NHL Teams That Got a Jump-Start on the Shortened Season
The NHL is already in full swing after beginning just a little more than a week ago.
With a shortened schedule, every game matters this season. Teams need to be at their best every time they hit they ice. There are already five teams that have been playing at the top of their game and that have gradually separated themselves from the rest of the pack, even if they have only played six games.
Here are the five teams in the NHL that got a jump-start on the shortened season.
1. Chicago Blackhawks (6-0-0)
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The Chicago Blackhawks are off to the best start in franchise history and continue to find a way to win close games.
The last four games the Hawks have played in have been decided by one goal. Two of the four games were decided in overtime.
Right-wingers Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa continue to lead their team in points. Kane has been one of the most explosive players in the NHL this season, leading his team with two goals and seven assists.
Hossa has been a huge factor for the Hawks this season after coming back from an injury he suffered in the playoffs last year. He has five goals and three assists on the season.
The biggest success story for the Hawks has been goaltender Corey Crawford. Crawford is currently 5-0 in net this season and has made big saves when the game has been on the line. Crawford is giving up an average of 1.8 goals per game and has a save percentage of .933.
Look for the Hawks to be a threat in the Western Conference as the season goes on.
We could see this very Chicago team playing for the Stanley Cup at the end of the year.
2. San Jose Sharks (6-0-0)
Center Patrick Marleau,left, and goaltender Antti Niemi.
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The San Jose Sharks have come into the season red hot.
Besides last night's come from behind overtime shootout victory over Anaheim, the Sharks have defeated their opponents by an average of three goals. They also have been one of the best teams offensively this season by averaging 4.3 goals per game.
Marleau leads his team in statistics with 14 points and set a record that had not been broken in 94 years. Marleau became the second player in NHL history to open a season with four straight multi-goal games.
Thornton, like Marleau, has been a leader for this team by recording 14 points as well.
Goaltender Antti Niemi has been solid between the pipes so far this season and is one of the main reasons why San Jose team has been winning. Niemi had game-changing saves against Anaheim last night to keep the winning streak alive. He has won five games and has a .933 save percentage.
Plan on seeing this Sharks team go deep into the playoffs. Could this be the season the San Jose finally makes it to the Stanley Cup Finals?
3. Boston Bruins (5-0-1)
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The Boston Bruins are once again one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.
They play a physical style of hockey and rely on good goaltending to win games. The Bruins have just one loss this season and it came in overtime to the New York Rangers.
The Bruins have been led by their first line, which consists of left winger Milan Lucic, center David Krejci and right winger Nathan Horton. Captain defenseman Zdeno Chara has played well too, and has recorded two goals and three assists.
One problem the Bruins tend to deal with is constant penalties. What is impressive about the Bruins is that they are 27-of-28 on the penalty kill this season and rank first in the league in killing penalties off. This statistic could be an important factor as the season continues for this Bruins team.
Don't be surprised if the Bruins are representing the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning (5-1-0)
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The Tampa Bay Lightning have hit the 2013 season by storm.
They are first in the league in scoring with 4.8 goals per game and are giving up just 2.3 goals per game. The Lightning have surrendered just one loss this season, which came in the second game of the season against the New York Islanders.
One of the reasons why Tampa Bay is playing well is because of the play from goaltender Anders Lindback. Lindback is 4-1 with a .914 save percentage. If the goaltending stays consistent, this Lightning team becomes that much more dangerous.
Tampa Bay could be the team to beat in the Southeast Division in the Eastern Conference. If the scoring spree continues to happen for the Lightning, this team could be tough to beat once playoff time rolls around.
5. St. Louis Blues (5-1-0)
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After New Jersey lost to Boston last night, I had to pick the St. Louis Blues as my fifth hottest team in the NHL right now.
The Blues are a tough team again this season and are scoring 3.8 goals per game, which is third in the league.
The Blues have dropped just one game this season and it came against Central Division opponent Chicago. Three of the Blues five wins have come by one goal.
Goaltender Jaroslav Halak has already recorded two shutouts and has a GAA of 1.69.
This team will contend for the Western Conference title, along with Chicago and San Jose. With the experience this team has, they will definitely be in the mix to play for the Stanley Cup.