Beyond the injury factor, there were also a lot of good NHL goaltenders who had some bad nights to start the season. Prior to the start of play Thursday, a who’s who of the league’s top goaltenders, including the reigning Vezina Trophy winner (Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers), Conn Smythe trophy winner Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings, and former Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes’ Cam Ward all had goals-against averages over 4.00. The Nashville Predators’ Pekka Rinne (0-1-2) was still looking for his first win, as was the Calgary Flames’ Miikka Kiprusoff.
Eventually, they’ll get their acts together and actually Quick was excellent in Thursday night’s 2-1 controversial weirdly officiated overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
Figure on seeing Quick’s peers hit their strides soon as well. The Vancouver Canucks’ Cory Schneider was a much better in his second start than in his first. Kiprusoff was better in his third than in the first two.
The need to rush to judgment after so few games are played never makes a lot of sense – and the need to rush to judgment in a season without a proper training camp or exhibitions makes even less sense. The cream generally rises to the top; it is just take a little longer some years than others. In the meantime, may as well enjoy some of the quirky and disjointed action. It probably isn’t going to last.
BACK IN TIME : As soon as they learned the NHL was committed to playing a shortened schedule, the San Jose Sharks broke down the records at the 48-game point of the last two seasons to see how it all shook out.
“Last year, there was a 12-point difference from one-to-eight,” explained coach Todd McLellan. “The two or three teams that weren’t in the playoffs were only a point or two out. So everybody stayed in it. The opportunity to stretch out the lead isn’t as great.
“I believe L.A. had 10 points in overtimes and shootouts, which made a significant difference, because the two teams that didn’t make it below them only had two – so we’re aware that that may come into play.
“But it’s hard to do studies. The last time a true 48-game schedule was played, the game was completely different. The set of rules were different. Goaltenders look a lot different than they did then – and I think Larry Robinson (now a Sharks’ assistant) was still playing then. It’s been that long ago.”
The Sharks were spectators on opening night of the season, but according to Thornton, the players watched the action on TV the same way they would in the playoffs. Normally, hockey players don’t pay that close attention to what the opposition is doing on an off night early in the season. Thornton called the experience “kind of weird. You kind of felt you were in the post-season already, everybody just watching games. It’s kind of a weird feeling, being so late in the season and everybody, sitting all around, watching the same game. It’s kind of neat and exciting.”
AROUND THE RINKS: Ryan O’Reilly’s contract impasse with the Colorado Avalanche has meant Matt Duchene, who spent a lot of last season playing the wing on a line with Paul Stastny, is back playing his natural position, centre, again – and making the most of the opportunity. Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and P.A. Parenteau look as if they could be one of the Western Conference’s most exciting lines – and a unit that can freewheel and play with grit at the same time ...Now that the Edmonton Oilers’ arena deal is complete, you can be sure the Calgary Flames will be next in line, trying to attract government support for a deal building to replace the Scotiabank Saddledome. Whatever government subsidies land in the Oilers’ laps, the Flames will want something comparable ...Reality TV news: Bates Battaglia, the much-travelled NHLer who finished his playing career with the CHL’s Tulsa Oilers in 2010-11, is in the cast of the reality-TV show The Amazing Race, along with his brother Anthony. Just 37, Battaglia played 580 NHL games altogether, including 95 with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but his finest NHL moments came in the 2002 Stanley Cup playoffs when he scored 14 points in 23 games for that year’s finalists, the Carolina Hurricanes ... While the Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford seems well on his way to put last year’s difficult season behind him, the same cannot be said for Steve Mason in Columbus, a former Calder Trophy winner who has struggled ever since his excellent NHL debut. Given a chance to play two nights ago when coach Todd Richards wanted to give Sergei Bobrovsky a night off in advance of back-to-back games, Mason surrendered five goals to the Phoenix Coyotes, including a hat trick to Steve Sullivan ....Sullivan, incidentally, ended up in Phoenix last summer as part of the revolving carousel of veteran players who changed teams. The Coyotes needed additional scoring after 40-year-old Ray Whitney left to join the Dallas Stars and so settled on the 38-year-old Sullivan, who missed almost two full seasons (between February of 2007 and January of 2009) recovering from a serious back injury that was thought to be career-threating. Sullivan is now just 25 games away from reaching 1,000 for his NHL career and still finding the back of the net.