The story in the Atlantic Division early in this new season is not the high scoring Pittsburgh Penguins or the defensively sound Devils it’s the high scoring Rangers and Islanders! Both of these teams have posted 10 goals over the first two games, granted one game was against each other, and have shown that their supporting cast can pitch in when needed. The Flyers currently hold the top spot with five points and no losses yet on the season but that’s because they are playing the way they are supposed to play.
Pittsburgh comes out of the gate with surprisingly no offensive firepower while their goaltenders are doing all they can with no support. Both Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby have only one point a piece to show for their first three games while defensemen Paul Martin and Alex Goligoski lead the team with four and three points giving them a pretty good three game average.
We all know this is a very early season slump that the Penguins will get out of and re-join the ranks of high-scoring, high-energy teams in this league. Next week we might look back and see Crosby and Malkin back atop the leaderboard where they belong.
The New Jersey Devils seem to be in the worst spot right now in this division although, like the Penguins, I don’t expect this three-game showing to be any indication of the season to come.
The $100 million dollar man, Ilya Kovalchuk, has yet to light the lamp while newly re-aquired Jason Arnott has two goals and is tied for the team lead in points with three. Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner are two other goal scorers off to a slow start who I expect will pick up the pace over the next few games.
The real issue with this team right now is one that hasn’t been an issue since I can remember; the goaltending. With a league-leading 14 goals against in three games, Marty Brodeur and Johan Hedburg have some improving to do.
Behind only three teams in the entire NHL and holding a tie with the New York Rangers for goals scored in their first two games is the seemingly fired-up New York Islanders.
The Isles are playing without their star forward John Tavares and has still managed 10 goals in their first two outings. Defensively they are far from perfect letting in an almost even nine goals in two games but the offensive output is a great sign for a team that finished at the bottom in goal scoring last season. Blake Comeau and Josh Bailey are the current team scoring leaders with four points a piece while they wait for Tavares to return. Rick DiPietro will take time to regain some sharpness lost but I fully expect to see his goals against to drop and save percentage rise over the coming weeks.
The other New York team with 10 goals in two games is the Rangers. Similarly to the Islanders, the Rangers’ goals are coming from unlikely sources while the true goal scorers await their breakout games.
Brandon Dubinsky and Derek Stepan both have three goals through two games with Stepan’s all coming in game one. Dubinsky is expected to have a good season of goal scoring and hopefully Stepan can continue his solid play over a course of 82 games as well. The combo of Marian Gaborik and Alex Frolov have yet to find the back of the net. but just like Crosby, Malkin, Kovalchuk, Parise and Langenbrunner, it’s just a matter of time.
Henrik Lundqvist has shown signs of first game jitters allowing nine goals in two games but once things settle down we’ll see King Henrik return to form.
The Flyers are off and running in this new season, unbeaten through three games and showing no signs of struggling on either offense or defense. With goaltender Michael Leighton currently out, they still manage to win games against high scoring teams.
The scorers, Jeff Carter, Danny Briere and Claude Giroux are scoring key goals, while the goaltenders, Sergei Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher, are making key saves.
The Flyers are already looking like the same team that made a run to the Cup last year. We just have to wait and see if they can continue this production throughout the 2010-11 season.