Simon Fearn - USA TODAY Sports

EP Rinkside 3 Stars: What it's all about

Just want to use this space here to shout out the Los Angeles Kings for opening the season with 11 straight road wins. An absurd number.

Trevor Moore has 8-8—16 in those 11 games. Anže Kopitar and Adrian Kempe both have 13 points. Quinton Byfield has 12. Kevin Fiala and Phillip Danault have 11 each. Cam Talbot has a .954 save percentage, with just 11 goals conceded in nine appearances.

Obviously, it's not gonna last, but for now, it rocks. Big salute.

Let's go:

3. Ahh jeez, y'know, I'd love to. If it was up to me, I mean, no problem, but ahhh, y'know.

I would love to be proven wrong about my dead-set conviction, newly emboldened this week, that the NHL is going to not-go to the Olympics in 2026.

My default position on this, as it has been for years, is that the league would find any excuse possible to justify not-going, because they act like there is no financial benefit to their going. Never mind that T.J. Oshie still gets talked about as the Sochi shootout guy. Never mind that every player in the game desperately wants to go.

Not to get into my conspiracy theory that this is baby boomers and Gen Xers pulling the ladder up behind them, but it really does seem like the league just looks for any excuse possible at this point, because they put it in the CBA that boy they would really really try to go. Then the COVID stuff happened, because it was inevitable, and that was the end of that. And now Gary Bettman is already talking about construction timelines and ahhhh, it just might not be as good as we need it to be to ensure our players blah blah blah.

If I had to put a number on it, I'd say there's maybe a 20 percent chance they're gonna go and if they do, it will include a lot of very public hemming and hawing about all the reasons it's actually bad. At least we're gonna get that cool USA-Canada-Sweden-Finland tournament first!!!

I wish I had it in me to believe this was going to happen. I would love to watch the NHL return to the Olympics. I'm afraid, though, that Lucy has assured me once too often that she actually will hold the football this time.

But maybe this time, she's not lying…

2. The comeback kids

Here's what happened to the San Jose Sharks in the last week or so: They scored six goals on 18 shots against the New Jersey Devils, then they took the New York Rangers to the limit two nights later. Another two nights after that, they scored the last four goals of the game in a 5-4 OT win against the New York Islanders, and two nights after that they scored six of the final seven goals in an OT win against the Detroit Red Wings.

All those games were on the road. And this is the Sharks we're talking about.

You'll note they scored a lot of goals in this stretch — 22 in four games — but 17 of those were scored in the second, third, and overtime periods of those games. 

And you know who went off this week? Mikael Granlund. Two goals, six primary assists, nine points total, in four road games. No one in the league had more points this week. There probably aren't many weeks in his entire career where he was the leader in that category.

But the Sharks are, in some ways, used to coming back from big holes. After they lost the first 11 games of their season, they're 8-7-1 (don't look up how they actually played in those games, though). That record's not bad at all, considering they had a really rough stretch on paper, even if they were an actual good team, which, of course, they are not.

Now they're at least fun, and potentially dangerous in a way you simply wouldn't have believed possible a month ago.

1. Being a fan of the product

We say a lot that the NHL can't get out of its own way on lots of stuff that any competent sports league in the world would sidestep without even thinking about it.

That said, this week offered a number of games where you were just like, "This is why we keep coming back." That aforementioned Sharks/Red Wings game? The Hughes Bowl? Panthers/Stars? Sens/Rangers? The list goes on, and there's lots of good stuff to choose from.

There's been a lot of talk this week, including from myself, about the inevitability of an NHL in-season tournament — given how well it's gone for the NBA, I'd say just accept it now, because the huffing and puffing you do when they announce this isn't gonna do anything for ya — but this is proof that even if it's hard for the league to sell tickets between November and January or so, if you do buy yourself a seat or just tune in from your couch, the odds are pretty good that you're not gonna get guys sleepwalking through 60 minutes. That kinda thing happens in February. It ain't February yet.

"How do they make the regular season more entertaining and meaningful?" If you don't think this is meaningful and entertaining hockey, I don't know what to say.

What's not to like about this? Hockey rocks. They keep showing you.

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NHL Los Angeles Kings New Jersey Devils San Jose Sharks Vancouver Canucks NHL Quinton Byfield Anze Kopitar
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