I love the start of the season for all its surprises, kool-aid drinking, fulfilled prophecies, and general league-wide hand-wringing. It's fun to see hot starts and cold slumps, and watch everyone try to interpret which is real (the 1-win Lightning? 5-win Buffalo?) and which is the mirage of small sample size (the winless Flyers? 6-win Rangers -- please?).
In the kool-aid drinking category, the THN cover boy Oilers were undefeated ... until being shut out last night by the Blackhawks, who themselves dropped the biggest early season surprise on us all.
In the fulfilled prophecy category, we have the Lightning. But Lightning management has been an easy target, so I'll stop there. Still, though, did you see they named Brian Lawton GM?! If you thought Lawton was already GM from the first day he awkwardly passed Jay Feaster at the coffeemaker, you're not alone. But now it's all official and stuff.
Finally, in the surprising and hand-wringing categories, you have the winless Flyers and struggling Stars.
Something was clearly in the water in Philly last night, as 12 goals were scored. But upon catching the highlights, I got a clue as to why they're in the Patrick Atlantic Division basement: Wow, was the goaltending awful! Nittymaki was lifted after three goals in the first 20 minutes. Then Biron let in some true stinkers, including a classic "Follow the skater out of your crease, watch helplessly as he wraps around the other side into an empty net" goal.
But on to the day's task: The Stars have also been ugly, largely due to goaltending. Marty Turco has had a very rough start -- he was lit up in an ugly way in St. Louis last week. Last night, on the Avery Returns Metro Tour, they were spanked by the Devils 5-0, with both goalies (Turco was the backup) feeling the hurt.
I'm glad we get the Stars on back-to-back nights, but I don't welcome being their target for a bounce-back game the night after they were routed. A team that should be good -- and the Stars should be much better than 2-4-1 -- likely looks upon the Islanders as a proverbial "slumpbuster."
Two ways to look at the game, encompassing all the lovely cliches of early-season chaos:
I'm Ready to Go, Coach. The Stars are struggling. The Isles have had several practice days to work and hone the Gordon system. DiPietro is back, his knee rested. Chris Campoli may be back. Old men Guerin and Weight feel good on the NFL schedule. The Isles will come out flying against the road-weary Stars. And Sean Avery, if he's a factor, will bring out the best in his opponents, including The Beast of Brendan Witt.
I'm Feeling a Little Pekid, Coach. The Stars are struggling ... so they're due. The Isles have had several practice days ... to accumulate rust. Avery hasn't made performance-related headlines in seven games this season, but apparently he single-handedly took the Rangers up several mountains last year on his well-waxed shoulders, and the Short Island Smurfs are lost and spineless 6-2-1(?) without him. Isles' ex-PR/now beat blogger Chris Botta has said several times that Avery is good for hockey, so I'm sure the jinx gods will make him finally have a day against the Isles in his only chance this season.