10 Surprises in the 10/11 Season Thus Far
Every year the National Hockey League has its typical occurrences. Detroit has the best record in the league despite forming their team from the local retirement home. Garth Snow’s New York Islanders are bottoming out. Sidney Crosby leads the league in points, and the Leafs give away 12 goal leads in the dying seconds of a hockey game. What often goes unmerited are the players/teams who weren’t expected to do more than coast throughout the regular season. These surprising efforts surface due to hard work, determination, and the will to show up game after game; something fans of the Phoenix Coyotes have yet to learn. Below are ten surprises from the opening 25 games of the 10/11 NHL regular season:
10. Tim Thomas
The Gumby of goalies, Thomas flails his body every which way to stop that evil puck from touching his holy netting. After winning the Vezina Trophy in 08/09 with an impressive 36 – 11 – 7 – 5 record, Thomas endured a disappointing 09/10 with a losing record of 17 – 18 – 8 – 5. After seemingly losing his starter job to rookie phenom Tuukka Rask, Thomas has regained his starting position with authority, leading the league in SV%, GAA, and shutouts.
9. Pacific Division
The Dallas Stars, Phoenix Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks currently represent the tightest division in the league with just three points separating the five teams. The league’s most tanned hockey teams all either own or sit one point out of a playoff spot
8. Columbus Blue Jackets
Experiencing much the same pattern as Thomas, America’s ‘meh’ team squeaked into the playoffs for the first time in 08/09. The Blue Jackets followed that up with an abysmal 27th place finish a year later. However, with help from Nash, Brassard, and Umberger, the Blue Jackets have bounced back, sitting two points behind the defending Stanley Cup Champs with five games in hand.
7. Milan Hejduk
Hejduk will turn 35 through the course of the 10/11 season, and after spending the entirety of his career in Colorado, he has been through the best and the worst. The veteran has cashed his fair share of Czechs, especially after winning the Rocket Richard Trophy in 02/03. Hejduk is helping the Avalanche lead the Northwest Division by producing at more than a point per game clip for the first time since his award winning year. His 27 points thus far proves that he shows no signs of slowing down.
6. Jeff Skinner
On an average Carolina Hurricane team destined to sit on the bubble for the duration of the season, 18 year old rookie Jeff Skinner is one of the lone bright spots. Skinner leads the rookie scoring race with 7 goals and 19 assists. If Skinner can keep up his torrid pace, winning the Calder Trophy could be a breeze.
5. Dustin Byfuglien
Byfuglien leads the NHL for having the most silent letters in his name… and also game winning goals. After being traded from Chicago and being moved to defence in the pre-season, Byfuglien has thrived, putting up 27 points in 25 games. He, along with newly appointed captain Andrew Ladd, will make a strong case for the Thrashers to make the playoffs for only the second time in their 11 seasons.
4. Philadelphia Flyers
26 games into the season, and the Flyers lead the league in goals with 87, leaving them in second place in the Western Conference behind the Washington Capitals. Philadelphia’s early season success is evidence that last year’s run to the Stanley Cup finals was not just a fluke. If the Broad Street Bullies can keep it up, they might just soar right back to the finals for a chance at revenge.
3. Carey Price
When Pierre Gauthier traded Jaroslav Halak instead of Carey Price, everyone, including yours truly, thought he had eaten a little too many paint chips that morning. However, as if to finally silence his critics, Price has been hot since opening day, leading the league in wins, saves, and minutes. As much as I hate to say it, at under three million dollars a year, the Price is actually right for Montreal.
2. Sergei Bobrovsky
It appears Philadelphia’s goaltending woes have come to an end. After setting an NHL record by burning through over 1000 goaltenders since the lock-out, 22 year old rookie Bobrovsky has finally provided the Flyer’s some stability. The young puck stopper has put up an impressive 12 – 3 – 2 record, while sitting in 6th for both goals against average and save percentage. Sergei is battling with Subban, Eberle, and Skinner for the Calder Trophy.
1. New Jersey Devils
Since entering the league in 1982, New Jersey has only missed the playoffs seven times, and haven’t missed the mark since 95/96. This season the Devils sit second last in the league with a record of 8 – 14 – 2, and the backbone of the team, Brodeur, dealing with injuries The Devils may have a seriously injured line-up and a 100 million dollar man who has been useless, but they better start praying to make up for the ground they have lost.
If you think that there is someone or something missing from the list or that should have made it, tell me below!
By: Kyle Larkin