What We Learned: When underdogs attack, logic loses

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.

So I went to NHL.com yesterday to have a look at the conference standings. Why? I'm not entirely sure, since they don't even matter a little bit. Perhaps it's because they don't matter at all right now that they're so completely ridiculous.

The top of the Eastern Conference is, I guess, only a little surprising. The Rangers, after all, got off to a hot start last year and they've won seven on the trot. I think the real surprising thing is that they've averaged four goals a game and allowed less than two doing it. But at the same time, they're tied with a very good Penguins team for the NHL, conference and divisional lead, so that's not totally horrifying.

But then look at the rest of the East. Ottawa leading the Northeast, the Sabres and Thrashers with one regulation loss each, the Bruins sub-.500? The Devils are 4-3-0 despite allowing more goals than they've scored. I don't even know what to make of it.

I've watched a few Thrashers games this year and haven't been struck by how terrible they are. It's like 'up' suddenly became 'down' because they drafted Evander Kane(notes).

The Buffalo Sabres playing comprehensive defense that's anchored by Craig Rivet(notes) and Chris Butler(notes)? It defies logic.

The West is just a disaster. The Avalanche and Coyotes lead their division, and are on pace for 133 and 113 points, respectively. Normally you'd call that a fluke and normally you'd be right, but these teams look unstoppable doing it. Look at the stats on Craig Anderson(notes): 2.09/.935. Nine thirty-five! With the Avs!

But these Coyotes, man. They're a machine gun emplacement and they're just waiting for teams to poke their heads out of a foxhole.

(Coming Up: Vintage Afinogenov; as Staal goes, so go the Hurricanes; Duchene stays; Huet apologizes; Vinny and Marty reunite; the magic of Tippett; a silly Blues/Oilers trade; Havlat INJURED?!?; and who throws hats on the ice after a shootout goal?)

So far this season, the Coyotes have played the Sharks, Bruins and Penguins, and come out with three wins because they allowed one goal total. Against literally the best two teams in the league last year and the Stanley Cup champions (for the record, they beat the Sharks 1-0 in a shootout, shut out the Penguins 3-0, and settled for a dominant 4-1 victory against the Bruins Saturday). The scariest part is that they've allowed more than two goals just once, and that was on opening night.

Of course, there's still only like 14 people who care about any of this -- all of whom, I assume, are related to players in some way -- so I still don't buy that whole "Glendale deserves this team" argument, because clearly they don't.

Meanwhile, Anaheim and Detroit are on seven points from as many games, and Vancouver, widely picked to win the Northwest, has just six. It sure is swell to look down and see those three teams in the same situation as the Wild and Predators, even if it's only for the next two weeks or something like that.

But just to show that there's some rationality left in the world, the Leafs (who, by the way, have held like six minutes' worth of lead so far this season) and Islanders have four points between them, and neither has a win yet. It's the little things like this that reassure us everything's going to work out a-OK.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Poor, tiny Andrew Ebbett(notes). Placed on waivers by the Ducks because he had a bad camp, the Ducks are stocked at center, and he's too small to move to the wing. I guess he'll just have to console himself with being on probably the best team in the West.

Atlanta Thrashers: Maxim Afinogenov(notes) made the most of his return to Buffalo Saturday night (even though the majority of the fans booed him for some reason), scoring his first of the year. And by the way, it was vintage Max. Play of the Weekend for sure. And by the way, Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) has seven goals in five games? Yeesh.

Boston Bruins: Milan Lucic(notes) didn't play in Saturday's loss to Phoenix because he has a broken finger and now he's on long-term IR. On the other hand, they just got a whole lot meaner, trading Chuck Kobasew(notes) to Minnesota for a second-round pick in 2011, Craig Weller(notes) and Harvard freshman Alex Fallstrom. Weller, of course, is a bad dude.

Buffalo Sabres: The only thing that killed Buffalo on Saturday, apart from Kovalchuk's two goals in 9:48, was a lack of effort in the first period. Through that first 9:48, Atlanta had a 12-1 edge in shots, but Buffalo ended up outshooting them 42-27 on the night. If I'm doing my math correctly, that means they held Atlanta to 15 shots over the last 50ish minutes, poured 41 on goal, and still lost 4-2. That's not a game you deserve to win.

Calgary Flames: Before I type this next sentence, I want to assure you that I am not on any type of drugs. Okay, here goes: Brian McGrattan(notes) was the best player on the ice for Calgary on Friday. I could be wrong here, but I believe that's the first Gordie Howe hat trick of the season. By Brian McGrattan. Really.

Carolina Hurricanes: Hurricanes in "Not winning when Eric Staal can't score" shocker. Their offense is tied for 28th in the league. With Toronto. Staal has two goals and no assists in seven games so far this season.

Chicago Blackhawks: The headline reads, "Huet: 'I feel like I let the team down.'" Now, which game is he talking about? The one where he gave up three goals on 24 shots, the one where he gave up three goals on 23 shots, the one where he gave up three goals on 19 shots, the one where he gave up three goals on five shots, or the one where he gave up four goals on 25 shots? Take your time with this one.

Colorado Avalanche: Not a bad night for Matt Duchene(notes), eh? First NHL goal, Avs beat the Red Wings and you get a picture with Gordie Howe. That's one he'll be telling his grandkids about. And now they're keeping him up for the season too.

Columbus Blue Jackets: The parade of extensions continues in Columbus as Kris Russell(notes) signs for three years, $3.9 million.

Dallas Stars: What to make of this apparent goalie controversy in Dallas? Well, since Marc Crawford has made it clear that Marty Turco(notes) and Alex Auld(notes) will continue to split time about 70-30 despite Auld playing just as well as Turco of late, I guess what you can take away is that Turco has some dirt on Crawford.

Detroit Red Wings: You know you're rolling an old line when Tomas Holmstrom(notes) is the youngest guy on it. And hey, they do have two goals together (though none on Saturday), so why not, right?

Edmonton Oilers: More unlikely scenario: The Oilers keep winning, as they have in three of their last four, despite playing really badly, or Dustin Penner(notes) continues on a pace for 59-47-106?

Florida Panthers: Tomas Vokoun's(notes) new mask is pretty awesome.

Los Angeles Kings: Terry Murray has some big changes planned if the Kings, and particularly Alex Frolov, keep playing as badly has they have. Not "big" as in "someone's getting traded for Evgeni Malkin(notes)," but "big" as in "someone good's gonna be eating popcorn in the press box if they keep playing like garbage."

Minnesota Wild: Guys, you're not going to believe this but Martin Havlat(notes) has now missed the last two games with, you guessed it, a groin injury. Not that they were doing anything but losing even when he was in the lineup, but at least then they were averaging more than a goal and a half per game. Russo says the team hopes to have both him and Petr Sykora(notes) back for Wednesday ... but c'mon, it's Martin Havlat's groin we're talking about here.

Montreal Canadiens: Canadiens fans might be able to keep telling themselves that this could become a playoff-caliber team in the East, but they're not even close to being one yet and, as Mike Boone points out, each loss makes the road back that much tougher.

Nashville Predators: You know you're in a bit of a goal-scoring slump when your team is actually happy to score twice in a 3-2 shootout loss. It was just the second time this season that the Preds scored twice in a game, which is insane. They have NINE goals this season, or the same amount as Alex Ovechkin(notes) has by himself.

New Jersey Devils: The key to the Devils' success, it seems, is Andy Greene(notes). The Devs are 4-0 and have allowed just seven goals when he's in the lineup. But when he's not, they're 0-3 and allowed 12.

New York Islanders: Here's a surprise -- Some cities actually want the Islanders. Locations potentially making pitches include two spots on Long Island and another Brooklyn. But the article also dismisses every other city that has been discussed (Kansas City, Quebec City, Hamilton, etc.) as wanting an expansion team, which I don't think I buy. Especially the part about Hamilton.

New York Rangers: Michael Del Zotto(notes) had to shell out a whole bunch of loonies for Saturday's game against Toronto. He had over 70 friends and family members in the building to see the Rangers bludgeon the Leafs. At least that goal he scored made the trip worth it.

Ottawa Senators: You'd think the Canadiens would know that you can't let Alex Kovalev(notes) have this much space.

Philadelphia Flyers: They may not be in terrible shape through their first half-dozen games, and certainly 3-2-1 is better through six than they were last year, but the Flyers still don't seem like the team they were at the end of last season. Simon Gagne(notes) still without a goal, Scott Hartnell(notes) and Danny Briere(notes) not carrying the water. It's almost as if they've identified the offense as a problem.

Phoenix Coyotes: The city of Glendale has spent $2.1 million in the last year to help keep the Coyotes in Arizona. Since the city slashed budgets across the board to apparently spend that much, some citizens aren't very happy about that.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Martin Skoula(notes) is going to have to wait for someone to get hurt to get a game. He hasn't played in any of the Pens' first eight.

San Jose Sharks: Derek Joslin(notes) is getting some mileage this week. He was called up Thursday, played Thursday and Saturday, was sent down Sunday to get a game in Worcester, and will probably get called up again today for the Sharks' game with the Rangers.

St. Louis Blues: Erik Johnson(notes) got creative in picking up an assist on Andy McDonald's(notes) first goal against Anaheim on Saturday. "I don't know if you'll believe me," he said, "but I saw the reflection of a white jersey in the glass. I figured we were in white, so just kind of a lucky break."

Heads up hockey right there.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Good news for fantasy players who blew an early pick on Vinny Lecavalier: he and Marty St. Louis are on the same line again. Bad news for any idiots (like me) that dropped a mid-round pick on Alex Tanguay(notes): he's been dropped to the third line with Drew Miller(notes) and Jeff Halpern(notes). Great.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Always wanted to get to a game at the ACC and couldn't afford it? Don't mind seeing a woebegone team bumble its way through 60 minutes and lose badly? Well you should find the current price of Maple Leafs tickets to be perfectly suitable.

Vancouver Canucks: The beleaguered troops are going to have to wait at least a few more days for reinforcements. With five players currently on the IR or long-term IR, the Canucks could use the help. Sami Salo(notes) (obviously), Pavol Demitra(notes), Daniel Sedin(notes), Jannik Hansen(notes) and Mathieu Schneider(notes) are all out at least until the end of the week per NHL rules, though Schneider is apparently the closest to returning. All Don Cherry and I see here: soft Europeans and French-Canadians dogging it.

Washington Capitals: What kind of an idiot throws hats on the ice after a shootout goal quote-unquote completes a hat trick?

Nice goal though, eh?

Play of the Weekend

Like I said before, there's no way this doesn't go to Max Afinogenov.


Gold Star Award

It's Dave Tippet. He's got those Coyotes looking like world-beaters. They've been fun to watch.

Minus of the Weekend

For the second time already this season, there wasn't one game scheduled yesterday. What am I supposed to do, watch football like some kind of idiot? How does the NHL allow this to happen?

Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week

Say, St. Louis, user "darenshan54" would like to know how you'd feel about getting rid of a franchise defenseman named Erik Johnson:

What would it take? I really like this guy... he is 6-4 222 lbs and only 22 . Would Souray + Cogliano + 1st 2010 do it? Since it is also a salary dump the i added the 1strounder. Great future dman <----> Good dman (when healthy), High end prospect, 1st rounder

You cool with that?


Big Gulps, huh? Alright. Welp, see ya later.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness pretty much every day over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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