Just one week into the NHL season and already we had teams under the gun.
"I thought we played very well last night, I thought we had a lot of opportunities," Devils GM Lou Lamoriello told ESPN.com on Thursday. "We hadn't been doing the little things that you have to do to have success until last night. But this should be a pretty good hockey team."
What an opening week it's been in New Jersey with the salary-cap controversy, shortened lineup, a three-game winless streak and a coach blow-up during Wednesday's morning skate. But all of that was ancient history when Ilya Kovalchuk, relieved to get his first goal, scored in overtime against the Sabres.
"First of all, with the cap situation which everybody seems to enjoy, playing short and all that, when extenuating circumstances come, you just adjust and do what you have to do," Lamoriello said. "I'm not going to worry about what people think or what people say. We're going to do what we have to do to have the success that we feel we have to have."
With Brian Rolston (sports hernia surgery) going on long-term injured reserve, the Devils received much-needed cap relief and called up reinforcements Thursday. All is good again in New Jersey.
Another team that faced what was almost a must-win situation this early in the season was Anaheim. The Ducks were brutal on a season-opening road trip (0-3-0) and their comeback win at home over Vancouver on Wednesday night spelled relief.
"I'm sure everyone in this building felt it was a must win," Ducks GM Bob Murray told ESPN.com on Thursday from his Honda Center office. "You could see the tension release from the players as the game went on I think. They were carrying a lot of weight on their shoulders."
Help is on the way. Murray said top-four blueliner Toni Lydman, who has been on the shelf since before camp with bouts of double vision and migraines, has been cleared to play. Newly signed blueliner Andreas Lilja may also soon play his first game. The Ducks are struggling on defense and those additions will be key. Losing top-four blueliner Andy Sutton (broken thumb) for eight weeks was a killer.
Rookie Cam Fowler, only 18, has impressed through four games, but I suspect Murray will continue to try and improve his blue line as the season wears on.
And what of the defending Stanley Cup champions? The Chicago Blackhawks are off to a somewhat slow start, which can't be that surprising. Any team that makes wholesale changes in the offseason usually struggles out of the gates as it tries to find chemistry and develop a new identity with all the new faces in the lineup. Just because the Hawks are Cup champions doesn't mean they're immune to that. It'll take a bit for the roster to mesh.
Throw in the fact top-four blueliner Brian Campbell began the season on the shelf and Niklas Hjalmarsson got a two-game suspension and you have a depleted blue line. It feels like it's piling on with star winger Patrick Kane (illness) listed as doubtful for Friday's game at Columbus.
From the tweets being sent my way, I can tell Hawks fans are already concerned. But do not fret, Hawks fans; things will come around.
In Montreal, the Canadiens have been OK, but not great. They earned three points from three games, but one area that jumps out in particular is the power play. The Canadiens have been blanked on nine power-play chances so far. It's a brutal start for a club that ranked second in the NHL on the man advantage last season and has been among the NHL's top power plays for a few years. It's a unit crying out for the return of power-play quarterback Andrei Markov, who should return sooner rather than later as he was again on the ice with the Habs at practice Thursday.
The NHL's ad campaign this season is "Questions Will Become Answers," but the first week of the season has provided more questions. And that's why it's so much fun to watch.