False Start: Five veteran NHLers who need to pick up the pace

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It’s still early, but a handful of veterans are struggling to find their stride early in the season. Here are five players who need to find their groove again.

Jonathan Quick|Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

Want to scare Los Angeles Kings fans right now? Just say Jonathan Quick.

Of course, he was once the king of the city, helping the team win the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014. But the small, reactive goaltender is starting to show signs of slowing. His .888 save percentage and 3.38 goals-against average last season were the worst numbers of his career, and his 7.18 GAA and .750 SP after two games this season is downright embarrassing.

The Kings aren’t a threat in the Western Conference and Quick isn’t going to change the team’s fortunes. But at 33, Quick is declining at a rapid rate. His $5.8-million cap hit isn’t ideal for a goalie with his numbers over the past two seasons and Jack Campbell and Cal Petersen are champing at the bit to prove themselves worthy of more starts.

With his contract on the books until he’s 36 in 2023, moving Quick isn’t likely in the near future. That’s not to say it’s impossible. The Edmonton Oilers did find a way to move Milan Lucic’s deal, right? But trading Quick and any potential future with another organization shouldn’t be Quick’s focus this season. Bouncing back and proving himself should.

He’s not the only notable veteran off to a tough start. Here are five others that need to start producing soon:

Paul Stastny, C (Vegas Golden Knights)
The big storyline in Vegas was how loaded the team was up front. In the first four games of the year, Mark Stone, Reilly Smith, William Karlsson and Max Pacioretty helped prove that notion, but it took Stastny until Saturday’s outing against the Calgary Flames to notch his first point. Despite his chemistry with Stone and Pacioretty in the playoffs last season, Stastny found himself stuck on the third line with Valentin Zykov and Brandon Pirri due to the emergence of rookie Cody Glass. That’s still an impressive third trio, but it’s not the start Stastny would be looking for after a strong 2018-19 season that had him on pace for 69 points in a full season (he finished with 42 in 50 games). It’s still early, but the Golden Knights surely want more from him.

Tomas Hertl, LW (San Jose Sharks)
Hertl scored a career-high 35 goals and 74 points and led the Sharks forwards in scoring last season, so it’s a little surprising that he started 2019-20 without a goal in his first five games. Evander Kane’s return from suspension could help Hertl find his footing, but even Kane has a pair of points through his first two games.The Sharks know what Hertl is capable of and shouldn’t be concerned, but his play is leaving a lot to be desired early on. Heck, even 40-year-old Patrick Marleau had two goals in his first game after missing all of training camp.

Martin Jones, G (San Jose Sharks)
As a team, the Sharks are struggling, but a lot of it comes back to the inconsistent play of Jones. Sound familiar? It’s been a recurring issue in Jones’ career, and with 12 goals allowed in his first three games (4.55 GAA and .854 SP), Jones is off to a brutal start to the season. This isn’t altogether new for Jones. He started 2018-19 with a 1-3 record in his first four contests with a .896 SP. Jones’ high-danger save percentage at 5-on-5, .750, ranks 26th of the 32 goalies with at least games played this season, so he’s going to have to turn things up quickly. He bounced back last season and had a solid playoff run, so hopefully it’s just a case of early season jitters for Jones.

Joe Pavelski, RW (Dallas Stars)
Dallas’ prized acquisition this summer, Pavelski hasn’t had much of an impact on the scoresheet – just one assist – through his first six games in the Lone Star State. For comparison, his linemates, Roope Hintz (five) and Mattias Janmark (four) sit first and second in scoring on the Stars. Pavelski has typically started the season strong, scoring three goals in six games to kick off 2018-19 before finishing with a 64-point campaign. The Stars, in general, have had a rough start with a 1-4-1 record through six games, but this is rather uncharacteristic for Pavelski and Dallas is hoping he turns it around after inking a three-year, $21-million deal in the summer.

Kasperi Kapanen, LW (Toronto)
For a guy playing alongside John Tavares and Mitch Marner, Kapanen has struggled to find offense this season. Kapanen finally recorded his first assist on Thursday in a 7-3 loss to Tampa Bay, but he’s otherwise been quiet on a team with some top-scoring stars up front. In the 38 games from January 1 to the end of the 2018-19 regular season, Kapanen had just six goals and that lack of scoring success has spilled into 2019-20. For now, it’s clear Kapanen is more suited for the Leafs’ third line and should assume that role once Zach Hyman returns from injury.

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