November is finally here and snow is right around the corner. On top of that,, it means we have completed the first month of the season in the NHL. There have been a lot of great games, new divisional rivalries, fights and an arrest. Throughout the course of an 82-game season there tends to be a lot of action to follow. What happens if you are hanging out at a party or just debating with some friends in a bar about what is going on in the NHL?
Do not worry. I have you covered on the top three surprises (plus an honorable mention) throughout the first month of the 2013 season. Maybe this can help you look like a genius. Thank me later.
Honorable Mention — Marc-Andre Fleury
The Pittsburgh Penguins are sitting pretty in first place of the Metropolitan Division. Many will say it is due to the fine play of their captain Sidney Crosby, who leads the league in scoring. Others will say they are deeper on defense. Both are factors that played into their early-season success, but the “Flower” has been blooming in net after his second consecutive postseason downfall.
After losing his starting job in the playoffs last year, many wondered if Fleury would even stay in Pittsburgh. A lot of people even criticized him and labeled him as nothing more than the average goaltender.
Well, he answered those critics in emphatic fashion in October. Yes, it is still early and time will tell if he can get it done in April for this team, but his 10 wins rank first in the NHL. He is sporting a 1.83 GAA and a dazzling .930 save percentage on a team that is giving up a large amount of shots.
Unfortunately for Edmonton, they are a surprise in a negative way. Who would have thought this team would be in the cellar of the Pacific Division? They are 3-9-2 through their first 14 games.
With the way they have been using the “Pittsburgh Penguins method” of rebuilding, this team should be higher. They have been racking up their first-round picks over the last several years to give them a young core of talented scorers, yet they are only 17th in the league in goals scored. They rank 24th in power play percentage and 26th in penalty kill.
Ryan-Nugent Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakopov are high-caliber players, yet this team is scoring under 2.5 goals per game. Oh yea, and the Edmonton organization may want to think about drafting a goaltender this summer. Devan Dubyk is not the answer.
2. Claude Giroux
In 2010, Giroux finished the year with 25 goals and 76 points. The Philadelphia Flyers finished 47-23-12. In 2011, he scored 28 goals and 93 points while his team finished 47-26-9. During last year’s shortened 48-game season, the Flyers’ captain managed 13 goals and 48 points and Philadelphia finished 23-22-3.
Through 12 games this season, Giroux has yet to find the back of the net while recording six assists and a minus- 9 rating. Guess what? The Flyers are dead last in the Metropolitan Divison with a record of 3-9-0 and are ranked 15th in the Eastern Conference.
Talk about leading by example … or a lack thereof.
Whether someone called it or not, Patrick Roy has this city believing again — although he is doing it behind the bench, not between the pipes.
Colorado was a joke last season, finishing with a record of 16-25-7, good for dead last in the Northwest Division. This year, they are relying heavily on their goaltending, which has been the best in the league. Semyon Varlamov has been as good as one could ask for. He is 8-1-0 with a 1.78 GAA and a .944 save percentage. His backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who is a perfect 3-0-0 with a pair of shutouts, could probably be a starter on a lot of other teams.
Roy has been doing a great job of motivating and communicating with his young stars. They now have Max Talbot to add to their veteran leadership along with Alex Tanguay, who is making his second stint with the club. It is hard to find a weakness on a team that is 11-1-0 and off to their best start in franchise history.