Each week at Five on the Fly we’ll preview at five developing storylines for the NHL’s upcoming week.
Devan Dubnyk on Fire
The Bruce Boudreau era in Minnesota has started off swimmingly in Minnesota. Thank you very much, Devan Dubnyk. The 30-year-old has pitched three consecutive shutouts for the Wild, helping the team rise to the top of the Central and go 6-2-1 in their first nine games.
Dubnyk’s 180-minute shutout streak has broken his personal-best of 166:49, and also trumped Darcy Kuemper’s team individual shutout streak record of 163:46. The Wild’s team shutout streak is now 181:43, breaking the old team record of 178:52.
Devan Dubnyk's last three:
Tuesday – Shutout
Thursday – Shutout
Saturday – Shutout
— NHL (@NHL) October 30, 2016
The Wild’s league-best penalty kill (24 for 25, 96 percent) went 2-for-2 and scored shorthanded in Saturday’s 4-0 win over the Stars, so it’s safe to say that Minnesota slowly becoming a defensive juggernaut.
Scoring is up overall in the NHL, but the Wild have been bucking that trend. Dubnyk allowed ten goals in his first four starts but since then he has shut the door on opponents. He has won five in a row and will continue his quest to catch Brian Boucher’s all-time scoreless record on Tuesday when the Wild host the Sabres.
Player to Watch: Jimmy Vesey
We’ve talked a lot about rookie talent in the NHL this season, and Auston Matthews and Patrick Laine have led the conversation. William Nylander and Mitch Marner have also been getting high praise.
But what about Rangers winger Jimmy Vesey? The 23-year-old has potted five goals in nine games for the Rangers and has quickly flourished in a top six role, playing on a line with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash.
Vesey has established himself as a scoring threat and hasn’t shied away from the physical aspects of the game. He’s currently third among rookie goal scorers, just one shy of the pace set by Auston Matthews and Patrick Laine.
Vesey leads all rookies with two game-winning goals and he’s tied for second in rookie plus-minus at a plus-3.
Originally drafted by Nashville, Vesey didn’t sign and had his rights traded to Buffalo before he became a free agent (rather controversially) and was famously wooed by eight clubs this summer. His decision to wait things out and find the right fit has paid big dividends in the Big Apple.
He’s 11th among rookies in total ice time per game (15:26) and he’s playing a key role on the Rangers power play. Vesey admits that he’s been blessed to play with a veteran like Stepan in his rookie season:
“Unbelievably smart. Great vision, and been great for me this year to play with him,” Vesey told N.Y. Post. “He’s always teaching me and coaching me on the bench in-game, and he’s been a great role model.”
Halak Trade Watch Begins
Now that the Islanders have told the rest of the league that top goalie Jaroslav Halak is on the trading block, fans can sit back and speculate about where he’ll end up. There are several teams experiencing health issues at the goalie position that would love to have a quality starter save them from despair, but many of the teams mentioned in early rumors have cap space issues that might make a deal difficult.
According to Isles beat writer Arthur Staple, the team’s announcement that Halak is unavailable migh be more posturing than anything else.
A few thoughts on the #Isles weekend: 1) Don't see much of a trade market for Halak given his salary/term and team hasn't gotten any offers.
— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) October 31, 2016
Would think GS offering Halak around league was more of a shot back at Allan Walsh for going public with his clients' unhappiness.
— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) October 31, 2016
But we came here to speculate, so let’s do that.
The Kings come to mind as a possible landing spot for Halak because Jonathan Quick is out long-term, but L.A. has just over a million cap space and probably don’t want to have Halak around when Quick is set to return, hopefully in a few months.
The Dallas Stars have been unhappy with their goalie tandem of Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen for a while now, but they two have little room to wiggle against the cap.
Carolina could be the best fit for a trade, as Halak would be a huge upgrade over either Cam Ward or Eddie Lack and the team has no cap issues. But would the Hurricanes be willing to spend on Halak’s $4.5 million AAV and give up the chips to make a deal work?
Predators, Subban Searching for Identity
As Shea Weber and Montreal rule the Eastern Conference, P.K. Subban and Nashville have fallen to the bottom in the West. What’s going on with the Predators?
Well, it’s early, and a sample size of less than three weeks is really not enough to gauge the long-term effects of this summer’s blockbuster Subban for Weber trade. One thing to remember? Some early-season adversity can end up being a good thing for a club.
“We’re just trying to build, one step at a time obviously,” Subban said on Saturday before the Preds fell to the Sharks 4-1. “We’ve had a little bit of adversity early on in the season, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing for our hockey club. I think it’s a good thing.”
But the situation is starting to look dire. At 2-5-1 Nashville is in the Central basement and they’ve yet to win in five road games. They are tied for the worst goal differential in the NHL with the Maple Leafs and Coyotes, which is pretty alarming when you think about it.
Shea Weber has three power play goals in nine games, passing P.K. Subban's total for all of last season.
— Аrpon Basu (@ArponBasu) October 30, 2016
Subban himself is a minus-7 with only one even strength point on the season. He has split his minutes pretty evenly with Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm, and while results have been better with Ekholm, neither pairing has cracked 50 percent Corsi. Subban was supposed to help Nashville become better at possession but it hasn’t happened—at least not yet.
But it’s far too early to judge the Subban era in Nashville. The Predators will have a nice opportunity to right the ship against the Avalanche, Coyotes and Carolina this week.
Trending: Who’s Hot, Who’s Not?
Hot: The Canadiens enter the week at 8-0-1 with an NHL-best plus-17 goal differential.
Not: The Calgary Flames power play is 0 for 24 on home ice.
Hot: Sidney Crosby’s back! And he leads the NHL in goals per game, tallying four goals in his first three contests.
Not: The Blackhawks have allowed 15 power play goals on 32 times shorthanded.
Hot: The Rangers trio of Derek Stepan, Rick Nash and Jimmy Vesey is generating 80 percent of scoring chances at even strength, per Corsica.
Not: At even strength, Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau has been on ice for 12 scoring chances while surrendering 36 against, per Corsica.