According to reports, Zach Parise first injured his knee while skating over the summer, but toughed it out through the Devils abysmal 3-9-1 start. He appeared to exacerbate the issue on Saturday in a collision with Kings’ forward Kyle Clifford.
On Tuesday the bad news for the Devils continued as it was announced that Parise would be out for three months.
This is absolutely awful news for the Devils, who are off to one of their worst starts in franchise history. In the news for all the wrong reasons before the puck even dropped to kick off the 2010-11 campaign (with Ilya Kovalchuk to thank for that), New Jersey sputtered out of the gate, and their seven points put them in dead last in the NHL. With the loss of Parise, things are only going to get worse.
Make no mistake, Parise is as complete a winger as you’re going to find in the NHL. You’d have to look long and hard to find a player with a higher compete level, and his skillset is pretty good too, as evidenced by his 83 goals and 176 points over the last two seasons. He’s a leader in the Devils locker room, which can’t be stated enough considering the Devils’ slow start.
Can New Jersey rebound? Of course, as no one player really makes or breaks a team in this league anymore. They still have a lot of talent up front with Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac, and Patrik Elias, and with the incomparable Martin Brodeur between the pipes, they should be able to compete in every game. Still, the road ahead just got a whole lot tougher for the Devils, who will have to dig deep if they want to be playing for Lord Stanley’s Cup next June.
Tim Thomas NHL’s True Star in October
The NHL named its’ “Three Stars” for the month of October this past week, with Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos beating out Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas and Avalanche forward Chris Stewart for top honors. With all due respect to the Blond Bullet down in Florida (who is quickly positioning himself into the Crosby/Ovechkin/Malkin echelon with his incredible play), there was no player in the league more dominant than Thomas over the season’s first month.
The 2008 Vezina trophy winner as the league’s top backstop, Thomas was viewed as a certifiable afterthought coming in to Boston’s 2010-11 campaign. Tuukka Rask cemented himself as a top flight netminder at the young age of 23 last year, and most figured the young Finn would have the Bruins crease on lock in 2010-11. Turns out, Thomas had other ideas.
The 36 year old one-time journeyman has been otherworldly thus far, setting both team and NHL records in the season’s first month. His 0.50 GAA is the lowest over the first six games by any starting goaltender since the expansion era. His 6-0-0 record is tied with Tiny Thompson for the best start in club history. Did I mention Thompson was manning the nets during the Great Depression?
With a 6-2-0 record through the first eight games of the season, the Bruins appear to be one of the NHL’s top clubs. With Thomas playing out of his mind and Rask waiting in the wings, the Black and Gold should have no problem keeping pucks out of their net for the remainder of the year. If they can continue scoring at a decent pace (a problem last year, which is why Boston barely snuck into the playoffs a season after finishing first in the conference), playoff hockey on Causeway Street should be a given in 2011.
The Fab Five
1. Boston Bruins (6-2-0) (LW: NR) – With 14 games in their next 26 days, things should get interesting for the B’s, who have played the fewest amount of games in the NHL.
2. St. Louis Blues (6-1-2) (LW: NR) – Tied with LA for the second best goal differential in the NHL (+9) behind Boston, it appears the Blues are for real, at least early on. The Blues are loaded at every position, and look poised to join the ranks of the NHL’s elite teams.
3. Los Angeles Kings (8-3-0) (LW: NR) – Speaking of young talent, is there any team in the NHL more loaded for the future than the Kings? They have stars at every position, and with Drew Doughty returning from injury this week, they’re only getting better.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning (7-2-1) (LW: NR) – Led by the previously-mentioned Stamkos, things are looking good down in the Sunshine State for the Lightning. Martin St. Louis continues to be as dynamic as ever with 5-7-12 totals through 10 games, but the Lightning would love to see former first overall pick Vincent Lecavalier (3-2-5) return to form and add some additional firepower.
5. Washington Capitals (7-4-0) (LW: NR) - One of the NHL’s most dynamic clubs offensively, it seems as though the Caps have finally found it’s answer between the pipes. With rookie Michael Neuvirth (October’s Rookie of the Month) off to a wonderful start and Alex Ovechkin still doing his thing, the Capitals continue to be the game’s most exciting club to watch.
Studs & Duds
Normally, I’ll be taking a look at the hottest players of the week in this spot. With this being the inaugural Reid at the Rink column however, I’m going to base my picks on the season thus far.
Stud - Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning – I’m sure you’re asking yourself, how can I name Stamkos as my Stud for the season thus far, when I argued Thomas was more deserving of the first spot for October’s Stars of the Month? In all seriousness, what Stamkos is doing right now is incredibly impressive, and deserves notice. With nine goals and ten assists through ten games, the superstar center is on pace for an astounding 162 points. History tells us that’s probably not going to happen, but I’d wager Stamkos to be the odds-on favorite to win the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP come awards season.
Dud – Tyler Myers, Buffalo Sabres – Speaking of young stars, what’s going on with Tyler Myers up in Buffalo? Last years Calder Trophy winner as the NHL’s top rookie, Myers is off to an abysmal start, sporting a -10 plus/minus (tied for second worst in the NHL) to go along with a less than stellar 1-3-4 line through 12 games. What’s worse, the Sabres are just 3-7-2 on the year, dwelling in the Northeast division basement. I have zero doubts that the 6-foot-8, uber-talented defenseman will turn things around and fast, but thus far he hasn’t come close to those expectations.
Looking Ahead (11/3 – 11/10)
Thursday, 11/4 – San Jose @ St. Louis – The Sharks aren’t off to the start we’ve grown accustomed to from them this season, but they’re by no means struggling, either. With Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley off to excellent starts, this one should be a fun tilt between two very talented clubs. The pick: Sharks, 4-3.
Thursday, 11/4 – Tampa Bay @ Los Angeles – Stamkos taking on Doughty? Yes please. The pick: Kings, 3-1.
Friday, 11/5 – Boston @ Washington – The Bruins and Capitals have been building a little inter-division rivalry as of late, and this one could get interesting given how both clubs have played. The pick: Bruins, 5-4.
Saturday, 11/6 – Detroit @ Vancouver – There’s a good chance this could be a precursor to a playoff series, as both these clubs are off to strong starts and have the horses to make a deep run this season. The pick: Canucks, 3-2.
Random news and notes, pop culture tidbits, and videos from around the league.
As I finish up my first column, I’d like to leave you with Sidney Crosby’s newest commercial, as he shills for Dempster’s Bread in a hilariously awkward spot which I stumbled upon earlier today. As much as I love hockey, it’s things like this which showcase why the game is such a niche sport, and its’ biggest stars just aren’t as marketable as those from other sports.
Can you picture Lebron James hawking bread? How about Peyton Manning? Yeah, me neither. Enjoy.
Reid at the Rink is a weekly hockey column, published on Wednesdays. You can follow Reid Jackson on Twitter @reidjjackson.