Making some noise...
Edmonton Oiler, Linus Omark, capped off his NHL debut in style with a highlight-reel shootout winner against Tampa Bay on Friday night. Omark started his drive to the net with a flashy, and somewhat pointless, spin-o-Rama then faked a slapshot before shooting the puck between Ellis' legs. If he had missed we would, of course, be ridiculing the guy. I must admit, I love a sportsman with a cocky and confident attitude. I think it can bring the best out of him or herself. At the same time, a player can only be overly confident if he has the skill to back it up. Omark's career is only just starting so it is far too early to tell if his cocky attitude is well founded. What is for certain is that the NHL, and its fans, will definitely be keeping an eye on this youngster. Hopefully more entertainment awaits.
The Washington Capitals (18-10-3) are enduring a bit of a slide in form right now. They have lost their last five games, four of which were at home, that include defeats to struggling Toronto and Florida. The magic line of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin can't seem to pull the Caps out of their current rut and were even shut-out against the Panthers. Despite their problems, their early season form and the poor quality of some of the Eastern Conference's lower ranked teams, means that Washington still hold second place. However, that place is hardly as secure as it was with Tampa Bay and Atlanta closing in on the top spot in the South-East Division. The Caps are, of course, far too good for this slump to last forever, but they face a tough game in New York on Sunday night against an impressive Rangers side. So we may see the losing streak stretch to six before things turn around.
How about the Western Conference this year then?
Not including Detroit, who sit five points clear in that familiar number 1 spot, the teams in the Western Conference are only separated by nine points. Even more incredible is that between 2nd place, held by Dallas (17-10-2) and 12th place, held by St. Louis (14-9-5), there are only three points difference. Contrast that with the Eastern Conference, where top and bottom are separated by a massive 29 points and you start to see that something unusual is happening with the NHL's Western teams. While it has often been the case that the sides in the Western Conference are on a more even keel than those in the Eastern, this year is still turning out to be something quite unique. For the neutral, the entire Western Conference looks like it will certainly be worth keeping a close eye on. For fans with teams in the Western Conference, a nail-biting season awaiteth.
Early favourites? Not so sure.
After stretching their winning streak to 12 games, the Pittsburgh Penguins, led, or perhaps carried, by their Captain Sidney Crosby, are certainly staking their claim as Stanley Cup favourites. Crosby himself has also extended his scoring streak to 18 games. He has amassed 36 points (20 goals and 16 assists) during the streak which is the second-longest of his career, one behind his 19-game streak in October and November 2007.
While the Penguins certainly are dominating right now, I think it is perhaps a little too early to be calling them favourites. Let's see where they are after 60 games.