It's early in the season, yet the inclination is to immediately draw conclusions about where some teams are and where they are going based on the standings.
That can be misleading.
However, in the case of the Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators, I think it is safe to invoke the Dennis Green Clause and proclaim: They are what we thought they were.
We can also invoke the new Bruce Boudreau Clause -- "You can infer whatever you want to infer" -- which was how the Washington Capitals coach answered a question about whether forward Jay Beagle had sustained a concussion in a fight Oct. 13 with Pittsburgh's Arron Asham. Beagle, by the way, hasn't practised since and is now "week-to-week."
Digging a little deeper behind the facade of the numbers, the Caps are off to their first 6-0 start in history. That looks good but is not impressing some people in The District, who point out they have seen the opposition's backup goaltenders in four of those six games (Brian Boucher, Carolina; Brent Johnson, Pittsburgh; Alex Auld, Ottawa; and Jacob Markstrom, Florida). The two No. 1s they have faced are Tampa Bay's Dwayne Roloson and Philadelphia's Ilya Bryzgalov.
The play of Washington captain Alex Ovechkin has been tepid, although a two-goal performance Thursday night against the Flyers might be an indication he's getting some energy back in his game. The concern of the coaching staff is that Ovechkin has become too predictable, galloping down the left wing and cutting into the middle to shoot, using the defenceman as a screen. Predictable but, let's face it, it has worked for him in the past.
"We do a lot of communicating and talking and video with Alex," Boudreau said. "There's a fine line between showing him too much and overwhelming him, and letting him use the skills that have got him to where he is."
So far, Ovechkin has scored on a deflection in front, a one-timer from the high slot on the power play, and off a goalmouth scramble.
That said, the Caps' Tomas Vokoun has rebounded from a tough debut (five goals on 28 shots) to play solidly and it looks like goaltending shouldn't be a concern. The fourth line of Jeff Halpern, Matt Hendricks and Mathieu Perreault was strong against the Flyers, so, well, infer what you want to infer about how good the Caps are and will be this season.
HEAR AND THERE: With the injury to defenceman Drew Doughty, the Los Angeles Kings called up Slava Voynov. The 21-year-old is not just a bright prospect for the Kings but for the Russian national team, which is looking thin on the back end for the Sochi Olympics. Former Senators defenceman Igor Kravchuk is scouting for the Russian federation but, frankly, there isn't a lot for him to look at as far as defencemen go. Right now the Russian blue line would have Voynov, Fedor Tyutin (Columbus), Anton Volchenkov (N.J.), Dmitry Kulikov (Florida), Nikita Nikitkin (St. Louis) and Alexei Emelin (Montreal). There are only seven Russian defencemen playing in the NHL this season when you add Ottawa's Sergei Gonchar, who will be 40 in 2014 ... John Madden, a three-time Stanley Cup winner, hasn't land a job with an NHL team but still wants to play.
THE BUZZ: The Florida Panthers had five power-play goals Monday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, giving them eight on the season. They didn't get their eighth last year until Dec. 9 (27 games). They had eight in 13 periods this year. A big key? Defenceman Brian Campbell, brought over from the Chicago Blackhawks. With his skating, he is a one-man breakout ... St. Louis Blues forward David Perron skated for the first time with his team Thursday since suffering a concussion last Nov. 4, just as questions were being raised over a concussion suffered last week by teammate Andy McDonald. He passed the in-game concussion testing and returned to play but suffered symptoms the next day. As everybody is learning, no system is foolproof when it comes to brain trauma.
JUST WONDERING: What are the odds? Joe Thornton and Hal Gill broke into the NHL with the Boston Bruins in 1997 and played (will play) their 1,000th games 24 hours apart ... When will Montreal Canadiens defenceman Andrei Markov play again? He's going to be in Florida for rehab for at least another week ... The Boston Bruins came alive against the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday night after coach Claude Julien juggled his lines. Chris Kelly, one of those useful forwards who can play anywhere in your lineup for stretches, was a key. He centred the top line between Tyler Seguin and Milan Lucic and had a couple of points, including the game-winning goal. Picking up Kelly last February was one of Boston GM Peter Chiarelli's best moves.
JUST SAYING: There's nothing like Montreal when the Canadiens are struggling. A Facebook page dedicated to firing coach Jacques Martin; people wanting Patrick Roy to come in as coach; others howling for Scott Gomez to be traded/demoted/tarred. And now here come the Maple Leafs on a Saturday night.
SAME OLD, SAME OLD FOR JAGR
The mullet is gone, sadly.
But Philadelphia Flyers forward Jaromir Jagr did bring some nostalgia back when he returned to the NHL this season after three years in the Kontinental Hockey League.
Jagr is still rocking the old, black Tuuk skate blade holders -- an early model which Bauer stopped making about 15 years ago, near as anybody can figure.
"I've always had them and I never think about it. You think if I change I would be faster? Probably, huh?" Jagr said with a laugh.
They're the only blade holders he has used since be broke into the NHL for the 1990-91 season. In the visitors dressing room at Scotiabank Place the other day, he glanced over at a teammate's high-tech skates and shrugged.
"They've got some new stuff, but I think they're longer and higher, too. It's not easy to make a change if you skate on something for 20 years, you know what I mean?" he said.
The first plastic Tuuks were worn by Jim Roberts of the Montreal Canadiens in 1975, replacing the old tube skates.
When the holders were discontinued, Jagr started hoarding them.
He thinks he has about 10 pairs at home.
There was a problem with the early models cracking when they got hit by a puck, but Jagr said that hasn't been an issue for him.
"I'm going to knock on wood now that you brought it up," he said, leaning over and rapping on his stall.
"Maybe I was playing with good players who pass to me on the stick and not on my (skate) blade. I played with Mario (Lemieux). He was a good player."
THE HOT TEAM
Colorado Avalanche, 5-2
This was another season when not much was expected from the Avs.
But they reeled off a 5-0 trip through the East before losing -- in typical fashion for a team playing its first game at home coming off the road -- to the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday night.
Still, the Avs have been one of the surprises of the early season.
One scout likes the atmosphere around the team under coach Joe Sacco.
"There's a no superstar mentality there. Everybody is on the same page. They've got skill and when you've got skill that works hard, you're going to get results," the scout said. "Sacco has the high-minute guys buying in and that gets everybody else in line. They've got a very workmanlike approach and they just keep going. Even when they get down, they keep coming. You can't wear them down."
The scout said one of the keys for the Avs has been the improvement of centre Ryan O'Reilly. "I'm a real big fan of his. He plays the game the way everybody should play it. He plays a strong two-way game and he's smart. I think his skating has improved. He has always had a high hockey IQ and now he has the skating to match his brain.
"(Paul) Stastny, (Matt) Duchene, O'Reilly, they all play the same way. They have different strengths, but they are all solid two-way players."
Another scout likes what 24-year-old defenceman Ryan Wilson is doing for the Avs. "He stands up for his teammates and he doesn't take a shift off," the scout said.
The number of games played by Detroit Red Wings defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom, provided he suits up Saturday against the Washington Capitals. With 1,500 games, Lidstrom will move past former teammate Mike Modano (1,499) into 14th place on the career list, just 14 games behind 13th spot which is occupied by former Wings captain Steve Yzerman.
The number of games Lidstrom has missed during his 20-year career. He has played five seasons in which he did not miss a single game; four seasons in which he missed only one; and three seasons in which he missed two. The most games he missed in a single season was six in 1994-95, which was lockout-shortened (48-game schedule).
The number of games Lidstrom will have played if he appears in all 82 this season. That's a good bet given Lidstrom has not missed a game during the past two seasons. That would move Lidstrom into 10th spot on the career list ahead of another former Red Wings great, Alex Delvecchio, who played 1,549 games.
The number of coaches in the NHL who did not play a game in the league. With the coaching changes last summer, the number increased by one. Those who did not play a game in the NHL are: Paul Maurice (Carolina); Glen Gulutzan (Dallas); Mike Babcock (Detroit); Tom Renney (Edmonton); Mike Yeo (Minnesota); Jacques Martin (Montreal); Barry Trotz (Nashville); Peter DeBoer (New Jersey); John Tortorella (Rangers); and Guy Boucher (Tampa).
The number of coaches who have played at least 800 games in the NHL and coached 800 games in the NHL. Only one is active: Joel Quenneville of the Chicago Blackhawks, who played 803 games and has coached 1,087 going into Saturday night. The others are Jacques Lemaire (853 games played and 1,262 games coached) and Bob Pulford (1,079 games played and 829 games coached).
Pittsburgh Penguins penalty killing
Total short-handed: 31
Goals against: 1
Penalty killing %: 96.8
Matt Cooke has been telling everybody he's trying to be a changed man. Cooke is trying to put his cheapshot days behind him and make himself a useful player. Well, he has been a big part of the Penguins' league-leading penalty killing. Along with Craig Adams, they are leading the Penguins forwards in short-handed ice time, Adams is averaging 3:15 a game and Cooke 3:04. The Penguins haven't given up a power-play goal in five games on the road -- a total of 20 short-handed situations.
On top of that, the Penguins have scored a league-leading three short-handed goals (Cooke, Pascal Dupuis and Richard Park) making their penalty killing plus-2 on the season so far.