I’ve got some quick thoughts on the Sabres before we jump around the NHL.
If they didn’t, the coach would go out of his way to explain how a winning percentage of 40 percent (or less) is just a number and that it’s merely a media fixation that in no way is representative of the team’s record. On Wednesday, Lindy Ruff said faceoffs have cost them at least two or three games. That’s 20-30 percent of their games so far! And that’s why it was an obvious area of emphasis at practice.
No one is happy about losing seven of the last eight. But there was a very businesslike approach to the previously unscheduled practice at First Niagara Center on Wednesday. Everyone we heard from was in agreement that this session was needed – for educational purposes, not as a punishment. The fact that it was followed by the music being a little louder in the room than usual is at least a small sign that no one is moping around here.
The Interview – Part Two
Tyler Ennis and I have had a couple of interesting (if not awkward) moments in front of the camera this season. During our broadcast in D.C., Ennis joined us during the first intermission and came across as a bit of a low talker, with his hat pulled down, and not projecting to his fullest. He proceeded to tell me the next day how much heat he took from family and friends for that 90 seconds of camera time. We laughed about it, and I told him not to worry about it.
Well, our second interview of the season came during the first intermission in Ottawa on Tuesday night, and what a role reversal. Despite being down 3-1, Ennis was clear and concise, and willing to answer anything - even if no one at home could have possibly understood the question!
Honestly folks, I’m not sure I’ve ever conducted a worse interview than that one during 21 years in this business. I was midway through a question about defensive zone coverage when I was thinking to myself “What the heck are you trying to ask here?” Believe me, the question never did make sense even after I rambled for about 15 more seconds. Still, Ennis came up with an answer and I greatly appreciated the bailout. I apologized to him after the game for a failed attempt at journalism. Of course he said “No worries.” He could have said – “Now we’re even!” I’m looking forward to our third installment in the coming weeks!
Five individuals worth watching
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed picking up the sports section (or nowadays reading online) and scanning over the top scorers list in the NHL. In the early weeks of a season it’s usually filled with a ton of names that eventually fade back to a more familiar statistical position.
At the start of this week, the NHL’s top 30 had fewer surprises than I can usually recall. Could it be that the onus is on the big guns to be in mid-season form already? Regardless, there are still a few notable - if not surprising - names to keep an eye on moving forward.
* Cory Conacher (Tampa Bay) - In a tie for 11th place with 12 points in 9 games, Conacher leads all rookies in points and has very quickly asserted himself to being a top six forward for the Lightning. Given his supporting cast, Conacher could hold a top 30 position for quite some time.
* Chris Kunitz (Pittsburgh) - Tied with Conacher in scoring after a four-goal game on Sunday, we all know who Kunitz gets to play with on a regular basis in Pittsburgh. The question is - with 12 points in 10 games, can he be a point-a-game player or better for the first time in his career?
* John Tavares (NY Islanders) - 17th in scoring marks a nice start for Tavares after finishing eighth a year ago when he posted 81 points in 82 games. Now in his fourth season, get used to this Islander being part of this group of elite players for the next dozen or so years.
* Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis) - The new poster boy for organizational patience (whether the Blues wanted to wait or not), Tarasenko is showing that four years in the KHL have prepared him well for this moment. A first round pick in 2010, this 21-year-old has dazzled on a highly-regarded team with 5-5-10 in his first nine NHL games.
* Sam Gagner (Edmonton) - After a year (if not more) of trade rumors, and of course his epic eight-point game last season, Gagner figured to get lost in the hype surrounding all of his high-flying teammates. But there he is - 27th in scoring thanks to 10 points during a nine-game point streak. Maybe some teams will regret not making a bigger push for a player who has - in the past - only averaged about 44 points per season.
Tobias Enstrom (Winnipeg) - leading all defensemen with 12 points in nine games... David Clarkson (New Jersey) - seven goals in nine games, seeking back-to-back 30-goal seasons... Teemu Selanne (Anaheim) - 42-years-old and still averaging a point per game with nine points in eight games. Just imagine where Selanne would be on the all-time goals, assists, and points lists had he not lost almost two full seasons due to work stoppages.