I’m always intrigued by how teams respond to losing a star player. There have been so many injuries to stars in the NHL this year that there are lots of interesting examples. For one, Vancouver has played their last four games without all-World goalie Roberto Luongo. Their backup is Andrew Raycroft, a guy who has bounced around and was chased out of Toronto despite their goalie struggles because he was playing so poorly. You’d expect a fall in performance then, but that just isn’t the case – they were just 6-6 with Luongo, but they are 3-1 with Raycroft. Even more surprising, Raycroft has allowed just two goals in those three wins. Atlanta is another interesting case. Ilya Kovalchuk is by far their best player, and he was off to a good start, but now he’s out of action for several weeks. The team lost the last three games with Kovalchuk in the lineup. They lost the first one he was out for as well, but then bounced back and have won two in a row. The natural reaction would be that a team built around one star would struggle without that star, but the Thrashers won a high scoring game in Montreal tonight. Interesting stuff, even if it is anecdotal.
Exhibition games in college basketball are almost entirely meaningless – top teams schedule creampuffs to work the kinks out. It’s dangerous to draw any conclusions from what you see because teams use them more as organized practices than as real games that mean anything. Still, you can’t help but wonder about what Syracuse managed tonight. They invited Le Moyne , a Division II team that is also in Syracuse, to play. Obviously it wasn’t supposed to be much of a contest, but no one told Le Moyne . Wes Johnson led the way with 34 points as the Dolphins beat Syracuse 82-79. Of more concern than the result is the fact that Le Moyne was able to consistently and effectively shred Syracuse’s man-to-man defense. If Le Moyne can do that then what can we expect from Big East teams down the road? Syracuse starts the season ranked 25th, but this really makes you question if they will stay there for long.