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Rosen's mailbag - Oct. 21, 2015

by Dan Rosen

Here is the Oct. 21 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday in the Over the Boards blog during the 2015-16 NHL season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

Let's get to it:

What is the most noticeable change about the Montreal Canadiens thus far? -- @Zack_THW

How they're doing a better job stopping the opposition from generating shot quantity and shot quality. Of course, I say that knowing they allowed 38 shots on goal to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday and still won 3-0. That's Carey Price. He's that good. He needs to be because the Canadiens are far from perfect, even though their 7-0-0 record suggests they are.

However, entering their game Tuesday, the Canadiens were allowing 26.5 shots on goal per game, which was seventh in the NHL. They allowed 30.1 shots on goal per game last season, which was 21st. They were allowing 38 total shot attempts at even strength (5-on-5 SAT) per game after giving up 45.9 SAT per game last season.

The difference in shot attempts and shots on goal against is the difference in Montreal contributing more to help out Price, who is again off to an all-world start. Price proved last season that he doesn't necessarily need the help, but he won't turn it down either. The Canadiens are simply controlling the game better and it's leading to strong results.

Will the Anaheim Ducks offense stay ignited on their road trip? -- @Vancepantsdance

It's way too soon to say anything is make or break, but this road trip is obviously significant for Anaheim. They're playing at the Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues. That's arguably the top five teams in the best division in the NHL (Central). The Winnipeg Jets say, "What about us?" They're right. They're good too. The Ducks play the Blackhawks and Stars back to back. They close with the Blues, which will be their third game in four nights. This is a brutal road trip.

It was good that the Ducks finally busted out of their early season slump with a 4-1 win against the Wild, but they need to start connecting their play through the zones better. They're at their best when they attack in waves and use their size to win 50-50 puck battles. They were better against the Wild but have plenty of room for improvement.

It'll be challenging to do it in Nashville, where the Predators will play a patient game and almost will the Ducks into mistakes. It'll be hard in Minnesota because the Wild have a book on the Ducks now, and are better than what they showed Sunday. The Blackhawks are missing defenseman Duncan Keith, but they're plenty dangerous with their skill and attack. Dallas can simply outscore anybody in the NHL, and the last thing a team wants to be is tired on a back-to-back against the Stars. The Blues will try to check the road-weary Ducks out of the building.

Long story short, six points and some confidence on offense would make this a successful road trip. I'm not sure they can get it.

With Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid on the map, other rookies are under the radar? What do you think of Dylan Larkin, Max Domi and Co.? -- @Sr_Vincenzo

You mentioned two of them, Larkin (Detroit Red Wings) and Domi (Arizona Coyotes). They've definitely been impressive. Domi's speed sets him apart. He's electrifying. His backhand is ridiculous. Domi's teammate, Anthony Duclair, also belongs in the conversation.

Artemi Panarin (Chicago Blackhawks) and Nikolaj Ehlers (Winnipeg Jets) have definitely impressed me in the games I've seen them play live. Panarin's skill and Ehlers' shot opened my eyes.

Colton Parayko (St. Louis Blues) and Mattias Janmark (Dallas Stars) have gotten off to surprisingly good starts. Oscar Lindberg (New York Rangers) has been good too, but he's an older rookie at 23. He gained a lot of experience in the American Hockey League and there was an expectation for him to be a reliable two-way player for the Rangers. He's been that.

Claude Julien's job security (or lack thereof) with the Boston Bruins? -- @ncoram_wx

Bruins president Cam Neely said Julien's job is safe, that he's not on the hot seat. But I'm also of the opinion that if the Bruins didn't turn it around after a dreadful first three games the feeling would be different. After losing three in a row by a combined 16-7, they rallied to beat the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes on the road by a combined 11-5. Neither the Avalanche nor the Coyotes are a Stanley Cup contender at this point, but they were strong road wins that could be called statement wins based on how the Bruins were trending in those first three games. But did Boston do it through smoke and mirrors? I'm not so sure.

The Bruins have talent, no doubt, but they're rail thin on the blue line after Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug and maybe Adam McQuaid. And Chara is slowing down. It's an issue they will have to deal with all season, one that could determine Julien's job status. For now, as Neely said, I'd say Julien is safe, but if the Bruins run hot and cold, I'm not sure he'll make it through the season. If he doesn't, he'll be in line for a new job quickly. He's a heck of an NHL coach.

Eric Gelinas looks to be the seventh defenseman for the New Jersey Devils again. What's the end result there? -- @nealmchale

I get the feeling from Devils coach John Hynes that he's willing to have patience with all of the young defensemen and that Gelinas sitting out some games (he's played the past two games, but Jon Merrill has been out because of sickness) is more of a numbers thing than a result of his play. Hynes wants to see more consistency from Gelinas in his decisions with the puck and how he attacks the puck in the defensive zone. I think it's fair to say that about most young defenseman who are trying to establish themselves as everyday NHL players. Gelinas has size and an elite shot so I think there is going to be a long leash with him. He's also in the first year of a two-year contract he signed during the offseason. Patience is required in New Jersey, so there's no reason to get impatient with Gelinas. I like him.

How do the Carolina Hurricanes get out of this rut? Seems like the last few seasons all over again. -- @everytimeidavid

Isn't it amazing that the Hurricanes acquire defenseman James Wisniewski, have high hopes for him, and then he goes down with a potential season-ending knee injury during his second shift of the season opener? Brutal. But that's the way it's been going with the Hurricanes.

It's tough times in Raleigh, but you should be able to see the light because of Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin, Justin Faulk, Ryan Murphy, Victor Rask, Jeff Skinner, Eddie Lack and Haydn Fleury. That's the young group the Hurricanes need to build around. It should be a strong young core, with all positions covered. I'm also convinced they will add to it by trading Eric Staal prior to the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline. And, I think Bill Peters can be a solid NHL coach. He has a strong plan and is just having some problems implementing it because the team isn't that good now. But it's getting better. I see it happening eventually, but you'll have to stay in a rut for a little while longer.

Are the Winnipeg Jets for real this year, or has it been a fluke start for them? -- @KyleWard11

I don't think this is a fluke. I felt they would be around the Stanley Cup Playoff race all season. No reason to change my opinion. I didn't pick the Jets to get in, but I wouldn't be shocked if they did. A big reason is their play in front of the goalies has improved under coach Paul Maurice and they continue to be solid despite allowing 33 shots on goal per game through five games. Their SAT is 48.3 percent. A few good games of suppressing shots will pull that up. They're scoring too, which is a good sign. Their 102.6 shooting plus save percentage (SPSV%) at even strength is sustainable. They don't have any outliers at this point, which bodes well for future success. The only question for me is, what happens when their 5-on-5 save percentage starts to drop from its current .949? It will drop (Montreal led the NHL at .936 last season), and that might be the difference in the Jets making the playoffs.


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