Early NHL Season Surprises


Oct 10, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks celebrate after a goal by Anaheim Ducks left wing Dustin Penner (17) against the New York Rangers during the second period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Every year you probably read the same thing — who’s surprising all the critics and what no one could have seen coming. So why not give you what you expect? 3 weeks in and here are a few of the early season surprises in the NHL:

1. Good teams playing bad: We all knew it’d take some time for the New York Rangers to get used to the new guy in the driver seat, but 5 games in and it looks like they need a lot more work under Alain Vigneault. Out scored 15-2 in their two losses to San Jose and Anaheim, suddenly the team that couldn’t score but held games close with King Henry’s solid play isn’t even in contests. A 9-game road trip out West to start the season doesn’t help either. I genuinely feel bad for the Blue Shirts; well at least their fans. It’s not a good time to be a New York sports fan. The Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers can join this group as well.

Oct 12, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Washington Capitals in the second period at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

2. Rocky Mountain Win Streak: Is all it really took to get the Colorado Avalanche turned around, a Legend, now turned whacko with a short fuse at the helm? Patrick Roy has the young bunch playing “miles high.” Maybe some more tantrums and defacing of boards will do the group good. Semyon Varlamov seems to be thriving in the early going under Francois Allaire. Don’t expect it to last. They will fall back to earth, but might at least finish out of the cellar.

Oct 5, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier (45) turns away a shot as he is snowed against the Ottawa Senators at the Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Senators 5-4 in the shootout. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

3. Keeper Battle in T.O. No More: James Reimer is a fan favorite in Toronto, but aside from the great story, what the Toronto Maple Leafs clearly need is stable goaltending, so when GM Dave Nonis brought in Jonathan Bernier, no matter what you might have hoped, he was brought in to usurp Reims and take over the number one job. That’s what his pedigree is, to be an elite goaltender in the NHL. I just don’t think anyone thought it would happen this quick. Sporting a 0.84 GAA and a .974 save percentage through the first 4 games he’s played (I’m not including the EDM game), Bernier has forced Randy Carlyle to play him every night as he’s the best chance for them to win, especially with a lack luster defense in front of him. Even in the high scoring 6-5 OT win over the Edmonton Oilers Saturday night, Bernier though not sharp, made big saves at the end of the game when he was needed most. Bernier’s rebound control and overall calm approach is just what a shaky defense needs. So when Reimer gets his chance, and he will, he’ll have to make the most of it; a hard feat at this point. So far there isn’t much of a battle.

Oct 12, 2013; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks center Tomas Hertl (48) congratulated by team after scoring during the first period against the Ottawa Senators at the SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

How long will Tomas Hertl lead the league in goals? Will 2013 rookies continue to put up big points for their clubs? Probably not for long, but it’s exciting none the less. It’s still very early and very likely it will all move towards the mean at some point, but the start has definitely garnered some interesting story lines.

What’s your pick for biggest surprise in this early NHL season? Comment below or tweet me @ArbuckleTV or the whole team @TMMOTS.