The National Hockey League and the word surprise go together like two peas in a pod. Like peanut butter and jelly. There’s nothing new about surprises in sports because they’re so frequent. However every single time a new season gets underway and new surprises unfold, we’re still presented with the same reaction… Everyone loves a surprise.
We are now well over a month into the 2015-16 NHL regular season, and we have already been pleasantly surprised with the way things have panned out thus far. Mainly due to a number of teams stepping up and looking like real contenders, when just a year ago they were tussling with others at the bottom of the pile. Here are the top five most surprising teams so far this season:
5, Columbus Blue Jackets (4-11-0)
Now nobody said that all the surprises were going to be positive ones because this one here is definitely a negative.
The Columbus Blue Jackets’ hard, heavy but fast style of play was a style that many thoughts were going to be enough to actually get them somewhere this season. They have slowly been building a contending team after making the playoffs for the second time in the franchise’s history two seasons ago, with the key additions of Stanley Cup winners Brandon Saad and Gregory Campbell, the Jackets appeared to now have all the tools to contend for the playoffs.
Unfortunately for them, the Columbus Blue Jackets couldn’t be any further away from the playoffs right now. They lost their first 8 contests, fired head coach Todd Richards and hired John Tortorella, continued to struggle, managed to win a couple of games, and still sit rock bottom of the entire NHL with a measly 8 points from a possible 30. This team has been a huge letdown and that’s all there is to it right now.
As far as disappointing surprises go, this is right up there with the best.
4, Arizona Coyotes (6-6-1)
The Arizona Coyotes are really fun to watch. Maybe one of the most exciting teams to watch this season. And that’s no doubt down to the young exciting talent they have at their disposal. Guys like Max Domi and Anthony Duclair have been a breath of fresh air, as the ‘yotes have continued to surprise the NHL’s best.
Although they started the season with four straight wins, beating the likes of the Anaheim Ducks and L.A Kings, they have cooled off a bit recently, and have a steady record of 6-6-1, with 13 points, just 5 outside of a wildcard spot.
Their fast paced, brave style of play has won many sports fans over so far this season, as the Coyotes compete in one of the NHL’s toughest division. It’ll be an even bigger surprise if they manage to stay in touching distance of a Wildcard spot, but they’ve shown they can battle to earn points against the league’s best teams.
3, Dallas Stars (12-3-0)
It’s about time the Dallas Stars started to make something of themselves. For a number of years now they have had bags of talent but always seemed to fail to get anywhere in a very tough division. Well, guess what? The Dallas Stars currently lead that division and the entire Western Conference with a record of 12-3-0. They also have the league’s leading point getter in Tyler Seguin with 23 points (9 goals, 14 assists), and just behind Seguin is Stars captain Jamie Benn, with 21 points and a league leading 10 goals.
This Stars team is pretty well set up now, with the off-season addition of Patrick Sharp, it’d be very surprising if this team didn’t finish up leading the league in offense. Even their defense, an area in which they used to be very weak in, has vastly improved with the emergence of younger guys like John Klingberg stepping up, as well as veterans like Johnny Oduya and Alex Goligoski steadying the ship. This Dallas Stars team are surprisingly ready for a cup run.
2, New Jersey Devils (8-5-1)
The New Jersey Devils pre-season prediction wasn’t pretty, many had them at the bottom of the pile, finishing as far away from the playoffs as possible. But surprisingly, at this point in the season, the Devils are currently leading the Wildcard race with 17 points from 14 games.
The Devils have been given exactly what every team needs, good goaltending. Corey Schneider is currently tied second in the league in wins with 7, holds a 2.15 goals against average and save percentage of .923 and is just one of the main reasons why the Devils have been able to sustain a winning mentality. When you get good goaltending, everything else seems to fall into place.
Obviously you can’t win games without offense, and Mike Cammalleri has provided the necessary scoring touch to lead the Devils in scoring with 14 points (5 goals, 9 assists). Despite them not being stand-out statistics, the Devils are quietly winning games and working their way up the standings, and opposing teams will continue to underestimate them. Whether it lasts longer than a few games or not, the Devils are a surprising package this season.
1, Montreal Canadiens (13-2-1)
Now everyone knows how good the Montreal Canadiens are. They have the best goaltender in hockey in Carey Price, arguably the strongest defense in the conference, and offense in abundance. So it really isn’t a surprise to have them leading the Atlantic division standings. What is a surprise, though, is the manner in which they lead the entire NHL. They won their first 9 games, and finished the month of October with a 10-2-0 record, equaling the team’s best start in franchise history.
The Habs are the best team in the NHL right now, and the 27 points from a possible 32 proves that. To add to it, P.K Subban leads the league in plus-minus with a plus-11. Carey Price, although currently injured has two shutouts with 7 wins, a 2.01 GAA and a save percentage of .936, MVP numbers once more.
Now where all the other teams on this list might flutter at the final hurdle, Montreal is a team who seem capable of sustaining their winning ways. They’ve already been able to handle injuries, without Carey Price, backup Mike Condon has 6 wins, a 1.57 GAA and a .940 save percentage. The Habs are in it to win this year, that’s for sure.
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