Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid off to a slow start, Montreal Canadiens’ Carey Price somehow raises the bar: Storylines from the NHL’s first week

 

 
 
 
 
Chances are Connor McDavid will find his footing and have a spectacular rookie campaign and career.
 
 

Chances are Connor McDavid will find his footing and have a spectacular rookie campaign and career.

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Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers are struggling, while Max Domi and the Arizona Coyotes are flourishing. Mike Babcock is human, Carey Price is not, and goalies seem to hate the 3-on-3 overtime.

The NHL season is a week old, but there appears to be no shortage of storylines. Here are seven things that we are talking about:

Connor McDavid is not McJesus (at least not yet)
It turns out Edmonton’s problems are bigger than an 18-year-old can fix. Who knew? Chances are McDavid will find his footing and have a spectacular rookie campaign and career. But for now, he looks a lot like Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov did in their first year: lost.

Part of this is because he is a teenager playing in a grown-up game. But the bigger part is that he is playing for an Oilers team that has a culture of losing ingrained in its players. Until that changes, nothing will actually change.

Edmonton is without a win, having lost twice to Nashville, Dallas and twice to St. Louis. The Oilers have scored five goals in four games and allowed nine goals in that span.

“It’s not going to get any easier (for McDavid),” Hall told reporters following 4-2 loss to the Blues on Thursday. “That’s the NHL, man. We’ve been losing to St. Louis for, like, five years now. We’re going to have to find a way to beat the St. Louis’ and the L.A.’s.”

There are rookies other than McDavid and Eichel
Teemu Selanne scored a record 76 goals to win the Calder Trophy in 1993. And while it is unlikely any rookie will surpass those numbers this season, the retired forward has been impressed by this year’s freshman crop, especially with those not named Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.

“What a year for NHL rookies,” he tweeted on Thursday. “Who will win the rookie of the year? My pick is the Great Tie Domi’s son Max.”

Though everyone expected McDavid (one goal and no assists in four games) and Eichel (two goals and no assists in four games) to battle it out for the Calder Trophy, so far the rookie race is more wide open than anyone could possibly imagine.

New York Rangers forward Oscar Lindberg leads all first-year players with four goals in five games, while Arizona’s Domi (two goals and to assists) and Anthony Duclair (three goals and two assists) have combined for five goals and nine points. From Chicago’s Artemi Panarin (five points) and Detroit’s Dylan Larkin (four points) to Dallas’ Mattias Janmark and Winnipeg’s Nikolaj Ehlers (three points), McDavid and Eichel clearly have company.

Are the Arizona Coyotes for real?
Put your hand up if you thought Arizona would have more wins than Pittsburgh. Anyone? Did anyone predict Vancouver would be unbeaten in regulation, while Los Angeles and Columbus would still be searching for a win?

Yes, it’s been only a week. But the first week of the season has been a strange one, for sure.

It is not surprising that Carolina and New Jersey have struggled. But to see Arizona not only defeat Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Anaheim, but also outscore those three teams 10-2 certainly is. Meanwhile, a Penguins team that added Phil Kessel in the summer has already been shut out once and managed just five goals in five games.

It is a small sample size. And yet, maybe there’s more there. After all, everyone was waiting for Calgary to come down to earth after a torrid start to last season and for Los Angeles to right the ship after a sluggish first half. But neither happened.

Carey Price’s MVP season was not a fluke
As good as the Montreal Canadiens goaltender was last season, when he won every major award he was eligible for, he is managing to raise the bar even higher.

The Canadiens are a perfect 5-0-0 and once again their goaltender is a major reason why. Price has a shutout, a ridiculous .957 save percentage and an almost unfair 1.25 goals-against average. But give his teammates credit. Montreal has only been outshot twice this season and Price has had to face more than 35 shots just once.

Still, his workload has been anything but easy or routine. Price was forced to make highlight-reel save after highlight-reel save in a 3-0 win against the Rangers on Thursday, with Montreal successfully killing five penalties.

The 3-on-3 is a “gong show” for goalies
There have been five games that went to overtime so far this season. Of those, only two have gone the distance and required a shootout to solve.

For the NHL, which predicted that 72% of games would end in the 3-on-3, it is an encouraging sign. Unless, of course, you happen to be a goaltender.

Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop called the 3-on-3 OT format a “gong show” and Calgary goaltender Jonas Hiller said “It’s kind of like an All-Star Game.” But you cannot argue with the entertainment value. Breakaways, odd-man rushes and scoring chances on nearly every puck possession has translated into the most exciting five minutes of the game.

“Definitely nerve-wracking,” Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau, who scored in a 3-on-3 overtime win against Vancouver. “With so much time and space and ice, one costly turnover or mistake and that’s the game. You’ve got to be smart out there. You have to be strategic about it, but it’s fun.”

The Jeff Blashill era in Detroit is off to a good start
Mike who?

While everyone expected Mike Babcock to revitalize a beleaguered Leafs franchise when he took over this summer, less was made about the team he was leaving after 10 years. But so far, his absence in Detroit has been minimal if not less than that.

Jeff Blashill has guided the Red Wings to a perfect 3-0-0 start, including a 4-0 win against the Leafs. Detroit has not exactly been tested — only one of the first four opponents made the playoffs last season — but with Henrik Zetterberg (seven points) tied for the scoring lead and Jimmy Howard (.977 save percentage) back to his old self, the Red Wings appear poised to extend their 24-year streak qualifying for the playoffs.

The Mike Babcock era in Toronto is off to a rocky start
Heading into Friday night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, not much had changed with the Leafs. Tyler Bozak was still the No. 1 centre, Dion Phaneuf was still the No. 1 defenceman and outscoring their opponent was still the No. 1 problem for a Toronto team that was 0-2-1.

Babcock has shown great patience and has tried to remain upbeat as the Leafs kick old habits and learn a new system, but it might take more than hiring a future Hall of Fame coach to turn this franchise around.

The immediate problem? Goaltending. Whether it is Jonathan Bernier (.865 save percentage) or James Reimer (.891 save percentage), Babcock still has not found a goalie he can trust. “I think goaltending’s the hardest position to get rolling right away,” Babcock said on Thursday. “We see a lot of good goaltenders in the league struggling right out the gate. But obviously we’re expecting them both to be real good.”

 
 
 
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Chances are Connor McDavid will find his footing and have a spectacular rookie campaign and career.
 

Chances are Connor McDavid will find his footing and have a spectacular rookie campaign and career.

 
Chances are Connor McDavid will find his footing and have a spectacular rookie campaign and career.
Put your hand up if you thought Arizona would have more wins than Pittsburgh.
Jeff Blashill has guided the Red Wings to a perfect 3-0-0 start
 
 
 
 
 
 
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