October 17, 2011
Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
Watching the Canucks pick up a sub-par win over an Oilers team playing to the best of its abilities on Saturday, any viewer on the planet would have been forgiven for thinking Edmonton was in the midst of turning in a command performance.
Never mind that the Oil led for just 7:55 total in the game, all eyes fell to the kid seen as Edmonton's saving grace even as players the caliber of Jordan Eberle(notes) and Taylor Hall(notes) failed to gain that level of recognition. It was Ryan Nugent-Hopkins(notes), the No. 1 pick last June, who had the full and fawning attention of the Hockey Night in Canada crew. And for good reason.
In just his third career game, Nugent-Hopkins earned his first NHL hat trick, scoring all three Edmonton goals with more than a little bit of help from his teammates. His first was set up by some wonderful vision from Eberle at the opposite side of the net and a bit of stubbornness, his second was a tip-in and his third a follow and slow trickler that could have been attributed to him, Hall or even Shawn Horcoff(notes).
But hey, they gave it to Nugent-Hopkins and why not? It sure as heck fit the narrative.
He was slated to be the guest on After Hours, and you could tell the HNIC folk were working overtime to come up with a slew of puns that suited how highly they rated him (maybe the worst: calling the fans "The Hop-arazzi"). Announcer Mark Lee in particular couldn't help but make googly eyes every time the puck ended up on Nugent-Hopkins' tape, and often even when it didn't.
Nugent-Hopkins dominated the in-game breaks as well, with Scott Oake asking Alex Burrows all about him and the majority of Coast to Coast between the second and third periods designated to singing his praises which, again, have been well-earned to this point.
But Coast to Coast was also where the praise officially shifted into the surreal when Ron MacLean said, "The other thing is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, two of his three goals on the backhand. Gretzky scored his first on the backhand."
(Coming Up: Mike Richards(notes) tweaks the media; Brian McGrattan(notes) and Cam Janssen(notes) in an anti-climax; good news/bad news for Bruins; Oilers arena update; Stars' attendance woes; Malkin injured; the Jackets have no secondary; Duncan Keith(notes), ace analyst; Rinaldo steamrolls Doughty; the Nabokov era meets the Tavares domination; Hurricanes feeling special; beautiful goals by Filatov and Kessel; an interesting, ahem, Ryan Kesler(notes) trade proposal; NHL scheduling goof; and how many Jets fans invaded Glendale?)
This led into a clip of Gretzky, then with the Kings, breaking the league's all-time points record, coincidentally against the Oilers. That happened 22 years ago to the night, and it didn't take much to connect the dots.
No one is saying Nugent-Hopkins will grow into the next Gretzky (I hope), but he's certainly being couched as the Oilers' savior, the player who will one day lead them to the promised land with a cadre of lesser but highly-talented players at his back, riding on a tidal wave of hype. And the backlash has already begun.
It's pretty easy to see three games and four goals into his career, people are already sick of the dreamy way media types are talking up his abundant talents. It's not tough to envision that Mark Lee's game notes were just pictures of Nugent-Hopkins glued on pink construction paper with little hearts to dot the 'I's.'
And given a performance like Saturday's, it's also not tough to see that continuing for every Oilers game on Hockey Night in Canada until the end of time.
So no, Nugent-Hopkins isn't the next Gretzky. But he is the next Sidney Crosby(notes). People are just going to spend their time yakking about how great he is until every fan in the league hates him, no matter how good he is.
Fortunately for the Oilers, he's going to be very, very good.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks sure aren't scoring a lot of goals. They have just two in their last two games, but both of them were wins. First time in franchise history that's ever happened. Meanwhile, Jonas Hiller(notes) has stopped 45 of the last 46 shots he's faced because he's unbelievable.
Boston Bruins: Good news everyone, the Bruins are getting back on track thanks to their 3-2 shootout win in Chicago. Big problems still loom though: They scored on their first power play opportunity of the season and are 0-for-20 since, and they still have just 10 goals in their first five games.
Calgary Flames: The Flames may stink, and still be given to blowing leads and playing dismal second-period hockey, but hey, at least they have six in a row at home coming up. Those games are against the Oilers, Rangers, Predators, Avalanche, Blues and Canucks. How many of those you think they win? Two?
Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes are putting together a pretty solid run special teams units, as they're 11 for their last 11 on the PK, scored two goals both shorthanded and on the power play in their last two games. Both of them were wins, and that's not a coincidence.
Chicago Blackhawks: Duncan Keith was to blame on Nathan Horton's(notes) game-tying goal in the third period. Care to break that one down, Duncan? "I guess he was open. He shot and scored. What do you want me to say?" Future TV analyst for sure.
Colorado Avalanche: Don't look now, but the Avs have won four straight. All of them on the road. And yeah sure, two of them were against the stumbling Blue Jackets and destined-for-30th Senators, but the other two were against the Bruins and Canadiens. So that's something.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Vinny Prospal(notes) and Rick Nash(notes) have five points each in as many games. Jeff Carter(notes) has three. Want secondary scoring? Look elsewhere. The Blue Jackets' next leading scorer after their top line is Grant Clitsome(notes). Explains the hell outta why they only have one point to start the year, eh?
Detroit Red Wings Presented by Amway: Fabian Brunnstrom(notes) was a healthy scratch on Saturday but Mike Babcock thinks he'll eventually be in competition for a top-six spot. Hard to figure out what's the most troubling part of that last part.
Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers' new arena deal is moving forward because owner Darryl Katz nixed his demand that the current operators of Rexall Place sign a no-compete clause before construction begins on the new rink. Now Edmonton can host both a Toby Keith and Miley Cyrus concert on THE SAME NIGHT! The people of Edmonton are the luckiest people on Earth.
Florida Panthers: How about a hand for Jose Theodore(notes), who's been excellent so far this season? He's got a 1.93 GAA and a .930 save percentage. No way he keeps it up or even anything close, but so far so good, and the Panthers have five points from four games as a result.
Los Angeles Kings: Scale of 1-10, how much do you think Mike Richards loved setting up the overtime game-winner in Philly? Well not so much, he would have you believe: "…for me it was another game in a road arena." But the first part of the quote is more telling: "I think from a media standpoint you try to blow things up a little more than it is." Stew on that, media nerds.
Nashville Predators: This fight between Brian McGrattan and Cam Janssen was as anti-climactic as the end of the extended edition of "Return of the King."
New Jersey Devils: The Devils are making a habit of comeback wins, and Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) and Zach Parise(notes) are usually the reason for it. Both have registered successful shootout attempts in the last two games.
New York Islanders: Evgeni Nabokov(notes) got his first start for the Isles and stopped 29 of 31. "It was a boost to play in front of a packed house," Nabokov said. I wouldn't get used to that if I were you.
Ottawa Senators: One of the few enjoyable aspects of watching Senators games these days is that Erik Karlsson(notes) is regularly a joy to watch. Which is pretty cool. So, how much will they have to pay him this summer when he's a free agent?
Phoenix Coyotes: Very different accounts of the Coyotes' opening night in Glendale: The sellout crowd was either "10 to 15 percent" Winnipeg fans, or they were able to "take over" Jobing.com Arena, depending on who you ask.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Still no Evgeni Malkin(notes) for the Penguins in their Saturday loss. Three games he's missed. Remember, the soreness he's experiencing in the knee he had operated on over the summer is in no way related to his knee surgery over the summer.
St. Louis Blues: The Blues scored three in the third period Saturday to beat the Sharks 4-2. Those three goals were on just eight shots, and the Blues had just 20 all night. Not a good performance for Thomas Greiss(notes).
Tampa Bay Lightning: So do the Bolts give Brett Connolly(notes) a full season in the NHL or send him back to juniors? He might only have one point through five games, but he's making their decision awful tough.
Washington Capitals: Yeah so the Capitals haven't lost yet this season, but even they realize they've played pretty damn poorly. But hey, if you play like garbage and win your first four games, imagine how good it's gonna be when you get it all together.
Gold Star Award
Minus of the Weekend
The NHL scheduled 14 games for Saturday. All but three of them started between 7 and 8 p.m. Try spreading them throughout the day to make it fun for fans who like hockey.
Play of the Weekend
That was part of a hat trick, by the way.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User "Stamshot" says he "just wanted some thoughts."
Anyone care to guess what the thoughts were?
We're not going to give them oil prices. We'll give them quail prices.