Sorry for the delay.
1. Erik Karlsson played his best game on Saturday night. Murray has already said that the 10 game mark is irrelevant to his decisions on the kid, so that hopefully took some pressure off. He just needs to take a deep breath and stop trying to do too much. Perhaps some road games will do him some good, getting out of the spotlight (much like he was out of it Saturday night when all attention was on AK27, as Panzeri pointed out).
2. This does lead us to another point of discussion, though, because we all expect Kuba to be back on Thursday night when we host the Predators. Who comes out? Picard has been playing solid hockey with Carkner, so you don't want to break that up. Campoli, while not showing up much on the scoresheet, is still the more reliable dman over Karlsson. So who comes out? Do you risk hurting the team by sitting Campoli, the better dman right now, to help with the development of Karlsson? We've already sent Lee down to make room for the kid, so how many accomodations will we make? The kid deserves a chance to succeed, no question, so it will be interesting to see Clouston with his first really tough decision.
3. Speaking of decisions, it sounds like Regin will retake the spot as third line centre from Shannon. I said in the summer that Ryan Shannon is a serviceable player but not a regular NHL forward. We don't just acquire some kid in a minor league trade that blossoms into a top nine forward without much work. He is fast as hell, yes, but it doesn't mean that he's an 82-game player like a Foligno is for us. Glad we have him and love his speed, but he's the 13th forward, to me. That also makes Winchester the 14th forward. Again, it is a good problem to have and creates some healthy competition, but that makes three warm bodies in the press box every game. My guess is on Campoli, Shannon, and Winchester hanging upstairs, fair or not.
4. We need to continue piling up wins in October. Our schedule has us with the Preds on Thursday, then to the struggling Bruins on Saturday. This is really the game that I want to see us win. Take a team that dominated us last year but is slow out of the gate and let us add to their misery. I think we can have a lot of believers out there if we come out strong in Beantown. We then finish the month with Florida, Tampa, and Atlanta. Duff's mindset - we must win 4 of those 5 games to get off flying in this season. Win the games you are supposed to win. Things get a bit tougher in November - Devils twice, plus Pittsburgh, Philly, and the Rags. Let's get our wins now so we have a buffer against those dominant teams. I believe in us as a playoff team, but not as a second place team. This thing will still come down to April and these October points against garbage opponents are critical. This is the difference between making it in (us) and missing out (Montreal and Toronto, per my earlier predictions).
5. Shout out to some great performances in the past week - obviously the watermelon warrior with the hat trick v Tampa, along with a solid game from Cheechoo. Carkner has been playing like he's 28 years old out there (and he is) and is easily one of our top players. The fourth line has been earning and receiving solid ice time, which not only gets us a few goals but also means that the top six guys don't have to log 22+ minutes a night. Remember the Hartburg era when the pizza line was playing 24 minutes a night and was burnt out by Christmas? The energy that our top players are saving now will be critical in March and April (and May?). And last but not least, Snoopy in nets has been unreal. Best goalie we've ever had (I don't acknowledge the Hasek era, blocked from memory). What a difference in makes when the forwards don't have to hang out below the slot for the entire shift because they don't trust their goalie. Carvel said it perfect that the PK is so much better now because they trust the goalie to stop the pucks from certain areas of the ice, leaving them to cover much less territory than in the past. Pascal, you're the top star so far, mon ami!
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