Times columnist Helene Elliott rates the pluses and minuses in the NHL from the past week:
+ Ottawa Senators General Manager Bryan Murray was courageous in discussing his Stage 4 cancer during an interview last week on Canada's TSN. The disease began in his colon and spread to his liver and lung, and he's undergoing chemotherapy to extend his life. Send him good wishes. Better still, heed his cautionary tale. "A simple colonoscopy, in my case, probably would have solved the problem that I have," said Murray, 71.
+ The Montreal Canadiens have climbed atop the NHL standings on the strength of a six-game winning streak. They completed a stretch of four games in six nights by beating the Philadelphia Flyers at home Saturday and the Red Wings at Detroit on Sunday. Coach Michel Therrien has dressed seven defensemen the last three games. Among them is Sergei Gonchar, who is plus-2 since being acquired from Dallas for winger Travis Moen.
+ A key to the Calgary Flames' surprising start is the outstanding play of Mark Giordano, who leads NHL defensemen in scoring with six goals and 21 points in 19 games and ranked sixth overall through Sunday's games. He has a nine-game point streak, with five goals and 14 points in that span.
- Phenom Connor McDavid, the likely No. 1 pick in the June entry draft, broke his hand last week during a fight while playing for the junior-level Erie Otters. He's expected to be out about six weeks and might miss the World Junior Championships. He takes a lot of punishment, but teams that saw Mississauga's Bryson Cianfrone goad him into fighting might try the same tactic. He must be careful when reacting.
- Columbus forward Nathan Horton's career is in jeopardy because of a painful degenerative back injury. The 29-year-old has resisted surgery because it would prevent him from playing again. "I can't stand up like a normal person; I can't bend over," he told the Columbus Dispatch. "I can't run. I can't play with my kids. . . . I can't sleep at night."
- The real losers in the Maple Leafs' 6-2 defeat Saturday at Buffalo were the cretins who launched revolting Twitter attacks against April Reimer, the wife of Toronto goalie James Reimer. It's not the first time she has been targeted. The team should condemn this in the strongest possible terms.