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WORKING THE CORNERS: Marner Is Unreal, The Kings Stink, Fleury Is Too Happy And Bowen’s Big Weekend

WORKING THE CORNERS: Marner Is Unreal, The Kings Stink, Fleury Is Too Happy And Bowen’s Big Weekend

Start with a selfish moment.   I had the opportunity to watch the Vegas Golden Knights go through a full practice Monday. What struck me is how much fun Marc-Andre Fleury has on the ice.   We have all seen the close-up shots of wide grin through the protective bars on his mask, but this was a run of the mill practice.   He is always doing something which included a fun drill with teammates after the formal portion of the skate.   I love this game, and Fleury appears to enjoy it more than anyone I can name.
No Ego,  not an ounce of entitlement, and void of the traditional goalie attitude.   Thanks for showing everyone how we should approach hockey.

 

In case you didn’t catch this beauty…

While the cheeky goal by Chicago 2017 third round pick Evan Barratt scored Penn State some serious social media points, it was the Sun Devils who celebrated the night with an overtime victory.   It marked ASU’s first win over a top ten team in the history of the program.

Still with Arizona State.  Johnny Walker is making quite the name for himself.   The sophomore scored the historic winner to give NHL free agent eleven goals, tops in the nation.  Walker is Arizona born but spent two years with the Minot Minotaurs of the North American Hockey League playing under former Philadelphia Flyers and Brandon Wheat Kings star Marty Murray.

By the way, a Minotaur is a monster with a human body and a bull’s head, or, according to others, with the body of an ox and a human head.  That by way of the encyclopedia.

A question I have been asked.  Why is Dean Blundell stealing your bylines?   Simple, I keep screwing up the posting process of my articles.  After a couple of failed attempts I end up e-mailing the pieced to Dean, and he gets it on the site.  He’s a team player.

The year to year progression of Mitch Marner is quite staggering.   The fourth overall selection was returned to junior without getting in a game in his 2015 draft year.   The next season Marner needed an exceptional training camp to make the club. While a year ago he spent significant time on the fourth line before finishing the year as the clubs leading scorer.

An interesting story he told me at the 2015 NHL Draft Combine.   During that Memorial Cup winning season with London, Marner said he recorded and watched every shift Chicago’s Patrick Kane played.  The similarities in their games are apparent.  One area I have trouble understanding is how Marner beats players one on one without skating.

This ability was on display in Toronto’s takedown of Pittsburgh on the weekend.   Marner gliding into the Penguins zone, shifting to his right with a crossover and with all the extra room was able to get the puck to the net to set up John Tavares.

Hard to believe but the Kings made the first coaching change of the season and things are calm in LA compared to Ottawa.

I will deal with the Senators separately.   There is just too much going on there.

Back to SoCal.  Sometimes it doesn’t matter what a coach does the team’s fate is determined.   An NHL coach told me as much regarding John Stevens.
To paraphrase,
“The Kings are old; they are not fast enough and (Jonathan) Quick has to make ten massive saves to have a chance.”
It should be noted that under Stevens, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick, and Anze Kopitar all won individual NHL awards and Dustin Brown resurrected his career.
The departing coach didn’t have Brown at the start of this season and was minus the franchise goaltender when the change was made.
I don’t begrudge Rob Blake shaking things up, but I stop short of putting this one on Stevens.

A coaching change a month into the season is a lot different than a year ago when the only in season change occurred in schedules final week.    Anaheim has a goalie who can buy Randy Carlyle time while expectations are so low for Detroit and Ottawa (clears throat) the idea of a switch behind the bench doesn’t make much sense.
St.Louis is different.   Too much talent to be meandering through the early part of the season.  However, more than one person I have talked to about this believe nothing will change with the Blues if the goaltending tandem isn’t improved.  “it’s just not good enough” said a scout.
Mike Yeo is who I am worried about the most, and that was before the announcement in Los Angeles.

The Oilers and Islanders both lost to start the week.     I still put the pair in a group with Montreal as clubs off to great starts with a chance to make the playoffs.   Sorry, Vancouver, I appreciate Elias Pettersson and the rest of the Breakfast Club, but I don’t see a run at a postseason berth.

The Oilers are supporting the best player in the NHL with depth scoring and better goaltending.   Barry Trotz and goalie guru have the Islanders playing a 200-foot game.   Montreal has a little bit of everything going right.  Carey Price, improved offensive numbers up front and Claude Julien’s leadership.   Shea Weber will give a 23rd ranked power play some pop.

Because of the division, Edmonton calls home I give the Oilers the edge to make good on the confidence I have put in them.

What is it about Ottawa?   Weird play on Sunday that has to be watched to believe.

I love that Eric Furlatt and Justin St.Pierre  didn’t blow the play dead and break up a needless kerfuffle.   Let the action continue and allow the players to make a choice.   They can push and shove or try to score a goal.   If a guy opts for the scrum, then his club will be outmanned.

ONE-TIMERS

I wonder if a reigning Vezina Trophy winner has ever signed a contract extension that featured a multi-million dollars pay cut.  Of course, Pekka Rinne is thirty-six, and the two-year extension won’t kick in until next season.   Just sounds strange.   The almost $70 million in career earnings translates a lot better to the 36-year-old netminder.

From the day Nolan Patrick dropped to number two at the NHL Draft in Chicago, the Flyers center has been second fiddle to Nico Hischer.   That competition is closer to start season number two.    Patrick has four goals and is top five in faceoff percentage while building on the confidence from an excellent second half in his rookie season.     Both players are playing significant minutes down the middle.

The Flyers completed a four-game road trip through California and Arizona with a 2-2 record.   I give bonus points for breaking even considering Philadelphia dressed four goalies.    Brian Elliott started two games but got banged up in a practice when he was bumped in the head.  Michal Neuvirth served as the backup, to begin with before heading back on injured reserve after being sent home to be reevaluated after suffering a setback.  That left Calvin Picard to be recalled for a pair of starts while Alex Lyon made it to Glendale in time to back up the trips last stop.    Such is life in the Flyers crease.

The William Nylander saga has lasted so long veteran Patrick Marleau has been dragged into things.    A tweep blamed Marleau’s $6.25 million salary cap hit for the reason the Maple Leafs have been so strict in the Nylander negotiations.   Keep this in mind, without spending the money on the Saskatchewan product, and Mitch Marner may not be the player he is today.   Marleau is widely credited with mentoring Marner last year.

Congrats to my Unionville Hockey Club buddy Joe Bowen for his Hall of Fame recognition.  Bonsie is the longtime voice of the Maple Leafs and has been playing goal in the UMHC for nearly as many winters.

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