- Scott Burnside, NHL
- 0 Shares
• GOOD WEEK
Mike Comrie, New York Islanders:
Hey, look out Wayne Gretzky, here comes Comrie. The oft-maligned New York Islanders forward is on pace for a 162-goal campaign after he helped the Isles off to a 2-0 start with four goals in the team's first two games. OK, we know Comrie likely will cool off and finish up with just 100 or so goals (Ha! another first-week joke!). Still, for a franchise that took an offseason beating in the media after half its team headed for the hills, the Isles again seem to be a team that'll make opponents pay for treating them lightly. As for Comrie, he's always had a bit of a rough ride wherever he's been -- Edmonton, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Ottawa. If he keeps filling opposing nets, Comrie will get lots of love on the Island.
• BAD WEEK
Manny Fernandez, Boston Bruins:
All summer long, the Boston Bruins' faithful (those 10 or 20 deeply disturbed, if loyal, fans that remain) believed they had turned a corner with the acquisition of Manny Fernandez from the Minnesota Wild. Fernandez was going to fill the gaping hole in the franchise's nets and help turn the team around. Fernandez, who last season shared the William Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals with Minnesota teammate Niklas Backstrom, failed to win a game in preseason. Who cares, right? But then, Fernandez was torched for four goals on 18 shots in the Bruins' season-opening loss to Dallas. Boston did bounce back to beat Phoenix 3-1 on Saturday. Of course, Tim Thomas was in net. Ouch.
• STUCK IN NEUTRAL
Toronto Maple Leafs: For all the knuckle-biting and gnashing of teeth in Toronto this week, you'd think the team was 0-20 to start the season. But that's Toronto, where everyone threw a hissy fit because Toronto coach Paul Maurice wouldn't say who his starting goalie was going to be for the Leafs' opener (it was Andrew Raycroft, who looked exactly like the Andrew Raycroft the Leafs weren't happy with last season). Vesa Toskala, the top offseason addition to the team, finally played in Games 2 and 3 and got a split to give the Leafs a 1-1-1 record. It will no doubt reflect a season-long pattern that will be directly disproportionate to the amount of attention afforded the team.
2: As in two wins to start the season for the Washington Capitals. We point this out, not because we at ESPN.com picked the Caps as our dark horse -- "A Team Can Dream" -- of the season. It was because the retooled Caps appeared dominant in defeating defending Southeast Division champ Atlanta on the road and then rolled over the Carolina Hurricanes in Washington's home opener. Did we mention we picked the Caps to be a surprise playoff team this season?
-- Scott Burnside
The only thing worse than making preseason predictions based on what you think might happen is making first-week assessments based on a handful of hockey games played. But that's the nature of the beast after waiting all through preseason to see what teams and players and coaches would do when the games really counted. So, now that the games are counting, here are some conclusions (or should we call them mini-conclusions) that can be drawn.
• Guess the Ottawa Senators are over their Stanley Cup finals hangover. While the Anaheim Ducks are in trouble already (see below), the Senators quickly have established themselves as the cream of the Eastern Conference crop with two wins over Toronto and a shutout victory over the New York Rangers, the team most observers picked to unseat the Sens as the top dogs in the East. Granted, captain Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley, newly inked to a long-term deal, have seven of nine goals to prompt questions about scoring depth, but the team seems to have adjusted to new coach John Paddock without missing a beat. And the Sens are 3-0 without No. 1 netminder Ray Emery.
• Which brings us to Martin Gerber, who is 3-0 with a 1.64 goals-against average and .953 save percentage after being peddled in the press all offseason. Gee, wonder if GM Bryan Murray's phone is ringing a little more loudly these days with teams inquiring about the Swiss netminder who fell from grace last season. Bet Mr. Murray will be extremely reticent about dealing Gerber until he sees for sure that Emery has recovered from wrist surgery.
• As for the Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks, the start of their defense has been a stark departure from the start of last season when they recorded points in a record 16 straight games. After splitting games in London with Los Angeles, the Ducks lost to Detroit (shootout), lowly Columbus in the Blue Jackets' home-opener and then Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Ducks twice gave up one-goal leads against the Pens and managed just five shots in the third.
Sound like a tired team? You bet. Don't expect the Ducks to give a favorable report to the NHL when they're asked about starting the season overseas. As for changes, which GM Brian Burke promised if the team got off to a slow start, the Ducks are still without starting netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere, so it's hard to assess the goaltending picture. And the Ducks still don't have Mathieu Schneider on the back end. Still, five games in, Todd Bertuzzi has but two points while Andy McDonald has yet to score, highlighting what will be a season-long problem for the Ducks -- balanced scoring.
• Yes, it's painfully early, but the play of netminding "savior" Tomas Vokoun in Florida has been just that -- painful -- as the Panthers are off to a 0-2 start. Vokoun has allowed nine goals on 49 shots. For those keeping score at home, it translates to a 4.54 goals-against average and .816 save percentage. Perhaps those folks in Nashville who were grumbling that Chris Mason should have been the starter in the playoffs last season instead of Vokoun, who never really seemed to get his game back after a thumb injury, weren't so off the mark.
• Speaking of the lovable Preds, reports of their off-ice demise remain persistent; but, on the ice, the team has defied skeptics who thought the team would struggle after an offseason that saw top talent flee the ship. Minus Vokoun, Paul Kariya, captain Kimmo Timonen, Scottie Hartnell and Peter Forsberg from last season's squad and Steve Sullivan and Shea Weber on the injured list, the Preds have looked solid in a 2-0 start. The Preds outscored Colorado and Dallas, 9-1. So, how are they doing at the gate? A less-than-sterling crowd of 13,079 showed up Saturday to see David Legwand's hat trick seal the deal for the home side. They drew an announced crowd of 16,363 for their home opener, about 800 shy of a sellout. Guess that "Save our team" campaign has really got fans whipped into a frenzy in Nashville.
• Good to see Calgary Flames coach Mike Keenan has had an immediate impact on the Flames. Last season, Calgary was one of the most dominant teams at home in the NHL. Now, two games in, the Flames are winless at the Saddledome after giving up a late Daniel Briere goal to lose to Philadelphia in their home opener. That was followed by an overtime goal by Daniel Sedin as the Flames bowed to the Canucks. Oh well, there's always the road.
Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.
At least one Stanley Cup finalist is not experiencing a hangover, and it's not who you think.