NHL pluses and minuses

Times columnist Helene Elliott rates the pluses and minuses in the NHL from the previous week:

+ If Sidney Crosby can be said to do anything quietly, he is quietly having a sensational start. Through Sunday he led the NHL in scoring with 17 points, including at least one point in all eight games the Penguins had played. That's a personal best to start a season for Crosby.

+ St. Louis forward David Backes scored six goals in the Blues' first seven games, matching his total in last season's 48-game schedule. Overall, he has nine points. That's good not only for the Blues (5-1-1) but for the U.S. Olympic team because Backes is part of the leadership group for Team USA at the Sochi Games.

+ Mike Smith on Saturday became the 11th goaltender in NHL history to be credited with a goal, beating the clock by one-tenth of a second to cap Phoenix's 5-2 victory over Detroit. He previously scored a goal in the ECHL. Kudos to Smith, who had stirred his teammates a day earlier after squandering a lead against the Ducks when he said, "We were scared to win….We stopped playing the game." If the Coyotes were angry, they channeled it well — into a win over the Red Wings.

- Defenseman Andrej Meszaros, who's earning $5.5 million this season, was a healthy scratch in the three games the Flyers played before beginning a weeklong break. The Flyers, last in the East at 1-7-0, lost defenseman Kimmo Timonen to a lower-body injury in their last game, so Meszaros might get his job back by default.

- The Columbus Blue Jackets nearly made the playoffs last season thanks to goalie Sergei Bobrovsky's Vezina Trophy-winning performance, and much was expected of them this season. So far, not so great. They ended a four-game losing streak Sunday with a 3-1 victory over Vancouver, fueled by R.J. Umberger's first goal of the season, but they're 3-5-0.

- The New York Rangers (2-5-0) were left without three of their top six forwards after team captain Ryan Callahan broke his thumb while blocking a shot Wednesday. He's expected to be out three to four weeks. Also out are Rick Nash (concussion symptoms) and Carl Hagelin (shoulder).

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