Here’s your semi-bi-regular-weekly top five list of primarily random and unconnected observations from around the NHL.
1. Ottawa Senators forward Jason Spezza will miss up to two months after undergoing back surgery. In an ordinary NHL season, missing February and March is a pretty big deal. In this sawed off 48-game season, it’s a really fucking big deal. If Spezza is out of commission for eight weeks, starting today, he will miss 26 games. That’s 63% of Ottawa’s remaining schedule. While a 5-1-1 start certainly gave the Sens an early leg up, there are too many quality teams below them in the standings to assume that they’ll survive a midseason slowdown. And unless Mika Zibanejad can be as good as his name is fun to say, a slowdown looks close to inevitable.
**Editor’s note: While researching this portion, it came to my attention that Jason Spezza’s middle name is “Anthony Rocco.” Holy shit, that’s awesome.
2. While the Senators attempt to move forward without their best player, the Boston Bruins have to feel like kids on Christmas. Already considered the class of a somewhat weak Northeast Division, the Bruins have watched three of their divisional opponents lose three of their top players to injury. Max Pacioretty’s emergency appendectomy threw a wet blanket over Montreal’s surprisingly hot start, while an improved Toronto Maple Leafs squad lost Joffrey Lupul to a broken arm. Now, the Ottawa Senators are without the heart of their offense. Not one of those three teams has the offensive depth to survive without a top line forward for extended periods of time, and it will be the big bad Bruins who benefit.
Alliteration aside, this is great news for NBC Sports viewers. Undoubtedly, we’ll be treated to Pierre McGuire shitting his pants over the “world class” defense Dougie Hamilton plays against third liners pretending to be first liners whenever the Bruins play a divisional game on national television. Which seems to be always.
3. Moving out west, two of the more exciting teams to watch this season will clash for a second time when Edmonton travels to San Jose tonight. The Sharks laid a pretty convincing beat down on the young Oilers in Edmonton last week, scoring an almost unbelievable six goals in the game’s first 20 minutes. This is a team that led only 19 times after one period last season, so scoring goals in the opening frame wasn’t exactly San Jose’s strong suit in 2011-12.
This is a big early season test for the Oilers. Despite much hype around Edmonton’s incredible core of young talent, they were taken to school by a team that’s been a major powerhouse in the West for almost a decade. To show they’re growing into more than a team that’s tons of fun to watch on the power play, the Oilers need to rebound from that 6-3 drubbing with a solid, hard-working defensive effort. Do they have what it takes to win that type of game against a top team? Perhaps not, yet. But a 3-2 loss to the undefeated Sharks would say a lot about this Edmonton team’s growth.
4. Speaking of the San Jose Sharks, the league’s only remaining undefeated team has three players in the top-five in NHL scoring. Sure, it’s only six games in. But in 2013, six games account for 12.5% of the entire season. In other news, a confused Joe Thornton was found outside the CineArts theater at Santana Row, where he was trying to take in a matinee viewing of The Departed. When informed that the film had been out of theaters for nearly seven years, Thornton returned to his car, embarrassed, mumbling something about how he’d thought it must still be 2006.
5. File this under the category of bewildering early season shit – The Phoenix Coyotes have given up 22 goals in just seven games this season, an average of more than 3.1 goals against per game. Last year, they gave up an average of under 2.5 goals per game. Possibly the only thing more surprising than Phoenix’s porous start defensively is that they have also scored 22 goals in just seven games – good enough for fourth in the Western Conference.
A fond San Jose farewell to Frazer McLaren, who was scooped up off the waiver wire by Toronto this morning. Goodbye, Frazer. We hardly knew ya. Your name was pretty cool. Your skating was fairly mediocre. Best of luck fighting Colton Orr.