Minneapolis, MN – Minnesota’s lackluster start has some in Minnesota questioning if this team is still hungry, battling Cyber Cup hangover or if they simply don’t have enough talent to make a serious run this season. The goals aren’t coming as easy as some would have hoped and the team’s defense has struggled at times while the power play has looked absolutely abysmal. Things aren’t going to come easier anytime soon as the Rink Rats’ next 8 games are against strong contending playoff teams including a home-and-home series against the all-star team that is the Las Vegas Bulls.
The few bright spots of the season thus far include a strong penalty kill which has ranked near the top of the league all season and rookie David Krejci’s play and the chemistry he seems to have with Mike Cammalleri who have combined for 8 goals and 12 assists in the first 8 games of the season. While Krejci and Cammalleri have had some success, the rest of the team seems to be struggling to find that “winning chemistry”. The Langkow-Roy-Langenbrunner line that played so well the second half of last season has really struggled. Roy is nursing a wrist injury that has limited his play but still has managed 2 goals & 6 assists. Langkow’s 3 goals and Langenbrunner’s 2 goals and 3 assists should be better. The third line’s play has picked up a bit with Patrick O’Sullivan’s return to the lineup centering Matthew Lombardi and Michael Ryder. The defense has been up-and-down. Reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns has been pretty limited this season with opponents playing tight against him while new acquisition John-Michael Liles has struggled to get into a rhythm through his first 8 games. Jordan Leopold and his minus-4 rating found his way into being a healthy scratch for tonight’s game against the Stallions in place of rookie Keaton Ellerby.
The next 8 games will surely be a huge test for the Rink Rats who are looking to improve on their current position in the standings. Head coach Dan Bylsma suggested that goaltender Ryan Miller will have to play “consistently well” and all 3 lines will have to step up their play. The Krejci line will get a chance to start in tonight’s game and Bylsma suggested the Langkow line may be split up if they don’t start scoring goals. “Those guys did such a good job last year that maybe the expectations are off a bit, but we need them to start scoring. Langkow should be one of our top goal scorers and he just hasn’t produced thus far. We’ll need Daymond, Roy and the rest of our guys to play 100% better if we want to succeed this season. We can’t have games like the past two nights. The Dugouts are a fine team but they haven’t won a game yet this season and we tied them last night, plus we only beat the Hoodrats 5-1 the night before; that’s unacceptable and what makes the difference between a decent team and a good team. We need to get pucks in the back of the net.”
Rink Rats News & Notes
Reports have state that Minnesota may be looking to move prospects Nikolai Kulemin, Tyler Kennedy or Brian Elliott. Kennedy is off on a tear in the NHL with 5 goals in 11 games (on pace for 37 this season) while Kulemin is projected as a skilled top-6 forward. The team is likely more willing to move Kulemin over fan-favorite Kennedy, but would consider offers of players that could contribute this season and for years to come in Minnesota.
Caps Vs. Leafs
A release earlier this week asked the question who is off to a worse start – Capitols of the WHL or Leafs of the NHL & who will finish with a better record in the end. Our answer: Leafs have the worse start because of the talent that is on the team. Leafs will have the better record in the end even though the Capitols of the WHL play 2 additional games.
Mason vs. Tavares
The release also called out the Steve Mason versus John Tavares draft debate. I would’ve loved to be a fly-on-the-wall during the negotiations for the Bulls to move up to the 1st overall pick, because I have to believe there was an opportunity for the Orcas to make a package deal and gain the 2nd & 3rd overall picks which would have got them Mason & Matt Duchene. The Bulls wanted Tavares bad and who wouldn’t? Nonetheless, they selected Mason and the deal is working out well for them thus far with an improved winning record to start the season. My argument is the same as many in the WHL, since the Orcas didn’t make a move to try and get number 2 & 3 they have to select Tavares in that spot. They have a goaltender in Price who is already solid and projected as a number one goaltender plus they have depth in backup Ty Conklin and potential in Thomas McCollum. With no true number one at center waiting in the wings, Tavares was the logical pick. The Bulls’ beat-down on Mason last night surely made some kind of a statement.