CALDER TROPHY WATCH
No, you can't win NHL Rookie of the Year based on one month, but here are a few youngsters off to impressive starts:
1. Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes: A few teams may already regret letting the smooth finisher slip all the way to the tenth overall pick in the June draft. No one expected Skinner to produce out of the gate like this: six goals and nine assists for 15 points in 17 games. Better yet, he has earned the trust of Paul Maurice, who is giving the 18-year-old almost 17 minutes of ice-time per game.
2. Sergei Bobrovsky, Philadelphia Flyers: 10-2-1 with a 2.08 GAA and .932 save percentage, the rookie Russian goaltender is one of the great early-season surprises of the league. How BOB fares when he hits his first rough patch will say a lot about whether he'll be in the Calder race from beginning to end.
3. PK Subban, Montreal Canadiens: One of the most exhilarating young players to watch, Subban is playing top-four minutes on the blueline for Jacques Martin's Canadiens. Subban has a goal and six assists for seven points in 17 games. He's also plus-5. If Subban continues to develop at the NHL level, he could end up as one of the three finalists for the Calder.
One to Watch: Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks: Identical stats to fellow rookie defenseman Subban, and also averaging over 21 minutes of playing time a game, Fowler is causing even more regret in the scouting community than Skinner.
1. Alexander Semin, Washington vs. Tampa Bay, Thursday: Call it also the best performance in one period of the week, if not the season so far. Somehow, Semin wasn't worthy enough to crack the NHL's All-Star ballot announced Friday, but the night before he carried the Capitals to a 6-3 win over the Lightning. Semin had five points in the third period, including a natural hat trick, to break open a tied game.
2. Ray Whitney, Phoenix vs. St. Louis, Saturday: The Coyotes' unrestricted free agent signing of the summer was starting to hear it about his failure to score a goal so far this season. The small forward responded in a big way, getting a hat trick and two assists to be part of every goal in Phoenix's 5-3 over the Blues.
3. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh at Atlanta, Saturday: On the list of goats for the mediocre-so-far Penguins, the big Russian was arguably right behind goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for second place. In Atlanta on Saturday, Malkin pulled off one of those brilliant performances that make you wonder why he doesn't do it more often. Like Whitney, Malkin was involved in all four Penguins' goals, with a hat trick and an assist in a 4-2 victory.
4. Marian Gaborik, Rangers vs. Edmonton, Sunday: In just his second game back after missing a month with an injury, Gaborik scored three goals in New York's 8-2 blowout of the Oilers in a Sunday matinee at Madison Square Garden. Beyond his hat trick, Gaborik's even more notable achievement may have been waking up Alexander Frolov, his winger who had two goals and two assists in the game. "It's not just me," said the humble Gaborik. "We're clicking together."
5. Carey Price, Montreal vs. Vancouver, Tuesday: Price deserves a lot of credit for turning around the fans in Montreal with his stellar play. There was no better way than to stop all 34 shots in a shutout of the Vancouver Canucks, led by Quebec native Roberto Luongo in goal. Price made 19 saves in the third period for the Canadiens.
Honorable Mention: Relentless grinder Vernon Fiddler was the offensive star with a hat trick in the Coyotes' 5-4 win over Calgary on Friday ...The Flyers went into Raleigh on Thursday and whooped the Hurricanes, but no one better than the newly-reupped Jeff Carter, who had a hat trick on eight shots through just two periods ... Artem Anisimov had two goals, including the overtime winner, in the Rangers' 3-2 win over Buffalo on Thursday ... He wasn't very busy, but give credit to Curtis McElhinney for his first NHL career shutout, a 1-0 win at home for the Ducks over the Islanders on Wednesday ...
THE HOT SEAT
Scott Gordon: The New York Islanders have lost ten games in a row. There isn't a single person in the league outside the Islanders who would point the finger at the head coach. But you know how life is for coaches in the NHL. With Garth Snow having ultimate job security for years to come, but no big deals for him to make, the focus turns to Gordon.
1) Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens: When the Canadiens decided to trade playoff hero Jaroslav Halak this summer, it put a ton of pressure on Price to perform (and he's always been under pressure). After a rocky start in the preseason, he's been outstanding between the pipes, and through 16 starts has a .923 save percentage to go with a pair of shutouts. During Saturday's 7-2 thrashing of Carolina, he also managed to make one of the saves of the year when he robbed Chad LaRose with this glove save...
2) Thomas Vanek, Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres finally picked up their first home win of the season this weekend, and it came in overtime against the Washington Capitals with Thomas Vanek sealing the deal with this individual effort through the Washington defense...
3. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning: Nobody in the NHL can one-time a puck like Steven Stamkos. His shot was on display Friday night in Pittsburgh, picking up his league-leading 15th goal of the season in his 16th game.