With some meaningful hockey finally upon us, here’s a look at what happened in the Western Conference last week:
WHO'S LOOKING GOOD
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks: Kane is obviously not allowing his circumstances off the ice to impact his play on it. While he continues to be under investigation for an alleged sexual assault, he began the season with an NHL-best six points in three games. He totaled three goals and two assists in wins over the New York Islanders on Friday and Saturday after losing the season opener to the New York Rangers. Picking up where he left off, Kane was tied for the league lead in points last season when he fractured his clavicle and missed the final 21 regular-season games. The highest he’s ever finished in points is fifth.
Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild: Parise had a season-opening effort to remember. With the Wild trailing the Colorado Avalanche 3-0 after one period and later 4-1, Parise led the Wild to a 5-4 victory by recording his third career hat trick. He scored twice in the third period, including breaking a 4-4 tie with a power-play goal with less than 10 minutes remaining. He also scored against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday and is tied for the league-high with four goals.
Mike Smith, Arizona Coyotes: It’s too early to deem the Coyotes a changed team, but Smith has them off on the right foot. He stopped 40-of-41 shots in a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Friday and followed it up with a 27-save performance in a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. He made 67 saves on 69 shots for a .971 save percentage. It was the first time he won when starting consecutive days since March 10 and 11 of 2014.
San Jose Sharks: The Sharks made a strong first impression in the Pacific Division. They opened with a 5-1 road win over the Kings on Wednesday and returned home for a 2-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday. Goaltender Martin Jones made 46 saves on 47 shots. Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton had a plus-4 goal differential. Patrick Marleau scored both goals against the Ducks. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Sharks can keep it up with their next four games on the road.
Winnipeg Jets: The Jets scored in threes in their first two games. They scored three goals in the second and third periods to set up a 6-2 win against the Boston Bruins on Thursday and tallied three more goals in the second period Friday on the way to a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. Seven different players combined for the nine goals, and goaltenders Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec were both solid in their starts.
WHO'S LOOKING BAD
Edmonton Oilers: No one expected the Oilers to begin league domination this season, but it’s been a real slow start, especially offensively. The Oilers have scored once in two games. Taylor Hall is tied for third in the league with 12 shots on goal, but doesn’t have anything to show for it. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was credited with Edmonton’s lone goal on a fluke play. On the power play, he lost a faceoff but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck, it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott.
Los Angeles Kings: The Kings took a 1-0 lead on the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday, but it went all wrong from there. The Sharks scored five unanswered goals for a 5-1 win. Against the Arizona Coyotes on Friday, the Kings allowed the game’s first four goals and fell 4-1. The Kings went a combined 0-for-10 on the power play in the two games. Goaltender Jonathan Quick allowed nine goals on 54 shots for a .833 save percentage. Jake Muzzin has a minus-5 goal differential in 5-on-5 play.
Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche: The Avalanche need Varlamov to be above-average for them to have a chance to return to playoff form. His first two performances weren’t positive signs. He allowed five goals on 30 shots in a 5-4 loss to the Wild and allowed three goals on 33 shots in a 6-3 win over the Dallas Stars. He has a .873 save percentage through two games. He had a .921 save percentage last season and a .927 save percentage two seasons ago.
St. Louis Blues rookie forward Robby Fabbri left Saturday’s game in the first period after taking an elbow to the head. An update on his status is expected to come on Monday. The Blues still need to decide whether to keep the 19-year-old Fabbri in the NHL or have him return to juniors for another season.
The Avalanche’s line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Alex Tanguay had a strong first week. Landeskog produced three goals and two assists. MacKinnon had one goal and four assists. Tanguay had two assists. The Blackhawks’ line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Kane also showed some promise.
Connor McDavid has been offensively quiet, like the Oilers. He has zero points, four shots on goal and has averaged 18:23 of ice time through two games. He’s had trouble on faceoffs and is 5-of-24.