Quarter Life Crisis
Last night, at the conclusion of the Minnesota-Montreal game, 25 percent of the Conference III schedule was complete (yes, I did the math).
This is a traditional time of examination for NHL teams and with just one game on the Conference III slate tonight, the schedule affords a good place to take a breather and see what’s happened through the season’s first quarter.
Thanks to everyone who commented and emailed.
Performer of the Quarter
Raise your hand if you predicted the St. Louis Blues’ Alexander Steen to be tied for the league lead in points (26, tied with John Tavares) and goals (17, tied with Alexander Ovechkin).
OK, now put your hand down because you are a dirty awful liar with no integrity.
Sure, Steen is riding the percentages a bit — shooting a preposterous 23-someodd percent — but he’s doing it and doing it and doing it well.
In addition, Steen has four game winners — tied with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry for the league lead — including this one against the Blackhawks with 20 seconds remaining October 9:
Other top performers (alphabetically by team)
Chicago: Patrick Kane (11G-11A), Duncan Keith (15 assists), Niklas Hjalmarsson (57.5% Fenwick at evens, despite only starting in the offensive zone only 29 percent of the time)
Colorado: Matt Duchene (12G-8A), J-S Giguere (5-0-0, 1.73, .947, two shutouts), Semyon Varlamov (10-5-0, 2.19, .931)
Dallas: Tyler Seguin (12G-11A), Jamie Benn (7G-16A)
Minnesota: Ryan Suter (29:29 average TOI, 14A), Zach Parise (10G-8A), Jason Pominville (12G), Josh Harding (12-3-2, 1.38, .941)
Nashville: David Legwand (4G-14A), Patric Hornqvist (6G, 67 shots — a top 30 mark in the NHL, which factoring in the Nashville adjustment puts him off the chart), Seth Jones (24:00 average TOI as a 19-year-old, American)
St. Louis: T.J. Oshie (15A), Jay Bouwmeester (15A), Vlad Sobotka (60.6% Fenwick with fairly even deployment stats)
Winnipeg: Your New Favorite Player Bryan Little (12G-9A despite no one having ever actually heard of him), Dustin Byfuglien (5G-12A, toughest minutes for Jets d-man by QoC)
While the aforementioned Messrs. Steen, Harding and Little are certainly surprising, no one saw the Avs off to a 15-5-0 start. In fact, a lot of dumbos had them penciled into the lottery.
With a new coach and front office — which got on their troll game early and then kept it up in the early going of the season —folks in Denver are having memories of 1996 and 2001. Now, maybe that’s a bit ambitious, but with pundits having speculated the Avs were still a few years and a few pieces away, who can blame then?
Duchene has emerged as a true star, the play of Jan Hejda has been pleasant and the goalie tandem has, on occasion, been Royesque.
Now, sure, the naysayers will neigh that the Avs are PDOing an adult-contemporary station out of Grand Junction. Neigh away, because this is an award for what they have done, not for what they should do.
Please enjoy this Patrick Roy GIF once again:
The BrIIIiancy Prizes
In chess, Brilliancy Prizes are awarded for especially beautiful play. At major tournaments, they are awarded not necessarily to the champion thereof, but to the player or players who generated the most interesting or aesthetically pleasing game. We mentioned one such case earlier this season.
We’ll award BrIIIiancy Prizes for each quarter of the season.
Game Of The Quarter
The first BrIIIiancy Prize goes to the Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators for their beautiful 6-4 game Nov. 6 in Denver, won by Nashville.
The Predators never trailed, but there were three ties, the latest coming when Duchene wristed one to knot it at four about four minutes into the third, his only goal in a three-point night. The Preds took the lead for good when Colin Wilson scored his second goal and fourth point three minutes later to put the Preds up for good.
There was no silliness — no fights, though Erik Johnson was given a 10-minute misconduct for throwing a broken stick in the stands, the only time I for one have ever seen that called — as some times happens in these barnburner games, but plenty of pleasing and pleasant play.
Honorable Mentions: St. Louis 7, Colorado 3 (Nov. 14); Winnipeg 4, Detroit 2 (Nov. 4); Chicago 5, San Jose 1 (Nov. 17), St. Louis 3, Chicago 2 (Oct. 9); St. Louis 2, Penguins 1 (Nov. 9); Nashville 7, Chicago 2 (Nov. 16)
So, what’s the next quarter have in store? A lot less trips to the Stupid Ugly Dumb Metro, thank God. Can the Avs keep it up? Can Steen? How long will Pekka Rinne be Rinne The Poo? Will the Benn-Seguin chemistry force me into calling them Walter & Jesse? How long will Claude Noel last? Will Ryan Suter’s minutes tail off as the Olympics approach? Can Chicago hold off the pursuers?
All this and more…