Surprises and Scares

Wow, the first week and a half of the NHL season provided some surprises and shocking situations. So much speculation has surrounded the Cinderella team Toronto Maple Leafs’ undefeated season. They’ve only played four games, so come on…they will lose and the Leafs may not be able to keep it up. The Tormented Toronto Maple Leafs can sing praise as their team has turned a corner with a 4-0-0 start to the season.

The Nashville Predators have just as good as a start as Toronto, as well as down in Dallas bouncing back without Mike Modano or Marty Turco. Impressive games have been played in Tampa Bay and Denver as well.

In the Eastern Conference, Toronto, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh lead the standings. Florida, Boston and New Jersey sit at the bottom. New Jersey was expected to be a contender but with all the drama, the team has been worn down. New Jersey has paid a high price to ensure a winning team but can they recover? Of course.

Pittsburgh’s goaltending has swayed to the No. 2 seat with some positive outcome behind Brent Johnson. Despite what seems like a slow start, the Penguins will fix any kinks as they do every year. Just wait.

The New York Rangers are down Marian Gaborik and captain Chris Drury after a loss to the Maple Leafs Friday. Hockey critics have kicked both the Islander and Rangers downstairs. Rangers D-guy Del Zotto has had a good start.

In the Western Conference, Nashville, Dallas, and Colorado sit supreme. Calgary, Columbus and Phoenix will climb as more games are played. Calgary is under great pressure especially after Toronto has seemingly turned their bad karma upside down. Calgary’s talent is undeniable with Mikka Kiprusoff in goal, Jay Bouwmeester on the blueline and Jarome Iginla leading the charge. The Flames are usually hanging in near the playoff run with the same expectations as last year to finish in the No. 8 seed just above the Colorado Avalanche.

The San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks look shaky as Cup contenders early on. Ryan Kesler posted 10 PIMs for a misconduct call after the LA Kings beat the Canucks again on Friday, but Kesler has been null in points. With Alex Burrows sidelined for the first few weeks, the Canucks lost some steam.

I’m still betting on some gained ground this season from Atlanta and St. Louis. With the youthful talent on both teams, the surge may come later in the season, but both are sitting in the middle of their division waiting and watching. Monday night the St. Louis Blues met up with the Anaheim Ducks and totaled a whopping 50 PIMs for misconduct, 35 for fighting 24 for roughing an 4 for slashing. Atlanta’s Anthony Stewart scored a hat trick to lift the Thrashers over the Ducks at home Friday.

In Los Angeles, the Kings are holding steady with Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson and active play from Dustin Brown over the Canucks, the beachfront view sits just behind Colorado in the West. Colorado’s T.J. Galiardi, Paul Stastny and Chris Stewart are strongholds for the team.

A new lease deal with Chicago investor Matthew Hulsizer will lead to a good deal for the Phoenix Coyotes to remain in Glendale. Last season, the Coyotes rivaled the Avs for young gun status but have a slow start. Watch the Czech line emerge in the desert plus great talent such as Stempniak, Wolski and Lombardi.

Detroit’s Johan Franzen went to Dallas and all he got was a hit by Mark Fistric. Franzen called it a concussion, but coach Babcock said it wasn’t that bad. Franzen was sidelined much of the latter part of last season, so is he being cautious or being a crybaby? Is Babcock cracking the whip and going forth for the Cup? Yes, the Wings are known for being tough and they cannot falter now.

Beware of counting the pucks yet. Shakeups are bound to happen when least expected. It’s too early to call the season yet.

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