Well folks, we are just past the quarter mark of the NHL season and a lot has happened already.
We have seen rookies get off to hot starts, teams that struggled last year now playing well this season, great goaltending, questionable hits and much, much more.
There have also been several surprises this season, both of the good and bad variety. With that in mind, let’s take a look at five good surprises and five bad surprises that have taken place in this shortened season.
Anaheim Ducks/Viktor Fasth
After failing to make the playoffs last season and finishing 13th in the Western Conference, the Anaheim Ducks are one of the league’s best teams this season.
Sitting at 11-2-1 and second in the West, the Ducks have done it with goal scoring, solid defence, excellent play on the special teams and goaltending. The team is 8-1-1 in their last ten games and they are doing it because of the latter.
After Ducks’ netminder Jonas Hiller got injured, the teams put 30-year-old rookie goaltender Viktor Fasth between the pipes and have not looked back since. Fasth has won his first eight starts and has done so putting up excellent numbers with a 1.78 GAA, a .933 save percentage and one shutout.
The Ducks are back in a big way and the rest of the West should be on high alert.
New Jersey Devils/David Clarkson
After losing Zach Parise to free agency and the Minnesota Wild during the off-season, many figured that the New Jersey Devils would take a big step back this year.
Those folks are still waiting as the Devils are one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams this season. The team is currently 9-3-3 and has done so with timely goaltending, solid defence and on the surprising goal-scoring output of David Clarkson.
After scoring 30-goals last season, Clarkson is at it again this year. In 15 games, Clarkson has 10 goals and six assists for 16 points and is currently fourth in the league in goals scored and second on the team in points.
If goaltender Martin Brodeur keeps up his usual consistent play and the Devils continue to find other sources of goal scoring, this could be a very dangerous hockey team come playoff time.
Montreal Canadiens/Toronto Maple Leafs
When it comes to hockey in Canada, the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs are the two most talked about teams.
This season, it is a good topic of discussion as each club finds themselves in a top eight spot in the Eastern Conference. The Habs currently sit in the second spot at 9-4-1 while the Leafs currently hold the sixth spot at 9-6.
After missing the playoffs last season, the Canadiens have come out with a vengeance. The team’s youngsters Brendan Gallagher (five goals and three assists) and Alex Galchenyuk (one goal and seven assists) are playing like veterans and netminder Carey Price (8-3-0, 2.06 GAA, .922 save percentage and one shutout) is playing like an all-star.
In Toronto, the Leafs are playing well because of the goaltending of James Reimer (6-3-0, 2.31 GAA, .929 save percentage and one shutout) and Ben Scrivens (3-3, 2.23 GAA, .927 save percentage and one shutout). Whether it is Reimer, who is currently injured, or Scrivens, each netminder gives the Leafs the opportunity to win a hockey game and through 15 games, the team has taken advantage of that.
If both of these teams manage to continue their strong play, it could be a very exciting spring in both of these highly respected hockey cities.
Chicago Blackhawks/Patrick Kane/Corey Crawford
When looking around the NHL, it is easy to see that right now, no one is better than the Chicago Blackhawks.
As of this writing, the team is 11-0-3 and is first in the Central Division, Western Conference and the entire NHL. The team has been successful thanks to its offence led by Patrick Kane and the play of their netminder Corey Crawford.
Kane is a new human being. He has matured both on and off the ice and it shows with his terrific play this season. As of this writing, Kane has nine goals and 12 assists for 21 points, which is good for second in the league in scoring.
Between the pipes, Crawford has been remarkable. As of this writing, Crawford is 7-0-3 with a 1.65 GAA (fourth in the league), a .935 save percentage (fifth in the league) and one shutout.
If the Blackhawks continue to play this way, their second Cup in three seasons might be in their future.
The Buffalo Sabres may not be playing good hockey but at least one player on their team is doing everything he can to will them to victory.
Sabres’ forward Thomas Vanek has been everything and more for his Sabres’ hockey club this season. As of this writing, Vanek has 12 goals and 12 assists for 24 points in his team’s first 15 games this season.
This season, Vanek has already recorded two five-point games, one hat trick, and six multipoint games. There really is not much more you can ask from a player, is there?
Again, the Sabres may be near the bottom of the NHL but it is certainly not because of the play of Vanek.
After being one of the better teams in the NHL and Eastern Conference last season, the Philadelphia Flyers seem to have fallen from grace.
In 16 games, the Flyers are 6-9-1 and currently hold the 12th spot in the East. Furthermore, the team is only two points out of last place in the entire Conference.
For once, the team cannot blame their struggles on their goaltending. In fact, Flyers’ masked man Ilya Bryzgalov has been the team’s most consistent players this season.
If the Flyers want to assure that they get into the playoffs this season, team general manager Paul Holmgren may need to make a move sooner rather than later.
New York Rangers’ power play
With a roster that has several talented goal scorers and point producers, one would think that they would have a lethal power play.
Well, when it comes to the New York Rangers at least, that thought would be wrong. On a team that has the likes of Marian Gaborik, Rick Nash, Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan, Michael Del Zotto, Marc Staal and other forwards capable of putting the puck in the net, they are currently ranked last in the NHL with the man advantage.
At this point, even team head coach John Tortorella has no idea what to do when it comes to the club’s power play. Tortorella knows it is absolutely awful and also knows it should not be that way with the arsenal that he has.
While the Blueshirts currently have the eighth and final spot in the East, they would be much better if their power play could ever click.
Los Angeles Kings
After winning their first Cup in franchise history last season, the Los Angeles Kings have been an extremely inconsistent hockey club this season.
As of this writing, the team is 5-5-2 and sits in the 12th spot in the Western Conference. For a team that was supposed to be a Cup contender in this shortened season, this is very disappointing.
Much like last season, the team is struggling is to score goals. Currently, the team is ranked 27th in the league in goals scored.
If the Kings do not get their act together sooner rather than later, they may become the New Jersey Devils on 1995-96 when they won the Cup in 1995 and failed to make the postseason the year after.
Last season, St. Louis Blues’ netminder Brian Elliott was one of the league’s top goaltenders.
This has not been the case for Elliott this season. As of this writing, Elliott is 3-5-1 with a 3.57 GAA and a .849 save percentage.
Elliott looks lost between the pipes. He is not playing with any confidence, is having trouble controlling rebounds and is also finding himself out of position on certain shots.
The Blues many currently hold the fifth spot in the conference but if Elliott continues to struggle and Jaroslav Halak continues to be hurt, the Blues could end up in big trouble.
When the Washington Capitals’ hired Adam Oates to be their coach, everything was supposed to change for the better.
Through the team’s first 14 games, that has not been the case. The Capitals are currently in last place in the Eastern Conference and just one point ahead of the worst team in the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Yes, the team had won three straight games going into last night’s tilt against the New York Rangers but that is not nearly the whole story. The team has played horrible defensively, the goaltending has not been up to par and Alex Ovechkin, even though he has ten points (five goals and five assists), is still not the offensive machine that he once was.
If the Capitals are not able to fix things sooner rather than later, the team might miss the postseason for the first time since 2006-07.