Welcome to the first edition of Northeast News, a feature that will run every now and then (no guarantees on when). On this particular day, we see a familiar name at the top of an unexpected list, all while taking a light-hearted and bitter look at the Northeast Division's happenings.
Another game, another win for Toronto. It was the other way around a year ago, as the Maple Leafs didn't achieve their fourth victory until Nov. 21. The best club, tied with Chicago for the most goals for, and the finest goal differential in the league. Leading up front in scoring is a familiar face in Clarke MacArthur, who is already up to five goals and counting.
Up until late August, it was unsure if MacArthur would possess NHL employment after the Atlanta Thrashers walked away from his arbitration settlement. Toronto picked him up riskily and not only is he ahead of Phil Kessel in markers, but he's the joint top producer overall. Add to that the fact that he's quickly made history by becoming the first Maple Leaf to notch a goal in the opening four games of a season, and it's an influential feel-good story.
Despite receiving more ice time and powerplay chances, MacArthur has excited people with fancy production at the beginning of a campaign before. Is he ready to take that next step and amass 20-30 goals? Perhaps, but they should keep their expectations reasonable in Toronto and their fingers crossed. Certain aspects of life seem too good to be true and MacArthur's potential was just that in Buffalo.
A picture says a thousand words.
Temporarily, Carey Price has closed the mouths of his critics - also known as: every fan in Montreal - with a .925 save percentage and a goals against average just under 2.50. With stops resembling the amazing theft on Sidney Crosby, the much maligned Price is giving the Canadiens the possibility of victory each game and that's all a goaltender can do.
Maxim Lapierre continues to throw questionable hits without having to answer for them by letting the referees intervene. Hanging on to his opponents arms for dear life and keeping his visor handy, the 25-year-old is fortunate that Steve Downie didn't get his hands on him afterwards.
Lapierre could actually learn a thing or two from Downie, whose dirty plays often overshadowed his skills. By putting his antics away and focusing squarely on hockey, he had a career-year in 2010 and is a better player for it in Tampa Bay.
Mike Fisher pushed the Ottawa Senators to their first win on Thursday with a two-goal effort. That same game, Nick Foligno connected a hit to the head of Patrick Dwyer. Dazed but uninjured from the play, the Hurricanes forward finished out the match and Foligno was fined $2,500 for the action. While the malicious intent was at a minimum, it remains to be a clear-cut example of what the league is hoping to eliminate from the sport. Earning $1.2 million, this won't exactly put a dent in his pockets.
If Pascal Leclaire didn't have bad luck, he'd have no luck at all. Pulling his groin on Thursday, the netminder adds another injury to his compilation which includes a fractured cheekbone from an errant puck that caught him in the face last year. Did we mention he was on the bench minding his own business when he was struck? If that 16-game absence wasn't sufficient punishment, he missed another nine contests because of a Mike Fisher shot to his forehead during a pre-game drill.
Ottawa's non-existent powerplay has too many weapons to be this poor. Quarterback Sergei Gonchar is stressing to shoot and has even offered to move to the left side of the point so that Erik Karlsson can attain his preferred position. Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson have the creativity in their genes, while speedy Milan Michalek will keep defensemen sweating. They'll get it together eventually.
Over half of Buffalo's tallies have come from the stick of Derek Roy, who is tied with MacArthur for the league's best total. Jason Pominville's condition is an immense loss, but Ryan Miller hasn't gone anywhere and Lindy Ruff's offense should be better with the inclusion of Tyler Ennis. Weren't they meant to learn from their postseason letdown with the Boston Bruins? The opportunistic scoring has yet to arrive.
Jordan Leopold has lived up to his reputation with four points, Drew Stafford is in strong shape and Ennis hasn't lost a stride. Tim Connolly and Thomas Vanek are ice cold in their contributions. A minus-six rating isn't helping Tyler Myers avoid a sophomore slump thus far. Four straight home losses hurt, even more when your goalie is doing his part.
It's funny; Ottawa is the one side Buffalo struggle to get a handle on, and this year, the Senators are the only adversary they've beaten. If they can't dig deep and find motivation to overcome the Chicago Blackhawks today for what they did to Pominville and the fact that they rubbed salt in the wounds by earning two points at HSBC Arena, then that spells trouble.
Tim Thomas confirmed he is in better shape by posting a shutout in his first start and placing pressure on young Tuukka Rask. Boston takes to the ice for the first time in North America later this evening, visiting the struggling - in more way than one - New Jersey Devils.
Enigmatic Nathan Horton showed off his shot in Europe, scoring three times on Ilya Bryzgalov and instilling hope that someone can be an offensive force for the Bruins. Still a long ways to go for the former Florida Panther to prove himself as a natural scorer.
Finally, if you haven't seen it yet, observe Tyler Seguin's first NHL goal because it was a cool finish from the second overall pick in the 2010 Entry Draft. Dealing Kessel to Toronto in exchange for the selection that turned in Seguin and the second-round choice of Jared Knight looks to be a win-win transaction. Assured goals for Toronto and valued youth for Boston.
Now, if only the Maple Leafs could turn back the clock on trading Rask for Andrew Raycroft.