One of the best teams in the pre-season had its share of troubles the
past few games against Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington to name a
few. Only Buffalo and Dominik Hasek proved to be an unworthy foe. That’s
when Captain Vinny Damphousse broke out of his usual early season drought.
The two goalies, Moog and Thibault, have both played well, but it seems
Moog has so far been the starter while Thibault is the backup. It seems
coaches Vigneault and King have really done wonders with Montreal’s
defensive system, which had been complete chaos under Mario Tremblay. Moog
has also been a calming influence on the blueliners, shouting instructions
to them during the game.
The Canadiens are not like the Bruins, Capitals, or Flames, who all have
a significant number of rookies or young’uns in the lineup — only C
Sebastien Bordeleau and D Brett Clark are with the team. Fortunately,
though, these are two good rookies — especially my boy Bordeleau!
Bordeleau can do it all. He’s got the offensive skills to dazzle the odd
time, and he’s good defensively for a rookie, too. He’s also good on
faceoffs, and can take important draws in his own zone. Again, he played
too many games last year to be considered a rookie and a Calder candidate.
Unfortunately, he’s playing on the fourth line right now with Thornton and
Bureau. Occasionally, he steps up to the third line to play with Brunet and
Stevenson or Richer.
It’s several weeks into the regular season, and last year’s worst team
has been a pleasant surprise. Yep, with their 12 new faces/rookies, they’re
among the best teams in the NHL, record-wise! With their current 8 game
road trip, they are now 5-2 after winning 4 straight. Not to mention, they
already have 3 shutouts — 2 by last season’s sieve Jim Carey, and 1 by
Lord Byron Dafoe. Let’s give a round of applause to coach Pat Burns,
Now, how about those rookies… Per-Johan Axelsson. That’s all I have to
say. Forget Samsonov, Thornton, Mann, and all those other over-hyped Calder
candidates. It’s the PJ Axelsson show! He’s got excellent speed, agility,
moves, plays with intensity, and is good defensively. Who is PJ Axelsson,
you ask? Well, he’s not that much of a surprise, but he just didn’t receive
all that hype I mentioned. Truth is, he had a great season with his Swedish
Elite team, Frolunda, where he scored 19G, 15A, 34P, 34PIM in 50 games. As
is usually the case with Swedish players, their numbers often don’t look as
good as they should because of the Florida Panthers/NJ Devils like trap
system that’s so popular in the Elitserien.
Currently, Axelsson is playing LW on Boston’s “top” line (as if you can
really call a line with C Tim Taylor and RW Rob Dimaio a top line). At
least Pat Burns calls Tim Taylor his top center — he still can’t believe Read more»
Warren Luhning, the sole rookie on this seasons’s Islander roster, is in jeopardy of being sent down to the minor leagues, probably Kentucky (AHL). His play has shown that he is either not ready to play this season at the NHL level, or he simply does not possess the talent many thought he did. It could simply be a case of the jitters. Who knows? One thing for sure, he is not doing himself a favor with his poor play. Luhning, who played for Michigan University, last year appears to be shell shocked by the level of play in the NHL. Luhning is not a flashy player, but he has the ability to score twenty goals a season and throw his body around. He has played two of three games and has registered no points on three shots and no penalty minutes while playing mostly on the third line with Sergei Nemichinov and Mike Hough, two veterans with scoring and checking ability, a similar makeup to that of Warren Luhning.
Former Toronto Mapeleaf prospect, Sean Haggerty, is this season’s Islander Sleeper Prospect. He had a tremendous training camp. He has played very impressively already for Kentucky (AHL). Haggerty’s game is centered around playing right around the goalie. Haggerty, is considered to be a pure goal scorer with the grit and determination to make it big in the NHL, with the New York Islanders. He was acquired in the infamous deal that sent Matthew Schneider, Wendell Clark, and D.J. Smith to Toronto for Kenny Jonsson, Darby Hendrickson, Sean Haggerty, and a first round pick in 1997 (Roberto Luongo). Last season, in Kentucky, Haggerty was a victim of a poor affiliation plan with the SJ Sharks. He saw mostly third line checking line duty, a role he was unfamiliar with. However, this allowed Haggerty to learn the defensive aspects of the game. Due to a couple of departures from last season’s roster, Sean Haggerty has been spending his time early on playing on the top lines of his Kentucky club. He has scored two goals and three assists in his first two games of the season, that is nice for a guy who scored around fifteen goals last season. Sean Haggerty has a very good chance to see NHL ice a little later this season as it becomes apparent that Warren Luhning is incapable of providing the Islanders with what they need. Haggerty already has played one game with Toronto, but none with the New York Islanders.
In Pittsburgh, the two top prospects in the organization have made their
NHL debuts. Morozov scored a goal in the season opener and Dome has yet
to score. But the situation is this, neither will play entire games for
some time. The Penguins took great pains in signing the Russian winger Morozov, and
now it seems as if he may not be ready quite yet. Morozov speaks very
little English and has only Darius Kasparaitis to translate for him.
Because of that he has not been getting playing time late in games. He
has been playing on a line with two of the best players in the NHL, Jagr
and Francis, in hopes that their experience will help him to develop. He
is full of talent, but with the lack of playing time, can he be a
frontrunner in the Calder race? Hopefully Morozov will get a tutor to
teach him English, as he probably should have done much earlier. Dome is an entirely different problem, he isn’t getting any playing time.
He was a healthy scratch in the last two games, since the acquisition of
Chris and Peter Ferraro. But what good is it doing Dome to sit out, it
should be obvious to the Penguins that it surely didn’t help him in the
IHL. He went from being a top 5 player when he was 16 to being ranked
27th by the Central Scouting Bureau previous to the June 21st draft. In
my opinion, the Penguins need to either play him or send him to Syracuse.
Alexei Morozov, RW, 6'1", 174 lbs. Read more»