Ducks, ‘Canes early surprises in NHL

Written by ECA Review

The National Hockey League (NHL) may be getting lost in the shuffle of Canada’s men’s national soccer team (more on that squad in January as they continue their run toward the 2022 World Cup), but the shinny game is still No. 1 in our country and the NHL season is already 20 per cent complete, so here’s a few observations from the virtual press box:

Why is Dallas Eakins in the running for NHL coach of the year? Who is Dallas Eakins? might be your first thought, but people in Anaheim, Calif., certainly know who he is. 

Eakins has guided the Ducks to the upper echelon of the Pacific Division after the team finished dead last in 2020-21, and the ‘worst to first’ scenario should be enough to garner some coach-of-the-year votes. 

Flames’ fans might not be aware that their former coach, Geoff Ward, is Eakins’ assistant.

If you’ve been paying only casual attention to the NHL, you might be shocked to learn that the best two teams east of the Mississippi this season are the Carolina Hurricanes and the Florida Panthers. 

Guided by Rod Brind’Amour, the Hurricanes won 14 of their first 16 games while Florida, which endured the resignation of coach Joel Quenneville after seven games in the fallout from the Kyle Beach sex scandal, went 13-2-3 in their first 18 games.

Calgary Flames will be a Cup contender because coach Darryl Sutter has his focus on defence paying dividends. 

The Flames posted six shutouts in their first 17 games, five of them by Jacob Markstrom, and were giving up around two goals a game, the best record in the league.

COVID-19 is still a ‘thing’ in the NHL. Even though cross-border travel and full stadiums are back in vogue, the pandemic is still serious. 

Ottawa Senators had three of their games postponed in mid-November when the virus swept through their locker room.

Seattle Kraken are acting like a true expansion team, winning only four of their first 17 games. 

Vegas Golden Knights set an impossibly high standard for first-year clubs in 2017-18 by contending immediately and reaching the Stanley Cup final in Year One.

Alex Ovechkin appears unstoppable as he slapshots his way toward Wayne Gretzky’s all-time NHL career record of 894 goals. 

The Washington superstar scored 14 goals in his first 18 games, giving him 744 for his illustrious career. 

At age 35, he could have three or four more good years left. Assuming a 40-goal season this year, that leaves him just 124 away, easily attainable in three years. 

If he plays four more, Ovechkin’s almost a certainty to displace the Great One atop that goal-scoring list.

Slap shots

• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “Parents were charged with bribing their child into USC as a phony water polo player. USC should have become suspicious when the picture of their child playing water polo showed him wearing water wings.”

• Patti Dawn Swansson, on Twitter, on the stalwart Blue Bombers’ defence: “They give up points in the fourth quarter about as often as Charles Barkley passes on second helpings.”

• Atlanta Falcons’ Cordarrelle Patterson, who plays receiver, running back and returns kicks, in the New York Post: “If my mom could go out there and work three jobs, I can go out there and play three positions.”

• Alex Kaseberg again: “Julia ‘Hurricane’ Hawkins set the world record for the 105-year-old 100 metres.  She replaced The Kentucky Derby as the fastest two minutes in sports.”

• Comedy writer Brad Dickson of Omaha: “A 105-year-old woman just set an age group world record in the 100-metre dash —1 minute, 3 seconds. Hey big deal, it was wind aided.”

• Headline at “Mariners Promise Fans They’ll Be Back To Finish 2022 Playoff Race In Even More Heartbreaking Fashion”

• Bob Molinaro of (Hampton, Va.): “Until we see a vaccine-avoiding athlete in a lab coat and huddled over a microscope, the phrase ‘I want to do my own research’ is this year’s best punch line.”

• Alex Kaseberg again: “Aaron Rodgers is listed as having a toe injury. After all the ivermectin he has taken, I am just glad it is not hoof and mouth disease.”

• Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: “Jon Gruden is suing the NFL saying he was forced out as Raiders coach. Dear Jon: Who wrote those hateful emails? The NFL? Or you?”

• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “You think the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani was happy to win the American League MVP award? Last March 19, a bettor at Caesars Sportsbook in Nevada placed a $30,000 bet on Ohtani to win it at 30/1 odds.”

• Comedy writer Paul Lander, on actor Ralph Macchio turning 60: “Damn, you’ve gotta be ‘Karate Kidding’ me!”

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by Bruce Penton

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ECA Review