On 2nd thought….
Yes, its only been a little more then the week since the NHL started up but it is still a decent time to examine a few teams and players who are either playing above or below expectations and whether or not these trends will continue. First Ill take a look at a few players and teams who arent looking too hot right now. (feel free to list your own or destroy mine)
NIKOLAI KHABIBULIN- He just looks totally out of it with his new team. He hasnt made one good start yet and every game he has played he has been shaky. Will the trend continue? The hawks are a team they rely on the Bulin Wall to be at his best each and every night and without that quality goaltending this team is going to be lost. He is off to a slow start but he has played in this league too long to fad away so quickly. Look for him and the hawks to play some stronger hockey soon.
CALGARY FLAMES- Its amazing to see how quickly people have started to dump on the Stanley Cup favourites only one week into the season. Personally I think the flames are somewhere in between the team they are playing like now and the team they were playing like last year. This team is definitly missing a guy like Regehr right now due to the fact that guys like Leopold are needing to play way more minutes are arent really used to it. Kipper has gotten off to a slow start as had the flames PK which many experts thought would be their strong suit. The flames have to adjust to the new NHL or they will be left in the dust and I predict that this team will be able to rebound and play some better hockey down the road. If the flames can stop taking 12 pentalties a game and can get their pentatly killing in check this team wont be looking too bad because scoring goals hasnt been a problem with the limited time they have been able to play 5 on 5.
PITTSBURGH- I think we all knew this team was going to let in a lot of goals but this many? This team can score there is no doubt about that but without a healthy Thibault how is this team going to be able to keep the puck out? Fleury played well in the first game he played this year but how long can he last facing 40 shots a game? I predicted the Pens to make the playoffs this year but upon further review I can see a team like the Panthers or sadly the Devils getting passed them and making it.
PHOENIX- This team has tonnes of talent with Nagy, Mara, Hull, Doan, Nedved, Comrie, Morris, Joseph, etc. But where has it gotten them so far? Brett Hull is playing horrible and gets less and less ice time each game and isnt playing in key situations and this isnt good news for a team that could use a little veteran poise to help a guy like Wayne Gretzky out. Doan and Nagy btoh arent playing up to expectations and Cujo is hurt. Without Cujo playing this team which had a outside shot at making the playoffs has little to none now.
On to the teams and players who came out guns a blazing to start the season who werent really expected to.
ERIC STAAL- This guy is made for the new NHL and yes his production will most likely taper off at some point but its only his 2nd year in the league. By himself this guy has takin a horrible team like the hurricanes and lead them in scoring. He wont be able to keep this pace up but look for the former Peterborough Pete to score at 70 points this year on a horrible Canes team.
MONTREAL-As much as it pays me to say this being a leaf fan I think the habs have what it takes to keep this pace up throughout the year. They arent a spectacular defensive team but having a coach like Julien helps keep them in check and having a bunch of speedy guys on their team has helped them score a bunch of goals in the “new” NHL. Kovalev hasnt even scored yet and this team has looked just great on offense. The only problem I can is come playoff time can these fast, young horses keep their legs moving when they face a team like Ottawa or Philly. Of all the players on this team Jose Theodore has gotta step up. Domi’s goal and Steen’s goal were shots he SHOULD have stopped no problem and Chara’s goal wasnt that great either. Yes the guy makes some incredible saves but he lets in too many soft ones and if this team is going to make the next step and become contenders then hes gotta stop having poor games against teams like the leafs and sens who the habs will see a lot of this year.
NEW JERSEY- People either had this team falling off the map or staying on top. I was one of the people who had them falling off the map due to no Elias for the first month of the season and more emphasis on skill. This team seems to be on its way to proving me wrong again this year. Guys like Parise, Gomez, Gionta, etc. have proved they will be able to get the job done on offense and once they get Elias back and up to speed this team could be a team nobody wants to play once again. With all the talk I say about their fowards this team still revolves around one guy that I should have never underestimated in the first place. Marty B is looking spectacular so far this team and he will have to if this team wants to be a player.
THE THRASHERS OFFENSE- Yes they got shutout by the Habs but it wasnt to a lack of trying. Danis was great in the game. People are making a big deal about the offense and for the right reasons. they scored plenty of goals without Kovalchuk and one has to think it will only continue with Kovalchuk in the line up. On the flip side losing Dunham and Lehthonen arent good news for a team who has a questionable defense.
NASHVILLE- I thought they were gonna make the playoffs but they come flying out of the gate and look like they may be good enough to be division champs, but no so fast. The defense is still a little suspect and will eventually be great with guys like Suter, Hamhuis, and Zidlicky but until then this young group will have to rely heavily on Tomas Vokoun. This team cant keep up this pace but make the playoffs no problem.
I realize I may have missed a few good early season stories but these are the ones that stood out most to me. Feel free to add on your own early season dissapointments or surprises. The season is still young but I think it would be useful to hear what everybody is thinking thus far.