Atlantic Watch: 10/6-10/11

Philly started off the season with a 2-1 win against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Boston Bruins in Beantown, then recorded a dominant 3-0 shutout in New Jersey to end a 101-game drought during the regular season and playoffs combined.

After giving up the first goal of the NHL season to Brad Marchand, the Flyers scored two goals in the final minute of the first period. Claude Giroux dangled his way to a goal with 50 seconds left, while Jakub Voracek scored with only three seconds to go on a turn around shot in the slot. Fortunately for Philly, this would be all they needed as Ilya Bryzgalov shined making 22 saves in his Flyers debut.

On Saturday, Giroux scored first for Philly again. This time goals from Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds gave the Orange and Black a resounding 3-0 victory. Bryzgalov recorded a shutout in two games with a team that didn’t record a single one all last season. He is currently on a 130:18 shutout streak.

Giroux leads the team in goals with two after two games. Simmonds has impressed his new fanbase early — scoring a goal and registering an assist in his first two games as a Flyer. Chris Pronger and Andrej Meszaros round out the group of Flyers with two points after two regular season games.

With Mike Richards and Jeff Carter gone, several of the new Flyers are going to need to score this year. So far this hasn’t been a problem as three of the five goals this season have come from players who weren’t on the roster last season. In addition to Simmonds, Read has scored early in their Flyers’ career. Jaromir Jagr, an old face to the league but a new face to the Philly uniform, had the primary assist on Giroux’s goal against Boston for his first point as a Flyer and his 1,600th in his NHL career.

This upcoming week is marked with three difficult games.

Tonight, Peter Laviolette’s charges contest their first game at home against the defending Western Conference champs, the Vancouver Canucks. On Saturday,  Richards returns to the city which once cheered him, as the Los Angeles Kings visit the Wells Fargo Center. Then, to cap off the week, the Flyers travel to Ottawa on Tuesday to take on the struggling but still-feisty Senators.

Pittsburgh Penguins: 3-0-1. The Penguins started their season off with a strong road trip that saw them grab five out of a possible six points against three Canadian teams. After edging out the Canucks in a shootout on Thursday night and beating the Calgary Flames 5-3 on Saturday, the Pens fell to the Edmonton Oilers in a shootout on Sunday. They closed out the week with a win in their home opener against the Panthers.

Returning from his lengthy suspension that ended his playing time last season, Matt Cooke scored two goals in a his first game back while teammates Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin scored on their shootout attempts as the Pens held off the Canucks for a 4-3 win.  

Two nights later in Calgary, the Pens scored four goals in a twelve minute span during the second period to push them towards a two-goal decision against the Flames.

After an early goal from Letang in the first period, the Oilers tied the game at one late in the third period with a goal from the first overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins put in his own rebound with just under five minutes left in regulation to push the game to overtime. A scoreless overtime resulted in shootout, where both Jordan Eberle and Ales Hemsky scored for the Oilers. James Neal was the only Pen to find the back of the net against Devan Dubnyk as the Oilers won 2-1.

Richard Park and Pascal Dupuis scored their first goals of the season while Cooke scored his third as the Pens beat the Panthers 4-2. Despite the fact the flightless birds didn’t out-shoot Florida in any period, the Pens grabbed the lead late in the first period and never looked back.

When it comes to the scoring leaders on the Penguins, it’s no surprise that Letang leads the team with five assists and six points. What may be shocking to most people is the fact Cooke leads the team with three goals in only four games after scoring just 12 goals in 67 games last season. Obviously, Cooke most likely wouldn’t lead the team if Sidney Crosby was playing or Evgeni Malkin didn’t miss any games. Also falling into the strange category is the fact Jordan Staal only has one goal so far this season and the fact that Chris Kunitz has yet to score.  

The Pens continue their homestand tomorrow as the supposedly-restocked Washington Capitals visit Pittsburgh for the first time this season. After the Caps, the Buffalo Sabres come to call on Saturday before Monday night’s return to Winnipeg for the first time since 1996. To conclude the week, the Penguins go to St. Paul to play the Wild on Tuesday night.

New Jersey Devils: 1-1-0. The Devils didn’t start the season off strongly, but they were able to win their second game of the season to break even this week. After being shut out by the Flyers on Saturday, the Devils proceeded to beat the Hurricanes on Monday night.

Three goals against, no goals for, David Clarkson being pummeled by Wayne Simmonds, and Martin Brodeur allowing a soft goal on a Matt Read shot in the slot isn’t the way to start a season. 11 of  the 18 Devils’ skaters in the game had a plus/minus rating of minus-1 or worse, including Ilya Kovalchuk and Nick Palmieri who were both a stunning minus-3. One positive to take away from the game was that the penalty kill was eight-for-eight. However, that positive was cancelled out by the fact the Devils were shorthanded eight times in a game they dropped to Philly by a score of 3-0.

Zach Parise opened the scoring and closed the scoring for New Jersey two days later as the Horned Ones defeated the visiting Carolina Hurricanes by a score of 4-2. With a goal and two assists, Kovalchuk made up for his weak performance in the season opener as his first goal of the season turned out to be the game-winner. Palmieri also improved his game by registering two assists.

Since no Devil registered a point in their first game, it’s respectable that Kovalchuk leads the team with three points so far this season. Parise and Palmieri are the only Devils with two points. Mark Fayne has a goal while Petr Sykora, Patrik Elias, Andy Greene, and Jacob Josefson all have an assist two games into the season.

This week, the Devils will see several familiar faces. Tomorrow night, the Devils will host the Kings as Brodeur prepares to try and stop his kryptonite in former Flyer/Lightning forward Simon Gagne. On Saturday night, the Devils travel to Nashville to take on a Predators team currently boasting Niclas Bergfors and Matt Halischuk.

New York Islanders: 1-1-0. Halfway through their season-opening four-game homestand, the Islanders find themselves at 1-1-0. Following a loss to the new- look Florida Panthers on Saturday night, the Isles beat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 on Monday.

Both Al Montoya and Jose Theodore made 27 saves on Saturday night. Unfortunately for the Islanders, the Panthers had 29 shots on goal as they beat New York 2-0. Both Stephen Weiss and Jason Garrison, a defenseman who had five goals all of last season, scored in the final four minutes of the first period. Brian Campbell had two assists and former Blackhawk Maple Leaf Flyer Kris Versteeg had the secondary assist on Garrison’s goal for his first point as a SoFla Cat.

On Monday night, the Islanders came out strong against the Wild and scored two goals on ten shots in the first period. Despite the Isles only registering five shots in the final 40 minutes, they were able to keep Minnesota from coming back as they only allowed a Matt Cullen goal early in the third period to hold on for a 2-1 win at home. Andrew MacDonald and Frans Nielsen scored for the Islanders, while P.A. Parenteau had two assists. Mark Streit had a beautiful assist on Nielsen’s goal for his first point since April 10, 2010 (missed entire 2010-2011 season due to a torn left labrum and torn left rotator cuff).

So far this season, Montoya has looked strong. He’s made 47 saves on 50 shots from the opposition. Islanders’ head coach Jack Capuano said they went “with their gut” for the season opener and so far the coach has looked smart. If Montoya plays this good over the next few games, the Islanders may quit the mentality of switching to the hot hand and stay with Montoya for good.

Montoya, and the rest of the Isles, will be tested this week as they face two tough opponents. Tomorrow, the Islanders host the Tampa Bay Lightning, an offensively-skilled team who is hungry for a win due to a 1-1-1 start. The rival Rangers visit on Saturday night to conclude the Islanders’ home stand. The Blueshirts have had a week off due to their trip to Sweden and should be rested enough and ready to play in North America again.  

New York Rangers: 0-0-2. Sweden wasn’t kind to the Rangers as they dropped both games in Stockholm to open their 2011-2012 regular season. After losing to the Kings on Friday, the Rangers dropped their second straight decision — to the Anaheim Ducks — the next night in a shootout.

They may have been playing the Kings, but the Rangers were haunted by a former divisional terror. Richards scored his first goal as a King in the last five minutes of regulation to send the match to overtime. If a goal wasn’t enough, the former Philly captain recorded the primary assist on Jack Johnson’s game-winner with only 52 seconds left in the extra frame to notch a 3-2 win for Los Angeles.

The following day, another Richards scored in the Rangers’ game as time ticked away in regulation. Fortunately for John Tortorella’s sanity, this time it was Brad Richards. Trailing 1-0 with less than three minutes left in regulation, Richards went short-side on Ducks’ goalie Jonas Hiller sending the game to overtime. Bobby Ryan had the lone goal on a flubbed shot during the shootout as all four Rangers couldn’t beat Hiller as Anaheim held on for a 2-1 win.

The only Ranger who has more than a point in the first two games of the season is Richards, with a goal and an assist. Marian Gaborik and Ryan Callahan, who leads the team with 13 shots so far, have the Rangers other goals this season. Ruslan Fedotenko, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, and Ryan McDonagh form the group of Rangers who all have an assist this season in addition to Richards.

The Rangers continue their road trip this week with two games away from Madison Square Garden. First, the Rangers travel to Long Island to take on the Islanders. To close out the week, the Rangers travel to Vancouver to take on the Canucks in a game that starts at 10 p.m. Eastern Time.