6 Surprises Early in the NHL Season
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The 2013 season is unlike most NHL seasons.
Instead of 82 games, every team is in a 48-game regular-season sprint to determine playoff seedings.
Instead of planning for the long haul, teams are out to get as many early-season points as possible so they don't fall victim to the dreaded three-point games that regularly keep teams from making late rallies to earn playoff positions.
But in some ways, this season is like many others because there are lots of surprises.
Last year, the St. Louis Blues went from also-ran to Western Conference power and the Los Angeles Kings became the first No. 8 seed to capture the Stanley Cup.
Here's a look at some of the top early-season surprises in the NHL.
The Montreal Canadiens finished the 2011-12 season with the worst record in the Eastern Conference.
The Canadiens cleaned house and brought in new general manager Marc Bergevin and head coach Michel Therrien to turn the team around.
So far, so good for Les Glorieux.
The Canadiens have reeled off four consecutive victories following their season-opening loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and are right on the heels of the Boston Bruins and the Ottawa Senators in the Northeast Division. While they will have to play without star forward Max Pacioretty for the next three to four weeks as a result of an appendectomy (source: CBSSports.com), they are getting defenseman P.K. Subban back in the lineup.
That may require a bit of a team adjustment. While Subban is clearly a talented player, his personality has not always rubbed his teammates the right way (source: TSN.ca).
The Canadiens have gotten a lift from defensemen Andrei Markov and Raphael Diaz, who have both scored seven points to lead the team. Rookie center Alex Galchenyuk has five points, is at a plus-five and has become a fan favorite.
San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks are not just a disappointing team that has never made it out of the Western Conference playoffs.
That's been the story for this team for years. Despite having one of the most talented rosters in the league, head coach Todd McLellan has always had his team's season end in a painful manner.
Before the start of this season, the Sharks were considered the team that was too old and had seen too much failure to turn their fortunes around.
That is not the case early in the season. The Sharks have reeled off six straight wins to start the season and they have done it in impressive fashion.
They've outscored opponents 26-10 and don't look like a team that is ready to pull the blankets up and concede a poor season.
There's a long way to go, but the Sharks are hungry and appear ready to have a stellar year.
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
While the St. Louis Blues were one of the top stories last year as they went from playoff outsider to the No. 2 team in the Western Conference, they were not a high-scoring team.
Their success was the result of defense, coaching, discipline and goaltending.
The Blues have a new ingredient this season. Rookie forward Vladimir Tarasenko has given them a degree of explosiveness that they did not have last season.
Through the Blues' first five games, Tarasenko has scored four goals and added four assists. He also has a plus-5 rating.
His presence has makes the Blues much more dangerous and they appear to be a solid contender for Stanley Cup honors this year.
Don't label them upstarts this year. They are a potential powerhouse and much of that is due to Tarasenko's offensive talents.
The heat is on the Chicago Blackhawks this year.
Head coach Joel Quenneville knows that the luster has worn off since the team won the Stanley Cup in 2010. The Blackhawks have been eliminated in the first round in the last two seasons.
That kind of finish this year could play havoc with Quenneville's employment.
The Blackhawks have come flying out of the gate. Even though they have only played two home games thus far, they are already 6-0-0 on the season.
They have gotten a lift from Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane. In the video above, Kane's stellar backhand pass to Hossa resulted in an overtime goal against the Dallas Stars.
The Hawks have scored 22 goals thus far and they appear to have the firepower with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith to sustain their excellence throughout the season.
Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks
One of the primary reasons that the San Jose Sharks have been so powerful at the start of the season is the amazing start of Patrick Marleau.
Marleau scored at least two goals in each of the first four games of the season, equaling the mark set by Cy Denneny in 1917-18 (source: USAToday.com).
Anytime you can tie a record set 95 years earlier, you should know you have done something special.
Marleau only scored one goal in the Sharks' fifth game of the season and he was held off the goal sheet in the sixth game. He has nine goals and five assists through the first six games and is at a plus-five.
The Sharks veteran is connecting on 33.3 percent of his shots so far and is on his way to a memorable season.
Craig Anderson, Ottawa
Martin Brodeur, Jaroslav Halak, Tuukka Rask and Corey Crawford have all gotten off to excellent starts in goal.
However, no NHL goalie has been better than Craig Anderson of the Ottawa Senators.
Anderson is 4-0-1 in his first five games and has a 0.98 goals against average and a .967 save percentage.
Anytime your GAA begins with a zero, you are doing a sensational job in the net.
Anderson has had some decent years in the NHL. He had a 2.84 GAA and a .914 save percentage last season as the Senators became one of the surprise teams in the NHL and made the Eastern Conference playoffs as the No. 8 seed.
He's performing far above expectations early in the 2013 season.