Take Town: Clock's ticking
I'm just gonna tell it to you straight: If you have any thoughts on what makes the shootout good or bad, whether it's Yevgeni Kuznetsov scoring in super-slowmo, or the time that Linus Omark did a spin-o-rama, or anything else – keep it to yourself.
I know, I know, it's a "spirit of the rules" thing and for the most part I get why people would think it's Bad For The Game to have guys start trying to colour outside those lines. But it's the shootout. Why do you care at all?
You can't spend more than a decade going "It's so stupid to decide a game like this," and then also say, "That European guy is doing it in a way I don't like." Grow up. Either you think it sucks and so what happens in it doesn't matter at all; let a guy come in and dropkick the goalie for all you should care. Or you think it's good, and the guy still did something that was within the bounds of the rules as written.
I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that as hockey becomes an "older" sport, in terms of the average age of the fanbase and the people who cover it, grandstanding BS about unwritten rules will creep into it like baseball. It's kinda like when people got mad at the Tampa Bay Lightning for going way over the cap, but obviously doing it within the rules. If you don't like it, hope your team gets better at smudging the print in the rulebook and try it yourself. Winning seems to be pretty fun for the teams that do it.
Speaking of the Capitals
I don't want to draw any conclusions from the first few games of the season, but you gotta just say the Washington Capitals look extremely bad.
They're 1-2-0, but that win was in the shootout, and they've only put the puck in the net three times in 185 minutes of hockey. They're giving up a lot of power plays, they're getting badly outshot (a combined minus-48 in three games???), and they've given up 12 goals. They haven't put more than 24 shots on goal in a game. They're eighth-worst in expected goal share, and fifth-worst at 5-on-5. Brutal all around.
And it's not like anyone should have had a lot of faith that this team could do much of anything this season, because the roster is old, overly reliant on the oldest players they have, and not exactly the healthiest in the league, historically speaking. So, on the one hand, who cares? Just get in the ditch, grab a high draft pick, off try again in a couple seasons.
Except that, as I have long theorized, they seem to be mostly committed to keeping the band together for the benefit of Alexander Ovechkin in his pursuit of Wayne Gretzky's goal record. And let's just say that through three games, ol' No. 99 is probably kicking his feet up and having a nice laugh. Ovechkin has one point — a primary assist on a John Carlson goal in the middle of Wednesday's blowout loss to Ottawa — and crucially just four shots on goal through three games. And all four of those shots were in Game 1.
It's the first time Ovechkin hasn't challenged a goaltender in back-to-back games since he came into the NHL 19 years ago. Caps fans can find some comfort in the fact that, yeah, he blasted four SOG in that first game, and can probably be counted on for an uptick sooner than later. He had almost 300 in 73 games last season. But the trends? The trends aren't good! And when you had dim hopes in the first place, well, it's getting easier to frown about these guys every day.
Like I said, and will keep saying for a few more weeks, it's only three games into an 82-game season. Plenty of time to turn things around, and if anyone can get white-hot and score six in a week, it's this guy. And he's only 72 behind Gretzky. And he's signed for two seasons after this one. It would not be a surprise at all if he ends up scoring 30-plus this year.
But oh boy is this not an encouraging start.
'Decentralizing' the draft
Seeing a lot of takes about the NHL's apparent desire to let teams stay home for the draft, while still having some sort of event at a centralized location where the top prospects will get their little jerseys and hats, presumably from the big man himself, Gary Bettman.
It seems that the biggest objection here is the fact that last season and this one, the draft dates will be June 28 and 29, just a couple days before the start of free agency. Now, I don't really care if the teams stay home or not — though it is funny to see the cost of going to the central location as an issue some are citing; what a broke-ass league! — but if the dates are the problem, I have a little idea for you: Change the dates.
Move free agency back a week from the draft. Or hell, how about the fact that the draft was more than two weeks after the Vegas Golden Knights won the Cup? Feels like there's some wiggle room to move things up there. Obviously that Cup Final ended in just five games, but even if it went seven, that final game would have been on June 19, nine days before the draft. Move it up!
But I suspect that this is one of those things where GMs are going "ah jeez, our job is SO hard though!" and so the only recourse to appease the four or five GMs whose teams have really legitimate chances to be in the Cup Final — who would obviously be picking 31st and 32nd — by giving them two-plus weeks to figure out which future third-line winger they're gonna reach for. Which only gives them a couple days to figure out which current third-line winger's they're gonna overpay for. It's a brutal situation for those guys, who only make seven figures, so the only thing the league can really do is change the entire draft format.
Makes a ton of sense.
Atlantic getting interesting already
Can't help but notice that the Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators are scoring a lot of goals and have a combined total of two losses from eight games. Now look, they're beating bad or compromised teams. Ottawa's wins are against the Philadelphia Flyers (horrible), Tampa Bay Lightning (no goalie), and Washington (average age 51.2). Detroit's are against the Lightning (see above), Columbus Blue Jackets (really bad), and Pittsburgh Penguins (vibes off).
Not all of those games are ones they "should" win, because I don't really love the rosters from 1 to 20 for either the Sens or Wings, but the easy wins keep coming and even if you go like 50/50 in games you shouldn't, you're gonna make the playoffs. It's not like the Boston Bruins or Toronto Maple Leafs are going anywhere, and it's not like I'm about to start counting games in hand, but with Tampa potentially in rough shape for the next two months and the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers struggling out of the gate, at least one of these teams feels like it already has something of an inside track to make the postseason. MoneyPuck says the Senators currently have the seventh-best odds in the East to make it (behind Toronto, Boston, and Florida in their division), but that's better than nothing.
Now, it's worth noting their underlying numbers are both middling, but they're on the good side of middling, so maybe that's worth something. Maybe, also, it isn't. Who knows?
I can't believe we're like nine days into the season and there's already a division that seems to be opening up. Maybe the 2-1-0 standings format works after all.
Well, depending on who you ask, anyway.