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Sunday Coffee: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

by Dave Joseph / Florida Panthers
NHL Commisioner Garry Bettman at the NHL Draft (Getty Images
"We have to do a complete reset. The worst is already happened in terms of how you can start a season." - Maple Leafs Head Coach Ron Wilson


Three weeks into the regular season and there’s already talk about pleasant surprises and big disappointments.
 
Let’s be honest, it’s a little too early to be declaring winners and losers, but that doesn’t stop anyone in the world of sports from overreacting. Weren’t the Dolphins a huge disappointment two weeks ago? But after victories against the Bills and Jets, they’re a Super Bowl contender. And weren’t the Canadiens going to the Stanley Cup after their quick start last season?
 
    Four weekends a season doesn’t make – the Panthers still have 76 games to play – but there are definitely some things to note, especially when it comes to goaltenders.
 
    *The Rangers are hot. They went Saturday into Toronto on a six-game winning streak, their longest since the winter of 2006. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist went into the weekend 5-1 with a 2.35 goals against and .924 save percentage, Marian Gaborik recorded at least one point in his first seven games, and Vinny Prospal had seven assists. They were also leading the league in goals with 28. For the first time in a long time, coach John Tortorella had nothing to complain about.
 
    *The Sabres, who visit BankAtlantic Center and the Panthers Wednesday, went into Saturday’s game against Atlanta without a loss in regulation and a 4-0-1 record. The biggest reason for the Sabres success is goalie Ryan Miller, who had a 1.58 goals against and .938 save percentage through the first five games.
 
    *The Avalanche, picked at the beginning of the year to be bottom feeders in the Western Conference started the season 5-1. Like the Sabres, the Avs owe thanks to a netminder, former Panthers goalie Craig Anderson, who had a 5-1-1 record through the opening seven games with a 1.99  goals against and .940 save percentage.
 
    *The Maple Leafs were booed off their own ice last week, so that tells you a little about how things have gone in Toronto. Injuries have wrecked havoc with their goaltending, but they’ve done little thus far to gives fans hope. After an 0-5-1 start, coach Ron Wilson said; “We have to do a complete reset. The worst is already happened in terms of how you can start a season.” But what about the rest of the season? Mike Komisarek isn’t exactly winning raves with no points through his first six games, 23 penalty minutes and a minus-4. A glimmer of hope occurred Thursday when Phil Kessel appeared for the first time at practice, but just a glimmer.
 
    *Give the Coyotes a lot of credit. Despite all the off-season distractions throughout the summer – the team is bankrupt, might have been moved, head coach never shows up for training camp – the Coyotes started the season 4-2 and goalie Ilja Bryzgalov started off 4-1 with a 1.17 goals against and .952 save percentage. There’s some good young talent here. The question is whether they can keep it going this year past the All-Star break?
 
    *The Canucks lost Friday to the Flames 5-3, but don’t let the score fool you. The Canucks were never in it, and goalie Roberto Luongo was pulled after allowing five goals on 19 shots. “Once again, we didn’t come close to playing 60 minutes,” said Ryan Kesler. “We’re lucky to be 2-4.” On paper, they seemed lucky the Wild were coming to town Saturday night.
 
THE SHOOTOUT KID
 
    The hottest sports video last week came courtesy of Oliver Wahlstrom, a 9-year-old from Portland, Maine who scored on this spectacular Mini One-on-One competition in Boston. Roll tape.
 
 

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Frank Gunn)
M.A.S.H UNIT
 
    It didn’t take long for the league to lose a few of their big names. The latest is Thomas Vanek, who could be out several weeks (although it has been said he could miss a couple of days) after suffering an upper-body injury in Tuesday’s 6-2 win over the Red Wings. Vanek joins the Canucks Daniel Sedin (4-to-6 weeks, broken foot), the Wings Johan Franzen (4 months, torn ACL), Carolina’s Erik Cole (leg fracture), Montreal’s Andrei Markov (lacerated tendon), and the Oilers Sheldon Souray (mild concussion).
 
    Speaking of injuries, the Wild are scraping the bottom of the Western Conference. They’ve been without Martin Havlat and Petr Sykora (groin strains), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) and Cal Clutterbuck (high ankle sprain).
 
(AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Clement Allard,file)
QUEBEC CITY IN LOOP
 
    Just seven days after NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman paid a visit, Quebec City announced its intentions to build a modern arena to lure an NHL team and one day host an Olympics.
 
    The plans, revealed by Mayor Regis Labeaume, have a new arena being built for approximately $400 million with the city putting up $50 million and the federal and provincial governments adding $175 million.
 
            Quebec lost the Nordiques to Colorado in 1995. The city’s Colisee, outdated in ’95, is “a relic from the another era,” according to Lebeaume.
 
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
 
     “Maybe they didn’t have the best start, but remember last year we were 0-6 and we finished fifth in the standings. They got a hard-working group. They got a couple of lines that can really buzz.” Flyer Scott Hartnell after Friday’s 4-2 loss to the Panthers.
 
NOTES
 
     Hard to believe the Bruins first road game of the season was Friday when they won in Dallas…With Marian Hossa and Mikael Samuelsson gone and Johan Franzen out of the lineup, the Red Wings are missing 93 goals from last season…Speaking of former Panther Anderson, he was asked by Hockey Night in Canada whether he had any reservations signing with a team that was rebuilding while trying to establish himself as a No. 1 goalie. “You got to be an optimist. You can’t second-guess or doubt yourself, that’s when things go sour. It’s all about confidence and believing in yourself. We might be young here, but we got talent.”…So far, the divorce between Dany Heatley and the Senators seems to have benefited both. Heatley had 10 points (five goals) with the Sharks entering the weekend, while the Senators were fifth in the East going into Saturday’s game against the Canadiens…
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