Fleury pushes Penguins to top of rankings with solid play in goal to complement high-powered offense
By The Iceman Cometh
It appears that
Marc-Andre Fleury has set aside his last few playoff debacles. He has been stock solid in goal, giving this explosive offensive team a chance to win every game his plays.
That makes Pittsburgh the NHL's team to beat this season, following closely by Western Conference powerhouses
San Jose, St. Louis and
GOOD NEWS: To nobody’s surprise,
Sidney Crosby led the NHL in scoring through the first two weeks of the season.
BAD NEWS: The weeks-long absence of wing man
James Neal is complicating life for center
Evgeni Malkin. Dating back to last season, Neal scored just 10 goals over a 36-game span.
BOTTOM LINE: They will rack up lots of points scoring four goals per game.
Tomas Hertl made an early play on the Calder Trophy with an explosive goal-scoring burst.
BAD NEWS: None. Seriously.
BOTTOM LINE: The Sharks outscored opponents 24-7 in their first five games. It is hard to imagine a better start.
3 Blues 5-1-0
GOOD NEWS: They opened the season with a five-game homestand, but didn’t get too comfortable.
BAD NEWS: Coach Ken Hitchcock can’t give all of his skilled forwards the ice time they deserve. He has to juggle three combinations of power-play forwards.
BOTTOM LINE: So far, anyway, the Blues are living up to their preseason hype.
GOOD NEWS:Patrick Kane is still Patrick Kane.
BAD NEWS: Most of the other forwards suffered slow starts.
Marian Hossa and
Bryan Bickell scored just one goal between them during the first five games.
BOTTOM LINE: Once this team finds its secondary scoring, it could regain its top spot in the rankings.
GOOD NEWS: Newcomers Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson have settled into the team’s offensive flow.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender
Jimmy Howard suffered an early hand injury.
BOTTOM LINE: Despite that minor setback, these guys are having lots of fun after moving to the Eastern Conference.
6 Bruins 4-2-0 -4
GOOD NEWS: Power forward
Milan Lucic came to life in last spring’s playoffs and carried that success into this season.
BAD NEWS: The Bruins' power play needs some work.
BOTTOM LINE: Their newcomers need a bit more time to build chemistry.
7 Maple Leafs 6-2-0
GOOD NEWS: Their experience showed as they won twice in shootouts and once in overtime.
BAD NEWS: Newcomer
Matt Frattin (no goals, minus-5 rating in his first six games) has failed to provide the expected secondary scoring.
BOTTOM LINE: A tough, early schedule had them playing six of their first eight games on the road. They will be just fine.
GOOD NEWS: Apparently defenseman
P.K. Subban wants to win the Norris Trophy.
BAD NEWS: Newcomer Daniel Briere (no goals, one assist in first five games) started poorly.
BOTTOM LINE: A busy offense and an effective power play allow the Habs to sustain constant pressure on their opponents.
GOOD NEWS: The Sedin Twins seem to enjoy playing for new coach John Tortorella.
BAD NEWS:Alexander Edler’s suspension for head-hunting adds to the team’s defensive woes.
BOTTOM LINE: The Canucks split their first six games while struggling to play Tortorella’s tight-checking scheme.
GOOD NEWS: Coach Dave Tippett led his team to three early road wins, making a strong statement to the rest of the Western Conference.
BAD NEWS: Defenseman
Keith Yandle has yet to get his offensive game into gear.
BOTTOM LINE: The much-overlooked addition of goalie
Thomas Greiss takes a big load off Mike Smith’s shoulders. This team is more balanced than you think.
GOOD NEWS: After scoring just 11 goals in 46 games last season,
Brad Richards scored four times in his first five games this season.
BAD NEWS: The loss of power forward
Rick Nash (concussion) offset Richards’ surge.
BOTTOM LINE: The Rangers played tight defensive hockey under former coach John Tortorella. Under new coach Alain Vigneault, they allowed 20 goals in a three-game span.
GOOD NEWS: They converted seven of their first 12 power-play opportunities this season before cooling down.
BAD NEWS: The second line of
Mikhail Grabovski and
Troy Brouwer has yet to produce.
BOTTOM LINE: The Caps can’t afford to start poorly again this season. They no longer have an easy divisional path to the playoffs.
GOOD NEWS: Agitator
Tuomo Ruutu returned to active duty and to add some spark up front.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender
Anton Khudobin, who outplayed
Cam Ward during the first two weeks, landed in injured reserve with a leg injury.
BOTTOM LINE: The young ‘Canes defense remains prone to cave-ins. If that continues, this team won’t make the playoffs.
GOOD NEWS: Newcomers
Michael Frolik and
Devin Setoguchi help this team roll three solid offensive lines.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender
Ondrej Pavelec saw 169 shots in his first five games. The results were not good.
BOTTOM LINE: The Jets put on a good show, but their defensive play leaves much to be desired.
GOOD NEWS: Young winger
Alex Chiasson is proving that last season’s late outburst was not a fluke.
BAD NEWS: Offensive defensemen
Sergei Gonchar and
Alex Goligoski had minus-3 ratings and one assist between them after four games.
BOTTOM LINE: The Stars have played uneven hockey for new coach Lindy Ruff.
22 Blue Jackets 2-4-0 -1
GOOD NEWS:Marian Gaborik is taking his contract quest very, very seriously.
BAD NEWS: With Nathan Horton spending much of this team recovering from shoulder surgery, Gaborik doesn’t have much offensive help.
BOTTOM LINE: Goaltender
Sergei Bobrovsky gives this team staying power.
GOOD NEWS: Somehow this team won two of its first five games despite getting outscored 15-9 overall.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender
Pekka Rinne struggled early as a lot of young defensemen received on-the-job training.
BOTTOM LINE: This team has a tiny margin for error. If
Filip Forsberg doesn’t develop into an offensive threat, look out below.
25 Flyers 1-7-0 -3
GOOD NEWS: Injuries to veteran forwards
Scott Hartnell (upper body) and Vinny Lecavalier (lower body) will force new coach Craig Berube to infuse some fresh blood into the lineup.
BAD NEWS: The Flyers lost five of their first six games in convincing fashion.
BOTTOM LINE: They are slow. Their defense is suspect. Their goaltending is questionable. Firing Peter Laviolette didn’t change any of that.
GOOD NEWS:Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made a productive return from offseason shoulder surgery.
BAD NEWS: Winger
Nail Yakupov played his way into the press box with his sluggish early effort.
27 Flames 3-1-2 +2
GOOD NEWS: They somehow squeezed eight points out of their first five games.
BAD NEWS: Forward
Sean Monahan cannot continue converting 31 percent of his shots.
BOTTOM LINE: Calgary’s save percentage of .897 after five games suggested that this team is headed toward a major downturn.
GOOD NEWS: Forward
Tomas Fleischmann looked like his old self with a four-point game against the Penguins.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Tim Thomas, the team’s early-season hero, suffered a groin muscle strain.
29 Devils 0-4-3 -2
GOOD NEWS: New No. 1 goaltender
Cory Schneider hasn’t been terrible.
BAD NEWS: When Jets goaltender
Al Montoya shuts out your team, it’s official: Your offense stinks.
BOTTOM LINE: Top centers
Adam Henrique and
Travis Zajac need to elevate their play ASAP.
GOOD NEWS: Well, they have earned a point during the first two weeks of this season. So there’s that.
BAD NEWS: Just when you thought
Tyler Myers could not play any worse, he scored no points in his first seven games while earning a minus-7 rating.
BOTTOM LINE: This lifeless team is sitting back and waiting for the first sale to start. What is Darcy Regier waiting for?