It's the second week of the NHL season, it's October 15th, the leaves are just starting to change and Lord Stanley's Cup won't be hoisted until June of next year. Never mind those little details, it's time for baseless early season snap judgments!
No baseless early season snap judgment is more baseless than the "Pens suck." Did I expect the Pens to open 0-3? Did I think that Sid would go back to back games without even registering a shot? Would I have predicted that the supposedly high-flying Pens offense would be sputtering out of the gate? No, no and no. Does this mean that the "Pens suck"? Of course not. The same dynamics that made us optimistic about this season are still in play. The Pens still have the deepest three lines they have had since the Jordan Staal days, Phil Kessel is still the best winger Sid has ever had, and Olli Maatta and Kris Letang are still healthy.
The good news is that the "Pens suck" baseless early season snap judgment isn't the only baseless early season snap judgment. So here are some more from around the league to help assuage the concerns of the Penguin faithful.
The Arizona Coyotes are For Real
No they aren't. Their 3-0 start is certainly a better start than most - including me - would have expected. And it was especially painful to watch the Pens lose to the Yotes. But let's get real, Arizona isn't going to be a playoff team and they aren't even going to be in the mix.
Young guns like Anthony Duclair and Max Domi are going to make the Coyotes more competitive and certainly more fun to watch. And who knows, maybe Mike Smith looks more like the Mike Smith of a couple of years ago. That having been said, the Western Conference is a flat out Murderer's Row.
The Coyotes have Antoine Vermette (who managed just 38 points in a full 82 games last year) centering their first line and Martin Hanzal (a 9 year vet who has never topped 40 points in a season) centering their second line. Does anyone think that's going to be enough to even sniff the playoffs this year? I certainly don't.
Michal Neuvirth is Poised for a Vezina Caliber Season
Nothing can be more deceiving in small sample sizes that goal tending. Former Caps 2nd round draft pick Michal Neuvirth has gone 132 minutes without giving up a goal - a streak that includes back-to-back shutouts. Neuvirth pitched one of those shutouts against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. What does it mean? Next to nothing.
Sorry Flyers fans but Michal Neuvirth isn't poised for a surprise Vezina Caliber season. Indeed, once Steve Mason returns (he has been absent to attend to a family matter) Neuvirth is going to go back to backing up Mason.
Is it possible new Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol will use Neuvirth more than he expected to originally? Absolutely. Is it possible that Neuvirth, who has failed to meet expectations in Washington and Buffalo, could continue to play well in short spurts? Absolutely. But, in the end, Michal Neuvirth is Michal Neuvirth - a guy who has only had one year with a save percentage above .914.
Max Pacioretty Has Eclipsed Ovi and Stamkos as the League's Top Goal Scorer
Look, watching Pacioretty snipe those goals from long distance is an absolute thing of beauty. There is no doubt that Pacioretty has tons of ability - he already has 3 seasons of 30+ goals under his belt and has come very close to the 40 goal plateau the last two seasons (when he registered 39 and 37 goals respectively). Indeed, I think its entirely possible that by the end of this season that you could start to make an argument where you put Max Pacioretty in the same category as Ovechkin or Stamkos. But here's the thing - he hasn't proven he's there yet.
There is a huge difference between being a 30+ goal a year scorer (nothing to sneeze at!) and to be considered in the same category, or BETTER than, as Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos. Ovi has eclipsed the 50 goal plateau 6 times already and has topped out at a staggering 65 goals in 2007-2008. Steven Stamkos has eclipsed 40 goals 4 times - once netting 51 and once 60.
Habs fans rightly point out that Pacioretty is 3rd in goals scored in the NHL over the last five years, which is absolutely true. It's also true that Pacioretty's five year total of 128 goals is dwarfed by the five year totals of Alex Ovechkin (175) and Steven Stamkos (159).