Some Monday morning musings from the NHL and rest of the hockey world to get you started for a week that will see:
Shootouts on rise
The main topic of discussion at the NHL general managers' meeting in Toronto last Tuesday was whether to extend overtime to seven, eight or maybe 10 minutes so more games are not decided by a shootout. GMs simply don't like so many games decided by the penalty-shot competition.
Even though only one of the 15 games on Saturday and Sunday ended in a shootout, the number of shootouts is on a record pace this season:
2013-14 -- 49 shootouts in 308 games (15.91%)
2012-13 -- 97 shootouts in 720 games (13.47%)
2011-12 -- 181 shootouts in 1,230 games (14.72%)
2010-11 -- 149 shootouts in 1,230 games (12.11%)
2009-10 -- 184 shootouts in 1,230 games (14.96%)
2008-09 -- 159 shootouts in 1,230 games (12.93%)
2007-08 -- 156 shootouts in 1,230 games (12.68%)
2006-07 -- 164 shootouts in 1,230 games (13.33%)
2005-06 -- 145 shootouts in 1,230 games (11.79%)
The Western Conference proved its by far the better in the first quarter. Eight of the top nine clubs after the 20 games reside in the West. In inter-conference play, West teams have a combined 85-36-13 record over Eastern Conference opponents:
Anaheim, 15-4-1 (31 points)
St. Louis, 14-3-3 (31 pts)
San Jose, 13-2-5 (31 pts)
Colorado, 15-5-0 (30 pts)
Chicago, 13-3-4 (30 pts)
Phoenix 13-4-3 (29 pts)
Tampa Bay, 14-6-0 (28 pts)
Minnesota, 12-4-4 (28 pts)
Los Angeles, 13-6-1 (27 pts)
Boston, 13-6-1 (27 pts)
Toronto, 12-7-1 (25 pts)
Pittsburgh, 12-8-0 (24 pts)
Dallas, 11-7-2 (24 pts)
Vancouver, 11-7-2 (24 pts)
Detroit, 9-5-6 (24 pts)
Washington, 11-8-1 (23 pts)
Montreal ,10-8-2 (22 pts)
N.Y. Rangers, 10-10-0 (20 pts)
Nashville, 9-9-2 (20 pts)
Winnipeg, 9-9-2 (20 pts)
Carolina, 8-8-4 (20 pts)
Ottawa, 8-8-4 (20 pts)
New Jersey, 7-8-5 (19 pts)
Philadelphia, 8-10-2 (18 pts)
Columbus, 7-10-3 (17 pts)
N.Y. Islanders, 7-10-3 (17 pts)
Calgary, 6-11-3 (15 pts)
Florida, 4-12-4 (12 pts)
Edmonton, 4-14-2 (10 pts)
Buffalo, 4-15-1 (9 pts)
All good-story team
Several players skated out of the gate in fine form this year, but here's a first-quarter all-star team to consider based on their stories:
Josh Harding, G (Minnesota) - His career was in doubt when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a year ago. But all he's done is reel off 12 wins in 14 stars with an incredible league-leading 1.25 goals against average and .946 save percentage.
Taylor Fedun, D (Edmonton) - The native of Edmonton shattered his right leg in an icing incident in an exhibition game in 2010. After missing an entire season, he returned and played well in the AHL last year. When he finally was promoted to the Oilers this season, he scored goals in his first two NHL games.
Willie Mitchell, D (Los Angeles) - A troublesome knee injury kept him on the sidelines for the entire lockout shortened season. In his return, the 36 year old from Port NcNeill, B.C., has helped stabilized the Kings defence, which has yielded 2.14 goals a game, making it the fourth stingiest in the NHL.
Tyler Seguin, F (Dallas) - He was shipped out of Boston because the Bruins questioned his commitment to the cause. But he certainly has found a new home in Big D. He is among the Top 10 scorers in the league with 12 goals and 23 points in 20 games.
Alex Steen, F (St. Louis) - Toronto's 2002 first-round pick has never scored more than 24 goals or 51 points in a season. Through the first-quarter, the swift-skating Swede is tied for the lead-league in goals with 17 and is the top point-getter with 26.
Shane Doan, F (Phoenix) - He could have signed elsewhere as a free agent in the summer, but waited out the Coyotes ownership saga and stayed put. At 37, he has 10 goals in 20 games, his best start since his 11 goals in the first 23 games of 2008-09.
Surprises and disappointments
Surprise team - Coyotes. After the disappointment of missing the playoffs last spring following their trip to the West final in 2012, the Coyotes have pushed themselves into the thick of the race for top spot in the conference.
Honourable mention goes to Tampa Bay, Anaheim, Colorado.
Disappointing team - Oilers. Most felt they would bust out this season after seven years in a row of missing the playoffs. But new head coach Dallas Eakins has been unable to whip these kids into shape.
Honourable mention goes to Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg.
Canadian Olympic goalies
Each week, we rank the top contenders for the three goalkeeper spots on the Canadian Olympic team based on their play to date:
1. Mike Smith (Phoenix) - The Coyotes goalie has gone 11-1-3 in his past 15 decisions and 12-3-3 overall this season. He leads the league in saves (584), shots faced (637), appearances (19) and minutes (1,106:36).
2. Corey Crawford (Chicago) - No Canadian goalie has more wins than Crawford's 13 after a 23-save effort to beat the San Jose Sharks 3-1 in a Western Conference showdown on Sunday.
3. Josh Harding (Minnesota) - The inspirational Harding has 12 wins and leads the league in goals against (1.25) and save percentage (.946).
4. Carey Price (Montreal) - His 7-8-2 record is ordinary, but his .936 save percentage is outstanding and so was his week with 101 saves in 105 shots.
5. Martin Brodeur (New Jersey) - The 41-year-old goalie has been sensational lately. He has won his last four starts with two shutouts and 97 saves in 100 shots.
By the numbers
3 - Wins in a row, including back-to-back shutouts and 86 saves in 88 shots, for Los Angeles Kings goalie Ben Scrivens in the absence of injured Jonathan Quick last week.
29:36 - The ice time of league-leader Ryan Suter this season, which is more than two minutes more than next on the list, Ottawa blue-liner Erik Karlsson (27:11). Suter, a Minnesota defenceman, has played 30 or more minutes in five of his last six games.
48 - Career games Buffalo Sabres forward Brian Flynn has played without a penalty, the longest active streak in the NHL.
87 - Years ago on Saturday, the New York Rangers won their first game in franchise history, a 1-0 decision over Montreal. Guess what the score of the Rangers-Canadiens game was on Saturday? Yep, 1-0 for the Blueshirts.
618 - Career NHL wins for St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock, a total which moved him into ninth on the all-time victory list and just two behind Bryan Murray's 620 in eighth.
Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC
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