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Weekly Warmup: Oct. 21

Colorado, Edmonton, Buffalo keep trending up, same for Washington's All-Star defenseman Carlson

by Bob Condor / @NHLSeattle_ / NHLSeattle.com

While there is just one zero in a team's loss column in the NHL standings, several teams and multiple players are off to fast starts as we move into Week 3 of the Weekly Warmup. Colorado remains the only without a regulation loss, collecting 15 of a possible 16 points in its first eight games to lead the Central Division. The Buffalo Sabres and the Edmonton Tippetts, er, Oilers, with new coaches, still lead their divisions.

Let's drop this week's puck:

FIVE ON FIVE

D-man on the Offensive
The other division leader, Washington, comes off a Sunday road win at Chicago, losing a two-goal lead in the third before Tom Wilson scored the winner with eight minutes left. The Capitals opened the scoring with a first-period powerplay goal by Seattle's favorite NHL son, T.J. Oshie, who has quietly scored seven goals already. All-star defenseman John Carlson collected his 15th assist to go with four goals. He leads the league with those 19 points, a tick ahead of Edmonton scoring machine Connor McDavid. For the uninitiated defensemen don't lead the league in scoring. Not unless you are the legendary Bobby Orr, who totaled 139 points one season for Boston. Carlson's numbers for October are the best by a defenseman in three decades-and Washingon has four more games this month. The Caps started a five-date road trip with upcoming stops in Calgary (Tuesday), Edmonton (Thursday), Vancouver (Friday) and Toronto. 

 

Trading Places 
Colorado visits St. Louis Monday night. The Avalanche is winning with balanced scoring from known reliables Nathan McKinnon and Mikko Rantanen and, get to know him, Andre Burakovsky. The trio is a big reason why Colorado leads the lead in shooting percentage and top three in team goals and assists. Burakovsky scored 12 goals in each of last three seasons with Washington, where he won a Stanley Cup in 2018. But the Caps traded the former first-round pick for draft choices this summer, giving up on a player after five seasons on a player they figured to score more. Burakovsky is not likely to keep up his pace of scoring on 23 percent of his shots, but the change of scenery is likely to have Washington fans muttering. 

 

Shootout Stats: Love-Hate 
Not everyone loves shootout in hockey. But the guess here is Vancouver goalie Thatcher Demko is OK with them, at least so far in his budding NHL career. Demko has faced six shootout attempts to date this season with no scores. On the other stickhand, notables such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (EDM), Aleksander Barkov (FLA), Connor McDavid (EDM) and Taylor Hall (EDM) are all 0-for-2 in attempts so far. Demko will push for playing time for the Canucks. He is 2-1 with a goals-against-average (GAA) of 1.64. His only loss was a 1-0 road heartbreaker in New Jersey. Demko started playing hockey at age 4 in San Diego and moved to the Los Angeles to play for the Junior Kings during his early teens. 

 

Monday Wake-Up Calls
As Colorado is lapping the Central Division, other teams are likely peaking at the standings. For instance, Winnipeg sits in second place with 10 points having played two more games. Dallas is probably even more concerned, whether admitting it or not. The Stars are 2-7-1, earning just five points in 10 games. They host winless Ottawa Monday night before heading to St. Louis and Detroit (playing well) later in the week. Most hockey fans know St. Louis owned the worst team in the NHL in early January last season only to win the Stanley Cup in June. But the guess here is Dallas coach Jim Montgomery and his boss, GM, Jim Nill, are not thinking they want to repeat the feat.

 

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda
The NBC Sports Network airs a Wednesday game of the night every week. This Wednesday, Tampa Bay visits Pittsburgh in a matchup of teams that were both shockingly swept out of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs in the first round. Columbus doused Tampa Bay, despite the Lightning entering the series with the top regular-season record by mucho points with a soon-to-be Vezina Trophy winner in goal. Pittsburgh, a team with back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017, were sent packing by ex-Seattle T-Birds star Matthew Barzal and the New York Islanders. 

Pittsburgh is looking good even with top scoring threat Evgeni Malkin out for another two to three weeks. Tampa is a mortal 4-3-1 but trending up. 

 

THREE-PEAT

Family Flare
Guess top overall draft choice Jack Hughes was waiting for the proper dramatic moment to score his first NHL goal. In front of some 80 friends and family, Hughes scored the only goal in a 1-0 home against Vancouver, which features, wait for it, Hughes' brother Quinn, who is another top candidate for the rookie-of-the-year Calder Trophy. 

 

Nines are Wild
James Neal is up to nine goals in his new digs with Edmonton, which dropped a road game to Chicago Friday then lost 1-0 in a shootout Sunday. Neal, who has now scored two more goals than all of last season, is joined at the goals league-leader top rank by Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak, who put himself on the NHL map with a strong 2019 playoffs. He could probably use vowel to convince people to pronounce his surname flawlessly (Past-ter-nack) but he needs no help being in the right position to score at the right times.

 

Goalie Duels
Weekly Warmup plans to update fans regularly on which goalies are pushing teammate goalies for playing time. Fans often believe that a goalie change is the elixir for a long winning streak or staying in contention or both. Teammates don't admit it, but they can think the same way. Head coaches are even more circumspect about why a goalie is playing or not, why the backup isn't getting a chance or not. In Chicago, coach Jeremy Colliton is basically alternating two-time Cup winner Corey Crawford with 2019 Vezina Trophy finalist Robin Lehner. Crawford has been solid though uneven, while Lehner has been stellar and not afraid to call out the team's need to play better defense overall. Lehner is clear with media that he intends to be the No. 1 goalie. Good stuff. 

 

BUZZERBEATER

Tarik El-Bashir is the Washington Capitals beat writer for The Athletic. Tongue firmly in cheek, El-Bashir queried league-leading scorer and defenseman John Carlson how the Caps alternative captain might feel about knowing his on pace to score more than 140 points for the season (which, by the way, would break Bobby Orr's all-time-never-to-be-broken season record). Surrounded by a scrum of reporters, Carlson paused, then said with fervor: "Next!"

 

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