This is a feature that will run about every two weeks with improbable stats and situations in the National Hockey League

Teams:

  • If I told you in September that if the season ended at the quarter poll, that the Atlanta Thrashers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Dallas Stars would all be in the playoffs….
  • If I told you in September that the bottom five New York Islanders would have an extended losing streak, fire their head coach with wide internal criticism, and then get worse…
  • If I told you in September that the Bruins would be without their top center, and one of their top goal scorers of the past three years and still be in 11th in goals for…
  • If I told you in September that the New Jersey Devils, would have less points than the Edmonton Oilers…
  • If I told you in September the New Jersey Devils, Calgary Flames, Buffalo Sabres, and Colorado Avalanche would all be on the outside looking into the playoff race…

…would you have asked me where you could get some of the fun drugs too?

Players:

  • If I told you in September that Ilya Kovalchuk would have less goals than Milan Lucic at any point this season…
  • If I told you in September Patrick Sharp would lead not just his team, but the entire Western Conference in goals, and be fourth in goals…
  • If I told you in September Steve Montador , and Rostislav Kleska (career -43) would be second and first in +/- for the league…
  • If I told you in September that between them Martin Brodeur, Ryan Miller, Ilya Bryzgalov, Henrik Lundquist, Roberto Loungo, Jaroslav Halak, and Thomas Vokoun would not own a single top five goalie stat between them…
  • If I told you in September Jeff Skinner, this years seventh overall draft pick would lead all rookies in scoring…
  • If I told you in September that Peter Schaefer would play more games in the NHL this year than Bill Guerin, Miroslav Satan, and Evgani Nabokov…

…would you ask me how many times I was dropped on my head as a child?

We are quarter of the way through the season, and it’s time to set your Calder watch. Synchronize now.

Some surprises in the top five goal scorers:

  1. Logan Coture of the San Jose Sharks just barely squeaks into the rookie count and leads all rookies with 8 goals.
  2. Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes is not only second in the NHL in rookie goal scoring, he’s second on his team to only Eric Staal in both goals and points.
  3. Derek Stepan’s squeaking into number three is the guy who most likely will not be in the top five at the end of the season as three of his six goals for the New York Rangers came in one game.
  4. Behind Stepan are three players tied with five, Tyler Ennis of the Buffalo Sabres who has played 25 games, Edmonton Oiler and first overall pick Taylor Hall has his five in 22, and Michael Grabner of the Islanders has potted 5 in 8 games. Of the three Ennis has the best */-.

For defensemen to keep an eye on:

  • John Carlson of Natick Ma and the Washington Capitals has a solid line of 3-8-11 +8 to go with his 58 blocked shots and 25 hits through 25 games. Most impressively he’s second on the team in TOI/G, trailing only Mike Green.
  • P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens is turning heads for more than the attitude some term cocky. He’s behind only Carlson in rookie defensemen TOI, and fourth in scoring for rookie defensemen.
  • Kevin Shattenkirk of Greenwich, CT, and Boston University has earned his way into the Colorado Avalanche lineup and is second to only John-Michael Liles in points from the blueline for Denver’s home squad.

In goal you’d be almost right in saying the conversation begins and ends with the man between the Philadelphia pipes.

  • Sergie Bobrovsky is the man making people reevaluate the Flyers chances this season, he’s played so much better than veteran Brian Boucher it almost doesn’t bear thinking about. He’s played 1/3 more games than his second nearest competitor for rookies. His 2.19 GAA and .926 S% have him at ten and eight in the league respectively.
  • Possibly more impressive, if for no reason other than the comparative defenses in front of them is Czech Michael Neuvirth. His 2.63 GAA and .912 Sv% are a better pair than any Capitals netminder has finished a season with since Cristibol Huet in 2007-8.

So far this season Ilya Kovalchuk has a line of 4-6-10 -11 and is fourth on his team in scoring. Here’s the current list of rookies with better stats than the $100 Million Man.

  • Jeff Skinner 7-12-19 -4
  • Jordan Eberle 4-11-15 -4
  • Derek Stepan 6-8-14 +1
  • Logan Coture 8-5-13 -5
  • Taylor Hall 6-6-12 -5
  • Tyler Ennis 5-6-11 +2
  • John Carlson 3-8-11 +8
  • Cam Fowler 1-10-11 -8
  • Kevin Shattenkirk 4-6-10 +2
  • Bryan Bickell 4-6-10 +2
  • Jake Dowell 4-6-10 +8
  • Mark Letestu 4-6-10 Even

All stats as of 10pm 11/29 via NHL.com

Today’s game is the second of back to back games for both teams. The Bruins downed the Rangers in New York, the Panthers went into the ATL and stole the Thrashers cookies. Former Bruin’s Denis Wideman and Marty Reasoner (part of the trade that shipped out Samsanov, and brought in Lucic) will no doubt get a warm reception, or at least Wideman will.  The Panthers are having a surprisingly good season so far and have an even record 8-8-0, but still rest securely at the bottom of the Southeast division. A closer look at their schedule reveals wins over the nearly simmering Flames,  the Minnesota Wild, Atlanta Thrashers and the New York Islanders for half their win total.  The Flyers, Stars, and Senators were a different story.  For the Bruins, Adam McQuaid must again be nervous of his roster spot with Boychuck staring hungrily over his shoulder.

  1. Will the Garden faithful come up with a cheer just for Wideman as they did for the equally missed Phil Kessel?
  2. Can Patrice Bergeron pierce the strippers veil the Panthers insist is a defense to light the lamp?
  3. Can a Bruins forward not named Patrice Bergeron finish the night at over 50% in the faceoff dot?
  4. Can the officiating possibly be as bad as last nights?
  5. Will anyone finally recognize Blake Wheeler or Matt Hunwick for the hard work and solid play they have exhibited this season. Both have played well in the last two weeks or so.

I’ll be at the Garden tonight for the game, probably won’t have time for a pregame meeting, but tweet me @pucksage and say hi.

Peter Chiarelli has stated he wants to be proactive in addressing the pending cap crunch. For the purposes of this article trades have to make sense to all parties concerned. This means that if a player has a no trade clause, the place they might be shipped to has to be a strong playoff team, the cap numbers have to make sense and worse from the armchair GM’s position, the bodies have to line up right.

First trade, and probably the least likely situation.*

To Boston:

Conditional 3rd Round pick, 2011.

To Los Angeles:

Marco Sturm

If Marco Sturm scores more than 20 goals, or is resigned by the Kings or they win the Stanley Cup with him having played 3 or more playoff games the pick would become a 2nd round pick.

Why:

Boston, moves a loyal soldier who will probably not be resigned to a good situation.

Los Angeles, depth at left wing, secondary leadership, and someone who can step in to the penalty kill as needed.

Sturm, gets his feet wet with another organization and moves to a very good young team with stars on the rise.

To Boston:

Jeff Petry, 2nd round pick in 2012, 3rd round pick in 2011

To Edmonton:

Blake Wheeler, Daniel Paille,  Matt Dalton

Why:

Boston: $3.2 Million in salary moved, and allows more grooming of late cuts like Arniel, Sauve (when he is healthy again), Colborne and others. Moves Paille before he becomes a distraction sitting on the bench as he has thus far. Two easiest guys to move on the roster that you have a shot at getting back something of similar value.

Edmonton: Size, speed, playoff experience and above all two high end penalty killers that might drag their pretty pathetic penalty kill into the realm of respectable. Both guys work hard, Wheeler has 30 goals written all over him, and might be the center that Hall needs.  Dalton is also as strong or stronger a prospect as any goaltender the Oilers have currently.

To Boston:

Ryan Suter, 1st round pick, 2nd round pick

To Nashville:

Matt Hunwick, Andrew Ference, Joe Colborne, Blake Wheeler

Why:

Boston gets an elite defenseman coming back and drops a net $2.4million

Nashville gets two first round pick forwards who are versatile enough to play all forward positions, and gives them the potential to move into the top half of the NHL’s goal for column for the first time in years.

To Boston:

Chris Stewart, 2 2nd round picks, 1 3rd

To Colorado:

Blake Wheeler, Daniel Paille, Michael Ryder, Matt Dalton

Why:

Boston: About six million dollars off the books, and a solid young winger.

Colorado: They’re depth at goaltending almost doesn’t exist, their penalty kill could hardly be made worse by losing an extra man each penalty.

To Boston:

Keith Yandle, Brandon Gormley, 2nd round pick

To Pheonix

David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, Adam Courchaine, Andrew Ference, Jamie Arniel

Why:

Boston get’s two top four quality defensemen, loses some salary, clears up some of the log jam at center.

Phoenix gets a player who would easily be their number one center, a forward the organization was keen on enough to use a first round pick on, and gets to shore up their goaltending.

Capgeek, Hockey’s Future, and NHLNumbers used for basic background info.

*Ok so nearly all trades are unlikely in the current NHL. At least there is something in it for each team.

Ladies and gentleman, it’s the early season in the NHL. I can tell, you can tell because teams are winning and losing in ways improbable. Does anyone, anywhere ever expect Martin Brodeur to give up five goals in a game? Much less to give up all five of them on a paltry twenty shots and get yanked in just his second game? Much less to start the season 0-1-1? Not me, probably not you either.  And if the best goalie of the last decade, and arguably all time is having such a bad night, that the man who is currently the best goalie on the planet would also give up five goals on a hardly better 27 shots? Much less that Ryan Miller would give three of those goals up to the New York Ranger’s rookie center David Stepan and not to thirty and forty goal scoring Frolov and Gaborik?

To take a look at the southeast predictions for the year, how many of you predicted that Evander Kane would out score Alex Ovechkin in a head to head duel and have more hits? I didn’t even predict that and I spent a lot of time hoping the Bruins would trade up to draft Kane two years ago.  Kane had two goals,  and was a plus 2 with five hits to Ovechkin’s lone assist, and three hits with an even plus minus.  That season opener may not be indicative, of the whole season, but the Caps getting just two goals? That happened in less than ten percent of their games last season.

Anyone who told me on October first that the season would open with peach fuzz brigade that makes up the bulk of the Oilers talent snuffing the Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekule Tig Junior Elvis Iginla and Jay Bouwmesster led Calgary Flames? A 4-0 shellacking with no of the home fires burning in this Battle of Alberta or the Calgary contingent? When looking for things unusual in the National Hockey League this early in the year, one need look no further than Ilya Kovalchuk’s annual fight against the oh-so-deserving Norris Candidate Mike Green.

Northeast

Buffalo Sabres:

This season comes down to three thrings, and two of them are Ryan Miller. One he must be healthy, and two he must be Ryan Miller, also known as the best goalie on the planet. The rest is pulling together consistent play. I doubt even a small percentage of fans realize they were tenth in goal scoring last season. No big changes, they did resign a few guys, and added Rob Niedermayer to help flesh out the penalty kill. Still weak down the middle, and not great on defense either.

Ottawa Senators:

This seasons edition is weaker than last years. With the departure of their best defenseman, and a giant question mark between the pipes Alfredsson and Spezza will have to work miracles at least once a week to get this team into the playoffs. While Gonchar will, when healthy, add to the teams offense the team was utterly average in both offense and defense last year and lost more talent off it’s blueline than offensive core.

Montreal Canadiens:

The boo birds are clearly year round residents of La Bella Province, they had their distinct calls aimed at Carey Price early in the preseason and will likely find cause to keep the noise level high, even when it’s undeserved. The splashiest move in Habland in the off season was the departure of playoff powerhouse Halak. To fill his void they brought in the well traveled Alex Auld. In the category of addition by subtraction the seditious Sergei Kostitsyn was sent packing for packing peanuts,

Toronto Maple Leafs

Despite having one legitimate first line forward, and a half dozen marginal second line forwards, Toronto will not be an easy two points if they have anything like cohesion this season. With the additions of Versteeg, Armstrong, they can’t be worse offensively or in energy. While it’s clear the leadership has a plan, how confident of it can we be when they pay Colton Orr a cool million a year, and let Komisarek rake in about twice what he’s worth? I don’t expect this team to either make the playoffs or land in the lottery.

Boston Bruins:

Despite all the off season hot air, Tim Thomas and Marc Savard are still members of the Boston Bruins. With Savard and Sturm starting the season on the LTIR, and Thomas recovering from off season injury, its clear the Bruins have some work to do. With the addition of fist rounder Tyler Seguin, and former first rounder Jordan Caron, not to mention one Nathan Horton its going to interesting here in the Hub to see if these three can give the team some of the bounce it had in the 08-09 season. The off season also saw the eviction of Denis Wideman from the Bruins roster this change alone is probably good for adding 10 points to the Bruin’s total of last season.

Northwest:

Vancouver

The Canucks may just be the best team in hockey. They upgraded their defense, already had a solid offense and if they can give Luongo less starts than he had last year, winning the division won’t be a question. The biggest question will be how much they win a pretty thin division by. The Flames and Avalanche should provide enough pressure to keep them honest, but the Canucks are the class of their division at the very least.

Minnesota:

The state of hockey is probably in for another year of a sad state of hockey. Mikko Kiouvu was their most important signing of the off season, and about the only one that will have an impact on the roster this year. They were twenty first and twenty second in goals against and for last year and with only the hopeful heath of “No Luck Chuck Kobasew” added to the offense and late season trade acquisition Cam Barker woven into the defense there’s not much to hope for aside from good drafting or a blockbuster trade or three.

Calgary:

What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result. It would be one thing if Olli Jokinen had proved useful in his first stay, but that was hardly the case. The team lacks a legitimate first line center and without that they probably can’t expect to much improve on last seasons bare three twenty goal scorers. Who knows, maybe youngster Mikael Backlund will rise to that position and help Jarome Iginla hoist the cup before he retires.

Colorado:

Will the “Babylanche” grow up after their short and painful playoff run? Who knows! The team has been up and down as injuries and inconsistency robbed them of any momentum in the last three seasons. Maybe the Avalance are the plucky team that will duplicate the Chicago phenomenon. They have the talent and have a similar makeup with a better goalie, although a weaker defense. I think one of the things that made the Blackhawks run possible was the positive knowledge that they would not be together the next year no matter what happened thanks to intriguing cap management. The same pressure doesn’t exist for the Avs, but they are not a team to write off, especially not with the weakening of San Jose, Chicago and Detroit.

Edmonton:

Yee-ha they drafted well! Make no mistake about it, even if Hall, Eberle, and Paajarvi are the three names on the Calder Trophy finalist list, the Oilers aren’t going anywhere this year. Their defense is still not going to strike terror, or even tepid respect into the hearts of opposing forwards, and Khabibulin’s back and legal problems leave them with a backend that is wholly uninspiring. Almost certainly still a lottery team.

Coming up ranking the playoff locks, bubble teams, and lottery bound…

Atlantic

New Jersey:

Barring an injury bug that puts fifty percent of the roster on the shelf for six weeks all at once, mass alien abduction, or being forced to play blind folded there’s not really any reason this team shouldn’t win the division and be within a handful of points of the conferences top slot. An offense starring Kovalchuk, Zajak, Rolston, Elias and Arnott should be enough to keep Broduer’s win total climbing, and the defenses job reasonably easy.

New York Rangers:

The Rangers need to do something that isn’t average this year. In goals for and against, even by period they were utterly average. They ranked between eleven and twenty in most offensive and defensive areas, with their penalty kill achieving a high water mark of seventh.  In a division with two teams that have been to the big dance in the last two seasons, and the reinvigorated New Jersey Devils. Probably not a playoff team unless one of the divisions big three has a protracted period of major suckage, but better than some of the teams out west that will sneak in.

Philadelphia:

The Flyers are in a similar position to the Penguins two seasons ago. Working against them is a rumored rift in the locker room between captain Mike Richards and defensive stud Chris Pronger. Worse, from their prospective the two biggest reasons for their failure to raise the Cup were not addressed. Goaltending and conditioning. The Flyers forwards, starting with their captain looked lung a wrung out bar rag by the middle of game five of the Stanley Cup playoffs, by the end of the first period of game six it was nearly a forgone conclusion. All that saved them from going down and out early was the titanic effort of their top four defensemen who played huge minutes and came up huge. While it can be argued the goal position will have been solidified by experience and better health, well, let’s say I’m not a buyer of that particular bill of goods. That said, the Flyers are still deeper on both offense and defense than anyone but the Devils within the Atlantic division,

Pittsburgh:

Last years Penguins had a whole host of issues to keep them down, injuries to their most offensively talented center in Geno Malkin, the Olympic melodrama that had the roster running about in Vancouver to no good for an already thin roster, and the continued feud between Crosby and Ovechkin that took Crosby away from what he’s supposed to be doing; exploiting and developing his wingers offensive capabilities, and left him concentrating on a goal scoring race that hurt the team. On top of that you had a defense mostly made up of mispositioned wingers and of course they started the season with the second worst goalie to hoist the Cup in the past decade or two. Fortunately for Fluery Niemi proved to be notably worse, but was carried by a very, strong team and Fluery can now claim third on that list. Even if they didn’t make much move to bolster the goal scoring on their wings, they did ad Zbynek Michalek to the defense that allowed more goals than all but one team to make the playoffs last year. Michalek alone should double the quality of play in their defensive zone by himself.

New York Islanders:

Oh the poor Isles, this will sound like a slam, but it really isn’t: The Islanders will challenge for the fourth spot in what may be the best division in the NHL this year. Despite the loss of Streit for a long period, the young team spent last year making life miserable for any team that marked a game against Hampstead’s warriors as easy two points. Pop Quiz, what do last years Montreal, New Jersey and Boston squads have in common with last years Islanders? Answer they each scored the same number or less goals. I think the Islanders are two years, and some shrewd free agent signings from being able to make the same sort of noise the Coyotes did last year.

Pacific

Arizona

The Coyotes should win their division this year. They had one less win than the Sharks last year, and are better balanced than the Kings. No major talent losses, and a great mix of youth and veterans. I can’t imagine the team failing to make the playoffs for the second straight year. The biggest impact on their early season will not be how they play in Europe, but that they play in Europe. I won’t be surprised if they have a lukewarm start and steadily grind their way into the playoffs after catching their breath.

San Jose:

What a turn around in playoff performances last year. They showed grit, determination and that Joe Thornton can not be blamed for previous failures to flourish. Pavelski and the rest of supporting cast were fun to watch. Sadly, they will not have a repeated conference win in the regular season without an early reinforcement of their defense and finding a legitimate top tier NHL goalie. I’ll be interested to see what moves they make after the holidays.

Anaheim:

Yee-ha they drafted well! While undeniably more talented than the other team I had the same introduction for, they are clearly a weaker team than the top three in the division. The most interesting stories in Duckville will be the development of Fowler without a clear mentor, and how (if at all), George Parros, some old guys, and a bunch of guys with Ryan in their name can keep the journey to golfing season interesting. Roughly speaking their eastern conference equivalent is probably the New York Rangers.

Los Angeles:

Funny thing about this team their damn good. Sadly no one seems to know this. Kopitar is probably the most under rated forward in the NHL, Dustin Brown is as good as (or better) Jonathan Toews (and I’m a big fan of Captain Toews), and Drew Doughty is the closest thing to this generations Ray Bourque that exists in the NHL, and yet no one seems to know this. I was laughed at when I said before last season started that they would probably make the playoffs. The only thing holding this team down is a left wing that is a touch shaky. Ryan Smyth is solid, but Ponikarovsky has yet to prove himself. Look for sparks to fly when they play Vancouver this year, and for them to play two rounds in the second season.

Dallas:

Fans of the Stars should be cheering the Oilers, Wild, and Blue Jackets at every opportunity. Those teams success this season will allow the Stars a better lottery position and a brighter future. With a defense that could have it’s pairings picked from a hat, and a goalie situation headlined by the oft injured and not quite spectacular Kari Lehtonen this team is not much to write home about even with a reasonably talented young forward cadre.