Tuesday, November 18, 2008

20 Games In

What has surprised you most now that we are about 20 games into the season? The Sharks strong start? Barry Melrose's short tenure? Alex Semin atop the scoring list?

There have been more incidents in the last 20 games that raised an eyebrow or two. Here are a couple that surprised me.

Around the League:

While I am not surprised at Melrose's dismissal, I am surprised that it took all of 16 games to decide his fate. Where does that leave the Tampa Bay Lighting? In the hands of Rick Tocchet. You remember him, he had a thing with Wayne Gretzky's wife.

Brian Burke's sudden availability. Good news for Toronto? Maybe. Burke has been apart of a Stanley Cup winning Duck team and he pulled Dustin Penner out of the dust (which seems to be working out for the Oilers). It seems all but certain that Burke will bleed blue as the latest change in Toronto, that is there isn't another franchise that gets to Hogtown first.

The Boston Bruins strong start has surprised me. For a team that was hanging by a thread just to make the playoffs last season, they have certainly turned it around. It seems that Claude Julien has his team working hard and winning. The Bruin's head coach had some time to make the system work (I wonder who else needed more time... hmm...).

Nikolai Khabibulin. Why is he such a surprise? He is playing the best goaltending I have seen from him in a long time. All he needed was a little motivation in one Cristobal Huet. The Blackhawks have tried to trade him, send him to the minors, loan him out to the KHL all for not. In return Khaby is making the case to stay in the NHL. Now the Hawks have a couple of very good goaltenders which will make beating this team down the stretch that much harder.

For the Capitals:

I know you are thinking I am going to say Semin's offensive explosion. Well, here is a surprise of my own. The most surprising thing, in my opinion, is Tomas Fleischmann's improvement over a year ago. I really had my doubts putting the fourth year Czech on the second line but Flash is on pace for a 30 goal season considering he only had 10 goals all of last season. He has come up with a couple of big goals already this year.

The Caps goaltending situation has been a bit surprising only in that it's better than originally thought. Jose Theodore may have not been the best fill in, Brent Johnson has picked up the slack. This back and forth between goaltenders maybe good for the Caps as well. A little competition seems to keep both goaltenders sharp. While it's not a perfect arrangement, for the moment it's working.

I can't wait to see what the next twenty games bring. If it is anything like the first twenty, we have some very interesting times leading up to the All Star game in Montreal. Especially the consideration of voter fraud in the balloting. It's been a pretty entertaining first quarter of the season so far.

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