Monday Musings: Chicago has hope at another Stanley Cup | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaMonday Musings: Chicago has hope at another Stanley Cup

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2013 | 06:00 AM

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Patrick Kane (88) of the Blackhawks eludes Gabriel Bourque in Sunday's 3-0 win over the Predators at Bridgestone Arena. (Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) Patrick Kane (88) of the Blackhawks eludes Gabriel Bourque in Sunday's 3-0 win over the Predators at Bridgestone Arena. (Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

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Monday musings on the Chicago Blackhawks' fast start, the impressive play of David Clarkson, Sam Gagner and Damien Brunner as well as NHL realignment.

The Chicago Blackhawks continued their winning ways with a 3-0 victory in Nashville against the Predators on Sunday.

The Blackhawks have emerged out of the gate with a 10-0-2 record to tie for the second fastest start to a season without a loss in regulation time. They are now only four shy of the record:

  • Anaheim Ducks, 2006-07: 12-0-4 -- Won Stanley Cup
  • Buffalo Sabres, 2005-06: 11-0-1 -- Lost conference final
  • Chicago Blackhawks, 2012-13: 10-0-2 -- ???

The Blackhawks, of course, are only 32 months removed from their successful Stanley Cup run. They still have a balanced attack, but why the standout play that has included an eye-catching 8-0-2 road record?

It's hard to ignore the bounce-back seasons from Patrick Kane and goalie Corey Crawford so far. Kane has rebuilt his image after his drunken weekend in Madison, Wis., with nine goals and 19 points in 12 games -- good for second in the NHL scoring race.

Crawford was a weak link in Chicago last season, but now he ranks first in wins (seven), third in goals against (1.62) and third in save percentage (.935) among goalies who have made five or more appearances this season. 

Clarkson Rolls

For those who felt David Clarkson's 30-goal season last year was an accident, the New Jersey Devils forward continues to prove otherwise. Clarkson continues to thrive under his old junior coach Peter DeBoer.

DeBoer and Clarkson were together with the Kitchener Rangers and won a Memorial Cup in 2003. When DeBoer took over the Devils last year, Clarkson's best season in the NHL was a 17-goal effort in 2008-09. He bettered that mark by 13 last year.

With his nine-goal outburst this season, including three game-winners, Clarkson is among the Top 10 goal scorers since the beginning of the 2011-12 season.

The 28-year-old forward from Toronto also happens to be an unrestricted free agent in the summer. Here are the top goal scorers since the start of the 2011-12 season:

1. Steven Stamkos, TAM: 67 goals in  93 games played

2. Evgeni Malkin, PIT: 53 G in 88 GP

3. James Neal, PIT: 48 G in 93 GP

4. Marian Gaborik, NYR: 47 G in 93 GP

5. Alex Ovechkin, WAS: 42 G in 90 GP

6. Ilya Kovalchuk, NJD: 41 G in 89 GP

7. Matt Moulson, NYI: 40 G in 93 GP

T8. David Clarkson, NJD: 39 G in 92 GP

T8. Patrick Marleau, SJS: 39 G in 93 GP

T8. Michael Ryder, DAL: 39 G in 93 GP

T8. Phil Kessel, TOR: 39 G in 94 GP

Go-Go Gagner

If you were the Edmonton Oilers, would you still trade 23-year-old forward Sam Gagner?

It was a little more than a year ago when Gagner caught the attention of the hockey world with his eight-point game at home against the Blackhawks. After that impressive outing, he finished the final 31 games of the season with nine goals and 17 points.

This season, Gagner, who spent part of the lockout playing in Austria, has points in 11 of the Oilers' 12 games. He leads the team with four goals and 13 points and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

First Impression

The Detroit Red Wings appear to have unearthed another talented European player in Swiss forward Damien Brunner. He leads all first-year players six goals in 12 games. However, he's not eligible for the Calder Trophy race because he's too old at age 26.

Brunner credits his coach with EV Zug, Doug Shedden, for preparing him for the NHL. Brunner was in a slump playing for Kloten when he was traded to Zug in 2008.

"I was so happy to get out of there," Brunner told the Detroit News. "But you know, everyone was telling me, 'Oh my God! Now, you've got the hardest coach ever! He's going to kill you! He's Canadian! You're too soft!'

"And what I learned is, right that first week when I got in that locker room, Doug Shedden was the best thing that ever happened to me, at that time."

Shedden, of Wallaceburg, Ont., played 44 games for the Red Wings in the late 1980s.

"He was so hard on me and tried to push me every day," Brunner said. "But he told me right away after 10 days, 'Listen, kid, you've scored a couple goals now, but you have to do that every night. You have the potential to score 30 goals a year.'

"From there on, I just try to compete every day and work hard. And he gave me [a hard time] a lot to try to push me in the right direction and he told me, 'Look, your goal has to be to play in the NHL.'"

NHL Realignment

NHL Players' Association executive director Donald Fehr told the New York Post that he expects this week to discuss realignment with the NHL that will go into effect next season. Last year, the NHL came up with a realignment configuration that was given the thumbs down by the NHLPA.

"A year ago, when we raised the issue of increased travel for teams, the league did not have mock schedules for us to review that might have alleviated our concern," Fehr told the New York Post. "And we had an issue with the fact that teams would either have a mathematical advantage or disadvantage of qualifying for the playoffs depending upon whether they'd be in a seven-team or eight-team conference."

By The Numbers

4 --Goals scored this year by Phoenix Coyotes forward Lauri Korpikoski, a native of Turku, Finland, all against Finnish netminders in Kari Lehtonen (Dallas), Antti Niemi (San Jose), Pekka Rinne (Nashville) and Niklas Backstrom (Minnesota).

1,200 -- Career regular-season games for New Jersey Devils 40-year-old goalie Martin Brodeur. That's 171 more than Patrick Roy, who is next in line.

755 -- Points in 903 career games for Henrik Sedin, one point shy of Vancouver Canucks all-time franchise leader Markus Naslund.

9 -- Goals scored by the defence corps of both the Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets to lead the NHL.

0 -- goals scored by Colorado Avalanche defencemen Ryan Wilson, Jan Hejda, Erik Johnson, Greg Zanon, Ryan O'Byrne, Matt Hunwick, Shane O'Brien and Tyson Barrie.

Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC

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