Apologies for the somewhat Western-centric theme for this week’s edition of 10 Takes, but spend 10 days on Pacific Time and you can’t help but get a slightly different take on the NHL. Just ask Ottawa Senators winger Bobby Ryan, the ex-Anaheim Duck who suggests Eastern-based NHL players have it easy. Besides, the Edmonton Oilers are in town Saturday. Kick back and enjoy this week’s sampling, which includes ugly shot counts, a trade that won’t happen, a new-old suggestion to exterminate NHL rats and a where-are-they-now update.
SKY HIGH SHOT COUNTS
The Senators have been outshot in six of seven games so far, allowing an astounding average of 42 shots per game. It’s alarming. Or is it? The Senators were also a leaky boat in their own end last year, allowing 31.3 shots against, sixth-worst in the NHL. As has been the case so far this year, their salvation in 2012-13 was also their goaltending — an NHL-leading save percentage of .931. That group included the current tandem of Craig Anderson, Robin Lehner, along with Ben Bishop, who just happens to be 5-0 with Tampa Bay and ranks ninth in the NHL with a .943 save percentage.
GROWING PAINS ON DEFENCE
The Senators’ top four on defence includes Marc Methot (28), Erik Karlsson (23), Jared Cowen (22) and Patrick Wiercioch (23) and the group has experienced some rough patches early. The team couldn’t afford to keep 39-year-old Sergei Gonchar, but they miss his ability to quickly get the puck out of his own end. Gonchar was also a mainstay on the point beside Karlsson on the power play, but with Wiercioch experiencing early struggles, Chris Phillips is being given a chance in that spot.
NO-GO TRADE TALK
Lehner was outstanding in back-to-back losses to San Jose and Anaheim last weekend. The Oilers are aiming to improve their current tandem of Devan Dubynk and Jason Labarbera. Cue the mild speculation we heard about a Lehner-to-Edmonton trade. Forget about it. Lehner isn’t going anywhere. The Senators are patiently grooming him for the future. He’s also a bargain, still on his entry level contract.
TEAM WITH BITE
Tiger sharks have three layers of teeth, and the San Jose Sharks have three layers of first-class centres. Is there another team in the NHL that can match the 1-2-3 punch of Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski? Is this the best trio of pivots since the days of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal? And just think, if there are injuries, wingers Patrick Marleau and rookie Tomas Hertl could also step back into the middle.
IF FIGHTING DIES, WILL STICKWORK RISE?
That’s the concern of Senators general manager Bryan Murray, who says the no fighting mandate in NCAA hockey has created a situation where players regularly engage in ugly stick-swinging incidents, while protected by full face shields. Interestingly, though, the Senators have had only fight in seven games (Chris Neil against San Jose’s Matt Pelech). Vancouver’s Zack Kassian has one. The Senators’ Matt Kassian has none.
IS INTERNAL DISCIPLINE THE BEST?
The dirty hits are coming almost nightly now: Patrick Kaleta on Jack Johnson, Maxim Lapierre on Dan Boyle, Cody McLeod on Niklas Kronwall. Clearly, the NHL has a pest control problem they need to clean up. According to one former NHL star, a 15-year veteran who is now in the Hall of Fame, there was once an old-school solution to get rid of the rats: if a player crossed the line from clean to dirty, teammates would stop protecting him when the inevitable retaliation came. The bad habits quickly changed when forced to fight his own battles.
After a slow start to the season, former Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson has one goal and seven assists in his past four games, including a pair of three assist games. Alfredsson has eight assists, only one off the league lead before Friday’s games. And who do the Senators face after Edmonton? Oh, yeah. Detroit … ex-Senator Andre Benoit has been a big part of the surprising Colorado Avalanche defence, logging 21:54 per game, registering three assists and an impressive plus four rating.
KEEPING TRACK OF TRADES
Defenceman David Rundblad, acquired by Phoenix for Kyle Turris in December, 2011, is now a regular healthy scratch, with no points in three games before Friday … Nick Foligno, who went to Columbus in the trade for Marc Methot in July, 2012, has two points in four games and also been a healthy scratch for the past two games. Methot, meanwhile, has been Ottawa’s best defenceman through seven games … Bobby Ryan (4 goals, 3 assists) has passed Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg (4 goals, 2 assists) in the scoring race. Stefan Noesen, the other player in last summer’s blockbuster, is out for the season with MCL and ACL injuries.
The Senators opened the season with six road games? Cry me a river, say the New York Rangers, who began the season in Phoenix. By the time the Rangers open at home against Montreal on Oct. 28, nine road games will be in the books. By then, who knows what healthy players new coach Alain Vigneault will have left? The Rangers are already down captain Ryan Callahan, Rick Nash and Carl Hagelin. They’ve scored only 11 goals in their first six games.
AND MEGA MILES
Senators centre Stephane DaCosta opened the season in Los Angeles. After clearing waivers and being assigned to Binghamton of the AHL on Friday, his new weekend schedule looks like this: A three-hour drive to Syracuse for Friday night’s game, a bus ride to Binghamton to play Syracuse Saturday night, immediately followed by 3 1/2 hour bus ride to Bridgeport, Maine, for a 3 p.m. game Sunday, with a return trip back to Binghamton late Sunday. And one other small thing: His salary goes to $90,000 from $825,000.