Ottawa Senators: I’ll admit I was extremely skeptical about the Sens this season. There seemed to be some discord between players and coach last year, they lost Jason Spezza, etc. But Ottawa is already surprising some folks, not just with the long-term deal to lock up Bobby Ryan, but with a four-game winning streak that has the Sens trailing the Habs by two points in the Atlantic Division. The goaltending tandem of Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner has been impressive, though we still expect the latter to push for the starting job sooner rather than later.
P.K. Subban: Holy smokes, what a goal in Saturday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. If there was any concern about Subban wilting under the pressure of a monster deal signed this summer, you can safely put that to rest now after seeing the stud defenseman emerge from the penalty box and notch the type of goal that will likely haunt Avs defenseman Tyson Barrie for weeks to come. Not to mention that it was Subban’s second marker of the night. This guy thrives in the spotlight.
Damon Severson: Speaking of defensemen chipping in with some offense, how about Devils rookie Damon Severson? The 20-year-old Saskatchewan native has three goals and four points for New Jersey through the first five games of the season. It’s no secret that the Devils were looking for additional scoring after last season’s offensive woes, but not many people would have predicted it coming from this source.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Though they earned a point in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, the Leafs dropped both matches of the home-and-home set against Mike Babcock's squad. Cue the panic button in Toronto. The Leafs are just 2-3-1 to start the season and appear to be plagued by some of the same troubles that contributed to last year’s epic implosion. And is it just us, or does the fact that they keep trotting out all these analytics developments feel a bit like window dressing?
Steve Mason: This is hardly to pin the Flyers’ struggles solely on goaltender Steve Mason, but he’s had a rather tough start to the season. Mason is still searching for his first win, with an 0-2-1 start to 2014-15 and an unsightly 3.78 goals-against average and .865 save percentage. Mason was yanked after giving up four goals on 18 shots over two periods on Saturday, replaced with backup Ray Emery as the Flyers rallied back to beat the Dallas Stars 6-5 in overtime. Philly’s defense is suspect, we’ll give Mason that much, but his performance will be critical to the Flyers’ success this season, especially with another poor start.
Victor Hedman: Hard to imagine the Tampa Bay Lightning will have worse injury luck than last season, when they were without superstar Steven Stamkos for the majority of the regular season and starting goaltender Ben Bishop for the playoffs, but not even two weeks into this season, they are dealing with another costly loss. Defenseman Victor Hedman was sidelined with a fractured finger and is expected to miss four to six weeks.
Jeff Skinner: According to the Charlotte News and Observer, Carolina Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner, who missed the first four games of the season with a concussion, is expected to be in the lineup against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. Captain Eric Staal has also resumed skating and could return later during the road trip.
What to watch for
Drouin debut: Felled by a thumb injury in the preseason, top prospect Jonathan Drouin appears ready to make his mark on the 2014-15 season. The Lightning recalled Drouin from his rehab assignment in the minors, meaning he could make his debut as early as Monday against the Edmonton Oilers.
Westward-bound: The Washington Capitals also seem to be a squad that has benefited from a coaching change with Barry Trotz now behind the bench in D.C. The Caps have yet to suffer a regulation loss this season and head west this week on a road trip that features stops in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.
Road-trippin': The banged-up Columbus Blue Jackets are in for a mighty test this week as well as they head out to California for a three-game trip against San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles. We should get a good idea what that team is made of against some of the stiffest competition in the Western Conference.