Friday NHL Headlines: Shark Month, Varlamov's Legal Trouble & More
Hey, everyone. It’s Dan Mount and I’m here with the usual Friday headlines. I can’t believe we are already one month into the season. Some teams and players have gotten off to slow starts, but I want to talk about one team in particular that has gotten off the blocks quickly and they are the San Jose Sharks. I will also live tweet during the Chicago Blackhawks game against the Winnipeg Jets Saturday that airs on CBC. As always, you can leave comments below or follow me on Twitter @DanMountSports.
The Discovery Channel has a week every summer devoted to the terrifying yet stunning sharks. However, the month of October was turned into Shark Month by the stellar play of the San Jose Sharks. The Bay Area skaters are tops in the NHL with 22 points. I did predict the Sharks to win a playoff series, but I didn’t expect such a hot start.
A few stats jump out at people when researching the success of the Sharks so far. The team leads the league in goals per game with an average of 3.85. Joe Thornton is third in assists with 12 and Marc-Edouard Vlasic leads the league in plus/minus with 13 along with teammate Justin Braun.
However, it’s not just the offense that’s getting the job done as the defense is third in goals against average. Antti Niemi leads the league goals against average and shutouts so far this season. I did watch the game against the Calgary Flames a couple of weeks ago on Hockey Night in Canada and I was very impressed with their defensive zone coverage. The defense doesn’t make a lot of mistakes that would get them into trouble.
Another reason they’ve been playing well is the solid play of youngsters like Tomas Hertl. The 19-year old Czech set a blistering pace with a four goal performance against the Rangers. He already has eight goals as of today. He may have slowed down just a bit by injuries, but he’s still a possible Calder Trophy winner. Other young players have wanted to step up and challenge the older players.
It’s not just young guns that are playing well. Veterans like Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle have played well. The team also has difference makers such as Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture to go with the young stars. Some believe this team could be the best in the team’s history.
That question did come up when I was writing the article and I wanted to get an opinion from a guy that knows the team. I went to Daryl Martin (@KingShark49 on Twitter) of Golden Gate Report and posed the question about why the team is playing so well.
@DanMountSports Sharks bonded as a team during last seasons playoffs. The team came together as a solid unit and has banded together as one— Darryl Martin (@Kingshark49) October 29, 2013
@DanMountSports (Tweet 2) SJS are good mix of veterans and youth. Coaching staff has a wealth of experience and knows how to develop talent— Darryl Martin (@Kingshark49) October 29, 2013
The Sharks do look fantastic, but there’s a long way to go for this team and there have been huge disappointments in the Sharks’ playoff past. However, this team looks like an early Stanley Cup contender.
An Avalanche of trouble
The Colorado Avalanche have also surprised early on this season, but the team may have hit a snag as their goalie Semyon Varlamov was arrested earlier in the week on an alleged domestic violence charge against his girlfriend. (Reports have surfaced that Varlamov’s girlfriend said he dragged her and threatened her amongst other things.)
The judge released Varlamov on bail and granted him permission to leave the state and continue to play for the Avalanche while the legal situation plays itself out. (The judge could’ve barred Varlamov from leaving Colorado.) Varlamov will backup Jean-Sebastian Giguere in net Friday against the Dallas Stars. If Varlamov is convicted, he could face up to 2-6 years in prison.
We all know how serious domestic violence, and I hope that the girlfriend is safe. Let’s hope Varlamov can get the help he needs. He was playing well to start the season and was a lynchpin in the Avs surprising start. It will be a big blow if he is forced to leave the team.
The Buffalo Sabres John Scott was suspended seven games for his hit on Boston’s Loui Eriksson last week.
The Avalanche and Flyers make a trade as Colorado sends Steve Downie to the City of Brotherly Love while Max Talbot heads to Denver.
Here are some games to watch this weekend.
Colorado Avalanche at Dallas Stars, 8:30 p.m. ET (Altitude 2, FS Southwest Plus 2): How will Patrick Roy and the Avs deal with the rising Varlamov controversy?
Toronto Maple Leafs at Vancouver Canucks, 7 p.m. ET (CBC, NHLN): The streaking Maple Leafs face a Canucks team that is starting to get used to John Tortorella’s system.
St. Louis Blues at Tampa Bay Lightning, 7 p.m. ET (FS Midwest, Sun): The defensive-minded Blues take on sensational scorer Steven Stamkos.
Montreal Canadiens at Colorado Avalanche, 10 p.m. (CBC, RDS, Altitude): St. Patrick battles the Habs. Enough said.
It’s time for this week’s look at the best and worst with “First Star, Worst Star and who blew up the Death Star?”
Antti Niemi’s nice shootout save on Detroit’s Todd Bertuzzi.
Columbus Blue Jacket Brandon Dubinsky’s scumbag hit on Anaheim’s Saku Koivu.
Who blew up the Death Star?
Semyon Varlamov’s mug. It looks like he’s auditioning for the Denver-area production of “Grease.”
That’s it for this week. Catch you Monday and enjoy some puck now that the World Series is over.
Dan Mount is an NHL and college football writer for TJRSports.com. He is based out of Watertown, NY.