The purest form of professional sport never ceases to amaze us. No matter how much we track and analyze the league, numerous unfamiliar instances occur every season.
Every year, there are more and more surprises, leaving "experts" and analysts puzzled—yet the ultimate, sometimes unexplainable, truth speaks for itself.
Here are the 15 that were the most unlikely.
Just two assists behind Henrik Sedin for the league lead, the 21-year-old high-flying defenseman has impressed everyone. In his first two seasons, Karlsson tallied 53 assists and a minus-35 rating through 135 games.
This season, it's extremely clear just how quickly Karlsson has matured to be a top defenseman in the league. His plus-15 rating this season and 51 assists through just 64 games speaks wonders to his game, and being the only defenseman in the top 10 in points helps a bit, too.
Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot have proven themselves as the best goalie tandem in the league, seeing as how the two of them land in the top three in goals against, shutouts and save percentage.
Halak has proven his caliber long ago, having shutout the Preds three times last season, becoming the first Blues goaltender since 1969 to shutout the same opponent three times in a single season. His three shutouts in the first nine games in 2010 passed Jacques Plante in Blues history as the quickest goaltender to record three shutouts.
However, Halak has a great backup in Brian Elliot, the league leader in goals against average. Elliot also has six shutouts next to his .937 save percentage (second in NHL). The two of them receive most of the credit for currently leading the league's top division (NHL Central, three teams with 80 points).
Looking at Nashville's roster, it's clear that their most pure talent lies in defense. Superstars Shea Weber and Ryan Suter protect All-Star netminder Pekka Rinne extremely well. What's surprising is how they've managed to scrape together goals game after game.
Nashville is in the best division in the league, where they are in third place with an unbelievable 81 points. Constantly battling the Red Wings' home win streak and the Blues' unreal goalie tandem has been no easy task for the Preds.
Nashville came in to this season averaging 22/1 odds to win the Stanley Cup, most likely for their apparent lack of offense. However, the Preds have proven us all wrong with their 21.5 percent power play (tied for second in NHL).
Homeboy is coming off a one-goal, 20-game season with the Pens in 2011 with a career-high 27 goals in Dallas in '09 (78 games). After all, I have to give Neal the credit he deserves. Neal didn't necessarily fill Crosby's shoes in Pittsburgh, but when you lose the captain of the team for almost the whole season, it cannot be easy to compete.
However, guys like James Neal have stepped up big and left the Penguins as one of the most feared teams in the league. Oh, and having the future MVP pass to you all season might help.
Just one game following his 500th career NHL goal, Flames winger Jarome Iginla and Devils center Adam Henrique fought each other to record a double Gordie Howe hat trick.
Refer here, Newb Gingrich.
What's even more hilarious is how NHL's safety man, Brendan Shanahan, leads the NHL with 17 career Gordie Howe hat tricks.
The reigning Stanley Cup Champs have an incredible six players in the top 15 in plus/minus.
Even if you just grazed the "league leader" stats page this season, Boston's Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron were the top four in plus/minus in the league.
Having a team that posts a 2.26 goals against per game helps a bit too.
This squad doesn't strike me as a "comeback" type of team. No Wild player has even reached 50 points this season.
After an unusual first place caliber start to the season, the Wild have slumped down to 12th in the Western Conference, having lost 16 of the last 23. Surprisingly, the Wild lead the league in comeback wins with 11 after trailing in the first period.
Long live Heatley.
Going in to this season, my best guess for top three teams in PK were Los Angeles, Nashville and Pittsburgh. Seeing as how the now league-leading Montreal Canadiens actually have a guy named PK, it's just pure poor analysis on my part.
More surprising is that Montreal is 27th in the league in points scored, another poor move of mine to take them at 22/1 for winning the Cup.
However, when your leading scorer says "We dress like losers, practice like losers, play like losers; it's no wonder we're losing," it probably doesn't sit well with the rest of the organization.
How long til next season starts, Montreal?
How do you not win one? In six tries this season, the Canes have not won a single shootout. Seriously Woodhouse, that's like...hockey 101.
Not that it matters a whole lot, seeing as how Carolina continues to scrape the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but a team like New Jersey (10 shootout wins) continues a strong playoff push. The 10 extra points help a considerable amount.
More surprisingly, perhaps, is how the Canes are led by standout goalie Cam Ward and Captain center Eric Staal, both having less-than-exciting seasons this year.
The Devils finished last season with only three shorthanded goals (28th in the league). I wonder what sparked the sudden interest to score goals man-down?
The league lead is currently shared by Devils center Adam Henrique and Wild winger Cal Clutterbuck, with Kovalchuk and Parise each not far behind with three.
The Red Wings set an NHL record 23-game home winning streak, as I'm sure you already know. Obviously, everyone questioned the value of such a streak given the new league format.
Throughout the streak, the Wings have only had four wins in extra time: three in a shootout, one in OT.
Whatever the case that's made, the Wings are an unbelievably talented team from crafty, future Hall-of-Fame veterans to young, energy players—and a goalie who stands on his head game after game.