new Las Vegas team will be able to keep up its hot pace though, especially if Fleury is out of action for an extended period of time. Subban’s win over the Bruins was just his third NHL start and Maxime Legace has been called up from Chicago of the American Hockey League to help out in net.

Vegas fans are definitely enjoying things at the moment though as their team is off to the best start in NHL history for an expansion franchise. The team uses an aggressive forechecking approach and so far it’s paid off as they’ve been taking their opponents by surprise with their speed, hard work and scoring prowess. After the sickening shooting attack in Las Vegas recently, the club is certainly the feel-good story of the young NHL season and is gaining new fans by the day. And deservedly so. 

Red-hot Alexander Ovechkin determined to win another Rocket Richard Trophy

Russian sniper Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals has already won the Rocket Richard Trophy six times for leading the NHL in scoring and he looks determined to capture his seventh in 2017/18. The 32-year-old, who was drafted first overall by the Capitals back in 2007, has gotten off to one of the quickest starts in NHL history with seven goals in his first two games. In fact he had seven of his team’s first 11 goals on the year. Ovechkin had hat tricks in his first two outings to tie a 100-year-old NHL record set by Reg Noble, Cy Denneny and Joe Malone back in 1917.
The winger opened the campaign in Ottawa with three goals in a 5-4 shootout triumph over the Senators and then added four more in a 6-1 home win against the Montreal Canadiens in their second outing two nights later. This is an excellent start to somebody who “slumped” to 33 goals last season. What makes Ovechkin’s feat so special is the fact that he scored hat tricks in two straight periods. As he netted three goals in the final frame against Ottawa and banged in three more in the first stanza against Montreal. Ovechkin has now scored a hat trick in one period on four occasions in his illustrious career.
Ovechkin has now racked up 19 hat tricks in his career so far, which ties a Washington record set by Peter Bondra. The seven-goal outburst also gave him 565 career regular-season goals which saw him leapfrog over Mats Sundin, Guy Lafluer  Mike Modano and Joe Nieuwendyk into 22nd place on the NHL’s all-time goal scoring list. Ovechkin’s Russian linemate Evgeny Kuznetsov has certainly benefited from his winger’s scoring binge as he’s assisted on all of his first seven goals. Ovechkin reached the seven-goal mark after 11 games last season. He scored his first six this season in a span of just 12 minutes and 13 seconds of ice time.
It looks like this could be a high-scoring campaign for the entire league as there have been goals galore during the first week of 2017/18. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks each had 15 goals after their first two games while Washington had 11 and St. Louis., Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh each had nine under their belts. However, things have been leaky in the Pittsburgh end of the ice as the defending Stanley Cup champions gave up 15 goals in their first three outings. This included a humiliating 10-1 demolition at the hands of Chicago. 

Ovechkin and Kuznetsov each had seven points in their first two games to lead the league while Patrick Kane and Ryan Hartman of the Blackhawks were right behind them with six each. In another unique feat, forward Nathan Walker of the Capitals became the first Australian to play and score in NHL history as the rookie netted a goal in Washington’s 6-1 win over Montreal in his first outing. The 23-year-old Walker was born in Cardiff, Wales, but moved to Australia when he was just two years old.

NHL teams make last-second roster moves as 2017/18 season gets underway

Several NHL teams made some last-second roster moves just before the NHL season faced off on October 4th. Here’s an update on the biggest transactions. The Columbus Blue Jackets and 23-year-old restricted free-agent forward Josh Anderson finally came to an agreement on a new contract on October 2nd. Anderson signed his name to a new three-year deal which is reportedly worth a total of $5.5 million. Anderson said he didn’t want to miss any game action at the start of the season as he wants to continue to develop as a player. The 6-foot-3-inch, 221 lb Anderson played 78 games last season and racked up 29 points on 17 goals and 12 assists by basically playing as a bottom-six forward.
The Pittsburgh Penguins decided to give up on defenceman Derrick Pouliot as they shipped him off to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for fellow blueliner Andrey Pedan and a fourth-round draft pick. Pouliot was taken in the 2012 draft by Pittsburgh with the eighth-overall pick, but never fulfilled his potential to be a top-four defenceman during his three-year stint with the Penguins. The trade was a bit of a surprise considering Pouliot inked a new one-year deal with Pittsburgh in the offseason. The 23-year-old has played in just 67 regular-season games with two goals and 12 assists to his name. However, he has 20 goals and 70 points in 114 AHL contests. The 24-year-old, 6-foot-5-inch Pedan has appeared in 13 NHL games with no points, but has 29 points in 84 AHL outings.
The NHL waiver wires were active as the Colorado Avalanche claimed Swedish defenceman Patrik Nemeth from the Dallas Stars and the Vegas Golden Knight took goaltender Malcolm Subban from the Boston Bruins. The 25-year-old Nemeth was taken 41st overall in the 2010 draft by Dallas and has 14 assists in 108 regular-season NHL contests. The 23-year-old Subban was chosen 24th in the 2012 draft by Boston He’s 0-2 in the NHL with a goals-against average of 5.81 in 62 minutes of play along with a save percentage of 72.7. Subban has also played in 127 AHL games with a GAA of 2.40 and a 91.8 save percentage with a record of 56-45-14. He’s also gone 3-5 in 11 playoff games with a 2.21 GAA and 91.9 save percentage
Several veteran players who attended training camp on professional tryout contracts hit the jackpot as they earned a spot on the roster. These include forwards Scottie Upshall of the St. Louis Blues, Jimmy Hayes, of the New Jersey Devils, David Booth of the Detroit Red Wings and Tanner Glass of the Calgary Flames. It also appears defenceman Cody Franson has also made the Chicago Blackhawks and forward Alex Chiasson will stick around with the Washington Capitals. However, other players who were on tryouts weren’t as lucky, such as Teddy Purcell (Boston), Cody Goloubef (Buffalo), P. A. Parenteau (Detroit), Brandon Pirri (Florida), Brooks Laich (Los Angeles), Ryan Malone (Minnesota), Eric Gelinas (Montreal), Jay McClement (Pittsburgh) and Roman Polak (Toronto).
Both Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks and Joffrey Lupul of the Toronto Maple Leafs have been place on their club’s long-term injured reserve list after being checked out by independent doctors. The forwards were given second physicals after Lupul claimed through social media that he was healthy enough to play and the Leafs were abusing the system. Hossa will miss the 2017/18 campaign due to a severe skin condition and his $5.25-million salary won’t go against the cap. As for Lupul, he has now failed his physical for the second straight season and his $5.25-million salary also won’t go against the Leafs’ cap.

In addition, there was also a big-name signing as 20-year-old forward Jack Eichel signed an eight-year contract extension with Buffalo worth $10 million a year. Eichel has scored 48 goals and 65 assists for 113 points for the Sabres in 142 games. He was drafted second-overall in the 2015 draft by Buffalo, with Edmonton superstar Connor McDavid going first. McDavid recently signed his own eight-year deal, which was worth $100 million.