The NHL season has been filled with surprises so far, some good and some bad. As we hit the Christmas break, we've rounded up the four biggest things that have surprised us so far.
The Disappointing Boston Bruins
If the NHL playoffs began today, the Bruins would be on the outside looking in. Who could have ever envisioned that? After all, this was a team that won the Presidents’ Trophy last season with more regular season points than any other team and returned virtually their entire roster intact save for Jarome Iginla.
Nobody expected them to score as much as they did last season – especially with Iginla and his 30 goals gone – but they’ve completely fallen off the map. They went from 3.15 last season (third in the NHL) to 2.54 this season (21st). And the defense has also tapered off as they’re giving up 2.54 goals per game (12th) compared to last year when they were second in that category with just 2.09 goals per game. That’s what is concerning for this team as defense and goaltending is their calling card. Tuukka Rask has a measly .900 save percentage this month.
The Colorado Avalanche’s Failures
Speaking of the aforementioned Iginla, he left in the offseason to supposedly boost an emerging Colorado Avalanche team in the West. They finished second in the conference last year with 112 points and Iginla was supposed to be one of the final missing pieces. Instead, the Avs have regressed big time. They’re 13th in the Western Conference. The issue for them is goaltender as Semyon Varlamov has not been the same player he was last year. He was Vezina Trophy caliber last season. This year, the Avs allow the sixth-most goals per game at 2.91. Varlamov has just five wins in 16 games with a pathetic 3.01 GAA. And the Avs offense has disappeared too as Nathan McKinnon only has five goals so far while veterans Alex Tanguay and Iginla lead the team in points. They need guys like McKinnon, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Ladeskog to lead the way and get support from these veterans but the fact that those guys are leading the way shows that the young stars aren’t playing up to their potential. This team has been a big surprise this season.
The Rise Of The Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks were a horrible mess last season, first trading away Cory Schneider at the draft, then Roberto Luongo midseason, then clashing with and canning head coach John Tortorella after just one season. They were expected to be in full-on rebuilding mode but that’s been far from the case. They had 83 points in 82 games last season; they’re more than halfway there already with 42 in just 33 games so far.
New head coach Willie Desjardins has revived the Sedin twins while Radim Vrbata has been a great fit for the team. And, of course, Ryan Miller has solidified the situation between the pipes for them.
The Resurgence Of The Nashville Predators
When making your NHL picks keep in mind that the Predators finished 12th in the Eastern Conference last season with just 88 points, fired head coach Barry Trotz and appeared to heading for a rebuild. Instead, they’re in third place in the West and have already amassed 46 points in 33 games.
The secret in the sauce is quite simple: goals allowed. Last season, they fell off the map when star goaltender Pekka Rinne succumbed to his hip injury and missed most of the action. They allowed the eight most goals per game at 2.84. This year, they’re second-best at 2.09. So far, Rinne is 22-6-1 with a 1.84 GAA and .934 save percentage. There’s a new coach and an improved offense, but Rinne is the main reason this team has turned it around.