NHL Week in Review (October 18-24)

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The NHL season is only three weeks old but that hasn’t stopped some teams from making massive changes.

The Columbus Blue Jackets were the first to quickly pull the trigger on their team after they began the season winless.

It was a quick move for the team but one that they believed they needed to make before losing became a habit.

The Blue Jackets are a team with plenty of talent on the roster and a team that is supposed to compete for the playoffs this year.

With talent like Ryan Johansen, Nick Foligno, Brandon Saad, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Ryan Murray the Blue Jackets were supposed to be a tough team to beat.

Then the defence broke down and Bobrovsky couldn’t stand on his head to save them as teams began scoring big.

The Blue Jackets have allowed 37 goals this year in only eight games and have only managed to score 15 of their own.

It was a major concern and for the management of the team it was enough to make a major change behind the bench.

The Jackets fired head coach Todd Richards after the first seven games of the season and in his place came one of the most polarizing coaches in NHL history.

John Tortorella was named the new head coach in Columbus after a disastrous tenure in Vancouver that lasted only one season.

Tortorella is not a necessarily a favourite coach of fans and is sure to give Columbus reporters plenty of headaches.

His personality is one where he takes nothing from anyone whether it be players, management, or reporters.

On the ice he presses his players to play a grinding defence first game and has little patience for anyone not willing to buy in to the system.

There are plenty of times when Tortorella has been seen yelling at players on the bench and times when his anger shows through in dealing with the media, an entire group that he has no patience for.

This style and the personality of Tortorella can wear thin for some teams, as it did in Vancouver, but for other teams it is a successful combination that is not easy to move on from.

In Tampa Bay he took the Lightning to the Stanley Cup and won their first and still only title.

He almost did the same thing in New York making the Rangers one of the best teams in the league and taking them to the Conference Finals in 2012 but couldn’t win the title in New York.hockey-sidebar

He went to Vancouver shortly after but a team full of veterans used to a much different coaching style and did not respond to Tortorella as they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Now after being out of the league for a year he returns to try to fix what is wrong in Columbus.

He has already had an impact when he scratched Ryan Johansen for his first game behind the bench due to a lack of fitness while earning the teams first win in his second game at the helm.

This is what Tortorella is all about as he demands a lot from his players and no matter who they are he will punish them for not meeting his expectations.

The big question will be whether or not the players respond to that style of coaching. It has had success but often it has an expiry date where the players simply wear down under the constant intensity that Tortorella brings.

The NHL is a different league now than it was when Tortorella began his career. Much like every other sport players are less responsive to those old school coaches that prefer to yell than talk.

That has been the downfall of the former Stanley Cup and Jack Adams Award winner as his brief time in Vancouver showed.

If he can adjust and fit his system and personality to the new NHL he may have a resurgence as a top coach but if not this may be the last time we see “Torts” behind the bench.

The Blue Jackets are trying to fix things now as they still have more than enough time to move up the standings but the biggest question now is whether or not Tortorella can adjust to the new NHL, where intense coaches don’t often work, and make a winner out of a team that spent three weeks losing games.

Overtime
(More Thoughts on this week in hockey)

Rumours Swirling
Steven Stamkos has entered his last contract year and he is set for a big payday that the Lightning don’t seem to be willing to pay on a contract extension and so the trade rumours are beginning as teams ask the Lightning if they are will to part with the young star

Memorable 900th
The Gordie Howe hat trick, a fight, goal, and assist, is the ultimate game for a grinder and in his 900th game in the NHL one of the last tough guys left in Chris Neil earned that hat trick making for a memorable milestone

Outside in Ottawa
Outdoor games remain popular in the NHL and although they don’t hold as many as a few years ago they are always looking for new places to play and the Ottawa Senators are hoping they have the next great spot as the look into hosting a game on Parliament Hill

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Key Scores:
New Jersey Devils 2 – 1 New York Rangers
– The Hudson river rivalry has been fairly one-sided recently with the Rangers remaining one of the best teams but this time around it was the Devils who are having a good, although not great, season beat their long-time rivals in the first match-up

Montreal Canadiens 3 – 0 St. Louis Blues
– The Montreal Canadiens are starting better than anyone expected and better than they have ever started before as they took on a tough team in St. Louis and took another win to start the season staying undefeated

Buffalo Sabres 2 – 1 Toronto Maple Leafs (SO)
– The QEW rivalry showed that the Leafs are a different team this year despite the lack of talent on the team they fought hard until the end when the Sabres took the win in a shootout to stay out of the basement for the time being

Chicago Blackhawks 1 – 0 Tampa Bay Lightning (OT)
– The Lightning came into Chicago looking for some revenge after losing in the Stanley Cup Finals last year but they couldn’t get that revenge as they fought until the end but dropped the game in overtime

Next Week:
Minnesota Wild vs. Winnipeg Jets (Sunday October 25th; 6:00 pm ET)
– It is one of the most recent rivalries in the league as the Jets and Wild are separated by the border with plenty of fans coming across to cheer for their team and both teams will be looking for a win in their first matchup this year

Montreal Canadiens vs. Vancouver Canucks (Tuesday October 27th; 10:00 pm ET)
– The Canadiens travel across the country in an attempt to continue their great start to the season against a quietly good Canucks team that would like nothing more than to prove they belong in the favourites conversation with a win over their cross-country rivals

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals (Wednesday October 28th; 8:00 pm ET)
– The Penguins have a few big games this week with the first coming against the Capitals in one of the new-age rivalries that is all about how well Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin can do against each other for another year

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (Saturday October 31st; 7:00 pm ET)
– In their second big game it will be Phil Kessel who takes the focus as he returns to Toronto for the first time this year and looks to show that trading him was the wrong idea as he hopes to quite a crowd that used to love and hate him in Toronto

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