It is still very early in the NHL season. Some results of teams and players which are surprising at this point are not likely to last all season long. The statistic that surprises me the most at this point which has the least chance of lasting the season is the Los Angeles kings leading the NHL in shots against. The Kings have allowed only 24.3 shots per game. This is a small lead over the San Jose Sharks.
The Kings solid defence so far this season is surprise because the 32.0 shots per game they allowed was third worst in the NHL. That team subtracted both Lubomir Visnovsky and Rob Blake in the off season without adding any significant veterans. If they have improved, how have they improved?
Along with tracking the leaders for the NHL awards as we progress through the season, I like to track the worst player who is getting regular ice time. Generally at points early in the season it is a name player with NHL experience who is off to a very poor start. In time, either the player plays at the established levels that have made him an NHL regular or gets sent to the minors. Later in the season, usually the worst player getting regular ice time is an “energy player” who has impressed his coach with hard work but isn’t particularly good.
At this point in the season, the worst player with a regular shift has been Brett Lebda of the Detroit Red Wings.
Over the past few days, I have been picking the early leaders for the various NHL awards. Yesterday when I picked Andrei Markov of the Montreal Canadiens as the best defenceman so far, a commenter Kevin from Pittsburgh suggested that Alex Goligoski a defenceman with two points so far should be considered for the best defenceman and is the leading candidate for rookie of the year. I disagree.
At this point in the season, I pick Kris Versteeg of the Chicago Blackhawks as the rookie of the year.
I like to track the leading candidates for the various NHL awards as the season progresses. I am still in the process of picking the first round of award leaders. So far, I have picked Alexander Semin of the Washington Capitals as an early season MVP and Mike Smith of the Tampa Bay Lightning as an early season Vezina leader. Today, I am picking the best defenceman so far in the season.
My pick is Andrei Markov of the Montreal Canadiens.
The international hockey world is getting further fractured. The summer has been the story of the fight between the NHL (North American hockey) and the KHL (Russian Hockey). The IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) has tried to play as a mediator to the conflict with limited success. The remaining European hockey playing countries of Finland, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic are combining forces with a united organization called Hockey Europe. They hope it can be a third major hockey organization that holds significant political power.
Yesterday, I wrote about my pick for the early season MVP in Alexander Semin of the Washington Capitals. Today, I want to share my pick for the best goalie so far this season.
My pick is Mike Smith of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He has played extraordinarily well in tough circumstances. Smith leads the NHL with a .943 saves percentage. He also leads the NHL’s starting goalies in shots faced per game. He has faced more than 35 shots per game. That is succeeding under trying circumstances.
Teams have played a few games and I think it is meaningful to pick an early season MVP. I like to track the MVP and other potential award winners throughout the season - and I will do so as the season progresses.
I think the early season MVP is Alexander Semin of the Washington Capitals.
Over the summer, the Tampa Bay Lightning were one of the most talked about teams in the NHL. Their new owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie made many bold moves with several signings and trades. It was expected that they would be a relatively high scoring team that would have problems preventing goals. In the early part of the season, that is not what we have seen. The Lightning are yet to win any games this season (though they have three regulation ties. The surprise is that they have been a very low scoring team.
Early in the 2008/09 season, the Buffalo Sabres have been one of the best teams in the league so far. They have played four games and won each one. They have scored 17 goals and allowed only 5 so far this season. At this point in the season, they are playing better than any other team in the league. There are several reasons for this. Thomas Vanek, Ales Kotalik and Ryan Miller are playing extremely well. All are probably playing the best hockey of their lives. Another clear difference between this year’s Sabres and last year’s Sabres is that this Sabres team has been a tougher team. The Sabres lead the NHL with 29.2 penalty minutes per game. Last year, they had the sixth least penalty minutes in the league (12.2 PIMs per game). Is this increased toughness one of the reasons for the Sabres improvement?
The season has barely begun. Most teams have played less than a handful of games. In fact, the Edmonton Oilers have only played two times so far this season. Nevertheless, we are beginning to get an early feel for the way teams are starting the season. The only team that is yet to collect a point this season is the Anaheim Ducks. They have played four games and lost them all. This is a bit of a surprise because they have a similar roster to the team that won the 2007 Stanley Cup and were predicted to do well. What has been wrong with Anaheim so far?
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
Why are you reading it? ???