Two may be a crowd

SCOTT MORRISON

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

No one asked, but...

NET-PICKING

Until one of the Maple Leafs goaltenders, Vesa Toskala or Andrew Raycroft, plays well enough, often enough to make the answer to the question each game of who will be the starting goaltender entirely academic, or at least easy enough for the media to figure out, there will be always be a controversy.

And a distraction.

That is perfectly understandable, too. Where there is uncertainty, there is the potential for debate.

However, by not announcing who the starter is, or even confirming on the morning of a game, it unnecessarily creates an uneasy atmosphere and dressing-room inquisition that, especially on a game day, can't be mentally healthy for either goaltender, who certainly don't need any additional challenges in trying to help a team that, on the heels of a stunning victory by Toronto FC, now owns the longest current winless streak in the MLSEL empire.

LINE OF DUTY

Winning is never a bad thing and so the Ottawa Senators should feel good about the two wins they managed over the Maple Leafs, though they were hardly dominant. But they found a way. The concern the Senators might have, though, is of the seven goals they have scored so far, six have come from the Dany Heatley-Jason Spezza-Daniel Alfredsson line. Heatley and Alfredsson have three apiece, with Spezza contributing a handful of helpers.

Again, there are no complaints when your big line is producing, but it does speak to a concern about a potential lack of balanced scoring and why coach John Paddock had contemplated splitting up the big line to share the wealth, only to revert back to make sure the team got off to a fast start with seven games in 11 days to start.

CASHING IN

Who says money doesn't buy happiness? Daniel Briere, the free-agent acquisition of the Philadelphia Flyers, scores twice to lead them to an opening-night victory. Chris Drury, the other former Sabres signed by the Rangers, scored a goal (the game winner) and two assists playing alongside Jaromir Jagr to lead New York to a win.

Then there is Dany Heatley -- whose new riches don't arrive until July in the form of a $5-million signing bonus, followed by a $5-million salary, followed by another $4-million signing bonus the following July -- he has three goals and five points in his first two games.

FOR KEEPS

While the misfortunes of the Buffalo Sabres, losing both Briere and Drury as unrestricted free agents after not negotiating throughout their final season, provided a certain impetus for the Senators to move on signing Heatley now, it was still all about identifying the core group of talent and trying to retain it. Fresh in the memory of general manager Bryan Murray was the signing of Wade Redden a few summers ago, but the loss of Zdeno Chara to free agency when he was coach. Murray understands as the cap universe continues to unfold how difficult it is to get that level of talent, especially if you lose it.

HOSSA INHERITANCE

The Heatley deal pretty much establishes the parameters for Marian Hossa and Atlanta. Ironically, of course, Hossa and Heatley were once traded for one another. By way of comparison, over the past two seasons Heatley had 100 goals and 208 points, while Hossa had 82 goals and 192 points, but on an inferior team.

UP THE LADDER

Know this, the appointment of Ron Francis as assistant general manager in Carolina was neither gratuitous nor ceremonial. Hurricanes general manager Jimmy Rutherford was very impressed with his work the past year as director of player development. He easily could have appointed Marshall Johnston, his director of pro scouting and a former GM, but felt Francis was ready to take the next step.

DEVILS DEFENSIVE

Now, one game does not make a season. We all know that cliche.

However, if you are the New Jersey Devils, who play their first nine games on the road, the fact they managed to score just once in a 3-1 loss to Tampa in their season opener just might be cause for concern.

A year ago, the Devils were tied for 24th in the NHL with Phoenix in goals for, with 216. Only the Flyers, Blues, Blackhawks, Blue Jackets and Oilers scored fewer goals. All of those teams missed the playoffs, but because of Martin Brodeur and superior defensive play the Devils did not. But that was also when they had Scott Gomez, a terrific playmaker, and Brian Rafalski, a good point man. Now they don't.

PRICE GOOD DEAL

There is very sound logic in the Canadiens deciding to keep rookie goaltender Carey Price with the big club, rather than play him a lot in the minors for a full year. You never want to rush a young goaltender and stunt his development, but there is also no harm in allowing Price to start the season with the Habs and confirm whether this is the place to be. Best case scenario is if Price is the real deal now, the Habs might be able to move Cristobal Huet later to fill a pressing need.

---

GO FIGURE

DECIPHERING THE STATS

7

Combined wins of the Calgary Flames the past three Octobers. Bad starts have haunted this team and they only managed one win in pre-season play. The past three Stanley Cup champions have had a record of 78-17-14 in October.

10

Seconds that Kent Nilsson of the Minnesota North Stars needed to score the season-opening goal in 1986-87, the league record.

14

Points earned by the Dallas Stars and New Jersey Devils last year in games in which they trailed in the last five minutes. The Colorado Avalanche and Maple Leafs, both playoff orphans, earned two and three points respectively in such games.

567

One-goal decisions last year in 1,230 total games, 46.1% of the total. A further 67.7% were two-goal games.

2,880

Shifts by Colorado defenceman Brett Clark last year, most in the league. Florida defenceman Jay Bouwmeester was second with 2,610.


Videos

Photos