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Cullen: Tough times in Philly and league's top hitters

Scott Cullen
10/28/2011 2:14:21 PM
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Thursday night's game between the Winnipeg Jets and Philadelphia Flyers conjured up images of hockey from a bygone era, when the freewheeling offences and goaltenders with smaller equipment conspired to allow for more high-scoring affairs.

While those days are in the past, shaky goaltending and subpar defence still provided a 17-goal game, the league's highest-scoring game in 15 years.

Some observations from the epic encounter:

Jets D Zach Bogosian was minus-3, dropping him to minus-6 through nine games. The Jets are trying to give Bogosian significant responsibility -- he matched up most against the Flyers' line of Danny Briere, Wayne Simmonds and James van Riemsdyk -- but he's now minus-51 in 161 games since the start of the 2009-2010 season.

Briere and van Riemsdyk each scored a pair of goals, combining for seven points. It was a gratifying performance for van Riemsdyk, who played 18:04 after playing under 15 minutes in each of the previous four games.

After a slow start to the season, Flyers LW Scott Hartnell has six points in the last three games, playing at least 16 minutes in four straight.

Philadelphia's defensive woes could surely be attributed, at least somewhat, to the absence of Chris Pronger, but Pronger's absence also was a factor in Kimmo Timonen putting up four assists. It was the second four-assist game of Timonen's career (the first was December 13, 2008, in a 6-3 win against Pittsburgh).

To make up for the spot on the blueline, the Flyers recalled D Erik Gustafsson, who was minus-2 in 16:13 of ice time. A 22-year-old mobile, if undersized, defenceman, Gustafsson had four points and was plus-3 in eight games with Adirondack of the AHL.

Also called up, LW Zac Rinaldo doesn't dazzle with his skills, but he's not easy to play against, recording 331 penalty minutes in 60 AHL games last year, then announced his return to the Flyers' lineup with seven hits in 6:45 of ice time against Winnipeg.

Rinaldo's hitting pace prompted this search, for the players with the most hits per 60 minutes in the NHL so far this season:

Note that this year's early leader, one @BizNasty2point0, is the same player that led the league in the 2010-2011 season.

RANK PLAYER TEAM POS. HITS/60
1. Paul Bissonnette Phoenix LW 27.92
2. Zac Rinaldo Philadelphia LW 25.54
3. Kris Newbury N.Y. Rangers C 23.88
4. Cam Janssen New Jersey RW 23.13
5. Matt Martin N.Y. Islanders LW 22.57
6. Chris Porter St. Louis LW 22.46
7. Mark Fistric Dallas D 20.39
8. Cody McLeod Colorado LW 19.57
9. Derek MacKenzie Columbus C 19.31
10. Troy Brouwer Washington RW 18.67
11. Michael Rupp N.Y. Rangers LW 18.42
12. Dan Carcillo Chicago LW 17.91
13. Aaron Volpatti Vancouver LW 17.89
14. Brad Staubitz Minnesota RW 17.17
15. Colton Gillies Minnesota C 16.91
16. Cal Clutterbuck Minnesota RW 16.33
17. Ryan Carter New Jersey C 15.87
18. Eric Nystrom Dallas LW 15.52
19. Dale Weise Vancouver RW 15.49
20. Brad Winchester San Jose LW 14.81
21. Chris Neil Ottawa RW 14.67
22. Tom Kostopoulos Calgary RW 14.61
23. Steve Ott Dallas C 14.39
24. Lennart Petrell Edmonton C 13.98
25. Kyle Clifford Los Angeles LW 13.98

* - Minimum 5 games played.

The most obvious problem for the Flyers, aside from Pronger's injury (usual partner Matt Carle is minus-8 in three games since Pronger was injured), is that Ilya Bryzgalov is not on his game, to say the least. Since allowing one goal total in his first two games of the season, Bryzgalov has since allowed 25 in his last six appearances (4.51 GAA, .840 SV%), including four goals in 34 minutes of relief against Winnipeg.

While the Flyers are falling apart, the Jets emerged victorious in a game that saw them blow a 5-1 (and 6-2) lead before rallying to win.

Nik Antropov, Tanner Glass and Blake Wheeler each had three points for the Jets, while Evander Kane, Alex Burmistrov, Bryan Little and Mike Stapleton each had two.

Antropov has six points in the last three games, moving him into a tie for the Jets' lead with Burmistrov, as both have nine points in nine games. The third member of that line, Kane, has four points in the last three games, despite playing under 11 minutes in two of those three games. It seems preposterous that Kane is playing just over 13 minutes per game through the first eight games of the season, but at least he's starting to chip in offensively.

Little and Wheeler are off to slow starts, both looking for their first goals of the year, but five points between them might be a sign that they are ready to break out.

MONSTER MASH
Jonas Gustavsson turned in a strong performance for the Leafs at Madison Square Garden, stopping 28 of 30 shots for the win. It was only the third time in his last 16 starts that Gustavsson had allowed fewer than three goals against.

The Rangers' defence pairing of Steve Eminger and Tim Erixon took a minus-3 on the night, despite being kept away from the Leafs' top line (per www.timeonice.com).

GORGEOUS GORGES
Canadiens D Josh Gorges play a no-frills defensive game, but suddenly has four assists and a plus-4 rating in his last four games, giving him six points and a plus-5 rating in ten games this season.

SABRES SHARP
Sabres wingers Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek each had three points against Columbus, two each on power play goals that included Brad Boyes on the scoring play.

Buffalo was backstopped to the win by G Jhonas Enroth, who stopped 41 of 43 Columbus shots. In his last 11 starts, Enroth has allowed two goals or fewer eight times.

DA COSTA
Senators C Stephane Da Costa could have a better opportunity now that Mika Zibanejad is returning to Sweden. Playing a season-high 15:53 against Florida, Da Costa scored a goal and was plus-3, a big improvement after he had one goal and was minus-7 in the first eight games.

GO, FISH!
Nashville's lineup has received a real boost by the return of Mike Fisher, who has four points in his first two games, including three points against Tampa Bay Thursday, when he led all Predators forwards in ice time with 20:24.

VOYNOV
Kings D Viatcheslav Voynov faces the prospect of being sent back to the AHL when Drew Doughty returns to the lineup, but Voynov is making the decision a difficult one, turning in a stellar performance against the Stars on Thursday, scoring two goals, adding an assist, with a plus-2 rating and leading the Kings with five shots on goal.

It could be hard to justify keeping Alec Martinez or Davis Drewiske ahead of Voynov going forward, especially given the Kings' lack of puck-movers on the blueline.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.




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